Environmental Issues


1)How are the following related: Human population growth, sustainability, carrying capacity, and famine? What role do values play in deciding whether to protect the environment or increase human populations?

2) Synthesize the environmental implications of the history of Easter Island.

3)Differentiate between the ways we place value on the environment.


Environmental Issues

Human population growth is a measure of the changes in the size of human populations over time. Human population growth impacts the sustainability of resources and carrying capacity of a particular environment. Environmental sustainability involves the rates at which use of resources and pollution can go on continually. Carrying capacity refers to the maximum number of organisms that can indefinitely stay in a particular habitat (Botkin & Keller, 2014). Famine determines the ability of a particular ecosystem to support a particular species in a given area. There is a complex relationship among the four concepts. Human population growth affects the environmental sustainability of a particular area. A high population growth may not be sustainable since the available resources may not be enough to cater for future generations. When the maximum sustainable population in a particular area is reached, the carrying capacity of that region is reached. Famine influences the productivity of a particular region which in turn affects the carrying capacity, sustainability, and population growth in the area.

Values play a critical role in deciding to protect the environment because they help individuals perceive the environment as important, even if they are not deriving any direct benefits. This helps in conserving the environment.

Easter Island provides a grim warning to human beings on the implications of environmental unsustainability. Although it seems that the population in the area once flourished, diminishing resources in the 1700s had made the living conditions worse for the local community. During its peak, historians estimate the island to have harbored a population of about 7,000 individuals. This seems to have been the island’s carrying capacity, beyond which the available resources could no longer sustain the local community. The implication of a high population and diminishing resources was high competition for the available resources which could hardly sustain the population, leading to unsocial behavior such as cannibalism. The local population entirely cleared the forests, leading to soil degradation and lack of resources to build canoes or houses.

Individuals place value on the environment depending on a number of factors. First, individuals place value depending on the use they have for the environment, or from resources they obtain from the environment. People also place value on the environment depending on what they perceive they will enjoy in future from the environment. Thirdly, people value the environment for the purpose of future generations. Lastly, people also value the environment for the sheer reason that the environment exists. Even if there are no direct benefits obtained (Botkin & Keller, 2014).



Botkin, D.B. & Keller, E.A. (2014). Environmental science: Earth as a living planet (9th Ed.).      Hoboken, NJ:Wiley


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