Guest Author - Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger
In 2011 the world’s population reached seven billion people, and the population appears to be continuing to increase for a variety of reasons. Overpopulation has been a topic of discussion among environmentalists for many years. Environmentalists have argued that the Earth has become so inhabited by humans that they have depleted its natural resources. As a result, the world suffers from a reduction in fresh water, forests, biodiversity and food, an increase in landfills, poor air quality, fossil fuel consumption, and polluted oceans. These trends can be seen as facts if you consider all countries to be one environment; however, if you consider countries separately, you will find contributing factors to environmental concerns that are unique to each country.
Many women are delaying marriage in order to advance their careers and education and thus have children later in life, reducing population growth in certain countries. However, not all cultures allow women to have such opportunities. In addition, not all countries are considered to be overpopulated. According to the United States Census Bureau, countries such as China and India are leading the pack, while the United States ranks at number three for most populous countries, while some countries are experiencing a decrease in population. Is this decrease due to a lack of reproduction or increased immigration to other countries?
Urban areas tend to have a lower reproductive rate because a lack of space and a higher cost of living ultimately make it more difficult to raise large families. Rural areas have comparatively larger spaces and are much more affordable, which makes it easier to provide for a larger family. However, many people are attracted to urban settings because they offer better opportunities for employment, education, and health care, as well as a more diverse culture. Cities therefore tend to become more crowded than rural areas which can be driven by immigration, not necessarily increased birthrate. As a matter of fact, improvements in living standards and health care systems have contributed to increased life span, which will ultimately increase the population further.
There is no doubt that overpopulation is a major contributor to environmental concerns, but consumers are also to blame. The world’s richest people produce half of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary gas behind climate change. In contrast, the three billion people who live in poverty emit just 7 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Although Americans represent only 5 percent of the world population, they consume 25 percent of the world’s energy, according the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
When it comes to overpopulation, there are a variety of factors to consider. In future articles, we will highlight specific areas around the world and review independent factors associated with environmental issues and overpopulation, such as birthrates, contraception, belief systems, society’s expectations of women, environmental concerns, health care, and poverty.