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In: Consumption, population, and sustainability: perspectives from science and religion, edited by Audrey R. Chapman, Rodney L. Petersen, and Barbara Smith-Moran. Washington, D.C., Island Press, 2000. 39-47.This paper examines questions about the impact of human population growth, technology, and consumption patterns on the environment, and considers to what extent science can provide answers. It notes that the impact of population growth is compounded by the fact that the greatest increase is taking place in poor countries, worsening the alarming rates of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. Such problems limit the possibilities of achieving sustainable economic development and improving the quality of life. Moreover, it is noted that high rates of natural resource consumption and pollution, primarily in affluent countries, exert strong demographic pressures. In this regard, the inequality between poor and rich countries underlies the population- consumption-environmental crisis. In assessing the state of the environment and options for solving the problems, science has made various contributions such as knowledge, promotion of awareness of the interdependence of life forms, and provision of long-term global view. However, science has little likelihood of providing answers to critical issues due to the difficulty in measuring the interrelationships between human population and environment.
In: Consumption, population, and sustainability: perspectives from science and religion, edited by Audrey R. Chapman, Rodney L. Petersen, and Barbara Smith-Moran. Washington, D.C., Island Press, 2000. 23-35.To address various environmental concerns, members of scientific and religious communities have been working together on issues of population, consumption, and the environment. It is noted that both communities have significant contribution to make to their common endeavor. This paper discusses the contributions from science and religion. Science, it is noted, provides better understanding of the environmental impacts of the agricultural, industrial, and personal practices such as the awareness of ecological interdependence. On the other hand, both the religious and scientific communities have advocated a global perspective, respect for all forms of life, and concern about population growth and stabilization. Furthermore, contributions from the religious communities are reflected in their commitment to social justice and less consumptive vision of the good life than existing patterns in industrial nations.
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.
WORLD HEALTH FORUM. 1991; 12(3):347-55.The issues of health, development and population are all interrelated. There large, rapidly growing population can adversely affect both health and development. currently 95% of the population growth is occurring in the development world. Progress in development creates opportunities to improve health and reduce population through education and contraception. The general health of the population affects development because people need to be healthy in order to work and contribute to socioeconomic progress. By the year 2000 40% of the developing world's projected population of 5 billion will be under 25. It is now recognized that reducing the population is in everyone's best interest as the size it has reached is already having a negative effect on the world economy and health. In order to be successful the developed nations need to increase development assistance for international family planning to US$9 billion by 2000. In addition the role of women in development must be expanded, for without their inclusion in sustainable development planning, success will not come. Critical areas include education, employment and health care. Also, family planning and maternal/child health should be integrated into the general health care system in order to improve cost effectiveness and efficiency.
WORLD HEALTH FORUM. 1991; 12(3):311-21.Today the effect upon the environment have moral implications. In order to establish a list of priorities for human conduct, it is necessary to understand the value of our own human lives and the value of our ecosystem. Different schools of thought have different priorities that they each try to support. The technocratic individualist (TI) believes that the end of progress and economic expansion, justifies any means. This attitude leads to the exploitation of the earth and violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It leaves the planet bare and lifeless. Current methods employed by the TIs are based on consumptive methods that extract what is needed without any concern for the future. the TIs' methods result in the tragedy of the commons, in which the common people are exploited for the benefit of an elite few. The environmental holist (EH) claims that we must abandon the anthropocentric ethics of the TIs; however, the EHs suffer from both scientific and ethical problems. If we do as the EHS say and respect all life, we can not eat, fight disease, or build shelter. Further, if we value ourselves equally with the rest of the ecosystem, then we could easily justify violating human rights and decent conduct in an effort of avoid doing harm in the ecosystem. The best compromise between these 2 extremes lies in contract ethics. Because we benefited from the people of the past, we have an obligation, through a social contract, to the people of the future. The last element of an acceptable list of priorities of conduct lies in the distinction between strong and weak rights. Strong rights are those necessary for our survival, weak rights are those that give our lives meaning. Thus our ethical priorities should be: (1) duty to recognize strong human rights: (2) duty to protect environmental interests; (3) duty to recognize weak human rights.
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.
TROPICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL MEDICINE. 1990 Jul; 42(3):197-206.An exposition of the ethical arguments for placing sustainability as a priority in implementation of public health programs is made, considering the definition of sustainability, theories of the demographic transition, the ecological transition, the relationship between sustainability of the ecosystem and the human birth rate, types of ethical conflicts over the issue of child survival interventions, a suggested way of resolving the dilemma and a possible paradigm shift constituting a scientific revolution in the field of international health. Sustainability means maintenance of the capacity to support life in quantity and variety. Although most demographers are familiar with Notestein's classic definition of the demographic transition, many are unaware of the likelihood that many countries will become entrapped in stage 2, to the extent that they destroy their ecosystem and thus their population, the "demographic trap." The 3 stages of the ecological transition are 1) expanding human demands with sustainable yield; 2) excess human demands with consumption of biological reserves; 3) ecosystem collapse and death or exit of the human population. An early sign of the 3rd phase is a rise in infant mortality. Sustainability can be increased by adjusting the environment or by lowering human birth rate, with Chinese rigor in need be, or by adding sustainable elements to the system that outweigh de-sustaining ones. Unfortunately there are too many unremovable constraints, and not enough time to wait for socioeconomic gains to lower birth rates. The current attempt by UNICEF to lower the child death rate to effect a demographic transition is attractive but unsound, since it has been proven that numbers of child deaths do not affect family fertility sufficiently. Reducing child deaths will only make population pressure worse. Ethical principles arguing for lowering child deaths have been articulated in Western culture, but now the challenge of sustainability may outweigh them all. It may be possible to apply sustaining measures to countries where possible, but for others, it is argued that child survival measures should not be instituted. These would only make the demographic transition impossible and prolong human misery for larger numbers. For these societies, only the kind of care Mother Teresa gives is appropriate. Finally, residents of developed countries must assume a "deep green" behavior code, a sustainable consumption level. WHO's definition of health should be updated to "Health is a sustainable state of complete...well-being."
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.