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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.
PEOPLE. 1991; 18(1):9-13.The World Resources Institute article provides a discussion of some of the problems facing African farmers, the interaction between population growth and environmental degradation and food production, and the solution in terms of an Environmental Action Plan (EAP) with the specific example of Rwanda. Data were based mainly on the World Bank's The Environment, Agriculture, and Environmental Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population increased 3.1% in 1980-87 from 2.6% in 1967-73. Deforestation is exceeding reforestation by a factor of 30; expansion of land under cultivation has increased to a rate of 3% a year. Africa is the only developing region with a decline in per capita food production. Yields are declining. 80% of land is affected by decertification, and the production of cereal grains lags behind population needs by 10 million tons with the projection to 2020 of 245 millions tons, an amount greater than the total world trade in cereals. A solution, for example, lies in the restoration of lost resources and increasing crop yields with better resource management techniques (reclaiming swamp land) - all in tandem with the promotion of family planning. It is also important to address the root cause of malnutrition, poor health status, low incomes and lack of educational opportunity. The integrated approach in the case of Rwanda's EAP involved multi-disciplinary groups.