The Harmful Effects of Overpopulation on the Human and Physical Environment: A Myth or Reality? Essay

Overpopulation is a concrete concept to portray the current and future increase in the number of human beings inhabiting the small blue planet. It is not a mere scare term used by advocates for a particular social solution. It is not a mere assumption by population trends’ scholars, or the demographers pursuing the path taken by Malthus. It illustrates above all a contemporary fact. Human populations are living in the middle of a rapidly growing world population that can accurately be regarded ‘explosive’ (Fagley 1960). The pieces of evidence presented by census findings, instead of theories of demography, furnish the inevitable core of this idea. These are all according to the proponents of population reduction.

During the time of Jesus, the population of the world may have been around 300 million people, densely packed mainly in China, India, and the Mediterranean region (Fagley 1960, 15). After analyzing different approximations, the Secretariat of the United Nations Population Division, proposes “that the world’s population was likely to have been between 200 and 300 million at the beginning of the Christian era” (Fagley 1960, 15). At some point between1930 and 1960, the growth in the population of the world will be roughly 1 billion, or approximately three times the overall population during the age of the New Testament (Green 2008). Furthermore, this population growth may be twice as huge as the world’s total population during the Reformation. This phenomenon is called ‘population explosion’ (Fagley 1960, 15-16).

With the current rate of population growth, it can be estimated that in six centuries the number of people on the planet will be such that there will be just a square meter for each individual to inhabit (Jakab 2008). However, this would be impossible since something will take place to stop it. As an arithmetical practice, the picture of the imagined population explosion can certainly be furthered (Gilland 2008). In an April 1958 hypothetical article John L. Russell, S.J. theorized that, supposing a population that grows twofold every century, a growth rate significantly below the current rate, the current population of the world would have stemmed from an Adam and Eve existent roughly in 1000 B.C. (Hollingsworth 1996). A vivid illustration of this theory is presented in the following passage (Fagley 1960):

  • One thousand years hence, at the same rate, there would be two million million people…
  • In 2,500 years from now, the population would be so densely packed that there would be one man on every square yard of the earth’s surface, including the sea.
  • In 5,000 years the weight of human beings would be equal to the total weight of the earth, and in 14,000 years to the estimated total weight of the universe (ibid, p. 18).

Apparently, such practices are only useful in illustrating that the current population growth rate cannot continue, and that the issue of overpopulation cannot be mitigated unless the growth rate itself is substantially altered.

The major issue at this point is the importance of the short-range forecasts demonstrating the possibility that the human population will double in the very near future. This is certainly not an exploratory or hypothetical practice. This is the reasonable and valid repercussion of the established truth. This is an extension of a population explosion already in full swing. Is there really a problem of overpopulation? What should the governments do about this so-called threat of overpopulation? Should population growth be aggressively controlled by the enforcement of laws and taxes? The next section will review and discuss the arguments for and against the implementation of population growth control measures by the government.

Overpopulation should be stopped: True or False?

Different assertions have been made for endorsing population control mechanisms. They run the gamut of plain anxiety over the unpredictable to severe problems of environmental degradation. Numerous of the assertions are based on invalid assumptions, flawed information, or anxiety provoked by the scare ploys generally exploited by supporters of population control (Andreason 1999). Finally, every one of the justifications provided are insufficient compared to the disadvantages they bring.

The first justification can be interpreted merely as anxiety over the unpredictable. Numerous scholars claim that the planet has never had this massive population before, and that the current population growth rate is scary (Critchlow 1999). Population doomsters raise images of uncontrollable birth rates. Scare ploys are the widespread strategy exploited in this kind of claims, trying to create fear of the drastic increase in the world’s population (Van Beusekom 1999). Scholars, authority figures, and the mass media, according to Andreason (1999), have argued that the unparalleled growth of populations can simply imply that there will be immeasurable number of starving people, scouring the planet for scant resources before finally succumbing to war, starvation, and other tragic episodes.

Interestingly, this claim has not been founded on economic reality or valid reason. As such, the reality that there is an absence of accurate documentations of bigger world populations simply implies that humanity’s experience is deficient in understanding how to survive with bigger populations (Gilland 2008). Furthermore, there is large number of proofs that the Earth has the capacity to hold and sustain a population almost five times the present total, no less than forty billion people (Andreason 1999, 769).

A similar economic justification is widespread starvation, and smaller populations would imply lesser incidences of starvation. Advocates of this assumption argue that failure to control population growth will push people towards the mercy of extremely scarce resources, resulting in a massive reduction of the population (Greene 1999). It is factual that roughly one-tenth of the overall world’s population is starving (ibid, p. 48). Per se, with a bigger population inhabiting the planet, large numbers of people suffer starvation, particularly in the most impoverished regions of the planet. Nevertheless, advocates of this claim confuse causation with correlation (Andreason 1999). Even though the availability of food is limited, it evidently surpasses the requirements of the world population.

If truth be told, there is virtually a general agreement that there is more than sufficient supply of food in the planet to feed the entire population of the world. Roger Revelle, former Director of the Harvard Center for Population Studies, guesstimated that the food supply of the planet has the capacity to provide a sufficient diet of ‘2,500 kilocalories per day’ (Andreason 1999, 769) for the whole world’s population, and that it would necessitate the utilization of less than 25 of the arable and productive land area of the Earth. Moreover, Revelle claimed that poor countries, such as those in Africa, have the capacity to feed large populations (ibid, p. 769). These assumptions were founded on a technology developed in 1984; there is reasonable hopefulness that agricultural methods will facilitate significantly greater crop yields at present and in the near future (Andreason 1999). According to the critics of overpopulation:
In reality, [t]he problem is not production or overpopulation; it is poverty and accessibility. The majority of those who have died from famine starved due to deliberate governmental policy, official mismanagement, or war, and not to serious crop failure (ibid, p. 770).

Definitely, First World countries should carry on with their humanitarian intervention, particularly highlighting more technology and education than mere dole outs. However, apparently, the reality that populations are enduring starvation is not brought about by any global scarcity of food. According to Jakab (2008), the crisis persists to originate from the absence of free trade prospects and government negligence.

A social justification promoted by supporters of population control is that theorists and practitioners should give consideration to people’s quality of life, and that this is achieved by reducing the number of people living on Earth (Greene 1999). Definitely, health care and food should be made accessible to everyone. However, as aforementioned, scarcity of food supply in impoverished societies is not due to overpopulation, but instead to government regulations which hamper the realization of a sufficient supply of food (Greene 1999). For some societies, population reduction is not just pointless, but usually detrimental. Having fewer children, in reality, tends to lessen people’s quality of life (Gilland 2008). All members of the household are inclined to gain advantage from further relationships and support they build.

Possibly the most compelling point of population control advocates is that the world’s population is severely damaging the environment. Because each individual has an impact on the utilization and consumption of resources, each added human being on Earth is a burden to the environment. Proponents of population reduction claim that the world is doomed and the only solution is population control (Andreason 1999). Undoubtedly, people are draining and abusing the environment, an issue which should be resolved globally. Certainly, protection and conservation of the environment is a reasonable objective, but not a reasonable argument for population reduction (Chiarelli 1998). The author of the work entitled The Population Explosion, Paul Ehrlich, has remarked, “By assaulting the earth’s ecosystems, humanity is, in essence, sawing off the limb on which it perches” (Andreason 1999, 770).

However, there remains some form of optimism, albeit not frivolous passion, concerning the way in which technology has contributed to the protection and restoration of the environment (Chiarelli 1998). Human resourcefulness and creativity has not merely discovered additional sources of nonrenewable resources, it has other technologies anticipating additional growth when natural gas and oil are depleted, such as water, wind, solar, etc. (Green 2008) One should not apply the slogan “sustainable development” (Andreason 1999, 771) for arguing that solely by reducing the population can the environment be adequately flexible to human utilization.

Recommendations and Conclusions

In order to improve understanding of current population trends, several initiatives should be developed. Primarily, we have to reassess. We must evaluate our condition as it actually is and decisively identify the harmful impacts of population control mechanisms (Andreason 1999). Government officials must be accurately informed of current problems with persistently weakening workforce, virtually insolvent retirement schemes, and ageing societies. People must recognize the fact that migration trends are due partly to more and more inadequate work resources (Jakab 2008). Everybody should be educated of the permanent effects of considerable reduction in population, particularly in the face of human-induced and natural calamities which are taking place and are still to occur.

People should recognize the harmful consequences of population control mechanisms on families and society as a whole. The most disturbing feature of the actual population crises is that extremely few understand them, and majority still believes that the contrary exists. In addition, we should lessen human destructions. Governments must terminate regulations or policies which overtly or covertly support the reduction of population. The negative developments discussed previously should be traced back to their origin and responsibly counteracted. Particularly, governments should reevaluate its policies where fault is charged to the failure to realize population shift. Unless governments and institutions blaze a trail in stopping these patterns, the world’s populations are not apt to implement more sustainable strategies. Government officials can take advantage of the opportunity to go beyond mere theoretical discourse.

Furthermore, we should condemn inappropriate population ‘inducements’. Some countries have, at least broadly, abandoned the exercise of forceful techniques of achieving targeted population objectives (Hollingsworth 1996). Government should go beyond it: they should reject overt and covert forms of stern population control policies totally. Once this is accomplished it is then probable for violation of family will to stop. Moreover, by abandoning encouragements and support for population control policies, societies will acquire needed resources to utilize for enhancing the success of government programs.

We must reassess our efforts to inform the public. Any component of the information sharing agenda which promote population control or weaken important family values should be rejected (Andreason 1999). More broadly, information dissemination should involve an exposure to diverse knowledge with the least extent of public planning. However, if ideology should be a component of the process of information sharing, it should by no means take account of assumptions which strongly put the society at risk. Arguing that having children is unacceptable and mothers are weak is concretely disadvantageous to society, and must be understood per se. Governments should strive to promote family values and choice by pursuing policies that are family-friendly, reassigning conventional family duties to the members of the household, and by not attempting to ‘inform’ (Van Beusekom 1999) in accordance to a specific ideology.

We should strive to put off environmental misuses without attempting to reduce population. A protected environment and an increasing number of people do not have to be mutually independent (Gilland 2008). Although apparent solutions to sustaining and restoring the environment are not constantly imminent, steps forward are being attained. Even the private sector is making decisions that are more and more amiable to the environment. However, there is no explanation for relinquishing populations of the world.

Lastly, we should put emphasis on concrete progress. This involves complying with the government’s objective of reinforcing equal trade relations, and food programs and policies, with particular emphasis on the formation and maintenance of food satisfaction for everyone (Critchlow 1999). Governments should appropriately support the building of employment opportunities in the service, agricultural, and manufacturing industries, strengthened by the private sector and local agencies through the creation of optimal environments for widened trade and investment. It should be realized that reproductive health agendas should not gain precedence over policies on antipoverty, agricultural improvement, health care, and food production and allocation (Chiarelli 1998). Social institutions that sustain poverty must be changed to resource and income allocation, health care, job opportunities, and improved quality of life. Policies of international organizations should concentrate on mitigating poverty and distributing resources equally. Starving, impoverished populations are not a burden that should be reduced, repressed, or controlled by policies of population control; if governments will educate and support them, they will be a more secured, contented, and better population.

In conclusion, we should discontinue the endorsement of population control attempts, put emphasis on its harmful consequences, and then plan actions to be taken to solve the Earth’s biggest problems. Concentrating on the difficulties people face will in no way be easy. However, it will be challenging and much more fulfilling than struggling to reduce the current and future populations of the world.


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Critchlow, D. Intended Consequences: Birth Control , Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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Gilland, B. “Overpopulation and Underdevelopment,” Mankind Quarterly 49.2 (2008): 121+

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