Overpopulation is when an area’s population becomes to great meaning it does not have enough resources to support all of that population. It would be thought that areas with a high population growth rate would be more likely to suffer from overpopulation. however, overpopulation an also be found in areas of a low population rate. therefore, overpopulation isn’t just due to a areas population growth rate but other factors such as how advanced its technology is and how developed its economy is.
Some areas which have a high population growth rate do suffer from overpopulation. take Easter island; this island has had an average population growth rate of 3% from the time it was first settled to the present day. throughout Easter Island’s history, its population growth rate has fluctuated due to several other factors like war, disease and more recently, out-migration. When Easter island was first settled it had vast supplies of natural resources from fertile volcanic soil to wood from sub-tropical rain forests. these provided the settlers with enough resources for their total population. however, because of the vast supplies of natural resources, the population of the island grew rapidly until in the 13th century it had reached a population of around 15,000. The growth in the population meant that the resources soon began to run out. this led to between clans on the island and famine began to strike the island as well. therefore the island began to suffer from overpopulation as there was not enough of the natural resources to support the population that was living there. therefore, it can be said that overpopulation can only occur in places of high population growth rates. however, it can be possible that the overpopulation that is experienced in countries such as Easter Island may be due to other factors such as the lack of technology (until very recently) to enable good communication links between Easter Island and other countries. Easter Island was a closed system up until very recently as it did not have the communication links with other countries. this meant that it couldn’t trade with other countries and use resources from other locations. therefore this may have been the actual reason for the overpopulation of the island. communication links have now began to open up the island to the outside world such as regular flights to Chile and visiting supply ships, which have allowed Easter island to recover slightly from its overpopulation by being able to trade resources with other countries. If this had occurred earlier in Easter island’s history then the issue of overpopulation may not have been so great.
However, there are areas in the world where overpopulation is still an issue despite not having a high population growth rate. the island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa, has a relatively low population growth rate of 0.78% compared to the UK which has a growth rate of 0.48%. Despite this it has suffered from issues resulting from overpopulation such as a lack of employment and a lack of food supply. Mauritius’ economy is mainly based on the agricultural industry which itself is focused around the one crop of sugar. Because of this lack of diversity in the employment structure and the crops they produce, the risk of an unemployment crisis and a resource crisis was high. these problems were not due to the islands high population growth rate but were due to the lack of trade between the island and other nations, meaning that they had to reply on what resources they had and what they grew themselves and because of the lack of variety in the sectors of the economy there, there was little likelihood in the development of the industry of agriculture. Mauritius realised this and have since begun to increase the amounts of crops that they grow and have also started boosting other sectors of the economy such as technology and industry, which can allow them to trade with other countries. Therefore a country can still be overpopulated if it has a low population growth rate as the overpopulation an be due to other factors such as the economic state of that country. this means that the population of a country can still have a high demand on resources even though the population is low.
So can overpopulation only be in areas with a high population growth rate? Well, although this can be the case, as countries with high population growth rates tend to have a higher strain on resources, there are countries in the world which have a low population growth rate but still have issues related to overpopulation. this can be controlled by other factors like technology and the economy or simply the amount of resources available to a population. so it is a simple question which has a complex answer, that isn’t completely black or white.
- information on the population growth rates of the UK and Mauritius sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_growth_rate
- information on the average population growth rate of Easter island sourced from: http://theeasterislandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/earth-and-easter-lessons-we-can-learn.html
- other information on Easter island, Mauritius and overpopulation was taken from notes collected by me during my A level geography lessons. these notes an be found here: https://getrevising.co.uk/resources/the_population_and_resource_relationship2
- What Happened On Easter Island – A New (Even Scarier) Scenario (npr.org)
- Overpopulation Against Birth Control (daniellealexandra2.wordpress.com)
- Is Overpopulation Really the Problem? (slate.com)
- Malthus and Machiavelli: The Complexities of Population Growth (rosealeigh.wordpress.com)