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The Effect of Overpopulation on the Environment and Our Sustainability

written by: nanjowe•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 1/12/2009

As population continues to grow globally, the threat of overpopulation may be a reality sooner than later.

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    Overpopulation Defined

    According to the United Nations State of World Population 2007, the world will reach a milestone in 2008; half of the world’s population will live in urban areas. If this number continues to grow, we could be looking at overpopulated urban areas. Overpopulation is explained in terms of the number of people in a specific area living off certain resources and the capacity of their particular environment to sustain them.

    While China used to be the biggest threat to our populating globe, India’s population growth is set to surpass China’s (according to 2007 estimates of the Population Reference Bureau). Overpopulation in India could be a the next concern. India is a population that is normally sustained within its environment by the availability of clean drinking water, food, shelter, medical care, education and other basic human needs. Once overpopulated India will put stress on the available resources. This stress will affect the quality of life by decreasing the availability of clean water and food which in turn deteriorates living conditions, leading to epidemics and pandemics. If India’s numbers continue to increase, they will face the effects of overpopulation

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    Is Overpopulation a Reality?

    Experts disagree. Doug Allen disagrees about the inevitability of overpopulation especially in urban areas. Allen, an expert in the histories of cities and urban design and a Dean at Georgia Institute of Technology, suggests that there is evidence implying that the world’s population will flatten out in about 30 years. He cites historical evidence of falling birthrates in urban areas. Lawrence Smith of the Population Institute, disagrees, he feels with certainty that overpopulation will happen and will predominantly affect the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

    These countries still have major social and economic hurdles to overcome to provide their populations with the much needed resources. Smith points out that the worst effect of overpopulation is the lack of clean drinking water. As the population increases there is a need to increase the ability of the environment to support the population, especially to provide clean drinking water. With advances in technology, this can be achieved by introducing desalination techniques to transform sea water to drinking water. To better supply food, it is necessary to introduce advances in agricultural techniques to better farming techniques. There will be a need to also make advances in the distribution of natural resources.

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    Averting Overpopulation

    Some countries are working towards the goal of improving sustainability and averting overpopulation. China implemented a one-child policy to curb their over population issues, the program has been successful in the decrease of the swelling Chinese population. The Egyptian government is planning on investing in a program that will be implementing a similar program to the Chinese where families will be “unofficially" being limited to two children.