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Are More People Necessarily a Problem?

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In 1937, as the population of Machakos, Kenya, approached 250,000, an explosive population increase warned of massive environmental degradation. Today, more than 1.5 million people call Machakos home, and agriculture is thriving. In Science’s 29 July 2011 special issue on Population, David Malakoff reports that for some experts, Machakos has become not a cautionary example of the perils of overpopulation, but a demonstration of the idea that rapid human population growth, even in the Earth’s most challenging environments, is not necessarily a recipe for disaster—and can even bring benefits.

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