Limits to Growth

The Doomsday Syndrome by John Maddox


  1. Is Catastrophe Coming?
  2. The Numbers Game
  3. The End of the Lode
  4. The Pollution Panic
  5. Ecology is a State of Mind
  6. Man-made Men
  7. Prosperity is Possible
  8. What can be done?


The Numbers Game

IN THE literature of doomsday, the growth of the world's population is the most common theme....

There is no doubt that the population of the world has recently been growing more quickly than ever before, and it is evident that growth at this pace cannot continue indefinitely. The most gloomy prophecies are, however, unwarrantable. Too often these arguments rely on arithmetic that is misleading in its simplicity, but in any case there are already signs that the most rapidly growing populations in the world will in the next few decades be held in check by natural social forces- not just the machinery of contraception - which have in the past century given Western Europe and North America a measure of demographic stability. The threat of widespread famine can be taken seriously only by choosing to ignore the evidence now accumulating that the next few decades are likely to be decades of plenty, as the Old Testament would say... The pressures of the growing population of the world on other natural resources or on the environment will grow, it is true, but there is nothing to suggest that they will be insupportable. Declarations that population density will bring political, social, and personal calamities seem to spring from naive understanding of the nature of international relations and from dubious analogies between human and animal populations. The demographic catastrophes which are prominent in the doomsday movement are unreal threats...