Malthusian (or Neo-Malthusian) and Cornucopian Philosophies With Relation To Natural Resources

Malthusian (or Neo-Malthusian) and Cornucopian Philosophies With Relation To Natural Resources and (or) Climate Change.

The Malthusians are supporters of Thomas Malthus, a prominent British scholar, who stimulated the negative perception of population growth. On the other hand, the Cornucopians are individuals who perceive population growth positively because it implies more brains for creating ideas. Cornucopians believe that technological progress can cater for society’s needs (Friedrichs 1). Moreover, individuals’ ideas develop technology in the form of contemporary gadgets, procedures, and systems that assist in handling the challenges related to human sustenance and enhance individuals’ standard of living. The Malthusians perspective supposes that increased population denotes many people to feed. Therefore, more resources are required to support the need. The Malthusian philosophy believes that the food needed to meet this need would not be sufficient since the rate of food production is not at par with population growth.

Thomas Malthus founded the primary theory of population increase, which asserts that population increases at a geometric rate (by multiplication), whereas food supply increases at an arithmetic rate (by addition). Therefore, populations increase at a faster rate compared to what the natural resources can offer (Aligica 75). Malthus opposed birth control techniques as well as abortion, as approaches for controlling population increase. Instead, he proposed protective strategies like enlightening lower classes, increasing wages for lower classes, and extending celibacy or delaying marriage. Overall, Malthus maintained that the pressure between population and resources was the main cause of suffering for human beings.

Neo-Malthusians arose towards the end of the nineteenth century to highlight two facts. Firstly, improvements in medical technology had expedited population increase globally. Secondly, the increased population could surpass the supply of resources, for example, oil, energy, and water but not merely food supply as initially expounded by Malthus. They believed that because the majority of the resources like energy and oil originate from non-renewable sources, the foreseen environmental disaster seemed hazardously looming. Besides concentrating on crusading in favor of birth control, Neo-Malthusians also had their view on the impact of population on human conduct and behavior. They went to the extent of recognizing the working class facing the challenge of overpopulation (Koubi et al. 8).

Malthusians emphasized that a limited world can only feed a limited population; therefore, population growth should finally equal zero if the world’s carrying capacity is to be sustained or the view of the greatest good to the greatest number estimated. Garrett, a Malthusian, further explained the negative impact of the exponential growth of population, also known as the population bomb, on the carrying capacity of natural environmental resources, for instance, pastureland, clean water, as well as clean air. Garret also believed that lack of government laws could make human beings, operating sensibly at the individual level, to exploit their own value but later damage the common good shared by all but belonging to one (Aligica 75).

According to the Malthusian philosophy, unrestrained increase in population inevitably leads to environmental damage. The discrepancy between human wants and food accessibility would result in starvation, illnesses, conflict, and exhaustion of resources due to the rivalry of declining natural resources. The philosophy was prevalent and continued through time, but the judgment state it forecasted has never happened because the global population increased rapidly. The Malthusian stand was not accurate since information on the population-resources correlation indicates results that conflict its prospects (Aligica 76).

The cornucopian thinkers believe that the main social impact of natural resource shortage is that it initiates creativity. Moreover, they postulate that growth has few intractable constrains, and the world can offer a virtually boundless abundance of natural resources. The cornucopian philosophy is founded on the economical law of supply and demand whereby a rise in products’ demand raises the products’ prices. The increased price motivates producers to manufacture more, therefore, increasing supply, which reduces the price again, enabling everyone to afford them.

The cornucopian philosophy opposes the Malthusian notion that increased population will strain resources and diminish them through over-consumption. The philosophy postulates that population is the answer to the shortage of resources and environmental challenges as individuals and markets innovate (Van der Geest and Ros 13). The Cornucopian philosophy predicts how society will manage the issues of population growth and scarce resources. Individuals will become more specialized in their work and therefore will be competent and able to address the challenges that emerge in human affairs. Besides, food production will increase because of modern food manufacturing systems that are very efficient. Regardless of high per capita consumption, sufficient resources will be produced from the abundances of the earth. The cornucopian philosophy stresses that technology is highly depended on, as the human population increases. The dependence on technological solutions is effectual in countering the projected negative externalities of geometric population increase by supporters of the Malthusian philosophy.

The cornucopian philosophies clearly forecast how the society will manage issues of natural resources and climate change. These philosophies have recognized various ways in which technological innovation disarms issues concerning the negative social impacts of scarcity (Matthew 1). Specifically, scarcity fosters the growth of technologies that enable humans to realize new reserves (a procedure that could result in deep see and deep space mining), minimize losses during the extraction as well as production stages, and create substitutes like plastic piping that can be utilized in place of copper piping for numerous applications. Humans also address scarcity through world trade and recycle waste by-products as well as used commodities.

The cornucopian camp gathered convincing information, which shows that technological innovations can alleviate the shortage of many of the natural resources that are supposed to be converted into goods like oil, copper, or wood. However, several natural resources, particularly renewable ones, are essential components of larger service systems that are being worn through unmaintainable resource utilization, a condition that is having severe, negative, and deteriorating social effects. For instance, a forest is a stock of timber than can be expanded with new construction and recycling technologies, but it is also a sophisticated component of several ecological service systems like the global hydrological and climate systems (Matthew 1). Such are important areas of the global environment where new technology cannot easily alleviate or address the challenges.

Because of the Malthusian contention that human population increase would continually outdo the supply of food as well as natural resources as populations increase geometrically whereas economies develop arithmetically, Paul Ehrlich, a Malthusian writer, eagerly called for population control failing, which he forecasted that millions would die of hunger towards the end of the twentieth century because of overpopulation. Cornucopians contend that though the world’s population increased immensely since the nineteenth century as a result of medical and technological development, it has since decelerated and balanced out partly due to the introduction of the contraceptive pill that enabled family planning. Cornucopians comment that people’s living standards have developed in proportionate with population increase, and thus population increase is more likely to enhance rather than damage the human condition.


The theory of viable resource management, (that is, maintainable due to its fairness and being economically sound and environmentally sustainable) should be modified and incorporated into social systems. This needs to be part of the main objective of developing resilience into populations at all levels, which are susceptible to diverse modalities of global change.



Works Cited

Aligica, Paul Dragos. “Julian Simon and the “Limits to Growth” Neo-Malthusianism.” The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development 1.3 (2009): 49.

Friedrichs, Jörg. “Peak Energy and Climate Change: The Double Bind of Post-Normal Science.” Futures 43.4 (2011): 469-477.

Koubi, Vally, et al. “Environmental degradation and migration.” (2012).

Matthew, Richard A. Resource scarcity: responding to the security challenge. New York: International Peace Institute, 2008.

Van der Geest, Kees, and Mirjam Ros. “The Language of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Global South.” Agenda 21 (2007): 25.