Should we be concerned about population growth?
According to the UK's Royal Society, by 2050 the world's population is estimated to reach around nine billion. Population increase has been a topic of debate and concern over the last fifty years, but feels perhaps even more of an urgent and pertinent issue to address in the context of current concerns such as climate change, immigration and the availability and distribution of the world's resources.
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The resources of the earth are limited
The earth is finite, and we have no other place to go. As we marvel at our technology we sometimes forget that the fundamentals on which we depend are the the fertility of the soil, the availability and distribution of fresh water, access to sustainable energy supplies and resources, and a stable climate. Above all we depend on the stability of the earth's natural systems. The breathable atmosphere is less than 5 miles deep. Some reports suggest that we have already lost 80% of the fish in the sea.
The problem is that our rapidly increasing population is just putting more strain on the earth's resources than it can cope with. If everybody worldwide aspires to live even at the current living standard of the developed world, then we are already at a population beyond sustainability.
As an example just focus on the earth's fertile soils. They exist only on a very small part of the earth's surface. If sea levels rise, many of them are in the locations most likely to be flooded. If we misuse them with over-intensive agriculture they will become degraded. If we build on them, then they are unavailable for food production. If we over irrigate we will run out of fresh water. Within human time scales there are not going to be any more.
In the end the natural order will re-assert itself. The earth will reduce the human population to a sustainable number. The only real question is will it be through conflict, starvation and disease, or will we manage to produce a more humane and rational plan.?
Population growth can potentially drive scientific advancement to help sustain the population level. it is conceivable that, with enough motivation, we could learn to make habitations on other planets.
As long as we're on this planet alone, our species is living on borrowed time. Without a doubt, there will be some sort of natural disaster that will cause an extinction event. If all of us on this planet, that's the end of the species. If we've been pushed into moving off-world, our species and possibly others will survive.
The world's population has been growing rapidly. In 1800 the human population was below 1 billion. By 1930 it had risen by 2 billion on the back of the industrial revolution and 'agricultural revolution' in Europe and North America beginning to increase production of food so allowing the human population to grow rapidly. Since then with the green revolution population has soared to 6.8 billion and is projected to increase further to 9 billion by 2050.[[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10578484]] While the growth rate has fallen from 2.5% to 1.2% with a population of 6.8 billion this is still rapid growth in absolute numbers.[[http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=sp_pop_grow&idim=country:GBR&dl=en&hl=en&q=population+growth+statistics#met=sp_pop_grow&tdim=true]] With the human population growing there is less room for other animals. We have become too successful and because of that success our population expands.
Population tends to self-regulate based upon access to birth control and education for women.
It's been proven over and over again that the initial population boom experienced by former Third World countries doesn't continue for more than one or two generations. As women are given access to birth control and education, the desired number of children dramatically decreases. People, most notably women, hold off on having children until they complete their college education and begin a career. That takes at least a decade off of their childbearing years.
At the age of around 27, a woman's fertility begins to decrease. If she's only just started trying to have children at that age, her total number of children will be drastically reduced.
Italy, Japan, and others literally can't pay people to have children. Why? They would rather have a job and more income than raise multiple children.
There are many countries in the world which are trapped in a cycle of deprivation. Lack of affordable education and poor infrastructure leads to lack of economic success, which in turn leads to inability to afford the necessary education and infrastrucuture. In these circumstances, having lots of children becomes a kind of social security.
An additional factor is that there are quite a few societies where good education for women is actively discouraged, as a social policy.
Even in countries which have advanced econonically, a drop of birth rate does not really lead to reduced demand on resources, since each person consumes much more in terms of consumer goods, food, water, energy etc. In the UK for example we probably consume about 3 times a fair share of the world resources available. Countries like China, India and Brazil are hoping to join us shortly.
Getting population under control is always going to be difficult, because of the ageing population problem as birth rates drop, but it has to be tackled sometime, and it is not going to get any easier.
What do you think?