Uploaded by Savannah Templeton

World Over-Population

02 March 2021
At Maximum Capacity
When there are too many people in an elevator, the machinery will let out an unpleasant
buzz to alert those inside that it cannot hold that much weight- the doors will not close again
until someone gets off. When computers run out of storage, it will send a notification blocking
the user from adding any further data unless pre-existing files are deleted. When people eat too
much, the human body sends messages to the brain telling it to stop eating. These scenarios of
lack of space are common-place in many lives, and are resolved quickly by listening to the
distress signals in each situation; however, our earth has been sending out such distress signals
and alarms in the forms of rising temperatures, lack of natural resources, disappearing
ecosystems, etc. for years, and we have yet to truly listen to it. Many governments and
organizations throughout history have moved forward in the efforts to help the declining health
of our planet, but few have recognized the need to fix the problem that is arguably the root of all
of our environmental problems: overcrowding.
The earth currently sustains the lives of over 7.6 billion humans1 and is increasing
exponentially as time progresses, adding an estimated additional 1.1 million lives in the United
States alone from 2019-20202. According to the United Nations’ predictions, the population
could potentially reach 9.5 billion people by 2050, and over 11 billion by 21003. Unfortunately
for us, most scientists have agreed on a ballpark of 9-11 billion people as being the carrying
capacity of our blue planet based upon past and current trends of consumption4. While the exact
carrying capacity is highly debated, the issue of overpopulation and crowding is evident in the
abundance of issues being caused environmentally.
As addressed in our course, we are currently experiencing record deforestation,
overflowing landfills, air pollution, a sand shortage, global warming, decline in fossil fuels,
rising sea levels from melting ice caps, diminishing biodiversity, ozone layer depletion, and not
to mention the cultures that have been buried beneath colonization and assimilation, vital
ecosystems lost to urbanization, starving communities from lack of food- the lists go on and on5.
A single human requires land to live on and food to eat while simultaneously amassing
thousands of pounds of waste that can’t be recycled6, and adding to the greenhouse gasses
through daily life such as driving cars and utilizing natural resources. This may not seem like a
large carbon footprint, but when multiplied by 7.6 billion it quickly adds up. It will continue to
compound as our populations increase until we eventually render our planet uninhabitable, only a
mere fraction into its lifespan7. Our inability to control our increasing numbers directly affects
and catalyzes almost every known issue we have in nature, and negates any efforts put forth to
“fix” anything.
The solution: population control. When it comes to population control, policies become
very difficult to implement because of the ethical implications of limiting life on the planet.
Many works of literature discuss possible theoretical solutions such as age limits via euthanasia8,
a presently close-to-home option of herd-thinning through the means of a virus9, and naturalselection based on intelligence and adaptability10, but all of these have obvious moral obstacles
that prevent them from being considered true solutions. It can be argued that it is not humanity’s
place to “play God” and decide who lives or dies, while conversely it can be debated back that
humans are responsible for cleaning up the mess that they made. With this being said, it is
understandable that the only government that has successfully passed a long term population
control policy prior to the overpopulation becoming a state of emergency has been China whose
government does not rely on democratic vote.
Without the impediment of controversial ethical debates, China passed a “one child”
policy in the 1970s that lasted until 2016 and prohibited families from having more than one
child11. The data would not seem to support that this policy was successful in limiting
greenhouse gas emissions as China skyrocketed and began to reach record numbers each year
after the policy was implemented12, however China reports that they managed to curb their
population to 1.3 billion during the policy compared to the 1.6 billion13 that it was projected to
reach14. The difference between those numbers is equivalent to the entire population of the
United States15, which presents the question: by how much more would the greenhouse gas
emissions have been had China added an extra 300 million people’s carbon footprint to the
environment? It is plausible to assume that the rise in gases despite population control is
attributed to the influx of the new modern lifestyle involving more factory produced items,
increase in cars, and a surplus in use of electricity. Regardless of present numbers and figures, it
is undeniable that fewer people results in a lower demand for energy.
China took the first steps to population control and has currently removed the policy after
seeing a continued trend of fewer births even after they increased the law to allow two children
per family. However, while the policy was effective in its design, it is widely regarded as a
removal of human rights. Still, other methods of deterrence that have been suggested such as
child tax, sterilization, legalization of abortion, application of family planning, and selective
killing, that also have direct ethical opposition are carried out in countries worldwide anyways
without the consent of its citizens. In the United States, federal funds were used to create
programs inside of Indian Health Service that sterilized Indian women without consent, and
created similar programs in Puerto Rico that were responsible for the sterilization of almost ⅓ of
Puerto Rican women of child-bearing age16. India faced mass starvation and complete
destruction in the wake of their overpopulation issues, and set up camps with medical personnel
with little to no training to be paid per each IUD/sterilization/vasectomy performed each day.
The overcrowding brought India to the edge of collapse, forcing the government to declare a
state of emergency and convert to a dictatorship, going so far as to withhold resources such as
water, medical care, electricity, food rations, and land from those who refused sterilization. By
the 1980s, over 8 million Indian citizens were forcefully sterilized17.
India is a prime example of what can happen if the overcrowding is not addressed now.
When the issue becomes too large to be ethically managed, governments will do what they have
to in order to ensure the survival of the civilization and authority. China was able to postpone a
fate such as India’s by working to fix its problem early on as ethically as they saw possible, and
hopefully others will see the need to do the same before it is beyond saving. Iran has already
begun preparing and has instated mandatory contraceptive courses for both males and females
before allowing a marriage license while also benefiting those who choose to keep a smaller
family without punishing those who do not.20
The problem of overpopulation in most first and second world countries is mainly only
evident in the environmental issues aforementioned18, which are easily brushed aside as not
pertinent and will largely be forgotten about until humanity comes to the brink of exhausting all
of its resources. With an increasing population comes increasing greenhouse gas emissions
which causes temperatures to rise, glaciers and icecaps to melt, and sea levels to increase. The
more people on Earth, the more land needed to house them, destroying natural ecosystems and
displacing animal species leading to a drop in biodiversity as species die off. Sand is then
required for the concrete to pave over the land, and with more people comes families and even
larger generations. These families produce waste that ends up in landfills and the ocean, and it
creates a never ending cycle of downward spiral if left unchecked. As Garrett Hardin said, “We
are breeding ourselves into oblivion,”19 and soon the only options laid in front of us will be to
either implement policies to cut the birth rate, or conversely we must increase the death rate.
When elevators beep at us with a weight limit, we get off; when computer drives are full, we
delete files; when we have eaten too much, we stop. Why is it that when it comes to the very
planet that provides us life, we cannot seem to listen to its warnings? The solution does not need
to be extreme or unethical, but it is important that the issue of overcrowding is taken seriously
and addressed correctly while we have the time to do so.
Works Cited
1. https://datacommons.org/place/Earth
2. https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2020-12-22/us-population-growth-smallest-inat-least-120years#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIt's%20telling%20you%20that%20this,according%20to%20
3. https://worldpopulationhistory.org/carrying-capacity/
4. https://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html
5. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-overpopulation-impacts-the-environment4172964#:~:text=Overpopulation%20is%20associated%20with%20negative,to%20eutro
6. http://utahrecycles.org/get-thefacts/#:~:text=In%20a%20lifetime%2C%20the%20average,the%20end%20of%20their%
7. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150323-how-long-will-life-on-earth-last
8. The Giver, Lois Lowry
9. The Maze Runner, James Dashner
10. Legend, Marie Lu
11. https://www.britannica.com/topic/one-child-policy
12. https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/201803.0176/v1/download
13. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-population-idUSKUA07724020070830
14. https://ourworldindata.org/co2/country/china?country=~CHN
15. https://www.census.gov/popclock/
16. https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-population-control-holocaust
17. https://pravoslavie.ru/54248.html
18. https://earth.org/the-biggest-environmental-problems-of-our-lifetime/
19. https://www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us/cms/lib/NC01001395/Centricity/ModuleInstance/17064/Hu