In Study Session 1 you learned about the major impacts of human activity on the environment. These impacts are inevitably linked to the number of people living on the Earth. Human population growth affects all people around the world through its impact on the economy, the environment, and the systems that support life. The population has grown rapidly over the past hundred years as a result of high birth rates and low death rates across the globe. Understanding population growth patterns and dynamics is important in helping to understand current and future trends in the use of the Earth’s resources and the impacts resulting from that use. For the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, an increasing population means more demand for water to be used for domestic purposes as well as in agriculture and industry. It also means the production of more waste materials. Population growth is therefore a critical aspect of the context for improving WASH services.
In this study session you will learn about the causes of rapid population growth and demographic transitions; the changes in population size, its composition and characteristics; and the consequences of those changes on the environment, food security and health. We also briefly consider the link between poverty, population and the environment.