On our planet, there are almost six and one half billion people, and more are being born every second. Some estimates say that every second, twenty-eight people are born, while another ten die. This results in a net gain of eighteen people every second of every day, non-stop. Humans, homo sapiens, have been in existence for at least ten thousand years, although it has been disputed exactly how long. Now consider that over 90 percent of our species population growth has occurred in only one percent of our existence. These are staggering facts. Surely we see signs of such growth in our own communities, perhaps in the form of a new supermarket or neighborhood where weeks earlier stood a forest.
However drastic something like this may seem at our local level, it absolutely pales in comparison to what is happening at the global level. In the United States we have an extremely high standard of living, and are able to accommodate such growth by consuming ever more resources. But what about the poorer developing nations that have thrice the rate of growth, and not even a fraction of our available resources? In order to ease the strain on the planet and ourselves, the issue must be addressed that the global population explosion is way out of control. Why have the population levels risen so sharply in the last few centuries, and particularly, decades? There are several reasons, many of them associated with newer technologies. Drastic improvements in the areas of medicine, sanitation, and nutrition have meant people are living longer and consuming more resources throughout a lifetime. Also, infant and child mortality rates have gone way down in most countries due to these advances. So there are more people living into and past their reproductive years, thus intensifying the cycle.
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But overpopulation does not simply mean there are many more people. It means that the giant escalation in the number of humans is becoming more than what the Earth is capable of providing for with the available resources. It so happens that we are at a perilous crossroads: as our numbers are becoming more and more, our resources are not increasing to accommodate the masses, but rather are becoming less and less. Valuable topsoil reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate, making available less farmland to grow food for the burgeoning masses. By the end of this century, the amount of arable land will be less than half of what it was in 1951. While the US and other developed nations are beginning to make the transition to become less reliant on fossil fuels, the demand is only projected to increase due to the many other poorer nations that will not be able to institute expensive new technologies while in the midst of their ongoing growth and industrialization.
Even water, the most basic and vital human resource of all, is becoming a valuable commodity in places like Africa and the Middle East, where the large amounts of people are contributing to the polluting of already scarce water supplies. Developing nations, often known as third-world countries, are the first to feel the real impact of overpopulation. As they are usually suffering economically, this prevents them from instituting effective educational systems and technologies to attempt to conserve resources. There is also a correlation between poor countries and higher birth rates due to several reasons. Since many of their economies are agriculturally driven, parents tend to have large families, reasoning that another mouth to feed is acceptable when it means two more hands helping with the labor. Also, since the educational systems are substandard, many people either are ignorant of or do not have access to methods of birth control. The end result is the dire scenario explained earlier: increasing people depending on decreasing resources.
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So what are we to do in order to combat this encroaching global catastrophe? First of all, the United States needs to stop being so hypocritical and set an appropriate example. While we chastise other nations for wanton environmental destruction and skyrocketing birth rates, we continue to expel more harmful emissions than all the other nations on the list of the top five polluters combined. Just to pose a rhetorical question: does it seem right that a nation with 5 percent of the worlds population consumes 40 percent of its resources? Just because we as a nation are aware of this problem sadly does not necessarily mean we are willing to alter our comfortable lifestyles to combat it. Only by changing our wasteful ways will we help lead the rest of the world in the ongoing battle against overpopulation..