Population of the World: Causes, Effects and Solutions

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Introduction

This assignment attempts to discuss the evolution and assess the effects of the current population of the world on our natural resources and the environment in general. These effects would be further dug deep to uncover the underlying spectrum of root causes - ranging from technology to education - that directly or indirectly led to the present observable situation. A range of plausible solutions would be outlined to counter and mitigate the causes and make this world a better place for current as well as future generations to come.

Background of the current population of the world

Humanity is believed to be one large family since Adam and Eve (as per Abrahamic religions) were the first man and woman on the face of this earth. The procreation process that was incepted from them has led to the present world population of around 7.7 billion according to United Nations(Nations, 2019), but this surge was not steady over time. The population multiplied to reach 1 billion over a period of 200,000 years but took only 200 years to reach to 7 billion (History, 2016).

The evolution of modern human beings started in Africa, and it wasn’t until 100,000 years ago that they began moving out of the continent and spreading across different parts of the world. They learned to adapt to different living conditions in their new habitats and took up subsistence farming for survival. However, the onset of agricultural activities necessitated more helping hands and it caused the reproduction rates to pick up. The studies claim that, following this first boom in population, the number of people living in AD 1 was approximately 170 million (History, 2016).

The first few continents inhabited by the migrating modern humans were Europe (Southern region) and Asia (Middle East, South Asia and the Far East). At that time, the Roman empire and the Hans dynasty were the only two prominent groups in the world. It was because of the discovery of the Silk Road by the nomadic caravans that inter-continental interactions became possible. Years passed and some Africans relocated to central America where the Maya civilization came into existence. It was followed by the emergence of Islam in the middle east and subsequently, the Mongol empire in central Asia. What is surprising to note is that even after increased human mobility, a larger chunk of the world’s population was concentrated in the same parts of Europe and Asia.

The greater shift in the world’s invasion and occupancy was witnessed when different European nations, primarily including Spanish, Portuguese, French and British, began the race to colonize the world in order to control sea routes, increase international trade and gain might. This resulted in people discovering and relocating to uncharted territories and evening out of population density across the globe. But one thing that did not change throughout the last 200,00 years was the fact that the population kept multiplying uncontrollably to the present level of 7.7 billion approximately.

The effects and causes of the current world’s population

The recent massive population growth in the last two centuries has intensified the pressure on finite earth’s resources and put the world’s sustainability with respect to population in danger. The non-renewable natural resources are depleting fast and make it imperative for us to bring the skyrocketing population under control. This alarming situation also warrants world organizations and the entire human race to be cognizant of the imminent perils that could ensue if no collective action is taken to contain them.

The million-dollar question right now is, will population growth destroy our way of life or is it just an ungrounded, panicking prophecy? There also lies an irony in the fact that the causes of the population are also the effects of the population. The following subsections discuss each of them in detail:

Uninhibited births

According to Worldometers, there have been total of 38,942,700 births and 16,339,464 deaths as of April 11th, 2019 since the start of the year (Worldometers, 2019). This means that 22,603,236 people (on net basis) were added to the world’s population; this can be interpreted as an addition to the world’s population on an average rate of 203,633 people per day or 141 people per minute. With every passing minute, 141 more people would be claiming their share in the finite world’s resources. This is the root cause of a phenomenon known as overpopulation which is drawing increasing attention from concerned authorities.

Technology

With improving health technology and advanced medicines owing to increased investment in medical research, both infant mortality and death rates have plummeted sharply. This means more newborn babies survive nowadays and less people die every day because of greater longevity. Although, it is undoubtedly a good development as well as a remarkable achievement for scientists, but it is also a matter of concern since the world’s natural resources are not able to cope with the ever-increasing pressure of the population. This issue of overpopulation will perpetuate as a result and affect many more people.

Moreover, technology has also increased in the way that it can help infertile couples have babies. This treatment is popularly known as ‘fertility’ treatment. As more people are surviving and more babies are being born due to technology and new effective medicines, it can be conveniently concluded that this trend of increasing birth rates and declining death rate would continue in the future too.

Poverty and the lack of family planning

Families living in poverty tend to have more children. This is because the government, primarily in a welfare state, gives the family a certain amount of money (assistance) per child. Contrary to the intended objective of providing financial help, it has a completely opposite effect where families see this benefit as ‘more children = more money. This defeats the entire purpose of using the money for improving overall family health and quality of life.

Some religions also do not discourage having more children, and this further increases the number of children born in practicing families. More helping hands are obviously preferred as they would become breadwinners for the family. Some families take pride in having more sons so they do not shy away from reproducing often.

Immigration

Overpopulation happens in many parts of the world, but it is more evident in developed countries. People living in developing countries are likely to move to places like the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, etc. because they have the best medical facilities, security, education and employment. However, this can easily snowball into mass migration which would result in overcrowded slums and megacities in different parts of the world. It would also expedite rural-urban migration and further aggravate the menace of mass migration.

The major problem arises when the megacities do not have the infrastructure to support the influx of immigrants since this instant and abrupt pouring in of people was not anticipated by the urban planners. From transportation to sanitation, everything is affected, and the aftereffects are suffered by all the urban dwellers.

Depletion of resources and growing competition

The earth can only produce a certain amount of food and water. As more people are born each year, there are less resources for everyone. This effect also causes conflicts between developing countries because they need resources for their people.

Essentially, overpopulation, if not addressed, leads to diseases (or epidemics), pollution, chaos, and violence over energy, water, and food. It alters the behavior and conscience of the human species in such a way that it finds itself focusing on self-sustenance only, without any regard for fellow human beings. People sacrifice mutual trust, compassion and cooperation on the altar of self-centeredness, selfishness and cynicism. Even if the government intervenes to ration declining food supplies, people would perceive discrimination.

Degradation of environment

As the world’s population rises, there is an overuse of coal, oil and natural gas. More vehicles are brought onto the roads, thus contributing to air pollution and posing threat to the environment. The unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is another cause of global warming and climatic change, which have become major environmental problems in the last few decades.

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To meet the demand and consumption requirements of an incessantly growing population, Chlorofluorocarbons are used in the manufacturing industries and their unchecked emittance into the environment is causing as well as further depleting the ozone layer of our planet. In order to create more jobs, more factories would be installed so the problem of environmental degradation would inevitably persist.

Rise in unemployment

When a country becomes overpopulated, there are not be enough jobs for everyone. Since everyone cannot get a job, it would inevitably lead people to steal for supporting their families. This would create unrest in society and be another cause of lower mental health due to stress. The frustrating problem of unemployment would result in higher instances of crime and eventually, the law and order situation of a country would worsen. People would feel insecure since their lives and properties would always be at risk.

High cost of living/poverty

When there are more people and less resources, the cost of living will rise. The prices for food, shelter and healthcare will be more expensive. This means people must pay more to survive. If they choose to pay more, inflation would rise. With rising inflation, people would have less purchasing power and become poorer and more frustrated. If the cycle of inflation perpetuates itself, it will cause many people to live in poverty or below the poverty line.

Lack of space or housing

As the population grows, there is less space for houses to be built. This can cause some people to be homeless. If not addressed on a timely basis, homelessness will lead to poor quality of living and increased crime rates. Countryside and agricultural lands would have to be cleared up in the suburbs of urban cities to provide accommodation to homeless people. As a result, the total world’s area covered with forests would shrink.

Less learning in classrooms

More people mean more children in a single classroom. Overpopulation makes classrooms more crowded and means less learning takes place since no one-on-one teaching happens. The problem arises when the new generation is left incompetent to enter the workforce and work successfully. Without proper education, one cannot achieve full potential, realize self-actualization, and perform to the best of their capabilities.

Some positive effects of today’s population on the world

Though overpopulation is never perceived in a positive light, but there are certainly undeniable advantages that can be derived from it:

  • More population offers more business opportunities and a larger target market to cater to their needs and sell products to.
  • With a larger population, the tax revenue collected by the government is also higher
  • More people have more diverse cultures and it adds to cultural tolerance, communal love and peace.
  • More brains generate more ideas, so effective agricultural, industrial, and medical innovation is more likely.
  • With more labor force, economic output increases, and the advantages of higher GDP do trickle down to the masses in one way or the other.

A look at some plausible solutions

Education

By educating people, we can help them to understand the effects of overpopulation. We also need to teach children/people about safe sex. Awareness sessions must be conducted regarding contraception and the educational literature must be tailored for different age levels. Safe sex education must be imparted since school so that unwanted teenage pregnancies can also be controlled.

Birth control

To stabilize the world’s population, the number of children a family can have must be limited. For example, China put in place a 1-child policy which meant each couple could only have one child. Similarly, India introduced a policy whereby couples having more than two children could not apply for government jobs. Since government jobs are preferred over corporate jobs and deemed highly prestigious in India, it acts as a deterrent and disincentivizes couples to exceed this limit.

Steps mentioned above to manage the birth rate would not require relocation. However, these policies might cause an unbalanced gender rate and increase either forced abortions or rates of abandoning female babies. Governments may also ponder over giving tax rate incentives to those families who keep the number of children low.

Relocation

Relocation to and exploration of new places would help people find other suitable places to live peacefully while gaining more resources and space advantages. There would be less people to claim a share in the natural resources of that area, which means one wouldn’t have to change their lifestyles. However, there is no certainty that another suitable home would be found and even if it was, the standard of living might not stay the same or get better.

Is there any hope?

In the middle of last century, population growth reached an unprecedented rate, and it was then that the legend of overpopulation was born, which proposed that the poor would procreate endlessly and overrun the developed world. However, to understand it, the ‘4-stage population demographic theory’ by Frank W. Notestein comes in handy.

Under this theory, stage 1 (‘pre-transition) is characterized by high birth rates and high fluctuating death rates. Stage 2 (‘early transition) is dominated by falling death rates with stable birth rates, thus leading to population growth. Stage 3 (‘late transition) leads to decelerating population growth owing to declining birth rates. Stage 4 (‘post-transition) involves both low birth and low death rates, thus population growth is negligible or starts going into decline (UNFPA, 2019).

Taking 19th-century Europe as an example of stage 1, it was worse off than a developing region suffering from poor sanitation, poor diet and poor medicine. A lot of people were born but most of them died so the population hardly grew. Women would have over five to six children since they expected only one or two of them to survive and reach adulthood.

However, the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the UK brought drastic changes in their living conditions. People became workers from peasants. Mass manufacturing of goods made them widely available. Science flourished and helped advance transportation, communication and medicine. The role of women in society shifted and paved way for their emancipation. In the process, the middle class also emerged with raised standards of living and health care. Hence, stage 2 was followed by the Industrial Revolution and it provided people with food supplies, hygiene and medicine. Consequently, death rates started declining and there was a population explosion.

The wheels of stage 3 were also set in motion. Women started conceiving less children and population growth slowed down eventually. A balance emerged when fewer people were dying and fewer children were born so the death rate and birth rate became stable. Britain had reached the fourth stage of the demographic transition.

A perspective on South Asia

If we talk about South Asia where 24.81% of the world’s population lives (Worldometers, Population of Southern Asia, 2019), and population density is also really high, there’s still some hope that this region is entering stage 3. Though the results won’t be achieved overnight, it can safely be assumed that the recent decline in the number of children per family is a positive development in the journey to creating a sustainable world.

Conclusion

There exists a dichotomy between developed and underdeveloped countries when it comes to the population of the world. The western countries are surely better off whereas the developing countries are still grappling with the problem of overpopulation. However, there is a global consensus on limiting population growth to have more resources available for everyone and less conflict. There will be less people living in poverty and the cost of living will also decrease. More space and homes would be available for everyone and our earth will be less populated. An increasing number of people will have enough jobs and our future generations would be better educated. If these objectives can be achieved, there will not remain any doubts regarding the world’s population sustainability.

Bibliography

  1. History, A. M. (2016, November 4). Human Population Through Time. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE
  2. Nations, U. (2019, April 11). World Population: Past, Present, and Future. Retrieved from Worldometers: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#ref-1
  3. UNFPA. (2019, April 11). PAPP101 - S01: Demography on the world stage. Retrieved from PAPP: http://papp.iussp.org/sessions/papp101_s01/PAPP101_s01_090_010.html
  4. Worldometers. (2019, April 11). The population of Southern Asia. Retrieved from Worldometers: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/southern-asia-population/
  5. Worldometers. (2019, April 11). Worldometers. Retrieved from Worldometers: http://www.worldometers.info/
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Population of the World: Causes, Effects and Solutions. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/population-of-the-world-causes-effects-and-solutions/
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Population of the World: Causes, Effects and Solutions. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/population-of-the-world-causes-effects-and-solutions/> [Accessed 20 May 2024].
Population of the World: Causes, Effects and Solutions [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 May 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/population-of-the-world-causes-effects-and-solutions/
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