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"Go Forth And Multiply!" That's what the human population has successfully been doing for thousands and thousands of years, expanding, exploring, migrating, conquering, utilizing, evolving, civilizing, industrializing, and now, destroying the very land upon which we live.
Many feel (as has been the case throughout history) that the major international wars to be fought in the future will continue to be over natural resources. Power conflicts and self-interest will perhaps mean that there will be gross violation of basic rights and death or misery for millions of innocent people. Throughout history, most wars have had trade and resources at their core (leading to ideological battles) fueled by imperialistic motives. In the future, while this pattern is likely to continue, as resources get depleted and wasted in these wars (hot and cold), additional conflicts and contention will arise through access to even more limited resources.
Many of us have grown up learning and being told that 6 billion is too much and this "over population" is primarily impacting the planet's ability to cope. But is that really the case? Sure, the planet is facing incredible stress. But how much of that is due to large populations, and how much is based on other factors, such as how we choose to live, how we produce, consume and waste our resources? The poor are numerous, but as we shall see, consume far less resources of the planet, for example.
Studies point to ecological limits to sustain people, but these limits can be different, based on the way we consume resources etc so it is hard to say for sure what over population means let alone if we are at some threshold, below, or above it. The information understood so far provides valuable insights and is very important to consider, nonetheless. Yet, the figure of 6 billion and literature about over-population naturally looks to the poor regions where there are high populations and environmental degradation as the problem.
In the poverty section of this web site, we see numerous causes of poverty, and many are found in unfair economic and trade agreements from wealthier nations and institutions. While it might be an oversimplification to say the poor are victims, a lot of poverty, if not the majority is caused by factors which the poor themselves often have no control or choice over. Yet, at the same time the poor seem to get the blame for burdening the planet. Is this the case? While the concern for the environment and the planet's health is usually the central issue here, is there a risk of addressing the issue in ways that may not get to the root causes of any problems that are perceived to require serious attention? This section of the globalissues.org web site attempts to look at and introduce some of these issues.
7 articles on “Human Population”:
The human population of the planet is estimated to now have passed 6 billion people. But are large numbers themselves a problem? Europe for example, has higher population densities than Asia. There are more than two sides to the debate on whether population numbers equate to over-population or not.
Read “Populations: A Numbers Game” to learn more.
The food scarcity part of the argument in the population debate is an interesting one -- people are hungry not because the population is growing so fast that food is becoming scarce, but because people cannot afford it. Food may be scarce, but it is international trade, economic policies and the control of land that have lead to immense poverty and hunger and therefore less access to food, not food scarcity due to over population.
Read “Population and Feeding the World” to learn more.
Does population affect and put stress on the environment, society and resources? Existing consumption patterns as seen in Europe and North America can put strain on the environment and natural resources. But how much of the environmental degradation we see today is as a result of over-population and how much is due to over-exploitation due to consumerism and geopolitical interests? Especially when considering that "[g]lobally, the 20% of the world's people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures - the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%", according to the United Nations Development Programme's 1998 Human Development Report.
Read “Stress on the environment, society and resources?” to learn more.
How do human rights, conflict, trade/development patterns, and the environment come into all this? Poverty is the number one health problem, in developing and developed nations alike. Structural Adjustment policies, for example, from the IMF have not helped in many situations as social expenditure has had to be cut back. This has led to less investment in health, education and other basic services (things that have led to a better quality of life in Europe after the second world war). Coupled with corrupt rulers and dictators, often backed by the powerful nations, due to national geopolitical interests, a large number of people have suffered.
Read “Other Issues Affect and Get Affected by Population” to learn more.
The State of the World, 1999 Report from the Worldwatch Institute suggests that the global economy could be seriously affected by environmental problems, such as the lack of access to enough resources to meet growing population demands. Environmental degradation can contribute to social and political instability, which can lead to security issues. This has not currently been addressed by the foreign policy of many nations. Already around the world we are seeing an increase in violence and human rights abuses as disputes about territories, food and water are spilling into wars and internal conflicts.
Read “Effects of Over-Consumption and Increasing Populations” to learn more.
By ensuring women's rights can be upheld, and realizing that women play a crucial role in the development of society, many underlying issues which lead to conflict and problems can be tackled more effectively. Better care, education and rights for women mean that children should also benefit. This can eventually allow a society to enjoy more rights and the society can be enriched. Yet these very same provisions are being cut back, oftentimes as a result of harsh structural adjustment policies imposed by the IMF.
Read “Gender and Population Issues” to learn more.
Read “Population Links for More Information” to learn more.
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