The World’s Next Grave Threat Isn’t Getting Enough Attention

Amidst a multitude of issues that our generation must tackle, one of them stands out. It’s not a hot-button topic — like climate change, violence, poverty, or pollution — that receives endless coverage in the news. It’s not another problem caused by something humankind did. Rather, this issue stands out because we’ve created it by our mere existence. It’s called overpopulation, and unless we take quick, innovative action to curb it, we’ll start to feel the consequences — many of which we’re already experiencing — of a planet filled with too many of us.

A few centuries back, our ancestors likely couldn’t fathom that we would ever overpopulate the planet. But over the course of a couple generations, we’ve gotten quite good at staying alive. Agricultural advancements in the 20th century allowed us to expand food production using fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides — making it cheaper and faster to grow and harvest crops. With more mouths fed, populations — once limited by nutrition — exploded.

Scientists in the medical field have obsessed over discoveries that prolong human life, and as a result, we’ve developed an arsenal of vaccines, antibiotics, and medicines to defeat a wide range of diseases. Illnesses that once claimed thousands of lives have been eradicated, and medical procedure has transformed previously life-threatening conditions into routine practice. Life expectancy around the world skyrocketed, and the global population growth rate peaked at 2.02% annually in 1967.

There are many negative effects of overpopulation. First, it contributes to an overall degradation of the natural environment. The over-use of fossil fuels will lead to a rise in CO2 emissions, which would result in the melting of glaciers, changing climate patterns, and a rise in sea level.

Furthermore, the impact of overpopulation on the world’s wildlife is severe. As demand for land grows, we will destruct natural habitats such as forests. Some scientists warn that if the present trend continues, as many as 50% of the world’s wildlife species could be at risk of extinction.

Unfortunately, overpopulation could start wars as well. Conflicts over water are becoming a source of tension between nations, and it is possible that these conflicts could develop into wars. Although this effect is not as important, overpopulation would also raise the unemployment rate, as the rate of population growth would outpace that of job creation. This would increase the crime rate as well.

Finally, overpopulation diminishes the availability of resources; when this occurs, starvation and malnutrition rates increase.

There are several ways to solve this problem. One of the better ways is to educate people about family planning and birth control.

Education for girls is especially imperative. Currently, over 130 million young women around the globe are not enrolled in school. The majority of these girls live in male-dominated societies — particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia — that do not give women ample access to education. Girls who receive less education are more likely to have children at a younger age, and they become more vulnerable to exploitation.

In addition, the government could implement various economic policies to curb overpopulation. One of them might be to waive a certain part of income tax or lowering rates of income tax for those married couples who have one or two children. As we humans are motivated by money, this may produce some positive results.

Earth could support up to 9 to 10 billion people. If the population keeps on increasing at this rate, it is estimated that we will reach the population limit in 2100. Time is ticking, and we need to take action now.