More people mean more production, consumption, and destruction of nature with hazardous living conditions.
In the last half century, the population of the world has exploded. In 2021, there were almost eight billion people on the planet earth and this number is projected to grow in a short period of time.
In order to supply shelter to the fast growing population, trees in the forests are being cut down rapidly and fertility rates of soil have decreased over the years across the globe.
Of all of the environmental challenges facing the planet today, the issue of overpopulation is one that sometimes slips under the radar.
Issues like pollution, climate change and water shortages all seem to take precedence, but overpopulation is one of the main contributors to many other environmental issues.
Overpopulation will place great demands on all kinds of resources and land, leading to widespread environmental issues in addition to impacting global economies and standards of living.
The issue is compounded by the difficulty in providing solutions to the problem of overpopulation and the misunderstanding of the causes and effects of overpopulation
Overpopulation occurs when there are more people than the planet earth can sustain and our needs outstrip the carrying capacity of the earth.
In ecology, carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals in a specific region or habitat that can be sustained in that area, without the loss of lives due to insufficient resources like food, water and shelter, and without irreversible degradation of natural resources.
In simple terms, overpopulation leads to a situation where natural resources gets depleted quicker than they can renew themselves naturally, which leads to fewer resources and in turn a limitation on the number of lives that can be sustained. This can also result from overconsumption, which often goes hand in hand with overpopulation.
Overconsumption refers to the use and depletion of resources at a rate that outpaces the ability to replenish those resources.
Even smaller populations can consume too much, too quickly, if how they are using resources is unsustainable.
In 2022, there are over eight billion people living on earth. Experts expect that if something does not change, we could see 9.7 billion people by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100.
It took over two million years for the global population to reach 1 billion in the year 1800. That number doubled in 130 years to two billion in 1930. It took just 44 years for that number to double again, to four billion in 1974.
As of 2020, the number has almost doubled again to 7.8 billion in just 46 years!
Overpopulation is the result of too many births and decline in the number of deaths, low emigration and high immigration in a specific area.
Globally, overpopulation is caused by rapid population growth due to advances in medicine and technology leading to fewer mortalities and longer lifespan, poverty, lack of education, and restricted access to birth control and family planning.
However, how this came about is more complex: There are many, interrelated, factors that lead to overpopulation but there are two major factors that play a crucial role in the scale and rapid rate of our population growth: Advances in medicine have led to fewer deaths from diseases, especially diseases that once took large numbers of lives in short periods, like smallpox and polio.
The result is fewer people dying but also longer life expectancy, which means that as new generations are born, preceding generations are still present and the overall population size increases faster.
Advances in technology, especially in agriculture, have led to our ability to feed population numbers that were thought to be impossible as recently as the 1960s.
In 1968, American biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote ‘The Population Bomb’, in which he stated that “in the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death…”.
His theory was that population growth would outstrip our ability to feed the population and everyone would starve to death.
Effects of overpopulation mainly involve the number of resources required to support a large population, which can lead to a great deal of pollution and other detriments to the environment.
In many countries, the rapid use of these resources can have a negative impact on healthcare and destroy the land we live on. Overpopulation creates greater demand on the world’s freshwater supplies. As only roughly 1% of the world’s water is fresh and accessible, this creates a major issue. Some estimates state that human demand for fresh water will stand at approximately 70% of what is available on the planet by 2025. This will place those living in impoverished areas that already have limited access to such waterat great risk. The effect of overpopulation on the world’s wildlife is also a major issue. As demand for land grows, so too does the destruction of natural habitats, such as forests. Some scientists warn that if present trends continue, as many as 50% of the world’s wildlife species will be at risk of extinction. Data has also been collected to show that there is a direct link between increases in human population and decreases in the number of species on the planet. As the population grows, so too does the amount of resources needed to keep so many people alive. Food, water and fossil fuels are all being consumed at record rates, placing greater demands on producers and the planet itself. Ironically, it is the discovery of many of these natural resources – particularly fossil fuels – that have contributed to conditions that are favorable to population growth. A study has shown that the world’s ecosystem changed more rapidly in the latter-half of the twentieth century than at any other point in history because of increased use of these resources. As the population grows, so too does the amount of resources needed to keep so many people alive. Food, water and fossil fuels are all being consumed at record rates, placing greater demands on producers and the planet itself. As the population has grown over the years, farming practices have evolved to produce enough food to feed larger numbers of people. However, intensive farming methods also cause damage to local ecosystems and the land, which may pose problems in the future. Furthermore, intensive farming is also considered a major contributor to climate change due to the machinery required. This effect will likely intensify if the population continues to grow at its current rate. Overpopulation directly correlates to climate change, particularly as larger nations, like China and India, continue to develop their industrial capacities. They now rank as two of the three largest contributors to emissions in the world, alongside the United States.97% of the scientific community agrees that human activities are changing global temperatures. Larger populations may speed these changes up, especially if more is not done to reduce individual carbon footprints on a wide scale.
Overpopulation solutions are necessary to mitigate the impacts of overpopulation. The rapid development of a country will see large growth in population. Education, access to contraceptives, and policy will help control the population in these countries. A lack of sex education – or poorly-implemented education – has led to overpopulation issues in many countries. The issue is so pronounced that the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) is calling for improvements to be made, particularly in poorer areas of the world. Better education will help people understand more about the potential consequences of having sex as they relate to child birth. It will also do away with many of the myths that surround the sexual act and introduce scientifically-proven methods of birth control. Access to birth control must go hand-in-hand with better sex education. After all, without it people cannot put what they have learned into practice. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 225 million women who are living in the developing countries would prefer to postpone giving birth but are not using any form of contraception. Many organizations, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), also support improving access to contraceptives. Many nations offer rewards, whether in the form of financial incentives or increased benefits, to those who have more children. This may lead to some couples having more children than they otherwise would if they needed to worry about the financial consequences. This is a difficult issue to confront. China’s “One-Child’ policy was recently abandoned, in part, because of the restrictions it placed on freedom, and it is likely that similar policies would be seen as equally restrictive. While a number of organizations exist to provide schools with curricula and teaching materials to cover the subject of overpopulation, it is still a subject that is not covered in schools as well as it should be. This education should extend beyond talking about sex and into the global consequences of overpopulation. Dialog about the subject needs to be more open, with sites like debate.org offering useful resources that allow the issue to be confronted rationally.
Overpopulation is a big threat to the environment, natural resources, human beings, or the entire ecosystem. It only creates a crisis that increases poverty, climate change, pollution, and many environmental and social issues in the world. So, before we lose every natural and ecological aspect, it is necessary to reduce human race birth control and establish a good policy and plan in all countries. If this issue continues to grow, it could have a knock-on effect that will lead to many problems in the future for billions of people. It only creates a crisis that causes and effect increases poverty, climate change, pollution, high mortality rates, and many environmental concerns and social issues for global populations.
(The views expressed are personal. Writer can be reaches to: firstname.lastname@example.org)