Can We Sustain Our Population?

In my human geography class, we recently learned about Thomas Malthus. Thomas Malthus was a British economist and the author of “An Essay on the Principles of Population.” In his essay, Malthus addressed the idea that the population was increasing faster than food production rates. If you ask me that’s a pretty scary theory. With Malthus’ theory, there would be a severe food shortage due to rapid population growth which would lead to the death of many people. You can see Malthus’s prediction depicted in the graph shown below. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

Malthus’s theory was not proven correct because he did not account for the globalization of food production. In Malthus model food could not be transferred from one country to another so a countries population was completely dependent on the food supply that was produced in the country. I am always astounded by how easily we can transfer food from one location to another. Just recently I have enjoyed strawberries from Mexico, bananas from South America, and coffee beans from Africa. 

Image Source: Courtney Living

As time went on it became evident that the Malthus model would not be proven true any time soon, but today many people still think that there will be a time when Malthus’ theory will be proven true. I recently watched a video for my human geography class which taught me that by the end of the century the population will level out at around 11 billion. Until that time comes I think that our ability to produce food will continue to increase because we will continue to make technological advances that will allow more food to be grown. In the graph shown below, you can see that food production with technology boosts the total amount of food produced enough to avoid a crisis. 

Image Source: Assessment of Food and Water

In the world today it seems like advances in technology are never-ending. So even in a situation where the world population grew more than predicted I still think that there would be a way to produce enough food for everyone. In 2015 the theme at the world’s fair was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Every country that attended the fair was asked to answer major questions surrounding concerns about food. Participating countries were expected to answer questions in ways that dealt with the traditions and resources found within their country. The theme for the booth presented by the United States was “American Food 2.0 Feeding the Global World.” The booth presented by the United States features advanced technologies, infrastructure, and other systems to feed the planet. An innovative idea featured in the United States booth is the large vertical farm that holds over 42 varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, and herbs. Ideas like this one that use both technology and innovation lead me to believe that we will be able to continue feeding a growing world population. 

Image Source: Inhabit

There are many other ways that technology is being used to feed a global society besides ideas that were brought to the World’s Fair. Growing up I lived in a small farming community in Wisconsin, so naturally, we spent countless hours in school learning about the agriculture industry. While I didn’t live on a farm myself 90% of my friends did so I felt like I knew everything there was to know about farming and being a farmer. What my small rural school did not tell me was the advances that technology was making on food production. Drones have one of the largest impacts on the industry as far as efficiently producing more food. Drones can monitor the fields and detect struggling crops or diseased crops immediately and give them what they need to thrive. This immediate form of intervention allows for more crops to be harvested and sold.

Image Source: Drone Services Canada

Technology is also advancing food production in other areas besides in the agriculture industry. As a child, I remember being told to eat all of my food, and we had leftovers several times a week. But that is not the norm for many American families not to mention at restaurants and other dining establishments it is frowned up or sometimes considered illegal to save leftover food. So in return Americans throw away approximately 150,000 tons of food a day. A technological solution to this problem is apps like Copia which allow leftover food to be donated to programs in need of resources. This allows for less food to be wasted and for more people to have access to meals.

Image Source: App Shopper

Technology has revolutionized the way that food is produced, and this is why I believe we will be able to sustain our growing population. Populations rise or fall in various locations due to a variety of factors. It is the natural pattern that countries will go through times of high total fertility rates and low total fertility rates. Developing countries tend to have higher population growth rates due to contributing factors such as lack of access to contraceptives and education for women. While more developed countries tend to have lower or declining population growth rates due to factors such as wealth. Lower total fertility rates combined with longer life expectancies will allow the world population to stabilize around 2050. I can see fertility rates declining In the United States because my grandmother came from a family of ten kids then she had 3 of her own but my parents chose to have only 2 children. Additionally, many of my friends live in families that are on average 2-4 children large. The world is moving in the right direction to reach a stabilized population which is good news. With the help of technological advances in the food production industry, I believe we should be able to sustain our population while it grows and once it has stabilized. 


Hybrid/Digital Component:

  • 2.2 Digital writing and publishing – we will be publishing our work in the open.  We will have multiple digital assignments, and students will have some agency in choosing which item they’d like to blog about in each module.

Course Components:

Seeing patterns and trends in data and in visual sources such as maps and drawing conclusions from them


Fouberg, E. H., Murphy, A. B., & J., D. B. H. (2011). Human geography:

people, place, and culture. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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