Part 3. Resource Stewardship

Conceptual Understanding:

Key Question:

What are the possibilities for managing resources sustainably and power over the decision-making process?

Key Content:

Divergent thinking about population and resource consumption trends:
• pessimistic views, including neo-Malthusian views
• optimistic views, including Boserup
• balanced views, including resource stewardship

Resource stewardship strategies, including:
• the value of the circular economy as a systems approach for effective cycling of materials and energy
• the role of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and progress made toward meeting them

Synthesis, evaluation and skills opportunities

Different perspectives on global resource use and the likely effectiveness of management actions at varying scales

Monday 22 January 2024

What is the Relationship Between Population Growth and Resources?

Starter: Watch the video below. Write down a 20-30 word caption for the video which would tell the viewer what it is about and how it links to population and resources.

Task 1. Boserup versus Mathus.

Two famous population theorists are Thomas Malthus and Esther Boserup.

  • You are going to study the views of one of these two people.
  • You should have a base graph for either Malthus or Boserup, and some cards which feature a selection of labels, ideas or questions relating to the views of your theorist.
  • Read each label and then stick them onto/around the graph in the most appropriate place.
  • Next annotate your graphs with any notes on how the view represented by the graph reflects the notion of sustainability, and any other information that you deem important. You may use the videos below to help you.

Thomas Malthus

In your annotations ensure that you define and give examples of both Positive and Preventative Checks.

Esther Boserup

Task 2. Now join up with your partner and explain your graph to each other, considering the similarities and differences between the different theories, and feedback ideas together.

Review. Watch the video below and answer these questions:

  1. Do you think there has been a Malthusian global population vs. resources situation? Give examples in your answer.
  2. How do you think that Boserup’s theories could manifest themselves in the future?
  3. What are you? A Malthusian (pessimist) or a Boserupian (optimist)? Explain you answer.


How can we feed a population of up to 11 billion people by the end of this century? Spend 23 minutes listening to the excellent BBC The Inquiry Podcast, taking notes on the worksheet below as you go. Your notes should be around the four key witnesses and the impacts on securing food supplies for a growing global population (noting links to climate change). 

Notes Sheet (Google Doc)


Debate: Who is Right – Malthus or Boserup?

You will be given one of two positions. For that stance prepare and argument supported by evidence. You may find inspiration in some of the resources below…

Malthus is Wrong

Malthus is Right

You must ensure that you have at least four good pieces of evidence to support your side.

We will have our debate on…

Thursday 24 January 2024

Review Questions: Choose ONE of the following questions to answer.

  1. Outline the two opposing views of the relationship between population size and resource consumption. (6 marks)
  2. Analyse how the production of resources has kept up with rapid population increase. (6 marks)

Resource Stewardship


Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass contains a famous passage describing Alice’s attempts to run alongside the Red Queen in a topsy-turvy nonsense world, where cause and effect are reversed:

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

The red queen’s race seems an increasingly apt metaphor for environmental scarcity. Despite new discoveries, physical factors are making extraction costs higher and increasingly having an impact on local environments.

​Source – The Guardian

Task 1. Watch the video below. Much of the content hints as to what the term ‘Resource Stewardship’ might refer to. 

Find your own definition of the term (making sure to include both the words ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ in there).

Task 2. What do you think is meant by the term ‘global commons?’ Can you think of four global commons? Why are they vulnerable in terms of resource consumption and security?

Tragedy of the Commons

In an obscure pamphlet in 1833, William Forster Lloyd described “a pasture open to all” supporting many herds, with natural forces keeping impacts “well below the carrying capacity of the land” – until the “day of reckoning” when:

… the rational herdsman [sic] concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another … But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited.

Replace “herdsman” with “company” and “animal” with “growth” and we have the 21st century dilemma. Source – The Guardian

Watch the video below. This explains the concept of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ and questions its application in modern society.

Task 3. Explain what tragedy of the commons refers to and find a recent news story (focusing on ineffective resource stewardship) that would highlight the issue. 

Task 4. Watch the video below and make notes on past governance of conservation issues; their limitations and how these approaches can be adapted to meet both social and environmental obligations. 

The Value of the Circular Economy…

Recognising the interconnectedness of our world – the economy, society and the environment – lies at the heart of geography as a discipline. The circular economy applies systems thinking to resources, following flows of materials, energy and information, it also highlights the importance of seeing the bigger picture and understanding the world as a complex system, rather than one that is linear and predictable.    

Introducing Dame Ellen MacArthur!

Task 1. Spend 17 minutes watching the TED Talk from Ellen MacArthur below. In the video, she relives her amazing sailing career as well as her realisation of the Circular Economy approach that she now champions. 

Task 2. Now watch the shorter second video below, paying attention to the ‘take, make, dispose’ section and how we can move away from this.

Technical nutrients are strictly limited to non-toxic, non-harmful synthetic materials (plastics & metals) that have no negative effects on the natural environment (if they are not burnt or discarded); they can be used in continuous cycles as the same product without losing their integrity or quality. In this manner these materials can be used over and over again instead of being “downcycled” into lesser products, ultimately becoming waste. 

Biological Nutrients are organic materials that, once used, can be disposed of in any natural environment and decompose into the soil, providing food for small life forms without affecting the natural environment. This is dependent on the ecology of the region; for example, organic material from one country or landmass may be harmful to the ecology of another country or landmass. Source

Case Study 1 – Mobile Phones 

Task 3. You are going to use your mobile phone as the focus for this piece of work. Watch the first video below for a brief mobile phone chemistry lesson!  Using your notes so far and what you have seen today, complete the first page of the worksheet as best as you can. 

**Note. The worksheet has to be completed by hand so collect printed copy.

In the cradle to cradle model, all materials used in industrial or commercial processes—such as metals, fibers, dyes—fall into one of two categories: “technical” or “biological” nutrients. See this diagram

Task 4. Now check out this page from Fairphone to see how they adopt a more circular approach to phone manufacture. 

Check out this part of the Fairphone website and attempt to add some more detail (in different colour text to show differences between you phone & the fairphone) of the boxes on the second and third page of the work booklet with how Fairphone can use both biological & technical nutrient cycling with their products. 

Task 5. Conduct some research on a movement called ‘Right to Repair’ by using this page from Wired. Outline the campaign objectives and the barriers put in place by large e-manufacturers. 

Task 6. To what extent financially will it benefit TNC’s such as Apple and Samsung to make their products ‘last longer?’ 


Circular Economy Case Study (Google Doc)

Case Study 2 – Children’s Bikes

Task 7. Watch the introductory video to Islabikes (below) taking notes as you go. Then read this Guardian article from 2016 to help to complete your own case study on the scheme. 

  1. Why do children’s bicycles have such short lifespans? 
  2. Could this scheme be expanded to any other similar products? 
  3. What are the limitations of such a scheme? 

The Bike Club

Check out this example of a circular scheme like this in action.

Spend a little time navigating through the pages to look at the selection of products available, the price (£) and the ‘About Us’ section. 


The role of the UN Sustainable Development Goals…

Update – April 2021

Check out the video below which reports on the recent pledge by countries to slash their emissions in the recent summit. The focus here is on the USA and its pledge to reduce emissions by 50% – some say far more than they pledged in Paris 2015… 

The content of this report will have clear implications on the ability to meet the following two goals and the fact that 2030 is being banded about is a clear reference to the end date of these goals. 

For this task, we will be focusing on the following two Goals that lend themselves particularly well to wrapping up this whole unit of work on Global Resource Consumption & Security. 


SDG 7 Progress Checker


SDG 12 progress Checker

Assessed Task. You are going to produce a presentation that will act as a ‘progress check’ on the spatial patterns of progress on each of the two goals above. 

  • You can click on each logo to access the page that gives full details on each of the goals, the sub goals, targets and progress reports. 
  • You can click on the tabs above to be taken to a progress check from 2020 on each goal. 
  • There should be a focus on the April 2021 summit where agreements were reached that will have overarching impacts on the two goals above. For a USA perspective, please read this White House press statement (22/04/2021), particularly the bottom 1/3 of the sheet. 
  • Two of the presentations will be chosen to be presented ‘live’ in the classroom once the work has been submitted and checked by myself.  

The Presentation (please do the following for both goals)

  • Process  (Global Trends in Production) 
  • Place (Impacts of Changing Trends)
  • Power & Possibility (Resource Stewardship)

Slide 1 – Logo & choose any two targets from the section entitled ‘Goal 7 / 12 Targets’

Slide 2  – Explanation of the processes that have led to this target being implemented. 

Slide 3  – Mapping (use this link) the global progress in attaining the goal and describe at least two places that have made / not made satisfactory progress with a brief explanation as to why. 

Slide 4  – A brief update on the overall global progress made towards (possibility & power) meeting that goal.