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Human population and the environment

Carrying capacity
How to read carrying capacity graphs
History of human population over the last 100,000 years
History of human population over the last 6,000 years

Human population growth

The black death – bubonic plague – spread by a bacteria living in fleas, that lived on rats, that followed trade routes.

Our history books focus on deaths in Europe.

Graph showing the effect of the black plague on European population.

Black Death population

However, the plague originated in the ancient far east, China:

Graph showing the effect of the Irish Potato famine on European population




What would happen if we exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity?


Learning Standards

Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

7.MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence that human activities and
technologies can mitigate the impact of increases in human population and per capita
consumption of natural resources on the environment.
Clarification Statements:
• Arguments should be based on examining historical data such as population
graphs, natural resource distribution maps, and water quality studies over time.

7.MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of periods of
abundant and scarce resources on the growth of organisms and the size of populations
in an ecosystem.

7.MS-LS2-4. Analyze data to provide evidence that disruptions (natural or human-made) to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its

HS-LS2-2. Use mathematical representations to support explanations that biotic and abiotic factors affect biodiversity, including genetic diversity within a population and species diversity within an ecosystem

Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

Grade 6: HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY  Interpret geographic information from a graph or chart and construct a graph or chart that conveys geographic information (e.g., about rainfall, temperature, or population size data)

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN EUROPE, 1800–1914 WHII.6 Summarize the social and economic impact of the Industrial Revolution… population and urban growth

WHII.36 Explain the various factors that contributed to post-World War II economic and
population growth

WHI.7 Describe the major economic, social, and political developments that took place in
medieval Europe…  the economic and social effects of the spread of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague

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