This planet is going to have to cope with a lot more people living on it. The current population of the earth is just over 7.3 billion and new models have calculated that it we should expect the world population to be over 11 billion by 2100. The rate of population growth is becoming faster and so naturally people are starting to get concerned with how many more people can be supported on this planet?
The strain on the earth’s resources as well as human resources is already being experienced. Prices of food are increasing so now even in developed countries people with lower incomes are struggling to afford to buy food. You only have to look at the growing popularity of ‘food banks’ around the UK. These are funded by donations of food from the public and distribute food essentials to the poorest families in towns and cities who would otherwise go hungry. The increase in the demand for food is also having an impact on the climate. More people means more food needs to be produced. This often results in intensive farming and cultivation techniques which can be said to be contributing to the desertification effect that is being observed in regions of Africa and Asia. Deforestation is also a problem with forests being removed to make way for agricultural land for either livestock grazing or the cultivation of crops.
There are also issues with the changing demographic of country’s populations. Developed countries such as the UK and Germany are already experiencing ageing population where the majority of the population is older and therefore lacking in the proportion of youth in their population. Higher numbers of elderly people put a strain on human resources such as the NHS and social services. With ever advancing health care and lowering fertility rates then this pattern in developed countries populations is likely to increase, and therefore so will the consequences.
This leads into the debate as to will the planet and its people be able to adapt to these changes or will all the problems created by the rising population just escalate until we reach a situation which I can only compare to the scenario in the BBC’s Torchwood Miracle Day. The Cornucopian argument is optimistic in the situation we face with growing populations. This argument is focused on human’s ability to adapt to change. Economist Julian Simon is a supporter of this viewpoint as he believes that humans have the technology to be able to adapt to these changes and so produce more food and change our energy supplies. In other words humans will face the challenge of growing populations and evolve to survive it.
The other side of this argument is the Malthusian belief. This is based on the idea that human populations will grow faster than the rate of food production which will result in widespread famines. This will lead onto other major disasters for the human race and the planet such as increasing amounts of diseases, droughts and violent wars. Believers of the Malthusian viewpoint do not share Simon’s optimism and so do not believe that we can adapt to the changes that a increasing population will bring us.
So is there hope for the human race? I personally think there is. We are supposedly an intelligent species and should be able to use this to our advantage and come up with ways to prevent large scale famines. Though I think population growth is a issue that should be a priority for governments around the world right now. If we are going to adapt to the challenges faced by world population growth then we need to start to do that now.
IFLScience (11th August 2015) Global Population Predicted to Reach 11 Billion by 2100, website accessed 14th August 2015 <http://www.iflscience.com/environment/booming-global-population-predicted-reach-11-billion-2100>
Oregon State University (4th October 2011) Cornucopian vs New Malthusian perspectives, website accessed 14th August 2015 <http://people.oregonstate.edu/~muirp/cornucop.htm>
World Population Clock, Current World Population, website accessed 14th August 2015 <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/>