Property Rights for the Common Good
Page 1 1 Environmental Wrongs 1.1 HARM, HISTORY AND HUMANITY From just a handful of individuals a hundred thousand years ago, humanity will number over 6 billion by the year 2000 and is increasing at the rate of 250,000 people a day. Every month we add to the world's population a city the size of Paris and almost all of this increase takes place in just 16 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. This rapid rise in population is occurring alongside a dramatic increase in the consumption of all types of goods and services. Not surprisingly, our environment is changing at a rate that would have seemed impossible just two or three generations ago. With a few exceptions, many wild populations of species and their habitats have diminished in size from just a few decades ago. Indeed, some important wild populations which have sustained us for generations — such as fisheries — have collapsed and hundreds of animal species are in danger of extinction. We are losing tropical forest at a rapid rate and hundreds of millions of people live or work in environments harmful to their health. Not so long ago, the suggestion that humans could cause global climate change or that schoolchildren would be advised to stay indoors for protection during periods of intense sunlight, would have been viewed as science fiction. The fact that humans affect the environment is not new. The practices ofsome prehistoric hunting societies may well have hastened the extinction of some large temperate...
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