Increasing Population Is An Existential Threat To The Entire Human Race
An estimated 371,500 children were born worldwide on the New Year’s Day. While welcoming new members to the family is an auspicious occasion, it is important to note that population growth, if not controlled, can deplete Earth’s resources causing irreversible damage to the environment.
According to the UN Environment Programme, the consumption of Earth’s natural resources has tripled over the last 40 years . Moreover, UN predicts that the world population is likely to reach a massive 11.2 billion by 2100 . These factors combined mean that in future, deforestation and livestock farming, along with other resource-exhausting activities, will increase to keep up with the growing demand for land and food. This is where the challenge of over-exploitation of resources primarily lies.
Thomas Robert Malthus, an English economist from the 18th Century, theorized in his “Essay on the Principles of Population” that population growth occurs exponentially while food supply and other resources grow linearly. This creates a shortage in supply which often leads to “positive checks” by the nature to ensure a natural equilibrium. These checks include wars, starvation and diseases—basically all factors leading to premature deaths of a section of the population to protect Earth’s resources. (Advent of technology multiplied production and supply – a factor ignored by Malthus)
Human activities have altered 75% of the land and approximately 60% of the world’s oceans. Such massive changes have brought various species of animals and humans in closer contact with each other, facilitating the spread of animal-borne diseases. A research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 75% of all emerging diseases, including Ebola, Influenza and COVID-19, come from wildlife.
In the future, pandemics are more likely to occur and that too with higher intensities resulting in more deaths . The UN Environment Chief, Inger Anderson, said that “nature is sending us a message” with the current Coronavirus pandemic and that we must protect the natural environment to save ourselves . The gravity of what is to come can be judged from the fact that a recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) calls pandemics to be an “existential threat” to human beings.
Measures are required more than ever to ensure a sustainable future and governments should focus on planetary health with utmost priority. Rather than reactionary strategies, like the ones we are seeing now, preventive actions, like reducing wildlife trade, restoring wildlife habitats, curtailing population growth and conserving resources should consume most of our time and efforts. Governments, in spite of their differences, must sit together to design a policy framework on climate change and carbon emissions, and must fully enforce laws to protect the environment. Lastly, young population, both males and females, must be educated about behaviors that lead to putting a burden on the already scare natural resources. This will not only encourage them to adopt environmentally friendly behaviors but will also help them communicate these challenges effectively to the next generation.