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Understanding Systems, Law, and Population Growth

Human population growth is a serious biospheric problem yet is largely overlooked. Because of the neglect of demography, environmental policies — while well-intentioned – are unlikely to succeed.

This book gives a concise review of world fertility rates and population growth, and offers a valuable summary of studies of the impact of over-population on the biosphere. In addition, the book explains key demographic variables to consider when formulating law and government policy relevant to childbearing, and it summarizes findings of social science research – findings that contradict popular assumptions about the impact of government interventions addressing the frequency of childbearing and immigration.

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The chapter points out that the disciplines of ecology and sociology both rely on the concept of a system and thus have a basis for collaboration even though the phenomena they study are substantively dissimilar. The character of a system is explained, and the implications of a system are discussed for human societies, for law and government, and for the consequences of government undertakings to alter the incidence of key social activities such as fertility. The chapter proposes that, because childbearing has been found to decrease as population density increases, urban planning may be able to reduce human fertility by promoting high-density housing.

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The chapter returns to the absence of human-population size and growth from the paradigm that is currently dominant among environmentalists. This paradigmatic flaw is underscored by a discussion of (1) the melting of polar glaciers and (2) levels of human mortality from outbreaks of disease, both of which are affected by the size and growth of the human population. The chapter recommends that, in attempting to curb population growth, law and government policy should be used cautiously and formulated with inputs from a wide range of disciplines.

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The chapter offers insights into the demography of human-population growth in the world as a whole and in nations grouped by income level. Graphs are used to examine trends since the middle of the twentieth century in age-specific fertility rates, mean age of childbearing among women, and total fertility rates. The chapter also discusses childlessness and the importance of the extent of childlessness to population growth.

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The chapter discusses some methodological pitfalls in assessments of the effectiveness of law and government policy that address society-important social activities. A summary and analysis of quantitative research indicates that law and policy, including policy promoting family-planning services, have had just a limited impact on the frequency of childbearing. Research also indicates that law and policy have not had a large effect on the incidence of abortion or on the volume of immigration.

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The chapter identifies primary and secondary negative environmental impacts of the numerical size and growth of the human population. Findings of scientific studies, especially findings of multivariate analyses of quantitative data, are summarized on the effects that human population size, density, and/or increase have had on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, on human death rates generally, and on the climate of the planet. Through climate change, population size and growth have had secondary effects: Research indicates that climate change has increased wildfires, damaged agriculture, hurt economic activity, intensified hurricanes and typhoons, caused flooding and droughts, and diminished biodiversity.

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The chapter points out that the current paradigm of environmentalists ignores the negative impact that human population size has on the biosphere. To counter this lack of concern with population size and growth, the chapter uses graphs to show that the ecological footprint of the global human population has appreciably expanded since the 1960s; that the numerical increase of the global population remains substantial even though the rate of population growth and the total fertility rate have fallen; and that large numbers of human beings are projected to be added each decade to the global population until at least the year 2050.

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