Is Human Population Growth A Problem Environmental Sciences Essay

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The world population refers to the total number of living humans on Earth at a given time. For the past 10, 000 years, the world has been experiencing a rapid increase in human population. According to the most recent U.N. statistics, population has grown from several millions back in the B.C. to over 6.6 billion in the 21st century.

Even though the growth rate is gradually slowing, the U.N. population Division still expect the worldwide population to very much hit 9.1 billion by 2050. With most of the increase in Asia and Africa, in particular, the poorer nations that have no access to proper family-planning programmes.

Why pay attention to the rising human population?

We have all known for long that the human population is no doubt the chief contributor to environmental woes. However, what little know of is that the human population is only one of the several factors that affect the environment. The extent to which population increase can be considered a problem is still reliant on other factors.

One widely used formula that could help us understand what factors could actually interplayed to cause that significant impact, would be the IPAT model that John Holdren from Harvard University came up with. This model represents how the total impact on the enviroment results from the interaction among population, affluence and technoloy.

An Increased population intensifies impact on the environment as more individuals take up space, use resources, and generate waste. As the population gets older it gets more affluent too, thereby demanding higher living standards to satisfy their 'wants'. To meet the human's instatiable 'wants', better technology would have to be developed to better mine fossil fuels, clear old-growth forests, or fish.

Assuming that everybody has to be fed, clothed, housed and hopefully supported by gainful employment. An increased population would actually means the intensification of the impact that the human population has on the Ecosystem. Hence, the problem is not only that the population is burgeoning. It is also that the usage of the resources, and environmental damages are also increasing at a phenomenol speed.

Impacts and Effects

All of us would have known by now that a rising global population have devasting impacts on the Earth. It not only erodes the living standards of the world population, results in poverty in already poor countries, affect a country's economy, but most importantly has a negative impact on the Ecosystem. We will in the following paragraphs, look in depth the various effects it has on the Earth.

There are many environmental problems associated with it, however, we will only look into the main and the most serious threats that are being posed by it. They are namely, urbanisation, deforestation, food security, water, energy, climate change and biodiversity. (change some of them)


Urbanisation is being defined as the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. Moreover, It can also be interpreted as the movement of people from rural to urban areas with population growth equating to urban migration. The United Nations' project suggested that 60% of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2030.

Considering the limited resources of an urban city, an increased in the population residing there would lead to more food, more land, more energy, and more water being needed to better accommodate to them. And when that happened, problems like food security, water scarcity, land shortage, and energy shortage will need to be answered.


To solve these issues countries have come up with various way like land reclaimation,…….However, many countries have been viewing the clearing up forest to make way for the expansion of their cities as the most convenient and congst-effective way. As they cant afford the cost of land reclaimation And this process of clearing of naturally occurring forests by logging and burning is being known as deforestaton. The expanded territory were usually used to grow more crops, raise more animals, as well as The only way to ease these ballooning needs, is to choose between the nature and human. Either the nature or human has to give way, which, in many instance, the nature does.

Food shortage

Water scarcity

The only way to ease these ballooning needs, is to choose between the nature and human. Either the nature or human has to give way, which, in many instance, the nature does. (add in facts form research)

All of the problems were attributed to the lack of land, people started killing forest


Urbanization occurs naturally from individual and corporate efforts to reduce time and expense in commuting and transportation while improving opportunities for jobs, education, housing, and transportation. Living in cities permits individuals and families to take advantage of the opportunities of proximity , diversity, and marketplace competition.

People move into cities to seek economic opportunities. In rural areas, often on small family farms, it is difficult to improve one's standard of living beyond basic sustenance. Farm living is dependent on unpredictable environmental conditions, and in times of drought, flood or pestilence, survival becomes extremely problematic.

Cities, in contrast, are known to be places where money, services and wealth are centralized. Cities are where fortunes are made and where social mobility is possible. Businesses, which generate jobs and capital, are usually located in urban areas. Whether the source is trade or tourism, it is also through the cities that foreign money flows into a country. It is easy to see why someone living on a farm might wish to take their chance moving to the city and trying to make enough money to send back home to their struggling family.

There are better basic services as well as other specialist services that aren't found in rural areas. There are more job opportunities and a greater variety of jobs. Health is another major factor. People, especially the elderly are often forced to move to cities where there are doctors and hospitals that can cater for their health needs. Other factors include a greater variety of entertainment (restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks, etc) and a better quality of education, namely universities. Due to their high populations, urban areas can also have much more diverse social communities allowing others to find people like them when they might not be able to in rural areas.

These conditions are heightened during times of change from a pre-industrial society to an industrial one. It is at this time that many new commercial enterprises are made possible, thus creating new jobs in cities. It is also a result of industrialization that farms become more mechanized, putting many labourers out of work. This is currently occurring fastest in India.

Environmental effects

The urban heat island has become a growing concern and is increasing over the years. The urban heat island is formed when industrial and urban areas are developed and heat becomes more abundant. In rural areas, a large part of the incoming solar energy is used to evaporate water from vegetation and soil. In cities, where less vegetation and exposed soil exists, the majority of the sun's energy is absorbed by urban structures and asphalt. Hence, during warm daylight hours, less evaporative cooling in cities allows surface temperatures to rise higher than in rural areas. Additional city heat is given off by vehicles and factories, as well as by industrial and domestic heating and cooling units.[13] This effect causes the city to become 2 to 10o F (1 to 6o C) warmer than surrounding landscapes.[14]. Impacts also include reducing soil moisture and intensification of carbon dioxide emissions.[15]

In his book Whole Earth Discipline, Stewart Brand argues that the effects of urbanization are on the overall positive for the environment. Firstly, the birth rate of new urban dwellers falls immediately to replacement rate, and keeps falling. This can prevent overpopulation in the future. Secondly, it puts a stop to destructive subsistence farming techniques, like slash and burn agriculture. Finally, it minimizes land use by humans, leaving more for nature.[12]

Food security

Will there be enough food to go around? In 64 of 105 developing countries studied by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the population has been growing faster than food supplies. Population pressures have degraded some 2 billion hectares of arable land - an area the size of Canada and the U.S.

Massive population growth, rising incomes and growing consumption of meat are driving the demand for food. Food production has increased substantially over the past century sustained by increasing yields due to irrigation, fertiliser use and expansion into new lands. But there has been little consideration of food energy efficiency or the ability to minimise the loss of energy from food during the harvesting, processing, consuming and recycling stages (UNEP, 2009).

Over the past ten years, however, the production of cereals has stabilised and the establishment of fisheries declined, due to lack of investment. This is despite the need for an estimated 50 percent increase in current food production levels by 2013 to keep up with demand (Millennium Project, 2008a). The effects of population growth, climate change, land degradation, crop and cropland losses to non-food production, water scarcity, desertification, resource-depleting subsistence strategies and urban expansion means food production could be as much as 25 percent less than demand by 2050 (UNEP, 2009). Subsequently, world food prices, which recently reached crisis level, are expected to increase by a further 30 to 50 percent.

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of human use of fresh water. However, less than half of the world's land is suitable for irrigation and the amount of irrigated land area is falling because of soil erosion, salination, acidification, and nutrient depletion. By 2020, 30 percent of arable land may be salinated and as much as 50 percent by 2050 (Foresight, 2009a).

Genetic and scientific modification of food is likely to be necessary, for human and animal consumption, and for biofuel production (DCDC,

2007). New agricultural methods such as better rain-fed agriculture and irrigation management, genetic engineering for higher-yielding crops, and precision agriculture and aquaculture should be considered. To reduce the strain on freshwater agriculture and land the viability of saltwater agriculture on coastlines should also be assessed (Millennium Project, 2008a).



Water is increasingly scarce. If current trends continue, 90 percent of freshwater supplies will disappear by 2030 (OECD, 2003). Already, 700 million people face water scarcity. By 2025, this number could grow to 3 billion, with two-thirds of the world's population facing water-shortages (Millennium Project, 2008a; OECD, 2003).



World energy demands could double in 20 years. Oil demand is projected to grow nearly 40 percent from 2006 to 2030 (Millennium Project, 2008a).


Changes in land-use are affecting biodiversity. Activities include draining wetlands, clearing forests and infrastructure expansion (OECD, 2003; Millennium Project, 2008b). Climate change is also having an effect. The loss of biodiversity and renewable natural resources reduces stability and resilience, and leads to fragmentation, species loss, and the loss of ecosystem quality. All are vital for economic growth and human well-being.

Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to grow by 52 percent by 2050 (Millennium Project, 2008a). Progressive climate change will reduce land for habitation, as some regions experience desertification and others permanent flooding from rising sea levels (DCDC, 2007). Regional weather patterns will be subject to change, with increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, storms and floods (OECD, 2003; Millennium Project, 2008b).

These changes will affect projected food production as some regions will be unable to grow current food staples. Furthermore, fish stocks will diminish or migrate; and there will be increased pressure on water supplies and associated industries (DCDC, 2007).

In the past decade in every environmental sector, conditions have either failed to improve, or they are worsening:

Public health:

Unclean water, along with poor sanitation, kills over 12 million people each year, most in developing countries. Air pollution kills nearly 3 million more. Heavy metals and other contaminants also cause widespread health problems.

Amount of land lost to farming by degradation equals 2/3 of North America.

Food supply:

Will there be enough food to go around? In 64 of 105 developing countries studied by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the population has been growing faster than food supplies. Population pressures have degraded some 2 billion hectares of arable land - an area the size of Canada and the U.S.


The supply of freshwater is finite, but demand is soaring as population grows and use per capita rises. By 2025, when world population is projected to be 8 billion, 48 countries containing 3 billion people will face shortages.

Coastlines and oceans:

Half of all coastal ecosystems are pressured by high population densities and urban development. A tide of pollution is rising in the world's seas. Ocean fisheries are being overexploited, and fish catches are down.

The demand for forest products exceeds sustainable consumption by 25%.


Nearly half of the world's original forest cover has been lost, and each year another 16 million hectares are cut, bulldozed, or burned. Forests provide over US$400 billion to the world economy annually and are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Yet, current demand for forest products may exceed the limit of sustainable consumption by 25%.

2/3 of the world's species are in decline.


The earth's biological diversity is crucial to the continued vitality of agriculture and medicine - and perhaps even to life on earth itself. Yet human activities are pushing many thousands of plant and animal species into extinction. Two of every three species is estimated to be in decline.

Global climate change:

The earth's surface is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions, largely from burning fossil fuels. If the global temperature rises as projected, sea levels would rise by several meters, causing widespread flooding. Global warming also could cause droughts and disrupt agriculture.