UCLA Environ M161 - Midterm Essay

UCLA Environ M161 - Midterm Essay - I. IDs 1) The...

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I. IDs 1) The Malthusian argument of population and scarcity chiefly implies an obligate limit to human consumption. The human population grows exponentially, requiring similar exponential growths in resources and space to satisfy the consumption habits of each new individual. However, those that follow the Malthusian line of reasoning argue that the finite mass and energy of our planet imposes hard limits to human consumption and that exponential growth physically cannot continue – essentially implying a global carrying capacity. Clearly, finite resources – oil, iron, gold, etc – have limits that will eventually be met despite advances in exploitation technology, but resources with more nebulous limits, like agricultural land and living space are bounded by the size of our planet. Hardin’s concept of the Tragedy of the Commons, initially used to describe the dwindling grass available to individually owned grazing cattle on public property, can apply to the global commons and the individuals benefitting from common resources without recouping the cost of the lost value. Given that human nature will drive consumption to increase in the face of a costless resource and that the resources of our planet are inherently finite, the Malthusians argue that humans will eventually face a crisis of scarcity in one limiting resource or another. The solution to this equation, in the face of limiting constants of matter and energy, is to adjust the human variables. The lifeboat ethics of Ehrlich favors a small subset of the population, ensuring that the needs of the few are met and casting the remainder out. In this view, a limited set of resources is better received by a few individuals in sufficient quantities rather than wasted when doled out in insufficient amounts among an entire population. Meadows favors a less drastic approach to avoiding the Earth’s carrying capacity; by slowing population growth and reducing consumption per capita, humans can forestall a scarcity crisis. Critics of Malthusian limits to growth cite human ingenuity and technological advances as disregarded variables affecting our ability to exploit resources and increase consumption. However, despite mankind’s intellectual prowess, the laws of the universe cannot be broken and even if we could convert matter into energy at 100% efficiency, our finite little world will eventually limit the human population. (Liljeblad, Lecture 4/8/09). 2) Conversely, the Cornucopian argument views humans as a resource and implies an unlimited capacity for growth and consumption. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have busted through previous limits to population growth with our intellect and technology. The switch from a hunter-gatherer society to agriculture provided ample food for growing populations and for the next few thousand years our technological sophistication grew alongside these exponential numbers. In fact, Cornucopians like Simon treat technology as a function of human growth and necessity; with increased
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This note was uploaded on 06/09/2010 for the course ENVIRON M161 taught by Professor Liljeblad during the Spring '09 term at UCLA.

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UCLA Environ M161 - Midterm Essay - I. IDs 1) The...

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