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The environment always matters
journal contributionposted on 2003-08-01, 00:00 authored by C Butler
Superficially, the high human populations of prosperous, well-fed city-states such as Singapore and Hong Kong might appear to support the view that high concentrations of human dynamism and enterprise can alone transcend environmental constraints. Indeed, extrapolations from such densely populated regions to the whole world form the historical basis for the most optimistic estimates of how many people the Earth might support. In fact, these affluent, densely populated regions require goods and services that are produced by areas far larger than the residential area of the state. For the foreseeable future, the whole world cannot live as densely and as well as Singapore. For example, some of the fish eaten in Hong Kong is captured in Pacific Island fisheries. Beef from the Northern Territory is exported to Japan. More generally, the supply of environmentally dependent goods - including sinks for wastes - is always limited, as are inputs such as fertile soil, clean fresh water and a benign climate.