Episode 7: Overpopulation from Malthus to Manila

7 Billion People

Malthus Overpopulation Words To That Effect Podcast Ep 7


A baby girl was born in a hospital in the Philippines, on 30th October, 2011. However, unlike all the other children born that day, the arrival of Danica May Camacho was witnessed by a crowd of photographers and journalists. The world’s media were gathered in a hospital in Manila because this little girl was the 7 billionth person on earth.

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Our population is growing. Fast. There are now 7.6bn people on earth and the UN projects that it will be 8.6bn by 2030, and nearly 10 billion by 2050. How many people is too many? Is the planet overpopulated?

“Overpopulation” is a word that gets used and abused in a variety of ways. But while much of the discussion around it may seem like a relatively modern concern, especially given how quickly the world population is currently growing, as a concept overpopulation can actually be traced back to one person: Thomas Malthus.

In this episode I talk to Dr Ruth Doherty, an expert in the cultural and literary representations of overpopulation. We talk misery and vice, Dickens and Dan Brown, London and the world.


Watch the world population grow: World Population Clock


Guest Profile

Malthus Essay on Population Words To That Effect Ep7Dr Ruth Doherty

Dr Doherty’s profile and research can be found here on academia.edu


Her most recent work is on Reproduction and Infection in Late Nineteenth-Century Fiction, the topic of her talk at Mystery and Medicine: The Dark Side of Science in Victorian Fiction



In The Still Come on Live Long (Overpopulation Episode)Music

Come On Live Long (Listen Here)

Album: In The Still (2017)

Tracks (In Order Heard):



Sum of its Parts





Works Mentioned

Thomas Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol, Hard Times, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend

George Gissing: New Grub Street

H.G. Wells: War of the Worlds

Soylent Green (film)

P.D. James: Children of Men

Elysium (film)

WALL-E (film)

Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake

Dan Brown: Inferno

Utopia (TV series)


Want to know about Mars and H.G. Wells? Check out Episode 5 or this article on Mars.

Intrigued by some of the ways in which medicine, science, and literature interact? Episode 6 looks at how neurasthenia influenced ghost stories and western novels

Or you can browse all the episodes here


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