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Population and the Environment

July 17, 1998 • Volume 8, Issue 26
Is Earth getting too crowded to sustain life?
By Mary H. Cooper

Introduction

A mother in southern Sudan waits for aid at a feeding center last April. (Photo Credit: Corinne Dufka, Reuters)
A mother in southern Sudan waits for aid at a feeding center last April. (Photo Credit: Corinne Dufka, Reuters)

At the dawning of the 20th century, there were 1.6 billion people on Earth. Now, at century's end, there are nearly 6 billion. The phenomenal population growth has renewed a longstanding debate about how many people Earth can support. Thomas Robert Malthus launched the debate 200 years ago, predicting that global population would eventually overwhelm food supplies. Technological advances thus far have enabled agricultural productivity to outpace population growth. But the rekindled debate over mankind's survival is about more than food supplies: Population growth causes environmental problems from water shortages to global climate change.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Population
Nov. 16, 2012  Changing Demographics
Nov. 21, 2008  Declining Birthrates
Jul. 17, 1998  Population and the Environment
Jul. 16, 1993  Population Growth
Oct. 26, 1984  Feeding a Growing World
Aug. 02, 1974  World Population Year
Nov. 24, 1971  Zero Population Growth
Nov. 01, 1967  Population Profile of the United States
Aug. 15, 1962  Population Control
Jun. 13, 1952  Overpopulation
Mar. 10, 1930  Population Problems
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Nutrition
Population Control
Water Resources
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