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  1. 1

    The third revolution: environment, population and a sustainable world.

    Harrison P

    London, England, I.B. Tauris, 1992. xi, 359 p.

    Crisis sometimes spurs revolutions. The revolution that needs impetus is sustainable development. The issues of rapid population growth, consumption and technology, and environmental destruction are complex. Overstating the importance of population growth is no better than ignoring it as an important factor. Five village case studies reflect empirical evidence of the nature of the problems: Musoh, Malaysia; Ranomafana, Madagascar; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; Kalsaka, Burkina Faso; and Hatia Island, Bangladesh. The example in Malaysia reflects the myth that forest people do not put pressure on the environment, which is only true when population density and consumption are low and technology is limited to sticks and blowpipes. Various theses about population are traced from Robert Wallace, William Godwin, and Thomas Malthus through critics such as William Hazlitt, Karl Marx, Henry George, and into the modern period of Ester Boserup, Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Meadows, and Paul Simon. The result is ideological chaos. The author reflects on the growth of the environmental crisis, the shortages of food, fertile land, energy, and minerals, and the state of biological diversity. The Madagascar example, illustrates past creative processes and present destructive ones. Deforestation, forest adjustments, land degradation, marginal people and areas are considered. Burkina Faso exemplifies how soil erosion can be stopped with appropriate use of technology on marginal slopes, but the balance between population and resources is lacking. In the Cote d'Ivoire example, author reflects on the growth of nonagricultural work, urbanization, the environmental impact of cities, solid waste generation and disposal, polluted waters, and atmospheric pollution. On Hatia Island population density, harsh environmental conditions, and cultural patterns which place women in inferior positions show the nature of poverty and interaction with population growth, which is exacerbated by natural disaster. A general theory of impacts is proposed based on Barry Commoner's concepts and charted. The options for action are identified. Shakespeare's Hamlet syndrome is referred to in the hope that action is not delayed until almost too late.
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  2. 2

    Rapid population growth and environmental degradation: ultimate versus proximate factors.

    Shaw RP

    ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION. 1989 Autumn; 16(3):199-208.

    This philosophical review of 2 arguments about responsibility for and solutions to environmental degradation concludes that both sides are correct: the ultimate and the proximal causes. Ultimate causes of pollution are defined as the technology responsible for a given type of pollution, such as burning fossil fuel; proximate causes are defined as situation-specific factors confounding the problem, such as population density or rate of growth. Commoner and others argue that developed countries with low or negative population growth rates are responsible for 80% of world pollution, primarily in polluting technologies such as automobiles, power generation, plastics, pesticides, toxic wastes, garbage, warfaring, and nuclear weapons wastes. Distortionary policies also contribute; examples are agricultural trade protection, land mismanagement, urban bias in expenditures, and institutional rigidity., Poor nations are responsible for very little pollution because poverty allows little waste or expenditures for polluting, synthetic technologies. The proximal causes of pollution include numbers and rate of growth of populations responsible for the pollution. Since change in the ultimate cause of pollution remains out of reach, altering the numbers of polluters can make a difference. Predictions are made for proportions of the world's total waste production, assuming current 1.6 tons/capita for developed countries and 0.17 tons/capita for developing countries. If developing countries grow at current rates and become more wealthy, they will be emitting half the world's waste by 2025. ON the other hand, unsustainable population growth goes along with inadequate investment in human capital: education, health, employment, infrastructure. The solution is to improve farming technologies in the 117 non-self-sufficient countries, fund development in the most unsustainable enclaves of growing countries, break institutionalized socio-political rigidity in these enclaves, and focus on educating and empowering women in these enclaves. Women are in charge of birth spacing and all aspects of management of energy, food, water and the local environment, more so than men, in most countries.
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  3. 3

    Beyond the blame-game: population-environment links.

    Harrison P

    POPULI. 1990 Sep; 17(3):14-21.

    No single factor should be blamed for environmental degradation; all possible factors must be considered in implementing methods to improve the environment and to prevent further damage. 3 major factors contribute to total environmental damage: consumption, technology, and population. Population is often blamed as the single factor responsible for environmental degradation. From 1950-1985, global carbondioxide (CO2) emissions rose at a rate of 3.1%/year. While consumption and technology contributed to 38% of the increased CO2 emissions, population growth contributed to 62%. Population increases can lead to increased demand for food production, which result in increased use of farmland. Increased farmland contributes to deforestation, which has an impact on environmental degradation. During 1971-1986, farmland increased by 59 million hectares and forest decreased by 125 million hectares in developing countries. In Latin America, ranching contributed to 43% of the deforestation. Another contributing factor of deforestation is commercial logging. Besides increased farmland and deforestation, population growth may also result in species loss and soil erosion. Additional factors responsible for environmental damage include poverty, inequality in landownership, and misdirected policies. Advancement in technology can better utilize the land. Irrigation can prevent increased land consumption by reutilization of farmland. Terracing can prevent further soil erosion. Methods for improving the environment and preventing further damage must consider the impact of consumption, lifestyles, and technology on the environment. Reformation in each of these areas would have an immediate effect on environmental degradation reduction.
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