Joy of Learning

Population, Consumption and Environment

Thrust Area: Population Education
Place: Indoors Group Size: whole class
Material: none; Subjects: Civics, EVS; Duration:30-40 minutes

Objectives: To draw the attention of students to the role of over-population and over-consumption on the environment.
1. Share the following facts with your students
  • In 2001 with a population of 1,027 million persons, India ranked as the second most populous country in the world. The USA’s population was 281 million.
  • The consumption of food grains per person in India is less than 200 Kg per year. Diets in India are generally dominated by a single starchy staple for instance rice or wheat. An average American, on the other hand, consumes 800 kg of grain each day,directly or
    indirectly,in the form of beef, poultry, pork eggs, milk, cheese, ice-cream and yogurt.
  • Only about 28 % of the people in India have access to sanitation facilities. In the USA,100 % of the population is reported to be served by municipal services.
  • In 2000, electricity consumption per capita in India was equivalent to 335 kilowatt-hours. USA’s per capita electricity consumption during the same period was 12331 kilowatt-hours.
  • The USA usages about 25 % of the world processed mineral recourses and non-renewable energy compared to India’s 3%.
  • The USA produces at least 25 % of the world population and waste, including 18 % of the global emission of greenhouse gases and 22 per cent of ozone – destroying CFCs. India produces about 3 per cent of the worlds pollution and waste including about 4 % of the global emission of greenhouse gases and 0.7 per cent of Ozone destroying CFCs.

2. Discuss

  • Which country consumes more resources?
  • Which country generates more waste?
  • Which country population has access to basic facilities such as sanitation required for and resulting in a healthier and safer living environment?
  • What are the links between population, consumption, environment and development?

3. Draw the attention of students to the following

Total Impact: India has more people consuming fewer resources and contributing less pollution. But because they are many in number, the total impact is significant.
On the other hand the USA has fewer people with affluent lifestyles. Though they are not many in number, because of their lifestyle they consume considerable resources and
produce considerable pollution and waste.

Quality of Life: Another significant aspect is the quality of life of the people. The majority of Indians live in undesirable conditions with poor access to basic facilities such as sanitation education health facilities etc. This leads to a more direct adverse effect on the environment
and also limits opportunities for a better quality of life.

Impact on Environment: What does this have to do with the environment? Does the number of people influence the well-being of the environment? Does the way people live and what they consume their lifestyle – also determine their impact upon the environment?

Environmental Degradation: consider both – population size and consumption levels: The USA which has only a third of India’s population has a far greater impact on the environment. The environmental impact of 28.1 crore Americans is equivalent to that of 1400 crore Indians at their current levels of consumption. Therefore, while India suffers from ‘people overpopulation’, the USA suffers from ‘consumption overpopulation’. So, when we think of environmental degradation, we have to simultaneously think of population and consumption.

Source: Kandula, Kandula (2004) ‘Population, Consumption and Environment’ in understanding Environment (Kiran B. Chhokar, Mamata Pandya, Meena Raghunathan, editors).
Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi

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