Overpopulation: Not What You Think

Overpopulation, a word plastered on every headline and sowed into our very vocabulary. A word that brings fear, uncertainty and concerns to those who hear and/or read it, but why? How does this one word hold so much power? The very meaning of the word is how the number of existing humans exceeds the capacity of the Earth and in the recent centuries, that number has skyrocketed. Overpopulation is not something that humanity can sweep under the rug but it also can not be fixed with a snap of a finger. If humanity can lower the consumption rate, lower our standards, and help poor nations develop, this frightening epidemic that is our reality, will cease to exist.

The earth at this very second is currently containing over 8.7 billion species, each species containing up to billions of itself. Those billions of species are using the world resources, renewable or not. And as humans have evolved and grown, so have our needs and the standards of living. We have no means of measuring the carrying capacity of the earth because we have not yet exceeded its physical limit. Overpopulation is not so much a problem of how many people we have on earth but rather how much those people consume the earth’s resources. Our population is measured by the amount of resources we are using, the amount we have left, and how much we replenish them. The consumptions of greenhouse gases show how high our rate it is, the higher the rate, the larger our ecological footprint. In 2013, a report on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) showed that they released 200m tonnes of greenhouse gases, meaning its greenhouse emissions per capita was 24.19 tonnes (Todorova, 2015). Considering the UAE has a population about 9 million, an ecological footprint about 9.7 per person, and a biocapacity of 0.6, it does not make sense that they contributed the most to greenhouses compared to countries like China who have a population over 1.4 billion or India who have a little less than 1.3 billion people (Open Data Platform, 2018). Although they do not have the largest population, the UAE uses an abundant of resources and in the greenhouse report, cement and aluminium production were each responsible for 8 percent of emissions in 2013, waste contributed to 6 percent of emissions and the agriculture sector 1 percent (Todorva, 2015). It is not a problem of how many people we have, but how often and how much we are consuming.

In accordance to consumption rate, in areas where there are low living standards, consumption rates are lower than those with higher standards of living because lower standards do not require an unnecessary amount of resources, to sustain life. This is reflected in income. When people have and are exposed to a lavish style of living, they raise their standards because it is a luxury they can afford. In an article published by BBC about the issue, it stated This leads to an uncomfortable implication: people living in high-income nations must play their part if the world is to sustain a large human population. Only when wealthier groups are prepared to adopt low-carbon lifestyles, and to permit their governments to support such a seemingly unpopular move, will we reduce the pressure on global climate, resource and waste issues (Cumming, 2016). Of course this is easier said than done, but it is not impossible and if we wish for humanity to keep existing, we must be willing to give up some comfortability, comfortability that we do not even need in the first place.

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