World Resources and Endangered Animals

World Resources and Endangered Animals

There is grave concern for the ecology of the entire world, not just Africa's greatest lakes. The problems, however,

are most acute in developing countries, which are striving to attain the same wealth as industrialized nations. Two

problems, global overpopulation and the exploitation of world resources, are the focus of our ecological concerns.


Global overpopulation is at the root of virtually all other environmental problems. Human population growth is

expected to continue in the twenty-first century. Virtually all of this growth is in less developed countries, where 5.4

billion out of a total of 7 billion humans now live. Since a high proportion of the population is of childbearing age,

the growth rate will increase in the twenty-first century. By the year 2050, the total population of India (1.6 billion)

is expected to surpass that of China (1.4 billion) and the total world population will reach 9.3 billion. As the human

population grows, the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest nations is likely to increase.

World Resources

Human overpopulation is stressing world resources. Although new technologies continue to increase food

production, most food is produced in industrialized countries that already have a high per-capita food consumption.

Maximum oil production is expected to continue in this millennium. Continued use of fossil fuels adds more carbon

dioxide to the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change. Deforestation of large areas

of the world results from continued demand for forest products, fuel, and agricultural land. This trend contributes

to climate change by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning forests and impairing the ability of the

earth to return carbon to organic matter through photosynthesis. Deforestation also causes severe regional water

shortages and results in the extinction of many plant and animal species, especially in tropical forests. Forest

preservation would result in the identification of new species of plants and animals that could be important human

resources: new foods, drugs, building materials, and predators of pests (figure 1.6). Nature also has intrinsic value

that is just as important as its provision of resources for humans. Recognition of this intrinsic worth provides

important aesthetic and moral impetus for preservation.

(a) A Brazilian tropical rain forest. (b) A bulldozer clear-cutting a rain forest

in the Solomon Islands

FIGURE 1.6 Tropical Rain Forests: A Threatened World Resource.

(a) A Brazilian tropical rain forest. (b) A bulldozer clear-cutting a rain forest in the Solomon Islands. Clear-cutting for

agriculture causes rain forest soils to quickly become depleted, and then the land is often abandoned for richer soils.

Cutting for roads breaks continuous forest coverage and allows for easy access to remote areas for exploitation.

Loss of tropical forests results in the extinction of many valuable forest species.


An understanding of basic ecological principles can help prevent ecological disasters like those we have described.

Understanding how matter is cycled and recycled in nature, how populations grow, and how organisms in our lakes

and forests use energy is fundamental to preserving the environment. There are no easy solutions to our ecological

problems. Unless we deal with the problem of human overpopulation, however, solving the other problems will be

impossible. We must work as a world community to prevent the spread of disease, famine, and other forms of

suffering that accompany overpopulation. Bold and imaginative steps toward improved social and economic

conditions and better resource management are needed.