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patterns in resource consumption

consumption 8

Patterns of resource consumption – Evaluate the ecological footprint as a measure of the relationship between population size and resource consumption. Identify international variations in its size. Discuss the two opposing views (neo‑Malthusian and anti‑Malthusian) of the relationship between population size and resource consumption. (4 hours)

Changing patterns of energy consumption – Examine the global patterns and trends in the production and consumption of oil. (2 hours)

                                                                               Examine the geopolitical and environmental impacts of these changes in patterns and trends. Examine the changing importance of other energy sources. (6 hours)

Conservation strategies – Discuss the reduction of resource consumption by conservation, waste reduction, recycling and substitution. Evaluate a strategy at a local or national scale aimed at reducing the consumption of one resource. (4 hours)


Patterns in resource consumption


Global disparities in ecological footprint.

Global disparities in ecological footprint.

Ecological footprint: A measure of human demand on the earth’s ecosystems. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea needed to regenerate the resources human population and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste. The concept of ecological footprint has been used to measure natural resource consumption, how it varies from country to country, and how it has changed over time. The ecological footprint for a country has been defined as the sum of all the crop land, grazing land, forests and fishing grounds required to produce the food, fibre and timber it consumes, to absorb the wastes emitted when it uses energy, and to provide space for its infrastructure.
Biocapacity: The ability of an area to provide resources and absorb waste. It is the capacity of an area to provide resources and absorb wastes. When the area’s ecological footprint exceeds its biocapacity, an ecological deficit occurs.
Biological capacity available per person (or per capita): There were 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water on this planet in 2008. Dividing by the number of people alive in that year, 6.7 billion, gives 1.8 global hectares per person. This assumes that no land is set aside for other species that consume the same biological material as humans

Global Hecate: The measurement of biocapacity and ecological footprint. There were 13.4billion hectares of biologically productive land and water on this planet in 2005. Dividing by the number of people alive in that year, 6.5 billion, gives 2.1 global hectares per person.
Ecological Creditor: Country’s whose ecological footprint is lower than there biocapacity.
Ecological Debetor: Country’s whole ecological footprint is higher than there biocapacity.
Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person.
Ecological footprints can be looked at on an individual level, a household level, a city level, a country level or a global level. Calculations are complicated but basically look at carbon footprint and then people’s impact on resources and the environment in terms of agriculture, fisheries, energy, forestries and settlements.


Global footprint calculator – see how you do?



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Evaluate ecological footprint versus bio-capacity as a measure of sustainability between population size and resource consumption (10) 


Neo-Malthusian v Anti-Malthusian

Thomas Malthus: In 1798 Thomas Malthus produced his essay on the ”Principle of Population”. He believed that population was growing at a faster rate (exponentially) than resources (arithmetically). As population exceeds resources he believed there would be either preventive checks (reduced birth rates) or positive checks (famine and war).

The Malthusian “Population Boom” – the origin

(a) Thomas Malthus’s classic work ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1798) put forward the view that population grows faster than the means of feeding it.
Population if unchecked would grow at a geometric rate: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32……..
Whereas subsistence would only grow at an arithmetic rate: 1, 2, 3, 4……
Since population increases faster than production, the supply would essentially be stagnant or dropping so the demand would increase and so would the price, thus standard of living would fall.

(b) According to Malthus, there existed two general kinds of checks that limited population growth:
(i) Preventative checks: to reduce the birth rate
Moral restraint was the means by which the higher ranks of humans limited their family size in order not to dissipate their wealth among larger numbers of heirs.
For the lower ranks of humans, vice and birth control were the means by which their numbers could be limited
Restrict welfare for the poor. Malthus argued that welfare encouraged the poor to give birth to more children as they would have no fear that increased numbers of offspring would make eating any more difficult.

But Malthus believed that these were insufficient to limit the vast numbers of the poor

(ii) Positive checks: to increase the death rate.

Because preventative checks had not limited the numbers of the poor, Malthus thought that positive checks were essential to do that job. If positive checks were unsuccessful, then inevitably, famine would be the resulting way of keeping the population down.

(c) The value of Malthus Theory
(i) The ideas that Malthus developed came before the industrial revolution and focused on plants, animals, and grains as the key components of diet.
Therefore, for Malthus, available productive farmland was a limiting factor in population growth.
With the industrial revolution and increase in agricultural production, land has become a less important factor than it was during the 18th century.

(ii) Malthus had failed to foresee certain changes in social organization and technology
Expansion of agriculture land – clear forest, reclamation etc.
Increase in agriculture productivity with the Green Revolution
Improvement in the distribution of food

2. Meadows and the Club of Rome / Limits to Growth Theory/ Neo Malthusian
The Club of Rome is a gathering of experts from diverse fields with the objective of studying how different factors can affect the future of the earth

(a) The world model was built to investigate five major trends of global concern
Accelerating industrialization
Rapid population growth
Widespread malnutrition
Depletion of non-renewable resources
A deteriorating environment

(b) Conclusion of the Report
If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years (First report was in 1972!).
The most probable result will be an overshoot and collapse, a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.

An example:
Industrial growth depletes a large fraction of the resource reserves available.
As resource prices rise and mines are depleted, more and more capital must be used for obtaining resources, leaving less to be invested for future growth.
Finally investment cannot keep up with depreciation, and the industrial base collapses, taking with it the service and agricultural systems, which have become dependent on industrial inputs.
Population, with the delays inherent in the age structure and the process of social adjustment, keeps rising.
Population finally decreases when the death rate is driven upward by lack of food and health services.

(c) It is possible to alter these growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future.
The state of global equilibrium could be designed so that the basic material needs of each person on earth are satisfied and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his individual human potential.

(d) As a response to the optimistic views about technology, the reports states that “Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can thus divert our attention from the most fundamental problem–the problem of growth in a finite system–and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.”

3. The I = P x A x T (alternative to malthusian)
I – Environmental impact, may be expressed in terms of resource depletion or waste accumulation
P – Size of the human population
A – Level of consumption by that population
T – Processes used to obtain resources and transform them into useful goods and wastes

The formula was originally used to emphasize the contribution of a growing global population on the environment, at a time when world population was roughly half of what it is now. It continues to be used with reference to population policy.

(a) Usefulness
IPAT made two significant contributions. It drew attention to the fact that environmental problems involved more than pollution, and that they were driven by multiple factors acting together to produce a compounding effect.
The IPAT equation also demonstrates that there are multiple ways of reducing undesirable effects. Different nations might focus on different factors to reduce their overall impact:
Affluent countries could contribute most by reducing their level of consumption (A);
Least developed countries could contribute most by reducing their population (P);
Developing countries could make the greatest contribution by making their technologies more efficient (T).

(b) Limitations
Applications have been limited to evaluation of a single variable measure of environmental impact, such as air pollution.
E.g IPAT was used in assessing the contribution of different PAT factors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Various applications have found that different types of impacts (eg whether CO2 or SO2 levels are being considered) relate differently to changes in population, affluence and technology.

The IPAT equation does not help us to identify sustainable limits regarding either individual or composite environmental impacts.
Patterns of resource consumption.
Examine the global patterns and trends in the production and consumption of oil.
Examine the geopolitical and environmental impacts of these changes in patterns and trends.
Examine the changing importance of other energy sources.

Conservation strategies
Discuss the reduction of resource consumption by conservation, waste reduction, recycling and substitution.
Evaluate a strategy at a local or national scale aimed at reducing the consumption of one resource

Neo-Malthusian: This is an idea of thought that follows Malthus’s ideas. Paul Ehrlich and the ”Club of Rome” both have Neo-Malthusiasn ideas.

Anti-Malthusian: Anti-Malthusian is simply the school of thought that disagrees with Malthus’s pessimism and is more aligned to Boserup’s optimism i.e. that humans will always find solutions to shortages.

Explain the anti-Malthusian view of the relationship between population and resources. [5]

China’s Changing Resource Demands

China’s large population (about 1.3 billion people) as well as its rapid economic development and urbanisation has meant that it is increasingly demanding more and more of the world’s resources. Because China itself only has a finite amount of resources it is looking to other countries and regions to supply it, most noticeably Latin America and Africa. Demand for resources is increasing because:

  • The population is growing and getting richer its demanding more food (especially meat). This requires ever big areas of land and water to grow the food
  • China’s population is rapidly urbanising so there is growing demand for construction materials like copper and steel
  • China’s developing population are demanding more luxury products like televisions, washing machines and mobile phones that all require resources to manufacture.
  • China has a large manufacturing economy – it is the world’s biggest exporter. To maintain its position it needs a reliable supply of resources
  • China’s economic growth means the demand for fossil fuels is growing.

China moves into the Congo – BBC

  • China is able to continue as a major exporter of manufactured goods
  • China makes more through adding value to the resources e.g. by making TVs, mobile phones, etc.
  • Its growing population can be fed, land is actually being purchased in some countries
  • Major infrastructure projects can be continued e.g. new roads and railways
  • Improved trading relationships with potential new customers
  • Improvements in infrastructure e.g. roads, railways and schools
  • Foreign currency
  • Improved trading and political links with China
  • Reduced unemployment as people work in mines
  • Improvement in technology because of equipment introduced by China
  • Hopefully an increase in worker skills so that DR of Congo can mine its own resources in the future


  • Increased pollution from increasing number of power stations and factories
  • Bad public image because of accusations of exploitation
  • Reliance on foreign governments to ensure continued growth
  • Rising oil prices makes transportation of resources increasingly expensive


  • Possible exploitation of local resources
  • Most managerial jobs given to Chinese
  • Increased levels of pollution because of extraction methods
  • Resources sold below market value
  • No value added on resources i.e. they are not being processed or manufactured
  • Some profits may get used to pay for criminal activities or conflict. Such resources have been given various names including ‘blood diamonds’ and ”conflict minerals’

China and congo

Changing patterns of energy consumption

consumption 1

Peak oil: The point when maximum extraction of oil is reached and after which point the extraction of oil will reduce. Although peak oil production has been reached in some countries like the UK and the US, it is unclear whether global peak oil has been reached yet.

OPEC: OPEC stands for the organisation for petroleum exporting countries. It has 12 members and controls over 40% of the world’s oil supply and over 20% of the gas supply. Its headquarters are in Vienna, Austria.

Monopoly: Any organisation, individual or company who controls enough market share to be able to influence the market place e.g. be able to reduce supply in order to increase prices.

Cartel: A formal (explicit) agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organisation of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production. In the past OPEC has been accused of being a cartel.

Corporate Colonialism: Relates to the involvement of TNCs in the practice of colonialism. TNCs can have significant power over small LEDCs. LEDCs will often fear questioning the role of TNCs because they do not want to lose investment.

Brent Crude and Light Sweet Crude: These are two of the biggest classifications of oil and are used to fix prices. Brent crude is traded in London and Light Sweet Crude in New York.

Even though most major economies of the world still depend heavily on oil, many countries are now trying to reduce their dependency. Below is a summary of some of the reasons why they are doing this, including some related articles. Despite many countries trying to reduce their dependency, countries, especially the US, could not currently function without oil. Because of their dependency, the US has been accused of going to war with Iraq over the supply of oil.

consumption 2

War over oil – Washington Post

Political reasons:

International relations: If your country depends on foreign imports of oil, it is very important that you are able to maintain good relations.

Political instability: Political instability can effect supplies and cause price increases. Libya has had recent political problems and countries like Iran and Iraq are not totally stable.

Emissions quotas: International agreements like Kyoto are setting greenhouse gas emission quotas. Individual regions like the EU and the UK are also setting targets. With targets to meet more countries are looking to invest in alternatives (renewable energy that pollutes less).

Carbon tax: If carbon taxes are introduced it will greatly increase the value of oil products, making alternatives relatively cheaper and more attractive.

NGO pressure: NGOs are becoming increasingly vocal in their fight against fossil fuels and promotion of greener alternatives. As more consumers listen to NGOs, governments and energy companies are likely to find alternatives.

Social reasons:

Human cost of protecting supplies: Many argue that the only reason the US invaded Iraq was in search of new supply of oil. Whatever, the reason the US has lost many of its soldiers protecting supply lines, not to mention thousands of Iraqi’s who have lost their lives in the on-going occupation.

Public Image: Because of rising prices at the pump (garages), the link to global warming and oil spills are all giving the oil industry a bad image. Because of this countries and energy companies are looking for alternatives.

Public health: Oil used in vehicles, planes and industry all contribute to air pollution, which can have a negative effect on the health of people – especially asthma.

Public health: Oil used in vehicles, planes and industry all contribute to air pollution, which can have a negative effect on the health of people – especially asthma.

Environmental reasons:

Greenhouse effect and global warming: Fossil fuels are all major contributors to the greenhouse effect. To try and reduce the effects of global warming, many countries are trying to reduce their dependency on oil.

Oil spills: When large quantities of oil are transported by sea or pipeline, there is always the risk of accidents. The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 is one of the most tragic examples of the short and long-term damage an oil spill can cause. The more recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a more recent example.

File photo of fire boat response crews battling the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon off Louisiana

Damaged caused by extraction: The recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just one example of how extraction can lead to environmental damage. The Niger delta in Nigeria has also seen large-scale environmental damage caused by extraction.

Economic reasons:

Transportation costs: Because the cost of oil is so high, transporting oil is also extremely expensive. Recently there have been increased transportation worries, with pirates operating off the Horn of Africa (near Somalia) and threats over the closure of the Suez Canal in Egypt.

Price of oil: The price of oil is very vulnerable to changes in demand and oil. With current disruptions to supply and growing demand the price of oil is currently over $100 a barrel. As the price of oil increases the cost of alternatives become much more attractive.

Demand for oil: As the world’s population exceeds 7 billion people and as countries become richer, the demand for oil (and the price) will steadily increase. Increased demand will be particularly pronounced from emerging markets like China.

Finite supply: Oil is finite, estimates vary but many people believe that we have nearly reached maximum production (peak oil) and over the coming decades we will see a decrease in supply. As supply decreases countries will be forced to look for alternatives.

Domestic supplies: Many countries like the UK are seeing their own supplies of oil run out. This has turned the UK from a net exporter to a net importer. Because of this the UK is looking for alternative sources of energy.

Increases in extraction costs: As world oil supplies run out, companies are having to extract oil from deeper underground and in more inhospitable places. These increased extraction costs will ultimately the cost of oil is more expensive, making it less attractive.

Investment in alternatives: As the supply of oil runs out, energy companies and countries are investing in alternatives. This is becoming increasingly profitable with the price of oil, but with the knowledge that oil will run out, many want to become market leaders.

1970’s Oil Crisis

consumption 4

This is not a contemporary example but one which highlights the effects that disruption can have on the production and distribution of oil. The graph below demonstrates how the price of oil spiked during the Arab-Israeli conflict (The 6 day war).

consumption 6

Although the price rises were caused by two different things, the period is generally known as the 1970’s oil crisis. During this period there were both real and perceived oil shortages in most MEDCs, especially the US.

consumption 7

Between October 1973 and March 1974 OAPEC (Organisation for Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) enforced an oil embargo in protest of the US government rearming Israel to fight in the Yom Kippur War. Later in 1979, prices rose still further as oil production in Iran was severely disrupted. Production was disrupted because of the 1979 when the Shah was overthrown. To help save oil in the US there was some rationing and a new lower speed limit of 55mph was introduced. The oil shortages and high prices did mean that the US and other oil reliant countries started to look for alternatives (renewables).

The changing importance of other energy sources

Examine the changing importance of three energy alternatives to oil [15 Marks].


Renewable energy evolution-of-renewable-energy-redlogo-compressed

The reduction of consumption

Discuss the reduction of resource consumption by conservation, waste reduction recycling & substitution.

Read the Decision Making Exercise (DME) before starting this unit.

Management of waste in cities – DME

Click to access GF548.pdf

Watch the above – Copy the definitions of all three and then outline why there is a clear hierarchical order to the 3 R’s process.

Wiki link – use this and follow the instructions

Outline the Waste Hierarchy and take a copy of the pyramid diagram too.


Outline what is meant by 
i. Upcycle
ii. Downcycle

Reduce and reuse – plastic bags


The law now requires large shops in England to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. Charging started on 5 October 2015.

We want to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags, and the litter they can cause, by encouraging people to reuse bags.

Video 1 – What is the theme of the short documentary?

Video 2 – make a list of the issues and production numbers associated with plastic bag disposal and in particular, their link to oil production. 

Benefits: why there’s a charge

The scheme aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags, and the litter associated with them, by encouraging people to re-use bags.

In 2014 over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England. That’s something like 140 bags per person, the equivalent of about 61,000 tonnes in total.

They take longer than other bags to degrade in the environment, can damage wildlife, and are extremely visible when littered in our towns, parks and the countryside.

Despite research showing that the average household already has 40 plastic bags around the home, the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets increased for the fifth year running in 2014.

We expect to see a significant reduction in the use of single-use plastic carrier bags as a direct result of the charge – by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.

Similar 5p charges are already in place across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The scheme in Wales saw a reduction in plastic bag consumption of 79% in its first 3 years.

We estimate that over the next 10 years the benefits of the scheme will include:

  • an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
  • up to £730 million raised for good causes
  • £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
  • carbon savings of £13 million

The above information comes from –

Evaluate one scheme designed to reduce resource consumption (5)

To what extent is a ‘reuse’ scheme successful in reducing resource consumption? (5)

Recycling and consumption

How do you at home recycle and where does this all go to?

Discuss one recycling scheme designed to reduce resource consumption  (5)

Recycling and consumption – Evaluate a strategy at a local level



Discuss one recycling scheme designed to reduce resource consumption  (5)

Study a recycling scheme that has significance to you – relate it to your home country.


National resource strategy 

Food waste is a major issue. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It’s costing us £12.5bn a year and is bad for the environment too.

Read the article:

Will a supermarket pledge help stop food waste?


Food waste  – throughout the world different countries and people within those countries consume varying quantities of food. The diagrams below highlight some of the disparities:

Consumption 1 article-2319825-19A20753000005DC-968_964x641

Darfur, Sudan – £37 a week on food.

Consumption 3 article-2319825-19A20747000005DC-934_964x643

North Carolina, USA – £220 a week on food.


Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten.

Using the link below explain and describe why food waste is happening in Britain

About food waste

About 90 million tons of food is wasted annually in Europe (agricultural food waste and fish discards not included). About a third of the food for human consumption is wasted globally – around 1.3 billion tons per year, according to FAO; food waste in industrialized countries is as high as in developing countries: In developing countries, over 40% of food losses happen after harvest and during processing. In industrialised countries, over 40% occurs at retail and consumer level. Food is wasted throughout the whole food chain — from farmers to consumers — and for various reasons.

Food waste is the single-largest source of waste in municipal landfills. According to the EPA, 35 billion pounds of food were thrown away in 2011. As it decomposes in landfills, the waste releases methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Americans struggles with hunger and the world wonders how to address the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

Read the following document: Love food hate waste

Evaluate a strategy at a local or national scale aimed at reducing the consumption of one resource. (8)
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