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Overpopulation: Planet Is Reaching Unsustainable Levels

by | Jul 25, 2022 | Environment

The Overpopulation Problem

In 1804, the world’s population stood at 1 billion people. It took 123 years after 1804 to add another 1 billion humans to this figure. In the next 33 years (1960), the world’s population reached 3 billion. It then took the world 14 years (1974) to reach 4 billion, 13 years (1987) to reach 5 billion, and 12 years (1999) to reach 6 billion. Though the population growth is now beginning to fall, it is still 80 million people a year. 97% of population growth occurs in the poorest parts of the world.

The faster a population grows, the shorter time it takes to double. Before 1650, the world took about 35,000 years, or 1,400 generations, to double its population. But today, considering the present rates of population growth, the world can double its population in just one generation. A few demographers have said that the global population could double, even triple, in the next century. Most of the increase in population will come from developing countries. For example, the African sub-continent is the fastest-growing region in terms of population growth. It has the highest fertility rate in the world, meaning its population can double in just 25 years.

Overpopulation

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Humanity today faces a rate of population growth so fast human history has never known. Our population is increasing primarily because of a decline in death rates and higher fertility rates in many parts of the world. Today, the world adds one million more members to the human family every 96 hours. Our population growth has generated significant momentum; it is very unlikely to slow down and cease in the coming decades.

Overpopulation has led to several global problems, such as food and water shortage and poverty. Demographers have predicted that by 2025, the combined populations of Asia and Africa will equal 6.5 billion. The population increase in these regions will significantly increase threats to the environment since the world will have more people that need to be clothed, fed, and housed.

The United Nations has said that the world’s population could reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. By 2030, developing countries will account for 85%-87% of the global population.

What Is Causing Overpopulation?

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Overpopulation is when the number of people on the Earth exceeds the capacity of the Earth to provide resources for all those people. The high death and low birth rates that characterized much of human history have accelerated to the low death and high birth rates that characterize society today. Our birth and death rates today have resulted in overpopulation. Overpopulation results from lower mortality rates without a significant decrease in global fertility. Let’s look at the leading causes of overpopulation in detail:

1. Declining death rates

The root cause of overpopulation is the difference between birth and death rates. If the number of people that die each year equals the number of children born each year, our population can stabilize. But this is not happening. The world is producing children much faster than people can reach the end of their lives, causing overpopulation.

2. Technological advancements

With the latest advancements in technology, couples that previously couldn’t conceive now can via IVF, surrogacy, etc. Couples can now even undergo fertility treatments to increase their chances of having a child. Also, previously, many women would die during labour due to loss of blood, haemorrhage, complications with the baby, etc. But today, everyone has access to hospitals and medical facilities. Therefore, the number of women dying during child deliveries has decreased, and their safety and the child’s safety during delivery have increased. All these increase birth rates and lead to overpopulation.

3. Better medical facilities

Advancements in medicine have allowed us to cure a variety of diseases, diseases that were previously incurable. This means that the number of people perishing from contracting those diseases has significantly decreased. The improvement in medical facilities has led to a lower death rate, putting more people on the planet.

4. Poor education

As we’ve already read, most of the global population growth comes from developing countries. Developing countries have large populations living in poverty. Because of poverty, they lack access to educational facilities that can teach them about family planning and the use of contraceptives. Poverty also makes people have more children because people living in poverty believe that as their family increases their income will too.

Its Effect on the Environment

Overpopulation and per capita consumption are stressing the planet’s limited resources. They are also putting pressure on the limited capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems to replenish those resources. In the not-so-distant foreseeable future, this pressure will bring about a rearrangement of the relationship between humans and ecosystems. Because of this immense pressure overpopulation has put on the environment, there will be large-scale environmental degradation as communities, groups, and societies try to fulfill their needs. Large-scale ecological degradation means ecosystems can no longer provide us with the resources so important in our daily lives.

Evidence shows that as our population increased, the environment’s health decreased. Because of the massive impact so many people are having on the planet, scientists have termed our time as the ‘Anthropocene epoch.’ Geological and climatic processes defined periods of time in previous geological epochs. But in our epoch, the Anthropocene, we’re characterizing time by the impact we and our activities are having on the environment.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that more people need more resources, and it results in the generation of more waste. Overpopulation is stressing the limits of vita global resources like fertile land for agriculture, forests, fisheries, and potable water. A majority of studies say that the Earth’s carrying capacity – its ability to provide resources for people – is 8 billion.

Cities are major centers of pollution and environmental degradation. As our populations grow, more people will enter cities. This puts pressure on cities to provide more resources like water, food, and energy. Additionally, an increase in cities’ populations means that more people will be driving cars, using heating and cooling devices, and other modern luxuries. These can cause a range of environmental problems, such as increased air and water pollution.

Overpopulation has severe consequences for human values. It threatens both living standards and the environment. Overpopulation can intensify social and economic problems, especially in developing countries. A rising population in developing countries is a barrier to the dreams of the people in those countries of a better life and standard of living. Overpopulation will lead wealthier nations to aggravate environmental pollution and resource depletion since these countries have the means to sustain their living standards for longer than poorer nations.

Conclusion

Data and facts show how desperately we need to overcome overpopulation. Overcoming overpopulation will ensure that we leave behind an environment for our children to enjoy, just as we did.

Governments must develop measures that enable access to education for everyone in the world. When we educate people, they understand the damage to their own bodies and the environment from having more than a specified number of children. They also gain knowledge about contraceptives through education.

We also need technological innovations that allow our population and economy to grow without increasing the environmental pressure. Technological innovations can extend our planet’s carrying capacity and improve every individual’s quality of life.

And lastly, we must remember that less is more. Using less of the Earth’s resources minimizes our waste and reduces environmental damage. We must reassess our consumption patterns and implement practices to ensure everyone has equal access to resources.

 

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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