Important: The POPLINE website will retire on September 1, 2019. Click here to read about the transition.

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.

Document Number: 
Add to my documents. Add to My Documents