Last Updated 29 Mar 2021

Population Explosion

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Before the end of the year 2011 the world can expect the population to hit an historic accomplishment of reaching seven billion people. The birth of this seven billionth baby will happen sometime in “October or November” (Nagarajan). This baby will most likely be born in India due to India having the highest fertility rate of “fifty one babies every minute” (Nagarajan). So is this an accomplishment for humans beating nature by populating the Earth?Or on the other hand will humans soon have to come to grips with their careless actions of destroying all resources, killing thousands of other species and eventually see the end of the human race at the hands of overpopulation? According to the author of Population 7 Billion, Robert Kunzig, “people shouldn’t panic- at least not yet” (1). A fair and stable amount of people is needed to keep the human species from dying off. Overpopulation, though, could deplete or destroy Earth’s resources such as food, water, and eventually lead to the breakdown of the ecosystem.

With these resources being affected by the human population, the resulting consequences of plagues, wars, and famines could cause one of the few times for the global population to decrease. A global plan of action is needed, but policies such as China’s one-child policy is not even going to be considered by the U. S and many other countries to lower their population. The populations of humans on planet Earth have to face the challenge of providing food, water, and face the accountability for ecosystem breakdown. One famous book, The Population Bomb, a best seller in 1968 written by Paul R. Ehrlich, warned about overpopulation and advocated immediate action to limit population growth. He predicted famines that would follow the revelation of the world but thanks to the “Green Revolution of the 1970s, an increase in the world harvest averted the famines predicted by Ehrlich” (Zeaman 63). Although disaster was averted “decades from now there will be likely two billion more mouths to feed, mostly in poor countries” (Kunzig 43). Producing enough food as populations grow is possible but doing so will exhaust finite resources, and especially water will be a challenge.

If the world population, which is expected to be eight billion by 2025, continues to be so high, “forty eight countries containing three billion people will face water shortages” (Hinrichsen). We do have the technology to desalinate ocean water, but this process is several times the costs as getting fresh water. Areas suffering from shortages of water can increase their share of water by capturing rain water and storing it. Finding enough arable land that is not already being occupied by humans will have to be dealt with future populations. China feeds its billion- plus people on less than ten percent of Earth’s arable land” (Kunzig 56). At least space to put all these people is not one of the most pressing issues, as the “world population could fit in the size of Texas, if it were as densely populated as New York” (Kunzig 48). Though we might have just enough livable land for future populations and land for crops and livestock, plants and animals will have to find space off of what is not already being used by humans. Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems are in jeopardy, “with two out of every three species to be in decline” (Hinrichsen).

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Trees provide habitats for more than “fifty percent of plants and animal species” (Zeaman 73). Forests lost range from “twenty percent to fifty percent” (Zeaman 73). In the fourteenth century Europe experienced one of the worst plagues in human history, the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague killed over “half of the people of western Europe” (Dawling). The development of better transportation routes between Asia and Europe, which allowed rats carrying infected fleas to reach European cities, coinciding with the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions within these cities created an ideal condition for the disease to spread.

In Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb similar occurrences were supposed to happen but thanks to institutions like “the World Health Organization and UNICEF” (Kunzig 45), and also with the development of “penicillin and smallpox vaccines after World War II” (Kunzig 45), plagues which were expected to be some of the worst humans have experienced, were practically eliminated with the exception of the AIDs virus. Plagues are not as threatening as they were to older cultures as they are today, but wars threaten people of all cultures and time periods.

Wars do not only come from “religious differences, political beliefs, and ambitious rulers, but also population pressures will play a big role in wars of the future” (Zeaman 37). A country with a swelling population might try to take land from a neighboring country, or an overpopulated country, overwhelmed by poverty and social problems, breaks out into internal problems. Psychologists that have studied animals discovered the more crowded animals are together, the more aggressive they are and more prone to attack one another.

Could such a mechanism operate in humans as well? Another risk for future humans is the utbreak of famines. Agriculture created civilization, but could dependence put an entire civilization at risk? In undeveloped nations where population growth is the highest, crop failures due to drought, excessive rains, or soil erosion can cause people to starve. Scientist who studied the Earth’s core found evidence of an ancient drought that led them to predict “that one region of Equatorial East Africa will suffer a mega drought, possibly lasting decades, in the next fifty to one hundred years” (Zeaman 62). This would be a drought of un-parallel proportions that could deteriorate an already unstable region.

For the human race to become stable to a degree that does not deplenish the Earth’s resources, while having a population large enough to live through any global catastrophes, is needed for continuing existence. Is a world controversial population control policy that mimics China’s coercive one-child policy the solution? In “1965 Chinese women were having six children, now it is down to around one and a half” (Kunzig 48). Though the Chinese will continue this policy, the answer for other nations, especially the United States is a clear no.

A much less controversial and beneficial policy to not only the country of India but becoming a beneficial program to its people is voluntary sterilization. The procedures which are mostly done to women are being changed to be done on the male population. The scalpel vasectomy costs less and is easier on the man than a tubal ligation on a woman. In less than seven minutes, male patients are walking out of the clinics without even a Band- Aid. An incentive fee of a week’s wage for a laborer would be more acceptably viewed by the global population then having your child taken away from you, like in China.

Another way to fight overpopulation in the world’s undeveloped nations where populations incur the most growth is fighting poverty that feeds the world population. Fighting poverty through better education or providing clean water and nutritious food is a step in the right direction. Karl Marx, a nineteenth century communist revolutionary, is another world doom prophesier like Ehrlich that believed “capitalism creates overpopulation” (Gee). Marx has a right to his own views but his predictions seem to show that capitalism is the problem of over population. The U.S and almost all of Europe is close to or under the world average population growth of one hundred and thirty three percent between 1960 and 2011. In fact the “less developed world will account for more than ninety five percent of the future population growth” (Kunzig 50-51). In a study on 41,554 households in India, small but growing groups of one-child families appeared due to “education costs for children attending public or private school. With emphasis these parents have to give their children better opportunities to be successful through a higher education” (Kunzig 36). Will humans become extinct at the hands of overpopulation?

The death of the human race will likely not be because of over population. An asteroid or environmental disaster is a bigger threat and less controllable than overpopulation. A country like America will only be affected by “the population group of fifteen to twenty four being affected by unemployment” (Countries 9) due to the economy suffering from the retirement of so many people at once. Men before the world even hit a billion which happened around the 1800s, were predicting populations of twenty billion people and plagues that would put a dent in the growing global population.

Men such as William Petty, a seventeenth century economist, and Thomas Malthus, an eighteen century priest and economist predicted such events that have not and will not occur. Even predictions from a more modern writer, Paul Ehrlich, did not calculate the innovations of the future to be able to adapt for an ever growing population. Population growth is on the decline but will take a generation before stability can be reached. Even just a little education on the issue can make a difference. If women were to have one less child now, then by 2050 that could have the difference of eight billion rather than ten and a half billion.

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