POLD89H3 Lecture Notes - Demographic Transition, Resource Depletion
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Week 5, “Old” Governance vs. “New” Governance: The
(Nation)State and Global Population Issues
I. Population and Demographics. At the heart of most ecological issues, among others, is the
question of population. Three central problems arise from the pressures of population growth.
1. Dwindling Food Supply. The first was highlighted by Malthus: the
dwindling of world food supplies. The possibility of starvation is not the
only Malthusian outcome. If population growth strains food resources,
then malnutrition will continue to limit the mental and physical
development of children and the energies and abilities of adults—in
other words, the quality of the population.
2. Relative Deprivation. The second problem is discontent resulting from
deprivation. This pertains to the resentment felt among people who find
themselves on the short end of an inequitable distribution of resources
(including food) brought about by uneven patterns of population growth.
3. Environmental Decay. The third problem, perhaps most emphasized, is
ecological. Increases in population inevitably increase the demands for
natural resources, thus generating ever greater environmental decay.
Fortunately, demographers do not expect a continuation of present exponential growth rates
in population. The present burst in population growth is due to the drastic reduction in
death rates from public health improvements in the last 200 years, which is part of the
demographic transition. [A process of falling death rates and then falling birthrates experienced by
developing societies, in the middle stages of which population growth is at its highest] While the
developed world has reached the final stage of the demographic transition, where birth and
death rates are very low, the developing world has maintained high birthrates alongside
relatively low death rates. This trend of uneven population growth is a major factor in
world food trade patterns.
A. Human Population Explosion. The revolutions in industrial production technology,
along with the medical and hygienic advances responsible for much of the increase in
population, have combined to increase human consumption, and with consumption
comes resource depletion and pollution. A range of future projections have been made
by the UN Population Division, and these show world population stabilizing around
2040, 2060, or 2110, depending on which scenario is adopted. All three scenarios
assume some decline in fertility rates, but the intermediate projection is based on
roughly the same downward trend in fertility rates witnessed since the early 1970s.
B. Demographic Transition. It took from 1800 to 1930 to add 1 billion people to the
world’s population; the most recent billion arrived in a little more than a decade.
Developing societies go through a demographic transition. In the first stage, typified by
birthrates and death rates are relatively high. Medicine and health care are
underdeveloped. Deaths from disease are common, but there are also many births in
order to provide enough laborers for what is primarily an agrarian economy. At the
second stage, birthrates remain high because large families are an asset for agricultural
production, which is still central in economies in the early phases of industrialization.
This is a period of rapid population growth, given the widening gap between birthrates
and death rates. In stage three, industrialization, urbanization, and the entry of women
into the workforce decrease the incentives for large families. Birthrates fall and death
rates flatten as access to basic health care becomes nearly universal. Over time,
economic development induces changes in the birthrate and death rate in society. It is
during the intermediate stages of the demographic transition, when the decline in
birthrate lags behind the decline in death rate, that population growth is most
pronounced. Many countries are now in these stages of the transition, which accounts
for the population explosion during the second half of the twentieth century. The last
stage in the transition is marked by the stabilization of birthrates and death rates at
fairly low levels. Different countries are at different stages in the demographic
transition. The industrialized world as a whole has reached the final stage where both
birthrates and death rates are at very low levels and doubling time is high. In the
developing world, however, high birthrates combined with low death rates suggest that
these countries are still in transition; they account not only for most of the world’s
population but also for nearly all the world’s population growth.. To get a true picture
of population growth, we have to consider the population composition of a country—
the numbers of people in different age groups and the fertility rates for those categories.
II. Resource Depletion. The inclusionist perspective of Malthusians has given rise to a common
metaphor in environmental studies: spaceship Earth. [SPACESHIP EARTH: A metaphor likening
the Earth to a spaceship with limited resources, in which humankind must learn to sustain itself without
exhausting the ship’s reservoirs] Although we have made some initial forays along the ―final
frontier,‖ it may be quite some time before we come across any supply depots or refuse dumps
for spaceship Earth.
A. Food Insecurity. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that 815
million people in the developing world suffer from chronic under-nutrition. The FAO
estimates that over the next thirty years, the average annual increase in crop production
will be 1.3 percent, down from 2.2 percent during the past thirty years. Four decades of
increasing food production have not eliminated the problems of under-nutrition or even
starvation. International food assistance is sometimes diverted by corrupt officials who
sell the food for profit. Land reform and technical assistance to small farmers are
receiving increasing attention by international lending organizations like the World
Bank, but political and economic resistance to a major reorientation of agricultural
development is nevertheless very great. International cooperation has also been
channeled through the FAO and other agencies. Yet such activity—a world ―food
regime‖—only begins to meet the problems. Enduring solutions also require an
awareness of local political conditions and cultural practices, an effective population
policy, and balanced economic development within and among the regions of the
a. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), oldest permanent specialized agency
of the United Nations
i. established in October 1945
ii. the objective of FAO is eliminating hunger and improving nutrition and
standards of living by increasing agricultural productivity.
iii. It coordinates the efforts of governments and technical agencies in
programs for developing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and
iv. It carries out research; provides technical assistance on projects in
individual countries; operates educational programs through seminars and