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The social dimensions of population.

Arizpe L; Velazquez M
In: Population and environment: rethinking the debate, edited by Lourdes Arizpe, M. Priscilla Stone, and David C. Major. Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1994. 15-40.

The chapter aim was to present new directions for constructing comprehensive social, political, and economic models of the environment and population links. Variables should include not just population size, but density, rate of increase, age distribution, sex ratios, access to resources, livelihoods, social dimensions of gender, and power structures. Sustainability must account for sustainable livelihoods. Today's challenges are on much larger scale without precedence. Out-migration is not now possible due to ecological mismanagement. The natural inequalities in geographic resource distribution are exacerbated by the economic power of capital in industrialized nations and elite groups in less developed countries. Solutions are not possible when the debate is deadlocked. Population growth is an "accelerating force" and interrelated with socioeconomic transitions. Consumption of natural and human made resources must be tied to population growth. Sustainable development must occur nationally, regionally, and globally. Demographic transition today has been occurring in ways different from the developed country models of socioeconomic change. The momentum of population growth, the age structure, and the consumption and impact of new persons on social and ecological systems must be accounted for. Carrying capacity concepts are difficult to estimate, in part because needs are determined by culture. Population growth has been used to obscure existing disparities and inequalities. Various theoretical postures have emerged: population growth as a cause of environmental depletion, technology as a solution spurred on population growth, consumption disparities as a cause, income inequality as a cause, and measurement deficits in determining the differential effects of population growth. Environmental change has always occurred in tandem with population change. Examples from the Lacandon rainforest illustrated the complexity of interactions.

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