What is the connection between population levels and the environment?



  1. 0 Votes

    One of the connections is that with more people more food staples must be produced, and as more food staples are produced there are more people.  This does not seem like an environmental problem at first.  However, the world food system relies on industrial agriculture to produce the main world food crops (grains).  Industrial agriculture relies on petroleum derived fertilizer to produce at the levels that they currently produce at.  This nitrogen fertilizer seeps into rivers causing dead zones.  Intensive agriculture also erodes the soil and has other detrimental effects.  

    Human population levels could quite easily be retained at current levels, even though they far exceed natural holding capacity of the earth.  However, to maintain these levels there will have to be a continuous supply of fossil fuels, which there is not.  Plus, the world population is increasing.  What’s worse is that many people are taking up the extremely wasteful and energy intensive American lifestyle.  This will increase global climate change as more people drive cars and eat energy intensive beef.  In fact this is already happening in China. This will cause a crisis in the near future as oil demand outstrips supply, oil prices go up, food prices go up etc.. 

  2. 0 Votes

    In general, natural resources limit population growth in most species. For example, only as many deer can exist as there are plants to feed them. Many predators will exceed the sustainable population size and later level out to a balanced number (this is known as carrying capacity). 

    When it comes to human beings however, we have likely already exceeded the capacity of the earth’s resources (especially in the ability to produce enough food to feed 7 billion people). Overpopulation can mean environmental collapse due to many factors. Firstly, the more people there are, the more agricultural areas are required to feed them. This means the leveling of other ecosystems to make farms. Genetic modification of crops may also be used, which may not be as nutritious and may be more prone to diseases (many crop plants become too genetically similar to fight off new diseases). A higher human population also means more places are needed for people to live, which will cause further destruction of natural places. In addition, more resources, businesses, products, waste, emissions, etc. are produced. 

    While many of us are living comfortable lives, there are 4-5 billion people living off of $1-$2 day that do not have their basic needs met due to lack of resource availability. A lot of new clean technology will have to be developed to minimize the impact of the human population on the planet. If everyone consumes less, the population may be able to grow sustainably.  

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