Geography 213 Population and Environment

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Carrying capacity
Maximum human population that an area can support indefinitely on a specific resource base and at a specific level of technology


Optimum Population
Population size which maximizes human welfare/standard of living
Tragedy of the commons
Conflict between individual self-interest/desire and the common good of the community
Environmental scarcity
Declining availability of renewable natural resources
Environmental scarcity concepts:
Demand-induced scarcity: the declining availability of renewable natural resources due to rapid population growth

Supply-induced scarcity: environmental degradation occurs

Structural scarcity: which infrastructure and distribution mechanisms unevenly redistribute the resource in question

Resource capture: Demand-induced scarcity > structural scarcity

Ecological marginalization: Demand-induced scarcity > supply-induced scarcity

Perspectives on Population-Environment (4)
Malthusian: (pessimist??)
-Population growth tends to outstrip productive capabilities of land resources
-Failed to take technology in account, has supporters called neo-malthusians,

Boserupian: (optimist??)
-Population growth (increased population density) might induce technological changes that allow food production to keep pace with population growth

-Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology

-Social, cultural, and political (institutional) factors play a mediating role in determining the population-environment relationship
-Responses to growing population: lower fertility, new technology, government policies

Paul Erlich
Julian Simon
Human Modification of Environment (4 phases)
Primeval (500,000 BCE):
-Uses of fire: (protection, cooking)
-Changes in vegetation cover at local side

Early Farming (10,000 BCE):
-Domestication of animals and plants
-Large-scale deforestation (land for cultivation)

Early Urban (3,000 BCE):
-Fundamental changes in organizing human society (non-farming activities)
-Ecological impact out of proportion to population size

Modern Industrial (1750 CE):
-Introduction of machines and manufacturing process
-Ecological impact quite disproportionate to its duration

Environmental Degradation (regional overview)
Developed Countries:
-One/fourth of worlds population
-Three/fourths of resource consumption and waste generation
Environmental degradation in poor regions (causes)
Poverty is a major factor. Poor people are desperate and will do anything to survive.

Skewed systems of land tenure

Inadequate control of polluting industries

Environmental problems in rich regions
Soil depletion, acid rain, water and air pollution, toxic wastes, loss of wetlands/other natural habitats
The condition of having a population so dense as to cause environmental deterioration, an impaired quality of life, or a population crash.
Global Issues (3 main atmospheric pollutions)
Greenhouse Effect (climate change):
-Carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane

Stratospheric Ozone Depletion:
-Protection against ultraviolet sun radiation

Acid Rain:
-Caused by sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide