Overpopulation endangers 7 billion lives
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 16:11
As of Oct. 31, 7 billion human beings officially call the planet Earth home. According to data collected by United Nations demographers, the human population has once again increased by a billion since its last major milestone in 1999. With the number of people on Earth growing at such an incredible rate and only one planet, it is important for us to recognize now the dangers of overpopulation.
While the economy may be our biggest problem now, I strongly believe that in a few decades overpopulation will become the greatest challenge facing mankind. The basic facts are simple. The more people there are, the faster resources are consumed, diseases have more people to spread to, more waste is created, and there are more individuals that can disagree with each other. This can lead to crime, famine and general chaos.
This isn't a difficult conclusion to arrive at. It's easy to see that the population is on a quick, if not exponential rise. For the majority of our existence as a species, our numbers were comfortably under the billion milestone until the 1800s. In the 20th century, however, the population began to skyrocket due to a combination of better medical technology, lower death rates and higher birth rates. In 1930 there were 2 billion people, in 1960 there were 3 billion people, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987 and so on.
What is alarming is the amount of time it takes our species to produce a billion more individuals. Notice how the amount of time between milestones shrinks by several years? That of course is no coincidence, but pure, uninhibited natural human population growth. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the population is expected to reach 8 billion by 2023. However, since some experts speculated that the population would not reach 7 billion until 2012, it is quite possible that this estimate could be incorrect as well.
What is truly sickening about this fact is that we are barely able to properly maintain ourselves now. There are not enough jobs to go around, and even many families in developed countries have to struggle to feed themselves. As the 7-billionth child is born, there are thousands of children in the world starving with no one to take care of them. Although future generations may not be directly responsible for our over-reproductive tendencies, they will still suffer the consequences of living in a world with not enough resources to go around unless steps for a better future are taken now.
Biologically speaking, humans are much more populous than they should be. Any animal at the top of the food chain needs a great deal of biological mass below it in the ecological pyramid in order to sustain it. The two biggest reasons that homo sapiens are able to cheat this pattern are advances in medicine and agriculture. Instead of having to hunt or gather like other life forms, we can grow our own crops and raise our own animals for our dining convenience.
As the human population rises, however, we may end up inadvertently threatening the very things that sustain us. As existing cities become more crowded with hordes of people, extra land in is inevitably sought out, sometimes even in violent or destructive ways. Everyday, forests are cut down to create more room for people to live or farm, but with the population increasing so quickly, it won't be very long before there is no more desirable land to claim. Farmers will need more space in order to grow more food to support more people, people who will in turn need more space to live. This in itself creates a vicious cycle, not including the fact that more people will theoretically contribute to more pollution, and the inevitable deforestation may cause an unhealthy imbalance of oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
While these and many other dangers may make the threat of overpopulation seem horrifying, I believe in humanity, and in the idea that it may be possible for us to work together to overcome challenges.
With continuous advances in medicine and technology, this shouldn't be an impossible goal to achieve. However, this progress is useless if we cannot organize effective ways for everyone to access these advances. Also, with more people having to share the Earth's bounty, it is more important than ever for us to establish a fair and effective economic system. One of the advantages of living in a world with 7 billion intelligent individuals is that one of them is bound to have a good idea. The real challenge is getting the other 6,999,999,999 to agree. As difficult as this may be, it is our ethical responsibility to work together to agree on strategies that will create a better future not only for ourselves, but the next billion humans to enter the human race.
While a dark, apocalyptic future of resource wars over simple things like food and water aren't impossible, there is no reason for it to be a future that is plausable. Even greater than the human race's incredible ability to reproduce is its ability to overcome the odds and use its talent of innovation to devise new methods of survival. Although 7 billion people may be seen as just more individuals who can disagree, with the proper organization, 7 billion people can have an incredible power to work together and coexist with minimal conflict.