January 8, 2010
There are many issues today that pose a threat to our way of life. Overpopulation is a serious problem that will eventually have an extremely negative effect on our countries, and our planet. The problems that arise due to overpopulation could even prove to a fatal epidemic that will eventually wipeout the entire human race. Oftentimes this issue is overlooked due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the subject; or, simply because most of us are so blessed that we are not affected first hand by the problems it is causing this very second. Overpopulation, in my belief, is an enormously serious global issue that should be identified, analyzed, and controlled immediately.
The term overpopulation literally means that the number of things (in this case: humans) that depend on resources for survival is significantly larger than the amount of resources available to them. Today our planet is experiencing the effects of multiplying citizens because of the obstacles the environment is being forced to take on. Many believe that Earth is presently occupied by to many people (Stefoff 16). Year after year the population multiplies faster and faster. “Currently the world population is growing by 80 million people a year” (Hohm, Jones, and Lio 116). Presently, there are about 6 billion people occupying this planet, and by the middle of the approaching century the U.N. predicts that the count will reach 9.4 billion (Mitchell). Both developed and developing countries are at risk of the dangerous problems that overpopulation can and will create. “Nearly sixty percent of the increase will occur in Asia…China’s population will swell from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion, India’s is projected to soar from 930 million to 1.53 billion. In the Middle East and North Africa, the population will probably more than double, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, it will triple” (Mitchell).
“Population is determined by the interplay of two factors. One is the birth rate, or the number or people being born, and the other is death rate, or the number who die. The different between the two is call the rate of natural increase” (Stefoff 25). If the number of deaths is less than the number of births then the population is growing larger; consequently, if the number of deaths is greater than the number of births then the population is decreasing (Stefoff 25). A major factor that is sometimes overlooked is the idea that rapid growth will occur due to the larger size of the new reproductive generation in comparison with the much less past reproductive generations. This means that in the next twenty-five years about 3 billion people will begin the reproductive phase of their lives; while only approximately 1.8 billion people will withdraw from that stage of life (Mitchell). Uncontrolled, immature reproduction is a leading cause of overcrowding. Diseases and medical advances that cause a decrease in deaths are also aspects that affect population. Education, economic activity, and changes in standards of living all play a part in the increase of population (Commoner).
Different concepts and appearances in our surroundings trick people into thinking that any problems with overpopulation are non-existent. Nations are separated into two categories: those with fast population increases, and those with slower population increases (Ehrlich 17). This division among nations is presented in the following quote: “An increasingly divided human community will degrade the global environment further as fraction within it struggle to dominate each other and exploit what remains of the nature’s resources. Political leaders must realize instead that we will need to build a compassionate sense of human community in a world scale to match the global environmental crisis that confronts everyone” (Hohm, Jones, and Lio 137). The world has enough wealth to make it appear that there are no population issues, but the wealth does not do any good because of its uneven distribution. The less fortunate nations have a greater birth rate because of poverty (Commoner). Poverty stricken nations will double in human count in twenty years if they continue at their present rate. One hundred twenty years is the doubling time for more prosperous nations. This happens because of social and economic differences between the two; such as, human misery, diseases, and standards of living (Ehrlich 42).
I would now like to introduce the Malthusian theories. Thomas Robert Malthus was one of the first to study population (Stefoff 34). “A population eventually becomes to big for its resource base, and then famine, war, and disease will impose population limits” (Stefoff 34). He has his own theory about population that states as follows: “The power of population is indefinately greater than the power in the Earth to produce substances for man.” This is further explained by his belief that populations increase geometrically (1-2-4-8-16), while resources can only grow arithmetically (1-2-3-4-5) (). This theory is obviously logical simply because without food everyone will become malnutritioned and eventually starve to death. Food shortage gets a very small amount of attention among well-fed Americans because “we” have no reason to be aware or concerned about the danger that the shortages promote. Now that is becoming a more serious issue people are slowly gaining awareness thanks to media such as news coverage (Ehrlich 21). Malnutrition is a problem in all parts of the world. Each year 40-60 million humans in underdeveloped countries die of starvation or illnesses related to it. Lack of nutrition can cause sicknesses such as anemia, rickets, pellagra as well. Poor immunity is also an outcome that puts people in danger of catching things like influenza, tetanus, measles, and tuberculosis (Stefoff 54). Many different circumstances and situation account for the rise and fall of population numbers.
Along with rapid population growth come dangerous environmental problems. Population growth has contributed to every threat to our ecosystem. Overpopulation is the root of environmental deteriorations such as: global warming, the ozone holes, rainforest destruction, pollution, and many more. Global warming is the planet’s overall temperature rising because of a greater of concentration of greenhouse gases in the air. Human actives, including respiration, release these gases causing the Earth to heat slowly (Stefoff 39). Forests are being cut down quicker than they can reproduce themselves due to human need for more space. Deforestation presents other problems, such as the death of species. Edward Wilson, a biologist, believes that each year 10,000-17,500 species of plants, bird, insects, reptiles, and mammals become instinct (Stefoff 45). Pollution increase is an obvious environment problem that will increase drastically due to overpopulation. Although not mentioned very often, crime is one more negative effect that overpopulation would have on the world as far as social troubles are concerned.
Now that I have discussed some of the causes of overpopulation, and the negative effects I would like to propose a few possibilities, that I have found throughout my research, to stop, or at least balance out the growing population size. Reducing birth rates by utilizing different strategies is the most prominent of these ideas. Increasing the legal marital age would postpone child bearing (Mitchell). One well-known method is called family planning. This method works by making birth control pills easily accessible, providing places for termination of pregnancies to occur, and helping people become more knowledgeable about abortions and contraception (Commoner). Laws could be passed making birth control mandintory, similar to the laws in China. According to Chinese law families would be faced with penalties if they had more than one offspring (Stefoff 87). Other nations enforce even stricter laws. All sources agreed that controlling birth rate and death rate would be the most effective way of stabilizing population.
The causes and effects of overpopulation covers such a vast array of ideas that it is impossible for one to cover every important detail of this ever growing environmental concern. In this semi-extensive research I have only taken the opportunity to provide the basic facts that are necessary in understanding that the rapid growth of our population needs our immediate attention. In conclusion, the world’s population will continue to grow as long as birth rate exceeds death rate. As far as resources are concerned, it is apparent that the era of cheap energy, adequate amounts of food, and necessary open spaces is coming to an end. Regardless of whether we admit it or not, our attempts to stabilize population, or our failure to do so, will have a devastating affect on our lives, and our home: Mother Earth.
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