“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will
undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in
spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can
prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives
could be saved through dramatic programs to “stretch?the carrying capacity of
the earth by increasing food production. But these programs will only provide a
stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful
efforts at population control.? These words, from Dr.
Paul R. Ehrlichs book
The Population Bomb, predicted a grim future for the world of 1968 when the book
was published. Today, the debate rages on about how much life our planet can
hold. With world population estimates currently around 5.5 billion, and a
projected population of over 10 billion by 2100, the question of resource
scarcity is raised. Will there be enough resources to support the exploding
population of our planet? Also, is it true that population growth is necessary
for economic prosperity, or is it responsible for problems such as hunger and
poverty? One of the first things that need to be considered in the population
debate is the issue of “carrying capacity.
? Many different people define
carrying capacity in many different ways, and in this lies a major problem.
Basic ecology textbooks define carrying capacity as the number of individuals in
a population that the resources of a particular habitat can support. Others
define it as the point at which the birth rate is equal to the death rate, while
still others define is as the average size of a population that is neither
increasing or decreasing. Each different definition of carrying capacity has
different arguments for the earth being above or below its carrying capacity, or
of having infinite carrying capacity. Also, many other factors must be
considered when estimating the earths capacity by any of the above
definitions. For instance, one must consider the level of prosperity of the
people, the technology available, and the distribution of available wealth.
Under certain conditions, the world might not easily hold even 1 billion people,
while under other conditions a number as high as 20 billion is possible. Another
factor in Overpopulation Essay that must be considered is that of life expectancy.
According to United Nations estimates, the life expectancy in developed nations
in the 1950s was approximately 66.0 years, while third world nations enjoyed
a life expectancy of 40.7 years. Due to substantial declines in infant
mortality, the average life expectancy in developed nations was 74.
0 years and
64.7 years in developing countries. However, although the majority of this
increase is due to decreases in infant mortality, jumps with this large of an
increase cannot be entirely explained by that alone. New developments in
medicine and technology have increased life spans across the board. Even more
promising, and perhaps alarming, is the fact that predicted “upper limits?of
human life expectancy have regularly been surpassed, and increases in life
expectancy even appear to be accelerating. These average life expectancy
increases, if they continue, will allow the world population to skyrocket at an
even faster rate.
Finally, and perhaps the most important issue that must be
discussed in the debate on overpopulation is the issue of resource scarcity. So
called “experts?love to enter the debate and make doomsday predictions that
the world will run out of food, or oil, much like Dr. Paul Ehrlich did in his
book, The Population Bomb. However, these predictions never seem to come true.
Julian Simon, an economist, has an idea about natural resources which has
sparked mountains of debate from both camps in the overpopulation discussion.
Simon asserts that all natural resources are infinite.
While this claim may seem
audacious at first, it becomes clearer exactly what he means when studied. His
point is definitely not that there are an infinite number of gold or copper
atoms in the earth. The mass of the earth is finite, and current scientific
studies imply that even the mass of the universe is finite. Simon is saying that
resources are indefinite in the sense that we will never run out of them for
whatever we decide to use them for. This contradicts the environmentalist wackos
who claim the more of a resource is removed from the earth, the scarcer that
resource becomes. For example, copper has been used for thousands of years for a
variety of uses.
The amount of copper taken from mines has increased over the
last few thousand .