As we embark upon the discussion of natural resources, and consider their uses, economic importance, need for protection and other issues, I feel like it may be interesting to take a look at one issue that usually goes unnoticed – that of the relationship between any region’s natural resources and its population. It is quite clear that an increase in population – either through birth or immigration – can have a significant, almost decisive impact on the management of specific resources.
The topic of immigration is discussed in our nation ad nauseam, however the topic of a growing global population does not come quite up as often, because it is seen as inhumane to mandate any type of legal population control. However, the issue of population is important, and can be dealt with in humane ways. How do different nations cope with this issue?
There are methods that come to mind right away, like China’s population control policies embodied directly in the law. China’s laws may be the most severe to date, however it is not the only country that tries to incorporate the question of population into its policies. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have compiled a list of the approaches taken by other nations to address the issue of a growing population (see: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/policies/poppolicy.htm).
Many nations on the list take the approach of education and social reform. Vietnam stresses the impact of local leadership and empowering grass-roots organizations to educate local families and women about family planning choices, while at the same time improving the quality of life and health care that the families receive. The policy undertaken by Ecuador stresses the interplay of population policies and their impact on social and economic development, as well as the environmental health of the nation, and also stresses more educational policies such as an the promotion of the idea that family planning will improve quality of life. This increase in quality of life will partially be due to increased access to natural resources, but the policies of these two nations emphasize that this should be a choice the population makes, and that it is possible for people to make that choice, when given the opportunity.