Page 13, 25th February 2011

25th February 2011
Page 13
Page 13, 25th February 2011 — Africa and the Middle East are proving Thomas Malthus right

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Africa and the Middle East are proving Thomas Malthus right

From Mr Gerald Danaher

SIR – “Malthus: the prophet who keeps failing” is the headline to Quentin de la Bédoyère’s review of Fred Pearce’s new book, Peoplequake. (Art and Books, February 4) Certainly, Malthus did not foresee that the widespread use of contraception would save most of the world from the catastrophes he prophesied. He was opposed to contraception and considered it a vice. Today, contraception has become an almost universal right, and the majority of couples use it – over 60 per cent worldwide, 70 per cent in Europe and Latin America, and 90 per cent in China. Nevertheless, it was the realisation that Malthus was right and that without contraception Malthusian power would overwhelm all efforts to prevent famine and deprivation that has caused governments to allow, promote and provide effective family planning. There is, however, one region of the world where – for religious, political and cultural reasons – contraception is not easily available and where Malthusian power can still be seen: this is Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan, where the population has doubled twice since 1950 and is expect to double again before 2050. Even now, after only two doublings (from 300 million to 1,200 million) we can see the deprivations Malthus foresaw. After the next doubling to 2,400 million the distress will be so great that most people will be convinced that Malthus was right. Fred Pearce himself can see the point: in an article in the Times magazine Eureka of February 2011 he writes: “I agree that Africa faces big problems if its women don’t follow the rest of the world. But most likely they will, given the chance. Contraception should be a right not an obligation.” Yours faithfully, GERALD DANAHER Ravenstone, Leicestershire

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