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BIO Magazine - Human overpopulation Δεκέμβριος 2015
Δεκέμβριος 2015 No38

BIO Environment

Human overpopulation
Human overpopulation

Human overpopulation occurs if the number of people in a group exceeds the carrying capacity of a region occupied by that group. Overpopulation can further be viewed, in a long term perspective, as existing when a population cannot be maintained without the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources or without the degradation of the capacity of the environment to give support to the population.[1]

The term human overpopulation often refers to the relationship between the entire human population and its environment: the Earth,[2] or to smaller geographical areas such as countries. Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. It is possible for very sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated if the area has a meager or non-existent capability to sustain life (e.g., a desert). Advocates of population moderation cite issues like quality of life, carrying capacity and risk of starvation as being a basis to argue against continuing high human population growth and for population decline.

The human population has been growing continuously since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1350,[3] although the most significant increase has been in the last 50 years, mainly due to medical advancements and increases in agricultural productivity. The rate of population growth has been declining since the 1980s. The United Nations has expressed concern on continued excessive population growth in sub-Saharan Africa.[4] Recent research has demonstrated that those concerns are well grounded.[5] As of May 4, 2015 the world's human population is estimated to be 7.242 billion by the United States Census Bureau,[6] and over 7 billion by the United Nations.[7][8][9] Most contemporary estimates for the carrying capacity of the Earth under existing conditions are between 4 billion and 16 billion. Depending on which estimate is used, human overpopulation may or may not have already occurred. Nevertheless, the rapid recent increase in human population is causing some concern. The population is expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the year 2040[10][11] and 2050.[12] In May 2011, the United Nations increased the medium variant projections to 9.3 billion for 2050 and 10.1 billion for 2100.[13]

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past three centuries has raised concerns that the planet may not be able to sustain present or larger numbers of inhabitants. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, circa 1994, has stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, are aggravated by the population expansion.[14] Other problems associated with overpopulation include the increased demand for resources such as fresh water and food, starvation and malnutrition, consumption of natural resources (such as fossil fuels) faster than the rate of regeneration, and a deterioration in living conditions. Wealthy, but highly populated territories like Britain remain in situations in which they rely on food imports from overseas.[15] The problem was severely felt during the World Wars in which, despite food efficiency initiatives like "dig for victory" and food rationing, the British peoples remained in a situation where they needed to fight to secure import routes. However, many believe that waste and over-consumption, especially by wealthy nations, is putting more strain on the environment than overpopulation.[16]

Most countries have no direct policy of limiting their birth rates, but the rates have still fallen due to educating people about family planning and increasing access to birth control and contraception. Only China has imposed legal restrictions on having more than one child. Extraterrestrial settlement and other technical solutions have been proposed as ways to mitigate overpopulation in the future.

History of concern

[unreliable source?] states that overpopulation is not a Western world problem, and people often cite China and India as major population contributors; however, he notes that with rising wealth in those countries, population growth will begin to slow, as population growth is strongly linked to the economic stability of a country.[22]

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