Overpopulation & Implications for the Future

As the world’s population grows, the world’s problems seem to be growing right along with it. Many of these problems were poorly understood in the past. Few people could have predicted the problem of agricultural emissions, for instance.

Growing enough food for a burgeoning population is becoming increasingly difficult. Fewer researchers have commented on what resource consumption to produce that food is doing to the world’s environment. Moreover, there is a theoretical limit to the amount of food that can be produced. The world may very well reach a peak population before it finally begins to level off.

Another major issue comes from the total amount of human waste produced at any given time. Humans consume oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Sewage is a major issue. In fact, many researchers have predicted that wars will soon be fought over access to clean drinking water and other basic necessities.

Many systems of controlling the population have failed. However, it’s interesting to note that many wealthy nations have aging populations. Falling birthrates are actually a major problem in some of the world’s richest countries. While the population continues to boom in newly industrialized powers as well as the third world, nations that have had massive economies for a long time are aging rapidly. We’re seeing this in the U.S. right now.

As smaller nations become wealthier, they are less likely to become overpopulated. People living in an industrialized society are less pressured to have large numbers of children. Moreover, the stress of having other obligations limits their amount of time to develop massive families. While unnatural methods have seemingly failed to control the spiraling populations of third world countries, economic development and technology may do it organically.

Other mitigation efforts are starting to be discussed as well. While extraterrestrial migration has long been seen as science fiction, it’s a realistic proposal. Space colonies and terraforming techniques are genuinely within the realm of possibilities…if we can only get started! That means that people might be living amongst the stars much sooner than anyone may have thought. Until then, however, more drastic control methods will remain in place. Most of these, with the exception of economic development, are highly undesirable.

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Additional Learning Resources:

  • http://twitter.com/jason_d_carr/status/252718463817248769/ Jason Carr (@jason_d_carr)

    Overpopulation & Implications for the Future http://t.co/XIrpBdYw

  • http://jameswharris.wordpress.com Jim Harris

    Back in the 1960s Isaac Asimov often wrote about over population. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner was a science fiction novel that came out in 1968 that tried to show what life would be like around 2010 because of overpopulation. Also in 1968 Paul and Anne Ehrlich published The Population Bomb the gave dire warnings of what would happen to the world if we let too many people be born. Then came a book in 1972, The Limits of Growth that was even more scary.

    Things didn’t turn out like predicted. The world isn’t a nightmare with 7 billion people. And conservatives have made much of that, now treating these early futurists as Chicken Littles. I think the Population Bomb is still going to go off, but just later than what they predicted. Conservatives says Global Warming won’t happen because scientists were wrong about the Population Bomb and The Limits of Growth. I say they weren’t wrong, we just haven’t waited long enough for these doomsday scenarios to happen.

    • Jason Carr

      Interesting comment as always Jim. As one of my colleagues pointed out after reading this post, it will be interesting to see how things turn out in China given their decades-long, single-child policy and what might occur as it changes in the future (it has already begun changing in recent years) to allow for more children. I find this topic fascinating and wish to study it a bit more in-depth. I’ll probably write about this again in the future as I learn more.

      • http://jameswharris.wordpress.com Jim Harris

        Jason, you should go back and read The Population Bomb and The Limits of Growth and see what they predict for our times, and then write a blog about it.

  • http://cosmicrevolutions.wordpress.com/ Scott Margeson

    This is definitely an issue that needs a lot of attention, since it’s the major underlying factor in nearly every sustainability / environmental problem we face. So thanks for posting!

    I’d just add that besides the birth rate, the issue is compounded by improved access to health care, which is causing infant mortality rates to plummet and average lifespans to increase (roughly 3 months every year, worldwide). Not that that’s a bad thing on its face! But it’s definitely a challenge.

    • Jason Carr

      Great input Scott. Agree 100%. Imagine if we ever figure out ways to prolong life even longer (and it’s only a matter of time until we do). That’s why I agree that this is a discussion we need to have no rather than later. It will only continue to grow in importance in the decades ahead.

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