Population Control: Effects on the Global Environment Dependence of Man on the Environment March16, 2009 Population Control: Effects on the Global Environment The debate of population control is by no means a new phenomenon. Since early times it has been on the minds of many people. Population lies at the heart of this debate and while there is no argument that humans are increasing daily, the question arises in whether this is a problem or rather a natural occurrence which will level off on its own.
The thing that makes this so hard to figure out is that there are many examples for both cases and all of them are very plausible. This is by no means a problem with only one aspect; rather it involves the entire world and our way of life. It encompasses environment, food, water, air, ground, and our (that means human) interactions. Very few would doubt these days that we face a very serious environmental crisis. Increasingly the world is plagued by pollution of air, seas, land, food and drinking water. We live in a world of ozone depletion, deforestation and global warming.
The overall growth of the human population in the last 2000 years has been a J-shaped growth. This can also be expressed as an exponential growth. A big question that can only be answered in time is how this population growth will slow down or stop. The planet can only handle so many humans before the effects of overpopulation send the environment into an unrecoverable tailspin of degradation. “The human population reached 6. 1 billion in 2000. The United Nations projects that world population for the year 2050 could range from 7. billion to 10. 9 billion, depending on the actions we take today” (Shah, 2002). The question remains, and is often argued by both sides. Is limiting population growth a key factor in protecting the global environment? On the “yes” side of the issue, “supporters argue that stabilizing the world population is central to preventing overconsumption of environmental resources” (Easton, 2006). Humans, unlike any other animal on the planet, have the ability to effect the environment in which they live.
Problems with air pollution, nutrient depletion in farmlands, acid rain, global warming, and a host of other environmental factors have lead to the increased need for environmental cleanup. “As the 21st century begins, numbers of people and rising levels of consumption per capita are depleting natural resources and degrading the environment” (Shah, 2002). According to some, the human population growth is the number one threat to the world’s environment. Each person requires energy, space and resources. With an ever growing population, there is a list of environmental impacts. Currently, 434 million people face either water stress or scarcity” (Brown, 2005). If this rate continues, more and more people will face water scarcity. Fisheries are already being fished to their capacity. The number of forest scarce countries is expected to double. Global warming is an ever growing problem, and a growing population would only make it worse. “Worldwide, the percentage of the population with access to clean freshwater increased during the 1990s. Nevertheless, the rapid population growth, currently an estimated 1. billion people lack potable water – 20% more than 1990” (Shah, 2002). Overpopulation is degrading the Earth’s ocean and other water sources, and by doing so will only lessen our water supply for the future; it will also hurt the animals living in the water. With fewer people there is less pollution released, leaving more time for the pollution to be degraded. Even though the two thirds of Earth is water, not all of it is available for use. “By 2025, at least 37 nations could experience a severe demand for water” (Brown, 2005).
Besides water, overpopulation is polluting the air we breathe, and causing many unwanted results as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. “Air pollution, already a serious problem in many cities, is becoming worse as urban populations grow and the number of motor vehicles rise” (Shah, 2002). Since the 1950’s, carbon emission have increased fourfold. When combined with growing world population, these increased per capita emissions accelerated the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere and, thus future global warming.
Besides pollution, over population can also cause many other problems to the world. Will there be enough food to go around? In many countries over the past, the food growth industry has lagged behind in the population growth. “Today, about 3. 8 billion people, nearly two thirds of the world’s population live in low income food deficit countries” (Brown, 2005). In these countries, millions know hunger, malnutrition, and even starvation when harvests fail, unless other countries provide emergency food aid in time. Many low income food deficit countries will live in countries that have food deficits today.
More people need food, causing land to be used un-properly. In addition to pollution and the effects on world hunger, a similar problem occurs. “Biodiversity, the variety of living things, also makes the world a more beautiful and exciting place to live” (Cunningham, 2008). Our biodiversity is endangered. Human activities already have pushed many plant and animal species into extinction. “Biomes most likely occur in the absence of human disturbance or other disruptions, according to average annual temperature and precipitation” (Cunningham, 2008).
The benefits of biodiversioty are endless. Our food comes from other organisms, rare species provide medicines and it can also support our ecosystem. Over population has proved to be a problem with biodiversity because we have inhabited lands that serve to be crucial to other species, causing them to be extinct. In the long run, all of the benefits mentioned above, ate depleted because of human population. On the other side of the argument, it can be said that trying to reduce the population or even put a cap on how many children one couple can have, is almost a breach in freedom.
Many believe that the population “problem” is a hoax. “It is true that world population has tripled in the past century. But the explanation is both simple and benign: First, life expectancy – possibly the best overall numerical measure of human well being – had almost doubled in the last 100 years, and the years we are tacking on to life are both more active and more productive” (Easton, 2006). They claim that the government should have no bearing on the choice you make on how many children to have. “The movement also poses a serious threat to freedom” (Easton, 2006).
Decisions on how many children you will have or whether to have them at all are out private decisions. This imposes on human rights. “It is also hard to argue that population growth is the cause of the problems when many types of pollution are higher in advanced countries than in underdeveloped countries where population growth is much higher” (The Green Left Online, 1994) Additionally, where it is industries and companies which produce toxic wastes and emit ozone-depleting substances, citing overpopulation as the cause seems a little unauthentic.
Birth control is also a major issue. “People will decide not to use artificial contraceptives for a number of reasons, not just lack of access. There are fears of side effects or the risk of infertility, insensitive staff at clinics, wanting more children, as well as cultural ideas and practices which discourage women from using contraception or taking on roles outside the home” (The Green Left Online, 1994). In regards to world hunger, it is difficult to pin point the ever growing population on the problem. The argument that “overpopulation” is the cause of the environmental crisis has as little validity as the claim that “overpopulation” is the cause of hunger. For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization calculated that in 1985, world production of cereals and root crops — the primary sources of food — was enough to guarantee twice the minimum requirement of protein and calories for every person on the planet. Yet in that same year, 40 million people died from hunger and a further 340 million suffered from malnutrition” (The Green Left Online, 1994).
Populationist strategies are not about choice. They are concerned with reducing numbers by any means, even those that are blatantly coercive and in violation of human rights. We can’t solve the environmental crisis unless we are clear about the causes. Overpopulation is not the cause. It is a symptom, although a very significant one. Time and time again it has been shown that where women are empowered through such means as education and where living standards are increased, population growth rates fall.
The environmental crises cannot be solved without changing the global economic and social system which produces poverty and inequality. Obviously the size of the human population has effected the environment by stressing the land to produce enough food to feed us all. Up to now we have had a degrading effect on the environment. It should our role as human beings to take care of the environment that we need to live. This is a necessary step in order to prolong our survival on the planet Earth. References Brown, L. (2005).
Outgrowing the Earth. New York: W. W Norton Company. Cunningham, W. P. (2008). Principles of Environmental Science. Boston: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. Easton, T. A. (2006). Taking Sides. Boston: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. Shah, A. (2002, June 13). Global Issues. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Global Issues Web Site: http://www. globalissues. org/issue/197/human-population The Green Left Online. (1994, September 21). Retrieved March 21, 2009, from The Green Left Online Web site: http://www. greenleft. org. au/1994/160/8797