“While”, is definitely not the right word to start writing. But then, the same is true for a lot of things which we will mention in this article. After all, saying that increased life expectancy is becoming a cause for concern doesn’t seem good. But then, it has contributed to overpopulation significantly! There are a lot of other factors too! But, this mismatch in the birth and death rate with the former exceeding the latter by huge margins is a cause for concern!
With the world closing in on the population of 9 billion i.e. the earth’s maximum capacity, the situation is grave! While the developing nations continue fighting to find enough to feed their people, the developed economies with enough money import the same. Surprisingly, or rather shockingly, none of the nations in the world today is capable of producing enough to feed its own population. They are just engaging in some or the other trade with some or the other nation to fulfil the demands. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that these demands are rising by the day!
With the world population standing at 7.7billion as of March 24, 2020, and having a continued upward trend, it is about time we all gave this overpopulation issue a serious thought!
A look at the Stats
So, as we mentioned above, the world’s population as of 24th March; 2020 stands at 7.77 billion. As per a study done, the earth’s capacity to hold humans and enough resources for them stand at anywhere between 9 billion to 10 billion. Now, the projections state that the world populations will reach anywhere between 8 to 10.5 billion between 2040 2050. As per the United Nations’ medium variant projections, the figures stood at 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.
One might say that one also needs to consider the dropping fertility rates (below the replacement level) which should stabilise the overall population to under 10 billion by 2100. However, the past decades of decent fertility rates seem to defy that hypothesis. Also, the fight for resources is well evident and hard to ignore. Plus, the added climate change, global warming, decreasing air quality and the resultant environmental catastrophes and we know that nature has started fighting back! The past decade has been full of them and the pace has picked up significantly for the past 5 years. Whether these disasters have been man-made or natural isn’t really the question to ask right now!
What does this Entail
A lot and in every possible aspect which affects all of us directly or indirectly! Let us look at some major implications pointwise
Impact on Agriculture
The very first requirement for all humans is food. Thus, the pressure on agriculture comes first. And where does one get agricultural land from? By uprooting forests! It isn’t surprising that agricultural activities have been behind 80% of deforestation worldwide!
However, things do not end here! With deforestation, increases the risk of loose soil and climate change and a lot of other factors which put a series of disasters in motion and hence farmers suffer again. Be it floods, too hot weather or untimely rains, it all affects the yield. The result- the agricultural produce isn’t enough to feed people. This puts further pressure and brings us to the next point in the series.
Reduced Capacity of the Land
To boost the land’s yield, it is laden with chemicals. These chemicals give really good short terms results but eventually make the land barren or at least reduce its yield. Plus, the amount of industrial manufacturing that is required to get enough chemicals, requires setting up of plants and other industrial units. Thus, more deforestation happens, a lot of chemical discharge is let out which pollutes the land and causes all kinds of pollution
We just mentioned it above! The cycle of getting more yield and putting more chemicals to increase it leads to more and more deforestation. The Governments have put up measures to ensure that these industries plant trees too but we all know how seriously that is taken!
We all must have read about it in school and thought of it as a topic which will definitely come in the exam because of its complexity! Well, eutrophication is a serious cause for concern. The industrial discharge that runs off into the water bodies results in a dense growth of algae or other plant life on the surface itself. This cuts off the oxygen supply for the aquatic life leaving underneath. Worldwide, there are more than 400 marine ‘dead zones’ caused by eutrophication, collectively covering an area six times the size of Switzerland. Recent research points out that there are other important impacts other than food production, such as clothing and manufactured good production. Cotton or linen production, for example, can involve direct agricultural impacts associated with growing crops.
Loss of Freshwater
It is only obvious that the chemicals seep into the groundwater and pollute it. Other than this, even the growing demand for freshwater to provide for the population has resulted in a significant reduction in the groundwater levels. Water covers 70% of our planet, but potable drinking water is just 3% of it. Out of this 3%, 2/3rd is in the form of glaciers or is otherwise unavailable for use. As per the current status, 844 million people across the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Imagine how the lessening of the groundwater reserves and pressure on the existing freshwater resources will further aggravate the concern and add millions more to the already huge number.
And finally, Global Warming, climate change and the resultant pollution! We do not think that anything even needs to be said about it.
What can We Do?
Well, a lot of it because most of this stress is arising out of what we have done. However, here are a few things to look at:
- The Governments will have to recognise the importance of and implement, one family one-child policy. We are way beyond the 2 children per home policy.
- In addition to that, strict punishments will have to be put in place for those who have more than 1 or 2 kids.
- The individual consumption and hoarding will have to be checked. The subsidies will have to be lifted for a lot of the households to prevent them from wasting the resources
- Another way of this could be to impose a tax on consumption beyond certain predefined levels.
- It is understandable that some humans consume more than others and hence a standard limit will not be possible. It would be advisable to start studies on the same so that some parameters may be defined
Ideally, it should be the individuals who should put limits on their consumption or production in this case but we have already seen that that is not practical. We still see that a lot of people have more than 2 kids and not just those who do not have basic education. Even the most educated ones have four to five kids in their own families.
That overpopulation will have to be kept under check is obvious. The question is- When will we and our Governments start putting those checks!
Hopefully, it will all be done before we end up in a phase of mass hysteria where people will be okay with killing each other to get some water or food!