Population Pressure and its Effects on Different Types of Societies
In the past (as it is today), population growth tend to decrease the natural resources available for production (and consequently for consumption).Because hunting-gathering societies relied primarily on subsistence, foraging, and hunting, the amount of geographic space available for such activities were limited. On the production level, population level must be in accord with production (from subsistence, foraging, and hunting). If population level becomes too high, the village might find itself in the verge of famine. In order to limit the effects of population growth, the! Kung (inhabitants of the Kalahari Desert) equally divided meat to all the families in the tribe (optimal foraging is used by this tribe – maximization of an area for either hunting or gathering) (Harris, 2002). In the case of the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands, a system of exchange was developed among neighboring islands to ensure that population needs are met (Malinowski, 1915:126). Population growth has little or no significant effect on energy capture and exchange in hunting gathering societies.
The effect of population growth can be seen primarily on agricultural and industrial societies. Agricultural societies utilize land as the main component of production. The greater the area of land available for agriculture, the higher is the output (note however that if land is limited, production tends to show “diminishing marginal returns”) (Harris, 2002). If the area for human settlements increases (given that land is limited), then the area for agriculture decreases (thus production decreases). Population growth can be positively correlated with exchange. For example, the population increase of the T’boli tribe in the Philippines (an agricultural society) brought increased activities in the tribe. Exchange with other tribes increased (to meet population needs).
In recent decades, the concept of “carrying capacity” became a headline in the scientific community. It was thought that if the population of the earth reached 100 billion, then it would be the limit. The earth would not be able to support the increasing human population. While this is partially true, it should be noted that industrial societies do not rely solely on land for production. Unlike a hunting-gathering society or an agricultural society, production in industrial societies can take different forms (Harris, 2002). For example, nowadays, certain branded cereals can be produced in vast amount in a laboratory with little land. Population growth though (on industrial societies) tends to strain energy sources. It is no wonder there is an intensive search for alternative energy today.
Harris, Marvin. 2002. Cultural Anthropology. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1915. The Trobriand Islands. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.