Population pressure is forcing traditional farmers to work harder, often on shrinking farms on marginal land, simply to maintain a subsistence income. In Africa and Asia the rural population nearly doubled between 1950 and 1985, with a corresponding decline in land availability. This trend can only continue.
In 1997, it was estimated that the USA would miss its year 2000 greenhouse gas target by roughly 13 percent. This overshoot alone was greater than the entire 1990 carbon emissions of India, a country with 970 million people. The most significant component of the failure could be America's high population growth rate relative to other developed countries. The population was increasing by 0.9 percent (2.5 million) per year, more than three times the average for the rest of the industrialized world. Between 1990 and 2000, the US population was expected to grow 9.3 percent. Population growth therefore accounted for more than two-thirds of the 13 percent US carbon emission increase in that decade. In comparison, the UK, Germany and Russia - the three major developed countries that could be able to meet the Rio targets - had populations that were growing slowly or decreasing.
2. We no longer live, as in the past, as 'frontier' societies: a frontier society having a vast world lying outside its frontier which can supply at approximately current prices whatever is demanded in excess of local ability to supply; furthermore, having a frontier over which we can dump anything that is disagreeable to us in the confident expectation that we shall never be troubled by it again. Nowadays, however, the implicit assumptions of this view are challenged. The growth of world population, consumption levels and the depletion of natural resources contradict the first; and the inability of the natural world to absorb every kind of pollutant poured out on the contemporary scale, contradicts the second. We have to recognize that the earth, its resources and its capacities are limited, and that we live in a closed world which is daily becoming more cramped.
3. Population increase should be a key variable on the table at pollution talks.
4. At some point, our increase in population and production will overstrain ecological systems. The argument about when this happens is not yet settled but this statement is unarguable. Some believe we have already moved beyond sustainability. Others think that there is still some flexibility in the system.