Addressing The Overpopulation Problem
Planet Earth is 8,000 miles wide and 24,000 miles circumference. Considering we humans are at a population of 6.8 billion people, and adding a million and a half people every week, things are starting to look crowded. It’s time our species acknowledged that we have an overpopulation problem. We must start living a different way – its no longer a question of maintaining our standard of living, but of surviving on a planet that is losing its basic ecological infrastructure. Difficult questions need to be asked: do we need population control? How can we attain zero population growth? What are the causes, the effects, and the solutions to the exponential human birth rate, and how do we overcome the overpopulation problem?
The hominid family (that’s us) has inhabited Earth for five to six million years, according to the fossil record. Hominids evolved from genus to genus several times before the homo genus appeared a million and a half to two million years ago. We continued to evolve as a species before reaching homo sapiens – sensible human. This occurred approximately 150,000 years ago.
Hominids have populated planet Earth for five to six million years. In contrast, Mother Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the Universe is 13.7 billion years old. During the time of the hominids we have been almost exclusively hunters and gatherers. Likewise, for the 150,000 years that we home sapiens have been around, we too have been hunters and gatherers. It was only 12,000 years ago that we began domesticating plants and animals. Since then, we’ve depended upon agriculture to fuel our population growth – this is known as the Agrarian Age.
The Industrial Revolution And Population Growth
Around 200 years ago, in the late 1700s, the Industrial Age began in England. This correlates to an exponential leap in the population growth rate (not that industrialization has anything to do with the overpopulation problem…). By 1850, it had spread to Western Europe, and the United States. Over time, it spread to other industrial countries. About fifty years ago, we evolved from the industrial age to the post-industrial Information age we live in today, once again corresponding to a leap in the population growth rate. This age of information technology allows us to disseminate information almost anywhere instantly, and reveals enormous inequalities in the standard of living between inhabitants of the information age and the rest of the world.
Measuring the effect of these cultural shifts from agriculture to information reveals a startling trend in human birth rates, an exponential growth rate that culminates in the overpopulation problem we see today. Two thousand years ago, at the beginning of the common era, our population was at 250 million people. This stayed the same for the next 500 years. By 1000 C.E. our population had doubled, a 100% increase, which meant our planet was now inhabited by 500 million people. We reached 750 million people around 1500 C.E and we reached a billion people in 1800, which coincides with the Industrial Revolution. Production capacity took off with industry to power it, and the population growth rate increased exponentially. Between 1800 and 1900 we added 600 million people. By the year 1900, we were at 1.6 billion people. By 1960, only sixty years later, we nearly doubled that as we reached three billion.
In 1960, with three billion people, we humans had been breeding for 150,000 years. And yet, it only took us thirty-nine years to double that number! In 1999, the human population reached 6 billion people. It is estimated that by 2050 we will be at over 9.2 billion people. Folks, this is something to think about. We might have an overpopulation problem on our hands.
How much are we taxing Earth’s carrying capacity?
This exponential increase in birth rate depletes natural resources faster than they can be replaced, lowering the standard of living and creating economic pressures both at home and throughout the rest of the world.
The human overpopulation problem leads to consequences that are widespread and potentially catastrophic. This unsustainable population growth rate has created a complex and interrelated web of global environmental problems. Our insatiable demand for food, fuel, building materials, and useless junk is depleting irreplaceable natural resources – forests, fisheries, range lands, croplands, plant and animal species, jungles, glaciers, and entire ecosystems. The whole ocean is toxic. In an effort to survive, people are simply wiping out everything else, destroying the ecological infrastructure that gave us the conditions living conditions in the first place. We’re losing our life support, people. This is a transformation of the planet, called the sixth great wave of extinction in the history of life on Earth – but this is the first that is caused by human overconsumption. We must rein in our overpopulation problem – it may destroy us if we don’t pay attention.
We now use our formidable technology to drain aquifers and lower water tables. We systematically pollute our air, our water, our soil, and our food chain. We deplete the stratospheric ozone that shields us harmful ultraviolet radiation. And we are experiencing the effects of global warming – heat waves, droughts, dying coral reefs, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, unstable weather patterns, rapid spread of diseases, and accelerated species extinction. Human overpopulation has thrown the planet out of balance, and we all await the consequences.
The Solution To The Problem
We desperately need a solution to the world overpopulation problem. Our continued survival requires a healthy and functioning global ecosystem, on in which humans live in harmony with all other forms of life. We must educate ourselves, recognizing the problem and work together towards a solution. We are children on this planet, just learning how to live in harmony with one another, and we face severe challenges that require a radical shift in our perspective and our behavior. Our teacher is the natural world from which we emerged; we must learn to align ourselves to the teachings of our planet and live in a manner that supports life. There is no alternative if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences.
With so many of us on this fragile planet, and with the addition of so many more every week, we can simply not afford to relate to one another or to our environment in unsustainable or depleting ways. The global overpopulation problem needs to be resolved, or nature will resolve it for us in a manner that we would not ask for. It is time to live in an entirely new way – we must embrace change. We must learn to live together, in harmony with one another and in harmony with the natural world. Its not to late to change – let us learn to bend, that we may not break.