The purpose of this post is to reflect my knowledge of the impact of population growth to the environment, the economy and generally the every-day life. Moreover, this topic should trigger the reader to think more thoroughly by reconsidering his actions of consumption, affluence and his usage of technology. The post will present two extreme views which offer different solutions regarding the population growth and sustainability resources.
The current state of human growth population is alarmingly increasing. The ratio of the rapid population growth and the Earth’s caring capacity is not proportionally balanced. This means that the Earth will not have enough space to ‘host’ the increasing number of people. Demographers firm that people will face lack of food, shortage of living supplies and living space. In other words, the percent of population is increasing and the percent of earth’s carrying capacity is decreasing. Some causes that contribute to the increment of population are: technological innovations, restriction of woman’s rights, improved sanitation, better medical care, increased agricultural outputs and declining death-rates. As societies have evolved, technology and easier lifestyle have caught-up. Technological innovations have created better medical and educational conditions; moreover they have eased agricultural work and improved sanitary conditions. All of these reasons made human life easier and more luxurious to live (1).
(7) Population Growth Cartoon representing the unbalanced ratio of the increased number of population and the natural food supplies
However, the current population growth can be seen from two sides of a coin- the Cornucopians and the Cassandras approach. The Cornucopians offer an optimistic view for the future increment of the population and its relation to natural supplies. Moreover, they believe that the Earth, together with the human intelligence, will be capable to adapt to the increment of population and provide enough energy and matter to the increasing population. On the other side, the Cassandras offer a pessimistic approach to population growth. They claim that population growth causes only disasters and problems. As the number of people increases, the living conditions become worse and natural supplies short. Furthermore, the capacity of the Planet is decreasing and eventually, people will live in war for natural supplies and chaos caused by their own pollution (1).
Following from the information above, I believe that, yes, a problem does exist. Firstly, technology and education have eased the lives of one people and harden the lives of others. The access to sanitation, medical care, education and technology is not equally given to everyone. People are not cautious about their consumption and living-supplies distribution. At one place people are enjoying luxurious, rich food and lifestyle until the extreme where they suffer from affluence, and then at the other side of the world, people are sleeping on dust, have AIDS and go to bed hungry and cold. Secondly, the improvement of technological innovations is good and bad in the same time. If appropriately used, technology can solve many environmental and social problems, but if technology is misused, it can destroy, pollute and even kill. Finally, I believe that population growth causes a problem and the only real solution could be found in an approach situated in the middle of the Cassandrians’ and Cornicopians’ belief. If we appreciate our natural environment more and use our human intelligence properly, I believe we could avoid a big future disaster of over population and lack of resources.
Contemporary scholars still preach the Cornicopian and Cassandrian style. Two of these representatives are Paul R. Ehlich, who is energetically alarming the people that population growth increases drastically and eventually we will loose access to resources, and Hans Rosling, who believes that all societies have the tendency to develop technologically and economically by not leaving a person behind.
Paul R. Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who although he has specialized in natural butterflies population, he is very much concern with alarming the public about the problem of overpopulation and resources management. He uses the life style of the butterflies to present a metaphor of the human life-style. As such, Ehrlich is a professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, California, USA where he continues to support the idea that population growth affects the environment. To further explain his theory, he has distinguished three factors of sustainability: population, affluence and technology. Shortly called the IPAT model, represents our total impact on the environment caused by the tree factors of sustainability. This could be summarized as (2):
I= P x A x T
Legend: I=the human impact P= population A= affluence T= technology (1)
The formula calculations show that as the population increases, individuals take more space, use natural resources and generate waste, so the impact of the environment increases as well. Paul Ehrlich went further in explaining his concerns by publishing his book “Population Bomb” in the early 1970’s. In this book, Ehrlich urged that the population growth has to be drastically reduced to zero or making it negative, otherwise mass number of population will face starvation and will lack essential living sources. Nowadays, he criticizes his book by saying that his predictions were too optimistic for the future, because humanity faces lack of sustainable living more and more every day. Natural resources are not equally distributed and especially India, Latin America and Africa face scarcity, death and misery. However, up until now, his predictions haven’t become true. On the contrary, countries keep on developing and managing their resources even better than before. World’s famine has been reduced, health and resources have improved and families have decreased the number of members. Furthermore, technology and economy have developed, giving bigger number of the population work and live-prosperity.
Paul R. Ehrlich, representative of the Cassandra’s pessimistic approach regarding fast population growth and lack of human resources (4)
“The Population Bomb”- book written by Paul R. Ehlich, alarming the readers about the people’s future impact on the environment (5)
Using Ehlich calculation method, we can compare the impact of USA, China and FYROM. The impact of USA can be calculated by multiplying the number of population in all the sates which in 2009 was 307,006,550 (8), the affluence or the GDP per capita-45,989 (9) and the technological usage. However, technology is a brad term and I decided to calculate the massive technological creation of the greenhouse emission per unit, which is 5,752,289 (10). According to these calculations the impact of US is 8.121613252827028e+19. Following the same procedures, China’s impact is 3.042582862093632e+19 and finally, FYROM’s human activity is 100287240952500 (8) (9) (10). From the presented data, we can conclude that China is using technological devices unsustainably and unconsciously. In comparison to the US and China, FYROM has a minuscule number of population (2,042,484) and very low GDP per capita ($4,515). This means that USA and China should reduce the usage of technology and particularly China should introduce further public policies to reduce the population growth.
On the other side, Hans Rosling is painting a more optimistic view of the population growth. He is a public speaker, statistician, academic and a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. Furthermore, his current work focuses on breaking the myths related to the economic improvements of the developed and developing world, stating that these two terms do not exist in reality and should not be used as such. He says that the “developing” countries are moving twice as fast to the road of health and prosperity as the “west” did many years ago. Moreover, one of the things I liked about Rosling is his use of very unique and creative animations, which avoids the usual and boring statistical presentation, to demonstrate each country’s movement to economic prosperity. Moreover, Rosling passion, knowledge and narration of the animations keep the listener focused and interested on the subject (3). Secondly, I liked Rosling suggestion that we should stop labeling and dividing ourselves into regions and countries, but consider ourselves as part of humanity and help each other in places with high child mortality and low economic incomes.
(3) Hans Rosling, representative of the Cornicopians’ optimistic approach of the future population growth and its relation to Earth’s carrying capacity
In conclusion, I could not take one solid side defending the Casandrians nor the Cornicopians, but I would say that humanity should find the middle. Every our move, every our impact affects the environment and we should be ready for the consequences. But in order to avoid the high risk consequences, we should decrease our environmental impact. In the same time, we should forget about the world’s border division and underestimation of countries (especially the “developing” ones) and incorporate everyone equally. Today economically developing countries are stepping up and catching up with the economically rich societies by overgrowing them in the sphere of medicine, education and prosperity.
(1) Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2010). Environment: The science behind the stories. 4th Ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education. Retrieved May 09, 2011.
(2) “Center for Conservation Biology.” Stanford University. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from .
(3) “Hans Rosling. Profile on TED.com.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from .
(4) Paul R. Ehrlich. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://humanexperience.stanford.edu/survival-ehrlich
(5) “The Population Bomb”. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.amazon.com/Population-Bomb-Paul-R-Ehrlich/dp/B000EI3XOS (6) Hans Rosling. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling.html
(7) Population Growth Cartoon. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.commoditypress.com/tag/population-growth/
(8) “U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division-Google Public Data.” Google. July 2009.Retrieved 09 May, 2011 from .
(9) “GDP per Capita (current US$) | Data | Table.” Data | The World Bank. Retrieved 09 May, 2011 from .