Overpopulation

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Too many people use bikes, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Central Australian landscape. Australia has fewer humans for it's size because it has mostly infertile soils.[1][2]

Overpopulation means that the population of a place is too high. Specifically, there are too many organisms of a certain species in a habitat, so the number of organisms living there is larger than the carrying capacity of the habitat. The habitat cannot support these numbers over time without hurting itself.

The term "overpopulation" is most often used to refer to the number of humans living on Earth.[3]

Human overpopulation[change | change source]

The world's population has greatly increased in the last 50 years. The main reason is the reduction in death rate, especially for infants and children. The result is that many more people survive to the age when reproduction is possible.

  • Reduction of death rate
  1. By reducing the effect of infectious diseases
    1. widespread use of antibiotics against bacterial diseases
    2. increased use of vaccination against some viral diseases
    3. wider provision of clean water (modern sewage systems etc.), which reduces parasitic diseases.
  2. By increasing food production
    1. the world-wide use of DDT, and later anti-pest treatments.
    2. the invention of high-yielding varieties of crops and later, genetically-engineered crops.[4]

Steve Jones, head of the biology department at University College London, has said,

"Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now".[5]

Against this background, the reduction in fertility has had little effect, except perhaps in China.[6] The use of the contraceptive pill has transformed the lives of women in rich countries, but has made little impact in poor ones.

Human population growth rate in percent, with the variables of births, deaths, immigration, and emigration 2006
World population 1950–2010

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past two centuries has raised concerns that humans are beginning to overpopulate the Earth. The planet may not be able to sustain larger numbers of people. The population has been growing since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1400.[7] At the beginning of the 19th century, it had reached roughly 1,000,000,000 (one billion). Rapid population growth occurred all over the world, especially after World War II. By 1960, the world population had reached 3 billion, and it doubled to 6 billion over the next four decades. As of 2011, the estimated annual growth rate was 1.10%, down from a peak of 2.2% in 1963, and the world population stood at roughly 6.9 billion. In 2014, it is over seven billion.

Current projections show a steady decline in the population growth rate, with the population expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the year 2040[8][9] and 2050.[10]

The scientific consensus is that the present population growth and increase in use of resources is a threat to the ecosystem. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth called the growth in human numbers "unprecedented", and stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, were made worse by the population expansion.[11] At the time, the world population stood at 5.5 billion, and optimistic scenarios predicted a peak of 7.8 billion by 2050, a number that current estimates show will be reached around 2030.[12][13]

Loss of forests[change | change source]

What were forests have often been turned into farmland. In so doing many species of animals and plants are wiped out, and the CO2 levels in the atmosphere goes up. This is a direct consequence of human population increase.[14][15][16]

Potential solutions[change | change source]

The solutions usually suggested are better education and widespread free contraception (birth control). Many pregnancies are unplanned (40%) or unwanted.[17]

There are powerful forces working against birth control. Religious and traditional beliefs often favor large families. Few governments have tackled the problem seriously.

Related pages[change | change source]

Further reading[change | change source]

  • "Morgan Freeman on the 'tyranny of agriculture' and the doomed human race". Ecorazzi.
  • "The Worst Mistake of the Human Race" (PDF). Jared Diamond, UCLA School of Medicine.
  • "Agriculture: Ending the world as we know it" (PDF). John Feeney. The Zhephyr.

References[change | change source]

  1. Kelly, Karina (13 September 1995). "A Chat with Tim Flannery on Population Control". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010. "Well, Australia has by far the world's least fertile soils".
  2. Grant, Cameron (August 2007). "Damaged Dirt" (PDF). The Advertiser. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2010. Australia has the oldest, most highly weathered soils on the planet.
  3. "Overpopulation". www.tititudorancea.org.
  4. Global food crisis looms Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land. Guardian.co.uk. 31 August 2007.
  5. Leading geneticist Steve Jones says human evolution is over, The Times, 7 October 2008.
  6. "World Birth rate – Demographics". Indexmundi.com. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  7. World population estimates
  8. "World Population Clock — Worldometers". Worldometers.info. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  9. "International Data Base (IDB) — World Population". Census.gov. 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  10. "World Population Prospects:The 2008 Revision" (PDF). Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. June 2009.
  11. "Register (Login)". IAP. Archived from the original on 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-14.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-04-21. Retrieved 2010-12-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. Netherlands Again Number One Donor to United Nations Population Fund. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
  14. Alexander Wood 2000. The root causes of biodiversity loss. Routledge. ISBN 978-1853836992
  15. Vidal, John (March 15, 2019). The rapid decline of the natural world is a crisis even bigger than climate change. The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 16, 2019. [1]
  16. Stokstad, Erik 2019. Landmark analysis documents the alarming global decline of nature. Science. AAAS. Retrieved 8 February 2021. For the first time at a global scale, the report has ranked the causes of damage. Topping the list, changes in land use—principally agriculture—that have destroyed habitat. Second, hunting and other kinds of exploitation. These are followed by climate change, pollution, and invasive species, which are being spread by trade and other activities. Climate change will likely overtake the other threats in the next decades, the authors note. Driving these threats are the growing human population, which has doubled since 1970 to 7.6 billion, and consumption. Per capita of use of materials is up 15% over the past 5 decades. [2]
  17. Population growth driving climate change, poverty: experts. Agence France-Presse, 21 September 2009.

Other websites[change | change source]