20 - Population Environment

20 - Population Environment - SOCI 121: Population Problems...

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SOCI 121: Population Problems P OPULATION AND E NVIRONMENT Objectives: Explain the general relationship between population and the environment Discuss the philosophical divide that separates “boomsters” and “doomsters” Define economic development and growth, and the tragedy of the commons Discuss ways population growth is related to economic growth and why this matters Discuss prospects for feeding Earth’s population, and carrying capacity in general Explain the relationship between the “six transitions” and environmental impact Class Notes: Population and Resources The most basic possible observation about the relationship between humans and the environment is that humans cannot survive long without food and water o Drought and famine are two of the oldest problems in human experience These disasters have captivated the attention of societies for millennia Thomas Malthus, the first modern demographer, argued that humans were compelled by the “passion between the sexes” to overpopulate the earth, following which they would face the wrath of the “positive checks” of starvation, poverty, and misery, and that the boom and bust cycle continued indefinitely At the most basic level, there are two schools of thought on the relationship between populations and their environments o Boomsters , or cornucopians , believe population growth is responsible for economic growth and technological progress that will always increase food The popular concept of sustainable development is actually a variant of the boomster philosophy, stating that humans can avoid environmental catastrophe by adopting a set of practices labeled “sustainable development” as opposed to “unsustainable development” Two of the most famous boomsters in recent years are Ester Boserup, who famously argued that population increase spurs technological innovations, and Julian Simon, who extended Boserup’s argument that economic growth could not occur without population growth o Doomsters , on the other hand, argue that any improvements in agricultural yield are at best temporary, and ultimately humans will have to pay the price for these “advances” in the form of pollution, climate change, & water shortages, among other things Both the Doomster and the Boomster perspectives leave themselves open to the criticism that they are too focused only on material resources, and food in particular, to the exclusion of other factors Malthus was obviously a doomster, modern doomsters are often labeled neo-Malthusians The most famous modern Doomster is Paul Erlich, author of the 1968 bombshell bestseller, The Population Bomb
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SOCI 121: Population Problems Erlich uses the idea of the “ tragedy of the commons ,” originally developed by Garret Hardin, to explain why humans are destined to bring about worldwide environmental collapse The tragedy of the commons o The tragedy of the commons
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20 - Population Environment - SOCI 121: Population Problems...

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