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.
Resources and Notes
- ESS Topic 3.1 – Population Dynamics notes
- Population dynamics PDF
- Here’s a virtual handbook on population dynamics from Thomas Brey in Germany
- Follow this link to see population pyramids for almost every country on Earth, courtesy of the US Census Bureau. Choose a country and select “Population Pyramid Report” from the drop-down menu.
- Here are some nice summaries of major points in the demographic transition model
- Demographic transition model – Geography.About.com
- Here’s a population dynamics quiz from Nature Works
- ESS Topic 3.2 – Resources as Natural Capital notes
- How the world’s oceans could be running out of fish – BBC Future News 21 September 2012
- This is a great article about agroforestry in the Sahel region of Africa as a model of sustainable agriculture – from Scientific American 28 January 2011
- Overfishing and ecologically sustainable yields in Jamaica – from American Scientist magazine
- UN Agenda 21 – a roadmap for global sustainable development proposed during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
- ESS Topic 3.3 – Energy Resources notes
- You Have the Power! An interactive game from National Geographic, which makes the difficulties associated with choosing between renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels clear.
- ESI-Africa energy news updates focused on East Africa
- “Save energy for the economy, EU urges” – BBC Environment News 8 March 2011
- Harvesting “limitless” hydrogen from self-powered cells – BBC Environment News 20 September 2011
- The Himalayas could become the Saudi Arabia of solar power – NewScientist Magazine 18 October 2011
- This interactive animation explains how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity – from Sumanas, Inc.
- Fracking drives elk out of their Wyoming, USA, habitat – NewScientist Environment News 4 May 2012
ESS Topic 3.4 – Soil Systems notes
- The Soil System – student guide.doc
- “Trees boost African crop yields and soil fertility” – BBC Science and Environment News 16 October 2011
- This animation shows which factors influence soil health and quality. From the Canadian Organic Farmers’ Association.
- Click here for an interactive soil triangle from the North Carolina State University, one of the best agriculture schools in the United States.
- This animation shows chemical weathering of rock into soil. Also from North Carolina State University.
- This animation describes soil horizons’ characteristics and formation.
- Watch how raindrops dislodge soil particles in this looping video from Arizona State University.
- Watch video footage of dust storms caused by wind erosion during the Dust Bowl years in the 1930s.
- ESS Topic 3.5 – Food Resources notes
- ESS Topic 3.6 – Water Resources notes
- ESS Topic 3.7 – Limits to Growth
- Germany breaks record for most solar electricity generated!
- According to the UN, a third of all food produced globally is wasted.
- All the world’s water in one big box! A collection of infographics from waitbutwhy.com
- The struggle to tame Africa’s beast of a megacity – Reuters 23 October 2013
- Check in regularly! I will continue to add things here as I find them…
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.