Friday, 3 May 2013

Opinion: Overpopulation

This is the first non-review I've posted on my blog, and it should be the first of many (sorry if that disappoints anyone). This is an opinion piece titled Growing Numbers that I entered this in the Whitlam Institute's What Matters? Writing Competition 2013.

I believe overpopulation exacerbates almost all other issues in today’s society. The world’s population reached 7 billion in 2011 and is growing at 4.2 births and 1.8 deaths a second (CIA – The World Factbook). So what does this mean for the world? In basic terms, we have a large growing number of people all sharing Earth’s limited resources, meaning less overall for everyone. But of course it’s far more complicated than that; overpopulation has serious effects on sustainability, poverty, health and wealth distribution.

The consequences of overpopulation are most obvious in the environment. The Earth only has a finite amount of resources that are available for human use, with such a huge population it’s no wonder there’s not enough to go around. This puts strain on the Earth and it simply cannot supply enough for the increased demand. It’s not so much that everyone’s rations are smaller, they are unevenly distributed: people in Western countries have plenty of food, water, electricity and shelter available to them while people in developing countries have little access to these basic needs. This leads to concentrated poverty, malnutrition and disease in certain communities. Sustainable options always take into account the long term, but people in poverty aren’t likely to live to reap long term benefits, and need their sustenance immediately so they are forced to ruin these assets (Karen Gaia Pitts, Sustainability and Population). This is not always a one way street; a child born in the US will be responsible for 7 times the carbon emissions of a child born in China and 168 times the emissions for a child born in Bangladesh (Centre for Biological Diversity). Some say the Earth has enough natural resources to sustain a population of 10-14 billion, and that may be true for people, but does not take into account the countless flora, fauna and natural land that we would lose in the process.

Aside from sustainability, this skewed the supply and demand ratio caused by overpopulation lowers overall standards of living. There is less land, influence, employment opportunities, healthcare options and material possessions even for those who are comparatively well off. In an attempt to cater for this high demand, many material items are mass-produced in countries which have cheap labour, meaning these workers are largely underpaid, overworked and face immense pressure and often mistreatment to produce items for the rest of the world. Outside these countries there are not enough jobs, with increasing hours for those who are employed. The distribution of wealth is also showing a disturbing trend in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this polarisation means that eventually those sitting in the middle will get dragged one way or another.

What can we do about it? I’m not suggesting employ anything as drastic as China’s one child policy or the culling of people, there are a number of smaller steps which can reduce the growing human population. Long gone are the days when children were economic answers and even with reduced pregnancy numbers, there will still be enough children to form the next generation. I believe birth control, education and abortion should be promoted globally, parenting has a serious impact on both the parent and the child, because of this we should not force this huge responsibility on those who do not want it. Australia is hardly a big player in this phenomenon, it mainly is an issue in developing countries, and just as they have the most children and face the brunt of the negative effects, they too should receive a concentrated implementation of population control options. 

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