Overpopulation and Its Consequences

Reshma Pattni


Connor, Steve. "Overpopulation 'is Main Threat to Planet'" The Independent 7 Jan. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Swarthmore, PA. 9 Apr. 2006.

"Design Technology to Safeguard Environment." The Hindu 13 Nov. 2005. LexisNexis Academic. Swarthmore, PA. 9 Apr. 2006.

"Overpopulation." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 11 Apr. 2006. 12 Apr. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation>.

Raleigh, Veena S. "Trends in World Population: How Will the Millenium Compare with the Past?" Human Reproduction Update 5.5 (1999): 500-505.

"The Magnitude of Population Growth and Its Consequences." Population Media Center . 12 Apr. 2006 <www.populationmedia.org/issues/issues.html>.


Design Technology to Safeguard Environment:

Outline of the article (with discussion questions listed at the end in green): This article was written as a call for the science and business communities to recognize the devastating effect that a lot of new technology is having on the environment. They need to begin to focus on creating a technologic and economic setting that will protect rather than harm the environment while improving humans’ lives. It acknowledges that technology has been necessary to better humans’ lives, but that the negative side is the pollution. Often this pollution is comprised of chemical compounds that don't bio-degrade. Because of this waste and the abuse of natural resources, the current lifestyle of humans in general is not sustainable. A key statement in the article was that "it is essential to change the attitude both at the individual and societal level, which in turn would ensure scientific growth with human concerns." (1) The author goes on to link the increasing population to the problem of poverty citing the need to stabilize populations. The increasing population has large impact on the environment, and legislation and the creation of a mass movement in addressing population are crucial to protecting the environment.The author claims that industry needs to take a "holistic approach of occupational health, accident prevention, pollution control and waste minimization" using systems supporting "health, safety, and environment." (2)

(1) Is it possible to implement massive lifestyle changes on the individual and societal levels taking into account aspects of human nature that may be resistant to giving up luxuries or helping people in faraway places, among others? What measures could be taken to implement this lifestyle change?

(2) How do we involve legislation in this process and how do we implement policies addressing this? Can policy alone deal with the situation or do there need to be a societal change in attitude?


Overpopulation 'is Main Threat to Planet'

Outline of the article (with discussion questions listed at the end in green): This offers a more pessimistic view of the problem of increasing populations and their effect on the environment. This discussion is led by Professor Chris Rapley and Professor John Guillebaud who are concerned with the lack of attention given to overpopulation in efforts to save the planet. Guillebaud's opinion is that if we do not address overpopulation 'humanely through family planning,' then we will be subject to nature's wrath manifested as 'violence, epidemics, or starvation.' (3) Furthermore, population growth needs to be addressed to be able to make progress with respect to other central problems. According to the UN, world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 which would put an incredible strain on the earth even if pollution was reduced, especially because the input of pollution of each person will never be zero. (4) Rapley believes that population management has been left out of conversations about the well-being of the planet because it is so controversial and carries 'issues of ethics, morality, equity, and practicability.' At this point, humans 20% more renewable resources are being used than can be replaced annually. Guillebaud claims that this implies that we would need the resources of 4 more Earths for the estimated population of 2050. He believes that stabilizing populations should be focused on, along with lifestyle and technological advances, or there will be extraordinary and dreadful damage to the earth. Alternatively, other environmentalists have faith that the planet can sustain even larger population growth as long as everyone uses less energy and changes their fuel sources. (5)

(3) How much is this statement based on facts, or how much is it only an alarmist point of view? Is this type of Malthusian crash the only option if population is not controlled using family planning? Would it be possible for humans to find a balance in some other way without catastrophe? Also, what consitutes as humane family planning? What types of policies could be used and what are the implications of each? How could this be enforced? Could it be purely governmentally led or is some sort of cultural change necessary?

(4) Would it be possible to decrease energy use to a perfectly balanced lifestyle, keeping in mind human nature and human tendencies? If so, what are some examples of how this could be achieved?

(5) Is it more useful to take an optimistic or pessismistic view in trying to mobilize people and effect positive change?

Population Media Center: The Magnitude of Population Growth and Its Consequences

Outline of the article (with discussion questions listed at the end in green): Despite projections that population growth rates will decrease in the near future, there is and will be a significant amount of people being added to the world population. The significance of this increase in population can not be ignored especially in conjunction with the substantial population growth of the last 50 years. Four areas of concern are addressed: environmental threats, poverty, scarcities of food and fresh water, and threats to international security. Environmentally, there has been a loss of habitat leading to a severe loss of biodiversity which in turn, has led to instability of ecological systems. Additionally there has been a large migration from rural to urban areas which has contributed to problems with water pollution and worsens health conditions. (6) International agreements to reduce emissions have not been adhered to resulting in an increase in emissions globally, and it is predicted that developing countries will surpass developed countries in emissions of greenhouse gases. (7) With regards to poverty, 80% of the world's population currently is living in conditions of some level of poverty. Population stabilization has proved to help economically and in increasing the quality of life. (8) Agriculturally, a declining response curve to fertilizers has been observed which raises questions of how this will affect the larger future populations. Population growth results in an increased demand for food and if it is becoming scarce, prices will go up leaving many victim to hunger and starvation. Also, western countries are referred to as historically not decreasing their lifestyle to improve quality of life for poorer countries so it is not likely that we can look to them for support. (9) Water shortages have been witnessed in many places too and soon the limits will be seen in the earth's ability to support the human race. The last section discusses international security. The logic used is that an increase in population leads to an increase of people wntering the labor force. The labor force can not support the numbers trying to find jobs, so there in an increase in unemployment which will amount to more political instability and a combination of poverty and violence. Thus, population growth contributes to a decrease in international security. (10)

(6) What will the long term results of this decrease in biodiveristy and worsened health and water conditions? Are these issues that should be addressed separately or as a whole topic?

(7) How do we pass and enforce effective legislation to reduce emissions since the past agreements were not followed? How do we address the problem of developing countries increasing their emissions even more? What is a practical approach to working with these areas?

(8) Can you argue that family planning policy is acceptable because it will better the lives of future generations by stabilizing the population?

(9) What does this mean for attempts to stabilize populations and even out distribution? There are two problems here: if westerners will not reduce their lifestyle, how will any change be effective and if they will not participate in a global effort including those less fortunate, what programs can be successful at making positive change environmentally?

(10) Is this argument plausible and if so, what are the implications of this logic?


Trends in World Population: how will the millenium compare with the past?

Outline of the article (with discussion questions listed at the end in green): Extreme population growth is a recent thing. For example, in 1750, there were 800 million people and it took 1600 years to double. The low population growth prior to recent history is attributed to high birth and death rates with intermittent catastrophes like famine and epidemics as well as self-imposed, social restrictions on procreation. (11) Europe was the first area to break through the limits to population with the help of medical advances and improvements in sanitation and living standards among others. More recently, improvements in public health has decreased the mortality rate, but fertility rates are taking longer to drop. There was a larger addition to the world population in the last 50 years than there had been in the prior million. Nevertheless, population growth rates are beginning to fall. Fertility rates are lower now than they have been in past but the high fertility rates of the past mean that there are a large amount of women just reaching sexual maturity. Europe is the only are that is expected to have a decrease in population by 2050. (12) In the 21st century, the new challendge will be providing health services and maintaining quality of life for the ageing population.The last section of the article addresses the effect of HIV/AIDS on populations. AIDS kills 2.5 million people a year, largely affecting young adults, especially in developing countries. Despite the increased mortality, the continued high fertility rates in these places means that we will not see a decrease in population for a long time. Raleigh concludes by declaring thatresources and how we shape our economics, social, and political arrangements will determine the carrying capacity of the earth. (13)

(11) What is the morality of this? How hard would it be to do? At that time, low and late marriages were used as a form of control, is that feasible now- especially in our global society?

(12) How are they doing that is making it possible to decrease population?

(13) How many people can the world support? Will resources determine the limit? If the current problem is distribution, will that change?


This provided a general overview of many facts and theories about overpopulationand addressed several themes in the discussion of population growth and world population models. Some questions in response are:

(14) In bending this definition of overpopulation, is the earth overpopulated because people are starving even though it is due to distribution problems? If not, why would we say it is not and what would make it be true?

(15) To repeat a question asked earlier, but now in more depth, is it more immoral to let people starve now or would it be better to work on changing distribution which could lead to an increase in population resulting in famine, disease, and war? Secondly, is it moral to adhere to "survival of the fittest" and assume that nature will regulate itself?

(16) Is economic development the best way to decrease population growth?

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