Population, Economic Development, and the Environment

Population, Economic Development, and the Environment

Population, Economic Development, and the Environment

Population, Economic Development, and the Environment


Prompted by growing concern about the environmental impact of high consumption levels and population growth, these interdisciplinary essays explore in depth the connections between population size and growth, environmental destruction, and poverty. The contributors--including such distinguished scholars as P. Dasgupta, C. S. Holling, Robert Fogel, Geoffrey McNicoll, Caroline Bledsoe, Robert Willis, Amartya Sen, and Nancy Birdsall--represent the different fields most concerned with this vital topic. They examine three main themes: the Malthusian conflict, factors underlying fertility changes, and global development issues. The writers take into account the effects of increasing competitoin for natural resources on social structures, and look at the evolution of the household unit, gender inequality, and the growing gap between children, adults, and the elderly. Because the rapidly increasing stress on the world's natural resource base can give rise to social tension and conflicts, especially in overpopulated areas, this book will be seen as an essential contribution to a critically important international debate.


The chapters that make up this volume have sprung from the conviction that we need a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between the social systems and the physical, chemical, and biological interactive processes that regulate the earth system and, consequently, also provide the unique environment that makes human life as we know it today possible. Changes and variations occur incessantly in these interactive processes and, thus, the way in which human activities influence them will interfere with the functioning of the whole global ecosystem.

The interlinkages between humankind and the natural environment have always been obvious to the common people and they have been analysed and discussed in scientific terms for centuries. However, the industrial and scientific revolutions provided new opportunities for the exploitation of the natural resource base to a degree that seemed infinite. In addition, the ability of human ingenuity to cope with the environmental disturbances created by humans was conceived as guaranteed.

The rapid increase in consumption levels in the wealthy regions of the world and the rapid growth in world population -- with the haves eager at least to preserve what they have gained, and the have-nots, with all good reason, claiming an equal share in the increasing standard of living or 'good life' -- have, during the last decades, made it obvious to almost everyone that natural resources are fragile and the resilience of the world's ecosystems is limited. The limited capacity of change of the basic socio-economic systems and the population growth create, together with these limitations, a real threat to mankind and man as part of nature. It is not a case of 'us' and 'them' -- time is running short for all of us. The environmental impact of high consumption levels in the industrialized world endows the rich countries with a problem of no less importance than fast population growth in the South. It would seem that for scientists and politicians alike the message is clear: the issues of population, development, natural resources, and environment must be considered together.

Against this background it became a matter of great concern when, in . . .

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