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Overpopulation Vs.
Global Environment
How much is too much?
With the world’s population about to cross 7 billion, we condu...
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents .........................................................................................
Population Control ..........................................................................................................
INTRODUCTION

The human population has undergone several phases of growth since the dawn of civilization. From
barely a fe...
The relationship between population and environmental issues are exceptionally intricate. When
any one of the ecosystem is...
WHAT IS OVERPOPULATION?

Overpopulation is a state when a group of people, or any living organisms for that matter, surpas...
existent resources to sustain human life. Common resources to be considered when calculating if an
area is overpopulated i...
iii

With such a huge amount of pressure exerted on the natural resources, once they are depleted it
will result in a rapi...
CURRENT STATE OF THE PLANET

The success of our rapid growth and development has come at a hefty cost to the environment. ...
All these issues combined cause an incalculable effect on the planet’s biodiversity. Extinction rates of
plants and animal...
Despite our increased strain on earth’s resources, it is still not meeting our requirements.
The amount of people living i...
THE LINK BETWEEN POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENT
There are many factors to consider when studying the link between population a...
Ehrlich used this formula to prove that population growth is the dominant factor in environmental
damage. However, in real...
POPULATION TRENDS
When people consider the human impact caused by overpopulation on the environment, they think
in terms o...
Figure 6 : World Population Prospects

vi

With more urbanization there is a steady decrease of land reserved for agricult...
Mortality too plays a certain role. In most regions the mortality rate is declining constantly providing
and increase to t...
That’s not always the case as seen in case of Bangladesh which reduced its TFR to 3.1, while illiteracy
still remained at ...
Figure 8 : UNPD World Population Projections till 2050

viii

According to the UNPD, the regions showing low fertility rat...
Population Composition
Population composition refers to the age, sex, marital status etc. of a specific region. It plays a...
In developed regions however, the fertility rates have declined, so the building is shaped more like a
pear, with more peo...
Carrying Capacity
“Carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area
within natur...
Figure 10 : Earth's Carrying Capacity (8020vision)

x

But, since it is extremely difficult to calculate the tolerance lim...
NATURAL RESOURCES AND WASTE PRODUCTION
Overpopulation affects the environment by two major human factors.

First, the amou...
The best way to find out about a shortage of any natural resource is to check the price at which the
product is being sold...
90
80
70
60
50

Population growth

40

Agricultural growth

30
20
10
0
Rate of growth

Figure 11 : Malthus Theory of Popul...
water. With the forest area cleared to make more space for farms, there’s been vital loss of
biodiversity, wildlife etc.
I...
Fresh water
Planet earth has ample amounts of water present on the surface. However, in terms of usable water,
only 3% is ...
Figure 13: Water Stress and Scarcity Projections

xiii

By 1995, research indicated around 450 million people suffering fr...
xiv

The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a
consumer or pr...
Bearing that in mind, studies concluded that over 60% of the world’s population is currently
suffering water shortage, wit...
xv

Organic and metallic pollutants such as plastic or loose strings of wiring are found in the most
remote parts of the A...
Overpopulation has always been a driving factor in creating excess waste and thereby polluting the
environment. The sheer ...
CURRENT STATE OF THE ECOSYSTEMS
The earth’s ecosystems play a vital part in human existence and success. The wetlands puri...
Biodiversity is a vast natural resource, showing over 3 billion years of evolution. Biodiversity is not
just the total num...
As explained by Kim McDonald, (reporter)
“The map regions colour-ranked by how much area is projected to change by 2100 in...
Figure 18 : Link between Climate change and biodiversity loss (UNEP)

xviii

The Global Biodiversity Assessment discovered...
Deforestation
As more numbers are added to the human population, the need for space increases too. By 1995,
only 1/3 of th...
Marine Life

Out of all the various ecosystems, marine life is probably the tiniest studied environment as humans
in gener...
The figure below explains in detail how dead zones are formed in marine environments

Figure 20 : Formation of Dead Zones
...
Climate Change
Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, there have been major alterations in the earth’s
climate....
With the rising temperatures, certain diseases which thrive in warmer climates will increase. For
example, malaria, which ...
SOLUTIONS
After a thorough discussion of how overpopulation is causing a debilitating effect on the global
environment, de...
always come at a cost of environment damage, especially when there are readily available
alternatives.

Rate of consumptio...
CONCLUSION
If we focus on conserving nature and lowering our usage of resources, then we can achieve a healthy
sustainable...
REFERENCES
(Arranged in order of appearance in report)

1

nd

“Another Inconvenient Truth”, Scientific American Magazine,...
19

UNEP (Heywood, ed.), Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1995.
th
http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c23/CI011056.pdf Ret...
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Overpopulation VS Global Environment - How Much is Too Much?

With the world’s population about to cross 7 billion, we conduct a comprehensive study of the present-day ecosystems to determine the extent of damage inflicted on the natural resources and see if we have already crossed the threshold limits or is there still a key to achieve stability between population and environment.

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Overpopulation VS Global Environment - How Much is Too Much?

  1. 1. Overpopulation Vs. Global Environment How much is too much? With the world’s population about to cross 7 billion, we conduct a comprehensive study of the present-day ecosystems to determine the extent of damage inflicted on the natural resources and see if we have already crossed the threshold limits or is there still a key to achieve stability between population and environment. Word count: 7247 Harshal Desai Raffles Design Institute 2/17/2011
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS Table of Contents .................................................................................................................................... 1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 3 What is overpopulation? ........................................................................................................................ 5 Current state of the Planet ..................................................................................................................... 8 The link between population and environment ................................................................................... 11 Population Trends ................................................................................................................................. 13 Growth Rate .................................................................................................................................. 13 Fertility and Mortality Rates ......................................................................................................... 14 Population Projections .................................................................................................................. 16 Population Composition ............................................................................................................... 18 Environmental impacts on human population ............................................................................. 19 Carrying Capacity .......................................................................................................................... 20 Natural Resources And WASTE production .......................................................................................... 22 Non-Renewable resources ............................................................................................................ 22 Renewable Resources ................................................................................................................... 23 Current State of the Ecosystems........................................................................................................... 32 Biodiversity ................................................................................................................................... 32 Deforestation ................................................................................................................................ 36 Climate Change ............................................................................................................................. 39 SOLUTIONS ............................................................................................................................................ 41 Table of Contents Marine Life .................................................................................................................................... 37 1
  3. 3. Population Control ........................................................................................................................ 41 Rate of consumption ..................................................................................................................... 42 CONCLUSION......................................................................................................................................... 43 Table of Contents REFERENCES .......................................................................................................................................... 44 2
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION The human population has undergone several phases of growth since the dawn of civilization. From barely a few thousand people around 2,000,000 years ago, we crossed the 1 billion mark around 1800 and over 6 billion in the year 2000, making us one of the most successful species in the history of life on this planet. Despite humanity’s triumph in nourishing the snowballing global population, the planet’s natural resources on which all life heavily depends upon – fresh drinking water, fertile land for agriculture, fisheries and forests etc. are getting rapidly depleted. Present population predictions propose the possibility that the global population could peak quicker than indicated earlier by the United Nations Population Division. With the current exponential rise, global population is causing devastating effects on the natural environment. i i http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/deep-green/deep-green-september-2008/ th Image Retrieved 8 February, 2011 Introduction Figure 1: Population v/s Natural Resources (Source: GreenPeace) 3
  5. 5. The relationship between population and environmental issues are exceptionally intricate. When any one of the ecosystem is thrown off balance, it can set off a chain of events that can create widespread damage over a vast area. The purpose of this report is to study and explain the bond between population and environment with the help of various information graphics such as maps and charts to illustrate the current state of the world. After that we will focus on specific resources in detail, taking in account their rapid exhaustion on a global scale. Lastly, this report contains a few case study analyses that look at population-environment associations in particular regions of the world. Listing out all the characteristics of the population-environment bond is nearly impossible in a single report. Nevertheless, by focusing on present-day research and statistics as well as using information graphics in terms of maps, this report tries to express a logical credible solution to one of the most Introduction significant questions about our own survival in the future. 4
  6. 6. WHAT IS OVERPOPULATION? Overpopulation is a state when a group of people, or any living organisms for that matter, surpass the natural load sustainability of its environment’s resources. But overpopulation doesn’t only consider the size and volume of the number of people. It is also calculated by the ratio of people to the amount of resources available and also takes into account the methods by which these natural resources are consumed and distributed through the populace. Global population growth rate 14 12 10 8 World Population 6 4 2 0 1,000 1,500 1,800 1,900 2,000 2,010 2,050 2,100 2,150 2,200 Figure 2: World Population Chart (Data Source: United Nations Population Division) ii Primary causes for overpopulation are an exponential rise in the birth rate and steady decline in mortality rates due to improvements in the field of medicine. These days it is probable for sparsely populated zones to be overpopulated, as the region in question might have insufficient or nonii http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf th Statistic Data Retrieved 8 February, 2011 What is overpopulation? 1 5
  7. 7. existent resources to sustain human life. Common resources to be considered when calculating if an area is overpopulated includes the amount of clean water and air available, adequate supply of food, strong housing, quick access to health care, proper schooling, functional sewage management and water disposal, energy consumption and availability of land to name a few. (Scientific American, 2009)1 In these modern times, we often hear people say that overpopulation is not a big deal, and that this planet has enough space to occupy everyone. While it is mathematically possible to fit every person on the planet into a country like United States, given each person has only around 1500 cubic meter of space for themselves. It is possible, but would get extremely crowded. We have to consider the early warning signs of such a lifestyle before it become the only option. Even right now you can see people complaining about traffic on the streets, shortage of basic supplies, energy and water consumption being forced to reduce steadily, and having difficulty accessing healthcare. Cej, a comic artist, had described these issues in one of his comic series quite elegantly, as shown in What is overpopulation? figure 3 below. 6
  8. 8. iii With such a huge amount of pressure exerted on the natural resources, once they are depleted it will result in a rapid decline of our quality of life and eventually lead to our own demise. iii th http://www.armzrace.com/cej/CannonFodder/Overpopulation.jpg Retrieved 28 January, 2011 What is overpopulation? Figure 3 : Warning signs of overpopulation 7
  9. 9. CURRENT STATE OF THE PLANET The success of our rapid growth and development has come at a hefty cost to the environment. Our current rate of consumption threatens the vital resources that we heavily depend upon. Right now, the impact we have on the planet in terms of our environmental ‘footprint’ overpowers the influence of all other life combined. Approximately half of the land on the planet is being used by humans today. Roughly 11 percent of it goes into farming, 26 percent for pastures and the rest for basic housing, services, transportation etc. Only around 10% of water is drinkable on the planet. This is the earth’s freshwater supply. We are already using more than half of this precious resource, diverting the flow of almost all the major rivers in the world as per our whim and thus, causing major modifications to the ecology of existing lakes and creeks. The vast oceans cover seven tenth of the earth’s surface, and we only use about 8% of it for fishing. Yet marine fisheries are catching fish in bulk, causing massive damage to the fragile underwater ecosystem. Just within this century alone, humans have destroyed half of the coastal mangroves and permanently damaged 10% of the coral reefs worldwide. With the urban population burning fossil fuels at alarming rates and the rural population heavily doubled in the last decade. In fact, we produce nearly 50% more nitrogen than all other natural sources combined. This excess results in decay of forests and soil on land, and gives birth to toxic algae in the oceans, creating what we call “dead zones” on both areas where plant life and marine life cannot thrive. Current state of the Planet dependent on nitrogen based fertilizers, the natural cycles of carbon and nitrogen have been 8
  10. 10. All these issues combined cause an incalculable effect on the planet’s biodiversity. Extinction rates of plants and animals have risen swiftly and exponentially, and for the lucky ones who aren’t extinct yet, have been compelled to either evolve or adapt to our needs. (Harrison, Paul and Pearce, Fred. 2000)2 All this activity is dependent on our increasing population numbers, our rate of consumption of the natural resources, and the amount of pollutants we generate in the process. Below are two maps depicting how quickly human population densities have grown over the course of just three Figure 4: Population Density from 1700-2000(Source: AAAS) iv http://atlas.aaas.org/overview/scale_graphics.php th Image retrieved 8 February, 2011. iv Current state of the Planet centuries. 9
  11. 11. Despite our increased strain on earth’s resources, it is still not meeting our requirements. The amount of people living in areas where cultivated land is dangerously scarce is said to increase to around 1.04 billion by 2025. Also, currently about two billion people are living in areas with less than 0.1 hectare of forest land. Based on the recent deforestation trends, nearly 2/3 of the world’s forests will be wiped out by 2025 Currently, over 500 million people have limited access to drinkable water. Judging by the growing numbers, by 2025, it’s estimated over 2 billion people will suffer from water shortage. Most of the world’s fisheries are already being exerted to their maximum capacity, fully exploiting the ocean’s resources. But while the number of individual fishermen is increasing, the amount of fish is steadily decreasing. This will not only cause ecological damage to oceans, but also disrupt the lives of the poor who rely on fish as their primary source for protein. (Engelman, et al., 2000)3 For the past three centuries, we have been transforming ecosystems faster than we can adapt to the changes and find alternative solutions. When it comes to the environment, every single thing is interconnected, a delicate intricate web of connections between each unique ecosystem. Thus, there is a vital requirement to be completely alert about the changes we are causing in the environment. We must comprehend the ways in which population and consumption of resources impact the globe, and find solutions from the studies to achieve the balance once again, between Current state of the Planet population and environment. 10
  12. 12. THE LINK BETWEEN POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENT There are many factors to consider when studying the link between population and its natural environment. A deep knowledge of demography, economics, social and environmental sciences, family planning methods etc. are just few of the common factors. A detailed study must include all factors and find their significance may vary at different times and in different places. In every human interaction with the environment, there are three major elements in play. They can be linked in the popular equation introduced by Ehrlich and Holdren: I = P x A x T, or Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology 4 Basically, the impact on environment is judged by the total population of the area in question, the Figure 5 : The limits to growth v v Meadows, Dennis et al., The limits to growth, Washington DC, 1972. The link between population and environment consumption of resources per person, and the amount of resources needed. 11
  13. 13. Ehrlich used this formula to prove that population growth is the dominant factor in environmental damage. However, in reality there are much more complicated factors. For example, the increased need of urbanized area in many parts of Africa led to deforestation. There was a slight rise in agriculture, but in contrast, there was a massive increase in CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons) due to the introduction of new technologies. Of course, the sensitivity of the environment is also to be taken into account, and it’s generally random, making it difficult to predict the value accurately. Resources like forests, water, and fish give maximum yield when harvested only until the point where they are unable to rejuvenate themselves. The natural filters such as soils, rivers, lakes, oceans and atmosphere, have boundary lines for several impurities, beyond which significant aspects of their efficiency will degrade. There are moments where the environment successfully evolves when need for human resources increase, and at other times, it may change suddenly if pressures outgrow certain limitations. Erosion strips the soil close to bedrock, yields fall abruptly. Global warming melts the polar icecaps, ocean currents shift directions, creating erratic weather conditions. However, the factors mentioned in the IPAT model aren’t the only ones that affect the environment. Reality is much more complex. For example, population change is determined by fertility rate, and education of women, access to family planning, good healthcare, financial status, opportunities of migration. This complexity can be calculated using a systems approach, which doesn’t focus on just a single factor but adapts many potential factors. Also, it doesn’t just see the human impact on environment, but also checks on the environmental impact on human welfare. But in general, the interactions and uncertainties when reviewing total ecosystems are so random that it’s virtually impossible to predict them completely. All that we can do is generating “what if” scenarios that depict the possible consequences of the trends. The link between population and environment mortality rate and migration patterns. Each of these is affected by various other factors, like status 12
  14. 14. POPULATION TRENDS When people consider the human impact caused by overpopulation on the environment, they think in terms of total world population and the rate of growth. While these elements are certainly significant, they are just two of the factors we have to consider while gauging the environmental impact. Population density and distribution, population composition in terms of age, etc. also need to be taken into consideration. Below are some of the key trends we must take into account while studying world population Growth Rate The total number of people on the planet has put a lot of stress on the environment. Studies suggest that the population of the entire world was only around 300 million during the first century. Since then, the swift acceleration of population numbers can be seen dramatically in the time it took to reach 1 billion in 1804, and since then we have been in overdrive crossing 6 billion in 1999, only two centuries apart. The faster the growth rate, the quicker we must be able to adapt to the changes we cause in the environment. Human population has grown in a flattened S shaped curve, rising very slowly at first, accelerating quickly into a steep slope until it suddenly slows down and the curve begins to level out for a few decades. We can observe that during the periods where the curve was beginning to level out, where few of the worst decades of humanity. The dark ages for example, and both World Wars fell under this category. exponential rise within the last thirty year and is said to keep increasing that way, whereas the rural population is suffering a slow decline as shown in the graph below. Population Trends The population growth also varies according to the region. Urban population has been on an 13
  15. 15. Figure 6 : World Population Prospects vi With more urbanization there is a steady decrease of land reserved for agricultural purposes. Given the current trends the urban population is estimated to cross 5 billion by 2030, which, in comparison to the rural population, is more than double its size. Fertility and Mortality Rates The rise in human population is simply because death rates are growing more unbalanced with birth rates. The advancements in modern medicine, and uncontaminated water, and a good supply of food in most areas of the world boosted child development and mortality rates. The total fertility rate (TFR) calculates the number of children women have over a lifetime. It’s stated that a TFR should be 2.1 to maintain population stability. Between the periods of 1995-2000, over 61 countries fell BELOW this optimum level. These countries currently hold 44% of the world’s population. For instance, developing countries like Korea (1.6) and Cuba (1.55) have a much lower fertility rate than United States. Certain countries have extremely low fertility rates like Spain, which is at 1.15, vi UNPD, World Population Prospects, 1999 Population Trends the lowest in Europe. 14
  16. 16. Mortality too plays a certain role. In most regions the mortality rate is declining constantly providing and increase to the average life expectancy of a human being. However, in certain countries where plague, disease and famine are common, mortality continues to rise steadily. A classic example would be Africa, where AIDS has severely affected the life expectancy of the people who reside there. In certain parts, like Botswana, one out of every four adults is statistically infected with AIDS, cutting the life expectancy to 41 years at best. Due to this, by 2020, the population of Botswana will have reduced by 30%, simply because of disease. Figure 7 : UNPD Comparison of Fertility rates vii As seen from the chart above, several regions have observed sharp regressions in total fertility rates owing to a large amount of effort to ensure access to family planning products along with improvements in healthcare and female education. In the meantime other countries in the same Many owe it to cultural factors, for instance, Iran’s fertility rate fell from 6.8 to 2.8 in just 20 years under the Islamic management. It’s assumed that fertility rates increase in areas with high poverty. vii UNPD, World Population Prospects, 1999 Population Trends region which did not make similar struggles have witnessed their fertility steadily increasing. 15
  17. 17. That’s not always the case as seen in case of Bangladesh which reduced its TFR to 3.1, while illiteracy still remained at an all-time high. This is simply because of better access to healthcare and a wide range of family planning products easily available to the public. You can see the poor results in the countries closest to them such as Iraq and Pakistan, where fertility rates aren’t dropping quickly. (UNPD)5 Population Projections The United Nations Population Division is known for its constant accurate predictions since the early nineteen fifties. However with these sudden growth spurts, the UNPD has to constantly revise their formula and keep lowering their projected dates. On their current medium projection charts, they discovered that the population from developed countries will drop from 20% to 13% by 2050. India will quickly overtake china as the world’s most populated country between the periods 2012-2015. Africa will have the fastest growth rate, increasing from 8 million people in 2000 to over 2 billion people in 2050. Of course, these predictions rely heavily on how the fertility rates continue in the future, and that has always remained uncertain. Many regions have shown a rapid decline in fertility rates As stated by John Bongaarts, “A very low fertility rate may be at least in part due to birth deferment, and fertility may rise again. However, so many countries now have below-replacement fertility, in so many culture believe it may be more than a temporary blip. Surveys in these countries still show that people typically want to have two children, but many pressures prevent them from achieving their goals. “ 6 Population Trends areas, in so many different stages of the economic cycle that demographers are beginning to 16
  18. 18. Figure 8 : UNPD World Population Projections till 2050 viii According to the UNPD, the regions showing low fertility rates will expect a sharp increase by 40% whereas regions where the TFR is above 2.1 will show a decline. However, currently this can all be considered as speculation. As of 2010, various new data is being computed and it shows certain regions might have a stable fertility rate for at least another fifty viii UNPD, World Population Projections to 2050, 1998. Population Trends years. Of course, a few theories must be made else it’s impossible to predict the outcome. 17
  19. 19. Population Composition Population composition refers to the age, sex, marital status etc. of a specific region. It plays a valuable role in the effects of consumption on the natural environment. Figure 9 : Population composition ix The most significant factor while taking population composition into account is age. Age distributions statistics could be shown as a building, with each floor signifying a five year group, and the width could represent the amount of people within that group. resembles a pyramid, with its ‘wide floors’ representing the younger generations and as you go higher, the amount of people in the age group keeps decreasing lower and lower. ix U.S. Bureau of Census th http://www.census.gov/ Retrieved 15 February, 2011 Population Trends Countries, specially developing regions where the total fertility rate is very high, this building 18
  20. 20. In developed regions however, the fertility rates have declined, so the building is shaped more like a pear, with more people residing in the middle age If the trend continues, there will soon be an increase within the elderly age group. The total world population may be projected to increase by 40% within 2050, but the number of people over the age of 60 by that year will have increased by nearly 230%. (UNPD) 7 This would have a serious concern towards the environment. Statistics have shown that people over 60 consume much more resources than people less than 15 years of age. This will create an unbalance in the consumption of the natural resources. Also, the increased burden of having to support the region’s ageing population compared to the shortage of youngsters may stunt economic development of the country. Environmental impacts on human population Whatever debilitating alterations we make on the environment helped reduce mortality rates and increase population growth. However, these changes are slowly giving a boost to mortality rates worldwide. For example, fertilizers are used to improve crop yield and thus provide more nutrition worldwide and in turn, lower mortality rates. However, the nitrogen in those fertilizers is causing severe environmental degradation caused due to frequent use and it’s resulting in a decline in the quality of drinking water, thereby increasing the mortality rate. At first, fossil fuels helped gain a quick financial stability of a region, which allowed better lifestyle, boosting population growth and reducing mortality. However, with the excess use giving out carbon planet to diseases that spread out in warmer climates, not to mention the steady rise in temperatures, massive storms and rising sea levels. Each of these plays a factor in slashing down excess population in large numbers. It can be considered as nature’s way of balancing out the scales. Population Trends dioxide and eating up the ozone layer, it is eventually increasing mortality rates by enlarging the 19
  21. 21. Carrying Capacity “Carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations” (GDRC.org) 8 Over the decades there have been many attempts to calculate the carrying capacity of the planet. The earliest estimates were calculated during the early 18th century with the number being around 12 billion. Just the sheer number of people doesn’t make a significant modification to the environment; it’s paired with the speed at which resources are depleted and waste is produced. We need to calculate and find out the maximum sustainable yield a resource can produce before it will degrade, deplete or become too unstable. This calculation is required for many items for example, fish, or CO2 emissions. However, it is virtually impossible to calculate all these different values on a combined global scale. As shown in the graph in Figure 9, current studies have shown that the ideal carrying capacity of the planet is a little over 3 billion people. That would maintain the balance between population and environment by giving sufficient amount of time for nature to replenish the natural resources that are consumed by us. However, by overshooting the target up to 6.9 billion and rising, the resources are getting depleted rapidly and the ideal carrying capacity decreases further as more and more Population Trends natural resources diminish or die out entirely. 20
  22. 22. Figure 10 : Earth's Carrying Capacity (8020vision) x But, since it is extremely difficult to calculate the tolerance limits of every resource on a global scale, it is nearly impossible to predict how the population capacity will fluctuate. Considering the level of complexity of the bonds between population and environment, trying to estimate the planet’s carrying capacity is a little pointless. To make a clear and accurate depiction, we just have to individually assess each resource and their waste output, and estimate the impact x http://8020vision.com/2010/06/21/the-real-population-problem/ th Retrieved 16 February, 2011 Population Trends they are having with earth’s ecosystem. 21
  23. 23. NATURAL RESOURCES AND WASTE PRODUCTION Overpopulation affects the environment by two major human factors. First, the amount of resources we use on a global scale. Often we tear down forests, clearing entire landscapes and forcing the local animal species to move out of their natural habitat, simply for our own benefit. We consume resources by catching fish, drilling in mines for precious minerals, burrowing the ground for oil etc. There are two main types of resources, ones that are renewable, like water or the fish that can be naturally restocked; and non-renewable resources such as oils and minerals that are limited and will not be easily restocked. It took millions of years to create these resources and would take the same amount of time if they are completely depleted. The second factor is the amount of waste we dispose in the environment. This doesn’t just include solid waste like the soda cans or plastic bags that people discard carelessly. Every single item, from solid waste to toxic liquids and noxious gases given off during the process of refining the raw materials used in factories, is considered waste material. These may seem small individually, but on a global scale, they are affecting the water, ozone, and climate. Just by its very name we understand that these particular types of resources are limited in supply and if used repeatedly and relentlessly, they will run out very quickly. When such shortages occur, the prices rise, creating a need to explore for alternative substitutes that are more cost-effective and easy to recycle. For example, by-products of natural gas covered only 24 years of production in 1989, but since gas prices began to increase due to shortage of resource, there was a need to find a better recycling system and by 1198, the time period had grown up to 60 years. (AAAS) 9 Natural Resources And WASTE production Non-Renewable resources 22
  24. 24. The best way to find out about a shortage of any natural resource is to check the price at which the product is being sold. The more shortage of resources, the greater their selling price. Thankfully, for now there hasn’t been any debilitating shortage of any key non-renewable resource. However with the ever-increasing demand for these resources there is no reason to be certain this luck will continue for long. Renewable Resources Strangely enough, renewable resources are at a greater risk of depletion than the non-renewable ones. Drinkable water, nutrient rich soil, or fish populations etc. have been much more vulnerable in terms of human consumption. Technically, renewable resources should be able to replenish themselves. But this process of rejuvenation doesn’t occur since we are exploiting them much quicker than they can heal. The most substantial resources among these, the ones we require for basic existence: Land, Food, and Water; have all been under constant attack due to overpopulation. Food and land keep up with the potential human population growth? Malthus’ replied it was impossible and stated that agricultural production was increasing on an arithmetic scale (e.g. 4 + 4 + 4 = 12) whereas population grew on an exponential scale (e.g. 4 x 4 x 4 = 64) (T.R. Malthus) 10 Natural Resources And WASTE production Thomas Malthus, a British Scholar, was once asked a question whether agricultural production could 23
  25. 25. 90 80 70 60 50 Population growth 40 Agricultural growth 30 20 10 0 Rate of growth Figure 11 : Malthus Theory of Population growth xi In many regions, the area of agricultural land per person has been slowly declining, especially developing countries where population growth is accelerating at a rapid rate. The highest loss was in Africa, where they had only 0.5 hectares of farmland per person to begin with, but due to destruction of soil and deforestation, the number has dropped to 0.25. With the current trend, according to the UNPD’s population prediction statistics, Africa will barely have 0.1 There will still be plenty of land. It is just not usable due to severe nitrate poisoning of the soil, creating massive dead zones where no plant can grow or survive. (FAOSTAT) 11 Still, the global agriculture and farming industry has been successful (so far) in generating enough food to sustain the growing requirements of the current population, at the cost of damage to the natural ecosystems. Constant use of fertilizers has not only caused harm on land, but also to the xi Graph created with reference to Malthus’ theory. Natural Resources And WASTE production hectares of farmland per person within the next 20 years. 24
  26. 26. water. With the forest area cleared to make more space for farms, there’s been vital loss of biodiversity, wildlife etc. In 1998, Oldeman conducted a report whereby he stated, “By 1990 soils had degraded on 38 % of the world's cropland, 21 % of pasture and 18 % of forests. Productivity has declined significantly on 16 % of agricultural land in developing countries. By 1998, cropland productivity dropped 12.7 % lower than it would have been without human-induced soil degradation.” (Oldeman) 12 Figure 12: Area of land consumption in the last 300 years (UNEP) xii consumption of a wider area of land used for agriculture, and even more powerful fertilizers to harvest a better yield. These fertilizers will give a good short term growth spurt in agriculture production but will severely damage the chemical composition of the soil, eventually rendering the area into another “dead zone”. xii Data Source: Global Environment Outlook 4 (GEO-4), UNEP th http://www.flickr.com/photos/woonder/4469254692/in/photostream/ Retrieved 28 January 2011. Natural Resources And WASTE production If the current trends follow, the demand for more food will keep increasing, resulting in 25
  27. 27. Fresh water Planet earth has ample amounts of water present on the surface. However, in terms of usable water, only 3% is useful. That means 97% of the water on the planet is too salty to drink or use in agriculture. This 3% freshwater can be found in some lakes and rivers across the globe. Most areas near the equator have a good surplus of this pure water. Though certain areas experience periodic droughts or just lack a constant flow of drinking water, for example, many parts of South Africa. Apart from food, water is the most vital resource for basic survival, and in any region, if it’s overpopulated, there needs to be a concern for a pure water supply. Studies indicate that an average person requires at least 1700 cubic meters of fresh water per year. If this volume isn’t met, the country is considered to undergo water crisis, and should the problem spread, there might be a need to reuse waste water or manage and distribute water for short periods of time during the day. But, if the water supply level drops to less than a 1000 cubic meter per person, the area is considered in a state of water scarcity and the people will have to sacrifice their farming, industrial, Natural Resources And WASTE production and personal usage to survive. 26
  28. 28. Figure 13: Water Stress and Scarcity Projections xiii By 1995, research indicated around 450 million people suffering from water stress, causing severe issues with growth and expansion of their region. There is an increasing strain between neighbouring countries who currently share the same water sources, like India and Bangladesh, Jordan and Israel etc. If this trend carries on, these countries face xiii Data from Gardner-Outlaw and Engelman, Sustaining Water, Easing Scarcity, Population Action International, 1997. Natural Resources And WASTE production severe water crisis within the next 50 years. (Gardner-Outlaw and Engelman) 13 27
  29. 29. xiv The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business, as described by WaterFootPrint.org. xiv th http://www.americainfra.com/news/global-water-shortage/ Retrieved 29 January, 2011 Natural Resources And WASTE production Figure 14 : Global Water Footprint (US Infrastructure) 28
  30. 30. Bearing that in mind, studies concluded that over 60% of the world’s population is currently suffering water shortage, with United States consuming the largest amount of water each year, an equivalent of 2483m whereas countries which heavily depend on others to import their water supply, like Kuwait, are at greatest risk. If these trends continue, the regions lacking freshwater will steadily increase until the point where we might have to see a time when there is war over water. (Dan jones, reporter America Infrastructure) 14 Waste One of the most persistent burdens to the environment is caused by the amount of waste we generate. As quoted “In the process of making the end products we actually use, our machines dig up, churn over, swallow up and spew out several thousand tons of material. One study found that some 93 % of materials used in production do not end up in saleable products but in waste, while 80 % The solid wastes contaminate the soil and water supply. Liquefied and gaseous wastes are more sinister as they can spread to a wider area quickly and cause potential havoc across the globe. CO2 levels have increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 373ppm by 1997, along with a rise in methane, nitrogen and chorine, the latter of which was only found in trace amounts before the industrial revolution. Natural Resources And WASTE production of products are discarded after a single use” (AAAS) 15 29
  31. 31. xv Organic and metallic pollutants such as plastic or loose strings of wiring are found in the most remote parts of the Arctic, obviously dumped in the ocean of the nearby continents and carried over by the currents. These bits and pieces are swallowed by fish and mammals living in these regions and they instantly choke to death. xv th http://www.cspo.org/gck/home/repositories/environment/waste.html Retrieved 29 January, 2011 Natural Resources And WASTE production Figure 15 : Global Waste Statistics 2000 (GCK Project) 30
  32. 32. Overpopulation has always been a driving factor in creating excess waste and thereby polluting the environment. The sheer amount of waste produced is directly proportional to the amount of inhabitants in a given region multiplied with the quantity each person uses and the total waste Natural Resources And WASTE production generated in the entire process. (WOA) 16 31
  33. 33. CURRENT STATE OF THE ECOSYSTEMS The earth’s ecosystems play a vital part in human existence and success. The wetlands purify our water supply and break down toxic waste. Forests encourage rainfalls and prevent soil erosion. Coral reefs and mangroves protect the coastlines all over the world from eroding away. However, all these ecosystems are currently under danger from the immense strain put by humans, draining their natural resources for their own consumption. Below are detailed analyses of the current state of few of the most vital ecosystems on the planet, both on a local and global scale. Figure 16 : Wildlife habitat populations (IUCN) xvi xvi International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Global re-introduction perspectives 2010 : additional case-studies from around the globe th http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2010-076.pdf Retrieved 28 January, 2011 Current State of the Ecosystems Biodiversity 32
  34. 34. Biodiversity is a vast natural resource, showing over 3 billion years of evolution. Biodiversity is not just the total number of species; it also takes into account the genetic differences within each species, and is of huge significance to the human population. Currently, there are around 300000 known plant species, out of which some 3000 are exploited for food and over 40000 have medicinal value. Plants have been a source for new medical discoveries since the last three centuries. We have scientifically identified around 1.75 million species on this planet. A majority of them are insects, while actual vertebrates such as birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians etc., make up around 2.5 %. Though, there are still a wide variety of species still undetermined, and estimates state that the total number could fall between the 10-20 million ranges. However, as shown in Figure 12, many of the planet’s wildlife are going extinct. The root cause for this is the human interference in their natural environment. By 1600, at least 480 animal and 650 plant species were declared extinct through human interference. However, these are just the recorded cases and there could be thousands of other species dying out without us even having a Figure 17 : Areas around the globe with greatest extinction risk (UCSD NEWS) xvii xvii th http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/02-08BattlegroundsForConservation.asp Retrieved 28 January, 2011 Current State of the Ecosystems chance to discover them. (IUCN) 17 33
  35. 35. As explained by Kim McDonald, (reporter) “The map regions colour-ranked by how much area is projected to change by 2100 in relation to how much area is currently protected (“Conservation Risk”). Many of the tropical, but not temperate regions with greatest risk (red) are also of highest conservation value as indicated by their higher number of globally unique amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles.” (UCSD NEWS) 18 According to Heywood, the predictions for future generations look quite dull. If the rate of deforestation continues at its current speed, it’s estimated at least 11% of all forest species will die out within the next twenty years. Forest wildlife has been divided by human interference, having to either adapt or die while we cut down trees to use the land for construction cities or farms, which even create havoc in certain species that follow a strict migratory pattern. Also, our constant burning of fossil fuels has created the global warming effect all over the planet. While this has only currently affected us in terms of a little more heat, the rise in temperature at certain zones has caused various bird species to migrate to a greater distance. If this continues then Current State of the Ecosystems in the future, animals which prefer the colder environment will cease to exist indefinitely. 34
  36. 36. Figure 18 : Link between Climate change and biodiversity loss (UNEP) xviii The Global Biodiversity Assessment discovered that the crucial danger to biodiversity was destruction of territory, disintegration and degradation, born out of the need for land to be used for farming, residences, engineering, amenities, and transportation. Territory loss upsets 44 % of the xviii http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/linkages-and-feedback-loops-among-desertification-global-climateth change-and-biodiversity-loss Retrieved 29 January, 2011. Current State of the Ecosystems bird species, 55 % of the fishes, 68 % of the reptiles, and 75 % of the mammals (Heywood) 19 35
  37. 37. Deforestation As more numbers are added to the human population, the need for space increases too. By 1995, only 1/3 of the planet’s land was occupied by forests. This is estimated to be half the amount than it was around a hundred years ago. We are decimating the forests at a shocking rate of 115 million hectares every ten years. Considering the amount of forests present during the formation of this planet, only around 32% exist today, as shown in figure 19 below, and the number is still declining. Figure 19 : Deforestation Statistics (UNEP) xix According to studies done by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the net loss of total reducing the forests, you not only cause havoc on the local wildlife that depends on them, but also create an imbalance in carbon dioxide levels on a global scale. (FAOSTAT) 20 xix Image reference http://www.ecoclimax.com/2010/07/forests-ecosystem-management.html Retrieved 29th January 2011. Current State of the Ecosystems forests lost due to forest fires reached over 6 million hectares of land in Indonesia and Brazil. By 36
  38. 38. Marine Life Out of all the various ecosystems, marine life is probably the tiniest studied environment as humans in general notice ecological problems based on how visible it is and how it directly affects them. Still, marine environments are the ones facing the worst possible risks. When we think of marine life, the primary issue that comes to mind is overfishing. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has been keeping track of the major fish stocks over the past twenty years and conclude that nearly 45% of the world fisheries have already crossed their maximum yield, which means, if precautions aren’t taken, these fishing areas will be completely depleted. With the ever increasing demand for food, and fish being the primary source of protein for various developing countries, fisheries often tend to catch massive amounts of stock at a time, causing a strain on the natural replenishing life cycle. The fish don’t grow to their optimum size, and a majority of them don’t even reach the maturity stage so they fail to reproduce. As this continues, fish stock just keeps decreasing. However, overfishing isn’t the only issue that marine environments must face. There is a more lethal threat, known as “dead zones” A lot of waste gets dumped into our world’s oceans. Along with this, when we divert freshwater lakes and rivers to meet our societies’ requirements we might inadvertently cause some of the This combined with the rising NO2 emissions from waste products, and the excess nitrogen in the soil which might find its way into the ocean, results in birth of microscopic clusters of toxic algae that can kill not just fish, but all types of marine life within that area, making it a “dead zone” Current State of the Ecosystems freshwater to reach the oceans. 37
  39. 39. The figure below explains in detail how dead zones are formed in marine environments Figure 20 : Formation of Dead Zones xx Currently, there are 50 known dead zones across the globe, with the one in the Gulf of Mexico being the largest one so far, covering an area of around 4200 square kilometres and spreading. xx th http://blog.nola.com/graphics/deadzone_how061007.gif Retrieved on 15 February, 2011 Current State of the Ecosystems (World Population Awareness) 21 38
  40. 40. Climate Change Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, there have been major alterations in the earth’s climate. Our Ozone layer is thinning out, leaving us vulnerable to harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun, which could increase potential for skin cancer. Global warming has become a serious concern as CO2 emissions continue to rise. The surface temperature of the planet has increased by 0.5 centigrade worldwide, and sea levels have increased by 25 centimetres, showing early warning signs of the melting polar ice caps. Before the industrial era, CO2 density in the atmosphere was 2.2 Figure 21 : Carbon Dioxide Emissions (UNEP) xxi xxi th Image from : http://pics.livejournal.com/www_priroda_su/pic/000207tz Retrieved 14 February, 2011 Current State of the Ecosystems gigatons and just three centuries later, densities have reached over 3 gigatons (shown below) 39
  41. 41. With the rising temperatures, certain diseases which thrive in warmer climates will increase. For example, malaria, which has already grown more rampant in many parts of the equator, could soon spread to other regions if the temperature climbs steadily. Also, the erratic climate increases chances of droughts in some parts of the world, and floods and hurricanes in others. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) created numerous scenarios to find out our probable future, but since population densities, rates of consumption and sudden growth spurts in technological advances are difficult to predict, it has been almost impossible to get a clear idea of the possible damage being caused to the earth’s climate. If the current developments continue, it’s estimated that the surface temperature of the planet will have increased by 4 degrees centigrade within the next century. The sea levels will have risen by over a 100cm and the volume of the polar ice caps will have reduced by at least 45% its current weight. Current State of the Ecosystems With more CO2 we give out into the atmosphere, the threat of a global disaster rises steadily. 40
  42. 42. SOLUTIONS After a thorough discussion of how overpopulation is causing a debilitating effect on the global environment, depleting the planet’s natural resources on which we heavily depend upon, the challenge in front of us is critical. World population is estimated to hit the 7 billion mark by the end of 2011, and to reach 10 billion by 2050. If that happens, the environmental hazards we face today will have increased threefold in size. If we are to take steps in order to prevent, we have to do it on all three aspects responsible, namely population growth, and rate of consumption Population Control Lack of education, particularly for women is considered as one of the most common causes for overpopulation. Teaching countries family planning techniques and more importantly, giving women some decision making power in the role of bringing up a family is considered to be extremely effective. Also, increasing access to contraceptives and other methods of birth control is required. While many areas already have these, one must also teach the people not to shy away from using such birth control measures. Sex education is considered as a taboo in many cultures, but with the overpopulation disaster looming ahead, perhaps it’s high time we change our archaic notions and work with solutions that are more effective than mere scare tactics of abstinence. the schools and colleges. It will always be necessary to improve human welfare, but it shouldn’t SOLUTIONS All these measures can be implemented on a large scale by the government, and even small scale by 41
  43. 43. always come at a cost of environment damage, especially when there are readily available alternatives. Rate of consumption It is of no surprise that the rich countries are consuming way too many resources than required, whereas the poor countries are struggling to live a balanced life with whatever little resources they possess. Certain resources like water, food and energy can be easily shared by world governments, kept at reasonable prices of course. Another thing is to divert the market flow to make environmentallyunsafe products less attractive to the world population, such as using fossil fuels. Instead they could divert their finances towards more environment-conscious solutions such as solar energy, wind turbines etc. These are not only environment friendly, but produce very little waste and are SOLUTIONS reusable for long periods of time. 42
  44. 44. CONCLUSION If we focus on conserving nature and lowering our usage of resources, then we can achieve a healthy sustainable relationship with the environment within the next decade. Timing is extremely crucial in these cases: Even a decade’s delay could trigger the pressure points of the ecosystem and cause irreparable damage to the planet. The world population is soon to cross the 7 billion mark. Majority of our resources are very close towards their threshold limits. If steps are not taken in the next few decades, we will be facing global disasters and severe lack of resources. However, the choice to prevent such a disaster is still in our hands. It’s just up to the people to act CONCLUSION before time inevitably runs out. 43
  45. 45. REFERENCES (Arranged in order of appearance in report) 1 nd “Another Inconvenient Truth”, Scientific American Magazine, 2 October 2009 2 Harrison, Paul and Pearce, Fred. 2000 ‘AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment’ Victorial Dompka Markham, editor. American Association for the Advancement of Science and the University of California Press. 3 Engelman R, et al., 2000 ‘People in the balance: Population and natural resources at the turn of the millennium’, Population Action International. 4 Ehrlich and Holdren, Science, 171. 26 March 1971. 5 United Nations Population Division (UNPD), World Population Estimates. 1999. 6 John Bongaarts, Science Magazine 282, 20 November 1998 7 United Nations Population Division (UNPD), Population Ageing. 1999 th 8 GDRC, http://www.gdrc.org/uem/footprints/carrying-capacity.html Retrieved 16th February, 2011. 9 Paul Et al. 2000 ‘Atlas overview: Waste’ Atlas of Population and Environment. http://atlas.aaas.org/pdf/21-26.pdf Retrieved 16th February, 2011 10 Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798 th http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4239/4239-h/4239-h.htm Retrieved 16 January, 2011 11 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT) th http://faostat.fao.org/site/339/default.aspx Retrieved 16 February, 2011 12 Oldeman, Soil Degradation: A Threat to Food Security? International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), Wageningen, Netherlands, 1998. 13 Gardner-Outlaw and Engelman, Sustaining Water, Easing Scarcity, Population Action International, 1997. http://www.populationaction.org/Publications/Reports/Sustaining_Water_Easing_Scarcity/Sustaining_Water_ th Easing_Scarcity_-_Full_Report.pdf Retrieved 24 January, 2011 14 Dan Jones, The Threat of Global Water shortage, America Infrastructure 01/07/10 th http://www.americainfra.com/news/global-water-shortage/ Retrieved 29 January, 2011 15 Harrison et al. 2000 ‘Atlas Overview: Pollution and Waste’, pg. 25. Atlas of Population and Environment. 16 Data collected from various articles via World Population Awareness website th http://www.overpopulation.org/ Retrieved 20 January 2011. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Global re-introduction perspectives 2010 : additional case-studies from around the globe th http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2010-076.pdf Retrieved 28 January, 2011 18 Kim McDonald, Study Finds Future ‘Battlegrounds’ for Conservation Very Different to Those in Past February 27, 2008 http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/02-08BattlegroundsForConservation.asp Retrieved Jan th 28 2011. REFERENCES 17 44
  46. 46. 19 UNEP (Heywood, ed.), Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1995. th http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c23/CI011056.pdf Retrieved 28 January, 2011 20 th Data gathered from http://faostat.fao.org/site/626/default.aspx Retrieved 29 January, 2011 21 REFERENCES Data collected from various articles posted at World Overpopulation Awareness.org th http://www.overpopulation.org/impact.html#oceans retrieved 28 January, 2011 45

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