Many scientists think that the Earth can only support up to 9 to 10 billion people. Currently, the world’s population is at 7.6 billion and steadily rising. So, are we heading toward an overpopulated planet? Can we continue on this path? Will we be able to support this type of growth?
The late 18th-century philosopher Thomas Malthus journaled these very thoughts in an essay about the future of humanity centuries ago. He argued that humans had an unquenchable urge to reproduce, and it would ultimately lead us to mass famine when we overpopulated the planet and used up all its resources.
In this blog, we’ll explore whether we’re nearing the end of Earth’s capacity. Are we nearing the end of Earth’s limit? What will happen to us when this occurs?
What is Earth’s capacity?
Let’s face it. Overpopulation is an elephant in the room for a lot of people. From scientists to politicians, this has been a looming issue for centuries. And here’s the real challenge. It’s not necessarily the number of people on the planet that’s the issue. It’s the limited number of resources. Eminent Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson acknowledge this very fact in his book The Future of Life. He stated, “The constraints of the biosphere are fixed.”
So, in the end, it’s the number of consumers on the Earth along with their consumption that matters. You could have a population of 15 billion if everyone was eco-friendly. Yet, we know this isn’t possible with our current climate crisis. It’s the classic case of the tragedy of the commons. When you have a shared-resource system, individual users act out of their own self-interest rather than behaving according to the common good of all.
Does this mean we’re doomed to famine as Malthus stated back in the 18th century? Not necessarily. There are solutions to overpopulation and the climate crisis. It just requires that everyone act now. In the next section, we list out just some of the ways that you, as an individual, can act. You can also support change within your community and on a national and global level.
What are the solutions to overpopulation?
Are you look to help overpopulation on the individual, community, national, or global levels? The Earth has a capacity because of the resources – many of which are threatened due to our own negative actions. Fortunately, there are steps you can take. Here are some that The Overpopulation Project recommends. These create a clear path toward a sustainable world.
Steps you can take as an individual:
- Choose to have fewer children or consider adoption
- Educate your teenage children about sex and contraception early and without taboo
- Vote for politicians who acknowledge the detrimental impacts of population growth and who propose political solutions
- Reduce your personal consumption by going vegan, limiting your flying, and sharing your household with others
Steps you can take in your community:
- Join local groups that advocate for the environment
- Contact local media sources requesting more reporting on population issues (create demand!)
- Advocate that your town or city purchase land to set aside as nature preserves or open space
- Request that your city council pass resolutions accepting limits to grow
Steps you can take on the national level:
- Help make modern contraception legal, free, and available everywhere
- Restrict child marriage – marriage should only be legal after the age of 18
- Make education obligatory as long as possible and fund the necessary infrastructure
- Fund family planning programs
Steps you can take globally:
- Empower women and guarantee equal rights, treatment, and opportunities for all genders
- Make “ending population growth” one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
- Create a new global treaty to end population growth
- Greatly increase the amount of foreign aid going to family planning
The end doesn’t have to be near for the human race. Our population has never stopped growing since humanity began, but we can begin to care for the Earth in ways we never have before. Currently, the population of the planet is not sustainable. As a global community, we must work toward solutions that allow us to continue to live and flourish as a society. If this means halting population growth, then so be it. If this means continuing to grow with the proper structures in place, then that is another option that moves us forward.