Overpopulation of the Earth is an issue, with which have been long ago concerned Aristotle and other philosophers of antiquity. But this matter at the same time served as stimulus for people to aspire to development of new terrestrial spaces. It was stimulus of Great geographical findings, technical inventions, and the scientific process. This made people to develop new lands, to aspire to move to new continents, to make geographical discoveries.
Actually in the course of history in process of development of productive forces, the sizes of the territory necessary for maintenance of foodstuffs for one person have been constantly reduced. By some estimation, during prehistoric times when people lived due to collecting, to support one person it was necessary to develop from 25 up to 250 square kilometers. During an epoch of agriculture, a slaveholding epoch, this size has decreased and made already about 1 square kilometer. At feudalism it was reduced up to 0, 2 square kilometers, and presently makes from 0, 5 up to 2, 47 acres. The increasing population of a planet demands all greater escalating of rates of economic development to keep balance. However if to consider the present condition of technologies such growth will cause the increasing environmental pollution and even can lead to irrevocable destruction of nature.
There is a question: is there a certain density of population of the Earth, which overcoming may become dangerous to its all inhabitants? In this connection the law of Thomas Robert Malthus is interesting. In 1798 Maltus in his book ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ has proved, that such threshold exists and mankind is doomed to reach it. He states that the growth of population occurs in geometrical progression, and the development of scientific and technical progress in arithmetic one. That is the progress can not provide all people due to too fast growth of the population. ‘His population theory may be summarized as follows: as with other animals, human beings have a natural instinct to bear children to a physical maximum; under this ‘fixity of passion’ people tend to multiply at an exponential rate; where the production of food is constrained by the fixed endowment of natural resources, especially land, and can increase only arithmetically, whatever slack of food supply per capita beyond a subsistence level may exist will eventually be used up by increased population; further increases in population are bound to be checked by famines, pests, and wars of desperate competition for limited food supply; thus, it is not possible that the levels of living and income per capita for the majority of people can remain beyond a subsistence minimum in the long run’ (Godo & Hayami, 2005: 73).
The dynamics of population growth of the Earth confirms the given hypothesis:
- for a moment of the beginnings of new calendar – about 230 million people;
- 1000 – about 300 million (for one thousand years the population was not even doubled – it has increased less than in 1,5 times);
- 1850 – 1 billion;
- 1930 – 2 billion;
- 1976 – 4 billion;
- 1987 – 5 billion;
- 2000 – 6 billion;
- 2025 – 8 billion (is expected).
Thus, if earlier for doubling the population it was necessary 1000 years, after 1850 it needed accordingly 80, 46, 50 years. That is now it may be observed the tendency of doubling the population within each 50 years (and most likely the given tendency will be kept due to uncontrolled and constantly extending increase of the population from Asia and Africa).
By estimation of scientists, the Earth is capable to support 60 billion people. That is a quantity in 10 times exceeding today’s population of the Earth (about 6 billion people). At preservation of contemporary (especially African and Asian) rates of increase of population (doubling within 50 years) the ‘critical’ threshold can be reached already by 2150 – 2200.
To avoid it the mankind should solve two problems:
- to bring down rates of population growth in Asia and Africa (as in the countries of West a negative dynamics is observed, they on the contrary require growth of the population), to carry out there a state policy of birth rate control, encouragements of families having no children or only one child;
- to search for new ways of increase of the Earth’s ability to support and provide mankind, to extend a threshold of overpopulation (from 60 up to 100 billion and further).
The essential feature of modern demographic picture of the world consists in the fact that 90 of increase of population takes place in developing countries. A US senator speaking on the population issue noted ‘that 90 of the current growth in the world population is taking place in less developed countries such as India and China. In order to protect the environment, he said, population growth in these countries needs to be stabilized—and soon. When asked about population growth in the United States and other more developed nations, he replied, ‘The US population is growing at a slow rate, only about 1 per year. The developed nations, on the whole, are growing at an even slower pace, about 0.1 per year—much, much slower than the growth rate in the developing nations’ (Chiras, 2006: 135).
To consider a real picture of the world, it is necessary to know how this poor majority of mankind lives. The direct connection between poverty and demographic explosion is visible in global, continental, and regional scales. Africa, the continent, which is in the heaviest, crisis ecological-economic condition, has the greatest in the world rates of population growth, and unlike other continents these rates there do not decrease yet. So the circle becomes isolated: poverty – fast growth of the population – degradation of natural recourses. The distance between the accelerated growth of population and insufficient rates of development of the industry is even more amplified by decline in production that complicates solving of enormous problem of unemployment in developing countries.
Almost one third of their workable population belongs to number of in full or in part unemployed. Poverty does not reduce, but strengthens stimulus to have more children. Children are the important part of family labor. They collect brushwood, prepare fuel for cooking, graze cattle, nurse younger children, and do other housekeeping work from the early childhood. So, the actual danger to our planet is poverty, in which the overwhelming majority of world’s population stays. A population explosion and the compelled destruction of natural basis of existence in greater measure is a consequence of poverty. The opinion that the fast increasing of population of developing countries is the main reason of increasing of global raw and ecological deficiencies, is as simple, as well as is incorrect. Most of population of Earth is compelled to be content with a standard of life, making 5-10 from a level in the richest countries. Any Swede, Swiss, American consume in many times more resources of the Earth, than a Somali, eat much more meat products, than an Indian.
Some people accuse technology of the problem of overpopulation. Let us think. Without technology the majority of people living today would not exist, including those who complain of overpopulation! Without usage of modern methods in agriculture, the majority of people would die of famine and accompanying diseases. Without antibiotics and medical help, especially at birth of a child, many of us would die in childhood. It is necessary to think twice before naming something a ‘problem’ when we should appreciate it for our own existence.
But we should not deny that too fast growth of population leads to poverty and exhaustion of natural resources. In this sense, overpopulation is really a problem. It is necessary to support programs of family planning and distribution of contraceptives, especially among families in the poor countries where population grows most quickly. Constant lobbying by some religious groups in the United States the terminations of this humanitarian help is a serious mistake.
The quantity of people, which Earth can supply at a sufficient standard of living and without harm for an environment, depends on the level of technological development. New technologies, from simple improvements in melioration and management up to modern breaks in genetic engineering, will continue to increase manufacture of food stuffs (simultaneously reducing sufferings of animals).
The modern people were generated about 30-40 thousand years ago. From that moment in evolution of biosphere the new anthropogenesis factor began to operate. Population growth and a quantum leap in development of science and technics for last two centuries, especially today, have led to that the activity of humans became a factor of planetary scale, and a directing force of further evolution of biosphere. Now humans have involved a prevailing part of known mineral ores, coal, oil and gas in the sphere of their industrial activity. Together with population density the degree of influence of mankind on environment varies also. However at modern level of development of productive forces activity of human society affects biosphere as a whole.
The mankind with its social laws of development and powerful technics is quite capable to influence a century course of biospheric processes. Scientific and technical progress opens new scopes of black and nonferrous metals, various nonmetallic raw materials. As a result the development of poor ores extends, and the oil recovery from bottom of the sea increases. New territories are involved in economic circulation; use of wood and animals grows. The significant areas of land are exposed to processing with the purpose of cultivation of vegetative food stuffs and creations of forage reserve for animal industries. In modern conditions the significant part of surface of the Earth is developed or represents in full or in part cultivated pastures for livestock. The development of industry and agriculture has demanded greater areas for construction of cities, industrial enterprises, development of minerals, and construction of communications. Thus in total about 20 of land by present time is transformed by the activity of humans.
Anyway there is an issue, which is absolutely right, it is impossible to keep the status quo. The state of things cannot just even because of physical reasons go the same as they go now. If we will continue to use resources with present speed we shall collide with their serious shortage up to the end of this century.
Chiras, D. D. (2006). Environmental Science. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Godo, Y. & Hayami, Y. (2005). Development Economics: from the poverty to the wealth of nations. Oxford University Press.
Malthus, T. R. (1959). Population: The First Essay. University of Michigan Press.