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Population, Consumerism and Capitalism 1

Population, Consumerism and Capitalism

Ha-Jeong Kim


ENV222: Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies

Douglas Macdonald

February 12, 2015

Population, Consumerism and Capitalism 2

In the recent past, population or the human count in the society or the world as a

whole has been recorded to be on the rise due to several reasons and factors. That increase

has also caused other factors within the whole human society and spectrum to change. Firstly,

there has been a slight increase in the birth rate per woman which is made possible with the

advancements in the health sector. The death rate has also declined implying the number of

human population would be on the high side (Withgott and Matthew, 2014).

It is however practically impossible to control the human population because the

social norms are imbibed in the mentality and cultural practices of the people. Thus, it

becomes difficult for the policy makers or the government to enforce rules or laws aimed at

controlling the population or the birth patterns of the people (Sklair, 2002). Governments find

it difficult to legislate against cultural practices especially when they support increase in


Technology has introduced better farming practices which means more food thus, a

high population would be fed. Thus, people do not feel the need to control the population if

they can be fed. Similarly, consumerism has also increased because more people consume

more products and services. Relatively, population has directly impacted consumption

patterns and behaviors. Better technology also means better healthcare such as proper

maternal healthcare thus reducing infant mortality rate and population would increase.

Population has had a direct impact on the consumer patterns and culture which has

also affected the whole concept of capitalism (Florida, 2002). To begin with, the increase in

the population means that the consumers would also increase. However, given the fact that

the changes in the production techniques have ensured that supply of products and services

have also increased, the consumption behaviors would not be disturbed by the population

increase (Smart, 2010). On the other hand, there is the threat of depletion of the limited

natural resources which is made worse by the fact that population and the increased
Population, Consumerism and Capitalism 3

consumption patterns or demands put a threat and pressure on the few and scarce resources.

This situation has presented another scenario where the cost of acquiring the limited natural

resources would then be high so as to exclude the rest from enjoying the products and

services (Saunders, 1995).

The aspect of excluding the rest of the population in the basis of cost or financial

ability is called capitalism. It would follow without saying that the owners of the few

resources would then sell them at a relatively high cost with the aim of making profit at the

expense of the welfare of the rest. But because the human population and the number of

consumers have in turn grown and increased, it has provided a leeway for the capitalist to

expand their ventures and operations because they can use finances to create an artificial

demand (Florida, 2002). Thus, because resources of the society or the world cannot be jointly

owned by everybody, the capitalists are thus in a position and place to create the artificial

shortage and demand albeit with technological help (Saunders, 1995).

Chronologically, the high population presents the capitalist with an unending supply

of a ready market. Because the number of consumers would be high, it then becomes a case

and situation where each and every person would be concerned with his or her own private

welfare (Saunders, 1995). The capitalists would then have an easy aperture to continue with

their accumulation of wealth because the consumers or the market where to sell their products

would be available. The capitalists are generally motivated by the need and urge to make the

extra coin, therefore, they may force to harm the natural environment so as to continue with

making their profits. In principle, the capitalist may not be concerned with welfare as long as

the consumers are in need of products and services (Smart, 2010). The consumers themselves

can also exert pressure on the natural environmental and thus deplete the natural resources.
Population, Consumerism and Capitalism 4


Florida, R. (2002). Bohemia and economic geography. Journal of Economic

Geography, 2(1), 55-71.

Saunders, Peter (1995). Chapter 1. The Growth Machine. Capitalism: A Social

Audit. Buckingham: Open University Press. pp. 1-28

Sklair, L. (2002). Capitalism and its alternatives. Oxford: Oxford university press.

Smart, Barry (2010). Chapter 1: Consuming: Historical and Conceptual

Issues. Consumer Society: Critical Issues and Environmental Consequences. Los Angeles:


Withgott, Jay and Matthew Laposata (2014). Chapter 8. Human

Population. Environment: The Science behind the Stories. Boston: Pearson. pp. 188 213.