The human population in the world has been growing a an extremely fast rate, but with a growing rate of population, comes with it a potentially fatal problem: overpopulation. Overpopulation is when the environment, or in this case Earth, can no longer support a species due to it not having a sufficient amount of resources to handle the population. While overpopulation is always ultimately going to be a problem, the real issue is when overpopulation is really starting. There are many people who believe that we are quickly approaching the problems that will arise with overpopulation, but there are many others who believe that overpopulation is not an issue that we will have to deal with for a while. To better understand this controversial topic, I analyzed a variety of sources from everyday media, popular science, and peer-reviewed scientific journals and then compared them to ultimately form my own opinion on the issue.
The easiest of the three sources to read, as well as the one most people will look at, was the everyday media articles. When reading them, it was pretty clear that these were written to be read by everyday people to understand instead of people who have spent years studying it. There were rarely any charts or graphs, and they tend to hyperbolize their counterarguments. While each source did sight different points to support their issue, it usually wasn’t fully explored. The argument for why overpopulation is not a problem is simply because there is still plenty of resources left. While people may claim Food: There isn’t enough!(Morse, 2017), the world currently produces enough food to feed 10 billion people (Morse, 2017). While hunger is still a problem in the world, it is not due to the number of people, and instead is due to catastrophic political failures like famines(Morse, 2017). Furthermore, nations like the United States could acquire large gains in agricultural production by tweaking foreign land use rules(Stone, 2018). With more people in the world, there will also be more human ingenuity which will allow more scientific breakthroughs in agriculture as well as all other sciences(Morse, 2017). Even meat, which will require more energy to sustain, will take a while before running out, and even then there are many grains and such which will be accessible(Morse, 2017).
Water, another vital resource, is also increasing in production. Using freshwater withdrawals, which have increased seven-fold since 1900, the world will still have a steady supply of water for the growing population(Morse, 2017), and while yes there still are people who are facing a lack of water crisis, that is due to the area not being in the right location(Morse, 2017). When it comes to the fact that the human population is growing, it has to be remembered that it is not growing exponentially, and then while the growth rate is increasing, the growth rate actually decreased from before, going from 1.76% to .77%(Morse, 2017). As far as actual land to house people, it is estimated that every person on the planet could have a half acre of farming land if the world was to be divided like that(Morse, 2017), but realistically the population density in places like the United States is very small compared to places like the E.U, which still has a balanced or even positive agricultural trade(Stone, 2018). Another thing that can be done by governments is by deregulating the housing industry(Stone, 2018). Doing things like reducing parking requirements and height limits, allowing landowners to build freely on their property would boost population capacity and cost of living (Stone, 2018). Ultimately though, because of the low growth happening in places like the U.S, many media sources will claim that the problem of overpopulation is irrelevant(Stone, 2018). However, not ever popular media source claims this. In The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, it claims that overpopulation is a problem that needs to be addressed. With a million and a half people added every week, things will eventually be crowded. And so the lifestyle of people needs to change(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012).
Questions like do we need population control or How can we attain zero population growth on a planet where its losing its basic ecological infrastructure need to be answered soon if not now(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012). With estimations claiming that by 2050, the earth will inhabit 9.2 billion people, the problem of overpopulation really isn’t extremely far. Assuming that humans are growing exponentially, natural resources are being used faster than they can being replaced, which is lowering the standard of living and creating economic pressures both at home and the rest of the world(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012). Because humans have an insatiable demand for things like food, building materials, and fuel, it is causing problems in the environment like a decrease in forests, toxic oceans, and the extinction of species(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012). Even with our advanced technology, humans are still wasting resources and destroying the earth, just at a slower rate(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012). The solution they give is to live in harmony with each other and embrace change(The Overpopulation Problem: Running Out of Natural Resources, 2012), and while that is good advice, they don’t seem to have any realistic or practical plan to address overpopulation. Overall from reading the everyday media sources, while they were much easier to understand, it also wasn’t as concrete as the popular science or scientific journal articles. They wanted to address many different topics lightly instead of do one topic heavily. There also weren’t really any statistics to go along with the evidence they were trying to give off, and some of the sources didn’t even sight where they got the information from. This ultimately takes away from the reliability of these types of sources. These sources could be used if someone wants to learn a bit about the subject from a biased point of view, but to really understand the issue, he or she would have to do a lot more in depth research.
Moving on to the peer review scientific journal articles, these were much harder to read. They are a lot longer, use a lot more formal and scientific words, and has many statistics and variables that can make it difficult to really understand. The first source, Affordable assisted reproductive technologies developing countries: pros and cons is focused specifically on developing countries. The summary of the source, or the abstract, discusses the infertility in developing countries and how they they could use reproductive technologies, but is argued to not due to overpopulation. In the developing countries with infertility, most of it is attributed to damage caused by infections of the reproductive tract, notably gonorrhoea and chlamydial infection.(A, Oluwole, 2008) The argument against ART, Assisted reproductive technologies, is that overpopulated countries should not prioritize infertility management(A, Oluwole, 2008). The response to the argument is that people should be able to reproduce if, when and as often as they wish,(A, Oluwole, 2008). To counter that though, and argument is made that since developing countries have limited resources, they shouldn’t use it on expensive technologies that only benefit a few people(A, Oluwole, 2008). That source only covers overpopulation at a small scale, but it brings up questions for the entire earth to consider: should countries start a form of population control in order to stop overpopulation? The second source, Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided is about how overpopulation and overconsumption might cause a global collapse. Their argument is that humanity is in an act of suicide on a grand scale(Ehrlich, 2013). The collapse of human civilization is driven by overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources and the use of unnecessarily environmentally damaging technologies. To support seven billion people currently, half of an additional planet would be needed, and if everyone consumed resources at the US level, it would take four to five more Earths(Ehrlich, 2013). While everyone claims that technology will boost the carrying capacity of earth, technology will also decrease it as well as the amount of resources. Finally, food will become a major problem if people continue to eat the way they do now(Ehrlich, 2013).
After reading through all the articles, my opinion is that while overpopulation is not a problem overall, it is a problem in many developing countries. Because of the lack of resources there, their population density is already going to be smaller, and even though infertility is a problem. Governments are still going to try to fix this problem. While this will help the couples who want children, it will be very costly to allocate resources to something that doesn’t help everyone or even a majority of people. With these resources lost to other programs, it ultimately will decrease the population capacity for that country. The source most convincing to me was the scientific journal article, Affordable assisted reproductive technologies in developing countries: pros and cons, due to how it specifically goes onto a smaller and more detailed issue. Whereas the other sources was about global overpopulation, this one is on developing countries. It is far easier to see the future of a couple of countries as opposed to the entire world, and while both sides have good arguments, it is simply too difficult to really tell what’s going to happen when all of humanity is involved. Furthermore the popular media sources just didn’t supply enough information for me to really decide on where I lie on the issue. While I wouldn’t go look at scientific journals to help me with every single decision that I make, I do recognize that at the very least I should find media sources that can cite scientific articles. By using media sources to learn a bit about topics, and then scientific articles to really understand the issue, it can only serve to make arguments stronger, better, and more credible.