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These laws have been observed to hold
We start by repeating three laws of human ecology that are
given by Garrett Hardin (Hardin, 1993). These are fundamental, and need to be
known and recognized by all who would speak of sustainability.
Garrett Hardin's Three Laws of Human Ecology
First Law of Human Ecology:
We can never do merely
This is a profound and eloquent observation of the
interconnectedness of nature.
Second Law of Human Ecology:
away to throw to.
This is a compact statement of one of the major
problems of the effluent society.
Third Law of Human Ecology:
The impact (I) of any
group or nation on the environment is represented qualitatively by the
Where P is the size of the population, A is the per capita
affluence, measured by per capita rate of consumption, and T is a measure of
the damage done by the technologies that are used in supplying the consumption.
Hardin attributes this law to Ehrlich and Holdren (Ehrlich and Holdren,
The suggestion may be made that the Third Law is too conservative.
The Third Law suggests that I varies as pn where n = 1. There are situations
where the impact of humans increases more rapidly than linearly with the size
of the population P so that n > 1.
Boulding's Three Theorems
These theorems are from
the work of the eminent economist Kenneth Boulding (Boulding, 1971).
First Theorem: "The Dismal Theorem"
If the only
ultimate check on the growth of population is misery, then the population will
grow until it is miserable enough to stop its growth.
Second Theorem: The Utterly Dismal Theorem
technical improvement can only relieve misery for a while, for so long as
misery is the only check on population, the technical improvement will enable
population to grow, and will enable more people to live in misery than before.
The final result of technical improvements, therefore, is to increase the
equilibrium population which is to increase the total sum of human misery.
Third Theorem: The moderately cheerful form of the Dismal
If something else, other than misery and starvation, can be
found which will keep a prosperous population in check, the population does not
have to grow until it is miserable and starves, and it may be stably
Fortunately, it is not too difficult to restate the Dismal
Theorem in a moderately cheerful form. Boulding continues, "Until we know more,
the Cheerful Theorem remains a question mark. Misery we know will do the trick.
This is the only sure fire automatic method of bringing population to an
equilibrium'. Other things may do it.
LAWS OF HUMAN ECOLOGY RELATING TO SUSTAINABILITY
Population growth and/or growth in the
rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
A) A population growth rate less than or equal to zero and
declining rates of consumption of resources are necessary conditions for a
B) Unsustainability will be the certain result of any
program of "development," whether or not it is said to be "sustainable," that
ignores the problem of population growth and that does not plan the achievement
of zero or a period of negative growth of populations and of rates of
consumption of resources.
C) The research and regulation programs of
governmental agencies that are charged with protecting the environment and
promoting "sustainability" are, in the long run, irrelevant unless these
programs address vigorously and quantitatively the determination of optimal
population sizes that can be carried indefinitely arid unless the programs
study in depth the demographic causes and consequences of environmental
D) Societies, or sectors of a society, that depend on population
growth or growth in their rates of consumption of resources, are
E) Persons who advocate population growth and/or growth in
the rates of consumption of resources are advocating unsustainability.
Persons whose actions directly or indirectly cause increases in population or
in the rates of consumption of resources are moving society away from
sustainability. (Advertising your city or state as an ideal site in which to
locate new factories indicates a desire to increase the population of your city
G) The term sustainable growth is an
H) The term sustainable development is an
oxymoron while human numbers are increasing.
The term sustainable development in
the presence of either constant or increasing human numbers is an
oxymoron. Sustainability is directly dependant upon human impact.
Development is the product of affluence and technology, AT, in the expression
I = PAT.
The product of AT continues to increase for humans
whether P is constant or increasing. Sustainability is conditional upon impact,
I, being either zero or constant.
The larger the population of a
society, and/or the larger its rates of consumption of resources, the more
difficult it will be to transform the society to the condition of
Third Law :
The response time of populations to
changes in the total fertility rate is the length of time people live, or
approximately fifty to seventy years. The consequence of this is called
A) If we want the population sizes to be reduced or at least
stabilized by the mid-twenty-first century, we must make the necessary changes
in the total fertility rates before the end of the twentieth century.
live in a time of short time horizons.
C) It will be difficult to convince
people to act now to change course, when the full results of the change may not
be apparent until later in those people's lifetimes.
Fourth Law The size of population that can be
sustained (the carrying capacity) and the sustainable average standard of
living of the population are inversely related to one another.
A) The higher the standard of living one wishes to sustain,
the more urgent it is to reduce population size.
B) Reductions in the rates
of consumption of resources and reductions in the rates of production of
pollution can shift the carrying capacity in the direction of sustaining a
Sustainability requires that the size of
the population be less than or equal to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem
for the desired standard of living.
A) Sustainability requires an equilibrium between human
society and stable ecosystems.
B) Destruction of ecosystems tends to reduce
the carrying capacity and/or the sustainable standard of living.
C) The rate
of destruction of ecosystems increases as the rate of growth of the population
D) Population growth rates less than or equal to zero are
necessary, but are not sufficient, conditions for halting the destruction of
Sixth Law: (The lesson of "The Tragedy of the
Commons," Hardin, 1968):
The benefits of population growth and of growth in
the rates of consumption of resources accrue to a few individuals; the costs of
population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are borne
by all of society.
A) Individuals who benefit from growth will continue to
exert strong pressures supporting and encouraging both population growth and
growth in rates of consumption of resources.
B) The individuals who promote
growth are motivated by the recognition that growth is good for them. In order
to gain public support for their goals, they must convince people that
population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are also
good for society. This is the Charles Wilson argument: If it is good for
General Motors, it is good for the United States* (Yates, 1983).
Growth in the rate of consumption of a
non-renewable resource, such as a fossil fuel, causes a dramatic decrease in
the life-expectancy of the resource.
A) In a world of growing rates of consumption of resources,
it is seriously misleading to state the life-expectancy of a nonrenewable
resource "at present rates of consumption," i.e., with no growth.
B) It is
intellectually dishonest to advocate growth in the rate of consumption of a
nonrenewable resource while, at the same time, reassuring people about how long
the resource will last "at present rates of consumption."
The time of expiration of nonrenewable
resources can be postponed, possibly for a very long time;
by (i) technological improvements in the efficiency with
which the resources are recovered and used; (ii) using the resources in accord
with a program of "sustained availability" (Bartlett, 1986); (iii) recycling;
(iv) the use of substitute resources.
When large efforts are made to improve
the efficiency with which resources are used, the resulting savings are easily
and completely wiped out by the added resource needs that arise as a
consequence of modest increases in population.
A) When resources are used more efficiently, the consequence
often is that the "saved" resources are not put aside for the use of future
generations, but instead are used immediately to encourage and support larger
B) Humans have an enormous compulsion to find an immediate use
for all available resources.
The benefits of large efforts to
preserve the environment are easily canceled by the added demands on the
environment that result from small increases in human population.
Eleventh Law: (Second Law of Thermodynamics)
rates of pollution exceed the natural cleansing capacity of the ecosystems, it
is easier to pollute than it is to clean up the environment.
Twelfth Law: (Eric Sevareid's Law)
The chief cause
of problems is solutions (Sevareid, 1970).
A) This law should be a central part of higher education,
especially in engineering.
Humans will always be dependent on
A) Supermarkets alone are not sufficient.
B) The central
task in sustainable agriculture is to preserve agricultural land. The
agricultural land must be protected from losses due to things such as (i)
erosion; (ii) urbanization and development; (iii) poisoning by chemicals; (iv)
salinization; (v) waterlogging; (vi) the re-creation of quasi-natural habitat
or the desire for it.
If, for whatever reason, humans
fail to stop population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of
resources, nature will stop these growths.
A) Nature's method of stopping growth is cruel and
B) Glimpses of nature's method of dealing with population that
have exceeded the carrying capacity of their lands can be seen each night on
the television news reports from places where large populations are
experiencing starvation and misery.
Starving people do not care about
sustainability. If sustainability is to be achieved, the necessary leadership
and resources must be supplied by people who are not starving.
The addition of the word
"sustainable" to our vocabulary, to our reports, programs, and papers, and to
the names of our academic institutes and research programs, is not
sufficient to ensure that our society becomes sustainable.
This is from Albert Bartlett, Department of Physics,
University of Colorado, Box 390, Boulder, CO 80309-0390
Law of Biodiversity Decay:
Biodiversity Decay rate.
It is observed experimentally that with the
ecological process of island formation, the abundance of biodiversity decreases
in a geometrical progression as time increases arithmetically. The decay of
biodiversity of fragmented islands follows first order kinetics.
Differentiating the general equation gives,
Therefore lambda represents the fraction of the total number of
species which become extinct per unit of time. The biodiversity disintegration
factor, lambda has a characteristic value for each island, and is dependant
upon such things as the localized terrain, localized climatic conditions,
predominant vegetation types and most importantly, size of the island and
distance from very large main ecosystems. It appears to be an expression of the
law of probability, for the average number of species going extinct per unit of
time is proportional to the number of species present. From this standpoint the
number of species going extinct per unit of time should not be constant for
each unit of time but, the number should vary from one unit of time to another
within certain limits predictable according to the theory of probability.
The following equations all apply to first
order biodiversity decay in islands:
Rate = k*N
ln(No) - ln(N) =k*t
k = 0.693/t1/2
Here, N is the amount of biodiversity as numbers of
distinct species, k is the 1st order rate constant, the equivalent of lambda,
and t1/2 the half life for the island. You can also define an activity which is
a measure of how many extinctions occur per unit of time. All three, the first
order rate constant lambda, the t1/2, and the extinctions per unit time, the
activity, are affected by each bisection and trisection of each remaining
eco-island which are occuring with extreme rapidity. Specifically, t1/2
decreases, and both lambda or k, and extinctions per unit time, the activity,
increase. Alternatively each bisection of an eco-island could be considered a
formation of two smaller eco-islands with a lambda constant of a higher
Law of Demographic Impact:
Lambda = k + I, where I = PAT.
of ecosystems and remnants of ecosystems, fragmented islands, is due to human
influence and interaction. The ecological process of islandification is
initiated by humans. Thereafter humans always interact with and have an impact
upon the island. Taking into account the effects of human intervention upon
biodiversity, lambda is therefore the sum of a constant k, plus the addend I,
the human impact.