Carrying Capacity

The term carrying capacity refers to the idea that a habitat contains a limited amount of resources to sustain organisms in that niche.  This threshold may vary over time and depends on a variety of environmental factors.  Though many scholars have attempted to calculate carrying capacities for various ecological niches, it is complicated to determine.  In the case of our species, it is especially difficult to determine how many humans can be supported by what Earth is able to produce.  According to the World Population Clock  (Links to an external site.) , there are approximately 7.8 billion people alive on earth today.  What is our carrying capacity, and what will we do if we reach it? A much-heated debate has developed over this issue, and there are a few schools of thought regarding carrying capacity: Malthusian perspective (named after Thomas Malthus): Humans will undoubtedly reach Earth’s carrying capacity.  Once we reach capacity, a large portion of the population will not have access to resources.  This is a fairly pessimistic perspective that contends that humans cannot change Earth’s carrying capacity…No matter what we do, natural selection will keep us from overcoming. Marxist perspective: Somewhat rejects the Malthusian perspective on carrying capacity.  Proponents argue that the carrying capacity isn’t the same for humans (due to our scientific advances) or is more extensive than we think.  There are adequate resources available on Earth, but they are not distributed equally.  It is possible to sustain ourselves.  The issue is that some individuals have greater access to resources than others.  It is argued that if everyone works together, resources can be controlled adequately. Neo-Malthusian perspective: Similar to the Malthusian perspective (there is a carrying capacity), but proposes that humans can expand our carrying capacity.  Emphasizes human ingenuity and population control.  Proponents believe that we have the ability to solve these problems and expand Earth’s carrying capacity with technological advances.  Though highly controversial, some proponents argue that we need strong limits on reproduction and should require people to go through an application process before being allowed to have children. Q: What are your thoughts on the carrying capacity debate?  Is there a particular school of thought you agree with?  ompt: The term carrying capacity refers to the idea that a habitat contains a limited amount of resources to sustain organisms in that niche.  This threshold may vary over time and depends on a variety of environmental factors.  Though many scholars have attempted to calculate carrying capacities for various ecological niches, it is complicated to determine.  In the case of our species, it is especially difficult to determine how many humans can be supported by what Earth is able to produce.  According to the World Population Clock  (Links to an external site.) , there are approximately 7.8 billion people alive on earth today.  What is our carrying capacity, and what will we do if we reach it? A much-heated debate has developed over this issue, and there are a few schools of thought regarding carrying capacity: Malthusian perspective (named after Thomas Malthus): Humans will undoubtedly reach Earth’s carrying capacity.  Once we reach capacity, a large portion of the population will not have access to resources.  This is a fairly pessimistic perspective that contends that humans cannot change Earth’s carrying capacity…No matter what we do, natural selection will keep us from overcoming. Marxist perspective: Somewhat rejects the Malthusian perspective on carrying capacity.  Proponents argue that the carrying capacity isn’t the same for humans (due to our scientific advances) or is more extensive than we think.  There are adequate resources available on Earth, but they are not distributed equally.  It is possible to sustain ourselves.  The issue is that some individuals have greater access to resources than others.  It is argued that if everyone works together, resources can be controlled adequately. Neo-Malthusian perspective: Similar to the Malthusian perspective (there is a carrying capacity), but proposes that humans can expand our carrying capacity.  Emphasizes human ingenuity and population control.  Proponents believe that we have the ability to solve these problems and expand Earth’s carrying capacity with technological advances.  Though highly controversial, some proponents argue that we need strong limits on reproduction and should require people to go through an application process before being allowed to have children. Q: What are your thoughts on the carrying capacity debate?  Is there a particular school of thought you agree with?

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