Overview of scientific perspectives.
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.