The current human population represents something unprecedented in the history of the world. Never before has one species had such a great impact on the environment in such a short time and continued to increase so rapidly. These qualities make human population the underlying environmental issue. After reading this chapter, you should understand:
- That ultimately, there can be no long-term solutions to environmental problems unless the human population stops increasing.
- That two major questions about the human population involve what controls its rate of growth and how many people the earth can sustain.
- That the rapid increase in the human population has occurred with little or no change in the maximum lifetime of an individual.
- That modern medical practices, as well as improvements in sanitation, control of disease-spreading organisms, and supplies of human necessities, have decreased death rates and accelerated the net rate of human population growth.
- That even under the best imaginable scenario that experts in human populations have put forward, the human population will double before it stops increasing.
- That countries with a high standard of living have moved more quickly to a lower birth rate than have countries with a low standard of living.
- That although we cannot predict with absolute certainty what the future human carrying capacity of Earth will be, understanding of human population can help us make useful forecasts.