Overpopulation is an undesirable condition where the number of the existing human population exceeds the actual carrying capacity of Earth. Overpopulation is caused by a number of factors. Reduced mortality rate, better medical facilities, depletion of precious resources are few of the causes which result in overpopulation. It is possible for a sparsely populated area to become densely populated if it is not able to sustain life.
Growing advances in technology with each coming year has affected humanity in many ways. One of these has been the ability to save lives and create a better medical treatment for all. A direct result of this has been the increased lifespan and the growth of the population.
According to Wikipedia,
“Overpopulation occurs when a species’ population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births (fertility rate), a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources.”
The human overpopulation issue is the topic I see as the most vital to solve if our children and grandchildren are to have a good quality of life.
~ Alexandra Paul
In the past fifty years or so, the growth of the population has boomed and has turned into overpopulation. In the history of our species, the birth and death rates have always been able to balance each other and maintain a population growth rate that is sustainable.
Since the time of the Bubonic Plague in the 1400s, the growth of the population has been on a constant increase. Between the time of the plague and the 21st century, there have been hundreds and thousands of wars, natural calamities, and man-made hazards.
However, none of these could make a dent on the population. Developing nations face the problem of overpopulation more than developed countries, but it affects most of the Earth as of now. When we are talking about overpopulation, we should first try to understand the underlying causes of it.
Various Causes of Overpopulation
1. The Decline in the Death Rate
At the root of overpopulation is the difference between the overall birth rate and death rate in populations. If the number of children born each year equals the number of adults that die, then the population will stabilize.
Talking about overpopulation shows that while there are many factors that can increase the death rate for short periods of time, the ones that increase the birth rate do so over a long period of time.
The discovery of agriculture by our ancestors was one factor that provided them with the ability to sustain their nutrition without hunting. This created the first imbalance between the two rates.
2. Agricultural Advancements
Technological revolutions and population explosions occur at the same time. There have been three major technological revolutions. They are the tool-making revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the industrial revolution.
Agricultural advancements in the 20th century have allowed humans to increase food production using fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides and yields further. This allowed humans with more access to food that leads to subsequent population explosions.
3. Better Medical Facilities
Following this the industrial revolution started. Technological advancement was perhaps the biggest reason why the balance has been permanently disturbed.
Science was able to produce better means of producing food, which allowed families to feed more mouths. Besides, medical science made many discoveries, thanks to which they were able to defeat a whole range of diseases.
Illnesses that had claimed thousands of lives until now were cured because of the invention of vaccines. Combining the increase in food supply with fewer means of mortality tipped the balance and became the starting point of overpopulation.
4. More Hands to Overcome Poverty
However, when talking about overpopulation, we should understand that there is a psychological component as well. Poverty is considered as the leading cause of overpopulation. In the absence of educational resources, coupled with high death rates, which resulted in higher birth rates, that is why impoverished areas are seeing large booms in population.
For thousands of years, a very small part of the population had enough money to live in comfort. The rest faced poverty and would give birth to large families to make up for the high infant mortality rate.
Families that have been through poverty, natural disasters, or are simply in need of more hands to work are a major factor for overpopulation.
As compared to earlier times, most of these extra children survive and consume resources that are not sufficient in nature.
According to the UN, the forty-eight poorest countries in the world are also likely to be the biggest contributors to population growth. Their estimates say that the combined population of these countries is likely to increase to 1.7 billion in 2050, from 850 million in 2010.
5. Child Labor
It is no less than a tragedy that child labor is still in practice extensively in many parts of the world. As per the UNICEF, approximately 150 million children are currently working in countries having few child labor laws. The children being seen as a source of income by impoverished families begin work too young and also lose the educational opportunities reflected, particularly when it comes to birth control.
6. Technological Advancement in Fertility Treatment
With the latest technological advancement and more discoveries in medical science, it has become possible for couples who are unable to conceive to undergo fertility treatment methods and have their own babies.
Today there are effective medicines that can increase the chance of conception and lead to a rise in the birth rate. Moreover, due to modern techniques, pregnancies today are far safer.
Many people prefer to move to developed countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, where the best facilities are available in terms of medical, education, security, and employment. The result is that those people settle over there, eventually making those places overcrowded.
If the number of people who are leaving the country is less than the number of people who enter, it usually leads to more demand for food, clothes, energy, and homes.
This gives rise to a shortage of resources. Though the overall population remains the same, it just affects the density of the population, making that place simply overcrowded.
8. Lack of Family Planning
Most developing nations have a large number of people who are illiterate, live below the poverty line, and have little or no knowledge about family planning. Besides, getting their children married at an early age increases the chances of producing more kids.
Those people are unable to understand the harmful effects of overpopulation, and lack of quality education prompts them to avoid family planning measures.
9. Poor Contraceptives Use
Poor family planning on the part of partners can lead to unexpected pregnancies though contraceptives are easily available in developed countries.
As per statistics, 76% of women aged between 16 and 49 in Great Britain used at least one form of contraceptive, leaving a quarter open to unexpected pregnancies. Whereas a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that this figure drops to 43% in underdeveloped countries, which leads to higher birth rates.
Fatal Effects of Overpopulation
1. Depletion of Natural Resources
The effects of overpopulation are quite severe. The first of these is the depletion of resources. The Earth can only produce a limited amount of water and food, which is falling short of the current needs.
Most of the environmental damage seen in the last fifty-odd years is because of the growing number of people on the planet. They include cutting down forests, hunting wildlife in a reckless manner, causing pollution, and creating a host of other problems.
Those engaged in talks about overpopulation have noticed that acts of violence and aggression outside of a war zone have increased tremendously while competing for resources.
2. Degradation of Environment
With the overuse of coal, oil, and natural gas, it has started producing some serious effects on our environment. Besides, the exponential rise in the number of vehicles and industries has badly affected the quality of air.
The rise in the amount of CO2 emissions leads to global warming. Melting of polar ice caps, changing climate patterns, rise in sea levels are a few of the consequences that we might have to face due to environmental pollution.
3. Conflicts and Wars
Overpopulation in developing countries puts a major strain on the resources it should be utilizing for development. Conflicts over water are becoming a source of tension between countries, which could result in wars. It causes more diseases to spread and makes them harder to control.
Starvation is a huge issue that the world is facing, and the mortality rate for children is being fuelled by it. Poverty is the biggest hallmark we see when talking about overpopulation.
All of this will only become worse if solutions are not sought out for the factors affecting our population. We can no longer prevent it, but there are ways to control it.
4. Rise in Unemployment
When a country becomes overpopulated, it gives rise to unemployment as there are fewer jobs to support a large number of people. The rise in unemployment gives rise to crime, such as theft, as people want to feed their families and provide them basic amenities of life.
5. High Cost of Living
As the difference between demand and supply continues to expand due to overpopulation, it raises the prices of various essential commodities, including food, shelter, and healthcare. This means that people have to pay more to survive and feed their families.
6. Pandemics and Epidemics
Poverty is linked to many environmental and social reasons, including overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions, malnutrition and inaccessible, inadequate, or non-existent health care, for which the poor are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases. Further, high densities of population increase the chance of the emergence of new pandemics and epidemics.
7. Malnutrition, Starvation and Famine
When the availability of resources is scarce, starvation, malnutrition, along with ill health and diseases caused by diet-deficiency such as rickets become more likely.
Famine is typically associated with less-developed regions, and there is a high correlation with poverty levels.
8. Water Shortage
Roughly 1% of the world’s water is fresh and accessible. Overpopulation is a major issue that creates immense pressure on the world’s freshwater supplies.
As per the study, the human demand for freshwater would stand at approximately 70% of freshwater available on the planet by 2025. Therefore, people living in impoverished areas that already have limited access to such water will be at great risk.
9. Lower Life Expectancy
A large proportion of the world’s population growth occurs in less developed countries. Therefore, lower life expectancy caused by the booms in population is experienced by less-developed nations.
This causes a shortage of resources in these countries resulting in less access to medical care, freshwater, food and jobs, and ultimately in a sharp fall in life expectancy.
The impact of overpopulation on the world’s wildlife is severe. As demand for land grows, the destruction of natural habitats, such as forests, becomes common.
Data has also been collected to show a direct link between increases in human population and decreases in the number of species on the planet. If present trends continue, as many as 50% of the world’s wildlife species will be at risk of extinction, some scientists warn.
11. Increased Intensive Farming
With the growth of population over the years, farming practices have evolved to produce enough food required to feed a larger number of people. However, this intensive farming methods cause damage to local ecosystems and the land that may pose problems in the future.
Furthermore, intensive farming is also contributed to climate change due to the machinery required. If the population continues to grow at its current rate, this effect will likely intensify.
12. Faster Climate Change
Overpopulation forces larger nations, like China and India, to continue to develop their industrial capacities. They now rank as two of the three largest contributors to emissions in the world, other than the United States.
According to 97% of the scientific community, human activities are changing global temperatures. If more is not done to reduce individual carbon footprints on a wide scale, larger populations may speed these changes up.
Incredible Solutions To Overpopulation
1. Better Education
One of the first measures is to implement policies reflecting social change. Educating the masses helps them understand the need to have one or two children at the most.
Similarly, education plays a vital role in understanding the latest technologies that are making huge waves in the world of computing. Families that are facing a hard life and choose to have four or five children should be discouraged.
Family planning and efficient birth control can help in women making their own reproductive choices. Open dialogue on abortion and voluntary sterilization should be seen when talking about overpopulation.
2. Education for Girl Child
Currently, over 130 million young women and girls around the globe are not enrolled in school. The majority of these live in male-dominated societies, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, that does not give women equal right to education as men.
Entrenched gender norms and child marriage further disrupt their access to education. The girl who receives less education is more likely to have children early and vulnerable to exploitation. Moreover, impoverished families are less likely to enroll their female children in school.
3. Making People Aware of Family Planning
As the population of this world is growing at a rapid pace, raising awareness among people regarding family planning and letting them know about serious after-effects of overpopulation can help curb population growth.
One of the best ways is to let them know about various safe sex techniques and contraceptive methods available to avoid any unwanted pregnancy.
4. Tax Benefits or Concessions
The government of various countries might have to come up with various policies related to tax exemptions to curb overpopulation.
One of them might be to waive a certain part of income tax or lowering rates of income tax for those married couples who have single or two children. As we humans are more inclined towards money, this may produce some positive results.
5. Knowledge of Sex Education
Imparting sex education to young kids at the elementary level should be a must. Most parents feel shy in discussing such things with their kids that results in their children going out and look out for such information on the internet or discuss it with their peers.
Mostly, the information is incomplete, which results in sexually active teenagers unaware of contraceptives and embarrassed to seek information about the same. It is, therefore, important for parents and teachers to shed their old inhibitions and make their kids or students aware of solid sex education.
6. Social Marketing
Social marketing has already been started by some societies to educate the public on overpopulation effects. The intervention can be made widespread at a low cost. A variety of print materials (flyers, brochures, fact sheets, stickers) can be distributed in places such as at local places of worship, sporting events, local food markets, schools and at car parks.
Infographic on Overpopulation