the Impact of Your Personal Consumption on the Environment,
Camill, Carleton College. State University of New York at
Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
This case makes use of the concept of
the "ecological footprint," developed by Wackernagel and
colleagues to quantify the amount of land area required to sustain
the lifestyle of a population of any size. Students calculate
their consumption of energy and materials to determine their
personal ecological footprint and in the process learn about
concepts of sustainability, ecological efficiency, and energy flow
up food chains as well as the moral and ethical dimensions of how
our lifestyles impact the Earth. The case includes an Excel
spreadsheet for students to track their personal consumption of
resources. Developed for an introductory biology course, the case
could also be used in upper level courses such as ecology,
conservation biology, evolution, diversity, and the biology of
social issues, or in a non-majors biology course.
Bomb" CNN Video. 1992. This video focuses on the
population explosion all over the world and its impact on the
environment and the economy. It consists of 15 segments focusing
on the problem, what is causing it, and what is happening because
of it. The following is a list of the segments and when they begin
on the tape.
- Introduction (04:25)--
This introduction gives the viewer many alarming statistics
about birth rate, growth, and infant mortality.
- Who's Overpopulated (08:30)
defines overpopulation? Are developing countries worse than
industrialized countries? This segment suggests that
overpopulation is not just dependent on the number of people,
but also very much dependent on the impact that those people
have on the environment. It makes the case that the
industrialized nations are more overpopulated that the
- Megacities (14:40)--
In Rio de Janeiro they are experiencing an explosion of urban
growth. The city can not supply the basic needs of life to all
of the people. The number of homeless is growing, and there is a
significant rise in crime. The city is relying strongly on bus
transportation because this is what the poor can afford, but it
is taking a toll on the environment. Sewage and waste is also
causing major problems.
- Desperate Decisions
(21:35)-- Illegal abortions are on the rise in Ethiopia. Nearly
100,000 women are dying annual from complications of the
procedures. Women are making the decision to have abortions
because they feel there is no other option. They are very
uneducated about family planning options and the cultural
pressures on the women to bear many children. The country is
trying to reach as many as possible with family planning
education, but many in Ethiopia live in very remote regions and
it becomes an availability versus an accessibility issue.
- A Woman's Place
(28:57)-- In India boys are viewed as assets, while girls are
the servants, or the workers. Women have no say in how many
children they will have. Women do not have access to
education. They are not allowed to complain and they must accept
their standard of life. This is having in effect on the
population. It has been shown that educated women make the best
choices for their families. They know how many children that
they can take care of and afford.
- Son Mania
(37:14)--There is so much cultural pressure for a man to have a
son, and it is having deadly consequences. Poor couples just
have as many children as possible until they conceive a son, but
the wealthier couples are seeking genetic counseling to
determine the sex of there child. As a result the abortion rate
of female children has soared, with only 1 in 8000 abortions
being a boy. It has become so bad that India is considering
- When Babies Die (44:39)--In
infant mortality rates are very high, 1 in 5 children die before
age 5. Data shows that when children die the population
increases, because when parents lose a child they want more
children. Some look at children as security for their
futures. The country is trying very hard to get education
about family planning available to all.
- Abuse (54:12)-- India
resorted to forced sterilization in the 1970s to try and solve
their population problems. There was outrage from the public and
India stopped this practice. But they are still pressuring
people to have sterilizations done. In 1986, the government
promised a village land and money if they were sterilized and
30,000 people had the procedure, but the government did not
follow through with their promises. Today there are
sterilization camps, where women are treated like animals. It is
an assembly line method of surgery, with some doctors performing
45 surgeries per hour. There is no time for proper procedures to
be followed and the instrument are not being sterilized
properly. Many are dying from complications.
- All God's Children
(1:01:05)-- Religion puts many pressures on people not to use
contraception. This segment focuses on the village of Smoky
Mountain in Manilla, where many are refusing to use birth
control because the church is telling them that it is a sin.
They believe that God will decide how many children a family
will have. The religious belief is so strong that one health
administrator said she has a hard time and would prefer not to
pass out contraception.
- No Choice (1:09:37)--
Women in Bolivia are resorting to infanticide, because they feel
desperate and that there is no other choice available to them.
They have no access to contraception and no information about
- The Price of Success
(1:15:24)--In Indonesia users of birth control are honored. As
the economy of the country improved, there was a need to get the
population under control. The country launched a family planning
campaign. It was very successful and the population decreased,
but in achieving this target, the quality of care decreased.
Health workers are more concerned with make their target quota
than the well-being of the patient. Infections rates have
increased. The people are not accepting the birth control
because they are motivated, but because they feel coerced into
- The Machismo Factor
(1:25:16)-- In Mexico women accept the infidelity of their
husbands. As a consequence, there are the men have more
children. They view a macho man as having many children and
taking no responsibility for them. Men are criticized if they
take steps to prevent pregnancies. Common culture is that boys
are in charge and abuse of women is common. The government is
focusing its efforts on educating the young men away from this
view, and the message does seem to be getting through.
- China's Crossroads
(1:32:09)-- China has had the policy of 1 family, 1child for
awhile now and it seems to be working in the urban areas. Views
of families are changing and couples are happy with a small
family. In the country, the outcome is not the same. Families
still want to have boys and as incomes for farming has
increased, the ability to support more children has increased.
China now has to decide if it will return to a brute force
method of enforcing its policy. For right now, the policy has
been relaxed a little. If a family has a girl for their first
child, then they can try one more time for a boy.
- India's Victory (1:39:14)--Kerala
taken a holistic approach to family planning. They have made a
commitment to educating all, including women, and they have made
a commitment to providing health services. This approach has had
high success. The birth rate and infant death rate are lower.
Life expectancy has increase and women out number men. But there
has been an unexplained effect on the economy and the
unemployment rate has increased.
'Rascally' Rabbits: A biological control decision
case". Bouda, F., Walker, J., Simmons, S.
(1996). J. Nat. Resour. Life Sci.
The case study considers
implementing myxomatosis as pest management to control a
population of rabbits. The use of the article includes
society’s expectations, ecological roles, population biology, and
aspects of agricultural society.
"The tragedy of the commons." Hardin,
162, 1968, 1243-1248.
The classic article describes the human problem of population
growth as one with no technical solution
The CitiStates Report: An independent
analysis of issues that will shape the Lowcountry's future.
in PBL resource cabinet in SCIC outside of room 207
This report discusses the implications of a growing population
with regards to economics and the environment in the Charleston
Articles in "Taking Sides"
Face a "Population Problem? Easton, Thomas. Taking Sides: Science, Technology, and Society, sixth edition.
- YES: Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institure, and
Worldwatch researchers Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil argue that
population growth is straining the Earth's ability to support
humanity and that population must therefore be stabilized. (from
"Sixteen Impacts of Population Growth", The Futurist, February
Is Limiting Population Growth a Key
Factor in Protecting the Global Environment?
Easton, Thomas. Taking
Sides: Environmental Issues, eleventh edition.
- NO: Stephen Moore, director of the Cato Institute, argues that
the population-control ethic is a threat both to freedom and to
the principle that every human life has intrinsic value. (from
"Body Count: Population and Its Enemies", National Review, October
- YES: Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute,
argues that stabilizing world population is central to
preventing overconsumption of environmental resources. (from:
"Rescuing a Planet under Stress", The Humanist, November/December 2003)..
Do falling birth rates pose a
threat to human welfare? Easton, TA. Taking
Sides: Clashing views on environmental issues, twelfth
edition. 2007 McGraw-Hill, p.234-247.
- NO: Stephen Moore, director of the Cato Institute, argues that
human numbers pose no threat to human survival or the
environment but that efforts to control population do threaten
human freedom and worth. (from: Body Count", National Review, October
Is genetic engineering the answer
to hunger? Easton,
TA. Taking Sides: Clashing views on environmental
issues, twelfth edition. 2007 McGraw-Hill, p.248-259.
- YES: "Birth Dearth".
Michael Meyer argues that when world population begins to
decline after about 2050, economies will no longer
continue to grow, government benefits will decline, young
people will have to support ever more elders, and despite
some environmental benefits, quality of life will suffer.
- NO: "The fewer the better". David
Nicholson-Lord argues that the economic problems of
population decline all have straightforward solutions.
A less crowded world will not suffer from the environmental
ills attendant on overcrowding and will, overall, be a
roomier, gentler, less materialistic place to live, with
cleaner air and water.
- YES: "Is genetic engineering the
answer to hunger?". Gerald Coleman argues that
genetically engineered crops are useful, healthful, and
nonharmful, and although caution may be justified, such
crops can help satisfy the moral obligation to feed the
- NO: "Genetic engineering is
not the answer". Sean McDonagh argues that those who
wish to feed the hungry would do better to address land
reform, social inequality, lack of credit and other social