Population Growth and Standard of Living
Recently, the human population on this planet surpassed an amazing milestone. In the year 2000 it hit 6 billion, and without a sign of slowing down, continue to increase at an unprecedented pace. After taking nearly 3 million years to reach our first 1 billion, it has taken us only 11 years to raise our population the most recent billion (from 5 to 6). This rate of growth can be graphically interpreted as a J-shape pattern. If the past is any indication of the future, this means that while our rate of growth is high right now (a net increase of almost 87 million annually), it will continue increase to no end. But is there a limit to how big the population on Earth can truly be? While many agree on the J-shape population growth of the past, few ascertain that this trend will continue. In the following I will describe some of the current theories about our species' future population growth.
Some ecologists today consider the rate of population growth amongst humans, an ecological crisis. These ecologists see "excessive consumption as an equally important cause of pollution and environmental deterioration."(Southwick, 161) One such ecologist is Charles H. Southwick, author of Global Ecology in Human Perspective. He believes that while some people are "living longer and fuller lives than ever before", a major portion of our population is living in poorer conditions than ever before. (Southwick, 161) Southwick explains that this is largely due to the fact that our planet is already overpopulated and cannot provide enough materials for all humans to share a reasonable standard of living. "A number of scientists believe we cannot, and some believe we cannot ever ensure adequate food supplies."(Southwick, 161) Moreover, it is not just food that we cannot supply for these unfortunate individuals. We also are currently having trouble supplying adequate housing, health care, education, and many other components of a reasonable standard of living. "If we cannot provide these amenities now for 6 billion people in the world, can we expect to provide them for 8 to 10 billion in the 21st century." (Southwick, 161)
On the opposite end of the argument lie optimistic ecologists like Julian Simon. Simon believes that there is no population crisis and no environmental crisis that is due to the rapid growth of humans. He believes, in what many scientists call, a "tech fix". "He asserts that population growth, economic growth, and a resource rich-world coupled with modern technology will produce greater prosperity and better health for increasing numbers of people." (Soutwick, 160) Simon's theory has come true before. For example, when the growth of our human population started to slow during the time of the nomad, humans realized agriculture could support more people, and thus, the Agricultural Revolution took place. In addition, "advances in agricultural and industrial technology have...