There is undeniably one single, dominant cause directly responsible for the
drastic changes in our land use practices and hence the environmental quality of
Think about it. When our population was relatively small, say back before
European settlers came to Louisiana, there was virtually no pressure upon our ecosystems.
Native peoples took only what they needed and managed to live harmoniously with
their surroundings. As people began to settle down and live in groups, cities like New
Orleans were founded. The need to convert nearby land to agricultural and livestock
farms grew as the demand for these products increased. Pressure on the environment
also increased. Still, there were few enough people and enough land around them to
serve as a buffer zone that no appreciable impact was felt. From the mid 1700s until the
mid 1800s (the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.) the population began to
rise at a much faster rate. After World War II, sudden and dramatic developments in
technology allowed an unheralded increase in population size. This worldwide increase
in population has resulted in wholesale changes to, and unprecedented pressures upon,
our remaining natural areas.
An excellent population explosion resource for teachers can be found in the
video “Zero Population Growth” which has a total running time of only 7 1/2
minutes. Available through Zero Population Growth Foundation
The global population increase over time is depicted graphically in the chart to the right. While we are still on the upslope of this dramatic curve, and may have a little breathing room, to procrastinate and assume that things will get better on their own is to court disaster. Many experts feel that the sooner we act, the less severe will be our (or our descendants’) recovery from the inevitable ecological collapse.
Does there need to be an ecological collapse?
Can our descendents recover without suffering too many hardships or living under a dramatically decreased standard of living?
What will our descendants thing of our role as stewards of the environment?
Will our descendents praise our efforts or curse our inadequacies?