With the abandonment of a hunting-gathering way of life and the rise of permanent settlements and eventually cities, the human population has undergone dramatic growth. “It took until after 1800, virtually all of human history, for our population to reach 1 billion. Yet we reached 2 billion by 1930, and 3 billion in just 30 more years, in 1960” (Withgott & Brennan, 218). Today the world’s population has grown to an estimated 6.5 billion people. “Increased population intensifies impact on the environment as more individuals take up space, use natural resources, and generate waste” (Withgott & Brennan, 220). Despite these concerns, population growth is considered by some as beneficial to economic, political, and military strength. Provided in the following discussion is a critique of different viewpoints, and possible solutions to reaching economic sustainability and maintaining ecosystems and quality of life for the future.
“The Great Population Debate” is a section from the book Biosphere 2000. This segment of the book discusses various viewpoints regarding population growth, and attempts to clarify concepts on either side of the debate.Is human population a problem?
Two groups believe that “there is no population problem”, Cornucopians and Marxists. “Cornucopians argue that people are the world’s ultimate resource and the more of them, the better” (Biosphere 2000, 130). The Cornucopian viewpoint sees continued population growth as positive, and if problems arise human inventiveness will solve them. “Marxists argue that poverty is the result of the unequal distribution of resources rather than unchecked population growth” (Biosphere 2000, 130). They believe the primary focus should be on distributing people more evenly.
Three groups believe that “there is a population problem”, Malthusians, Neomalthusians, and advocates of zero population growth. Malthusians follow the works of Thomas Malthus that “unless population growth is controlled by laws or other social strictures, the number of people would outgrow the available food supply until starvation, war, or disease arose and reduced population. Neomalthusians believe that each child is a “potential gift to society”, but argue that continuing population growth will result in the inability to fulfill their human potential, and see it as a “threat to environmental quality, political stability, international relations, and economic development” (Biosphere 200, 130). Finally advocates of zero population growth believe that birth control and mandatory family planning programs be instituted to achieve zero population growth.
The second source of information came from Withgott and Brennan’s Environment textbook (Chapter 8: Human Population). This chapter discusses many aspects of population growth and its impact on society. It discusses China’s One-Child Policy, negative environmental effects of population growth, conflicting viewpoints, population distribution, birth/death/immigration/emigration rates, demographic transitions, and finally the impact of HIV/AIDS. The entire chapter illustrates in great detail the many issues associated with population growth, and is an excellent source to those interested in the debate.
I agree with the Neomalthusian’s attitudes that continued population growth will result in decreased environmental quality. I also agree with the Malthusians standpoint that if population continues to grow, earth won’t be able to support it, and humanity will endure great pain and suffering from overcrowding and disappearing availability of resources.
I found it interesting on page 220 that government is aware of the correlation between population growth and poverty, but continues to offer incentives to citizens that encourage them to produce more children. I believe that the government should offer incentives to families with fewer children much like China did to encourage decreased fertility rates.
Limiting numbers of children per family provokes moral and ethical issues, but it is important to emphasize that without government interventions regarding reproductive freedom, that the human population would suffer from negative effects of overcrowding, competition for scarce resources and ultimately spoil the well-being of the environment and human welfare.
We need to implement a plan and take action promptly before the Earth reaches its maximum capacity and we slowly expire our resources. Withgott and Brennan describe the scenario of Easter Island on pages 8 and 9. I found this to be a great example of the impact of large populations on prosperous environments. “Like the Easter islanders, we are all stranded together on an island with limited resources… Whether we can learn from the history of Easter Island, and act