Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Malthus Dreaming

by David Barber


Whatever Malthus thought he knew
- squeeze up there in the lifeboat –
humanity is more fertile
than all its genitals combined.
Forget another mouth to feed,
another human being is another mind,
another pair of hands are what we need.
The billions more afloat will feast
on plankton. Or dole yeast. Praise
the next Green Revolution!
Malthus lacked the longer view.

This future you are dreading
has no problem with fecundity.
Global warming came and went,
a non-event. The rising waters set us free
of nationhood in vast armadas.
Go South young man! Antarctica,
land of opportunity

so there’s always room for more.
Pop the gene for cellulase en masse
into the poor. Let them eat grass.
This is the way posterity thrives.
Technology was something Malthus
never understood, fixing things so insects, us
and our GM crop have short, fulfilling lives.

The living outwait the dead
as we cram hundreds of insectivore
into the space where just one
wastrel admired the view before.
Each mouthful mocks what Malthus said.

Malthus, they whisper,
if we are not what you think a human is
we only took what we were given
and did with it what you did best.

And even if a seconds’ worth
of births manage to get off the Earth,
the gravity well is deep
and megatonnes of flesh still breed.
(Hear Malthus moaning in his sleep)

The trickle of Einstein and Shakespeare and Mozart
becomes a torrent of so many minds brilliant at once
the ferment of their thought bubbles up everything anew.
See it as they do:

Malthus wants to keep things as they are.
Threatened, he takes your children.
He is the fat one who eats your share.
He thinks nothing can be better than the past
and his future does not include you.

Meanwhile, they’ve already jumped
and will invent the parachute on the way down.

…he has tried to adapt
to virtuality and the chlorophyll,
to dwarfism and the metabolic brakes,
now hibernation : if we must take turns
at living then surely more is worse…

a malthus!

at last a short, green, sluggish advocate of change
arrives and grants recycling rights to the hungry crowd

the future blesses and thanks you for making way


© 2011 David Barber

David Barber lives in the UK and was once was a teacher but now is not.

Find more by David Barber in the Author Index.

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