The Human Overpopulation Problem

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The United Nations has long warned about human overpopulation. What problems are the result of our population sky rocketing into the billions?

If you are younger than 30 perhaps you will not have noticed the change, but those of us more than 40 will have witnessed population growth and urban sprawl. I myself grew up in a large city, but that city is even larger today, its boundaries extending by miles from when I was young. Other areas have gone up and up as we try to cram more people into the same space. Farms have been erased to make way for housing, big box stores, and factories.


photo source - a massive forest was cleared just to grow tea.

For hundreds of years the human population remained fairly constant, growing at a slow pace. It only reached 1 Billion around 1850, but has sky rocketed since, being over 6.8 Billion as of the beginning of 2010.

Problems are emerging as the result of population growth. Deforestation is a major, but necessary, evil. Trees are cut for many reasons, to build shelters, to make paper, to use as fuel, but also to clear land for agricultural purposes. Fewer trees mean more environmental problems – from landslides to global warming. Additionally we risk the loss of valuable habitat for wildlife, possibly even destroying undiscovered plants and animals (particularly in the rain forest).

Fresh water is already a concern in some areas. The Aral Sea has been pretty much lost due to being drained for the purpose of agriculture. Additionally we need water for drinking, and it seems to be in short supply if we factor in that some water must be reserved to allow for rivers and streams to keep the land fed. There are desalinization plants to remove salt from sea water, but the downfall is that these create pollution in the form of saline brine, which can cause huge problems for marine life when returned to the seas at high temperatures.

Is their enough food to feed a growing population? Think of it this way, we are currently not even feeding the population as it is. Wealthy countries demand more food – and have a population of gluttons, while people in third world nations starve and depend on the importation of food. Some people will say there is enough food now, but it is not being shared, so why do we think that if we continue to allow the population to expand anything will change?

There are many more other issues and problems raised that surround overpopulation (including the increased likelihood of nuclear war) but let us get back to the numbers.

One of the reasons we have an overpopulation problem is that with improved health care, we are living longer. There was a time when our children replaced our parents. Now our parents are still alive and can watch our kids grow up. Sometimes these kids are not even replacing grandparents. As such every child born is adding to the planet, until a death occurs and another child is not born into that family.

In the 1950's the global life expectancy was 46 years. By 2000, the global life expectancy rose to 65. Of course these numbers are higher in developed nations, this is a global average, and shows how the longer people live, the more people there are alive on the planet at any given time.


photo source - is this the world you want in 30 years?  Is this the world you want for your kids?

Most people assume they can have as many kids as they can afford, but few consider the global implications of adding to the population. If you have two kids, and at some point expect them to move out on their own, you have basically created a need for two more homes. Even at their birth you created the need for more food, more water... more of everything. This is especially true in developed nations.

The population expansion is greatest in developing nations, however as they are not the consumers that the developed nations are, there is a balance that is maintained, making two births in developing nations the equivalent of one in developed nations. Notwithstanding, it can be said that every birth is a burden to the planet.

According to the United Nations World Population Prospects Report overpopulation is an issue of great importance. At one time they offered a suggestion of a sustainable population of 5 Billion, although we have exceeded that, we can see through environmental damage, that it is not sustainable.

Other points they make:

Hopeful that the fertility rates will decrease from 2.5 to 2.0 the United Nations predicts a world population of 9.2 billion near the year 2050. (Other groups predict a population of 14 billion).

Most growth will take place in less developed countries, however the United States is also expected to see an increase in population growth (not just from immigration). In fact the United States will see more growth on average than China, this is due th that countries one child policy. This policy was brought about due to their understanding of human overpopulation, but largely ignored in other countries.

Some countries, most notably Germany, Japan, and Italy, have seen a lowering of population growth. However we only have one planet so this is still offset by all the other growing countries.

In 2050 it is expected that India will have 1.6 billion people.

Why Oppose Population Control?

Many religions oppose population control, naturally they want to grow their own numbers.

Many politicians, not only because it would be politically risky to challenge a persons right to bare children, but because the more tax payers they have, the stronger they can be.

Many governments on the whole oppose population control because they need people to be their armies and such.

Ignorance,and selfishness, are perhaps the leading causes of opposition to population controls.


photo source - some people don't want to hear the truth and prefer to stay in the dark.

What Can You Do?

Very simply if you care about the future of the planet, the best thing you do can do is only have one child, or none at all. Recognize that even one child is population growth, as that one child is still a consumer from the time they are born and as you are still alive they have not replaced you (or your partner) yet.

Related Reading

Advice for Planning a Second Child

Top 10 Gifts for an Environmentalist


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