Debates concerning overpopulation may rapidly turn contentious because they raise the question of who is to blame for the problem and what, anything that, should be done to address it. Numerous population experts are concerned that debates about overpopulation will be exploited by small-minded people who claim that some humans are “right people” to be on the planet and others are the “wrong people” (typically people living in poverty, people of colour, foreigners, and so on). However, there are no “right” or “wrong” individuals on the world, and debating the issues of global overpopulation should never be used as a justification or as a platform for such a discussion.
Every human being has a legal right to an adequate and equitable share of the Earth’s resources. However, with a population reaching 8 billion, even when everyone chose a comparatively low materialistic quality of life, the Earth would still be pushed to the brink of ecological disaster. Furthermore, the “average individual” on Earth consume at a pace that is more than 50% more than what is feasible. Surprisingly, the average American consumes over five times more than the planet’s sustainable output.
If we are using the word “overpopulation,” we explicitly imply a scenario in which the Earth’s resources cannot be replenished each year due to the world’s population. According to specialists, this has been the situation every year since 1970, with each succeeding year growing increasingly harmful. To help moderate this highly unsustainable scenario, humans have to understand what is causing overpopulation and overconsumption, as well as how these patterns influence everything from climate change to sociocultural instability.
THE CAUSES OF OVERPOPULATION:
The Earth now has a population of over 7.8 billion people. And according to United Nations, the world’s population would reach 10.8 billion by 2100, assuming sustained fertility decreases in many nations. Surprisingly, if more progress can be made in women’s reproductive self-determination and fertility decreases faster than the United Nations predicts, the population in 2100 may be a relatively smaller 7.3 billion.
For the time being, the world’s population continues to grow at a rapid pace (approximately 80 million people per year), and our supply of critical nonrenewable resources is depleting. Many variables, including declining death rates, underused contraceptives, and a poor education for females, contributes to these unsustainable trends.
FALLING MORTALITY RATE:
An imbalance between births and deaths is the fundamental (and arguably most visible) driver of population increase. According to the World Health Organization, the worldwide infant mortality rate has dropped, with 4.1 million newborn deaths in 2017 compared to 8.8 million in 1990. Of course, this is good news for public health.
At the same time, people are living longer lives all across the world. Those of us alive now will most certainly live far longer lives than most of our forefathers. Because to advances in medical, technologies, and hygiene practices, global average life expectancy has more than quadrupled since 1900. Falling death rates are also nothing to grumble about, but universal lifespan contributes to the math of growing population numbers.
According to the UN Population Division, the worldwide fertility rate has consistently declined over the years, falling from an average of 5 children per woman in 1950 to 2.4 children per woman now. Along with that encouraging trend, worldwide contraceptives use has gradually grown, going from 54 percent in 1990 to 57.4 percent in 2015. Nonetheless, contraceptives usage is underused in general. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 214 million women in poor nations who wish to avoid pregnancy do not use contemporary contraception.
These women are not taking contraception for a number of reasons, including societal norms or religious beliefs that prohibit birth control, misunderstandings about negative side effects, and a lack of autonomy for women to make sex and family planning decisions. Between 2010 and 2014, an estimated 44 percent of pregnancies were unplanned. Giving more women access to and control over family planning options might go a long way toward flattening the population curve.
THE EFFECTS OF OVERPOPULATION:
It seems to reason that as the world’s population grows, so will the demand on resources. Higher population equals more demand for food, water, housing, energy, healthcare, transportation, and other necessities. All of this consumption adds to environmental degradation, increasing conflict, and an increased likelihood of large-scale calamities such as pandemics.
Population growth will undoubtedly generate pressures that will result in increased deforestation, diminished biodiversity, and increases in pollution and emissions, all of which will worsen climate change. Eventually, many experts think that unless we take action to assist prevent future population increase in the duration of this decade, the extra pressure on the planet will lead to ecological upheaval and breakdown so extreme that it affects the survival of life on Earth as we know it.
Each spike in the global population has a measurable impact on the planet’s health. According to estimates a family having one fewer child could reduce emissions by 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent per year in developed countries.
Scarcity caused by environmental damage and overpopulation has the ability to promote violence and political upheaval. Warfare over water, land, and energy resources is already taking place in the Middle East and other places, and the unrest is certain to worsen as the world population rises.
HIGHER RISK OF DISASTERS AND PANDEMICS:
Some of the recent new diseases that have wreaked havoc on humans throughout the world, such as COVID-19, Zika virus, Ebola, and West Nile virus, emerged in animals or insects before being transmitted to humans. Part of the reason the globe is approaching “a time of heightened outbreak activity” is because humans are demolishing natural habitats and coming into more frequent contact with wild animals. Now that we’re in the grip of a pandemic, it’s apparent how impossible it is to maintain social distance in a globe populated by over 8 billion people.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
When tackling overpopulation, it is critical to use an empowerment-focused strategy while organising against anybody promoting the use of compulsion or violence to solve our issues. The combined efforts of expanding family planning information, enhancing women’s autonomy, and refuting commonly held contraceptive misconceptions will have a significant impact on the world’s population trajectory.
At Population Media Center (PMC), we observe firsthand how raising knowledge about family planning options and the environmental and economic benefits of having fewer families may influence reproductive behaviour. Listeners to our Burundian radio show Agashi (“Hey! Look Again!”), for example, were 1.7 times more likely than non-listeners to verify that they were willing to negotiate condom use with a sexual partner, and 1.8 times more likely to say that they generally approve of family planning for limiting the number of children.
At PMC, we use the power of storytelling to inspire listeners to live healthier and more affluent lives, which helps to stabilise the global population and allows people to live sustainably with the world’s renewable resources. Discover how PMC is combating overpopulation right now!