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Land to live and grow food, water for drinking and daily use and pure breathing air are some of the resources gifted to us by Mother Nature. Each living being on this planet uses these resources on daily basis. However, all these resources are limited and if they are not used with caution, they will stop to exist. Every day, smartphones are getting smarter, AI is becoming more intelligent and our environment seems to be getting worse every year. Population growth has increased considerably over recent decades and the earth’s resources have not filled up fast enough to sustain growth rates.
There were never so many people on earth before in history as at this time. Our numbers skyrocketed, from 1 billion in 1800, to 2.3 billion in 1940, 3.7 billion in 1970 and 7.4 billion in 2016 (as we can see on line graph below).
The world population has increased continuously after the end of Great Hunger of 14th century, when it was near 370 million. It took over 200 000 years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, but only next 200 years to reach 7 billion. According to the information we have, it is guessed that world population will reach about 10 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100. Such concerning facts brings us to the next questions. What can we expect for the next century? Will there be mass-migration? Diseases and pollution? Chaos and violence over energy, water and food? Will human species be focused only on sustaining itself? Will population growth destroy our way of living? Or is this prophecy just undergrounded panic? In my opinion, the greatest problem with population explosion is that many people do not understand this problem at all and many people care only about themselves. Very few people think in the long run when it comes to the environment and its protection and conservation. That is the big problem of today.
Consequences of population might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the situation. A larger population means more workers working in the economy resulting in growth of financial system and economic activities. Due the fact that the large number of people will be working, this will create more wealth and value in the economy. More people mean more mouths to feed and also more healthcare and educational services are required. So, it can be said that increased population is a mixed bag. People are resource requiring food, clothing, shelter and modern day-to-day mechanical and electrical equipment. An increase in population generally encourages economic activity because of increasing demands like increase in food demand. There are more people buying more clothes, food, increase in demand of household items and educational and medical services. Economic progress provides a better standard of living for all. Another reason why population is an opportunity is that population growth and technological advances go hand in hand. In theory of the economic progress, the connection between technology and population is a key element. Also, increasing population is helping agricultural and manufacturing sectors to increase their workforce. Since the 1960s our population percentages have always looked like a pyramid. But 50 years into the future, that pyramid will look like a rectangle. This means that there will be an equal percentage of senior citizens to toddlers. What’s more, talking about health and medicine, maybe we will not have to go to the doctor for annual checkup. Maybe we will have a device where we can scan ourselves for any diseases. Maybe we will be able to get things like cybernetic eyes that will allow us to see better, and to see things that are invisible to us today, like radiation. Maybe we can even get a designed baby, completely customized from simply what they look like, to things like their behavior and intelligence. Expect AIs to be working with us, while humans have more advanced roles in our jobs. But these are just predictions, not everything is going to be sophisticated.
In contrast, more people mean more problems. Our natural resources are under the pressure because of increasing population. More people mean use of more resources leading to cutting down the forest land for living and agriculture, increase in the requirement of water for drinking and daily use and pollution of the air because of industrialization. The biggest and probably unstoppable threat will be contamination followed by depletion of our natural resources caused by the population explosion. Besides this threat, burning CO2 for the energy production, transport etc. is equally important and dangerous for the future of population and our planet. More people result in more air, soil, water and pollution which leads to global warming and extinction of flora and fauna. Farming is directly affected by this rise in population and today’s farmers have to produce more with fewer resources. Furthermore, agriculture has many fundamental objectives, like fulfilling the food needs of the nation, reduce malnutrition and poverty, better management of fresh water resources, make attempts to use renewable energy, protect ecosystem and biological diversity. However, the more the population grows, the more of a direct threat it poses to agriculture and its objectives. Farmers have to focus on increasing food production, with use of pesticides and fertilizer, leading t pollution, defeating the fundamental objectives of farming. What’s more, with more people in the workforce, jobs will be harder to find. This gives rise to political instability, food shortage, increase in dependency on government for basic needs, reduced standard of living leading to unhygienic living conditions and drop in economic development. In addition to food production, crops will be harder to grow as well, with increasing temperatures. Increasing climate change will prevent all plants including trees to grow. Higher temperatures will cause polar ice caps to melt. Crowding will lead to more diseases being spread and faster.
To sum up, in many cases, population and development are connected, but not fully understood by each other. Also, according to the many institutional, economic, cultural and demographic conditions, the effects of world population growth can vary widely. As I said before, population growth is a mixed bag. All in all, it depends on us will the population be an opportunity or a threat. The best way to change something successfully is to start from changing ourselves separately. In many cases, small changes now have great effects later. That phenomenon in chaos theory is called the butterfly effect. Maybe I am being pessimist saying this, but I think that population is more threat than opportunity for everything and everyone. When I think about times when I was little kid, many animals which were living then, today are an extinct. That is the clearest proof that something is not okay. I am not saying that we do not need to have hope, but when something positive happens while we expect the worst outcome, it is better than the other way around. People are beings that cannot control themselves. In the end, the sooner the people realize that there are greater and more important things then us, it will be better for all.
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