One of the main aspects of environmental science is its interdisciplinary approach, which includes the social aspect. A major social issue facing our world today is overpopulation, which is one of the principal reasons for many environmental problems. Overpopulation leads to an increase in resource use and waste production, pollution, health problems due to overcrowding, poverty and competition for resources (leading to wars and conflicts). Although the growth rate is decreasing overall, the population of the world is still increasing and the growth rate of some countries is still very high. According to howmany.org, we are now adding one billion people to the planet every twelve years. In May 1998, Bill McKibben of Atlantic Monthly calculated and published this statistic: “If fertility remained at current levels, the population would reach the absurd figure of 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it dropped to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion.”
Like many people, I was completely unaware of this issue until last year, when I took an environmental science class. Looking back at this, I realized I can personally relate to this issue as well. My parents are from India, and so my family and I go back to visit every two or three years. The population of India is 1.3 billion and still growing, making it the most populated nation in the world next to China. Much of the pollution and poverty that I see every time go back can be traced back to the problem of overpopulation and the lack of resources. People often have more than two or three children to ensure the survival of at least one of their offspring. Others have more children to produce more sons, rather than daughters, so they have someone to take care of them when they are old (daughters leave their parent’s house and go to their in-laws). This issue also crosses into women empowerment and gender equality. It is a social cycle that needs to be broken.
The solutions for this problem are many. We have to start off by increasing knowledge about overpopulation and how it is affecting all corners of life. EDUCATION is key for awareness. We also need to empower women and increase awareness about the use of contraceptives and family planning options. We can also increase adoption rates.
Many countries have taken different approaches, one of which is China’s One-Child Policy. Below is a documentary about this policy and its pros/cons, overpopulation, and alternative solutions: