Overpopulation is the state in which the members of a certain species exceed the number that can be sustained by its environment. In terms of human population, overpopulation is when the total number of people living at present exceeds the Earth’s carrying capacity.
Human populations around the world have grown exponentially in the last fifty years. In 2021, there are nearly 8 billion people living on our planet in numerous overpopulated countries, and this number is expected to increase in the future.
The Problem of Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a problem often overlooked. Oftentimes, issues such as climate change, pollution, and water shortages are given more attention. However, overpopulation is a problem of equal importance, as it is one of the major contributors to these other global environmental issues. Overpopulation imposes great demands on both land and the resources they provide. This has serious consequences on the environment, resulting in global environmental issues that affect many of the world’s economies and standards of living.
In developed countries, advancements in modern medicine and healthcare have resulted in people living much longer lives as compared to the past. Each year, an estimate of 80 million births happen around the world. In conjunction with the decline in death rates, this leads to the human population growing at an estimated pace of 1 billion every 12 years. This rate of population increase is much faster compared to rates a century ago.
An increase in population is coincided by the increase in the demand for resources such as food and water. In order to meet increasing demands for resources and products, people have developed various techniques and technologies to maximise both acquisition and production. This has resulted in the Earth’s resources quickly being depleted for artificial products such as clothes, computers, and cars. In addition to this, the factories that make these products often release harmful emissions and chemical byproducts that cause environmental damage and promote climate change.
Increasing demands for industrial production also necessitates the need to seek out more resources. Agriculture and raising of livestock especially has taken over large areas of land for food production. As a consequence, human activity and development has encroached on many natural habitats. In turn, this has led to the loss of biodiversity as animal and plant species lose their homes. In the history of the Earth, extinction rates have never been as high as they are today. At present, global extinction rates are estimated to reach as high as 140,000 species every year.
In some regions of the world, overpopulation occurs as a result of external events such as war, famine, or natural disasters. When these events destroy previous habitations, or otherwise make them unlivable, people are forced to seek refuge elsewhere. Certain regions may experience a sudden influx of in-migration, leading to rapid increase in their population.
Causes of Overpopulation
Decrease in mortality rate
Along with the Industrial Revolution’s development in industry and technology came great developments in the field of medicine. This scientific and medical progress has allowed humans to overcome many diseases, and have prolonged the lifespan of our populations. Vaccines and antibiotics have saved thousands of lives from ailments that would otherwise end in death. This in turn has resulted in the death rate falling, while birth rates stayed constant, leading to a rise in population.
Developments in food production
Both scientific research and technological development have led to an increase in the efficiency of agricultural production. This includes the cultivation of crops that can be planted year-round, disease and pest resistant seeds, and pesticides. Fishing and the raising of livestock has also witnessed many improvements, further contributing to the increase in food production.
Migration and urban concentration
For some countries, migration and urban concentration are powerful factors that affect the composition of their populations. These are important not only for demographic growth, but for the economy and the generation of wealth as well. At present, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities that exceed 300,000 inhabitants. These populations are expected to continue growing until they make up 70% of the global population.
Effects of Overpopulation
Depletion of natural resources
The most significant effect of overpopulation is the exhaustion of the Earth’s natural resources. Our planet only has a limited carrying capacity in which it can provide for human needs and purposes. When the consumption of these resources exceeds the rate at which it can be replenished, this limit will be reached much sooner.
The careless and uninhibited consumption of natural resources and energy production by use of fossil fuels have many effects immediately detrimental to our environment. Some consequences include desertification, deforestation, changes in the water cycle, the loss in habitats and biodiversity, and the extinction of numerous plant and animal species. Greenhouse gas emissions produced by artificial processes also greatly contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
China is the world’s most populous country. At present, its population is a little over 1.4 billion people, with a majority of this number living in China’s eastern half. The dramatic increase in China’s population has led to the decrease in many of its natural resources. In turn, this has put strong restrictions on the expansion of the Chinese economy since it is dependent on China’s natural resources.
For 11 years, China’s capital city, Beijing, has been having shortages in water. In Shanghai, another of China’s major cities, the rise in population has led to the rise in the use of vehicles. This has resulted in significant problems in air quality and air pollution.
Rapid population growth has also affected China’s education system. There are often not enough teachers and schools to cater to China’s youth. In response to this, cities such as Guangzhou have employed the use of joint lessons across different schools.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, is the country with the second largest population in the world. With the exception of its deserts in the northwest and its mountains in the north, India has an exceptionally high population density all throughout the country.
Overpopulation has led to a dramatic decline in India’s air quality, increasing the risk of contracting airborne diseases and skin infections. The city of New Delhi is the world’s most polluted. It is estimated that breathing its air would be comparable to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. In November of 2017, Indian hospitals experienced a 20 percent increase in patients to be treated for various airborne diseases.
Many other cities in India have increased rates of cancer, stroke, heart diseases, and cases of heart attacks.
The United States of America is the third most populous country in the world. Currently, its population is estimated to be at 329.7 million. A big portion of the United States’ population is found in the densely populated urban areas clustered along its east and west coasts. Its two most populous states, Texas and California, contribute to around 25 percent of its total population.
The population of the United States’ arguably most famous city, New York, has been increasing in an uncommon way. In recent years, migration has caused a big chunk of its population increase. Living costs and real estate in New York City have become very expensive. It is also very difficult to seek employment in the city. New York has also been experiencing economic problems such as recession in the previous years.
The fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia has a total population of 266 million. The island of Java, a part of the country, is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Indonesian cities, like its capital Jakarta, are facing many significant issues regarding overpopulation.
In Jakarta, people spend an average of 15-35 percent of their income on transportation alone. In comparison, in other cities such as London and Singapore, people only spend an average of 5-8 percent of their income on transportation.
Indonesia’s large population has also made it difficult for its citizens to have access to piped water. Only half if Indonesia’s population has piped water, the other half mainly relies on raw water supplies.
Pakistan holds the title of the world’s fifth largest population with its 220 million inhabitants. Its most densely populated area is the Punjab province. Pakistan’s large population can be attributed to cultural attitudes and religious doctrine that promote having many children. Another reason is deficiencies in Pakistan’s education system and its low literacy rates. In cities such as Rawalpindi, the country’s poverty has also contributed to many health concerns for both mothers and their babies during pregnancy and child delivery.
Brazil, the sixth most populous country in the world, has a population of 211.5 million. A majority of Brazil’s residents live along its Atlantic coast in the east. Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, has an impressive population of 10 million inhabitants. This has certain implications on the economy of the city. One of which is the inequality in income distribution, as 34 percent of São Paulo’s citizens lie below the poverty line. In addition to its overpopulation problem, Brazil is also challenged with issues such as paying off its foreign debt, crime, land distribution, and extreme poverty.
Ranking 7th among the countries with the greatest populations, Nigeria is inhabited by 206 million people. It is the African continent’s most populous country. It has also recently become Africa’s largest economy. Nigerian cities such as Lagos are currently struggling with the lack of available housing, resulting in the development of slums. Oftentimes, large families are cramped in one bedroom apartments. Communal bathrooms and kitchens are shared by up to fifty people. The Nigerian government has carried out initiatives to encourage their citizens to have smaller families.
The 8th most populous country in the world, Bangladesh has a total population of 168.6 million inhabitants. It does not only hold one of the world’s largest populations, but it is also one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Bangladesh suffers from poor infrastructure as a result of its overpopulation. One of these problems is apparent in their sewage system, as it is not properly equipped to handle the large amounts of water and waste produced by Bangladesh’s inhabitants. The city of Dhaka is one of the world’s most densely populated cities in the world. Attempts to manage Bangladesh’s overpopulation problem have been initiated by its government, but it has not been successful.
Russia is the world’s 9th largest country by population size. It has a population of 146.7 million. Russia’s population is less dense in the region of Siberia. Although this region makes up one-twelfth of the Earth’s total land mass, Siberia only has a population of roughly three people per kilometre. The increase in Russia’s population is largely attributed to the influx of migrants from countries that were once part of the USSR. Usually, these migrants flock to cities such as Moscow, which at present has a population of 11.5 million people. The large number of people in Moscow has led to the problem of a decrease in wages. 10 percent of Moscow’s inhabitants earn a living wage lower than 10,500 rubles. This amount is even lower than the city’s average wage.
With 127.5 million inhabitants, Mexico is home to the world’s 10th largest population. It is estimated that one fourth of Mexico’s population lives in or in the vicinity of its capital, Mexico City. Overpopulation in the country has led to rampant unemployment, as there are not enough jobs for all its citizens. Many Mexican citizens live in slums or are homeless. This is especially prominent in large cities such as Mexico City, Ecatepec, and Guadalajara.
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