Overpopulation is a major issue in which the population, or the effect of a population, exceeds the area’s carrying capacity. It has a significant negative effect on several major world issues, and leads to squalid, cramped conditions with rampant disease and a severe buildup of waste. It can affect every country, but most severely impacts underdeveloped countries with subpar healthcare. Crowded and jettied buildings meant to utilize space more efficiently “taketh away the liberty of the air, making it unwholesome (William Oldys),” causing acute local pollution and even suffocation. Jettied buildings also greatly contribute to extremely large and devastating fires, and “as it doth facilitate a conflagration, so doth it also hinder the remedy (William Oldys),” preventing firefighting.
However, they’re only a symptom of the true problem: huge masses of people stuffed into increasingly small and destitute living spaces that can’t handle the population. This results in slums, ghettos, and favelas, all “breeding grounds for disease (Marcia Angell).” These slums result in dismal situations like Kibera Kenya, the largest slum in the world, with almost no access to water, no public services, poor shelter, and egregious poverty. There are only so many resources to go around, leading to extremely limited healthcare and almost no education, which in turn leads to even more children, compounding the problem.
More resources are required to support more people, leading to further deforestation and devastation of local habitats. Both the creation of waste and its improper disposal skyrocket with larger populations, causing pollution to contaminate nearby bodies of water and create smog, causing health hazards and visibility issues, and destroying the environment even further. This wild disregard for nature has drastic consequences- up to and including acid rain, eutrophication, global warming, polar vortices, the depletion of the ozone layer, and the sixth mass extinction. The sixth mass extinction, or the Holocene Extinction, is just as bad as it sounds- 150 to 200 species die out in day thanks to human influence, and this unprecedented rate of extinction is worse than “anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65 million years ago (John Vidal),” making humans “worse than a world ending apocalyptic event (Ashley South).”
Scientists estimate that “humans have driven roughly 1,000 species extinct (David Biello).” Anthony Barnosky predicts that “75% of all mammal species will have disappeared in 300 years (Anthony Barnosky)” and 30% of all species will be gone in 40 years. Evolution simply cannot compensate for this astounding amount of reckless death, and only humans are capable of stopping this mass extinction. We must act now, and we must act fast. Employing environmental conservation efforts like renewable solar and wind farms, switching to nuclear energy, and cutting back on deforestation is a good start, but it’s simply not enough. Devastated populations and endangered species have to be carefully nurtured back to health, and “aggressive conservation (David Biello)” methods like containing and killing invasive species, vaccination of wild fauna, and importing locally extinct species must be implemented if we wish to have a significant impact.
Overpopulation also greatly contributes to the severity of epidemics, and the prevalence of disease as a whole. The world population is currently approaching 8 billion, and the vast numbers of people required a drastic change in lifestyle from the relatively disease-free hunter gatherers. Rapidly growing megacities – and the accompanying slums – require people to live in very close quarters, resulting in the almost unrestricted spread of disease, and creating a melting pot of bacteria and viruses. Modern transportation allows for constant travel, infecting even more people and spreading once-local diseases round the world in a matter of hours. Subpar environmental conditions and poor living situations exacerbate the matter, causing a host of diseases and cancers, and substantially worsening the standard of living.
However, there is hope. India suffered from overpopulation as a direct result of insufficient healthcare. It launched the world’s first governmentally sponsored family planning policy in 1952 after the population increased by thirteen percent in a single year, and increased efforts to educate the populace on birth control methods and a greater focus on the health rationale of family planning were fully implemented by 1996. The health rationale of family planning subsequently eclipsed the demographic rationale so completely that the Department of Family Welfare was merged with the Department of Health in 2005, and India is expected to stabilize at 1.8 billion by 2050, entirely thanks to healthcare. Other countries can fix overpopulation too. Implementing better educational and healthcare systems will result in less children the families are unable to care for, contain the spread of disease, and produce more educated workers that can stabilize the country’s economy.
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