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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







Will Limits of the Earth‘s Resources
Control Human Numbers?


David Pimentel, O. Bailey, P. Kim, E. Mullaney, J. Calabrese,
L. Walman, F. Nelson, X. Yao
February 1999



The current world population is 6 billion people. Even if we adopted a worldwide policy resulting in only 2.1 children born per couple, more than 60 years would pass before the world population stabilized at approximately 12 billion. The reason stabilization would take more than 60 years is the population momentum —the young age distribution— of the world population. Natural resources are already severely limited, and there is emerging evidence that natural forces already starting to control human population numbers through malnutrition and other severe diseases.

At present, more than 3 billion people worldwide are malnourished; grain production per capita has been declining since 1983; irrigation per capita has declined 12% during the past decade; cropland per capita has declined 20% during the past decade; fish production per capita has declined 7% during the past decade; per capita fertilizer supplies essential for food production have declined 23% during the past decade; loss of food to pests has not decreased below 50% since 1990; and pollution of water, air, and land has increased, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of humans suffering from serious, pollution-related diseases. Clearly, human numbers cannot continue to increase.
* Originally published in Environment, Development and Sustainability,  (1): 19-39, 1999.
1. Owen Bailey, Paul Kim, Elizabeth Mullaney, Joy Calabrese, Laura Walman, Fred Nelson and Xiangjun Yao, are all Cornell students.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University 14850-0901, Ithaca, NY, USA. See < http://www.cals.cornell.edu/resources_faculty/ >.

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