The Population Problem

Did you know that from 1975-2006, 2.22 million people have been killed worldwide due to natural disasters? Did you know that fossil fuel reserves are expected to last for not more than 30 years from now? Did you know that at least 1,141 of the 5,487 species of mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction every year? Did you know everyday a chunk of fertile land is being converted into wasteland? Did you know that developing countries lose about 10 million trees each day? And do you know why this is happening? It is because nearly 930 million people are being added on earth every year. Alarming, isn’t?

The ascending rate of population growth has become a strong environmental issue, a root leading to chain reactions of multiple destructions to planet Earth. Population, resource consumption and development are all linked to each other. The ascending number of people existing on the planet demand more forests for food and fuel and more land to live. So, forests are cut excessively and fertile lands are used for living and economic development. Not only are we disturbing earth externally but we have attacked earth internally too. We are extracting fossil fuels from lithosphere and bringing them to atmosphere. Why? Just to sustain survival of mankind.

Another very important aspect is over-consumerism. Modern man has become a slave of desires and greed. Firstly, we are growing in number so steadily and over that consuming more than required. A major contribution to the scenario goes to the developing countries. About 75% of the world population resides there and their eagerness to be at par with the developed countries is hampering the situation even more. They need more energy, more space to live, more food to eat and in the process creating more wastes. They are miraculously using the natural resources, which is an unsustainable way of socio-economic development. Similar worsening speed if continued will take us to doomsday undoubtedly.

A basic economic theory states that when the producers’ base falls short in comparison to the exceeded consumer demand, the consumers end up paying a penalty in the form of increased price. In environmental terms these penalties are destruction caused to oneself as a result of destruction caused to the environment, as explained by the chain reactions of livelihood. However, one thing is quite unfortunate that economic theories provide no price tag to natural resources. It gives price tag only when you destroy a tree and sell it as a log of wood. It gives a price tag to a fish only when it is brought in the market. May be that is why there exist no concern towards them. Not only this, mankind is ignorant about the indirect impacts on their lives, a price they will have to pay in the coming years.

Earth is being over burdened with human population and adversely losing out on other precious species. It has a definite carrying capacity to support population of living beings within which it provides the necessary resources for their survival. Human beings are at a crossroads today. We are increasing in number but resources to sustain us are vanishing. It is because population grows geometrically whereas resources grow arithmetically. It takes a good number of years to grow back a resource. The value of natural resources lies in their finiteness. They are important for our survival but we have been bestowed with only a limited amount. That is why efficient utilisation is a must. That will be possible only when the population growth will slow down.

Human population can be aptly compared to yeast population in a cup of grape juice. It multiplies rapidly, eats up all the sugar and then dies due to the toxicity of its own by-product, ethyl alcohol. Humans will soon see their own impact on themselves. They will become the victims of their own actions. The future is bleak but it’s never too late to mend our ways. We need to understand the phenomenon of nature. The planet has been designed in a way that anything extra will over burden and anything lost from the planet will take away several species with it that depend on it.

Governments can lay down numerous policies and reforms but none will be successful unless we realize their importance. Once concern for the same is developed, these reforms will no longer be a burden but a responsibility. Our future and the future of coming generations depend upon how wisely we act today and how judiciously we use the resources left with us. It is not just the number of consumers that needs to be reduced but also the culture of over-consumerism. It is high time to take the issue seriously, if not for others then at least for one’s own sake.

Jayati Khurana