Is Overpopulation really one of the Environmental problems of our time? And is our planet even overpopulated? Questions upon questions. As I write these lines, there are almost 8 billion people living on our planet. In 1950 there were still 2.5 billion people and initial forecasts estimate that 100 years later there will be 10 billion. So in 100 years, the world's population has quadrupled - no wonder that today's overpopulation brings with it a rat's tail of consequences and leaves our planet gasping with strain. Perhaps the exponential growth of the world's population is not a direct environmental problem - but it is a social problem with serious consequences for our environment.
In this article, I would like to show you the facts, causes, consequences and possible solutions to the issue of overpopulation on Earth and question whether the world's population will continue to grow at this rapid pace.
What is overpopulation?
In principle, the term Overpopulation The situation in which the number of people on Earth exceeds the planet's carrying capacity. This means that people are consuming more of the earth's natural resources than could be replenished in the same amount of time. However, the concept of overpopulation must be distinguished from the concept of World populationwhich simply describes the number of people living on Earth at a given time.
Phases of the demographic transition
The 4-phase model of demographic transition describes the typical population development of a country. Every country in the world is in one of the following phases:
- Stagnating population growth: A lack of food, hygiene and medical care leads to a high mortality rate and a high birth rate.
- Population explosion: As soon as industry develops in a country and hygiene, the food situation and medical care improve, there is strong population growth. High birth rate, with lower death rates.
- Declining population growth: Fewer children are conceived and fewer children die. Population growth decreases accordingly.
- Balance: The birth rate and mortality rate are stabilizing, which means that population growth is also stagnating.
In Germany, like most other countries in the world, we are already in the final phase.
Statistics & facts on population growth
In order to substantiate this article factually, I will provide you with some statistics on the subject of overpopulation.
- The World population comprised around 7.633 billion people in October 2018.₁
- Per second the world's population grows by 2.6 people. This means that 157 people are born every minute, 225,690 every day and around 82,377,000 every year.₂
- 43% all Pregnancies in developing countries are unintended - in 2017 it is estimated that around 206 million pregnancies occurred.₃
- In 2017, there were 1.6 billion Women of reproductive age (15-49) in developing regions.. Around 55% of these women (885 million) specifically wanted to avoid pregnancy. Of this subgroup of women, around 75% (671 million) use modern contraceptives.₄
- The Birth rate in Germany is very low at 1.57 children per woman.₅
- Worldwide each woman has an average of around 2.4 children. In Africa, the birth rate is 4.6 children per woman.₆
Causes of global population growth
2.6 people per second?! Why is the world's population actually growing at this insane rate? The reasons for this are hard to imagine for us in Germany due to the low birth rate - we have healthy food on our plates every day, compulsory schooling, strictly controlled hygiene standards, a highly trained doctor on every corner, as well as secure jobs and state protection in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys this privilege - and this is also the root of the global population explosion.
Lack of information & lack of contraceptive options
Low levels of education and the associated lack of sex education are the main reasons for high birth rates in developing countries. The age structure there is also very young - in Uganda and Niger, for example, around half of all people are under the age of 15.₇ In combination, these reasons lead to an increase in unwanted and very early childbirths. Many women there have more children than they would like because they do not have contraception or their partners do not allow them to have children. In Africa, for example, one in two women cannot use contraception even though they would like to.₈
Poverty, poor job opportunities & children as retirement security
Children in developing countries are often born into a vicious circle of malnutrition and poverty. A weakened body is susceptible to illness and less productive. Children are less able to concentrate at school - all of which reduces their later career prospects. Nevertheless, there are opportunities, which is why many women want to have many children.
In many regions of the world, the desire to have more than two children is therefore also due to lack of old age security and high infant mortality extremely large. Especially in developing countries, people are dependent on their children in old age. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woman has an average of six children and further north in Niger, the figure is almost eight offspring. By comparison, in Germany there are around 1.5 children per woman - yet here we are also feeling the consequences of global overpopulation in the form of increasing migration.
When medical care, hygiene and also the food supply in a developing country improve, the logical consequence is a higher and longer life expectancy due to a falling mortality rate. At the same time, however, birth rates remain high - leading to a population explosion in the second phase of the demographic transition. However, this will not always remain the case. In the third phase, the birth rate will also fall, leading to a population decline and later to a population equilibrium in the respective country.
Consequences of overpopulation
We now know why the world's population is growing too fast - but what consequences does this have for nature and our coexistence on Earth? I would like to give you a few examples that also underline the fact that our environment and our global society are facing a massive challenge.
Ecological consequences of population growth
Every second, 2-3 people are born into the world who need food and drinking water, consume energy, want to drive a car and own a smartphone. But where will all the raw materials needed to meet this demand come from? From nature, of course - and that is precisely why global population growth is not without ecological consequences.
- Deforestation of the forests: Every day, parts of tropical rainforests the size of soccer pitches are cut down - for example to produce palm oil for our consumer goods and to make room for farmland and cattle forests. More at Deforestation of the forests.
- Air pollution: People travel from A to B - whether just for work or halfway around the world on vacation. With every additional person, more cars, scooters and other high-emission vehicles are produced and driven. More at air pollution.
- Decline in biodiversity: Global meat consumption is increasing - and the area of the world's species-rich rainforest and the number of fish in the sea are decreasing. Many animals and plants are losing their livelihoods and becoming extinct. Wi More at species extinction.
- Global warming: Man-made global warming is causing ice to melt, sea levels to rise and corals to die. Floods, Extreme weather and plagues are also on the rise. Droughts are also causing animals to run out of water. More at climate change.
- Plastic waste in the environment: Whether on land or in the sea - when we consume, the leftover waste often ends up in nature. There it costs the lives of millions of animals every year and pollutes our waters. More at Plastic waste in the environment.
And these are just a few prominent examples. So our environment suffers particularly from the fact that with every second that passes, two more people come into the world.
Social consequences of overpopulation
But it's not just our environment that is suffering - the burden on ourselves also increases with every additional person on the planet. Here are a few examples:
- Drinking water shortage: Only around 0.3% of the water on earth is even drinkable for us.₉ However, the growing world population means that we are polluting rivers and lakes all the more with wastewater. The need to irrigate fields is increasing due to longer and harsher periods of drought - as is our own thirst. More at Water shortage.
- Faster spread of disease: If a person grows up in an environment where medical care, hygiene and food supplies are inadequate, they are more susceptible to disease. These can also spread more quickly there.
- Increasing consumption: People consume - whether smartphones, scooters or food. Prices for limited raw materials such as oil are also rising - not everyone can afford them. In addition, the gap between rich and poor is widening.
- World hunger: People need to eat and drink to survive. In addition to dry throats, many stomachs are also growling. The pressure on the food supply is growing. More than 800 million people in the world go hungry - two billion suffer from malnutrition.₁₀ More at World hunger.
- Escape: The overpopulation of a country brings with it wars, discrimination, poverty and, above all, environmental disasters. Many people leave their home country for one of these reasons in order to flee to safer climes.
These are by no means all the consequences. Work at low wages in dusty factory halls is also on the increase - the cost savings are creating a problem such as Fast Fashion in the first place.
Solutions for rapid population growth
The causes and consequences of rapid population growth have now become clear to us. But to what extent can we ourselves, and especially politics and business, help to slow it down?
What can I do myself?
In your everyday life, you actually have some opportunities to have a direct impact on population growth. Above all, by becoming part of the solution to the greatest challenges of our time.
Living a conscious and sustainable life
You also have the opportunity in your everyday life to have a direct influence on making the reasons for high birth rates in developing countries less significant. For example, by changing your Account at a sustainable bank that does not co-finance wars or child labor. You can also specifically combat climate change in your everyday life by reducing your Electricity from renewable energies - so Green electricity - instead of polluting coal. Or renounce meat - You can reduce several environmental problems with a single change in your everyday life. Consume
Support organizations financially
There are many great people on this planet who actively raise awareness in developing countries every day and work to improve educational opportunities for young women. In addition to making your everyday life as sustainable as possible, you can also support the following organizations with a donation.
- German Foundation for World PopulationThe foundation actively prevents unwanted, early motherhood and is committed to ensuring that children can enjoy an education. Here you can Donate to the DSW.
- Plan International: The organization runs education campaigns on sexual health and HIV infection for children and young people in developing countries. Here you can Donate to Plan International.
Can you think of any other organizations that do valuable educational work and should be supported? Then please leave a comment below this post.
Additional question: Is it sustainable to simply not have any children yourself?
Many people who already have a strong awareness of nature ask themselves this question. In my opinion, however, it is precisely these people who should have children. Because they are very likely to raise them to be environmentally conscious people - in line with their personal values. Nevertheless, in Great Britain the Birthstrike Movement in which people give up their desire to have children because of the threat of climate catastrophe. Although I consider the approach to be very commendable, it is unfortunately not effective for the reasons mentioned. Below Don't have children for the environment to find out more.
What must politics do?
Of course, politicians and decision-makers around the world also have a duty to act. After all, the necessary countermeasures are as varied as the reasons for the strong population growth.
- Education and family planning programs: Measures for age-appropriate sex education, permanent access to contraceptives and better educational opportunities must be promoted and implemented to a greater extent.
- Safe access to schools: Education is the most powerful weapon to solve problems. But not everyone can enjoy a school education. This is where political measures need to be promoted or introduced more strongly.
- Creating prospects for women: And that is of a professional and ethical nature. Measures must be promoted from an early age to educate girls about what rights they have in order to ultimately go their own way.
- Fighting poverty: Extreme poverty is one of the main causes of high birth rates due to high mortality rates. Politicians must fight poverty at its roots - and, for example, stop exporting arms to countries where wars are raging.
- Protection from forced marriage: The minimum age for marriage must be raised to 18 by law and compliance with the law must be consistently monitored. Also to prevent early motherhood.
- Radical climate change: Climate change exacerbates problems such as water scarcity, global hunger and, of course, poverty in general. As the mortality rate remains high, women will in turn have more children. The climate turnaround must therefore be implemented more radically - with clear bans and higher fees - rather than with voluntary measures.
In short, politicians simply have to promote cultural change.
Can the growth of the world's population be stopped?
"We are sawing with all our might at the branch we are sitting on." - This is a common refrain in discussions about the increase in the world's population. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest challenges in human history - but a solvable one.
The key to the fight against overpopulation and the growing world population lies in education. Because education is the most effective weapon for creating change in the world. Educational work plays the biggest role in this and every individual can have an influence - if not personally, then at least via social media. After all, it has never been easier to reach and positively influence millions of people in just a few minutes than it is today.
Do you have any suggestions or questions about the article? Then please leave me a comment. You are also welcome to share the article on the internet.
₁ German Foundation for World Population (2018): UNFPA World Population Report 2018, p.85.
₂ Statista GmbH (2019): World population growth, given in different time units (as of 18.07.2019). https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1816/umfrage/zuwachs-der-weltbevoelkerung. [14.08.2019].
₃,₄ Guttmacher Institute (2017): Fact Sheet - Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health, New York, 06.12.2017, p.1.
₅ Statista GmbH (2019): Total fertility rate: development of the fertility rate in Germany from 1990 to 2017 (as of 27.03.2019). https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/36672/umfrage/anzahl-der-kinder-je-frau-in-deutschland. [14.08.2019].
₆ Statista GmbH (2019): Fertility rate by world region in 2018 (as of 29.08.2018). https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1724/umfrage/weltweite-fertilitaetsrate-nach-kontinenten. [14.08.2019]
₇,₈ Stallmeister, U.; German Foundation for World Population (DSW, 2017): Population growth #3: Why is the world population growing? (as of 26.06.2017). https://www.dsw.org/bevoelkerungswachstum-3-warum-waechst-die-weltbevoelkerung. [15.08.2019].
₉ Richter, R.: How much water is there on earth? https://www.energiesparer.org/wasser/trinkwasser. [15.08.2019].
₁₀ Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e. V.: Hunger: Spread, Causes & Consequences (as at: 15.07.2019). https://www.welthungerhilfe.de/hunger/. [15.08.2019].)