Human ecology is defined as a branch of sociology dealing especially with the spatial and temporal interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization. The factor of a population when added to this dynamics further increases its complexity. This essay aims to examine some of the issues associated with human population ecology. The essay first examines the concept of population explosion which is defined as the inability of the habitat to sustain a rapidly growing population where the birth rates are significantly higher than the death rates and how that leads to social unrest, epidemics and migrations.
The essay then examines the effects of human migration from developing countries to the developed countries with its concomitant negative and positive effects. It argues that human migration helps developed countries to maintain replacement levels to mitigate the effects of demographic transition. The essay then explains the effects of demographic transition, its phases, and how developing nations in the utilize financial help in the form of loans from the developed countries which at times lead to a debt crisis.
The essay moves on to explain the dynamics of the debt crisis and what developed countries are doing to ameliorate its effects. The essay argues that not only loans to boosts economies are required but also a control over populations that can be affected through family planning. The family planning measures are explained with a conclusion that all aspects of human population ecology can lead to prosperity or poverty depending on how optimally humans utilize the human dynamics with the environment.
Human Population Ecology
Human ecology is defined as a branch of sociology dealing especially with the spatial and temporal interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization (). The factor of the population when added to this dynamics further increases its complexity. The worlds human population is slated to grow exponentially to 8.3 billion by 2025 (Kapitza 92) which could lead to numerous problems and challenges. This essay aims to examine some of the issues associated with human population ecology.
When the birth rate is significantly higher than the death rate, to a level where the size of the population exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment then it is termed as a population explosion. Human population explosion in various parts of the world has led to over-exploitation of resources leading to environmental degradation, reduced crop production forcing countries to import food leading to economic hardships and civil unrest. For example, the population of Bangladesh far exceeds the carrying capacity of the land leading to epidemics, civil unrest, food riots, and illegal immigration. Similarly, population explosion in Africa has led to civil wars, forced migration of millions of Africans from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The present wave of human migration from developing countries to the developed countries has some basic causes. Bruggeman states that the motivations for migration are generally political and economic, but also include natural disasters such as floods and man-made crises such as war (1). The influx of immigrants not only tax the developed nations social security systems but also law and order as a vast majority of migrants do not have useful skills other than menial jobs and thus take to a life of crime. Conversely, there are high-end end qualified immigrants such as knowledge workers, IT specialists, doctors, engineers and research scholars from developing countries who contribute to the economy of the host country. While unchecked immigration causes economic burden for the host country, they also help developed countries in maintaining the replacement level of national populations which have been depleted by the so-called Demographic Transition.
According to the theory of demographic transition, as the standard of living and life expectancy increases, family sizes decline to lead to an overall reduction in the population of a country. The four phases of demographic transition are , early transition, middle transition and late transition. During the pre-transition phase, the birth rates are marginally higher than the death rates. In this period, since health care and the economy are poor, the death rates due to epidemics and sickness are high. To ensure a steady replacement level, the population has higher fertility rates. However, as the standard of living increases and people can spend more on personal health care, education, and individual aspirations, the death rates start declining significantly when compared to the birth rates as women postpone procreating for economic aspirations. This trend increases through the early, and middle transition phases till the late transition phase where there is a dramatic lowering of birth rates which then become almost equal to the death rates. During the pre-transition phase, developing nations in a bid to develop their economies take loans from private bankers in the developed countries which leads to attendant problems.
The inability to service the loans taken by developing countries leads to a phenomenon called a Debt Crisis. This term came into vogue in 1982 when Mexico was unable to service its foreign debt which led to a debt crisis (Salvatore 379). To help resolve the debt crisis, world bodies like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and donor countries have, in parts, written off the debts owed by the developing countries with conditions of austerity imposed so that the same mistakes are not repeated. In some cases, the help has been to provide multilaterally financed loan guarantees (Salvatore 379). It is not sufficient for developing countries to borrow money to boost economies, concurrently, they have to control their populations so that resources can be better utilized, which can be helped by proactive family planning.
Family planning can be defined as measures taken to regulate the number of members of a family so that it can ensure optimum physical and economic health. Family planning is critical for the overall human development not only for the family but also for the nation. Limiting the size of a family to two children is one such measure. A good example is China, which has had a one-child family planning policy since 1979, a measure that has helped China to reduce its total fertility rate. Development economists now say that up to 40 % of the economic growth experienced by China and Korea came through reducing the rate of population growth (Ssekandi 14).
Therefore, it can be concluded that human population ecology involves the affairs of man interplaying with the environment, which can result in prosperity or poverty depending on how optimally humans conduct their interaction.