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Lecture 10

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Walter Peace

Population and Thomas Malthus 10/21/2012 7:51:00 PM 1. Introduction  How are populations of given species affected by changing environmental conditions?  Example: predator/prey model (hare/lynx) o As population of prey (hare) increases, the population of predator (lynx) also increases. o Then as the population of the predator (lynx) increases, the population of the prey (hare) will decrease, which, in turn will cause the lynx population to decrease.  “Feedback mechanism” – forces which result in equilibrium conditions, I.e., numbers of both predators and prey in keeping with the capacity of the environment.  Question: how do human populations respond to changes in environmental and cultural conditions?  Possibilities; o 1. Increase food supply o 2. Stabilize/decrease populations o 3. ??? 2. Thomas Malthus: “An Essay on the Principles of Population”, 1798  1789 “An Essay on the Principle of Population”  Malthus (1766-1834) – clergyman, professor of history and political economy  World population almost 1 billion in 1798  Basic ideas underlying Malthus’ argument: o (i) Food supply increases in a linear (arithmetic) fashion (1,2,3,4,5…) o (ii) Population increases in a geometric exponential fashion (1,2,4,16,256,…)  As a result of these assumptions, population growth will ultimately create stress on the means of subsistence, i.e., population will exceed the carrying capacity of the environment, resulting in war, vice, and misery (Malthus called these “natural checks”) that would limit further population increases.  Was Malthus correct?
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