Chapter 6

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Environmental Science
Carl Mitchell

Chapter 6Human Population Central Case Chinas OneChild Policy y The first significant increases in Chinas population in the past 2000 years of the nations history resulted from enhanced agricultural production and a powerful government during the Qing Manchu Dynasty in the 1800s y Population growth began to outstrip food supplies by the mid1850s and quality of life for the average Chinese peasant began to decline Human Population Approaching 7 Billion y While China works to slow its population growth and speed its economic growth populations continue to rise in most nations of the world y Most of this growth is occurring in povertystricken nations that are ill equipped to handle it The human population is growing nearly as fast as ever y Thus even in the growth rate remains steady population size will increase by greater increments with each successive generation Perspectives on human population have changed over time y At the outset of the Industrial Revolution in England of the 1700s population growth was regarded as a good thing y For parents a high birth rate meant more children to support them in old agey For society it meant a greater pool or labour for factory work Population growth and environmental scarcity y Thomas Malthus claimed that unless population growth was limited by laws or social controls the number of people would outgrow the available food supply until starvation war or disease arose and reduced the population y Figure 64 The England of Thomas Malthuss era 17661834 a favoured population growth as society industrialized Malthus b argued that the pressure of population growth on the availability of resources could lead to disaster y More recently biologist Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University has been called a neoMalthusian becauselike Malthushe warned that population growth would have disastrous effects on the environment and human welfare y Ehrlich and other neoMalthusians have argued that population is growing much faster than our ability to produce and distribute food and that population control is the only way to prevent massive starvation environmental degradation and civil strife Is population growth really a problem today y Thus the population problem actually arises from a very good thingour ability to keep more people alive longer y Increasing material prosperity has also helped bring down birth ratessomething Malthus and Ehrlich did not foresee y Some cornucopian thinkers believe that resource depletion caused by population increase is not a problem is new resources can be found to replace depleted resources
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