Malthusian theory suggests that if population
continues to grow at a faster rate than resource production, eventually
resources will run out for the population. As more resources are used in
production for the population, the environment suffers from externalities found
in the production process, such as emissions and extraction of resources (Ayres
and Kneese, 1969). One relationship that can be seen between the resource use
and environmental degradation is the ‘tragedy of the commons’, which “refers to
the depletion of a shared resource by individuals acting independently and
rationally” (Griffiths and Kickul, 2013). When a resource lacks property
rights, it becomes an “open-access resource, where anyone can use the resource
stock freely”, and according to Malthus, “the negative effects of population
growth would be worse in the absence of established property rights” (Brander
and Taylor, 1998, pp.120). With open access to a resource, individuals are free
to use a resource as they would like, and as individuals act in their own self-interest
they will use the resource as much as they need to with no price to them. This
causes an over-exploitation of the resource, until it becomes depleted (World
Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). An example would be air;
individuals create emissions within their everyday life when acting in their
own self-interest, and the emissions created deplete the air quality and create
climate change. Research supporting this example was carried out by Jorgenson
and Clark (2010) who found “that population size has a large and stable
positive association with anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions”, demonstrating
that there is a relationship between population size and environmental degradation.
As the population grows, more individuals are using resources, causing quicker
depletion of such natural resources. This theory can be applied in many areas
of the environmental degredation, and therefore shows the relationship between
environmental degredation and a growing population. 

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