Another issue that is in the news fairly often is overpopulation. Many people would likely say that there are too many of us on this beautiful planet! Human population growth is at the heart of overpopulation issues, of course. As with other issues, it seems we only hear the negative assessment of our increasing population. However, there is another side to the story, other facts which we don’t hear enough. Indur Goklany, who wrote The Improving State of the World, states that Total Fertility rates (measured by number of children per woman of childbearing age) have been dropping worldwide…even China’s TFR is lower than the replacement level. The increase in population began around 1950 and will likely end around 2050, according to Bjorn Lomborg (The Skeptical ...). This increase is largely due to a dramatic drop in the death rate resulting from improved access to food, medicine, clean water, and sanitation. One UN consultant put it rather bluntly like this: “It’s not that people suddenly started breeding like rabbits; it’s just that they stopped dying like flies.” (The Skeptical … p. 46)
Human population growth resulting in overpopulation is generally depicted with pictures of tightly packed masses or overcrowded mass transit stations. However, the number of people is not necessarily the problem—even the famous population biologist, Paul Ehrlich, agrees with this. It is poverty rather than population density that leads to suffering for the masses. Many of the most densely populated countries are in Europe. “The Netherlands, Belgium, and Japan are far more densely populated than India, and Ohio and Denmark are more densely populated than Indonesia.” (The Skeptical …<) So, obviously, more people does not equal bad news!
Another interesting thing to note is that despite increasing numbers of humans, most of the earth’s landmass will not become more densely populated than it is today! This is due to the fact that most growth will be in cities. For the first time in history, more people now live in urban areas than in rural areas. Moreover, whereas in 1950 New York was the only “megacity,” today there are 19 of them. Some would argue that urban life—especially in poor countries—mars quality of life. While there are, to be sure, poor conditions, it is still an improvement over rural living. Water supplies, sanitation, and health services are better in cities as well as education being easier to come by. “The World Resources Institute clearly concludes that ‘cities are growing because they provide, on average, greater social and economic benefits than do rural areas.’” (The Skeptical … )
Human population growth is the basis of overpopulation concerns. However, it becomes clear when we look at it rationally, that it’s not inherently bad to have more people inhabiting the earth! Moreover, people tend to naturally decrease their reproduction on their own when poverty is overcome.
Still, I know the concerns that most people have with so many people on the earth. The biggest concern in my mind, with an increasing populace is resource depletion—will there be enough of what we need for everyone? A second issue that also captures the attention of many is deforestation—the clearing of forests to make room for people to live and farm. Images of clear-cutting scenes I have seen come to mind, and it’s scary to think of so many treed areas being lost. Lastly, I will discuss energy sources—with the recurring episodes of increased gasoline prices, you may be left with the idea that we’re running out of oil. Oil and other energy needs will be discussed. As I broach each of these topics, and as before with global warming, you will read some interesting facts and perspectives that are heartening and not scary—which is why you don’t see them in the news!It seems that we have plenty of what is needed to sustain the billions of people on earth—personally, I find that amazing and awe-inspiring!