Contributing Writer Ryan Collins, ’21
When a species grows too large, nature corrects it, it’s a basic law of science. The maximum number of individuals in a species is called its carrying capacity. Many factors play into determining what that number is, such as the number of predators, the amount of food available, competition (within a species and with other species), and the potential danger of diseases. And, contrary to anthropocentric belief, humans are not a special case. We experience competition over resources through war, diseases through pandemics, and a lack of food through famine. Major events in history have demonstrated these corrections and with the current rate of population growth, it’s only a matter of time until more corrections occur.
It took all of human existence on Earth, from about 200,000 BC until the early 19th century, to reach 1 billion people. Now, we are at nearly 8 billion, and we are projected to be at nearly 10 billion by 2050. This rate of growth is massively exponential, and it makes sense. As the amount of individuals that are able to reproduce increases, it’s only logical that there would be more reproduction, given that environmental factors allowed it. However, the immense growth of the human population is not random, but is rather attributed to recent technological development. Technological advancements such as the Industrial Revolution and the Green Revolution have dramatically increased our carrying capacity, allowing for more people to be fed and maintained. But these improvements allow a finite amount of extra people. So, how much longer can we maintain this rate of growth?
It’s impossible to know for sure. Many people claim that as the population increases and problems arise, we will work it out like we have in the past, through technology. However, this assumption is asinine. We do not know exactly when the cut off would be, but we cannot support an infinite amount of people, meaning we will eventually lose the ability to maintain everybody. Not acting on this information is a death wish in disguise. But what is the solution?
It’s simple: Population Reduction. Many people are afraid to talk about this because they immediately think about the restriction of the human right to reproduce, or worse, genocide. However, those are not the only ways to reduce the population. Instead, we must limit offspring amounts by providing incentive to people to reproduce less. This should be done by informing people of the benefits of lower reproduction rates and by improving education and awareness of contraception technologies. Improved awareness of the benefits would be a long term solution to overpopulation. We would be working towards flattening the curve of population, and eventually returning to a sustainable number of humans.
- Mann, Charles C. “How Will We Survive When the Population Hits 10 Billion?” TED, Apr. 2018.
- Westing, Arthur H. “Overpopulation and Climate Change.” The New York Times.