Population And The Environment: A Bibliography

Greta De Groat
1994 Electronic Green Journal  
Many informed observers consider world population growth to be the most important ecological problem facing the planet today and in the future. Yet the population question has been virtually invisible as an issue in the public environmental debate. It is discussed only occasionally in most environmental publications, while environmental articles in general interest magazines scarcely ever mention it. Population concerns were pushed off the agenda at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 before the
more » ... ence even began. Why? The population issue is probably the most uncomfortable and divisive of all the environmental concerns. It strikes at the heart of our ideals of personal freedom, individual autonomy, and human rights and involves the most personal decisions a couple can make. The idea of population control is offensive to the religious beliefs of many people. Environmentalists who want to raise concerns about global warming or deforestation or other such issues have a difficult enough time without bringing up a topic even more controversial. Thus, the population issue tends to be avoided. However, may feel that if this issue is ignored, it will eventually render all other environmental concerns irrelevant. Fortunately, the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development last September in Cairo has brought greater visibility to this neglected issue. To understand the issues raised, both environmentalists and the general public need more information on population problems. This bibliography is intended to provide an overview of current resources about population and the environment, geared toward a popular or non-specialist audience. It is a selection of items published since 1986 and generally widely available in larger public or medium-sized academic libraries. Specialist academic or professional works are not included. Also not included are the many excellent articles which have come out in environmental journals in preparation for the Cairo Conference. An attempt has been made to also present points of view other than that of the mainstream environmental and population control community, though opposition groups do not appear to publish a great deal and their works are not widely available. This bibliography is divided into two parts. The first section lists books by topic or emphasis. The second section gives materials in other forms--periodicals, videos, and childrens books. Most of these, except where noted, represent the mainstream viewpoint. THE POPULATION PROBLEM Harrison, Paul. The Third Revolution: Environment, Population and a Sustainable World. I.B. Tauris in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature, 1992. 359 p. bibliog. index. ISBN 1-18043-501-4. $35.00. Paul Harrison has been the principal researcher for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) annual report The State of World Population and is the author of the bestseller Inside the Third World. In this book he tries to sort out the conflicting claims about the role of population in the global environmental crisis. Noting that the world is too complex for oversimplified solutions, Harrison explains how Malthusians tend to concentrate on population to the exclusion of other problems, critics on the left point to everything but population as the source of our environmental woes, and critics on the right assert that human ingenuity will solve any possible problems. Harrison finds merit in all of these arguments. He analyzes specific environmental problems such as deforestation, soil erosion, air pollution, etc. to see what share of the responsibility can be assigned to population growth and what share can be attributed to other factors, such as technological change or increase in per-capita consumption. In many cases, a significant share can be blamed on population growth, and this is likely to go up as population increases. Interspersed among these analyses are case studies of Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Abidjan, and Bangladesh, concentrating on the lives of individuals and their struggles to survive worsening conditions. These stories show the effects of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and economic injustice on a personal level, providing a welcome human counterpoint to the rest of the book. Harrison likens the world situation at the present to the situation of Hamlet in the Shakespeare play. Hamlet learns quickly what action he must take, but he continually delays until he has less than half an hour to live, and several innocent lives were lost in the meantime. Will the world wait for catastrophic environmental problems before doing anything? There are options we can take to avoid this fate. This book gives a fair, balanced, and lucidly written assessment of the world population situation. It is highly recommended as an introduction to the subject.
doi:10.5070/g31210178 fatcat:3btbnk6iore7rl3kltsw73nd34