Managing Planet Earth: Perspectives on Population, Ecology, and the Law

By Miguel A. Santos | Go to book overview
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1 Human Population and Carrying Capacity

For many years humankind has justified the exploitation of natural resources with the arguments that there are plenty of resources available, and that their use is essential for growth. In the name of growth and progress, forests have been felled, water polluted, and air contaminated.

The same general argument has been used to justify population growth, and the situation has reached a crisis stage. At the present and projected growth rates, the world population will reach 6.2 billion by the year 2000 ( U.S. Bureau of Census 1985). Of these, 5 billion, or 80.7 percent, will reside in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Hence, most of the increase in the world's population is expected to occur in developing nations.

Developing nations cannot continue reproducing as they have been for the last two centuries. The sad part of the story is that some people in these nations are not aware of the overpopulation problem, particularly at the period during which couples are considering starting a family. They may also come from families or cultures with a custom that puts high value on large families. Besides, in many developing nations, effective population control programs are nonexistent even though the demand for them already exists. Understandably, many of these same people who would benefit by the reduction of fertility resent the intrusion into their private lives. There may also be problems with certain na

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