When a baby is born, the population changes, and when an individual dies, the population also changes. In recent times, there has been a rapid rise in the world population, which is referred to as population explosion. The primary reason that could be blamed for the population explosion is the humans that are exploiting Earth’s resources. The human race has improved in health and wealth for the last 200 years, or so, although this trend is not widespread in developing countries. The rapid increase in the world population in recent times has raised uneasiness, as the planet does not have the capacity to sustain a larger population. Population explosion is harmful to natural resources due to increased levels of pollution and, consequently, global warming. If the world population will continue to rise at the current rate, the world will experience natural-resource constraints; change in climate; and a poor, dirty, and crowded environment.
The human population has undergone numerous changes in growth since the beginning of civilization. This is the time that human activities shifted from hunting and gathering to agriculture. The era of tool-making, the period of the agricultural revolution and industrial age resulted in high production of food, thus, high population growth. Before the shift to agriculture, the world population was estimated to be about 5 million. After the invention of agriculture around 12,000 years ago, this population soared up to 20 million people (Parodi, Ayestaran, and Banse, 2011). This was due to the availability of more foods, compared to what humans got from hunting and gathering. However, the Black Death, a tragic plague that hit the world in the 14th century, had an enormous effect on the world’s population, where more than 100 million people lost their lives throughout the globe.
The population started to grow faster than before, and in AD 1500, this population had risen to about 500 million. In this era, people migrated from one continent to another, searching for raw material, as well as settlement. The Slave trade also started during this era. Overseas migration appeared to be the best way to reduce the pressure on land. The second great incident that led to the population explosion was the emergence of scientific, industrial, and commercial revolutions. These activities emerged to boost the agricultural revolution. Industrial Revolution in the 18th century influenced the world’s population growth through experimentation methods, which, consequently, allowed more people to achieve their basic needs using less effort and time (Ciment and Ness, 2013, p. 24).
The Great Depression, which occurred in the 1930s, caused a drop in population growth, as many families opted for fewer children. However, after WWII, the US experienced extraordinary population growth, which changed completely the country’s social and political setting. This was the era of “baby boomers.” The growth of industries immediately after the war ignited an early economic boom, and the country was capable of meeting the needs of every citizen. Massive military budgets also contributed vastly to the economic growth of the US. This growth enabled the number of people earning high salaries to increase, thus, changing the lifestyles of Americans.
Energy-Dependent Population Growth
Demographic projections have indicated that the world’s population will be stabilized at about 9-10 billion people as we head the middle of the 21st century. This is because the energy required to stimulate development, in addition to the decline in fertility rate will reduce the energy demand in the future. Moreover, the demographic transition, which employs the strategy of lowering fertility, is irreversible.
Numerous socio-economic reasons are offered to explain the population explosion. They include improved medical facilities and public health, enhanced food production, and advanced commerce. However, each of the aforementioned reasons could not work without an efficient energy supply. Energy is usually related to population growth in terms of its consequences on birth, death, as well as migration rates (DeLong, Burger and Hamilton, 2010, p. 1). An increase in energy supply leads to population growth while the growing population will apply more pressure to energy resources. When the energy supply remains fixed, there will be a decline in birth rates, as well as an increase in death rates leading to a steady population.
For many years, the use of oil and coal had not been quite extensive, but the Industrial Revolution created a high demand for these commodities. The cheap and plentiful of fossil fuels encouraged population growth before Industrial Revolution. Population pressure led to massive use of coal while in several parts of Europe, shortage of wood led to technological innovations that enhanced Industrial Revolution (Zabel, 2009). During the Industrial Revolution, many factories emerged, and more energy was required to run the factories. New methods of transport were invented, allowing people to move from one region to another. Industrial Revolution encouraged high population growth, as human labor was required to work in the factories. Trade was enhanced, as demand for industrial goods went up. Industrial Revolution led to the emergence of cities, but population growth surpassed food production, thus, creating more pressure on available resources.
The population growth that results from energy supply depicts that a new source of energy is likely to raise the population’s carrying capacity. The increase in crude oil consumption corresponded with the highest level of population growth rate that the world has ever experienced. After WWII, more roads and airports were constructed, as oil replaced coal as a form of energy. The use of oil rose, as more automobiles were manufactured to meet the transportation needs.
The future energy supply is quite uncertain. Energy supply is crucial in ensuring economic development, which amounts to the demographic transition. Given the relationship between energy utilization and fertility, the world’s population can only be stabilized through increasing the energy supply than what is currently projected (DeLong, Burger, and Hamilton, 2010, p. 5). Without a consistent energy supply, people will suffer, even when they have an adequate food supply. The current technology relies heavily on energy supply, especially oil. The oil crisis that occurred in 1973 had a massive effect on the world economy, and many countries suffered due to that incident.
Projections of the World’s Population
Population projections must consider how well human beings have been able to improve their survival through factors, such as health care, education, and diet. The impression of being out of control in a population explosion is almost inevitable. The world’s population has already hit 7 billion, which is an increase of 1.5 billion for 13 years (Siegel, 2012, p. 21). The current projections indicate that the world’s population will rise gradually up to 9 billion people in 2050. This growth will mainly be experienced in developing countries, as developed countries have put in place mechanisms to curb rapid population growth. Life expectancy is expected to rise in most countries while the number of old people will surpass that of the young people (below 15 years).
While developed countries are recording a sharp decline in fertility rates, Africa is moving in the other direction. According to the UN medium projection, Africa’s population is likely to hit 3.6 billion people in 2100 (Pison, 2011, p. 3). Despite being ravaged by the deadly AIDS epidemic, the fertility rate remains high in Africa. Lack of proper education, especially on family planning, has led to high fertility rates, which surpasses the mortality rate. For instance, Nigeria’s population is projected to surpass the US population before 2050.
The rapid rise in the world population has a huge impact on the environment. In the middle of the 18th century, mercantile thinkers claimed that an increase in population growth resulted in human misery, as more land was required to expand commercial holdings (Ciment and Ness, 2013, p. 7). The Marxist perspective of population explosion was that unrestrained population growth resulted in poverty as the ruling class was in need of surplus labor force and control over all means of production. However, neo-Marxist theorists asserted that inequality in the global economy, depicted by the exploitation of the people living in the developing world, resulted in war, hunger, and poor public health. They claimed that global capitalists made sure that underdeveloped countries remained so to offer cheap labor, as well as cheap resources.
The effects of population explosion on the environment are numerous. When many people occupy a small space, they create more pressure on the environment through exhaustion of natural resources and pollution. People lack adequate fresh water for daily consumption and other domestic use. Increased levels of pollution affect water bodies, as well as atmospheric air. Many industries do not have proper ways of disposing of waste. They release wastes on the soils, thus killing the microorganisms that sustain the productivity of the land. While developed countries keep on polluting the environment and draining their natural resources, developing countries are trying to compete with developed countries in industrial development. This pressure is creating more risks for the future sustenance of life.
One of the major environmental effects of population explosion is global warming. Energy production through burning coal and other fuel are increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to rising in global temperatures (Dutta and Radner, 2006, p. 253). Population explosion has led to the rise in the use of fossil fuels. As more vehicles continue to be manufactured to enhance transportation, the more they release carbon dioxide, leading to global warming. People are beginning to search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint through consuming less energy and improving technology. However, unsustainable human population explosion has besieged human efforts. Developed countries are rushing to catch up with the developed countries, thus increasing the level of carbon emission.
Scientists have warned that global warming may lead to rising in the levels of oceans while extreme weather conditions are likely to occur in the future. The melting of ice at the poles leads to rising water levels, and consequently destruction of coastlines. Destruction of coastlines has an effect on people, as well as living organisms that reside around the seashores. Rising sea levels increase erosion and flooding along the shores. The ecosystems along the coastal regions are likely to lose their natural protection due to human settlements and industrial activities. Low-lying cities along the coastal regions are likely to be affected by rising sea levels, especially in poor countries.
Change in climate due to global warming has an effect on food security. A high population will have an impact on food production, as land for food production is likely to be reduced. Uncertainty about climatic changes will result in inconsistency in food production. Developing countries have no capacity to devise adaptive measures that are brought about by climate change. The Industrial Revolution led to the replacement of human labor with machines. The machines were run using coal energy.
A high population is a threat to all environmental indicators. This means that people will clear forests to create farmland; erode the soils through over-farming; kill more animals, and over-fishing for food (Washington and Cook, 2010, p. 116). Pressure for settlement due to high population has led to deforestation and loss of water catchment areas. In order to sustain the needs of the growing population, people are cutting down trees at a frightening rate. Deforestation has an effect on ecosystems, which upholds the balancing of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
As the world’s population continues to swell, its limits on resources, such as water and land emerge. For instance, if a river is shared by two regions, and the region near the source of that river is highly populated, the region at the mouth of the river will be deprived of the precious commodity. The region will experience a drop in food production due to a lack of water. Properties that are owned by communities are likely to be destroyed through overuse until they become unproductive. Many countries, especially developing countries cannot afford to provide necessary resources to their citizens. This has led to the emergence of informal settlements, which do not have all the resources for survival.
Overcrowded environments become the breeding grounds for infectious diseases. Diseases that are restricted to particular geographical areas can have devastating effects on overpopulated areas. Many people in informal settlements do not have access to proper healthcare facilities, thus increasing the chances of spreading infectious diseases in their surroundings. Many countries with rapid population growth will also have low life expectancy due to a lack of investment in medical care and education and infrastructure. Unhygienic living conditions encourage the spread of diseases, as developing countries do not invest adequately in healthcare. With high population growth, it becomes difficult to provide health facilities to every citizen.
The current world’s population growth is undesirable, as it is likely to increase pressure on the natural resources while some people will languish in poverty due to a lack of basic human needs. Apparently, human populations have enormous consequences on the environment. A high population has a large influence on pollution levels. As more people settle in one area, the level of pollution increases. The use of automobiles has influenced the pollution levels a great deal. As many people release carbon into the atmosphere, temperatures increase causing global warming. Global warming has an effect on climate change. The world’s population will continue to rise, though at a slow pace, as long as energy supply is assured. Population explosion is a “time bomb” waiting to explode any time in the future unless some measures are undertaken to save the environment. However, clean energy will help in ensuring growth without degrading the environment.
Ciment, J., & Ness, I. (2013). Encyclopedia of global population and demographics. New York, NY: Routledge.
DeLong, J. P., Burger, O., & Hamilton, M. J. (2010). Current Demographics Suggest Future Energy Supplies Will Be Inadequate to Slow Human Population Growth. Plos ONE, 5(10), 1-8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013206
Dutta, P., & Radner, R. (2006). Population growth and technological change in a global warming model. Economic Theory, 29(2), 251-270. doi: 10.1007/s00199-005-0056-4
Parodi, O., Ayestaran, I., & Banse, G. (2011). Sustainable development: Relationships to culture, knowledge and ethics. Karlsruhe: KIT Scientific Publishing.
Pison, G. (2011). World population: seven billion today, how many tomorrow? Population & Sociétés, (482), 1-4.
Siegel, L. B. (2012). Fewer, Richer, Greener: The End of the Population Explosion and the Future for Investors. Financial Analysts Journal, 68(6), 20-37.
Washington, H., & Cook, J. (2010). Climate change denial: Heads in the sand. London: Earthscan.
Zabel, G. (2009, April 20). Peak People: The Interrelationship between Population Growth and Energy Resources. Resilience, Building a world of resilient communities. Retrieved on 15 April 2014 from http://www.resilience.org/stories/2009-04-20/peak-people-interrelationship-between-population-growth-and-energy-resources