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Death Control Has Passed Birth Control, Geographer Stamp Warns Burr Crowd


"At the present rate of increase of population there will be standing room only in the world by the year 5000," one of Britian's foremost geographers told a Harvard Summer School audience Tuesday night.

L. Dudley Stamp, professor of Geography at the London School of Economics, addressed students, economists, and geographers who had gathered for the conference on "The Uses of Political Geography."

Panel Comments

Also speaking, and commenting on his talk were a panel, including Charles C. Colby, professor emeritus of Geography at the University of Chicago; Lincoln Gordon, '34, William Ziegler Professor of International Economic Relations at Harvard Business School; Max F. Millikan, professor of Geography at MIT; and Gilbert F. White, professor of Geography at the University of Chicago.

"The practice and techniques of death control have far overtaken the practice and techniques of birth control," Stamp told his audience, as he outlined the Malthusian problems involved due to the unequal distribution of land among the nations of the earth.

Turning from his serious discussion to jest with his audience for a moment, the witty British don cautioned his hearers not to worry about his statements about "standing room only by the year 5000." "By that time," he said, "a far worse fate will have overtaken all of us. The world will have been over-populated by big American automobiles."

Two New Canadas Per Year

Explaining to his audience that the present population of the world is 2,700, 000,000, Stamp said that it was increasing by 1.3 percent per year. "That means," he pointed out, "that the world adds onto itself a population the size of Canada every six months. It adds 100,000 people every day, or almost one person every second."

Stamp emphasized that he was talking about increase of population, not simply about births.

Dividing available land area by the population of the world, Stamp calculated that there was enough land to let every person have a share of 13.6 acres. But of these, there are only four arable per person. At the present time, only about one is actually used. "This means," Stamp thought, "that we could feed four times the present population of the earth."

Uneven Population Means Tension

Political tensions arise because of the uneven distribution of this land among the peoples of the earth. Whereas Canada has 22 acres per person, the United States has between six and nine for each citizen, some nations such as India and Japan, have only a fraction of an acre for each.

In Japan, for instance, which Stamp thought the most efficient cultivated country, six people are kept alive from the produce of each acre.

Colby stressed the task of production to help solve the dilemmas Stamp spoke of. "We must be even smarter in the next half century than we have been in the last half." he insisted.

Gordon described the political tensions which arise in India and Japan because of overcrowding and lack of food. "Even if India's leaders are able to keep their people alive, for the next twenty years, that very task will prevent them from realizing other political and economic goals."


Millikan turned from the facts and figures to muse for a while about "science-fiction" type solutions for the problems.

He thought it not unreasonable to think that the untapped resources of the ocean would be used in the future to make up for the limitations of the land.

Stamp told his audience that "Indians actually have less food to eat today than they did twenty and thirty years ago because advances in medical science have been able to prolong longevity and reduce the infant mortality rate." In a country already highly overpopulated ths is fatal, he said.

"Danger exists in merging usually independent small states," Richard Hartshorne said Monday at the opening ses- sion of the conference. Hartshorne, Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, told a Burr Hall audience that "diversity in political units weakens". The separate areas of a political unit must have a "common set of values in government," he said.

Medaris Disputes

Major General James B. Medaris disputed Hartshorne's thesis. "Peoples tend to divide," said Medaris, commanding officer of the U. S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency. "Unity must be imposed by force," he added.

The primary concern of political geography is "The political organization of an area is influenced by all the cultural and physical aspects", Hartshorne said.

Positive Accomplishments Needed

"Unity of a political area demands that the central government provide positive accomplishments," he added, "to resist the strength of outside ties and internal divergence among the sub-divisions."

Carleton S. Coon, Curator of Ethnology and Professor of Anthropology at the University if Pennsylvania and William Y. Elliott, Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, joined General Medaris on a panel following Hartshorne's talk.


Malnutrition, over-population, and racial differences are major factors in disunity, according to Coon's anthropological approach.

Elliott queried the contribution of geography itself to an understanding of the unity of political areas.

Geography's place is "to keep an eye on the stage on which political organization is played", concluded Edward A. Ackerman, Director of the water resources program of Resources for the Future, Inc

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