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In: Elephants in the Volkswagen: facing the tough questions about our overcrowded country, [by] Lindsey Grant. New York, New York, W.H. Freeman, 1992. 1-17.People in the US are beginning to realize that we are destroying the environment. Population size, per capita consumption, and technology fuel these environmental problems. The nation uses technological fixes and pleas for conservation to address these problems, but ignores population and consumption levels. We tend to have a bigger the better attitude toward consumption and this attitude and subsequent environmental degradation reduce the size of the population the environment can sustain. We must face the issue between personal freedom (a very strong and deeply rooted US sentiment) and social responsibility. Environmentalists have abandoned the maximum population approach and have adopted the concept of sustainability. Sustainability proponents believe that population size should not become so great that it destroys the carrying capacity of the Earth and its ability to support future generations. The US and other developed nations (e.g., the Netherlands) need a population policy. They also need to develop that considers humans as only a part of a functioning ecosystem and identifies an optimum population size, which allows us to achieve our national and social goals within that ecosystem. Macroeconomics and the scientific method are unable to serve as models to determine optimum population and, in fact, hinder the inquiry. We do not have the luxury to wait indefinitely for the systematic intellectual framework needed to study optimum population. Population is linked to air pollution, acid rain, global warming, unemployment, and ghettos. A population policy which limits immigration, has a national goal of a 2-child maximum family size, and shapes social policies to help realize this goal would help the US achieve a lower population size. In addition to the attitude that bigger is better other attitudes which lend themselves to considerable resistance to such a policy include those which revolve around self-interest, the injunction to be fruitful and multiply, and fear of coercion.
In: Preserving the global environment: the challenge of shared leadership, edited by Jessica T. Mathews. New York, New York/London, England, W. W. Norton, 1991. 39-77.The thesis that human population growth will eventually destroy the equilibrium of the world ecosystem, because environmental strain is a nonlinear effect of the linear growth, is embellished with discussions of technology and resulting pollution, population dynamics, birth and death rates, effects of expanded education, causes of urbanization, time constraints and destabilizing effects of partial development and the debt crisis. It is suggested that the terms renewable and nonrenewable resources are paradoxical, since the nonrenewable resoureces such as minerals will always exist, while renewable ecosystems and species are limited. The competitive economy actually accelerates destruction of biological resoureces because it overvalues rare species when they have crossed the equilibrium threshold and are in decline. Technological outputs are proportional to population numbers: therefore adverse effects of population should be considered in billions, not percent increase even though it is declining. Even the United Nations does not have predictions of the effects of added billions, taking into account improved survival and decreased infant mortality. Rapid urbanization of developing countries and their debt crisis have resulted from political necessity from the point of view of governments in power, rather than mere demographics. Recommendations are suggested for U.S. policy based on these points such as enlightened political leadership, foreign aid, and scientific investment with the health of the world ecosystem in mind rather than spectacle and local political ideology.