Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



If birth rates are far higher than death rates, population growth is too rapid to be sustainable. Changing population growth rates requires examination of the factors that influence or constrain choices about family size. Human well-being and the environment, both in cities and in rural areas, are negatively impacted by rapid population growth.

Main Idea

Demographic change impacts human well-being and the natural environment

Key Concepts

      • Carrying capacity
      • Demographic transition
      • Reproductive health
      • Population and environment


Knowledge of

      • how demographic forces impact human well-being and the natural environment

Understanding of

      • population growth’s impact on poverty
      • reproductive health

Ability to

      • describe the effect of women’s education and cultural awareness on population growth

Core Readings

  1. The Changing Population
    Global facts on population growth and life expectancy (1 page)
  2. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web, ”Demographic and Environmental Change,” pages 266-269
    Summary of trends in Africa (4 pages)
  3. Economic Impact of Population Dynamics
    Macro and micro effects of high fertility; includes demographic window
    (3 pages)
  4. Poverty and Desired Family Size
    Defining unmet need for contraception; poor women desire smaller families but have less access to reproductive health services (2 pages)
  5. UNFPA State of the World Population: Introduction
    Cairo conference redefined population from a macro planning issue to an issue of individual human rights (2 pages)
  6. Determining the Impact of Human Activity
    Impact equation, complex interactions of poverty, population, and development (5 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. Keeping Adolescent Girls in School
    Ethiopian example of the relationships between education and population growth, culture and poverty alleviation (1 page)
  2. Africa Invests to Stop Migrants
    A West African plan to slow the emigration of young people from the region
    (2 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. Can the Cairo Consensus Contribute to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa?
    Overview of population growth rates in the region; problems caused by gender inequality (9 pages)
  2. Poverty and Population Growth
    Good coverage of theories relating poverty and population growth; empirically opaque relationship; theories about rural-urban migration and the urban informal sector; microeconomic and multiple equilibria explanations of high fertility
    (11 pages) 

Assignment Questions

  1. Population: What are the most significant demographic trends occurring in the African region today?
  2. Interconnections: Population & Ecosystems: Explain some of the connections between rapid population growth and environmental degradation.
  3. Interconnections: Population & Human Needs: Fertility, the number of children a woman gives birth to, is one of the central variables in studying demographic changes. Before the advent of modern medicine, populations were relatively stable throughout the world, with high mortality balanced by high fertility. As better health care and sanitation becomes available, infant and child mortality drops, and population growth accelerates. In most developed countries, a subsequent drop in fertility is observed, as women marry later and couples choose to have fewer children. This process is referred to as the demographic transition, and it implies a strong relationship between increasing levels of human development and decreasing average fertility. Explain some of the connections between fertility and poverty, education, and health.