By Akshita Mehta


Overpopulation is the state whereby the human population rises to an extent exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecological setting. In an overpopulated environment, the numbers of people might be more than the available essential materials for survival such as transport, water, shelter, food or social amenities. This regularly contributes to environmental deterioration, worsening in the quality of life, or even the disintegration of the population.

When we use the term “overpopulation,” we specifically mean a situation in which the Earth cannot regenerate the resources used by the world’s population each year. Experts say this has been the case every year since 1970, with each successive year becoming more and more damaging. To help temper this wildly unsustainable situation, we need to understand what’s contributing to overpopulation and overconsumption and how these trends are affecting everything from climate change to socio-political unrest.

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It is only logical that an increase in the world’s population will cause additional strains on resources. More people mean an increased demand for food, water, housing, energy, healthcare, transportation, and more. And all that consumption contributes to ecological degradation, increased conflicts, and a higher risk of large-scale disasters like pandemics.  

ECOLOGICAL DEGRADATION: An increase in population will inevitably create pressures leading to more deforestation, decreased biodiversity, and spikes in pollution and emissions, which will exacerbate climate change. Ultimately, unless we take action to help minimize further population growth heading into the remainder of this century, many scientists believe the additional stress on the planet will lead to ecological disruption and collapse so severe it threatens the viability of life on Earth as we know it. 

Each spike in the global population has a measurable impact on the planet’s health. According to estimates in a study by Wynes and Nicholas (2017), a family having one fewer child could reduce emissions by 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent per year in developed countries.

INCREASING CONFLICTS: The scarcity brought about by environmental disruption and overpopulation has the potential to trigger an increase in violence and political unrest. We’re already seeing wars fought over water, land, and energy resources in the Middle East and other regions, and the turmoil is likely to increase as the global population grows even larger.

PANDEMICS AND DISASTERS PLAGUE THE WORLD: Many of the recent novel pathogens that have devastated humans around the world, including COVID-19, Zika virus, Ebola, and West Nile virus, originated in animals or insects before passing to humans. Part of the reason the world is entering “a period of increased outbreak activity” is because humans are destroying wildlife habitats and coming into contact with wild animals on a more regular basis. Now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, it has become clear how difficult it is to social distance in a world occupied by nearly 8 billion people.   

RISING UNEMPLOYMENT: On the other hand, a high number of workers exist for a limited number of vacancies and this seems destined to lead to high rates of joblessness in the future. This in turn could provoke rising crime and social revolt.

RISING LIVING COSTS: All the above will lead, at the end of the day, to increasing living costs in most countries. Fewer resources, less water, the packing of many people into confined spaces and a lack of money are provoking an increase in the cost of living whereby only a percentage of the population will be able to cover all their needs.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES: on the positive side, high concentrations of people in urban areas also brings with it research and development in the quest for solutions to the population’s needs. An example is the popularization of communication technologies and the generation, collection and use of Big Data for sustainable ends, as well as the emergence of Smart Cities adapted to ensure good living conditions for the increasing population.

LACK OF WATER: Overpopulation creates greater demand on the world’s freshwater supplies. As only roughly 1% of the world’s water is fresh and accessible, this creates a major issue. Some estimates state that human demand for fresh water will stand at approximately 70% of what is available on the planet by 2025. This will place those living in impoverished areas that already have limited access to such water at great risk.

INCREASED INTENSIVE FARMING: As population has grown over the years, farming practices have evolved to produce enough food to feed larger numbers of people. However, intensive farming methods also cause damage to local ecosystems and the land, which may pose problems in the future.Furthermore, intensive farming is also considered a major contributor to climate change due to the machinery required. This effect will likely intensify if the population continues to grow at its current rate.

RISING PRICES: Food, fuel and energy prices rise when natural resources become scarce. A growing population means growing demand for resources. If demand rises too quickly, resource scarcity results and causes prices to rise for several reasons. Nonrenewable resources, including fossil fuels, cannot be replaced, so prices increase when supply dwindles. Even renewable resources, including timber, can increase in price if they need to be shipped long distances to reach areas where natural resources have been depleted.

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“For several years the population has been increasing faster than many vital nonrenewable and renewable resources. This means the amount of these resources per person is declining, in spite of modern technology. Other massive social and environmental problems … political instability, loss of freedoms, vanishing species, rainforest destruction, desertification, garbage, urban sprawl, water shortages, traffic jams, toxic waste, oil spills, air and water pollution, increasing violence and crime … continue to worsen as our numbers increase by more than 70 million more people every year. Solving these problems will be much less difficult when we stop increasing the number of people affected by them. Two billion people live in poverty, more than the population of the entire planet less than 100 years ago. Today there are more people suffering in misery and starvation in the world than ever before in history.” 

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