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Increasing Population Uncertainty
Carrying capacity is defined as the number of individuals of a certain species that can be sustained indefinitely in a particular area. The Earth’s capacity to support people is determined both by natural constraints and by human choices concerning economics, environment, culture (including values and politics), and demography. Human carrying capacity is more difficult to estimate than some of the standard demographic indicators, like expectation of life or the total fertility rate, because human carrying capacity depends on populations and activities around the world. Human carrying capacity is therefore dynamic and uncertain. Ecologists have often made use of the concept of carrying capacity in addressing the pressures that populations put on their environments. Many regions are already exceeding their carrying capacity; they cannot produce enough food to support their populations. One region where this is very clear is an enormous swath of equatorial Africa called the Sahel, that is undergoing very rapid desertification. The bu…