The dead hand of Malthus...

Martin Bailey cmbb at
Wed Apr 24 09:22:34 EDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kenelm Philip" <fnkwp at>
Subject: The dead hand of Malthus...

> > And I doubt Malthus was wrong in anything but details. Populations grow
> > until resources are exhausted and everyone is fairly unhappy about it.

> B) For wildlife, how does the above statement explain the remarkably large
> fluctuations in population levels in many species of arctic/subarctic
> animals. Either you must postulate dramatic (and uncorrelated) swings
> in the abundance of resources--or there must be some other forces acting
> besides Malthusian priciples.

It is my understanding that raptor populations; such as Snowy, Great Horned,
Short-eared and Great Grey owls,  as well as  mammals such as lynx, fox and
coyotes are directly affected by fluctuations in the numbers of their prey
species.  In turn, numbers of prey species are affected by climatic
conditions that either encourage or mitigate against bumper crops of the
foods that the mice, voles, rabbits, etc.. feed upon.

If you can take habitat size as a constant - and not as a shrinking factor -
natural systems do work as Mathus postulated.

Man, because of his superior intelligence, that "some other force" ( so
often short-circuited by his emotional insecurities) can manipulate natural
systems so that the ebb and flow of climate does not appear to affect so
many of us.  Green lawns but a few miles away from starving otters.

The only thing wrong with Mathus' analysis was that he was unable to
consider his own superior intelligence to go beyond the immediate, and his
class bias in his observations of early industrial society.

Martin Bailey


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