Two is Company, Eight Billion is a Crowd

21 November 2019

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Never before in history has there been as many people on Earth as there are right now. Overpopulation has been a looming threat for some time. With more people, there is more poverty and more public health issues. Because of the fast-growing population, food shortages are quickly becoming a reality, but at the same time, the western world is wasting more food than ever before. Resources are being consumed at an alarming rate, which is leaving the remaining resources expensive, and hard to obtain. These are some of the reasons we need to worry about overpopulation.

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In the year 10000 BCE, when the first people became farmers, the global population was estimated to be at 10 million. As the years progressed, the population continued to grow, but very slowly. Earth’s population hadn’t hit 1 billion until the year 1800, and from there, and with the help of the industrial revolution, population growth started to increase faster. In a little more than 100 years, the population reached 2 billion. Then 33 years to reach 3 billion, 14 years to 4 billion, 13 years to 5 billion, 12 years to 6 billion, 11 years to 7 billion (Rosling), and 8 billion is quickly approaching.

Most of the population’s growth, in recent years, has occurred in less developed nations. In 2011 less developed nations had an average population of 4.4 million people, whereas, more developed nations had an average population of 1.2 million. The population projection, the computation of future changes in population numbers, expects less-developed nations to grow to 6.9 million. This could be due to “people in the poorest least developed [nations] typically having large families for practical reasons” (Weeks 344), reasons like only 3/ 7 children survive long enough to become an adult.

The nation of Pakistan, for example, has a crude birth rate (CBR) of 28 annual births for every 1,000 people, which is on the high side of Asia’s average CBR. With this high of a birth rate, it’s no wonder Pakistan is one of the highest populated nations, but compared to other nations with large populations, Pakistan is a smaller nation, geographically(Bongaarts 18). This means they are dealing with a lot more consequences than other highly-populated nations because of their lack of space.

Poverty is a huge issue for Pakistanis. 61% of people in Pakistan are making less than 310 Pakistani Rupee or $2 U.S. dollars. This can pose several problems. For one, people can’t afford good quality medical care. One doctor in Pakistan has been arrested and charged with negligence and manslaughter after his patients accused him of reusing syringes. 900 children and 200 adults have tested HIV positive because of the action of this doctor and possibly other healthcare providers. One father said the doctor “searched through his bin for an old needle to use on his six-year-old son, later diagnosed as HIV-positive. When Mr. Jalbani protested, the doctor said the father was too poor to pay for a new needle” (Gregory). Not only is overpopulation an indirect cause for poverty, but it is also contributing to public health issues. Overpopulation is already a problem in Pakistan, but the problem is not projected to decrease, instead, Pakistan’s population is estimated to increase due to the birth rate in Pakistan being one of the highest in the world, outside of Africa. By contrast, Pakistan’s death rate is 8 annual deaths for every 1,000 people. This large difference between the number of people born and those dying has led to an ever-increasing population.

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Climate change is currently the biggest threat to life on Earth. As Earth’s population has increased, so has the consumption of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It started in the 19th century with the industrial revolution, factory smoke began to put CO2 into the air. 100 years later and 1 billion more people, the number of carbon emissions “increased ten-fold” (“A Warm Forecast for the Planet”). The use of fossil fuels has increased with the population. More people equals more cars that need fuel, more homes to heat and provide electricity for, and the increase in plastic products. If CO2 emissions continue to increase at this rate, the atmosphere will continue to deplete which will allow for more solar energy to reach Earth’s surface. This will increase cases of skin cancer, temperatures rising, sea levels rising, deserts becoming hotter, species shifting upward, droughts, and less rainfall. This can all severely affect crop growth and development.

Along with climate change affecting crop growth, so is over-cultivation. Normally, soil can replenish itself, however, it is being destroyed at a faster rate than it can replenish itself. This is due to poor farming techniques that include over-plowing, not leaving the proper nutrients in the soil to renew itself, misusing fertilizers, or overgrazing. Projections say all topsoil will be gone in sixty years, and we will be able to produce 30% less food than we do now (World Economic Forum), but at this rate of population growth, we need to be producing more food than we currently are.

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“Each night, there are 219,000 additional people to feed at the global dinner table” (Brown 7), however, we will never be able to feed these people because of food waste. In the United States, the food needs to look perfect, or people won’t buy it and they won’t eat it, which means it will be wasted, however, because of these high beauty standards for food, 60 million tons ($160 billion) of food is being wasted. Vegetables will be abandoned in the field or in warehouses because their not “pretty” enough to sell. Globally, $1 trillion worth of food is wasted. Governments are only just starting to realize the scale of the problem and are attempting to reduce the amount of food wasted, however, food professionals have said: “governments cannot effectively fight hunger, or climate change, without reducing food waste” (“Half of all US Food…”). As the population continues to grow, so will food waste and the number of people who go hungry.

Along with food, natural resources are depleting and fast. Which means some nations are fighting other nations over them. In the Middle East, for example, many nations heavily rely on rivers for their water, however, rivers are not solely in one nation, they flow through several. Upstream nations have the upper hand when it comes to these situations. They can control the quantity and quality of the water flowing into the other nations. This is where conflicts can arise. Before the twentieth century, the Jordan River, which flows through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, “was able to supply the demand put upon it” (Winzer 306). With the significant increase in population between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there have been water shortages, not so much for the upstream nations, but Israel and Palestine have been hit hard by the loss of water (Conflict in Israel and Palestine…). Population growth, lack of water, and unresolved border issues have lead to the massive, 70-year conflict between Israel and Palestine.

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Not only are we running out of water, but the resources we use every day and often take for granted: coal, natural gas, and petroleum, are becoming harder and more expensive to obtain. Drilling for oil started in the most convenient and cheapest places, inland, and slowly we’ve moved outward, getting closer and closer to the oceans. Eventually, we got to the ocean but didn’t go too deep because it would be too expensive, however, we’ve dried up almost everywhere that is the least dangerous and expensive. Now, “new discoveries [of fossil fuels] are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract” (Klare 13), like in the Gulf of Mexico, or the 1,700 million cubic feet of natural gas in arctic regions and petroleum in Saudi Arabian deserts. These locations of resources are extremely expensive and dangerous to obtain because of their geographical location, whether that be deep (14,383 feet) in the Gulf of Mexico, far below freezing temperatures in the Arctic, or how expensive it would be to extract the crude oil from Saudi Arabia. These extreme prices will not just affect nations, but it will affect the individual. With the high cost to obtain the resources, the cost to fuel your car, heat your home, and electricity will all skyrocket.

Overpopulation is a looming threat. With the current population of almost eight billion, the world is being faced with poverty, public health issues, food shortages, climate change, and resource shortages. We need to act now to slow the current growth rate.

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