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

By Miguel A. Santos | Go to book overview

Criteria for Determining Earth's Carrying Capacity

The human growth curve in

figure 1-2
certainly shows a long lag phase and a recent sharp turn upward into the exponential growth phase. Perpetual growth is impossible, at least as long as humans remain on earth. A key question that remains is how we can determine the carrying capacity of the earth for humans. Also, which laws, principles, models, or criteria should be employed by mankind in determining the carrying capacity. The easiest path which demands little technological know-how and decision-making is that our society reduce its population /pollution to such a low number that the question "What is the carrying capacity?" becomes moot. If we reduce our numbers so that we become a part of the ecological steady state, our population and pollution would have an insignificant impact on the natural world. The expanding human population, worldwide famine, and pollution, however, make the issue of determining the carrying capacity of the earth a crucial one.

The optimum world population, as discussed in previous chapters, in that which is the most favorable level for the maintenance of stability on our planet. Arriving at the figure for any given period involves considering the sum of the demands that individual nations make on the environment and how these demands can be met without degrading or destroying that nation's ecosystems--in other words, estimating the population /pollution of each nation at the optimum carrying capacity of its environment.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Human Population and Carrying Capacity 1
  • 2 - Natural Resources, Pollution, and Carrying Capacity 33
  • 3 - Criteria for Determining Earth's Carrying Capacity 77
  • 4 - World Order and Environmental Stability 101
  • 5 - Problems and Prospects 123
  • Conclusion 141
  • Glossary 143
  • Bibliography 153
  • Name Index 165
  • Subject Index 169
  • About the Author 173
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