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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/478

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Illustrations confirmatory of the assertion that the food resources of half a century ago would be inadequate for the support of the existing population of the leading civilized countries are familiar, but the following are so striking as to warrant renewed presentation:

All the resources of the population of the United States, as they existed in 1880, would have been wholly inadequate to have sowed or harvested the present average annual corn or wheat crops of the country; and, even if these two results had been accomplished, the greater proportion of such a cereal product would have been of no value to the cultivator, and must have rotted on the ground for lack of any means of adequate distribution; the cost of the transportation of a ton of wheat, worth twenty-five dollars at a market, for a distance of a hundred and twenty miles over good roads, and with good teams and vehicles, entirely exhausting its initial value.

Forty years ago corn (maize) was shelled in the United States by scraping the ears against the sharp edge of a frying-pan or shovel, or

    economic and social problems of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. While the general average of the population for the whole country is 184 to the square mile, there are districts in India in which a population, to be counted by tens of millions, averages from 300 to 400 to the square mile, and others in which a population, to be counted by some millions, rises to 800, and even 900, to the square mile. These latter probably constitute the most densely-populated districts of the world, the population of the most densely-peopled country of Europe—namely, Belgium—averaging 480 to the square mile. The total population of India is estimated at 250,000,000. Under the old-time system of native rulers, frequent wars, consequent on foreign invasions and internal race antagonisms, with accompanying famines and epidemic diseases, materially restricted the growth of population. But under the conditions of peace, with protection for life and property, which have been attendant in late years on British rule, the population of India is increasing so rapidly—nearly one per cent per annum—and so disproportionately to the amount of new and fertile soil that can be appropriated, as to leave but little margin, under existing methods of cultivation, for increasing the means of subsistence for the people. Much new soil has been put under cultivation during the last century of British rule, and a quarter of a million of square miles of cultivable waste yet remains to be occupied; but the fact that the national revenues from the taxation of land have not increased to any extent in recent years is regarded as proof that land cultivation is not increasing in proportion to the growth of population, and that the limits of agricultural production are approaching exhaustion. An annual increase of one per cent on the present population of India means at least 20,000,000 more people to feed in ten years, and upward of 40,000,000 in twenty years; and the problem to which the British Government in India has now before it, and to which it is devoting itself with great energy and intelligence, is, in what way, and by what means, can the character and habits of the people—especially in respect to their methods of agriculture—be so developed and changed that "their industry can become more efficient on practically the same soil?" Much has been already done in the way of increasing and cheapening, through roads, canals, and railroads, the means of transportation, and in promoting irrigation and education, and especially the use of new tools and methods for cultivating the soil. But so many are the obstacles, and so great is the moral inertia of the people, that, although remarkable progress has been made, the prospect seems to be that, "from decade to decade, larger and larger masses of the semi-pauperized, or wholly pauperized, will grow up in India, requiring state intervention to feed them, and threatening social and financial difficulties of the most dangerous character."