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close this bookPopulation, Land Management, and Environmental Change (UNU, 1996, 89 pages)
close this folder8. Global environment and population carrying capacity
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentCriteria for sustainable development
View the documentScenario of sustainable development
View the documentSupportable human population
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

Scenario of sustainable development

There will be two scenarios for carrying capacity presented below.

Figure 1 Uncontrolled Development, "Overshoot and Collapse"

Scenario 1: Uncontrolled Development

As shown in figure 1, consumption of natural resources, including deforestation, is very rapid. In the present in developing countries it pushes up the carrying capacity very quickly, but only in the short term. In the longer term, it will have drastic environmental and ecological consequences. The population will increase as the carrying goes up and will continue even after it starts to decrease. The result will be a deficit between population and the carrying capacity, which may result in famine or refugees. Desertification will progress for many long years leading to extinction of civilization. There is much evidence for this in human history: consider for example Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, etc.

Such a pattern is called "overshoot and collapse." The world is presently on this route.

Scenario 2: Sustainable Development

As proposed in table 1, it is very difficult to meet the criteria for sustainable development. In order to do so, consumption of natural resources and industrial production should be controlled.

The increase of carrying capacity will be much more moderate, which will allow a gentle curve of population increase, and finally an equilibrium, as shown in figure 2. The birth and the death rate may be almost the same at an equilibrium, with an increased number of aged persons. The goal of reaching such a curve is not attractive to ambitious politicians, but we should establish a consensus among nations for sustainable development.

Figure 2 Sustainable Development