In an amusing passage, Bourne visits Bath Abbey in England and looks for the grave of 19th Century economist and minister Thomas Robert Malthus, who was famously pessimistic that food supplies would suffice to feed an overpopulated world.
Indeed, Malthus has been a central figure in this book as Bourne travels the globe, witnessing bread riots in Egypt, interviewing a pesticide-poisoned woman suffering from breast cancer in the Punjab, asking about the environmental sustainability of an industrial-scale pork facility in China, inspecting depleted irrigation systems in the American Southwest, and drinking vodka with farm employees in Ukraine as they reflect on the collapse of the agricultural infrastructure there. Bourne paraphrases the account by the Cornell University economist Chris Barrett of the long-term imbalance between global production and consumption this way: “In other words, the world is running out of food.”Bourne never did find Malthus' grave, which he later heard had been hidden under a pew. After reading this book, one may be concerned about the world food prospect, but perhaps not yet ready to resurrect Malthus.
Yet such pessimism is balanced in The End of Plenty by thoughtful attention to promising technological advances and social changes.