Overpopulation, Overcrowding, Poverty and Conflict
At present, there are 6.5 billion people in the world and the number continues to multiply. In contrast, there are only a limited number of natural resources. On a global basis, the human population has shown a J-shaped pattern of growth over the past two thousand years, while the availability of natural resources mandatory for human survival is in slow decline. The implications of this are not limited to mass starvation, poverty and overcrowding of poorly sanitized cities. In fact, the current stress created by the imbalance between a burgeoning population and a finite number of resources are also one of the main factors contributing to the rise of violent inter-group conflict. Clearly, something must change in order to insure our own survival and the survival of our planet.
Unfortunately, human nature adopted its current manufacture and consumption habits during a time when the balance between the number of humans and their available resources was not nearly as stressed. The world’s population early in the agricultural revolution (about 8,000 BC) was probably no more than 10 million. (Southwick 159) In addition, the number of natural resources available for human use was much greater. Thus, humans are continuing to live as though there were an unlimited amount of natural resources, setting themselves up for dire consequences in the future. According to a contemporary anthropologist and writer, “Most ecologists consider human population growth to be one of the greatest problems in global ecology and a major driving force of environmental degradation. They see excessive consumption as an equally important cause of pollution and environmental deterioration. Most agree that the two factors work hand in hand to threaten the world’s ecological integrity.” (Southwick 159).
Southwick also reminds us that although the situation we have set up for ourselves in the future might be highly regrettable, we are already reaping the bad seed that we sowed in some parts of the world. We often forget that a greater part of the developing world is suffering at the hand of this incredible discrepancy between burgeoning population and environmental scarcity. As of 1992,
-One out of every five people in the world, including one out of three children under the age of five is hungry or malnourished.
-17 million are refugees, stateless, landless and often homeless.
-One out of three people have poor health care and not enough fuel to cook food or keep warm.
-Over a billion people are seriously ill with preventable diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, and filariasis.
According to Southwick, scientists estimate that the optimum global population is no more than 2 billion people. They believe that somewhere between 1 and 2 billion people could be supported in relative prosperity. (161) Compare this with...