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Impact of Population on Sustainable Development

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Published: Wed, 11 Oct 2017

The concept of sustainable development has been on its deathbed, courtesy of the dwindling natural resources on the planet. Despite the pressure on natural resources, which come with any slight increase in population, economists have offered explanations that increased population, equally, plays a significant role in advancing development in the society. Population increase widens the market base for most products. For instance, it leads to increased supply of the most vital capital for growth and development – labour. The question, though, which everyone keeps asking, is whether the development that occurs, as a result of population growth, is sustainable. How strong are the foundations of any development strategy based on the increase in population and, most significantly, what is the effect of population growth on resource consumption in the society.

There are several factors at play in any economic development strategy; several conditions are responsible for the development of any economic construct in the world. Depending on the foundation of these economic developments, there is the likelihood that some developmental frameworks may be quite feeble; they are not anchored on firm, sustainable, developmental principles. This paper will explore, exactly, how the global population influences sustainable development. It will underscore the role of population, on the establishment of an economic framework. Whether the economic growth of any society, as influenced by the population, is sustainable or not, will be another focus of this paper. In a more specific sense, this paper will, equally, discuss some of the challenges that population, as a factor of development, imposes on any economic construct. In addition to that, this work will be consummate in evaluating the opportunities, which are brought about by the dynamics of population, within any economic ensemble.

Population and sustainable development: a critical analysis

The world population has been on an upward growth trend. At an annual growth rate of 1.5%, the growth pattern of the global population is quite high. In the developing nations, the growth rate is even higher than in the developed countries. The increase in the global economy, according to analysts, is incessantly exerting a lot of pressure on the resources of the society. Consequently, this pressure translates into very poignant impacts on the development of the society. Throughout this study, several questions will guide the inquiry of the topic at hand; the most prominent question is whether there is a significant effect that the global population has, on the sustainable development of the planet. If yes, are the effects of the growth of any population, dependant on the stage of development of that demography?

Population growth, obviously, has significant influence on the growth of any economy. As explored by Tietenberg and Thomas, “as long as each person contributes something, those effects are, generally, correlated.” This is an affirmation that any growth in the population of any country must, in turn, translate into a growth opportunity (568). As explored further in this work, Tietenberg and Thomas admit that, as long as the marginal product of the population is positive, then the chances are the society will experience massive growth of the economy. Nevertheless, the sustainability of the development experienced in the same society is dependent on factors, other than, merely, the growth of the population (570).

The presence of a positive marginal product, as explored in the work, in an economic sense, is not, really, an appropriate assessment of the desirability of the growth of any population. It would be appropriate for an in-depth investigation to be made regarding whether the increase in the population under discussion is, indeed, a positive for the citizen. To extrapolate; if the population growth is beneficial to the sustainable development of the society, then there is a need to inquire how, exactly, it plays into the development of individual citizens. This has been, scientifically, themed in the work by the admission that “whenever the marginal product of an additional person is lower than the average product, the addition of more persons into the population will, effectively, reduce the welfare of the citizen”. This, effectively, means that such a development pattern is not sustainable, in an economic sense.

Demographic factors, within any social construct, are a fundamental condition that influences the growth of the economy. In addition, these demographic factors are, equally, very critical to understanding the concept of sustainable development. Changes in the workforce demography, for instance, have been found to be very influential in defining the growth of the productivity, of the population. Over time, any exponential increase in the population of a certain age, of a given society, will translate into a positive increase in the development index of that society. Essentially, this means that, in general, growth of the population does not, entirely, translate into the development of the economy.

Sustainable growth of the economy does not, blindly, depend on the increase in population of the inhabitants of that society. Rather, the quality of the increase is what defines the development that will happen, within that society. Low productivity in the poorer countries, for instance, has been attributed to the workforce that is not very productive and, so, development, in the face of such economic limitations, is very unsustainable. Nevertheless, the developing societies have a responsibility to translate the growth of their population from non-productive growth, to a relatively productive growth pattern. These will involve the increase of a productive population cohort, which, optimally, drives the economic agenda of the society. This, in the economic sense, is one of the most fundamental factors that define sustainable development on any economic map.

Issues of resource use and resource creation may not, entirely, escape the debate regarding population growth and sustainable development. While this work has explored the concept of growth and productivity, with regard to marginal productivity of the population, it has not yet, explicitly, outlined the issue of resources and population in sustainable development. One of the major threats to sustainable development, according to environmentalists, is the increase in the population of a society. Of course this has been mentioned somewhere in this work, but there is need to underscore how population growth affects the allocation of resource use in any society. A higher population growth, as outlined, briefly, in the work, is likely to increase the pressure on the natural resources within a society. Again, this is dependent on the instability of these resources. This is likely to hamper sustainable development, but stability in the supply or availability of resources is only possible in a society where resource reproduction remains constant, even as the population increases. In an ideal economic construct, the increase in the population should be followed by a widened resource base. This work will correlate these two aspects of development: population, sustainable growth and development, and come up with a logical inference as to how these two variables influence each other, within a perfectly functioning economic platform.

Problems

  1. Does population growth in the society, automatically, translate into economic development or under development in the society?
  2. Is population growth, as a demographic factor, an issue in the maintenance of sustainable development?
  3. Are there practical opportunities and challenges in the sustainable development of an economy, within the context of population growth?

Methods used in the research

This work has employed several methods in its bid to answer the proposed question under study. Cognizant of the interest of the topic in the development framework of any society, the methods in this research study are very specific to addressing the research question. In addition, the research methods entail primary sources used in searching for information, to be able to answer the proposed research question. This section will be focused on the methods employed in the work, to draft the conclusions regarding the topic under study.

Sources of information

To answer the research problems, the paper has opted to use both primary sources and secondary sources to get information. The primary data source in the work is the publication, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (9th Edition) by Tom Tietenberg and Lyne Lewis. This work has, extensively, addressed the research question and offered a consummate assessment of the role of population, in enhancing sustainable growth and development. The work will provide the theoretical concept and framework, on which dispositions on population growth and sustainable development will be based. As witnessed from the primary reference, the work is an updated publication, meaning that the information, in the work, is relevant to the topic at hand. The research work is cognizant of the need to quote relevant and updated references to answer the research topic. Other secondary sources entailed observations and verbal interviews of the relevant people, regarding the research topic.

The study will adopt several methods to address the research topic. Observation and inferences will be the most prominent study methods adopted by the work. The work will borrow, heavily, from the primary resource mentioned earlier. In addition to that, observation and inferential study will be, equally, invoked. The literature search will be strictly limited to the book mentioned earlier, because of its specificity in addressing and exploiting the topic under research.

Findings

Sustainability in development ensures that the growth achieved now does not, in any way, compromise future growth. It, therefore, follows that any economic activity initiated today must be resilient enough to remain stable, over many generations to come. If the population growth today can ensure proper economic provisions tomorrow, then, essentially, the element of sustainable development should not be an issue at all. From the publication, it has been noted that the growth of the population, within any society, does not inherently translate into a developmental output; rather, it is the quality of that population growth, which has influence on the sustainable growth and development of a nation. Several qualities of the population increase are responsible for the sustainable growth and development of the economy.

There are very serious opportunities, within the society, for the economy to grow in tandem with population increase. An increased population, with the right qualities and skills, creates a very serious market for the goods produced. In terms of marginal productivity, this growth of the population does not, really, matter. It simply means greater market latitude for the goods produced. In addition, population increase (of the right quality) has profound effects on the production of labour. Economists assert that this is the most prominent aspect of population increase, which plays into the population and development axis. A population increase of young, energetic age set is considered quality growth. This, essentially, means that such a population will have a very positive influence on the development of the society, in the event it increases. It is evident, therefore, that the nexus between population increase and sustainable growth and development, should be looked at in terms of productivity. Productivity defines the benchmark by which the quality of the population can be measured. If the population of a society increases, before calibrating it against sustainable growth and development, it is better to ask how qualitative the increase in the population is. This means investigating how productive the population increase really is. Essentially, this will be viewed in terms of skills, valour, and strength, which all translate into age. Other than the opportunities discussed above, population increase, equally, has very diabolical influences on the expansion of the economy. As witnessed earlier in this discussion, the problem is the increase in the non-productive part of the economy. A constant society, with little transition in economic growth and development, is likely to feel a stronger pinch of the population increase on the economy. Issues to do with pressure on the existing amenities and resources will, likely, to come into play. As outlined in the previous submissions, there is a problem with a society, where any population increase is not translated into meaningful growth in the systems that support the economy. Such developmental patterns are what contribute to unsustainable growth in the economy. In addition, there are social challenges with increased population growth. Issues such as crime, increased unemployment rates and other social ills, are likely to be driven by unproductive population growth. It is, therefore, critical that productive population growth is pursued for sustainable development.

Within the context of population and sustainable development, the question that every economic system should seek to answer is whether there is a need to control the population of any society, considering the relationship between population growth and sustainable development. It is evident from the work that several attributes of the population, influence sustainable development in the society. This, therefore, infers that any measure to control the population within the society must take into account the demographic factors in that population. In the earlier submission, this work referred to such factors as the quality of the population. Any control measures must take into account these factors, rather than undertaking general population control. It is prudent to investigate the economic template of the society, and how the population structure of the society impacts the developmental pattern of the area. This has been, conclusively, addressed in the work. According to Tietenberg and Thomas, any attempts at population control in any society, to address sustainable development and population, must be anchored on economic models of population control (578). These take into account the productivity of several population cohorts within the society.

Considering the logical progression regarding demographic transitions, this work has, equally, established that the growth of any economic construct can, easily, lead to population growth. While this was not the focus of this work, it provides a rather interesting kinship that is worth mentioning herein. Growth of any economic construct brings with it proper healthcare, in addition to better feeding habits and healthier development of the population. Consequently, this is likely to contribute, exponentially, to the increase of any population within the society.

Conclusion

There is sufficient evidence in the work that population growth has very profound effects on the development of any society. The question, however, is what tangent of development it is that arises out of population growth. This work has explored how the population growth of a society, plays into the development of the economic rubric of the society. The assertions in this work, as reflected by Tietenberg and Thomas, have concluded that population is measurable in terms of productivity. An increase in a productive population leads to increased development, and the converse is, equally, true. In summary, there are both opportunities and challenges, in any economic framework, when the population increases. It, however, depends on the quality of the population increase.


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