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The human population is actively modifying Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere through resource consumption and the use of technology. Researchers have recognized that the number and magnitude of the environmental problems now facing the Earth are directly correlated to the size of the human population. Humans can influence natural phenomena and processes at the local, regional, and global scale. The various human populations found on our planet also vary greatly in terms of affluence, level of education, and access to health care. The area of knowledge known as sustainable development tries to find solutions to the various social and environmental problems we now face.

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Human population explosion Last Updated on 2014-02-26 17:23:15   Approximately 7.2 billion humans inhabited the Earth in year 2013. By comparison, there might be 500,000 elephants of different kinds, 200,000 chimpanzees, 100,000 gorillas, 20,000 polar bears, 3,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown about ten-fold over the past 300 years and nearly four-fold in just the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural support systems and has greatly intensified our environmental impact, particularly regarding species extinctions. Equally amazing are the signs that, in our generation, the human population explosion is abating (Figure 1; note that, here and below, many of the values given are estimates and, after the year 2005, projections). Our numbers are expected to rise by another 50%... More »
Sustainable scale Last Updated on 2013-09-05 00:37:26 Sustainable scale is one of three defining goals (along with efficient allocation and just distribution) of ecological economics. It “refers to the physical volume of the through put, the flow of matter-energy from the environment as low-entropy raw materials, and back to the environment as high-entropy wastes”. Whereas neoclassical economics considers the ecosystem to be a component of the economy, ecological economics assumes the economy to be a subsystem of a fixed ecosystem. Earth, the global ecosystem, is a closed system of a finite size in which only energy passes through. The economy is an open system of variable size in which matter and energy from the ecosystem enter as resource inputs and exit as waste outputs. As the economy expands within the ecosystem, it uses increasing amounts of inputs and expels increasing amounts of waste outputs, requiring larger... More »
Anthropogenic biomes Last Updated on 2013-09-03 12:25:31 Anthropogenic biomes describe globally-significant ecological patterns within the terrestrial biosphere caused by sustained direct human interaction with ecosystems, including agriculture, urbanization, forestry and other land uses. Conventional biomes, such as tropical rainforests or grasslands, are based on global vegetation patterns related to climate. Now that humans have fundamentally altered global patterns of ecosystem form, process, and biodiversity, anthropogenic biomes provide a contemporary view of the terrestrial biosphere in its human-altered form. Anthropogenic biomes may also be termed "anthromes" to distinguish them from conventional biome systems, or "human biomes" (a simpler but less precise term). Humans are the ultimate ecosystem engineers, routinely reshaping ecosystem form and process using tools and technologies, such as fire, that are... More »
Africa collection: Population Last Updated on 2013-09-03 12:19:22 Human well-being and livelihoods in Africa Empowering people and institutions in Africa: institutional and governance interlinkages   Return to the Africa Collection More »
Food Insecurity, Worldwide Last Updated on 2011-05-31 00:00:00 Broken food system and environmental crises spell hunger for millions. A broken food system and environmental crises are now reversing decades of progress against hunger according to new Oxfam analysis. Spiralling food prices and endless cycles of regional food crises will create millions more hungry people unless we transform the way we grow and share food. Oxfam launches, in June 2011, a global campaign to ensure everyone has enough to eat always. Growing a Better Future, catalogues the symptoms of today’s broken food system:  growing hunger, flat-lining yields, a scramble for fertile land and water and rising food prices. It warns we have entered a new age of crisis where depletion of the earth’s natural resources and increasingly severe climate change impacts will create millions more hungry people. The report states that ". .... More »