Population and the Environment

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was a political economist who is known for his Malthusian Growth Model. As one of the first scholars to attempt to describe and analyze a population, he realized that human populations grew exponentially. He also identified a relationship between the standard of living of an average person and the food supply available to the population as a whole. The expansion of the food supply, as he saw it, was limited to how much land could be spared to grow food, which cannot grow exponentially. If population growth is exponential, and expansion of the food supply is not, humans have a problem. Malthus believed that there would come a time when the Earth’s population would exceed its food capacity. The results, as anyone who has seen a post-apocalypse film  knows, would not be good. Malthus’s conclusions to his theory are alarming. Essentially, he thought anything that could reduce the human population was a good thing. This included things like birth control and celibacy, but he also did not think war and famine were bad. Regardless of his morally suspect views, Malthus was one of the first to bring up the problem of over-population and how it could be a problem.

What Malthus did not count on when he predicted the apocalypse was the rate of technological advancement. While this contributed to population growth through improved medical practices, sanitation, and other means, it also greatly improved the ability of humans to produce more food in less area. The direction of this causality may be unclear—whether population caused technology or technology allowed population—but their relationship is important to human’s effect on the environment.

Technological innovation brought massive changes in every way. One of these changes was the growth of productivity. Global economic prosperity took off in the 20th century even relative to the growth in population. With this came massive increases in the demand for energy. As prof. Roche explained on Monday, humans not only needed more energy, but we had the means of supplying it with cheap, burnable fuel. The consequences of our use of these sources of energy are probably the most significant threat to human life on this planet at the moment. Increased productivity brought about new factories and the demand for labor. During the lecture on Wednesday, we discussed how rural populations moved to the cities to meet this demand and what this process looked like. Despite the rural population declining and more efficient farming techniques, farmers still needed more farm land. The increasing number of people around the world had to be fed, so people began farming more land. This meant they had to clear out areas to use, which included chopping down trees and killing the animals. Deforestation and the near extinction of certain species have been the result (Bayly, p. 294).

Thomas Malthus may have missed on many points, but he was correct in thinking that we need to find a balance between the need to feed our growing population and the need to protect the environment. Bayly (p. 297) agrees with this dilemma. Obviously, we can’t not feed people and just let them starve. Nor can we destroy the only home we have. Population is may still be the problem, but hindsight is 20/20 (if you’re alive). Who can say if our best chance for salvation lies in the stagnation of population growth, technological advancement, or something entirely different.

Week 13

Most of today’s developed economies have evolved from the familiar industrialization path. The advancement of manufacturing industries – such as textiles, steel, automobile manufacturing – has emerged from the remnants of traditional occupations and guild systems, transforming agricultural societies into city. Farmers became factory workers, a process that provided the basis for not only an unprecedented increase in economic production capacity, but also a major revolution in social and political organizations. However, besides the positive effects that process of industrialization and modernization bring back, there are also negative effects,it is affecting significantly to the economic and social life our country.In particular, the impact on the environment is a typical example.The fact is still going on, despite the voices and warnings from everywhere, every industry, every level, every class of people … about the harmful effects of pollution and environmental degradation school, but that reality still exists with an increasingly serious level, photo adversely affecting the natural and social environment, threatening human health and life sustainable development of the economy. It seems, the more economic development, the faster the cause of industrialization and modernization of the country, the more environmental problems will become a more pressing problem.

Going with industrialization is urbanization, people will move from countryside to city in order to have a better life. Because most of the factory is in a city not in a countryside. The number of people in city is growing in an explosive way. In this week reading “planet of slums” has given some evidence for the increasing population in cities such as ” In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population of
more than one million; today there are 400, and by 2015 there will be
at least 550.” We could see the number is increasing significantly and the author guess that the number could increase more in the next few years.

Family Migration in the 20th Century

My family’s migration story partially fits well into the narrative of the 20th century and partially does not. For my father’s side, as pf 1492 the Totten family was living as farmers in the village of Wedmore in Southwestern England. As of the late 1600s, the Tottens emigrated to British colonies in North Carolina, at some point settling in the region of the Salkahatchee swamp in South Carolina. During this time (probably because they were illiterate and spelled it wrong at some point) their name was somehow de-Anglicized to “Tuten.” They proceeded to remain in general vicinity of the swamps of the South Carolina Low Country until my father left for college in the 1970s – they had remained in the same area for about 300 years (and some of the family remain there still). This is not a very 20th century story – they got into place long before the 20th century and stayed there while it went on.

My mother’s family are a different story. One branch arrived in New England from London in the latest part of the 1700s, but became nearly destitute near the turn of the 20th century as a result of crop failures in the region and sought jobs (as terrible as conditions may have been) in New York City. There, if DNA testing can be believed, at some point a young member of that family met an Ashkenazi Jew, who presumably would have fled from Eastern Europe during the many Progroms of the early 19th century. After my great-grandfather was killed by a Kamikaze attack in the battle of Iwo Jima in the Second World War, this part of the family relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, where they worked in support of the civil rights movement. They were affected quite a bit by the wars and violence of the 20th century, though not as much by the formation of nation states.

Environmental Effects From Human Cause

The rapid expansion of an urban structure, suburb housing, and the movement of rural communities to larger towns has impacted the type of growth in many developed countries worldwide. This movement can be seen through statistics across the internet where the rural population has been eclipsed by the urban population by billions of people. Consumer culture has made this push more easy as goods are brought in from all corners of the market to satisfy the needs and wants of millions and millions of people.

Once these people are in cities, planning for more and more population continues, with highways being planned over poor sections of cities and commercial zoning taking over older buildings. This is seen in Moses’ plan for New York City as he prioritizes the ability of people to move around the city efficiently, leading to the destruction of historically significant neighborhoods and homes. As consumer culture demands more and more from the system it is contained in, more efficient, yet most likely more harmful, farming and manufacturing processes come to be.

Week 13 Blog Post

This week’s lectures and readings have shown how the rapid growth and industrial development has acted as a double sword. Many different diseases have been cured while new cities have risen out of nowhere. This success has led to greater population densities resulting in more mouths to feed and cars to fill with gasoline which places a larger strain on farmers, city planners, and the planet.

The world’s population had grown rapidly. In 1800 the world’s population was about one million while in 2019 the population is about 8 million. Also, the world GDP in 1900 was 2 trillion dollars while it is estimated to be 88 trillion dollars in 2020, at the price of a dollar in 1900. These growths are exponential in nature. This is all possible due to great initiations in agriculture through artificial fertilizers and faster equipment power by steam, coal, and newer sources of energy. Though these impacts have expanded what humans are able to do it is seen that “industrialization and urbanization also caused the growing problem of air pollution” (Bayley 293) and other ecologic problem like invasive and endangered species.

A growing population due to the success of industrialization has led to many large cities developing quickly around the world. This quick growth has led to cities struggling to find room for everyone. Different ideas have developed from the 19th century’s grid styled streets seen in Manhattan to the 20th century’s designed to have a “flow” in and out of the city for vehicles like Robert Mose saw with creating highways over Manhattan which would have affected the poorer minority communities the most. As the population grows, cities struggle to keep up with the growing weight of more individuals while also struggling to combat new ecological problems that result when larger amounts of human and industrial waste are created. They also begin to see the problems of investing money into their communities while properly trying to prevent displacement of poorer communities.

Week 13 – Themes

This week there were major themes of industrialization, utopian modernism and migration. During the 20th century, there were major changes in population growth, energy use, economic growth, cheap healthy food and clean accessible water. The US society saw a rapid increase in economy and society in the 20th century, due to industrialization and urbanization. Population growth was fueled by urbanization which was ultimately fueled by economic growth and that growth was fueled by industrialization of American society. The US saw new sources of energy usage, through biomass, crude wind and water, steam, high pressure steam and the internal combustion engine. These sources of energy helped fuel industrialization and economic growth in the 20th century. Cheap healthy food and clean accessible water helped lead to economic growth and urbanization; as well as was caused by the transformation of world agriculture, artificial fertilizers and ground water. After colonialism, rates of urbanization outpaced ecumenic growth and planner’s ability to plan cities that were rapidly becoming crowded due to urbanization. The patterns of urban growth reflect larger forces of the 20th century, like industrialization, decolonization, utopian modernism and migration.

From this weeks’ reading, ‘Planet of Slums’ by Mike Davis, he  stated that in 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population of more than 1 million, where today there are 400 and by 2015 there will be at least 550. This was a drastic increase since 1950 and I think today, there are more than 550 cities with populations of more than 1 million. This increase since 1950 was fueled by urbanization and I think this is still the case in the world today.