Ecologists Look at the Big Picture

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Science  13 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5281, pp. 1490
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5281.1490


Scientists have been trying to estimate Earth's carrying capacity—how many humans the planet can support—since Malthus's time. But in recent years, estimates have ranged from as low as 1.5 billion to as high as 1 trillion people. At the recent ecology meetings, speakers suggested that the way to resolve these disparate numbers is to incorporate highly quantitative analyses of social and economic factors, because humans can boost carrying capacity by choosing to consume less.