Is Overpopulation really one of the Environmental problems of our time? And is our earth overpopulated at all? Questions over questions. As I write these lines, almost 8 billion people live on our earth. 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 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 facts, causes, consequences and possible solutions to the issue of overpopulation on earth and question whether the world population will continue to increase at this rapid pace.
What is overpopulation?
Basically, the term Overpopulation the condition that the number of people on earth exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet. This means that people are consuming more of the earth's natural resources than could be replenished in the same time. However, the concept of overpopulation is to 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 on this earth is in one of the following phases:
- Stagnating population growth: Lack of food, hygiene and medical care causes high mortality rates and high birth rates at the same time.
- 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.
- Decreasing population growth: Fewer children are conceived and fewer children die. The growth of the population decreases accordingly.
- Balance: The birth rate and death 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.
Population Growth Statistics & Facts
To support this article factually, I will give you some statistics on overpopulation.
- The World population comprised approximately 7.633 billion people as of October 2018.₁
- Per second the world 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 - some 206 million pregnancies are estimated to have occurred in 2017.₃
- In 2017, there were 1.6 billion Women of reproductive age (15-49) in developing regions.. About 55% of these women (885 million) specifically wanted to avoid pregnancy. Of this subgroup of women, about 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 about 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 population actually growing at this insane rate? The reasons 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 all people enjoy this privilege - and this is also the root of the global population explosion.
Lack of education & lack of contraceptive options.
Low levels of education and the associated lack of sex education are the main causes of high birth rates in developing countries. The age structure there is also very young - for example, in Uganda or Niger, around half of all people are under 15 years old.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 lack contraceptives or their partners forbid them to use them. In Africa, for example, one in two women cannot use contraception, even though she would like to.₈
Poverty, poor job opportunities & children as retirement security
Children in developing countries are often born into a vicious cycle of malnutrition and poverty. A weakened body is susceptible to disease and less able to perform. Children are less able to concentrate at school - all of which reduces their later career opportunities. Nevertheless, the opportunities exist, 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, there are almost eight offspring. In comparison, in Germany there are about 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 improve in a developing country, the logical consequence is a higher and longer life expectancy due to a declining mortality rate. At the same time, however, birth rates still remain high - and the population explosion occurs in the second phase of the demographic transition. However, this will not always be the case. With the third phase, the birth rate will then also fall, so that there will even be a population decline and later an equilibrium of the population in the respective country.
Consequences of overpopulation
Now we know why the world population is growing too fast - but what are the consequences for nature and our coexistence on earth? Here I would like to give you some examples, which at the same time underpin that our environment, as well as our global society is facing a massive challenge.
Ecological consequences of population growth
Every second, 2-3 people come into the world who need food and drinking water, consume energy and want to drive a car and own a smartphone. But where are all the raw materials that are necessary to meet this demand going to come from? From nature, of course - and that is exactly why global population growth is not free of ecological consequences.
- Deforestation: Every day, parts of tropical rainforests the size of soccer fields are cleared - for example, to produce palm oil for our consumer goods and to make way for farmland and cattle forests. More at Deforestation.
- Air pollution: People travel from A to B - whether just to work or halfway around the world on vacation. With each 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 melting ice, raising sea levels and killing corals. Floods, Extreme weather and plagues are also on the rise. Droughts are also causing animals to run out of water sources. More under 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 is not only our nature that suffers - the burden on ourselves also increases with each additional person on earth. Here are some examples as well:
- Drinking water shortage: Only about 0.3% of the water on earth is even drinkable for us.₉ But due to the rising world population, we are polluting rivers and lakes all the more with wastewater. The need to irrigate fields is increasing due to longer and harsher droughts - 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 supply are inadequate, they are more susceptible to diseases. These can also spread more quickly there.
- Increasing consumption: People consume - whether smartphones, motor scooters or food. At the same time, prices for limited raw materials such as oil are rising - not everyone can afford them. In addition, the gap between rich and poor is widening.
- World hunger: To survive, people need to eat and drink. In addition to dry throats, many stomachs are growling. The pressure on food supplies 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 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 like 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. Especially by becoming part of the solution to the biggest challenges of our time.
Living a conscious and sustainable life
In your everyday life, you also have the chance to have a direct impact 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
Simply consume more consciously and live a little more minimalist. In the linked, separate article, I give you many more tips for a sustainable everyday life.
Support organizations financially
There are many great people on this planet who are actively raising awareness in developing countries every day and working to provide better 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 Population: The 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 conducts education campaigns about sexual health and HIV infection for children and youth in developing countries. Here you can Donate to Plan International.
Can you think of other organizations that are doing valuable outreach and should be supported? Then feel free to leave me a comment below this post.
Additional question: Is it sustainable to simply not have any children yourself?
This question is asked by many people who already have a strong awareness of nature within them. In my opinion, however, it is precisely these people who should have children. After all, they are very likely to raise them to be environmentally aware - 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 impending climate catastrophe. I consider the approach to be very commendable, but for the reasons mentioned above, unfortunately, it is also not effective. At Do not have children for the environment you can learn more about it.
What must politics do?
Of course, politicians and decision-makers around the world also have a duty. Because the reasons for the strong population growth are as varied as the necessary countermeasures.
- Education and family planning programs: Measures for age-appropriate sex education, permanent access to contraceptives and higher educational opportunities must be more strongly promoted and implemented.
- Safe access to schools: Education is the most powerful weapon to get rid of problems. But not everyone can enjoy a school education. Here, political measures must be more strongly promoted or initiated.
- Creating prospects for women: And 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. Policymakers must fight poverty at its roots - and, for example, stop arms exports to countries where wars are waging.
- Protection from forced marriage: The minimum age for marriage must be raised by law to 18, and compliance with the law must be consistently monitored. This is also to prevent early motherhood.
- Radical climate change: Climate change exacerbates problems such as water shortages, world hunger and, of course, poverty in general. Because the mortality rate will then remain high, women will in turn have more children. Climate change must therefore be implemented more radically - with clear bans and higher fees - instead of voluntary measures.
In short, policymakers simply have to promote cultural change.
Can the growth of the world population be stopped?
"We are sawing with all our might at the branch on which we are sitting." - that is a frequent tenor in discussions about the increase in the world's population. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest challenges in human history - but a solvable one.
Indeed, the key in the fight against overpopulation and the increasing number of the world's population lies in education. Because education is the most effective weapon to create change in the world. Awareness-raising plays the biggest role in this, and every individual can influence this - if not personally, then at least via social media. Because it has never been easier to reach and positively influence millions of people within a few minutes than it is today.
Do you have any suggestions or questions about the article? Then feel free to leave me a comment. Of course, you are also welcome to share the article on the Internet.
PS.: Have a look at the Environmental protection blog by. In addition to population growth, you will also learn more about the other major challenges of our time - for example, about the Climate change.
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 July 18, 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, Dec. 06, 2017, p.1.
₅ Statista GmbH (2019): Composite fertility rate: development of the fertility rate in Germany from 1990 to 2017 (as of March 27, 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 August 29, 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: prevalence, causes & consequences (as of 07/15/2019). https://www.welthungerhilfe.de/hunger/. [15.08.2019].)
As a little suggestion to the Birthstrike Movement excursion, maybe people shouldn't beget other people, but rather adopt. (So you could have children without having any.) 🙂 LG Felix
Hey Felix! Very good point, agree with you there. With an adoption you can do double good.
Of course it is right and important to make one's own contribution to climate protection. However, I see the growing world population as the basic problem of all the problems described above. Especially women's education, enlightenment and poverty reduction in the countries with a high birth rate would certainly help. However, if there were not the corrupt governments and the world religions...
Hello Jan! Definitely. Education and targeted poverty reduction are one of the keys to accelerating the growth of the world population as quickly as possible. However, our way of life can also make a decisive contribution to this.