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See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract The interactions between human population dynamics and the environment have often been viewed mechanistically.
This review elucidates the complexities and contextual specificities of population-environment relationships in a number of domains. It explores the ways in which demographers and other social scientists have sought to understand the relationships among a full range of population dynamics e.
The chapter briefly reviews a number of the theories for understanding population and the environment and then proceeds to provide a state-of-the-art review of studies that have examined population dynamics and their relationship to five environmental issue areas.
The review concludes by relating population-environment research to emerging work on human-environment systems. Inthe U. National Academy of Sciences published The Growth of World Population 7a report that reflected scientific concern about the consequences of global population growth, which was then reaching its peak annual rate of two percent.
InPaul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb 8which focused public attention on the issue of population growth, food production, and the environment. Clearly, efforts to understand the relationship between demographic and environmental change are part of a venerable tradition.
Yet, by the same token, it is a tradition that has often sought to reduce environmental change to a mere function of population size or growth. Indeed, an overlay of graphs depicting global trends in population, energy consumption, carbon dioxide CO2 emissions, nitrogen deposition, or land area deforested has often been used to demonstrate the impact that population has on the environment.
Although we start from the premise that population dynamics do indeed have an impact on the environment, we also believe that monocausal explanations of environmental change that give a preeminent place to population size and growth suffer from three major deficiencies: They oversimplify a complex reality, they often raise more questions than they answer, and they may in some instances even provide the wrong answers.
As the field of population-environment studies has matured, researchers increasingly have wanted to understand the nuances of the relationship.
In the past two decades demographers, geographers, anthropologists, economists, and environmental scientists have sought to answer a more complex set of questions, which include among others: How do specific population changes in density, composition, or numbers relate to specific changes in the environment such as deforestation, climate change, or ambient concentrations of air and water pollutants?
How do environmental conditions and changes, in turn, affect population dynamics? How do intervening variables, such as institutions or markets, mediate the relationship?
And how do these relationships vary in time and space? They have sought to answer these questions armed with a host of new tools geographic information systems, remote sensing, computer-based models, and statistical packages and with evolving theories on human-environment interactions.
This review explores the ways in which demographers and other social scientists have sought to understand the relationships among a full range of population dynamics e. With the exception of the energy subsection, the focus is largely on micro- and mesoscale studies in the developing world.
This is not because these dynamics are unimportant in the developed world—on the contrary, per capita environmental impacts are far greater in this region see the text below on global population and consumption trends —but rather because this is where much of the research has focused We have surveyed a wide array of literature with an emphasis on peer-reviewed articles from the past decade, but given the veritable explosion in population-environment research, we hasten to add that this review merely provides a sampling of the most salient findings.
The chapter begins with a short review of the theories for understanding population and the environment.
It then proceeds to provide a state-of-the-art review of studies that have examined population dynamics and their relationship to the following environmental issue areas: In the concluding section, we relate population-environment research to the emerging understanding of complex human-environment systems.Paul Kingsnorth is a writer and poet living in Cumbria, England.
He is the author of several books, including the poetry collection Kidland and his fictional debut The Wake, winner of the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award.
Kingsnorth is the cofounder and director of the Dark Mountain Project, a network of writers, artists, and thinkers.
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