“The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and larger, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet, even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality” (Walker).
Global warming. Deforestation. Dwindling water supply. Six point nine billion and growing. Extinction. Pollution. Loss of environments. Six billion point nine and growing. Everyone’s centered around one of these issues. What they lack the understanding of, is that all of these problems are tied into one massive and rapidly growing situation known as “overpopulation”.
There are now over 6.9 billion people in the world China accounts for 19.5% of this population with over one billion people, India accounts for 17.3%, and the US at 4.52%. These are the top three countries on the world’s population list, and the percentages are shocking. US citizens may think China is committing a social wrong with their population, but the United Nations predicts that by 2050, the US will produce just as many babies per year.
I’m walking through the winding hallways of Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, population: 900 students. All around me are kids. Passing me in the halls, never giving me a second glance. I don’t even know a quarter of them. I’m closed in. Claustrophobia takes hold. It’s strangling. Why are there so many people? Why is it, that every single day I pass so many students I’ve never even seen? Their names are unfamiliar, their faces too. Yet, we attend the same school? How is this possible? I’m faced with the problem of overpopulation.
In middle school, I wanted to break free. Not just from the age group, but my surroundings. I’ve always felt uneasy around many people, and middle school seemed suffocating. I could only imagine what high school would be like with 3,600 students. Why are there so many people? What’s even scarier, is that the US only has a population of 311,960,000 as of 2010.The country whose population tops US at second largest in the world is India, whose numbers weigh in at 1, 193, 290, 000. If I felt crowded in a US middle school, what is it like in India, or even China? China’s geographic area is slightly larger than the US’, but India’s geographic area is about six million square kilometers less. Their towns must be intensely crowded.
What’s even more shocking is how rapidly our world’s population is increasing. The time it took our race to reach one billion stretched from our evolution to 1804. 123 years later, we reached two billion. In 1959 we were up to three billion and have increasingly expanded to our current 6.9 billion. The United Nations Predict our population to expand to at least 9.3 billion by 2050. However, many people don’t understand the magnitude of this issue. It is true that nations such as Japan and the continent of Europe have a decreasing population, thus many are led to believe we are fine. However, with morality rates decreasing and disease prevention spreading, third world countries are increasing their population dramatically. This is because they’re either used to producing many babies so at least one survives morality (whose rate has now decreased), or women have to keep birthing until they bear a son. Nations such as India (half of whose population is under the age of 25) are a culprit of this, which is no surprise seeing that they have the second highest population in the world. To further prove the increasing problem of swelling third-world countries, the UN predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa may account for 1/3 of the world’s population by the end of the century. Already they average at about six children per family versus America’s two. This is shocking! Also, America will be one of the only industrialized countries whose population will increase, but that’s due to immigration, not birth rates.
What does this mean? Why should we be worried? The answers are plentiful. Because of all the people, our water table is depleting, our air is polluted, there is less land for crops, animals, and people. Sixteen million hectares of forest are demolished every year for the opening of human settlements, thus causing many species to become extinct. “Water necessities will increase to 20% by 2025. Approximately half of wetlands around the world have been lost since 1990”. HIV and AIDS-which have been linked- is spreading. Overpopulation is not only an inconvenience in regards to traffic, but an environmental disaster.
What can we do? Overall, if each women produces 2.1 children or less, our population will remain stable. However, in India if each women only produces two children, their individual population will still grow. Still, “If global fertility stays even slightly above this magical two child number, by mid century our population could nearly double from 6 to 11 billion”, more than the UN’s 9.3 billion prediction. Thus, it is important to keep the fertility rate per woman at 2.1 or slightly below. In order to achieve this, education is key. Kenya cut their fertility rates from seven to four in two decades by educating their population on birth control. This knowledge could help other third world countries, and India as well. However, some women are forced into bearing children-especially sons- and 95% of all marriages are still arranged. Although it is rude to disrespect another’s culture, Indian women must have a say in how many children they want, or the country’s population will continue to grow exponentially.
Then we have to take a look at those cultures whose population is dramatically decreasing. The fertility rate in Japan is 1.3, and although that may sound excellent, 1/3 of Japanese people will be over the age of 65 by 2050. As the country doesn’t provide many nursing homes, the elderly continue to support themselves independently. Japan feels taking care of these elders is the responsibility of the children, but many families already need two incomes to remain middle class. This is why the population is decreasing (too expensive and time consuming to raise children), and why the elderly aren’t cared for (their children travel to the city for work, away from many elderly in the country land). There just aren’t enough young people in the workforce.
In America, our fertility is slowly increasing- the UN predicts we will produce as
many babies as China by 2050- yet our population will soon experience a major drop after the Baby Boomers of the late 1940s pass. Currently, they hold ¼ the American population. However, overall our population may remain stable due to immigration, which Japan doesn’t allow. If every country- especially Europe and Japan- allowed immigration, people would be more spread out, thus the environmental impacts wouldn’t be as harsh in some areas over others.
Some countries have already placed harsh restrictions, such as China, who only allows couples to have one child. To prevent a second or more child, the government often pressures women to abort, fines the couple heavily, or forces people to be sterilized. I don’t think our world should resort to these drastic measures, but if our population becomes out of hand, maybe we should implement something less harsh. Maybe give tax cuts to those with two or less children, and those who adopt. Also, our world should make international adoption more accessible, while still screening possible parents to make sure it’s the right fit between child and new parent. Overall, I think education is key. People should know about overpopulation and its effects, as well as ways to prevent pregnancy and how much it costs to raise a child. On average in the US, that cost is $286,050 for one child. If people were aware of this, perhaps they’d refrain from having more than one or two children, especially since our economy is currently in a recession.
Overpopulation is a growing issue in our world that is constantly overlooked. It affects more than just living space, but resources and the environment. By 2050, the UN predicts our population to expand to 9.3 billion, while other estimates reach up to 11 billion. If our environment is already strained with the current 6.9 billion people, how will it handle more? Overpopulation is a serious issue that must be addressed to ensure a quality of life for those currently living on the planet. With every child added, that quality goes down. We must prevent this. People should be educated on costs and what they can do to prevent having a child. Immigration should be allowed to spread out the population, and tax cuts given to those with two children or less. Women should have the right to choose whether they want more children or not, and the birth of a daughter should be celebrated as much as that of a son. These ideas can help encourage couples to have less children, and we all can do our part to help. What will you do?
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