The world is facing a wide variety of problems and some times it can be a little bit depressing. Whether it is poverty, climate change, disease, the economy or something else there is always something to cover on the news. One of the causes commonly attributed to all issues is overpopulation. We are constantly told that the world is overpopulated but not many of us know what that really means and if it is true?
The truth is that for the world to be overpopulated you have to mean it in terms of something. If people mean in terms of our current usage of natural resources then the answer is a resounding yes. As proof of that, we only need to look at Earth Overshoot Day.
Earth Overshoot Day is one day every year when humanity surpasses the number of resources consumed compared to those being provided by the planet. It works kind of like a balance sheet. If we were conscious environmental users we would only use what the Earth produces each year, or better yet, we would use even less, that would leave the Earth in a natural surplus allowing extra beautiful things to take place. However, since the 1970s we have been in a deficit.
The day that Earth Overshoot Day takes place changes every year and sadly it is becoming earlier and earlier. In 2019 it took place on July 29th meaning we are now close to spending all of Earth’s natural resources from one year in just 6 months. This is slowly killing our planet.
However, if you were to argue that the world is overpopulated from a space problem, that is simply incorrect. If you ever travel to some congested cities it can feel like this. New York and Beijing have millions of people living on top of each other in tiny apartments and it is can feel like if the world grew by another million people we would have nowhere to put them. Today the population is 7.8 billion people but it will reach over 9 billion by 2050. We will have to find somewhere to put them.
The reality is that we have plenty of space. If the world was as densely populated as Manhatten we could fit the entire population in New Zealand. However, if the world was as densely populated as Alaska we would need over 100 Earths to fit everyone. The problem is not one of space but how we are using it. The environmental problem is not one of overpopulation either it is one of how that population lives.
The Earth could sustain over 9 billion people on the planet if we just learned to live in harmony with it and stopped taking from it. This is not easy. The reality is that most people have learned a certain way to live and to ask them to change is really difficult. However, it must be done. If you do the math and see that Earth Overshoot Day will continue to arrive earlier and earlier each year, we are basically making the Earth a ticking time bomb. At our current rates of usage even if the global population was in decline we would still be in trouble.
People must stop blaming the growing population and stop pointing the finger at others. We need to make a change and we need to make it now. While adjusting your habits will likely not change a great deal about your life it will ensure that your children and grandchildren have a better world to live in. Surely that is something that everyone wants to see.