, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 89-111

The coevolution of population and environment: The ecology and ideology of feedback relations in Pakistan

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Abstract

A new approach to the study of population and environment is proposed, based on Norgaard's theory of “co-evolution.” This theory is applied to two developments currently underway in Pakistan: the transfer of tree cover from public forests to private farms, and the partial replacement of woodfuel by dungfuel in household hearths. Both developments are characterized by feedback from the ecosystem to the sociosystem, which consists of a shift of regulatory mechanisms and complexity from the former to the latter. The efficacy of this feedback depends on an accurate perception of the process by the participating population. These perceptions are more accurate in the case of the forest-farm transition than the woodfuel-dungfuel transition, and this explains why the latter appears less sustainable than the former. Accuracy of perception also varies systematically between government officials and local peoples, primarily due to openness to explanations of behavior based on population/resource pressure. It is concluded that external development agencies have a potentially important role to play in demystifying perception of feedback processes between ecosystem and sociosystem.