The population is an increasing cause for concern for most environmentalists. Today the planet is being put under more and more strain by the people of the world and as the population continues to increase it will only get worse. The population of 7.8 billion people is the largest the world has ever seen and it will only continue to increase. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the population will be 9.6 billion people. Will the world be able to cope?
The issue forces us to ask the question, what is the highest population the world can actually handle? That answer all comes down to how efficient we are with resources. The earth continues to produce natural resources and as long as what we use each year is lower than what the earth produces each year, we are in a great position. The problem is that we crossed this threshold in the early 1970s. Since then we have been using the earth’s natural resources faster and faster and in 2019 July 29th marked the day that our usage passed the earth’s natural production abilities in a full year. This day is getting earlier and earlier and is a cause for concern.
Yet when you look at the population from a size perspective, seven billion is not that big. In fact, if the population lived as densely as they do in Manhatten the whole world population could fit in New Zealand. This suggests that actually the density of the population across the world is not the issue, it is our efficiency in using resources and our overpopulation in certain places. If for example, the world was as densely populated as Alaska, we would need 108 Earths to fit everyone!
While we will not all be moving to New Zealand anytime soon and finding another 107 Earths will be difficult, the lesson is clear. Earth is big enough for everyone to live and live well. We just can’t do it based on our current consumption patterns. We have to find more renewable ways to produce goods as at present we are placing too large of a tax on the world itself. If you think the environmental problems of today are too much to handle then consider what happens when we add another 2.5 billion people into the mix by 2050. The population forecasts and usage estimates are a fair warning to the world, now we just have to listen.