14.20: What is the Carrying Capacity for Humans on Earth?
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What is the carrying capacity for Humans on Earth?
strong>Human consumption and interactions are the most influential driving force affecting species evolution and extinction in the world today. Humans have been extremely successful in their ability to adapt to new environments and to "eat, survive, and reproduce." Humans have essentially eliminated many threats (physical and biological) that have allowed the global human population to rise (through advances in agriculture, medicine, housing, transportation, technology, etc.). However, these eliminations of threats have often resulted in new threats. Consider that it took all of human history until about the year 1804 to reach a population of 1 billion. The next billion was added around 1927. Since then the global population is doubling with each generation. The amount of material and space consumed by humans have also been roughly doubling with each generation.
The problem is that Earth has limited resources. Every human has an impact related to both environmental changes and to competition (with other humans and with other species). The environmental effects of unmitigated human consumption of land and natural resources by the growing human populations around the world are becoming increasingly obvious. Can "we" (humanity) collectively adapt? What role do we have as individuals in facing global environmental problems? What are the roles of governments, corporations, and societal organizations? What defines "success" and "failure" (and by "who")?
Figure 14.32. Past and projected future human population growth. Question: how many humans can the world sustain, and at what cost to the environment?