Rural household demographics, livelihoods and the environment

Sherbinin, A., Vanwey, L., Mcsweeney, K., et. al. (2008). Rural household demographics, livelihoods and the environment. Global Environmental Change. Eslevier 18(1), 38-53.

In “Rural Household Demographics, Livelihoods and Environments” Alex de Sherbinin focuses on household-level populations and their relationship to environmental change. He claims that it is very important to focus on these populations because; they are important in natural resource accumulation and the changing of landscapes, rural dwellers make up about 59% of the third world population and lastly, it is important to understand these facts are linked in order to implement policy intervention. Sherbinin provides specific examples and introduces various concepts to explain why these smallholder populations have such an impact on the environment. He specifically uses the Livelihood Approach which says that even the poorest families hold wealth in at least some form of capital whether it be natural, social, human, physical and financial. Sherbinin focuses on three main relationships that occur in developing nations. They are between environmental degradation and fertility, morality and morbidity and migration. The relationship between fertility and the environment in rural areas is described using the Vicious Circle Model- poverty leads to high fertility in order to gain human capital, which leads to population growth which further increases demand for resources which contributes to land degradation. The next relationship common is described as how morbidity and mortality, which is more common in developing regions, causes people to lean more on their natural resources as they lose human, financial and even social capital from sickness and death. Sherbinin uses a case study about AIDS to further explain this relationship. Lastly, migration is linked with environmental degradation in how people with unfavorable conditions are likely to migrate however, too unfavorable conditions can also hinder migration. Sherbinin wants readers to consider these relationships and the role the developing world has on environmental degradation. Doing so will contribute to knowledge about how to manage the environment in different regions so as to prevent degradation. Sherbinin is not the only author to emphasize the need for focus on these populations in regards to the environment. Robert Fettings discusses introduces this idea in “Smallholders and Householders.” The information in this essay can also be linked to literature by authors such as David Bloom and Lisa Cliggett that focus on population increase and carrying capacity, especially in developing nations. This article is important because it shows that development, something the west typically believes will increase environmental conservation, is not the right solution in all areas.