chapter  3
Population and Its Sustenance
ByWilliam Petersen
Pages 9

Since Malthus's day, views on how population relates to its sustenance have alternated periodically between opposed extremes, typically with only a slight dependence on the real balance between people and food. During only two generations a double reversal took place in opinion on whether our civilization is faced with disaster because of too many, or too few, people. Each year the Food and Agricultural Organization compiles the national statistics, such as they are. In a more complete review of recent reports, it would be appropriate to submit these data to a technical assessment. The reason for the overall favorable record is, of course, no mystery. Where the new varieties of food grains were successful, they overwhelmed the most optimistic anticipations. The development of the superplants initially swung opinion toward high optimism, but when it became obvious that not all the problems had been solved, it swung back again.