The Environmental Issue of Overpopulation Jakira West June 10, 2012 The Environmental Issue of Overpopulation As time passes and our world’s population continues to grow, overpopulation is becoming a very serious issue deserving of the upmost acknowledgement and consideration. Throughout history crowding of the earth and the overuse of the world’s natural resources has hardly been a main concern. Today however, with a population of 7 billion people and counting, the diminishment of the earth’s resources has become a more serious issue than ever before.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, overpopulation occurs when a population’s density exceeds the capacity of the environment to supply the health requirements of an individual. In other words, overpopulation happens when the amount of individuals exceeds the amount of resources the individuals require in order to satisfy their most basic needs. Overpopulation has become an issue because our earth can only provide so much for the sustainment of every human life. In the past, more industrialized and populated countries have been main contributors to the pollution and plundering of the Earth.
The United Nations reports that population increases have slowed and even stopped in places such as North America, Japan, and Europe. Still, the growth in population of places such as sub-Saharan Africa and south and western Asia has been a significant factor in the increase of the world’s population. “Industrialized countries in the past have done their share of plundering and polluting. But today most such problems occur in developing countries commonly called the Third World, which also happen to be the areas of greatest population growth” (Nat Geo).
The global population rises at the rate of 78 million people per year. A problem within the problem of overpopulation is the fact that the fastest growing countries are the least able to afford their large populations. “Africa’s population has tripled since 1960 and continues to grow the fastest. Europe had twice as many people as Africa in 1960. By 2050 experts estimate there will be three times as many Africans as Europeans” (Nat Geo). The idea of more people may not seem like a big deal, but it is a huge deal when everyone’s most basic needs cannot be met because there are too many people.
The United Nations believes that as the 21st century approaches, more than a billion people will lack their most basic needs. Nearly three-fifths of the 4. 8 people in developing countries lack sanitation and other needs as it is. In 1798, British economist Thomas Malthus proposed the theory that population growth would surpass that ability to produce food, and this, he said, would lead to war, famine, and disease (Nat Geo). Pollution, exploitation of natural resources, and deforestation are just a few of the effects of overpopulation. Another negative aspect of overpopulation is the issue of waste management.
More people means more waste, and more waste means that a serious innovation in waste management must occur. Otherwise the poor management of waste will lead to massive disease outbreaks. Besides this, more waste also means more pollution. Every year the United Nations observes a World Population Day. On this day there is great fanfare, the government officials issues statements regarding depopulation programs, and the media has a field day with the talk of depopulation methods. Many people are apprehensive in regards to the subject of overpopulation and some blame overpopulation as the real cause for poverty and underdevelopment.
However, there are those that don’t view the subject as a threat and that the facts should be thoroughly reviewed before making such claims. Doug Allen, dean of the school of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology, believes that overpopulation isn’t a serious concern seeing as how architects and urban design experts don’t even consider the theory when they build their models. He also goes on to cite the falling birthrates in urban populations such as Italy as further proof. Many researchers have claimed that the problem is not too many people and that contrary to popular belief, world population growth is actually declining.
According to UN figures, the 79 countries that comprise 40 percent of the world’s population now have fertility rates too low to prevent population decline. According to Dr. Osterfeld of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, “by meaningful measure the world is actually becoming relatively less populated (Jan). Despite the belief that the world is not becoming overpopulated, the world’s population has been increasing since the eighteenth century. Population has risen six-fold in the past 200 years and this has been made possible by explosions in productivity, resources food, information, communications, science, and medicine.
Supposedly, the six-fold increase is thus dwarfed by the eighty-fold in world output during the same 200-year period. The current overpopulation hysteria began in the sixties with Paul Ehrlich who wrote the book “The Population Bomb” and frightened millions with prophesies of starvation, death, and destruction (Jan). Ehrlich predicted increases in famine, dwindling and rising expenses of natural resources, piles of waste, and environmental destruction, all of which are occurring as we speak. According to the U. S.
Census Bureau’s International Data Base, by the year 2050, India will replace China as the world’s most populated country (Hoevel). This will happen as a result of each country’s rapid population growth rate. If India and China continue to grow at their current rates, their countries will become overpopulated and their resources will become jeopardized. The president of the Population Institute, Lawrence Smith, believes that the worst possible result of overpopulation would be the diminishment of fresh, clean water (Hoevel). I completely agree with this because obviously no living organism can be so without water.
Fresh water is a valuable and diminishing resource. Two percent of the earth’s water is fresh and 1. 6 percent is frozen in polar ice caps and glaciers. A huge issue we will have in the near future is how the increasing population will share less than half percent of the earths usable freshwater. With that said, uranium will also become a valuable and diminishing resource because the nuclear power generated by uranium is used to run seawater desalinization plants (Mills). One of the biggest issues with the growing population rate is that it means there will be many more mouths to feed.
As of right now, we do not have enough food to do that, so we will need to grow more. To grow more food, we will need to yield to arable lands and find more fresh water, and we will also need more nuclear energy (uranium). Potash will also become a valuable and diminishing resource because it is one of the macronutrients essential for plants to grow and thrive. Potash is a major source of potassium, which is found in every plant cell. The increase use of plant nutrients will be most effective in increasing crop yields in the face of an increasing global population and water shortages (Mills).
In conclusion, overpopulation has a number of effects and will cause a myriad of chain effects. Scientists, economists, and investors alike all see vital issues aroused by the growth in our population. It is a serious matter because it will lead to the exhaustion of our already diminishing natural resources as well as disease outbreaks and even more pollution. Technology has struggled to keep up with and tend to the problem of overpopulation, yet the challenge to find more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to preserve the earth and feed the world still remains.
Our natural resources must be reserved and used efficiently. While some countries are making strides within their own borders to halt the issue, the only solution to the problem of overpopulation is for the nations to come together and decide a civil, humane, and environmentally friendly way to work towards the management and preservation of the earth and her resources. Works Cited Hoevel, Ann. “Overpopulation Could Be People, Planet Problem. ” CNN. 25 Sept. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://articles. cnn. com/2007-0925/tech/overpopulation. overview_1_world-population-population-institutepopulation-estimates? s=PM:TECH>. Hovel describes some potential effects of overpopulation and cites credible references. India will replace China as world’s most populated country by 2050. There will be 9 billion people by 2050. Highlights issues of freshwater scarcity and waste management. Hopkins, James. “Overpopulation: The Human Population Crisis. “Overpopulation: The Human Population Crisis. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. cosmosmith. com/human_population_crisis. htm>. Hopkins describes the issue of overpopulation from a mathematical and scientific standpoint. Exponential growth is applied to human population.
Compares past population growth to recent growth. States that human population will reach 8 Billion by 2028. Describes carrying capacity. Compares population growth in third countries to that of rich countries. Describes nature “a the balance of existence. ” Jan, Abid Ullah. “Overpopulation: Myths, Facts, and Politics. ” Overpopulation:Myths, Facts, and Politics. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. albalagh. net/population/overpopulation. shtml>. This source is valuable because Jan views overpopulation from a different standpoint. Believes world population is actually declining.
Recalls “hysteria” beginning in the 60s with Paul Ehrlich. Discusses poverty and underdevelopment in relation to overpopulation. “Latest Video. ” Overpopulation Is a Myth |. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://overpopulationisamyth. com/>. This source is valuable because it also views overpopulation from the opposite standpoint. Challenges United Nations’ theory. Uses “scientific evidence. ” Provides visuals. Mills, Richard. “Resource Scarcity and Population Growth. ” FINANCIAL SENSE. N. p. , 01 June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. financialsense. com/contributors/richard-mills/resourcescarcity-and-population-growth>. National Geographic: Eye in the Sky–Overpopulation. ” National Geographic:Eye in the Sky–Overpopulation. Web. 13 May 2012. <http://www. nationalgeographic. com/eye/overpopulation/overpopulation. hml>. Talks about population growth in third world countries. Mentions British economist Thomas Malthus. Cites United Nations. “OVERPOPULATION: A Key Factor in Species Extinction. ” Overpopulation. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. biologicaldiversity. org/campaigns/overpopulation/index. html>. Discusses doubling of world population. Describes overpopulation as a key factor in species extinction. World Overpopulation Awareness. ” WOA!! World Ovepopulation Awareness. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. overpopulation. org/>. Aims to solve issue with justice and compassion. Provides information on environment, sustainability, and human impacts and also covers a range of topics from nitrogen to global warming. Provides information on potential solutions. “Worst Environmental Problem? Overpopulation, Experts Say. ” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. sciencedaily. com/releases/2009/04/090418075752. htm>. Describes overpopulation as planet’s most pressing issue.