Journal of Population Research

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 223–234 | Cite as

Population goals and ecological strategies for spaceship earth



The last century has seen extraordinary growth in human populations and economies. This growth has imposed huge and ever-increasing pressures on Earth’s ecosystems, prompting fears concerning the integrity of their life-supporting functions and the high rate of extinction of species. Quite simply, ecological degradation threatens the interests and possibly the survival of future human populations. By the criterion of ecological sustainability, and given our current consumption rates and technologies, Earth is now overpopulated. In such times of great and threatening change it is important to reconsider human goals and enabling strategies. A fundamental goal is the sustained quality survival of human populations. Achieving this requires new paradigms of understanding and management, especially the realization that the human economic and social spheres are dependent on healthy, functioning ecosystems, and that most forms of growth are unsustainable. Socio-economic development must become ecologically sustainable with the maintenance of Earth’s life-support systems assuming priority. Developing integrated ecosystem management, cutting consumption, and negotiating optimum population sizes would be useful. This paper discusses these issues with emphasis on the Australian situation.


environmental policy carrying capacity overpopulation adverse effects biosphere ecosystems Australia economic growth 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Earth and Environmental SciencesAustralian MuseumSydneyAustralia

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