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The Impact of Overpopulation on the Environment

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Causes of global overpopulation
  • Industrial Revolution Factors
    Medicine advancements
    Agricultural advancements
    Transportation advancements
    Socio-Economical Factors
  • Global consequences of overpopulation by 2050
  • Impact on the environment
    Exhaustion of natural resources and energy waste
    Biodiversity
    Climate Change
    Impact on humanity
    Water resources
    Employment
    Living quality
  • Technological (Engineering and Scientific) and Non-Technical Solution
  • Technological Solutions
    Non-Technical Solutions
  • Personal Opinion on the topic
  • Conclusion

The earth's capacity is estimated to be 9 to 10 billion persons. Every day the earth's population fluctuates as persons die and babies are born. Over the last 2.5 centuries, the population has multiplied sevenfold and is estimated to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. By this estimation, the earth would become overpopulated by 2050. To combat this from happening, technological (engineering and scientific) and non-technical solutions as well as the impact of overpopulation on the environment were proposed and discussed in the essay. Personal views and opinions were also stated. It was concluded that for the solutions proposed to combat overpopulation by 2050, the solutions must take place with immediate effect and be a united effort by the entire global population.

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Introduction

Overpopulation can be described as a condition where a species’ population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological surroundings. Homosapiens consist of the words largest species which covers the majority of the earth's terrain. The average life span of a Homosapien is 70 to 80 years. (Disabled World 2019). When comparing the consumption rates of the earth’s resources between all species, homo-sapiens have the highest. The earth’s population took hundreds of years to reach 1 billion however in a little over 2.5 centuries this figure multiplied sevenfold.

The earth’s carrying capacity is estimated to be 9 to 10 billion people. In the year 2019, the earth’s population is recorded at 7.7 billion. According to a report by the United Nations, the world’s population growth rate peaked in 1965-1970 when it was increasing by 2.1 percent per year, on average. Since then, the pace of global population growth has slowed by half, falling below 1.1 percent per year in 2015-2020. It was estimated that the world’s population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2023, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division 2019). From this estimation, in only 31 years the earth will become overpopulated and have severely depleted resources.

Causes of global overpopulation

Technological advancement globally, with each coming year, has affected humanity greatly in many ways.

Industrial Revolution Factors

Due to the industrial revolution, there were many leaps in the advancement of various fields such as medicine, agriculture, and transportation. (Renewable Resources Coalition 2019)

Medicine advancements

Developments in medicine allowed humanity to overcome diseases that would have previously resulted in deaths, decreasing mortality rates as well as increasing life spans. Advancements in fertility treatments contributed to the increase in birth rates.

Agricultural advancements

In agriculture, better machinery, techniques, and scientific research increased overall production efficiency. Due to improvements such as year-round crops, pesticides, more resilient seed, mechanized harvesting, and improved fishing and livestock methods, more food was produced annually which aided in nourishing the growing world population.

Transportation advancements

As transportation developed to be more accessible between countries, people migrated to more urban countries in search of better opportunities available, reducing the capacity of the intended country.

Socio-Economical Factors

Other factors unrelated to the industrial revolution are socio-economical factors such as lack of proper family planning, poverty, poor sex education, and poor general education. (Renewable Resources Coalition 2019)

Global consequences of overpopulation by 2050

Global consequences of overpopulation by 2050 can be divided into two categories, impact on the environment and impact on humanity.

Impact on the environment

The impact on the environment includes exhaustion of natural resources, energy waste, biodiversity, and climate change.

Exhaustion of natural resources and energy waste

As a result of the earth’s population increasing every coming year, natural resources are being exhausted. The planet has a limited capacity, and the time frame in which it takes to generates raw materials is being outweighed by the consumption of these materials. The environment continues to be degraded by the waste created from energy produced from coal, oil, and natural gas (fossil fuels) as well as the unbridled use of natural resources. (Rinkesh 2019)

Biodiversity

Animal and plant species are being forced into extinction, the water cycle is changing, forests are being destroyed, lands are becoming desert and the earth's surface temperature is increasing rapidly due to large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. Habitats are being destroyed at accelerated rates and biodiversity is being lost.

Climate Change

Pollution, climate change, and destruction of the earth’s terrain, oceans, and atmosphere are also intensifying. Climate change is very serious and very much real. It is caused by the release of greenhouse gases that destroys the earth’s ozone layer which protects the earth's surface from harmful ultraviolet rays. Overpopulation can be directly correlated to climate change. China, India, and United States are the three predominant countries ranked as the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. This is due to their continuous development in their industrial capacities. With 97% of the scientific community agreeing that human activities are changing global temperatures, larger populations may speed up these changes if more is not done to reduce individual carbon footprints on a wide scale. (Renewable Resources Coalition 2019)

Impact on humanity

The impact on humanity includes water resources, employment, and living quality.

Water resources

Roughly 1% of the world’s water is fresh and accessible. The rise in the global population demand for the world’s freshwater supplies is increasing rapidly. This is creating major issues as it is estimated that human demand for freshwater will stand at approximately 70% of what is currently available on earth by 2025. Those living in an underprivileged area with limited access to such water will be placed at greater risks. (Renewable Resources Coalition 2019)

Employment

The job sector has a limited capacity and vacancies, therefore the rise in population would result in a rising unemployment rate leading to a spike in crime and social revolt. With the demand for resources increasing and fewer resources, the cost of living will become more expensive. (Rinkesh 2019)

Living quality

The quality of living standards is being diminished as growth in the global population places stress on vital resources for survival. Overpopulation would make accessing a consistent supply of food, water, energy, shelter, security, and healthcare very difficult. As a consequence, the poor would become poorer, and eventually, the life expectancy would begin to decrease. Human diseases would become more predominant as healthcare lessens and poor communities become more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Living conditions would become overcrowded. (Madaan 2019)

Technological (Engineering and Scientific) and Non-Technical Solution

As the global issues mentioned escalate, it is necessary to put into place solutions to help reduce or even stop some of these issues before it is too late. Therefore to combat overpopulation by 2050, the following technological and non-technical solutions are proposed.

Technological Solutions

With the need for energy on the rise, more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions should be implemented. Such as shifting towards renewable energy sources (eg. Wind and solar) and away from nonrenewable energy sources (eg. fossil fuels) which will aid in the reduction of energy waste. As the world becomes crowded, resources should be used more sensibly.

Buildings should be designed to be more energy-efficient. The design could consist of air channels that allow buildings to regulate temperature passively, wastewater systems that allow buildings’ wastewater to be reused and even generate its own power. Temperature regulating materials such as compressed earth blocks could be used to reduce temperature and construction costs. (Goodier 2013). When considering land space as a factor, the energy-efficient building could be built as multiple-story buildings.

The food production and packaging sector is also a large contributor to the pollution of the earth's terrain and oceans. Waste produced from purchasing and using prepackaged items is ending up in the oceans and destroying ecosystems and harming ocean wildlife. Even though prepacked food is convenient, the waste produced takes years to break down. This is why growing home gardens, recycling, and shopping from wholesale stores which allow persons to either bring their containers from home or purchase reusable containers are the direction in which the population needs to lean towards.

In addition to food production, vertical and rooftop farms can be applied. As the population grows, the food demand will increase while the space required for agriculture remains the same. Cities may even need to grow their own food. Vertical farms are hydroponic farms in vertical channels which require less space while producing goods. Rooftop farms have already been implemented on some apartment buildings in cities around the world. Natalie Jeremijenko, an environmental health professor at New York University, designed farming pods for rooftops that can be integrated with the housing below to improve indoor air quality, treat wastewater, and regulate temperatures. (Goodier 2013)

Another very important issue that needs addressing is the accessibility of portable water. Nearly 800 million persons worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. (Goodier 2013) Implementing water desalination plants on coastlines throughout the world would allow portable water to be produced and become accessible to the population. This would result in a decrease in the demand for freshwater.

Composting toilets can be considered as a way to reduce human waste and the need for commercial fertilizer. It uses the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. Properly composted human waste does not contain any pathogens or viruses and is considered to be a nutrient-rich fertilizer. It also allows for the preservation of local water quality. (LetsgoGreen 2016)

Non-Technical Solutions

Some non-technical solutions to combat overpopulation by 2050 are to: promote sex education, promote proper family planning, increase access to contraceptives, make contraceptives free, change government policies that offer benefits to people who have more children, encourages adoption, and empower women. (O'Donnel 2019).

Personal Opinion on the topic

Personally, I believe that the engineering, scientific and non-technical solutions stated previously could solve the problem posed. However, it can only make a difference if the solutions stated are applied efficiently, properly with standards and guidelines, and with immediate effect.

I believe that there needs to be a gap in the growth of the earth’s population to allow the earth to rejuvenate. The rate of human consumption of the earth’s resources heavily outweighs the earth’s ability to refresh its resources. Human greed is one of the reasons I believe the earth is dying in a sense. A person’s desire for more than they require is resulting in the earth’s resources being exhausted. I suggest that people should only use the resources they need and not want and probably the resources would be depleted as quickly.

The world’s population is so divided and every country is fighting for power over each other. Therefore I suggest that the world’s population make a united decision to protect the planet so that there is a suitable environment for future generations.

In my opinion, one way of combating overpopulation is unbiased culling of the current population. This may seem like a cruel way of dealing with the problem, however as the earth’s population reaches its ultimate peak persons will begin to die of hunger and malnutrition more quickly as resources run thin. Even with the implementation of renewable energy, sustainable living, and sensible use of the earth’s resources, the population would continue to increase and the problem would just become more complicated. That is why there needs to be a gap in the population even if there would be cultural issues. In my view, even if the earth’s resources are allowed to be replenished to a point where humans can continue to sustain life comfortably, the population would still need to be reduced drastically.

A video composed by the United Nation in 1992, depicts a fictional story of a species living on another planet which devours it literally until the planet ceased to exist. The species in the video is known as Nguyamyam, who was fond of eating, living on the planet called Pakaskas. The planet was made completely out of food such as jello mountains, cheese bun houses and chocolate seas, and much more. The video shows how the Nguyamyam devoured their precious resources without consideration for the future. One of the Nguyamyam named Inggolok noticed what was happening to his planet and tried to warn his fellow Ngyamyam that they were stripping their planet of its resources and not allowing the resources to replenish. Everyone ignored him and continued without care. In the end, Inggolok left Pakaskas in search of a new home planet. Having found a new home planet and watching his old planet disappear before his eyes, Inggolok told his family that they should protect their new planet from what happened to his old planet. (United Nations Television 1992)

This video showed that if resources are used without consideration for the future, there would not be any. This can be compared to what is currently happening on earth. That is why it is just as important as reducing the population, to rebuild resources since it goes hand in hand in protecting and preserving planet earth.

Conclusion

The possibility of the earth becoming overpopulated by 2050 is very high. For the solutions both technological and non-technical to combat overpopulation by 2050, the solutions must be adapted worldwide and with immediate effect. Even though the global population may have different views on the matter, it does not change the fact that the planet on which all humans live is slowly being destroyed. That is why the entire earth’s population needs to unite to help protect and preserve the earth. That is the only way the human race could go on as a species of planet earth for many generations from today.

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