Human overpopulation

Human overpopulation (or population overshoot) occurs when the ecological footprint of a human population in a specific geographical location exceeds the carrying capacity of the place occupied by that group. Overpopulation can further be viewed, in a long term perspective, as existing if a population cannot be maintained given the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources or given the degradation of the capacity of the environment to give support to the population. Changes in lifestyle could reverse overpopulated status without a large population reduction.

The term human overpopulation refers to the relationship between the entire human population and its environment: the Earth, or to smaller geographical areas such as countries. Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. It is possible for very sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated if the area has a meagre or non-existent capability to sustain life (e.g. a desert). Advocates of population moderation cite issues like quality of life, carrying capacity, and risk of starvation as a basis to argue for population decline. Scientists suggest that the human impact on the environment as a result of overpopulation, profligate consumption and proliferation of technology has pushed the planet into a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene.

Human population has been rising continuously since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1350, although the most significant increase has been since the 1950s, mainly due to medical advancements and increases in agricultural productivity. The rate of population growth has been declining since the 1980s, while the absolute total numbers kept increasing. Recent rate increases in several countries previously enjoying steady declines are also apparently contributing to continued growth in total numbers. The United Nations has expressed concerns on continued population growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent research has demonstrated that those concerns are well grounded. As of June 19, 2018 the world's human population is estimated to be 7.631 billion. Or, 7,622,106,064 on May 14, 2018 and the United States Census Bureau calculates 7,472,985,269 for that same date. and over 7 billion by the United Nations. Most contemporary estimates for the carrying capacity of the Earth under existing conditions are between 4 billion and 16 billion. Depending on which estimate is used, human overpopulation may or may not have already occurred. Nevertheless, the rapid recent increase in human population is causing some concern. The population is expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the years 2040 and 2050. In 2017, the United Nations increased the medium variant projections to 9.8 billion for 2050 and 11.2 billion for 2100.

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past three centuries has raised concerns that the planet may not be able to sustain present or future numbers of inhabitants. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, circa 1994, stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, are aggravated by the population expansion. Other problems associated with overpopulation include the increased demand for resources such as fresh water and food, starvation and malnutrition, consumption of natural resources (such as fossil fuels) faster than the rate of regeneration, and a deterioration in living conditions. Wealthy but highly populated territories like Britain rely on food imports from overseas. This was severely felt during the World Wars when, despite food efficiency initiatives like "dig for victory" and food rationing, Britain needed to fight to secure import routes. However, many believe that waste and over-consumption, especially by wealthy nations, is putting more strain on the environment than overpopulation.

Most countries have no direct policy of limiting their birth rates, but the rates have still fallen due to education about family planning and increasing access to birth control and contraception.

Concern about overpopulation is an ancient topic. Tertullian was a resident of the city of Carthage in the second century CE, when the population of the world was about 190 million (only 3–4% of what it is today). He notably said: "What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint) is our teeming population. Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us.... In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race." Before that, Plato, Aristotle and others broached the topic as well.

This page was last edited on 19 June 2018, at 12:42 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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