The Key Issues in the Debates of “Population and Environment” and Their Relevance to Australia

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DEM255-Topics in Demography

Assignment 2

Population and Environment

The key issues in the debates of “population and environment” and their relevance to Australia

The size, distribution and actions of the population effects the way in which the environment functions, both at present and in the future for other generations. Throughout history there have been many debates over the interaction between the population and the environment, which has resulted in many key issues. These include theories developed by Malthus, as well as the structure, distribution and density of the population. These issues can be linked back to Australia and its population and they ways in which the environment is being affected.

One of the first issues that came about was the Malthusian theory. In 1978 Malthus published “An Essay on the Principle of Population” in which he outlined his theory which explored the idea of the world’s population numbers surpassing that of food production. The two main principals of his theory were that the population, when unchecked, increases at a geometric rate, which is an exponential growth, unlike subsistence which only grows at an arithmetic rate, a linear growth (Martins, 2010). Carr elaborates on this theory in saying “Malthus’ assumption of constant technology and fixed land resources, coupled with his premise of unchanged farming techniques, meant that farmers would be unable to yield enhanced food production on land already in cultivation.” (2004. pp586). This means that more people would have to be a part of the labour force and everyone would have to work harder in order to achieve either the same or lesser levels of subsistence (Carr, 2004). As the population would be growing at a faster rate than subsistence, the subsistence per head would diminish and eventually lead to poverty and the deterioration of the population.

While some aspects of Malthus’ theory may appear to be correct, he did not consider many other points. Malthus ignored...