Evaluation: Population Growth, Energy Consumption and Sustainable Development in China

The article is organized as follows. Section 2 provides a short explanation of calculation procedure of EF. Section 3 analyses the relationships between population growth, environment crisis and sustainable development based on the calculated EF of China in the last twenty years. Section 4 offers the conclusion, exploring policy implications and making a simple evaluation on EF method itself.

China's Population Growth and Sustainable Development

China’s Population Growth and Sustainable Development

Evaluation on China’s Population Growth and Sustainable Development

Human survival and progress of society are based on resources and services provided by the environment of the earth. The environment has been greatly influenced by mankind production process and consumption. It is said that the regeneration capacity of mankind-supported ecosystem is severely threatened, which limits the development of human society in turn. Therefore, how to get a harmonious and sustainable development of environment, mankind and society has become a hot issue of many international organizations and individuals. The concept of sustainable development, offered by Brundtland’s report Our Common Future in 1987, promoted the study on relationship between environment and human society.

Essentially, the sustainable development indicates that the pressure made by human activities is not allowed beyond the supported capacity provided by the earth biosphere. Therefore, to measure the pressure made by mankind on environment is an important task in sustainable development field. Many efforts have been made since 1960s (Odum, 1993; Meaduws, et. al., 1972; Lieth and Whittaker, 1975; Holder and Ehrlich, 1974). After 1980s, there had been a great progress in the study on natural resources utilization. There are representative researches, such as human appropriation of net primary productivity of the biosphere (Vitousek, et. al., 1986), evaluation of system energy (Pimentel, et. al., 1994), sustainable process index (Krotscheck and Narodoslawsy, 1996), social-ecological indicators (Christain, et. al., 1996), evaluation of ecosystem service (Costanza, et. al., 1997) and ecological footprint technique (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996), etc. All these studies aims to quantitatively reflect the use of natural resources and services provided by environment, and let human realize the pressure made by themselves on environment and reduce negative effect to the environment. Ecological footprint (hereinafter referred to as EF) was defined by Wackernagel & Rees (1996) as the total amount of ecologically productive land required to support the consumption of a given population.
Basically, every individual, process, activity or region has an impact on the earth, via resources utilization, generation of wastes and use of services provided by environment. These impacts can be converted into biologically productive area. Through comparing this impact with productive area provided by environment, it can be seen whether the pressure is made by human within the carrying capacity of environment or not. The ecological footprint is presented as a simple operational indicator to assess whether human impact on natural capital is approaching towards sustainable development or not. One advantage of EF is that it is revealed whether or not human consumption is satisfied by the available supply of ecologically productive land. In addition, EF makes clear the consequences of increasing consumption patterns, the distribution of access to natural resources, the consequences of trade and the issue of geographical re-allocation of environment pressure (Vuuran & Smeets, 2000).

Great attention has been paid to the application of EF in developed and developing countries abroad (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996; Wackernagel, et al., 1999; Forke, et al., 1997; Lenzen and Murray, 2001). EF method has been widely used to evaluate resources utilization at different levels, ranging from individual, urban and country to the global scale. Wackernagel and Rees (1996) calculated the EFs of 52 countries in the world. It is shown in the calculation that EFs of these countries exceed their local available bio- capacity provided by the nature. The study of Folk et al. (1997) indicates that the EFs of megalopolises in the world are far larger than those of their territories respectively. Bicknell, et al. (1998) calculated the EF of New Zealand with a modified form of input-output analysis. By the year of 2000, case study of EF had been carried out in China (Zhongmin, 2000). Now relevant researchers are more and more interested in the new method of sustainable development evaluation in China (Zhiqiang, et al., 2001; dongjing, et al., 2001; Gaodi, et al., 2001; Zhonmin, et al., 2002). However, due to all these studies based on certain years, the contrast analysis of time dimension is in short.

In the article, the EF of China is calculated from 1981 to 2015. Upon study of the change of EF in the last twenty years of China, the pressure of population is increased and economic development on domestic environment is analyzed. Based on the comparison between the EF and bio-capacity provided by domestic productive land, it is judged whether or not Chinese people’s consumption is good for the sustainable development of China.

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