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Ecoscience. .Population,.Resources,.Environment.1977

Ecoscience. .Population,.Resources,.Environment.1977

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Published by Freedommkf1
Population, Resources, Environment: Dimensions of the Human Predicament
It is clear that the future course of history will be determined by the rates at which people breed
and die, by the rapidity with which nonrenewable resources are consumed, by the extent and
speed with which agricultural production can be improved, by the rate at which the
underdeveloped areas can industrialize, by the rapidity with which we are able to develop new
resources, as well as by the extent to which we succeed in avoiding future wars. All of these
factors are interlocked.
Population, Resources, Environment: Dimensions of the Human Predicament
It is clear that the future course of history will be determined by the rates at which people breed
and die, by the rapidity with which nonrenewable resources are consumed, by the extent and
speed with which agricultural production can be improved, by the rate at which the
underdeveloped areas can industrialize, by the rapidity with which we are able to develop new
resources, as well as by the extent to which we succeed in avoiding future wars. All of these
factors are interlocked.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Freedommkf1 on Jun 14, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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PAGENUMBER1
CHAPTER 1Population, Resources, Environment: Dimensions of the Human Predicament
 It is clear that the future course of history will be determined by the rates at which people breed and die, by the rapidity with which nonrenewable resources are consumed, by the extent and  speed with which agricultural production can be improved, by the rate at which theunderdeveloped areas can industrialize, by the rapidity with which we are able to develop newresources, as well as by the extent to which we succeed in avoiding future wars. All of these factors are interlocked.
 --Harrison Brown, 1954Providing people with the ingredients of material wellbeing requires physical resources - land,water, energy, and minerals -- and the supporting contributions of environmental processes.Technology and social organization are the tools with which society transforms physicalresources and human labor into distributed goods and services. These cultural tools areembedded in the fabric of the biological and geophysical environment; they are not independentof it.As the number of people grows and the amounts of goods and services provided per personincrease, the associated demands on resources, technology, social organization, andenvironmental processes become more intense and more complicated, and the interactionsamong these factors become increasingly consequential. It is the interactions -- technology withemployment, energy with environment, environment and energy with agriculture, food andenergy with international relations, and so on -- that generate many of the most vexing aspects of civilization's predicament in the last quarter of the twentieth century.This book is about that predicament: about its physical underpinnings in the structure of theenvironment and the character of natural resources; about its human dimensions in the size,distribution, and economic condition of the world's population; about the impact of that population on the ecological systems of Earth and the impact of environmental changes onhumanity; about the-1-
PAGENUMBER2
technology, economics, politics, and individual behavior that have contributed to the predicament; and about the changes that might alleviate it.
THE ESSECE OF THE PREDICAMET
 
In a world inhabited in the mid- 1970s by a rapidly growing population of more than 4 billion people, a massive and widening gap in well-being separates a rich minority from the poor majority. The one-third of the world's population that lives in the most heavily industrializednations (commonly termed developed countries -- DCs) accounts for 85 percent of the global personal income and a like fraction of the annual use of global resources. The people living inthe less industrialized nations (often called less developed countries -LDCs) must apportion theremaining 15 percent of global income and resource use among two-thirds of the world's population. The result is an unstable prosperity for the majority of people in the DCs andfrustrating, crushing poverty for the majority in the LDCs. Millions of the poorest -- especiallyinfants and children -- have starved to death every year for decades; hundreds of millions havelived constantly, often consciously, almost always helplessly on the brink of famine andepidemic disease, awaiting only some modest quirk of an environment already stretched taut --an earthquake, a flood, a drought -- to push them over that edge. The 1970s brought an apparentincrease in such quirks -- 1972 and 1974 were years of flood, drought, and poor harvests. Worldfood reserves plummeted, and millions more human beings were threatened by famine.Meanwhile, the entire population continued growing at a rate that would double the number of  people in the world within 40 years.The prosperity of the DCs - awesome by comparison with the poverty of the LDCs -- has been built on exploitation of the richest soils, the most accessible fossil fuels, and the mostconcentrated mineral deposits of the entire globe -- a one-time windfall. As they now struggle tomaintain and even expand their massive consumption from a resource base of declining quality,the DCs by themselves appear to be taxing technology, social organization, and the physicalenvironment beyond what they can long sustain. And the LDCs, as they try to follow the same path to economic development, find the bridges burned ahead of them. There will be nocounterpart to the windfall of cheap resources that propelled the DCs into prosperity. A DC-styleindustrialization of the LDCs, based on the expensive resources that remain, is therefore probably foredoomed by enormous if not insurmountable economic and environmental obstacles.The problems arising from this situation would be formidable even if the world werecharacterized by political stability, no population growth, widespread recognition of civilization'sdependence on environmental processes, and a universally shared commitment to the task of closing the prosperity gap. In the real world, characterized by deep ideological divisions andterritorial disputes, rapid growth of population and faltering food production, the popular illusionthat technology has freed society from dependence on the environment, and the determinedadherence of DC governments to a pattern of economic growth that enlarges existing disparitiesrather than narrowing them, the difficulties are enormously multiplied.
ITERACTIOS: RESOURCES, ECOOMICS, AD POLITICS
It takes water and steel to produce fuel, fuel and water to produce steel, fuel and water and steelto produce food and fiber, and so on. The higher the level of industrialization in a society, themore intimate and demanding are the interconnections among resources. Agriculture in theUnited States, Europe, and Japan, for example, uses far more fuel, steel, and mineral fertilizers per unit of food produced than does agriculture in India or Indonesia. The interconnectionsamong resources also become more intense as the quality of the resource base diminishes; the
 
amount of fuel and metal that must be invested in securing
more
fuel and metal increases asexhaustion of rich deposits forces operations deeper, farther afield, and into leaner ores.These tightening physical links among resources have their counterparts in economic andorganizational ef--2-
PAGENUMBER3
fects. Scarcity or rising prices of one commodity generate scarcity and rising prices of others,thus contributing both directly and indirectly to inflation and often to unemployment. Massivediversion of investment capital and technical resources to meet the crisis of the moment --attempting to compensate for lack of foresight with brute force applied too late -- weakens asystem elsewhere and thus promotes crises in other sectors later. Apparent solutions seized inhaste and ignorance cut off options that may be sorely missed when future predicaments arise.International aspects add to the complexity -- and the dangers -- of these interactions. Money pours across international boundaries, collecting in those parts of the world where rich depositsof essential resources still remain. In resource-importing DCs, the pressure to redress the balance-of-payments imbalance becomes the dominant determinant of what is exported,subverting other goals. Resources of indeterminate ownership, such as fish stocks in oceans andseabed minerals, become the focus of international disputes and unregulated exploitation. Andforeign policies bend and even reverse themselves to accommodate the perceived physical needs.The interactions of resources, economics, and politics were displayed with compelling clarity inthe worldwide petroleum squeeze of the mid-1970s. The consequences of a slowdown in thegrowth of petroleum production in the principal producing countries, accompanied by almost aquadrupling of the world market price, reverberated through all sectors of economic activity inDCs and LDCs alike. The prices of gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, and electricity soared,contributing directly to inflation. Increased demand for petroleum substitutes such as coal drovethe prices of those commodities up, thereby contributing indirectly to inflation, as well.Shortages of materials and services that are particularly dependent on petroleum for their  production or delivery quickly materialized, feeding inflation and unemployment still further.The impact of the energy crisis was especially severe on the already precarious world foodsituation. Indeed, rising food prices, following the poor harvests of 1972, were a major factor inthe decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to raise oil prices.The strong and growing dependence of agriculture on energy -- especially petroleum -- soonmade itself felt worldwide as an important contributor to further increases in food prices. Thiswas especially so in developed countries (where agriculture is most highly mechanized), a few of which are the main sources of the exportable food supplies that determine world market prices.The largest exporter, the United States, has gratefully responded to increased foreign demand for its food exports, which has helped to pay for the nation's increasingly expensive oil imports (butwhich has also contributed to raising domestic food prices). This phenomenon -- the need to sellfood abroad to pay for oil -- may have assured continued high-quality diets for nations like Japanthat can still afford to buy, but it also reduced the amount of uncommitted food reserves in the