- Published on Sunday, September 27 2009
- Written by Super User
We have almost exhausted the world's freshwater supply. Currently, 505 million people live in countries with water scarce conditions. By 2025, almost 48% of the Earth's population will be living in areas of water scarcity.
But the problem is not just global. But very, very local
The United States' population hit 300 million a week ago. We've added 100 million in just 39 years and we are growing by nearly 3 million a year, leading the global march towards an uncertain future.
Overpopulation is the leading cause of problems talked about every day in millions of homes across America: traffic congestion, overcrowded classrooms, childhood asthma, global warming, and many more.
The Causes of the Problem
We have too many people.
Overpopulation is the condition of any organism's numbers exceeding the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. Overpopulation is not simply a function of the number or density of the individuals, but rather the ratio of population divided by resources.
Thomas Malthus argued in An Essay on the Principle of Population, first published in 1798, that if left unrestricted, human populations would continue to grow until they would become too large to be supported by the food grown on available agricultural land. He proposed that, while resources tend to grow linearly, population grows exponentially.
Because of the tremendous gains in technology, however, food production has grown faster than population. Now, without natural checks and balances to our population growth, combined with threats to our resources such as global warming, overpopulation looms as the greatest threat to our society.
The United States, in particular, is one of the worst offenders in this global crime.
The average American citizen consumes about 30 times as much as a citizen of India. If everyone on earth lived like the average American, it would require four more earths to provide all the material and energy.
The United States and the developed world uses over five times the energy per capita used by the less developed world. Although the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world's overall population, we produce 25% of all green-house-gas emissions.
More people means more cars. The U.S. is the most car-friendly and climate-unfriendly country in the world. With 4.6% of the global population, the U.S. accounts for almost 25% of global CO2 emissions -- and the proportion is rising fast.
More people means more urban sprawl and fewer habitats for wildlife. For every five cars added to the U.S. fleet, an area the size of a football field is covered with asphalt. The United States today has twice as many square feet of retail space per person than it did 20 years ago. As a result, approximately 25% of the world's mammals and 11% of its birds are at significant risk of extinction.
More people means we need to produce more animals and waste products to sustain the population growth. Total meat consumption in the U.S. will be roughly 5 million tons greater in 2050 due to population growth alone. There is approximately 1 chicken for each human in the world
This means fewer resources to go around. It takes 5,214 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. North Americans on average use 1,300 gallons of water per person every day, yet nearly half the world's population doesn't have enough water for adequate sanitation. Aggravating the problem: over 40% of the groundwater in the U.S. is contaminated by industrial, agricultural, and household pollution, making it extremely difficult and costly to purify.
And the more the population explosion continues, the worse this problem gets.
In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote the satirical essay, A Modest Proposal, where he suggests a satirical solution to the problem of overpopulation: consuming new infants as food. What better way to decrease the birthrate and feeds society at the same time? While extremists may see this as a tenable method, how about something more reasonable.
It used to be that the goal for sustainability was zero population growth, that is, the limiting of population increase to the number of live births needed to replace the existing population.
Zero population growth occurs when there is neither a net growth nor a net decline in population, but rather a steady state in which the numbers added by annual births and immigration exactly balance the numbers who die and emigrate each year
While this is still the ideal to which nations such as our own should aspire in the interests of sustainability, I believe the burden of overpopulation is such an imminent danger that we now have to go further. We now need to reduce our population over time.
There are many methods through which we can decline our national birth rate: we can increase access to contraception; we can encourage later ages for marriage; and we can also encourage women to seek careers outside of child rearing and domestic work.
The most specific and tangible method we can achieve results is through greater reproductive responsibility.
Let's ensure contraceptive availability.
A third of our births in the United States are unintended. An unplanned pregnancy occurs every 10.5 seconds in the United States, this is equal to about three million unplanned pregnancies a year. The federal government should fully fund the domestic family planning program for low-income women and the law should require all pharmacists to fill all contraceptive prescriptions.
Let's prevent teen pregnancies.
The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. We need to provide comprehensive sex education for our youth.
Finally, lest strengthen reproductive rights.
It may not be too late after all to sustain our development as a species.