Taking Care Of Our Human Environment

When the word environment is used it’s often meant to describe nature as distinct from mankind. In defense of this practice, this is done to focus on ways to sustain or improve the natural environment. However, to be truly holistic, it may be wise at times to think of humans as part of the total environment.

When discussions about the environment and sustainability come up, a common issue raised is the question of over-population. Understandably, when one thinks of sustainability, one can’t help but notice the large increase in human population the past 50 years. Regarding this trend, the good news is that when a country reaches a certain level of development, population growth often tends to slow down.

Although globalism is reaching an understandable impasse, one of its benefits is that it helped formerly poor and agrarian countries reach a level of development quicker than otherwise. As many countries have found out, large population growth is usually linked to agrarian societies. As countries advance, population growth often levels out. Thailand is a strong example of a country that followed this trend.

Since economic development is sometimes seen as detrimental to nature, it’s a pleasant surprise to realize it can actually be a friend to it in some ways. As time goes by and more countries reach levels of post-industrial economic development, it’ll be interesting to see if population growth continues to slow down. If indeed it does, we can start to see economic improvement as a tool that can help both the natural, and human environment.

 

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6 thoughts on “Taking Care Of Our Human Environment

  1. Good points, though I think it is affluence, likelihood of survival of a given offspring, and the cost/benefit ratio of having and rearing children that correlates most directly with fertility rather than “a certain level of development,” though that does rather translate to more or less the same thing. Decreased fertility does not necessarily result in an immediate reduction in population growth, however. As existing cohorts mature and have children, population can continue to grow for some generations until a stable point is reached, particularly if average lifespans also increase during those periods. People often forget…or do not wish to acknowledge…that humans arose from the same sources and forces as with other animals and possess a human nature that is at least in large part given, whether one considers these to be of divine or natural origin. In the end, no rational reason exists to consider that humans will not be subject to the same population control mechanisms as apply to other species.

    1. Charlton Bryant makes a good point about population trends and the math alone looks grim. Whether humans are divine in nature or not it would be ironic that a supposed divinely based theology would cause humans to eschew reason, both primal and evolutionary, to condemn themselves to the fate of a lesser life form.
      Large predators (bigger than 30 pounds) regulate their own populations. Arian Wallach and other biologists and ecologists from the Charles Darwin University in Australia have made this observation after careful study of historical data, trends and animal observations. These animals have multiple ways in which they limit their own numbers. Infanticide and the killing of subordinates are among the not so warm and fuzzy facts of life for top predators. Self-regulation of birth timing and the number of births are also used as apex predators appear to be able to size up their resources and be proactive in avoiding starvation and disease. So, what’s with mankind?
      This is a timely topic Perry. Were you inspired by Marvel Comics ultra-villain Thanos? The justification for the genocide he perpetrates in the movie, Infinity Wars, is to reduce overpopulation by randomly killing off half the population. Now, before you say – there is no correlation between fan based fiction and real life, I would correct you. Look who is president. Ok, enough on that.
      Now to human population and their concomitant expectations. Human expectations of quality of life, for humans, is threatening the health of the environment that sustains us. This fact really isn’t debated as some would argue anthropomorphic impacts on the climate. No one would argue the planet could sustain more people, but the quality of life would most certainly decrease to unacceptable levels. Some would argue that the quality of life, for people and animals, is already too low due to environmental degradation. The World Bank just last month made anthropomorphic environmental degradation a top concern. A sickly environment produces sick and diseased people who are not as productive in the work place and are expensive to care for. No argument there.
      As you said, typically education and economic development cause populations to reduce when quality of life supersedes mere survival. And as the previous contributor notes, this self-reduction is now offset by a longer life span and continued quality of life expectations. I think most developed populations would agree we could live a bit more simply and use less resources. Less developed parts of the world could also benefit from better utilization of their resources. Does there need to be an active program on population like in China? Or, would an increase in education raise awareness sufficiently to trigger self-regulation of the human population and realignment of quality of life expectations?

      1. Hey Tom…thx for the interesting + in-depth comment!

        Yes, there still is + will always be cause for environmental concern + we need to always reassess the human impact on it. You’re so right to bring these points up as you have + in such detail. Your Australian study makes points worth pondering.

        Having said that though, there should be positive acknowledgement that population trends in advanced countries are now pointing in a more manageable direction. After all…this was a goal that many hoped to achieve. One hopes that those with environmental concerns celebrate this seeming victory.

        Ever since Ehrlich’s 1968 book – “The Population Bomb,” appeared, a big goal for many advanced countries is to point in the direction of ZPG-Zero Population Growth. This goal is in sight in many advanced + developing countries.

        Ironically, some statisticians say that if these ZPG trends continue in advanced countries, there’s actually a chance some countries will be in fear of a depopulation trend since they’re now in the negative regarding birth rate. This factor is a reason some countries are now open to immigration + are encouraging ways to promote reproduction. After all, a shrinking population means a shrinking tax base.

        And yes, you’re correct to point out how longer lifespans may actually promote high consumption + use of resources. However, as the successful recycling movement has shown us, there are many technological innovations open to us that allow us to re-use resources so the environment will be protected.

        In many ways, how we use technology is the key. Although there seems to be mathematical correlations that point to longer lifestyles producing more environmental damage, it depends on whether many of these complex variables are constant enough to result in a totally fixed-pie, mathematical mindset. After all, ever since the economist Thomas Malthus’ famous 18th century warnings about an almost worse population explosion yet to occur, we’ve discovered that technology + development have both increased food production, + allowed for a more efficient use of resources.

        However…as you aptly point out Tom, environmental victories shouldn’t allow us to become complacent. That’s for sure! And as you say, respectful education that attempts to reach everyone is very important + key to helping us preserve this beautiful planet + its inhabitants. Let’s keep searching + thinking. 🙂

    2. Nice to hear from you again Charlton!

      Yes, as you clearly point out, although the trend towards lower population growth in developing countries is encouraging, it by no means is proof that population growth will continue to trend towards a ZPG level. After all, as you say, longevity increases will play a major role in keeping the population level up.

      And yes, whether one considers humans to be divinely related or not, its obvious that a given nature of mankind is somewhat evident. As history has shown us, certain population control measures, some of a negative origin, have cropped up from time to time. Hopefully, the population control measures that are emphasized in the future are mostly of a positive nature.

      Thx for the dialogue!

  2. An interesting perspective Perry, words to ponder. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and opinions .

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