The time has come to address the issue of overpopulation. Over seven billion people live
on Earth today, yet the UN has estimated that this figure will rise to a gigantic 9.7 billion by 2050, unless we take steps to combat the problem. Although this is a worldwide issue, individuals cannot change their lifestyles to reduce their impact, which they can do for other global issues, such as climate change and plastic pollution — yet, it is important that everyone is aware of the problems it is causing and the solutions we can put in place to solve them.
THE MAIN CULPRITS
The root cause of overpopulation is, quite simply, the excess growth of human life on Earth and a declining death rate. Unfortunately, there are still a great number of people who are living below the poverty line, with limited education and little knowledge about family planning, contraception and safe sex. These factors have caused the global birth rate to boom, exceeding the number of deaths. The death rate has also declined as a result of better health care, advanced fertility treatment and a more hands-on approach to poverty, leading to an imbalance. Although we are seeing a rise of epidemics, like HIV and malaria, technology and medicine are developing to help treat, cure and prolong life, while fertility treatments are helping to increase the contraception rate for couples who cannot reproduce on their own. Poverty is believed to be one of the main sources of overpopulation. Those who live in poverty are less likely to be educated, and often have limited, or sometimes no access to health care. Countries that do not have laws against child labour have a culture where families view children as a source of income, so parents are having more children to send to work.
Overpopulation may seem like a distant and seemingly unavoidable issue, which we, individually, can do little to prevent. However, as the population grows we will all be affected, on a local and global scale, as more people means a bigger drain on natural and man-made resources. Natural resources, such as water, oil and iron are being drained, putting an added pressure on the planet, which it cannot handle. The Earth can only produce certain amounts of food and water each year, and is currently falling short of the demand. As a repercussion of this growing population, deforestation is becoming more vector-borne diseases, to name a few — if we don’t act fast, these will only get worse. Overpopulation is also leading to a rapid decline of ecosystems, including coral reefs, grasslands, wetlands, rainforests and wildlife, due to excessive agriculture, pollution and extensive land development to supply adequate housing. Since the 1980s, 30 per cent of the ocean’s coral reefs have been lost, and now only 6 per cent of the earth is covered by rainforests, when it was originally 14 per cent. frequent, habitats are being destroyed and pollution — which contributes to climate change — is on the rise. Coal, oil and natural gases are also being overused, causing greenhouse gases to leak into and heat up the atmosphere, which is ultimately leading to global warming. Living on a planet which is experiencing a temperature increase does not just mean that we will have longer hotter summers, spent carelessly on the beach — in fact, it means the opposite. We are already seeing the devastating effects of climate change: polar ice caps melting, sea levels rising, poorer air quality, extreme weather and vector-borne diseases, to name a few — if we don’t act fast, these will only get worse. Overpopulation is also leading to a rapid decline of ecosystems, including coral reefs, grasslands, wetlands, rainforests and wildlife, due to excessive agriculture, pollution and extensive land development to supply adequate housing. Since the 1980s, 30 per cent of the ocean’s coral reefs have been lost, and now only 6 per cent of the earth is covered by rainforests, when it was originally 14 per cent.
As a result, a growing number of species are becoming extinct as their habitats are being destroyed, cutting off food supplies and shelter. Other human activities, such as over-fishing and poaching, have an indirect effect on these natural systems that individual species rely on, too. Long-term, diminished quality of life and lower life expectancies have also been predicted. Overpopulation will lead to overcrowding, and resources such as food, water, shelter, energy and security will be stretched, resulting in poorer living conditions. Epidemics are also likely to worsen, with diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria spreading quickly, without a cure. An excess number of people will also cause unemployment levels to soar, leading to a possible rise in drug cartels, militia groups and theft , which can often escalate to more violent crimes, and even wars.
There are, however, ways which we can attempt to reduce the issue of overpopulation. World Population Balance (worldpopulationbalance.org) states: “Overpopulation will not decline unless average birth rates drop below an average of two per woman (or per man) in the world. The further birth rate drops, the sooner humanity population level.” The most obvious solution is for governments to try to encourage people to have smaller families, through providing better education and contraception methods. World Population Balance explains: “The most important single action each of us can do to help create a truly sustainable planet and population is to choose to have no more than one child and encourage others to do the same.” If every family averaged one child, the population would be reduced by over a billion by 2070, and 2100 would see 6 billion citizens living on Earth, rather than the 11 billion projected. Schools should aim to tackle subjects such as safe sex and contraception with pupils to ensure they understand the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases and the responsibilities of parenthood from a young age. Educating children about the issues and repercussions of overpopulation is another way to help combat the issue, to ensure they understand the importance of having fewer children. Although overpopulation may seem like a global issue that we, individually, cannot change, it is paramount that we help educate others and ensure we’re mindful of the strain we are putting on the planet.
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