If you think the world is more crowded today than when you were young, you are correct. In fact if you are over 70 years old the world population has more than tripled since you were a baby, if you are over 30 years old the population has more than doubled since you were in diapers.
The Math of Population Growth
Many people think that as a couple, if they only have two children, they are not contributing to the population growth. However, a simple math equation, 2+2=4, shows that not only is there growth, but the basic population has doubled. The children did not replace the parents, the parents are still alive, and probably will be by the time those children have children themselves.
In the past the human population did not swell as rapidly as it is today. Lifespans were vastly shorter and infant mortality was much higher. With recent medical advancement, including vaccinations, we see families where there are children, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, all alive. Since most people have siblings, they cannot even say their children are replacing their parents, since their siblings are probably also procreating, and the parents may still be alive.
In case you do not understand why 7 billion people is an alarming number, it is more than double what the world population was only thirty years earlier. While some areas saw little growth, most areas exploded, yet the world has only a certain level of non-renewable resources, and the renewable resources are being consumed at a rate that cannot be sustained, that is to say they are being consumed faster than they can be renewed.
The Population Problems
Where years ago the population grew at a much slower and steady pace, it is now leaping and bounding, and without check will result in a disaster like we have never known. Our planet can only feed so many people, house so many people, and so forth. Water may seem abundant, but only 3% of our world water supply is fresh water.
Stress, as the result of overpopulation and a lack of resources, has resulted in many wars already. Deforestation to grow crops will aid global warming, as crops do not have the same impact on the environment as a diverse and full forest. Deforestation will also occur to construct housing for the masses. Meat will be extremely expensive as farmers will no longer have land to raise food for cattle, but will be forced to raise cereal and vegetable crops for people. You guessed it, people will probably be eating cats and dogs.
There are the problems created by our own waste. Even now some modern cities are struggling to keep up with waste management. In parts of the United States, human waste is shipped to Canada for disposal. In other areas it is put directly into the ground or water.
More people living close together is a recipe for disaster if we have a disease outbreak. Ironically this would eliminate part of the population but only if we get it under control before it wipes out us all.
One Small Planet
Currently Asia represents the bulk of the planets population, roughly 60%. People in less populated nations are ignorant of the facts and feel they do not need to control population growth, uttering ignorant statements such as “there is still open space in Montana, USA.”. We must remember, however that while Montana may have space, we are all part of the same planet, and it does not matter where we add the people, we are still adding people. Mouths to feed, garbage to deal with, and so forth. If we were to house large populations in Montana, where would beef cattle graze?
Still not Convinced?
If you are younger than thirty years old, or live in the inner city, you probably do not see the problem as widely as older people do, or those who live in the Suburbs. I am in my forties. What was the edge of the city I grew up in is now miles from the edge of town. Urban sprawl has consumed farm land at an alarming rate. Every year growth, and the demand for housing and shops, pushes farmers off their land as cities spread. Ask your parents what they remember.
The United Nations takes world overpopulation seriously, they issued a warning that suggested a sustainable population for our plant would be 5 Billion people. Some Scientists prefer a number closer to 500 Million. As we are surpassing both numbers (remember we are around 7 billion people), we must realize that while our nation may not be feeling any impact, others are. Additionally we have grown up with many of the problems and therefore we may not see them in the greater picture, as most problems escalate to a point of no return before we can fix them. I point to global warming, over fishing, and deforestation to be problems that we are faced with even now, and these problems do concern us globally. The rain forest is falling at an alarming pace of 20 acres per minute. Surely we are all to blame.
As human populations grow other animal populations shrink, animal species are going extinct so fast due to human activity scientists have labeled this the holocene extinction event.
What can we do?
A simple solution is for couples to decide to limit themselves to one child only. Some families will have twins, or triplets, and some will not have children at all. If people select to act now before the governments are forced to act, it will benefit us all. What if we leave it too late and governments will be forced not only to pass ruling about how many children people can have, but about how long we can live, or whom can have children at all?
As a response to an earlier warning from the United Nations regarding the population growth, many countries have seen a decrease in birth rates, but combined with the lowered mortality rates, very little improvement will be seen. Other countries and individuals need to act responsibly.