The Jam-Packed Planet
A mixed group of freshmen and sophomores huddle in a dimly lit environmental science classroom on a Monday morning, many of them still half asleep. The professor announces that today’s lecture will be about overpopulation. Unbeknownst to the young fledgling minds, they are about to learn the basics of human ecology, something their legislators have yet to grasp when planning their futures. Like most major political issues, human impact and overpopulation is rarely looked at and often postponed.
Humans are the world’s most successful invasive species, migrating into every bastion of temperate climate they can find and manipulating nature to suit their needs. Nature's tyrannical control over our lives has been overcome through technological achievements. Food, water, and medicine are accessible to most of the world. Sprawling cities are living monuments to progress.
Lawmakers might conclude that there's no problem in sight. However, lawmakers often see time in four to six year increments. The human population has reached a level that’s driving the Earth’s resources to their limit, which can only end with drastic decrease of population through starvation, disease, or intellectual intervention.
In 1750, Earth’s population was about 800 million. According to the UN, the population was 3.3 billion by 1965, and 6.5 billion by 2005. Due to exponential growth, this number is expected to double within the next 50 years, with an increase of roughly 200,000 each day. Experts agree that the absolute population cap would be 50 billion, which is akin to being packed into a Lang elevator on a global scale. To ensure the continuity of our way of life, population growth must be stunted.
Time is running out as countries occupy their last strips of soil capable of high yield crops. The UN reports that a trend has emerged of industrialized nations leasing land in Africa to grow crops which are shipped to the leasing countries, despite starvation in the very countries they're leasing from. Water sources have also begun to show their finiteness as fresh water lakes and ground water sources dry up, as witnessed by low-orbit satellites and water table measurements, according to marine biologist Stephan Bullard. Though these problems seem far off, conservation and control are required today. In the next 50 years, World War III might not be fought over the last drops of oil but rather the last drops of water.
When one thinks of population control, China’s one-child policy often comes to mind. The thought of not having the freedom to choose how many children to have scares and angers people. China’s population control policies are sometimes met with riots, and Chinese officials have stated that there were around 23,000 protests and petitions in 2008.