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  1. 1

    Visions of a sustainable world: ethical evaluations or political programmes?

    Chadwick MJ

    In: Population -- the complex reality. A report of the Population Summit of the world's scientific academies, edited by Francis Graham-Smith. London, England, Royal Society, 1994. 349-61.

    Environmental carrying capacity is dependent upon population size and resource demand per capita. Confusion has arisen from mistaking effects for causes in analysis of the links between poverty, population growth, and environmental degradation. Economic growth in and of itself will not alleviate poverty. Income earning capacities for poor households must be increased, and price systems must be favorable to the poor. Economic growth is necessary in developing countries for relief of poverty, and an obstacle to this growth may be the lack of sufficient capital. Limitations on resources restrict economic growth. Studies have suggested that resource conservation subsidies and depletion taxes correct for open access and improve sustainability. Another option is more equitable reallocation of resources. Evidence suggests that income drives population growth. The Malthusian dilemma of balancing growth with food productivity does not account for technological advances. The impact of population growth on food productivity has not been realized yet. Growth of crop yields has slowed, but physical limits have not been reached. Signs of increasing pressure on food supply are famine and malnutrition. Correction for inequalities of distribution and access would relieve the impact on the poor. The risks to resource depletion are dependent on whether the focus is on population numbers or resource demand. Shaw has modeled the links between population, natural resource consumption, poverty, debt, and technology and environmental well-being; the resulting model shows the complexity of interactions that impact on sustainability. Environmental impact is also dependent on waste technologies, which are affected by consumption patterns. There is global economic interdependence, and narrow national self-interests need to be reversed to reflect global cooperation and survival.
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  2. 2

    Reconciling Texas and Berkeley: the concept of optimum population.

    Grant L

    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.
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  3. 3

    A decade of discontinuity.

    Brown LR

    WORLD WATCH. 1993 Jul-Aug; 6(4):19-26.

    Usual trends in the world have changed direction in the 1990s. We do not yet fully know the consequences of these altered trends. As population continues to grow, basic agricultural and industrial production falls (e.g., 1%/year decline in grain production and 0.6%/year decline in oil production). Moreover, world economic growth has fallen .8% annually in the early 1990s. It is feared that these shifts are not short term as were the instabilities generated during the 1973 increase in oil prices. The shifts in the 1990s are not limited to several national political leaders (e.g., OPEC), but are a result of the collision between swelling human numbers and their needs and the limitations of the earth's natural systems on the other. These limitations include the capacity of seas to produce seafood, of grasslands to yield mutton and beef, of the hydrological cycle to generate fresh water, of crops to use fertilizer, of the atmosphere to absorb carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons, and of people to inhale polluted air, and of forests to resist acid rain. These constraints are forcing the realization that each nation must reduce consumption of the earth's natural resources and implement a population policy. The challenge is for social institutions to quickly check and stabilize population growth without infringing in human rights.
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  4. 4

    Biology and the balance sheet.

    Meadows D; Rothenberg J; Sinai A; Wilson EO; Myers N

    EARTHWATCH. 1992 Jul-Aug; 6-9.

    For the past several decades ecologists and economists have been engaged in a debate. Ecologists have a philosophy that is based on the belief that the carrying capacity of the Earth refers to the integrity of ecological systems. Economists have a philosophy that is based on the belief that the carrying capacity of the Earth refers to human welfare. There has been some progress in the debate. Economists are now starting to realize that ecology must be factored into economic models. This is especially true when economics are dependent on something ecological. Food production is a classic example. If the ecology is damaged to a certain degree, then it cannot grow food and food prices rise in that area. Ecologists are now starting to realize that economic markets are good places to make changes in the ecology. Tax credits and government subsidies of money or land are examples of economic forces that can be harnessed to protect the ecology. Population is a factor of great importance, but consumption is equally as important. Every year Bangladesh adds twice as many people to its population as the US, yet each American consumes 20 times more energy than each person from Bangladesh. So while the population growth rate in developing countries does legitimately threaten the ecology, so does the high consumption levels in developed countries. To the credit of the economists, technology and innovation has to date managed to solve all the major problems humanity has created. But, to the credit of the ecologists, there are several very serious problems, E.G., deforestation, decertification, drought, famine, global warming, and ozone depletion that do not appear to have imminent solutions. As ecological conditions worsen, economists and ecologists will continue to work more closely if for no other reason than necessity.
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  5. 5

    Sustainable development: from concept and theory to operational principles.

    Daly HE

    In: Resources, environment, and population: present knowledge, future options, edited by Kingsley Davis and Mikhail S. Bernstam. New York, New York/Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 1991. 25-43. (Population and Development Review. Vol. 16. Supplement)

    Sustainable development is a relatively new economic term in the common vocabulary. Above all it is important to realize the critical difference between growth and development. In the past growth has been viewed as the ideal and as such all our economic measuring systems are based upon it. However, measuring the circular flow of exchange value makes it impossible to take into account the effect upon the environment that growth has. This old method was suitable in the past because of a misperception that growth is unlimited. A better way of measuring economics is to examine the entropic throughout of matter/energy. This system of measurement is consistent with the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics and consistent with the fact that we live in a finte world with finite resources. Thus, the old system only measures the scale but not the allocation of resources and per capita consumption. While the independence of allocation from distribution is widely known, the independence of allocation from scale is not. No matter how large the population or per capita consumption rate, an optimal allocation will be found for every scale. Yet measuring scale is of critical importance. If a ship is overloaded, it does not matter how evenly distributed the load is, it will sink. Some method must be devised and implemented which will keep economic scale within the limits of ecological carrying capacity. Achieving sustainable development will require some rethinking and a change of priority. Thus, qualitative improvement could be labeled development, and quantitative improvements could be labeled growth. Thus a steady state economy could continue to develop without growing. This is how planet Earth operates and economics is just another open system that must be allowed to develop without growing.
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  6. 6

    Public health and the ethics of sustainability. Swellengrebel Lecture.

    King M

    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."
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  7. 7

    Population growth can prevent the development that would slow population growth.

    Keyfitz N

    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.
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  8. 8

    Further implications of learning by doing: the effect of population on per-capita income

    Cigno A

    Bulletin of Economic Research. 1984 Nov; 36(2):97-108.

    This paper investigates the theoretical implications of the hypothesis that technical progress is affected by population size or growth. It extends the model of Arrow, in which technical progress is viewed as the result of learning-by-doing, in 3 ways: 1) a smooth substitutability between labor, capital, and natural resources is permitted; 2) the concept of learning-by-doing is broadened to allow for the fact that any act of production may involve some degree of learning; and 3) it addresses the stability question, left unanswered by Arrow. Models both without natural resources and with exhaustible natural resources were considered. In both versions of the model, the steady-state characteristics of the economy are independent of the initial population size. This suggests that the population-size or population-density effect advocated by Simon cannot be justified by a learning-by-doing mechanism and the initial advantage of large population size becomes insignificant over time. However, a positive population growth effect on the level or the growth rate of real per capita income is possible. In cases where natural resources are less important than man-made capital, a rise in the population growth rate would increase the growth rate of per capita income but decrease its level, whereas the opposite situation applies in cases where natural resources are more important than capital.
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  9. 9

    Population and environment: time is running out.

    Thomas H

    People. 1983; 10(1):3-5.

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