Virtual NC Sustainability:

Human Health AHD Process Diagram

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What is population as it relates to sustainability?

We are concerned with the density and distribution of the human population as a sustainability indicator because of the influence of these factors on human health, economic well-being, and social equality.

Note: Though not included in this study, animal populations are important to consider when examining environmental aspects of sustainability such as habitat space and species endangerment. This site currently focuses only on human demographics.


Why should population be considered a factor in assessing the sustainability of a community?

Sustainability is only possible if the size and growth of a population is in harmony with the changing productive potential of its natural environment. A population of too great a size or growing too quickly will have increasing resource demands, inevitably impacting the natural environment and community culture.

Population also has a great impact on the economy. A small or shrinking population may not provide a sufficient tax base for government funding, while a large population may overwhelm government services as well as private housing and service sectors. Further, a population comprised of too few individuals of working age and too many young or elderly individuals can not support itself. This is occurring currently in a general way in the United States, as the current Social Security system is unable to provide for all individuals receiving compensation.

North Carolina is not without population problems of its own. In addition to the growth rate related to excess births, economic development is promoting the migration and immigration of workers into commercial centers like Research Triangle Park, Charlotte, and the Triad. American migrants and foreign immigrants who moved to North Carolina between 1995 and 2000 numbered 350,000 and 184,000 respectively. The population growth in North Carolina today is 6.1%, over six times the national growth rate of 0.92% per year ( see US Census Bureau,"North Carolina Quick Facts", Population References).


How are population concerns addressed by this project?

Population Count: A raw measure of the number of people. This number represents the current demands on available resources.

Population Density: A measure of the distribution of people over a given space as measured in people per square mile. A population of high relative density represents a concentrated resource demand.

Population Growth: A measure of the rate at which the population is increasing. This number is especially useful in predicting future population sizes.

Population Distribution by Age: A characterization of the age of the population. Growth trends are easily predictable with summaries of the number of people in given age groups. Especially indicative of future trends is the number of people of child-bearing age.


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UNC Chapel Hill: Enst 94/Envr 95 Capstone, Fall 2005

Last Updated: December 17, 2005 (K.N.Baer)