Human Population Relationship to the Environment

By Ronald Evans and Jeff Evans

This unit, " Human Population Relationship to the Environment", will give the students an opportunity to learn about some of the ways the human population has had an effect on the environment. The students will be able to use the "5E Learning Cycle Mode" ( Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Engage) in experiencing activities, Global Interdependency, Making a Cartogram, Balanced Environment, using Climprob to see effects on New York City's population this century, from a science perspective.

The students will experience the Human Population effect on the environment is a social perspective. The students will have a greater awareness of the impact of the Human Population after the research, investigation, and learning on the impact of global change. This activity is designed to help students better appreciate the immediate situation of population growth in our world. The United States will be used as an example, because it shows a positive correlation of energy consumption and rapid population growth.

List of Activities

  • Activity 1: "Global Interdependence"
  • Activity 2: "Cartograms"
  • Activity 3: "Balanced Environment"
  • Activity 4: "New York Population Growth verse Climate Factors"
  • Activity 5: "Impact of Population Growth on Resource Consumption"

Nebraska Standards Science: 8.1.1, 8.1.2, 8.2.1, 8.4.5, 8.4.4, 8.5.2, 8.7.2., 12.1.1, 12.1.2, 12.1.5, 12.2.1, 12.4.4, 12.7.2, 12.7.3
Social Studies:
8.2.7, 8.4.9,
12.1.11, 12.2.1, 12.2.2, 12.2.6, 12.2.10
Topics Environmental Change, Mapping, Population Distribution
Disciplines Environmental Science, Geography, Social Studies

Activity 1: "Global Interdependence"

Global interdependence is one way the human population has had an effect on the earth. This activity presents how humans are interdependent, how the process can effect the environment from the raw materials we have to the finished goods.


Teacher would ask the students these types of questions for interest.

  • Imagine if you were allowed to wear clothes only made in you state of region.
  • What if you had just the food from your state?
  • Would life be different?
  • How would it be?
  • What effect would it have on other goods around the world? 


  • Copies of world outline maps, political, geographic
  • Internet: look for resources.
  • Reference maps and encyclopedias
  • Different colors dot stickers


  • The students give examples of ways in which they are connected with other places on the earth.
  • The student gives examples of a developed country, and a developing country, greater population.
  • The students give examples of ways the United States relies on other countries for goods, our population needs compared to the rest of the world.


Let students know the human population is interconnected by movement and environment inter action. What does this mean? Students, if given one week, and they are limited to an area or state, to get what they eat, wear, and use. What items would be there? What items Not?


Give out the maps to the students. Tell them when the activity is completed they will have a better understanding of where finished goods, raw materials go and the environmental impact. Next have the students think from where most of their clothes come from and material they are made. Groups of students can make lists by checking clothing labels, also list from what materials the clothes are made. Students can place on the maps dots showing the place of origin. Students can use references, internet, to check materials and location. Note: Point of origin might not be the same as the label says nor raw materials either. Students can find other points of origin items: watches, fruits, strange foods, many objects.

Tell students to see where the most dots are located on the map. What would this indicate about natural resources and population? Are there particular regions of the world that dominate the map with population distribution? How do events in other parts of the world affect these dominant regions? Does the population of the world live independently of other nations, or are we dependent? Where do you see the greatest harm to the environmental balance of the world on the world map?

Students should name the dependencies, and how they are they related to the environment. How does dependency affect foreign policy in the decisions of the developed nations in relation to the environment? What could explain the dependency? What are the advantages and disadvantages of interdependency as far as population, and environment?


Students could inventory items in their homes, such as furniture, food, and clothing, make a list of points of origin and mark those locations on world maps. Students could compile on one large political map what they have found. List all the relationships they have found, connect all the countries where they are interdependent, connect on the geographic map all the environmental relationships between the population centers, good or bad to the environment. Students should list all the relationships they find.

Students could use Internet resources; other references to determine the physical characteristics of places that produce the items and harm do to the environment. Students could carry on more by investigating transportation routes, concentration, and harm to the environment.


Assessing the learning could be done by students creating posters, illustrations, computer diagramming of data collected, analyzing the amount of concentration of population centers, next to the harm found done to the environment in the world struggle to master interdependency.


Activity 2: "Cartograms"

Cartograms are used to represent data. They are visual displays of statistical information that combine information from a graph and a map. They are a visual tool that helps make charting information easier for students to absorb and understand, to see relationships of systems in population and the environment, when comparing data from two census years.


The activity connects statistical information with a graphic location. It can be used to connect the theme of location to movement, place, and region, with human environmental interaction, depending on the statistics used, between two different censuses of the population of the United States. Students then make comparisons finding the differences between the sets of data, looking to find out what environmental factors could have made a difference in the population change for a region, country, state, or city.

Colored pens, pencils, scissors, Almanacs, grid paper, and appropriate map, or a data-plotting program, that would do the plotting electronically.


  • The students will learn to make a cartogram
  • The students will learn to gather statistical data, and interpret it in a cartogram.
  • The students will be able to use a cartogram to present statistical data for human population with factors of the environment.


Cartograms are called chart maps that present statistical information, for instance, human populations. The sizes of the geographic areas are changed to show the statistical information. Cartograms can be used to represent several different environmental factors compared to population. For instance, the amount of rainfall in one year is fitted to a scale, along with a population scale of the same time period. This is a concrete way to present a possible relationship in the data collected in two census periods, and the amount of rainfall at the same time. An area with larger population would be proportionally larger, small population is smaller, same being for the rainfall data. Rainfall is an example.


Have students find different sources of environmental factors that may seem to cause a shift in the population of a region. Students can locate the population from two different census periods, and compare them. The students can find the data for the an environmental factor, and compare data they find from the same time comparing to see if there is a relationship they could state in a cartogram.

Data can be collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, http// For example, by state rounded to the nearer 500,000, with Population in millions. Hundreds graphic units used.

Al. 4 Ak .5 Az 3 Ar 2.5 Ca 23.5 Co 3 Ct 3 De.5 Dc .5 Fl 9.5 Ga 5.5 Hi 1 Id 1 Il 11.5 In 5.5 Ia 3 Ks 2.5 Ky 3.5 La 4 Me 1 Md 4 Ma 6 Mi 10 Mn 4 Ms 2.5 Mo 5 Mt 1 Ne .5 Nv 1 Nh 1 Nj 7.5 Nm 1.5 Ny 18 Nc6 Nd .6 Oh 11 Ok 3 Or 2.5 Pa 12 Ri 1 Sc 3 Sd .5 Tn 4.5 Tx 14 Ut 1.5 Vt .5 Va 5.5 Wa 4 Wv 2 Wi 4.5 Wy .5

Source: "1989 World Almanac"

A scale is determined. In the example above a person can use one square unit of area per million populations. Then cut out state areas from grid graph paper, a hundreds chart, works well for this purpose. Keep the states in their appropriate locations, making a map showing the data graphically. The distortions will demonstrate the data. Each individual state's shape can be cut and pasted in its relative location to reflect its identity more clearly while altering its area. Use different colors to represent each state. California would be cut from 23.5 units, Nevada 1 unit.

This could be used to represent data from two census periods, comparing them using an environmental factor measurement data also to show a similar relationship.


When more than one map is made on the same location, using various data, relationships between the various maps show relationships between the data. Example: maps showing arable land and agricultural production correlate nicely. Students after making many types of them can use a variety of higher level thinking skills to analyze the relationships they see in comparing the charts. Students could go ahead and compile data on two or three different variables to determine population differences in more than one census of an area.


Students could give presentations showing their cartograms comparing variables. The class could then compare all the information and see what the over all impact of the factors and population would be on a huge chart.


Activity 3: "Balanced Environment"

Students gain ownership of Tropical Island in recognition of the concern they have for the environment. Students are to have responsibilities to take of it and make it a balance ecological paradise for people, flora, and fauna.


Students learn they are to make jobs for the population of the island. The native population lives in thatch-roofed huts and subsisting on fish, fruit, and nuts. The island must be developed as a model of the environment for business and for natural habitats. The island has rain forest and many coral reefs. These are in danger of having an environmental catastrophe, it must be stopped. This is the class job, to solve this problem.


Pictures of islands, or other biomes, large sheets of paper, markers, colors, reference materials,
Internet sources,, scale map on graph paper, large physical map on white paper, brochure advertising the island, group report about the island, three-dimensional model.


  • The students will learn how to conceptualize ideas by brainstorming.
  • The students will work as teams to find solutions to environmental problems by problem solving.
  • The students will discuss the relationships between the development of the island that is favorable to people, fauna, and flora.


The class will brainstorm businesses that could help develop the tropical island. Some of these could be: scuba resort, timber company, research station, golf resort, and naval base. Students find the ones that would be ecological sound, and then make a large visual list. Students working in groups decide how they will proceed to present their ideas. Students use references to help determine the importance of the rain forest and the reef ecosystems. Rain forest destruction is it or not beneficial? What are the costs to the balance on the island for people, flora, and fauna? Who pays?


Students have determined the characteristics of the rain forest and reef, then the students decide on the business opportunities the environment offers and the risks to the fragile balance. The students make a chart of the solutions to risks, and then make a grand plan to be carried out to maintain a balance of people, flora, and fauna.

Examples of considerations, risks, and their solutions.

  • Clearing land, loss of habitat, clear just what is needed with ample rainfall.
  • Building roads, building resources, Local sand, import other materials.
  • Water supplies, high demand, desalination plant not near reef.
  • Electricity, type of power plant, one that is environmentally friendly.
  • Automobile traffic, noise, Island system of mass transit.
  • Waste disposal, pollution, and water treatment plants.
  • Marine life, over fishing, limits on catch.
  • Flora and fauna, extinction of species, parks and reservations.
  • Culture, may change, and continue customs and native celebrations.

These are some problems that the students could brainstorm, solve, and reach their goal of a developed environmental balanced system.


This activity could be done with other environments, wetlands, and deserts, Polar Regions. Make changes that would fit the properties of the situation. Goal is balance for development for the people, and success for the flora, and fauna. Students could think of what would be needed to live and develop another planet, following a similar procedure.


Students would use checklists to see if other groups followed a balanced arrangement accordingly, and decide which island projects would be the one to maintain a developed community, and an environmental balance that would be best for flora and fauna.


Activity 4: "New York City Population Growth verse Climate Change"


The students will use Internet data to find information out about climate environmental factors that would affect the population growth of New York City from 1900 to 2001.


  • charts
  • graph paper
  • pens, pencils
  • computers
  • Internet accessibility


  • The students will learn to gather data on environmental factors of accumulated temperature, maximum temperature reached threshold value, accumulated precipitation.
  • The students will learn to gather census data to correlate with the environmental factors of the afore mentioned.
  • The students will chart, graph, and present the information to form a conclusion on the population change in relationship to the environment.


The students will use a chart for New York City to record the following categories of environmental factors that will correspond with census years of New York City. The students will go to Climprob on and find these factors, and record the readings: "accumulated heating (HDD) or (CDD) in the time period", "longest hot or cold spell in which maximum or minimum temperature is greater or less than a threshold value", "accumulated precipitation throughout the time period", longest dry or wet spell precipitation is greater than or less than a threshold amount". Students go to Climbprob, where they click the mouse in Climbprob program in the brown box, left side of screen, click button, register email address, enter email, click next, go to data, locate New York City on location, go to variables, find the stated previous factors here, and find corresponding information.


Divide the class into five groups each group does readings for two decade from 1900 through 2000. Record information on chart about each factor. Each group will go to , scroll down until you find New York City totals and record the population changes for every decade from 1900 to 2000.

Chart the population total on a graph of years on the x-axis, and the factors on the y-axis, make four charts one for each factor, recording cold and hot, dry and wet readings. Connect the lines and color code the charts. After each group is completed a master chart can be made.

Students can read and interpret the data from the charts to draw conclusions about the population of New York and what the relationship was between the factors.


Students can record other cities readings for 1900 to 2000, compare the relationships, and draw a conclusion, then make a prediction of the trend of the population for a different city for 2010, or New York City for 2010.


Each group could read the others charts, and discuss their findings on the relationship of population to the four Climprob factors, and see if their results match. Computer data interpretation programs can be used also.


Activity 5: "Impact of Population Growth on Resource Consumption"

Student Materials: pens, papers, and etc.

Teacher Materials: Teacher will provide the food resource, and can provide graphs of information for the students.

Activities (part 1):

  1. Students will be asked these three questions as an introduction:
    1. Has anyone of you experienced a situation in which overcrowding has made you feel uncomfortable?
    2. Has anyone experienced a situation in which overpopulation has caused you to share resources or not receive as much of an object as otherwise might have occurred?
    3. Finally, do you think that overpopulation will cause more of a positive or more of a negative influence on our environment?
  2. After these points have been established I will break the class up to show direct results of overpopulation, (for this particular class there are three tables of four people at each table). It will be pointed out that at this moment there seems to be good equilibrium between each member of the class.
    1. A resource will now be provided to each table. In this case it is one of our three essential resources (shelter, food, water). I will provide the three tables with a food resource (Blueberry muffins = one for each person).
    2. At this moment, I will change the equilibrium of the "future world table", which is Table A. We will add two students from table B and two students from table C to the "future world table".
    3. The students are instructed to leave their food source (muffins) at their original seat but they will have to bring their seats to table A, and find room to sit down.
  3. New questions will be asked:
    1. How do the members of the future world table feel at this point?
    2. What affect does overpopulation have on your food resource?
    3. What solutions can we use to fix this lack of a food resource in our "New World"? (The students should have answered that with the larger population we can produce more food products.)
    4. Will the solution that we have developed, directly affect the environment?

Activities (part 2):

At this point, it should be obvious where we are going with this project. A report on factual information will now be handed out to provide an assessment for this topic.

  • Hand out the worksheet "Impact of Population Growth"
  • This lesson can be done as a group, or for individual work.


Each student is expected to write one to two pages in length. Students should be able to simplify their thoughts.

Format: Introduction review of topic and question. One paragraph

Body: majority of paper, give clear and concise answer. Three points are necessary

Conclusion : summarize main point.


Fifteen points total, (relatively small point total)

5 points (30%)
10 points (67%)
(good) 15 points (100%)
  • does not give three separate clear and concise points
  • has only one page not two full
  • misspelled words
  • gives at least three separate points
  • at least two pages in length
  • may not be as well organized as 15 points
  • clear concise paper to the point
  • gives more than three separate ideas all of which are well thought out.


This is supposed to be a one-day lesson. It is my hope, that the students will be able to use graph-reading skills and interpretations of their own to create predictions for the essay answer. Overall, I would like to see it pose a future class discussion on the topic as well. Thanks for any input and good luck.

“Impact of population growth on resource consumption”


Read the following article and use it to help support your conclusions. This is an essay assessment, which will ask for you to read the following graph and conduct predictions based upon it. Make sure to use complete sentences and give three predictions based on your opinions.

The 2000 census provided the United States of America with a tremendous amount of information. The majority of this information clearly points towards a rise in the population of the United States. In 2000, more than 8 out of 10 of the nations' population lived in metropolitan areas and 3 out of 10 were in metro areas of at least 5.0 million people.[1]

The population increase was felt by all U.S. citizens as evident by 50 out of 50 states gaining in population for the first time in the countries history. Another population record was set when there was found to be an increase of 32.7 million people nationally between 1990 and 2000. This was the largest ten-year increase to date.[2]

(You may also use the graph to help with your answer)[3]

(Teacher's Note: You may cut and paste this graph into MS Work or Excel in order to enlarge it so that it is more legible.)

"Impact of population growth on resource consumption”

Points: / 15

Essay Question: Based on the activity from the start of the class period, the reading, and the graph, what might be the repercussions of a population increase on our environment?

  • [1] U.S. Census Bureau Public Information Office, June 19th, 2001
  • [2] U.S. Census Bureau Public Information Office, June 19th, 2001