POPULATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Although many scientists and laypersons recognize that increased human population is often a major
cause of decreased environmental quality and a subsequent diminished quality of life, the scientific
understanding of the details of these linkages is far from perfect. Linkages between population and
the environment need to be considered with respect to population impacts on environment and
environmental impacts on population. Linkages should be examined in urban, suburban and rural
environments and in countries with various levels of development. Natural resource and technology/
pollution issues are both relevant. Linkages at the global, country and regional levels have been
and should be further considered.
1. Federal Leadership: An Interagency Panel
on Population and Environment Science
An interagency Panel on Population and Environment
Science should be established within the National Science
and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Environment
and Natural Resources (CENR). It should be charged with
developing and coordinating a population and environment
science initiative that brings together all federal agencies
supporting environmental R&D in order to integrate
population issues into their programs. It should not be
involved in population policy.
2. Agenda-setting, Communication, and Integration
- The federal government should establish mechanisms to
facilitate communication and agenda-setting among diverse
scientific communities, policymakers and the public about
the linkages among population and environmental issues.
- Agencies should provide funding for sustained interactions
between experts from the population research community
and the natural science community.
- The National Research Council should form a multidisciplinary
panel to review the status of science on the connections
between human populations and the environment, and
make recommendations on future research and mechanisms
- Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the
National Science Foundation should significantly enhance
funding for the development of integrated programs of
training in population and the environment in U.S.
Databases should be created that permit investigation of the
effects of population and population change on consumption,
human settlement, and land use from local to the global scale,
and over time. Issues of data dissemination, quality control, and
confidentality should be addressed carefully.
The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of
Health, and other agencies should provide targeted funding
for research that significantly enhances efforts to understand
the relationships between human populations and their environments.
Of particular importance are the following issues:
- theoretical understanding of human demographic behavior
including how people make decisions about childbearing,
household formation, and residential location and how the
environment affects these decisions
- theoretical and empirical understanding of how humans
value the environment and how they adapt to a changing
environment including degraded environments
- understanding of the environmental effects of urbanization
in both urban and rural areas and how ecological footprints
can be reduced
- understanding of the effects of population size and growth
on the sustainability of resources (e.g., water, forests, soils,
- understanding of rural to rural migration and to its
relationships to the natural environment.