Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: May 04, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412973816 | Print ISBN: 9781412996822 | Online ISBN: 9781412973816| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Josephine S. Faass
Carrying capacity was first described by ecologists in the context of natural ecosystem functioning, but has since been expanded for use in more human-centered applications. Here, the traditional, ecologically focused notion of carrying capacity is described first; then the many parallels between natural and human-made systems, as well as our fundamental dependence on the Earth's ecosystems, are described in detail. Because it has the potential to function as a policy decision–making aide, the differences between the tenets of carrying capacity and those of traditional neoclassical economic theory are also reviewed. The ways in which the concept of carrying capacity can be interpreted for the purpose of gauging the overall sustainability of people's actions and settlement patterns will also be examined. Against the framework created using the concepts described here, particular attention is paid to the sustainability of cities, as determined using purely economic, versus essentially ecological metrics. Although one of ...