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The concern of overpopulation

Overpopulation is often associated with numerous negative environmental and economic outcomes.
© Adam Smith Center, Singapore

The fear of overpopulation is at the heart of many other fears about humanity’s environmental future.

It is widely believed that at the current rate of population growth, the earth is simply unable to support humanity’s insatiable consumerism. Considering that most environmental problems like climate change, pollution, species endangerment, and deforestation are human-induced, more people just spells environmental doom.

This is in addition to other urban problems such as overcrowding, of the quicker proliferation of diseases, and socio-economic inequality that overpopulation is said to generate. Overpopulation is also said to foster resource conflicts, such as those over water, land, minerals, and food supply.

Critics of population growth point to the statistics showing rapid increases. As of 2019, there are about 7.7 billion people on earth, according to the World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights, which is published by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This report forecasts population as growing at what is perceived to be a very alarming rate of about 100 million every 14 months. By 2050, the Earth’s population will be at 9.7 billion and will continue to rise, reaching about 10.9 billion by 2100.

The problem is so serious that it has attracted the attention of leading academics, public intellectuals, and business leaders. In his book The End of Evolution, the palaeontologist Peter Ward warns that ‘our planet cannot withstand such numbers’. Bill Gates and Elon Musk have warned about increased poverty in Africa due to population growth. More dramatically, noted naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described humans as a ‘plague’ on the planet, while Professor Stephen Hawking has argued that we need to find another world to live on because we’re quickly running out of space here.

© Adam Smith Center, Singapore
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Overpopulation: Resource Depletion and Human Innovation

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