Custom Essay Meister Overpopulation In The World
Overpopulation: The World's Problem
The world's population will soon reach a level where there will not be enough resources to sustain life as we know it. Growth must be checked to avoid this catastrophe. Many environmental, social, and economic problems either stem from or are increased in magnitude by the overpopulation problem. With an exponentially increasing population, the problems created by overpopulation grow correspondingly. To ensure population stability not only in the increasingly wealthy third-world areas, but also in the industrialized areas, countries and individuals must work together to achieve zero population growth.
The earth does not contain enough resources to indefinitely sustain the current enormous population growth. For instance, there is a limited area of arable land and living space. China, home to 1.2 billion people or 1/5 the world's population, is an excellent example of the kinds of problems that arise in an increasingly crowded society. Trying to increase the standard of living of its people, China has industrialized and the economy has grown (Hanson). This increase in wealth has increased the demand for food in China. The demand is so great that China went from exporting 8 million tons of grain in 1992 to becoming a net importer of 16 million tons of grain in 1994 (China News Digest). This causes a world-wide grain shortage which raises prices, which in turn puts food out of reach of even more people.
In many areas, there is simply not enough food to feed the growing populations. Each day 40,000 children die from malnutrition and its related diseases. 150 million children in the world suffer from poor health due to food shortages (Turbak, 20).
Another resource, which cannot keep up with an increasing population, is water. The supply of fresh water is limited. The recent California drought exemplifies this problem. Conflicts ensue between farmers, municipalities, environmentalists, and others over water rights. Recently, environmentalists battled with Los Angeles over the diversion of water from Mono lake to the LA basin. The Mono Lake incident and the aqueduct fights highlight some of the conflicts that arise over water. Creating fresh water can be expensive. A swelling population may have to turn to desalinization for their clean water. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is the only country for which this process has had any success. However, Saudi Arabia does not require the vast amounts of agricultural water that California and other areas need. Another possible solution to the fresh water shortage is towing icebergs from the polar caps. This is just too costly for many areas.
In addition to depleting resources, overpopulation increases environmental problems. Pollution is an environmental problem whose magnitude is increased by overpopulation. As more people drive more cars, use more electricity, throw away more trash, and cut down more trees, the environmental problems we experience are greatly increased. The earth could easily sustain a small population of highly polluting people. But as more people such as ourselves pollute, massive problems occur. Pollution is magnified in developing nations. As those nations with larger growing populations become richer, their pollution increases with their wealth. Developing nations often promote industries that pollute to compete economically. These industries are less tightly regulated in order to stimulate growth.
Besides causing the environmental strains on the earth, overpopulation causes a large number of the social problems in today's society. One example of this is described in the recent study by Ohio State University showing that children whose family sizes were larger did worse in school. "The research, to be published in October's American Sociological Review, found that as family size increases, parents talk less to each child about school, have lower education expectations, save less for college and have fewer educational materials available" (CAPS).
Each individual's political power is reduced with increased population. As the population increases, each representative in the US and state congresses (as well as senators) represents a wider segment of the population. This problem was initially addressed by increasing the number of representatives. However, when the number of US representatives reached 435, the sheer numbers became unimaginable and led to a cap on the number of representatives. In Lincoln's time, there were 185,000 residents in a congressional district. Today, there are about 600,000 people in each district (Oberlink). The only alternative would be increasing the number of representatives, however this would only decrease congresses' efficiency.
Social funding per capita is also reduced when the population grows. Again, California provides an excellent example. In 1990 there were 5.7 million children enrolled in California's K-12 schools, while there will be 7.9 million in 2000 (Bouvier 41). "Our secondary school population is growing by 177,000 a year. The Dept. of Education projects that 35,333 new classrooms, or approx. 1,399 K-12 schools will be needed by the year 2000. That is almost a school a day. California already has some of the largest class sizes in the nation (Phillips)." With this growth in school needs, the state cannot meet the budget requirements. This has significantly contributed toward the state's deficit, as well as reduced the quality of education.
In the 1980's, there was a 10% population density increase in the US. This led to a 20% decrease in housing affordability. The supply has not kept up with the demand for housing, which caused the real estate boom. This causes continually growing urban communities such as Los Angeles, which has experienced problems due to its sheer massiveness (Johnson).
The traffic problems we face daily are another result of overpopulation. Just in California, 300,000 hours are wasted in traffic congestion each year at an estimated annual cost of over 892 million dollars. In addition, these idiling motors add to the pollution problem (Oberlink).
Many people feel that efforts to stop the rising population are unnecessary. They feel the population is under control and, in effect, the population bomb has fizzed. Ben Wattenberg, in The Birth Dearth, cites that a shrinking population will put developed nations at a severe disadvantage. It will cause military, economic, politic, and cultural weaknesses in relation to other countries.
People against population controls cite statistics in their favor. According to the 1994 US Census, the fertility rate of 59 countries is below 2.1 births per female which is the number of children per family needed to maintain the population. China is down to 1.8, and Spain is down to 1.4 (Verburg). These people also claim Africa is experiencing shortages of laborers, even though they reject technology because of the reduced labor it requires.
Anti-population control advocates feel that the resource problems may not be as bad as earlier expected. Since 1960, the world's food supply per capita has increased 27% and the food production in developing nation has increased 20%. The world's oil reserves have increased from 100 billion cubic meters in 1980 to 158 billion cubic meters in 1993. Only 50% of the world's arable land is used. Grain production increased 2.1% in the 80's, well above the 1.4% necessary to feed the increasing population (Verburg). According to the UN, the world's population may stabilize at 7.5 billion in 2015.
Although opponents to population stabilization cite statistics in their favor, the overwhelming majority of statistics point toward a severe problem. One in four births in the developing world outside China is unwanted (Verburg). It took 123 years, from 1804 to 1927 for the world to produce its second billion people, yet it took just thirteen years, from 1974 to 1987, to produce the fifth billion (UN Population Division). There are three more people in the United States every second with nine births and three deaths every two seconds (Universal Almanac, 173). In 1960 Europe was the most densely populated continent. By 1991 Asia surpassed Europe's denseness with 176 persons per square mile while Europe only had 168 persons per square mile. Americans can barely feel this squeeze with only 43 persons per square mile ("Population," World Book Encyclopedia). If the population continues to grow at current rates with no further decline (a highly unlikely scenario), there will be 694 billion people on the Earth by 2150 (Verburg).
The Catholic Church represents major religious opposition to controlled population. The Church's official stand is against any birth control whatsoever. They believe God should plan families. The problem includes Catholics obeying John Paul II's Human Vitae, the church using its political power in stopping abortion and birth control advances, and protesting the discussion of family planning at world forums such as the UN Women's conferences (Ehrlich, 22).
Zero Population Growth is the foremost American activist organization for population control. They cite several solutions for the population problem including family planning services, international awareness, population education, improving women's status, and economic incentives. Many of these solutions have been implemented in various countries with success. These are easy solutions with few adverse side-effects.
The Chinese government has been able to control population by creating economic incentives for families with less than two children. With 1/5 of the world's population and only 7% of the land, population checks were badly needed. Population control was achieved using education, government propaganda, and community pressures. For instance, a couple promising to have only one child receives a one-time reward of money and rice. If that child does not live to maturity, the couple is allowed another. The child will receive a private plot of 70 square meters of land, compared to 50 for a child in a larger family (Mings, 479).
Similar techniques could be implemented in the United States by slowly removing the tax write-off for more than 2 children. Families will not experience extreme economic hardship if the decline were gradual enough. Moreover, government revenue could increase. An example of such a solution would be amending the current US H.R. 6, a middle-class tax cutting bill, to limit the $500-per-child tax credit to two children.
Birth control and family planning is another excellent way of slowing the surging population growth. Japan is a crowded nation the size of California with a population equal to about half the US population. Population controls were badly needed. Condoms have proven to be an extremely successful way of slowing the growth. With dedicated stores, such as Condomania, and aggressive advertising, condom usage reached 547 million in 1991. This is almost as much as the 561 million the US used with twice the population.
Another factor attributing to the decrease in population growth in Japan is the stressful working conditions. Men concentrate heavily on work and less on recreational activities. Because of the resulting high stress levels, overall sexual activity has declined and the sperm count with it. These factors, coupled with the high condom usage, has slowed Japanese population growth. The slowed growth has resulted in a temporary aging of the population, which creates minor problems, but is unavoidable in any fix to population growth (Watanabe).
Population growth is slowed as women's rights are increased. This is evident in developed nations where fewer births occur as the woman's role in society changes. Elevating women out of their lower-class status in many nations will greatly aid progress. As women gain economic, political, and reproductive power in today's industrialized nations, birth rates drop dramatically and now most of western Europe is at or below replacement level.
Finally, all the people of the world must be made aware of the situation. The problem is not popularized in the media as much as other problems which stem from overpopulation such as the environment, AIDS, and lung cancer. Children and adults are well informed on how to help the environment, how to avoid AIDS, and that smoking is bad for their health. But they are not well informed about all of the problems of overpopulation. Overpopulation information needs to be more widespread than it currently is. This can be reasonably achieved with information in TV segments and in science and social studies classes.
While less developed countries face the biggest problems, solutions also need to be implemented here in the US. In California, the fertility rate grew from 1.947 in 1982 to 2.480 in 1989 (Bouvier 13). Educating the public will ease California's population growth.
Successful steps have been made in fighting the problem. The first step, recognizing the problem, was reached by Thomas Malthus with An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. Malthus pointed out that population tends to grow at an exponential rate while the food production grows at a geometric rate. Thus population growth must be checked. He mentioned "positive checks" such as war, famine, and disease, and "preventative checks" such as celibacy and contraception ("Population," Encarta).
In 1968 Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb. They were the first to popularize how serious the problem had become. While incorrectly predicting short term large-scale famine and plague, the book awakened the world to the upcoming problems.
Today, the United Nations Population Fund is collecting information on the problem. Events such as the UN Women's conference in support of family planning and birth control have raised the status of women, an important step in reducing population. Family planning was not even on the agenda in the 1972 conference, but it was stressed in the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, as well as the 1994 Women's Conference (Marshall).
With an impending crisis looming over the horizon, the afore outlined steps must be followed to ease the population problem and the many other problems which are directly related to it. When people are educated to the benefits of limiting family size, they respond with lower birth rates. Education, coupled with economic pressure, will end the overpopulation problem and ease many of the other problems faced by today's society.
Bouvier, Leon. Fifty Million Californians? Washington, D.C.: Federation for American Immigration Reform, 1991.
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Ehrlich, Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich. The Population Explosion. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
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Johnson, Howard. "Overpopulation Linked to U.S. Prosperity Decline." 1995, August 14. [Online]. Available: http://www.iti.com/iti/kzpg/press1.html.
Marshall, Alex. "Busting the boom: Population control works; but continued progress needs more funding." World Paper. April 1991: 11-12 S.I.R.S. "Population" 29.
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There are many issues today that pose a threat to our way of life. Overpopulation is a serious problem that will eventually have an extremely negative effect on our countries, and our planet. The problems that arise due to overpopulation could even prove to a fatal epidemic that will eventually wipeout the entire human race. Oftentimes this issue is overlooked due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the subject; or, simply because most of us are so blessed that we are not affected first hand by the problems it is causing this very second. Overpopulation, in my belief, is an enormously serious global issue that should be identified, analyzed, and controlled immediately.
The term overpopulation literally means that the number of things (in this case: humans) that depend on resources for survival is significantly larger than the amount of resources available to them. Today our planet is experiencing the effects of multiplying citizens because of the obstacles the environment is being forced to take on. Many believe that Earth is presently occupied by to many people (Stefoff 16). Year after year the population multiplies faster and faster. “Currently the world population is growing by 80 million people a year” (Hohm, Jones, and Lio 116). Presently, there are about 6 billion people occupying this planet, and by the middle of the approaching century the U.N. predicts that the count will reach 9.4 billion (Mitchell). Both developed and developing countries are at risk of the dangerous problems that overpopulation can and will create. “Nearly sixty percent of the increase will occur in Asia…China’s population will swell from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion, India’s is projected to soar from 930 million to 1.53 billion. In the Middle East and North Africa, the population will probably more than double, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, it will triple” (Mitchell).
“Population is determined by the interplay of two factors. One is the birth rate, or the number or people being born, and the other is death rate, or the number who die. The different between the two is call the rate of natural increase” (Stefoff 25). If the number of deaths is less than the number of births then the population is growing larger; consequently, if the number of deaths is greater than the number of births then the population is decreasing (Stefoff 25). A major factor that is sometimes overlooked is the idea that rapid growth will occur due to the larger size of the new reproductive generation in comparison with the much less past reproductive generations. This means that in the next twenty-five years about 3 billion people will begin the reproductive phase of their lives; while only approximately 1.8 billion people will withdraw from that stage of life (Mitchell). Uncontrolled, immature reproduction is a leading cause of overcrowding. Diseases and medical advances that cause a decrease in deaths are also aspects that affect population. Education, economic activity, and changes in standards of living all play a part in the increase of population (Commoner).
Different concepts and appearances in our surroundings trick people into thinking that any problems with overpopulation are non-existent. Nations are separated into two categories: those with fast population increases, and those with slower population increases (Ehrlich 17). This division among nations is presented in the following quote: “An increasingly divided human community will degrade the global environment further as fraction within it struggle to dominate each other and exploit what remains of the nature’s resources. Political leaders must realize instead that we will need to build a compassionate sense of human community in a world scale to match the global environmental crisis that confronts everyone” (Hohm, Jones, and Lio 137). The world has enough wealth to make it appear that there are no population issues, but the wealth does not do any good because of its uneven distribution. The less fortunate nations have a greater birth rate because of poverty (Commoner). Poverty stricken nations will double in human count in twenty years if they continue at their present rate. One hundred twenty years is the doubling time for more prosperous nations. This happens because of social and economic differences between the two; such as, human misery, diseases, and standards of living (Ehrlich 42).
I would now like to introduce the Malthusian theories. Thomas Robert Malthus was one of the first to study population (Stefoff 34). “A population eventually becomes to big for its resource base, and then famine, war, and disease will impose population limits” (Stefoff 34). He has his own theory about population that states as follows: “The power of population is indefinately greater than the power in the Earth to produce substances for man.” This is further explained by his belief that populations increase geometrically (1-2-4-8-16), while resources can only grow arithmetically (1-2-3-4-5) (). This theory is obviously logical simply because without food everyone will become malnutritioned and eventually starve to death. Food shortage gets a very small amount of attention among well-fed Americans because “we” have no reason to be aware or concerned about the danger that the shortages promote. Now that is becoming a more serious issue people are slowly gaining awareness thanks to media such as news coverage (Ehrlich 21). Malnutrition is a problem in all parts of the world. Each year 40-60 million humans in underdeveloped countries die of starvation or illnesses related to it. Lack of nutrition can cause sicknesses such as anemia, rickets, pellagra as well. Poor immunity is also an outcome that puts people in danger of catching things like influenza, tetanus, measles, and tuberculosis (Stefoff 54). Many different circumstances and situation account for the rise and fall of population numbers.
Along with rapid population growth come dangerous environmental problems. Population growth has contributed to every threat to our ecosystem. Overpopulation is the root of environmental deteriorations such as: global warming, the ozone holes, rainforest destruction, pollution, and many more. Global warming is the planet’s overall temperature rising because of a greater of concentration of greenhouse gases in the air. Human actives, including respiration, release these gases causing the Earth to heat slowly (Stefoff 39). Forests are being cut down quicker than they can reproduce themselves due to human need for more space. Deforestation presents other problems, such as the death of species. Edward Wilson, a biologist, believes that each year 10,000-17,500 species of plants, bird, insects, reptiles, and mammals become instinct (Stefoff 45). Pollution increase is an obvious environment problem that will increase drastically due to overpopulation. Although not mentioned very often, crime is one more negative effect that overpopulation would have on the world as far as social troubles are concerned.
Now that I have discussed some of the causes of overpopulation, and the negative effects I would like to propose a few possibilities, that I have found throughout my research, to stop, or at least balance out the growing population size. Reducing birth rates by utilizing different strategies is the most prominent of these ideas. Increasing the legal marital age would postpone child bearing (Mitchell). One well-known method is called family planning. This method works by making birth control pills easily accessible, providing places for termination of pregnancies to occur, and helping people become more knowledgeable about abortions and contraception (Commoner). Laws could be passed making birth control mandintory, similar to the laws in China. According to Chinese law families would be faced with penalties if they had more than one offspring (Stefoff 87). Other nations enforce even stricter laws. All sources agreed that controlling birth rate and death rate would be the most effective way of stabilizing population.
The causes and effects of overpopulation covers such a vast array of ideas that it is impossible for one to cover every important detail of this ever growing environmental concern. In this semi-extensive research I have only taken the opportunity to provide the basic facts that are necessary in understanding that the rapid growth of our population needs our immediate attention. In conclusion, the world’s population will continue to grow as long as birth rate exceeds death rate. As far as resources are concerned, it is apparent that the era of cheap energy, adequate amounts of food, and necessary open spaces is coming to an end. Regardless of whether we admit it or not, our attempts to stabilize population, or our failure to do so, will have a devastating affect on our lives, and our home: Mother Earth.
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