Human population growth : curse or blessing?

 In economics, we study that rational people think at the margin. It is actually one of the economic principles we learn at the very beginning. This principle indicates in a situation how will additional unit of product affect the production, revenues and costs. It seems that when it comes to population we make no use of this principle; moreover, we act as if we were guided by a principle that states “the more the better” and it is certainly not like that. One of the most interesting chapters for me personally is human population, and this post will help us understand the causes and effects of overpopulation, as well as the both sides of the coin; some people believe that too many humans is not actually a issue, while others strongly disagree.

We have studied so far that every population is constrained with some kind of limiting factors- physical, chemical or biological traits of the enviromnt that restrain population growth. Carrying capacity is determined by interaction of

How much longer can the planet hold like this?

these factors; it is a maximum population size that a environment, in our case planet, can sustain. Today, there are alsmos 7 billion people in the world. When we say ‘7 billion’ , we might not be aware how huge that number is. Namely, if I took to count once each second, without sleeping, it would take over a 30 years to reach a billion, which means it would take more than 210 years to reach 7 000 000 000 000. Without doubt, there is something wrong with this number, and the rate it increases at. We are depleting our resources extremely quickly, and with the as many people in the world, we need even additional resources in order to survive.

To some people it might seem unimportant how many people there are in the world. We are here, in Greece, living opur lives, we have all the foods and drinks and everything we need to live nicely, and so: who cares about the population growth?? But, the situation is not like that at all. We have mentioned many times, how our planet is small, interconnected and interdependent and everything that happens in one part of the world will eventually affect the others as well. We can not think about ourselves as if were from the other planet, because we are living well currently. Future generations might not, and those generations will be our children, grandchildren and so on.

There seem to be many reasons for such population growth. Some factors such as technological innovations, and better medical care helped improve our ways of living and therefore, we tend to grow more due to the appropriate conditions. On the other hand, in less developed countries, population growth is even higher; this also might happen for many reasons. Namely, these people have no education about sexual intercourse and no opportunities to do the abortion, so they just keep giving births without even taking into consideration the life that these kids will have. For example, we can all notice that usually gipsy people have a lot of kids, and they keep giving births despite the fact that they have no resources to educate and offer those kids a normal life.(2)

I would like to point our that despite that the human population growth in some places is high, in some it isn’t. Namely, the natality rate inSerbiais quite small, and I’ve read somewhere recently that every couple of moths the amount of population of a minor city basically disappears. There might be various reasons for this also, one of them is that people become too concerned with their jobs, and earning money, that they forget what is the most important thing in the world.

The opinion about if the human population is an issue has been debated greatly. As a result, now we have two types of views : Cornucopians and Cassandras. The first one believes that humans are intelligent beings able to meet and solve any problem that comes up the way- including the human population. On the other side, Cassandras predict doom and disaster. I believe I am somewhat in between. I would predict the doom and disaster, if we don’t use our ingenuity to solve the problems on time and appropriately, before they become even worse.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich

One of well-known biologists Paul Ehrlich believes that human population growth is serious issue and that is has to be restricted.  He stands for the idea that our population grows faster than our ability to produce and distribute food. One formula that helps us understand population and other factors that affect environmental quality is named IPAC model. It was proposed by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren. The formula goes as follows:

I = P x A x T

IPAT-Technology

 

  • I – total impact on the environment
  • P – population – the need of space and resources
  • A – affluence – greater per capita resource use
  • Technology – increased exploitation of resources

In his book “The Population Bomb”, Paul Ehrlich suggests that population growth  will lead to the famine, conflict and disaster that will meet the civilization by the end of the 20th century. Even though, our population has increased greatly in last 100 years, the forecasts of this amazing biologist did not fully materialized. One simple reason that explains why his predictions didn’t come true is improved technology and living conditions. With new machines and equipment we found the ways to produce more, at lower costs, with using fewer resources and so on. Education and technological improvements in fields of medicine have also helped restrict the population growth. However, it seems to me that we are running out of options here, and that what Paul prolonged will happen sooner or later, if we don’t change something.

The USA has the largest technologically developed economy in the world. The GDP per capita is $47,400. If we observe the electricity consumption of theUnited Statesin comparison to others is the number one in the world.  Moreover in contrast with others countries it is also number one if oil and natural gas production.  We can observe the use of telecommunications – it is second in the main lines use and third in the mobile phone usage.  Further more the population in July, 2011 is estimated to be 313, 232,044 (6). Moreover in the video that we saw in class, it was stated that if we eat as Americans, Canadians and Australians we would be only able to support 2.5 billion people. According to those facts and using the IPAT model we can see the greatest impact ofUSAon our environment. They are technologically developed, with the third largest population in the world and moreover their affluence is huge.

How much people can the planet sustain? Question we need to ask ourselves.

Another world power-China has also a great impact on the environment. In 2010 China became the world’s largest exporter. In comparison to the United States the GDP per capita inChina is not that big- only $7,400 which is almost 7 times less than the USA. According to the electricity consumption China has the second place in the world, while for oil consumption they are second and for natural gas consumption they became 9. Of course for telephone usage both for main lines and mobile phonesChinatakes proudly the first place (6). The population of Chinais the largest in the world, being 1, 336,718,015 in 2011. They have huge population problems and measurements were taken in the past, since when families have the right of raising only one child. No matter the creation of the law, Chinese people still have population problem that need to be dealt with. We can see that in comparison to the United States China has less affluence, greater population and better developed technology according to the statistics. In my opinion both countries have huge environmental impact and measurements needs to be taken.

Milica and I, we are both from Balkan countries- Serbia and Bulgaria. As we know in comparison with China and the USAwe are not that technologically developed. Surprisingly we found out that the GDP per capita in our countries is higher than the one in China- Serbia( 11, 000) and Bulgaria( 12,800). In electricity consumption both countries are close to being 60th consumption in the world. About oil and gas consumption we are both close to being 70th in the world. Moreover for telecommunication usage we are also extremely close being for main lines app. The 50th in the world and for mobile phones the 60th . The population in our countries is also close- being in Serbia-7,310,555 and inBulgaria 7,093,635 (6). According to the IPAT model we cannot even compare in general the impact of our countries with the those ofChina and theUSA. Our population is far smaller as well as the technological development. We have greater affluence thatChina, but our environmental impact is still smaller.

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling is a professor of global health at Sweden Karolinska Institute. He currently works on myths about the so called developing world and how that world actually catches up with the developed countries. His presentations are mainly based on facts and statistic. He developed a software that can be used for free dealing exactly with the “legends” about the “poor” countries (7). Using animation through his software he presents statistic in a very interesting way using curves and circles moving all the time. What we like about his presentation was first of all the animations that he uses, so that we can better and easier understand the concepts and then moreover we found very interesting the facts that the so called developing countries are not really behind from the West. We found really interesting the fact that for exampleMexicois not that far away from the States. This was very surprising for me and we believe that this software and the concepts explained are very interesting and innovative.

Bibliography

  

1. Tiptoptens. “Overpopulation and planet” Retrieved on 9 May, 2011 from: http://www.tiptoptens.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Over-Population.jpg

2. Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2010). Environment: The science behind the stories. 4thEd.San Francisco: Pearson Education

3. Earth. “ A Graphic Look at the State ofEarth”. Retrieved on 9 May, 2011 from http://www.theglobaleducationproject.org/earth/human-conditions.php

4. Radshcool Association Magazine. “ Figurative Speaking” v.28,p.9. Retrieved on 9 May,2011 from http://austradesecure.com/radschool/Vol28/page9.htm

5. Pasdtirdz,George. “ Integrated Assessment Models” (January 20, 2010). Retrieved on 9 May, 2011 from http://georgepasdirtz.blogspot.com/2011/01/integrated-assessment-models-pnnl-gcam.html

6. Central Intelligence Agency. “ The World Fact Book” (25 April,2011). Retrieved on 9 May, 2011 from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bu.html

7. Armagedononline. “Overpopulation” Retrieved on 9 May, 2011 from http://www.armageddononline.org/images/overpopulation.jpg

8. TED. “ Ideas World Sharing”. Retrieved on 9 May,2011 from http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling.html

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