Population Growth, Industrialization, and the Environment Essay

Population Growth, Industrialization, and the Environment Essay

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Population Growth, Industrialization, and the Environment

Human population growth was relatively slow for most of human history. Within the past 500 years, however, the advances made in the industrial, transportation, economic, medical, and agricultural revolutions have helped foster an exponential, "J-shaped" rise in human population (Southwick, Figure 15.1, p. 160). The statistics associated with this type of growth are particularly striking: "Human beings took more than 3 million years to reach a population of 1 billion people...The second billion came in only 130 years, the third billion in 30 years, the fourth billion in 15 years, the fifth billion in 12 years..." (Southwick, p. 159). As human population has grown, there has been simultaneous growth within the industrial sector. Both of these increases have greatly contributed to environmental problems, such as natural resource depletion, ecosystem destruction, and global climate change. Also linked with the increasing human population are many social problems, such as poverty and disease. These issues need to be addressed by policy makers in the near future in order to ensure the survival and sustainability of human life.

One of the major effects of the huge population increase has been the depletion of natural resources and the destruction of ecosystems. In the 1960's, theorist Paul Ehrlich predicted that, given the skyrocketing figures of human population, the amount of food produced would not grow at a fast enough rate for human survival (Professor Carr Everbach, personal communication). He predicted mass starvation and death by the year 2000 as the result of uncontrolled population growth. Clearly, this did not occur. Ehrlich did not foresee the advancements ma...

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...hods of sustaining the burgeoning human population before these problems reach the threshold of catastrophe.


Hansen, J., Ruedy, R., Sato, M., & Lo, K. (2002). "Global Warming Continues." Science, 295, 275.

Kerr, R. A. (2002). "A Brighter Outlook for Good Ozone." Science, 297, 1623-5.
NPR Radio Broadcast, March 17, 2002. http://discover.npr.org/features/feature.jhtml?wfId=1140067

Poliakoff, M., Fitzpatrick, J. M., Farren, T. R., & Anastas, P. T. (2002). "Green Chemistry: Science and Politics of Change." Science, 297, 807-810.

Quay, P. (2002). "Ups and Downs of CO2 Uptake." Science, 298, 2344.

Southwick, C. H. (1996). "Chapter 15: Human Populations." Global Ecology in Human Perspective. Oxford University Press, 159-182.

Wattenberg, B. J. (March 8, 2003). "It Will Be a Smaller World After All." New York Times: Editorial/Op-Ed Section.

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