Chapter 5 Politics does not occur in a vacuum. Although political actors are free to make choices to fulfill their values, they must make these choices in an environment not entirely of their own choosing. Politics is embedded in a physical, social, and cultural environment. The key question in this chapter is, How does the larger environment influence politics and political science? The physical world we inhabit has a number of characteristics that impact politics. Currently, our planet supports approximately 6.5 billion people, and estimates of future population levels run as high as 7.8 billion people by the year 2025. This population tidal wave will likely put enormous strains on political systems in the future as government seeks to assist in the fulfillment of human needs. Finite resources pose another problem. There is only so much arable land, fossil fuel, and critical minerals. Even the availability of renewable resources can be threatened if those resources are mismanaged. Forests, arable land, safe drinking and irrigation water, and breathable air can be squandered and polluted to the point of
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