Topic 3 – Populations and Resource Use

Populations and Resource Consumption (Image credit:

Populations and Resource Consumption (Image credit:

Human Populations, Carrying Capacity, and Resource Use could serve as the backbone of any environmental studies course. Topic 3 examines the interactions between our lifestyle choices, our politics, our cultures, our economics, and our impacts on Earth’s natural systems. We will study water, energy, soil, and food resources; examine how human populations are growing and changing; and discuss techniques which may address both lifestyle and environmental needs simultaneously.

The following chapters in the ESS Course Companion correspond with the material in Topic 3:

  • Chapter 8 – Population dynamics
  • Chapter 9 – Resources as natural capital
  • Chapter 10 – Energy resources
  • Chapter 11 – Water resources
  • Chapter 12 – Soil resources
  • Chapter 13 – Food resources

Objectives (Students will be able to…)

  • Calculate, describe, explain, and evaluate changes in human population growth using a variety of models.
  • Discuss the concept of sustainable development as it relates to natural capital and income of resources.
  • Outline and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of energy resources available to society.
  • Describe links between the soil, lithosphere, atmosphere and living organisms, including soil conservation strategies and different farming systems.
  • Discuss issues of imbalance in the global food supply as they relate to materials and energy efficiency, social systems, and terrestrial and aquatic food production.
  • Describe the Earth’s water budget and evaluate the sustainability of freshwater resource usage with reference to a case study.
  • Explain how reuse and recycling and reductions in energy and material use can affect human carrying capacity, and describe the difficulties in applying the concept of carrying capacity to local human populations.
  • Calculate and explain the ecological footprint of a given human population, discussing the relationship between population, resource consumption and technological development, and their influence on carrying capacity and material economic growth.

System diagram from seed to end use (Image credit:

System diagram from seed to end use (Image credit: GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library)

Resources and Notes

Of Interest…

The video below is about Mike Feingold, a permaculture enthusiast in Bristol, who’s got decades of experience in sustainable agriculture around the world. And the dude’s got some fantastic hair, too!

Below is a quick introduction to forest gardens, from the BBC.