Arguing on Planet Earth – Environmental issues: Outline

Introduction

“Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be” (McMahon 361). This is a statement uttered by Steve Jones (from the University College of London) who noted that, human beings are quickly overpopulating the earth, thereby creating a population time bomb which our natural habitat cannot sustain (McMahon 361).

The human population has been steadily increasing over the last few decades. This increase has been attributed to advancements in medicine and agricultural revolutions which have facilitated an increase in food production.

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One such revolution is the “green” revolution which has multiplied food production in the last century (McMahon 361). A steady population increase (over the last two centuries) has increased concerns that the steady population growth is going to cause a strain on nature’s resources. This strain is witnessed in several forms, including a strain on fresh water, food resources, land (among other factors of production).

Hardin explains that, people should stop viewing the world as an infinite wealth of resources because it is not (Hardin 3). He notes that, since the world’s resources are obviously finite, an infinitely growing population would translate to a catastrophe because once the earth’s resources are depleted; there would be no more energy to support life.

Hardin further makes reference to human growth as being subject to energy production because we burn a specific number of calories per day, and these calories are often sourced from food (Hardin 3).

Food is supported by nature, and nature is finite (in the number of resources it can provide to sustain food production). From this understanding, an uncontrolled population growth poses as a strong environmental issue. However, the solution to fixing this problem lies in a controlled population growth. This argument forms the framework for this paper.

Conceptual Analysis

The concept of overpopulation has not been in existence for a long time. In fact, before the industrial revolution, there was no concern for overpopulation because the world’s population hardly increased (Brawley 203).

It is only after the industrial revolution that the world’s population reached a billion people and scholars started to predict that, soon, the world’s population will cause a strain on the world’s resources because a finite set of resources cannot support an endlessly growing population.

The concept of overpopulation is not limited to the number of people on the earths’ surface, or the size of the earth’s surface alone; it is also subject to the availability of resources that support life. Scientists note that, the concept of overpopulation is also subject to the use of resources and its distribution across various population groups (Brawley 203).

This argument started another debate regarding whether the earth is indeed overpopulated or not. Some scientists differ with people who hold the view that, the world is overpopulated because they believe the current situation (overpopulation) is not informed by a strain on resources but rather, a misuse of resources (over consumption and waste) by the world’s wealthy nations (Brawley 203).

The concept of overpopulation is normally subject to several factors, including an increase in births, depletion of resources, income variations (and the likes) because even a sparsely populated region may still be deemed to be overpopulated since available resources may fail to sustain life for the existing population.

Traditionally, overpopulation was subject to a few factors, such as the availability of clean water, clean air, good housing (and the likes). However, in today’s society where standards of living are vital in assessing population figures; the emphasis on availability of healthcare, education, proper sewage disposal systems (and the likes) are also critical in assessing if a region is overpopulated or not. Comprehensively, the concept of overpopulation grew from the strain of populations on the existing resources.

Economic Disaster

An overpopulation of the earth is obviously a waiting time bomb. However, with the development and entrenchment of capitalism across the globe, there has been an imbalance in the distribution of resources.

In most regions of the world, there is a consensus among many economists that most of the world’s resources are controlled by the minority (wealthy), and a small portion of the world’s wealth is controlled by the majority (the world’s poor) (McMahon 361).

This imbalance traces its root to the industrial revolution period where there was a scramble for the world’s resources that saw the western world scramble to secure the world’s resources for industrial processes.

This scramble gave birth to colonial powers that traveled around the globe to secure economic resources, thereby creating colonies. This scramble for resources also led to the colonization of Africa, America, India and similar regions where there were vast resources for economic production.

The industrial revolution created a capitalistic economy where most of the world’s resources were controlled by few western powers. Many people therefore worked for wealthy nations, making them vulnerable to their masters. Today, poor people still go through the same motions of unequal wealth distribution because most of the world’s resources are still controlled by the wealthy and many people are left to struggle for the few remaining resources.

From this understanding, there is a clear imbalance of wealth distribution in the world. The situation is already bad enough, considering the world’s population is already growing at an unsustainable rate and still, the existing socio-economic structures do not support the equal distribution of scarce resources. This artificial scarcity of the world’s resources has further exacerbated concerns about the disasters of a growing population.

Psychological Influences

The strain on the world’s resources, emanating from an increase in population, is further worsened by the psychological influences of population growth. These psychological influences are normally fueled by different cultural ideologies regarding population growth. The differences in cultural influences are attributed to be the main reason behind the varied rates of population growth in different parts of the world (Brawley 203).

For instance, in some cultures, children are seen as a blessing, and the more children one has, the more blessings one gets. Such perceptions exist in certain parts of the world such as Africa and Asia (Brawley 203). With such ideologies in existence, people fail to look at the impact such cultural influences have on population sustainability and standards of living. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to argue against such cultures because they have existed for centuries, and they vary a lot.

Changing such ideologies is therefore a difficult task that cannot be easily overcome. This dynamic has further fueled population growth rates, and made it more difficult to solve the problem of an overpopulated earth (at least by viewing population control as an effective remedy to the problem of overpopulation) (Clemagami 1).

Discussion

The question of world overpopulation can be analyzed from Leopold’s point of view regarding land ethics. He explains that, land is the mother of all resources because rivers, lakes, plants, soil, animals (and other resources) are supported by land (Leopold 2). In fact, arguments by Hardin, regarding the tragedy of the commons, is subject to Leopold’s arguments on land.

For instance, Hardin’s argument that, the world’s resources are finite, is an apposition of Leopold’s analysis of land because land is the main finite factor of production on earth. Scientific developments have seen the replication of certain factors of production such energy, food (green energy) and the likes, but it is impossible to replicate land.

Therefore, land is the main factor of production that is finite. In solving the problem of overpopulation, emphasis should therefore be laid on controlling the world’s population so that it does not surpass the capability of land to sustain human life. In essence, the world population should be kept at minimum (or at par) with land productivity.

This measure should be free from all cultural or economic influences on overpopulation. Though this strategy may seem as a long shot towards the realization of sustainable human life, it is the only long-term strategy that solves overpopulation problems.

Conclusion

Weighing the arguments regarding overpopulation, we can agree that, there is an impending human disaster which is caused by a strain on the world’s resources. Though this paper acknowledges the economic and psychological influences of unequal resource distribution (and over population), it identifies a control in population as the main long-term strategy that can be implemented if sustainable human existence is to be realized.

Works Cited

Brawley, Sean. The White Peril: Foreign Relations and Asian Immigration To Australasia and North America, 1919-1978. New York: UNSW Press, 1995. Print.

Clemagami, Lucas, dir. Our Overpopulated World. YouTube, 2008. Film.

Hardin, Garrett. The Tragedy of the Commons. 13 December. 1968. Web. 1 November. 2011.

Leopold, Aldo. The Land Ethic. Nd. 1948. Web. 1 November. 2011.

McMahon, Robin. On the Origin of Diversity: Celebrating Our Uniqueness and the Variety of Life. London: FilamentPublishing Ltd, 2011. Print.

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