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Overpopulation

Six billion people. That's the current human population on Earth, and the highest ever reached as well. Things start to get cramped in the cities, while there is everywhere a noticeable depressing atmosphere due to having too many people around, whether that's in a traffic jam, in shops, at public services etc.

The number of six billion human lives would never have been reached if it wasn't for fossil fuels. The energy sent by the sun and received by the Earth every day could ever sustain more than two billion people. Fossil fuels combine a sort of energy saved below the surface of the planet, now extracted by humans to use this energy and cover their needs. And with all needs easily covered, humanity was and is able to rise in population.

But there is a great difference of four billion people between the number of humans the planet can sustain and the number of humans existing, a fact that has a bad impact on the Earth. Using fossil fuels releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And since there are so many people on Earth, there are more and more gas emissions. All this leads to global warming, climate change and pollution in general.

Even if overpopulation didn't cause environmental problems of that kind, there are other consequences to be taken into account. And that's because all these people need accommodation, private space, public areas and services, fields and farms to produce food. All this space needed is taken from ecosystems, mostly by deforestrating large areas. This act alone is enough to reduce the amount of oxygen produced by plants, and the space that natural habitats used to cover.

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Overpopulation is the biggest factor in human-caused environmental problems. Even if we were a totally nontechnological society, 6 billion large omnivorous mammals would be catastrophic to the global ecosystem. Finding humane ways to lower birthrates and bring the population down to sustainable levels will be the most critical endeavor for humankind in the long term.

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In many first-world countries, the birth rates are already falling. Some countries even have birthrates below the replacement rate (2.1 kids per couple). Hopefully, as more places become first-world, their birth rates will see a similar decrease.

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We need more education in more places, especially countries with a lower standard of living where birth control is pretty much unheard of. Good thing people like Bono (whom some consider "crazy" but is actually doing something great for this world) are opening schools in Africa and educating those people about what difference they can make in the world just by having less kids. The main reason for birth rates to slide down in the US is because of the now astronomical cost of raising children decently; this was not a factor in, say, the 1990s, when I was growing up.

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Hi, you've addressed a major issue here. It's hard to determine what we could possibly do in terms of humane birth control. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like the world population is going to be slowing down at any time soon. What we need to do is find new energy sources, and live greener so that we can keep our planet healthy. 4 billion people aren't going to just disappear! We've started a green project over at Go Green Street, and we'd love to have you come visit! I'll be back soon - Joe

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Actually another very important man-made factor called Nitrogen fixing allowed larger numbers of people to be supported on this planet. Thanks to the American government. After WWII the US had a surplus of nitrogen used in bomb making, so we turned it into fertilizer and voila more crops to support more people. See the web link for more information.

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You know, after everything we talk about, day-in and day-out, it seems like this my ultimately be the only issue that really matters. Would we even be talking about global warming and deforestation and empty fisheries if our population now was the same it was 100 years ago?

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Actually I totally disagree with this article. It has been said enough solar energy hits the Earth in 1 hour to power the total human civilization for 1 year. That is very very different from what you have said. About fossil fuels, most of those aren't burned by those nations where many are poor and birth control is rare (if there at all). But by high consuming nations were the number of children per family is low but the number of TVs, cars, and other consumer goods per family is high. China didn't get to challenge the USA from for the position of largest polluter of the world by growing its population, it did so by encouraging its people to have less children and more cars. 1 child policy + rapid industrial development = environmental disaster

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I agree with Nathaniel. The rapid industrial and the non responsible way it used and still using energy resources are the cause for the pollution disaster. There are many power resources that are much cleaner than using fossil based energy.

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Yes, solar energy hitting the Earth's surface per day WOULD be enough to sustain human population for 1 year IF the whole amount was collected by devices and saved to be used. But most of solar energy is absorbed by plants, which is perfectly rational and totally needed for us to survive. Plus, you should take into consideration the ammount of sun-rays (thus solar energy and heat) that has to be reflected and get back in space. Moreover, we should always have in mind that we have not developed the technology required to collect solar energy as we should have. Thus, even if the daily amount of solar energy coming to Earth was to be used only by humans and was not to leave the atmosphere, we would still be unable to use it. In short, only a very specific amount of solar energy can be saved and used as Alternative Sources of Energy. That is why the Earth could never possibly sustain 6 billion people without fossil fuels.

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If we take three years and compare them we find some different and sometimes startling conclusions. I’ll take 1995, 2005, the year I first became very interested in the problem of overpopulation, and the year, 2025. The birth rate per 1000 people decreased from 25 to 21 to 16. That sounds positive. The deaths per 1000 people reduced from 9 to 8.6 to 8.3. So more people lived longer. But the world’s population increased from 5.7 to 6.5 to 8 billion. Why, because there were many more people, even if they were having fewer babies each.

But that’s only part of the story. The number of people per square kilometer of land increased from 48 to 52 to 59. But the key issue is not how much total land there is, but how much is arable—how much can be farmed. Some arable land is used for grazing and some is forest or jungle. The CIA estimates that only 10.5% of the Earth’s land is arable. Some estimate it to be twice that amount. So in 1995 there would have been 6.4 acres of land per person. If 20% were arable, each person’s share would be 1.3 acres, if 10% were arable, 0.65 acres. In 2005 It was 5.6 acres per person. If 20% were arable, each person would have 1.16 acres, if 10% were arable each would have 0.6 acres for farming. forests and foraging areas for animals. Naturally the arable land isn’t distributed equally. In 2005 the U.S. had 2 acres per person, nearly twice the world’s average. In 2025 with 8 billion people, each person will have four and a half acres of total land. If we use the 20% figure for arable land each person will have slightly less than an acre. If we use the 10% figure for arable land it is under a half-acre. This is about the same as Norway’s arable land per person, because most of Norway’s land is mountainous, rocky and under snow and ice much of the year. And the growing season is not a full year because of the harsh winters.

Then remember that that an acre or half acre per person is reduced as the soil erodes, as houses and factories are built on it and as roads and highways are built on land that is arable.

There is so much more to overpopulation. I suggest reading “In Search of Utopia†(http://andgulliverreturns.info)

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