Such violent deaths as those by floods and volcanic eruptions are really remote results of overpopulation. The large rivers of China annually rise in flood and drown their thousands and occasionally their hundreds of thousands.* The last flood in Hyderabad, India, drowned 50,000 people. The danger is perfectly well known, and would be avoided if the people had any other place to go and were not simply forced into the danger zone to take their chances. Likewise, the danger zones around volcanoes are well known and would be avoided if possible, but the people must take chances that the quiescent interval will be extended. At St. Pierre there were 20,000 deaths in a few seconds, but this is insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions who were born, lived and died around Mt. Pelee since that volcano last destroyed the people. The same rules apply to the loss of life around Vesuvius - the loss at Pompeii is a mere drop in the bucket of the life that has existed in that region before and since. The above was written while the author lived in Batangas, Batangas Province, P. I., a country composed exclusively of materials thrown from Taal volcano, fifteen miles away. Innumerable villages and cities have been destroyed in this area, and yet so great is the stress of overpopulation that each rises flourishing like a Phoenix from its own ashes. The recent dreadful loss of life in southern Italy will not make the slightest difference as to future density. After similar disasters in the same place, people crowded in again, even though the danger was known.
The violent deaths of great calamities increase in number, of course, with the saturation of the land. The vastness of the calamities in the densely packed parts of Asia can well be understood. The Yellow River, for instance, which is five times the volume of the Danube, has brought down such huge quantities of silt that it has made flat lands of many hundreds of miles in extent. These have been settled upon for some 2,000 or 3,000 years, as they are so marvelously rich. To preserve them from the annual overflows, the banks were raised by dikes, but the river filled with mud and the banks were raised until the river bottom is now above the farms. In 1886, the dikes broke and the resulting floods drowned 7,000,000 people. The Government, after these disasters, simply dikes the river in its new channel, and then people from hundreds of miles on each side flock in, take up the newly drained flooded land, now without landmarks of any description, and in a few years the land is as crowded as ever. It is impossible to keep people out, for the tendency is to fill up every spot which will yield a living, even if it is periodically wiped out. Huge disasters do not reduce the world's population by one soul in the end, for the loss is instantly repaired.
* "There is terrible destitution in the Yang-Tze districts," says a despatch to the London Times, "owing to the recent floods, which have not yet subsided. More than 10,000,000 persons are homeless. It is feared the distress will promote civil disorder during the coming winter".
The casualties in war have really become much smaller than those, due to modern factories and railroads. The British losses in the three years of the Boer war were less than our annual railroad holocaust, and our yearly accident roll is double the total killed and wounded in the late Manchurian war. So that war has forever ceased to be the main means of reducing populations. Other forms of death replace it, and preventable destruction of life still goes on. Nevertheless, the English still build battleships for all the world, and the Krupp works, though employing 56,000 men making guns to murder populations, cannot fill the demand.