Population and Environment: Rethinking the Debate

Population and Environment: Rethinking the Debate

Population and Environment: Rethinking the Debate

Population and Environment: Rethinking the Debate


This ambitious interdisciplinary volume places population processes in their social, political, and economic contexts while it considers their environmental impacts. The contributors, who explore the subtle and complex connections between population and environment, argue for the fundamental insight that the impact of population on the environment involves not just absolute numbers of people- nor even just population densities- but also social, political, and institutional factors. Examining the complex patterns of human relationships that overlay, alter, and distort our ties to urban and rural landscapes, the book includes a significant focus on the essential experiences and perspectives of poor Third World women. With its rich and varied views of the relationship between population and the environment, this book offers a more equitable view of development and its global ramifications.


The debate on the relation between population and environment needs to include an understanding of the true complexity of the issues. The chapters in this section of the volume are intended to begin the process of bringing order and conceptual clarity to our understanding of that complexity.

Arizpe and Velázquez (Chapter 1) consider the reconceptualization of fundamental terms such as population. They, as well as Lutz (Chapter 2), evaluate population trends and further an ongoing discussion of what is known and what needs to be known about the role of population (growth, density, distribution) as a driving force in environmental degradation.

Chapters 3 and 4 pay special attention to the role of gender in discussions of population and its future. Sen (Chapter 3) situates the debate about population growth and its control in the history of gender theory and politics. Agarwal's companion piece (Chapter 4) examines the link between gender and environment, drawing on studies of rural India.

These authors argue that direct population-environment linkages hold, if they hold at all, only at aggregate levels. At local levels it seems clear that historical, social, political and cultural processes explain the patterns better than demographic processes alone.

The final chapter in this section (Chapter 5) grapples with the methodological challenges posed by this new, more complicated view of the issues. Palloni's chapter is an effort to sort out some of the conceptual issues involved in generalizing from case studies and to address the complex web of causality derived from these empirical works.

Taken together, these chapters reinforce a central argument of the volume -- that population trends must be analyzed in relation to many other, non- demographic, processes -- and set the stage for the cases presented in Part Two.

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