Over the last half century the population of the world has exploded. At the time of writing there are seven billion people on the planet and this number is projected to grow in a short period of time.
Of all of the environmental challenges facing the planet today overpopulation is one that sometimes slips under the radar. Issues like pollution, climate change and water shortages all seem to take precedence, but overpopulation is one of the main contributors to many other environmental issues.
Overpopulation will place great demands on resources and land, leading to widespread environmental issues in addition to impacting global economies and standards of living.
The issue is compounded by the difficulty in providing solutions for this problem and misunderstanding of the causes and effects of overpopulation.
Here we will cover both causes and effects of overpopulation in order for you to have a more informed view of the risks that come with it.
There are a number of factors that contribute to overpopulation. These are the leading causes:
Poverty is believed to be the leading cause of overpopulation. A lack of educational resources, coupled with high death rates leading to higher birth rates, result in impoverished areas seeing large booms in population.
The effect is so extensive that the UN has predicted that the forty-eight poorest countries in the world are also likely to be the biggest contributors to population growth. Their estimates state that the combined population of these countries is likely to balloon to 1.7 billion in 2050, from 850 million in 2010.
Poor Contraceptive Use
Though the availability of contraceptives is widespread in developed countries, poor planning on both partners’ parts can lead to unexpected pregnancies. Statistics have shown that in Great Britain 76% of women aged between 16 and 49 used at least one form of contraceptive, leaving a quarter open to unexpected pregnancies.
This issue is exacerbated in underdeveloped areas. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that this usage figure drops to 43% in countries that are blighted by issues like poverty, which leads to higher birth rates.
As distressing as it may be to hear, child labor is still used extensively in many parts of the world. UNICEF estimates that approximately 150 million children are currently working, primarily in countries that have few child labor laws.
This can result in children being seen as a source of income by impoverished families. Furthermore, children who begin work too young also lose the educational opportunities they should be granted, particularly when it comes to birth control.
Reduced Mortality Rates
Improvement in medical technology has led to lower mortality rates for many serious diseases. Particularly dangerous viruses and ailments such as polio, smallpox and measles have been practically eradicated by such advances.
While this is positive news in many ways, it also means that people are living longer than ever before. This “delay” in the cycle of life and death has led to birth rates outstripping death rates by over two to one in modern times.
Though it only plays a minor role in comparison to the other causes of overpopulation, improved fertility treatments have made it possible for more people to have children.
The number of women using various fertility treatments has been on the rise since their inception. Now most have the option of conceiving children, even if they may not have been able to do so without such treatments.
Unchecked immigration into countries may lead to overpopulation to the point where those countries no longer have the required resources for their population. This is particularly problematic in countries where immigration numbers far exceed emigration numbers.
In some cases, immigrants may be attempting to escape overpopulation in their own countries, only to contribute to the same issues in the countries they move to. However, data also exists to show the immigration can bolster economies, with the effect in the UK being particularly pronounced.
Overpopulation can have a number of effects, most of which are negative as examined below.
Lack of Water
Overpopulation creates greater demand on the world’s freshwater supplies. As only roughly 1% of the world’s water is fresh and accessible, this creates a major issue.
Some estimates state that human demand for fresh water will stand at approximately 70% of what is available on the planet by 2025. This will place those living in impoverished areas that already have limited access to such water at great risk.
Lower Life Expectancy
While higher life expectancy is leading to increases in population in developed countries, lower life expectancy may be caused by the booms in population that less developed nations are experiencing.
A large proportion of the world’s population growth occurs in less developed countries. This stretches the resources these countries have thinner resulting in less access to medical care, fresh water, food and jobs, all resulting in a fall in life expectancy.
The effect of overpopulation on the world’s wildlife is also a major issue. As demand for land grows, so too does the destruction of natural habitats, such as forests.
Some scientists warn that if present trends continue, as many as 50% of the world’s wildlife species will be at risk of extinction. Data has also been collected to show that there is a direct link between increases in human population and decreases in the number of species on the planet.
As the population grows, so too does the amount of resources needed to keep so many people alive. Food, water and fossil fuels are all being consumed at record rates, placing greater demands on producers and the planet itself.
Ironically, it is the discovery of many of these natural resources – particularly fossil fuels – that have contributed to conditions that are favorable to population growth. A study has shown that the world’s ecosystem changed more rapidly in the latter-half of the twentieth century than at any other point in history because of increased use of these resources.
Increased Intensive Farming
As population has grown over the years, farming practices have evolved to produce enough food to feed larger numbers of people. However, intensive farming methods also cause damage to local ecosystems and the land, which may pose problems in the future.
Furthermore, intensive farming is also considered a major contributor to climate change due to the machinery required. This effect will likely intensify if the population continues to grow at its current rate.
Faster Climate Change
Overpopulation directly correlates to climate change, particularly as larger nations, like China and India, continue to develop their industrial capacities. They now rank as two of the three largest contributors to emissions in the world, alongside the United States.
97% of the scientific community agrees that human activities are changing global temperatures. Larger populations may speed these changes up, especially if more is not done to reduce individual carbon footprints on a wide scale.
So now we know more about overpopulation and the effects it can have, but what can be done about it? There are a number of proposed solutions.
Better Sex Education
A lack of sex education – or poorly-implemented education – has led to overpopulation issues in many countries. The issue is so pronounced that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is calling for improvements to be made, particularly in poorer areas of the world.
Better education will help people understand more about the potential consequences of having sex as they relate to child birth. It will also do away with many of the myths that surround the sexual act and introduce scientifically-proven methods of birth control.
Access to Contraceptives
Access to birth control must go hand-in-hand with better sex education. After all, without it people cannot put what they have learned into practice.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 225 million women who are living in the developing countries would prefer to postpone giving birth but are not using any form of contraception. Many organizations, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), also support improving access to contraceptives.
Changes in Policy
Many nations offer rewards, whether in the form of financial incentives or increased benefits, to those who have more children. This may lead to some couples having more children than they otherwise would if they needed to worry about the financial consequences.
This is a difficult issue to confront. China’s “One-Child’ policy was recently abandoned, in part, because of the restrictions it placed on freedom, and it is likely that similar policies would be seen as equally restrictive.
Education on the Subject
While a number of organizations exist to provide schools with curricula and teaching materials to cover the subject of overpopulation, it is still a subject that is not covered in schools as well as it should be.
This education should extend beyond talking about sex and into the global consequences of overpopulation. Dialog about the subject needs to be more open, with sites like debate.org offering useful resources that allow the issue to be confronted rationally.
The Final Word
Overpopulation is a crisis that potentially stands alongside climate change as one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today.
Despite this, there is little in the way of education or dialog relating to the issue, particularly in schools.
If this doesn’t change, the issues highlighted in this article may continue to grow unabated. If that happens, this one issue could have a knock-on effect that will lead to untold problems in the future.
If you wish to share your own opinions about overpopulation, please do continue the debate in the comments section below. Alternatively, share this article on social media to encourage a conversation in your own community.
Featured Image Credit: James Cridland @ Flickr
Essay on Population Explosion in Pakistan
IntroductionPopulation explosion is a global problem. It is equally true of Pakistan. Everyday we come across the oft-repeated phrase, “Population Bomb is ticking”. A state based on Islamic ideology should be an ideal state. Since its inception Pakistan had to face the problems of illiteracy, poverty, pollution, unemployment, lawlessness & terrorism, inflation, loans, corruption, defective tax structure, government instability and many more chronic problems. Unless we achieve a control on population, these related problems will not be easily solved.
Pakistan and OverpopulationAt the time of partition, the area, which today comprises Pakistan, had a population of 33 million. The following table shows population of Pakistan at different times since its inception.
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Year Population (in millions)
Table-1 Comparison of population at different times
According to experts, under the same growth rate, the population of Pakistan would be greater than that of China by the year 2035.
Even after fifty-six years of its independence, Pakistan is still struggling to find a respectable place in the comity of nations. All the efforts made in the past seem to have gone in vain. Every sector of life today tells a sorry tale. The problem that could be blamed for all this sorry mess is overpopulation in the country. Overpopulation emerges as the main villain in Pakistan for a number of reasons. Every other problem mentioned earlier seems to have grown from the demon of this overpopulation.
DefinitionLiterally speaking, overpopulation arises when the resources in a country fell short of meeting the needs of its people. A number of factors could lead to the emergence of overpopulation.
Birth rate is the most common indicator that the countries today use to keep a check on population . Pakistan today suffers from a high birth rate in the country. But the birth rate was high even in the past and still overpopulation was nowhere to be seen. What factors today have translated the high birth rate into overpopulation? The advancements in the medical field have led to a sharp decline in the death rate. The life expectancy has increased due to the use of imported health technologies. So, a decline in death rate has in other words led to the problem of overpopulation. Pakistan is a developing country and as many others like it is trying hard to survive in the capitalist world. A huge population of around fifteen crores, that could have been an asset to the country is today a huge liability. Fast increasing population is thus a source of constant danger for Pakistan.
Impact of EconomyOverpopulation has badly hampered the economic growth in the country. High population is responsible for a decline in the per capita income . This leads to a decline in the purchasing power of the people. As the demand for goods decreases then by “Demand & Supply” law, the investment in the country will also suffer. Such a stagnant economy will lead to closing of factories and businesses and in return add to joblessness and poverty. Even if the country somehow is successful in attracting foreign investment, still overpopulation will not allow these investments to have a positive effect on the country’s economy. Greater population means more number of hungry souls to feed. With the number of productive earning members in a family small compared to unproductive members, there is felt a drag on limited income of poor families. This is the problem of “Dependency ratio” which is acutely felt in poor countries.
For years, social services in the country have suffered even after sincere efforts by successive governments. The fact remains that more schools, hospitals, and parks are of little comfort if the population keeps on increasing at an alarming rate.
Impact on Agricultural SectorAgriculture is another sector, which has been adversely affected by the rapid increase of population. About 70% of Pakistan’s population is employed in the agricultural sector. Overpopulation is even having an adverse effect on agricultural outcome. More population means smaller farms, and that leads to a decline in productivity. Availability of cultivable land in 1990 was 0.17 hector per person and the estimated availability of cultivable land by the year 2025 will be 0.07 hector per person. The same would happen with the forests and also with the availability of fresh water.
People having smaller farms have no other choice but to migrate in hope for a better life. This leads to urbanization, which itself is a major social problem .
Overpopulation Causing other Social EvilsOver population has contributed towards an increase in a number of social evils. Lawlessness, crime and corruption are all the result of population explosion. The fight over resources has divided the society into two groups i.e. those who have all and are not willing to share it and the second group that is fighting for its mere survival. This fight between haves and have-nots has the inherent seeds of conflict in it, which if erupted could imperil the peace and order in the society. Overpopulation in cities has also contributed to toxic pollution. A greater number of vehicles on the roads mean the availability of large quantities of poisonous gas for people to inhale. Sewage problems and lack of clean drinking water can also be attributed to the population problem.
World ScenarioThe world has crossed the six billion mark in population . After years of industrialization and technological advances, the world still suffers in providing basic necessities to the masses. Apart from few exceptions in Europe having a negative birth rate, overpopulation is a common problem of many nations around the world. Many of the countries have tried hard and to some extent they have been successful. China, around three decades ago, was facing shortages in food but today it is the largest growing economy in the world. The “One Child Policy” has done wonders for this new economic power. China has also proved the fact that through proper planning a huge population could be transformed into an economic asset.
Causes of OverpopulationFollowing is a brief discussion of some of the causes of overpopulation in our country:
- Warm climate (puberty attained by females at an early age)
- Early marriages
- Joint family systems
- Lack of recreational facilities
- Belief that God is ‘Raziq’ (belief that every child brings its food with him/her)
- Love for male issues (couple going for more babies)
- Illiteracy, people think that more children mean more working hands
- Misinterpretation of Ullemas
- Unawareness about the use of contraceptives
Efforts put in by GovernmentFamily Planning Association, a private venture, started work in 1953.
Government started providing family planning services at its health centers in 1960.
A National Planning program was formed in 1965.
American Aid for family planning started in 1974.
Provincial Governments initiated Family Planning Programs in 1983.
Community health center started by Government in 1993.
Future Course of ActionIt is right time that we nip the evil in the bud with proper planning. Education is the key to success against the menace of overpopulation. It will not only generate awareness against the hazards of overpopulation among the masses but will also create a healthy environment for birth control methods to flourish. Poor literacy rate in Pakistan is certainly adding to the difficulties, already being faced by the health workers in their fight against the problem.
The role of media is also an important factor. With most of the population illiterate electronic media could prove to be a huge success in getting the message across. Print media too needs to emphasize the problems of overpopulation on a more regular basis. Availability of birth control methods in the remote areas of the country should be ensured. The role of lady health workers should be expanded and the good office of every union council should make their supervision compulsory. “Devolution Plan” was devised to make the participation of people at the grass roots level. Now it is time that we solve the problem of overpopulation with a greater participation and support of these local councils. But this task will be not as easy to accomplish, as it may appears to be.
According to a report by Population Action International Washington, a great reason for population increase in Pakistan is that the Government has made a very insignificant investment in social sector owing to religious problems and secondly women having no say and freedom . A conservative society like ours is certainly not ripe to carry out a war against overpopulation. Therefore, the role of religious leaders emerges as an important aspect if we are to succeed against this menace. Big landowners in rural areas too command a lot of respect among the masses. It is time that they join in against the fight for a better future. Once these two classes are on the side of the government, there is no way that the government will not be able to solve the problem. Another factor that has for long proven to be a hurdle in solving population problem is the poor state of our womenfolk in the society. The rights of women must be restored and the discrimination against them must be stopped. Many women in the country are aware of the problems generated by having large families but they have little say in deciding about the strength of the family. In a male-dominated society as ours women often fall victim to the blind wishes of their male partners. Women often die in labor and owing to the lack of gaps between the successive births. Their health also deteriorates to an alarming stage.
Recommendations and Conclusion
- Family planning facilities be made a part of health facilities
- There should be a greater role for local and provincial governments
- Role of NGOs and doctors in disbursement of Aid received for family panning
- Males should be urged to cooperate more
- Status of women to be raised in society as done by present government by giving more seats in assemblies
- Better health and educational facilities for women
- Issue to be taken as a national crisis
- Role of media to be encouraged especially in rural areas
- Government programs should involve Ullemas and NGOs
- Greater participation of landlords
Problem of overpopulation is very serious because it leads to frustration, which means chaos. Chaos means anarchy and anarchy endangers the state.
Pakistan is today standing at the crossroads. It will either perish forever or will emerge as a stronger nation. What are needed is a vision and a sincere leadership that could transform dreams into reality. The problem of overpopulation has now started to haunt us and unless we tackle it pragmatically our dream of a bright and glorious future will just remain a pious wish. It needs a multi-pronged attack to deal with overpopulation. A strong Pakistan should be our first priority and if we have to make certain hard decisions for its accomplishment no one should hesitate to lead and pull the trigger. Indeed, Pakistan comes first even before our personal vested interests.
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