In the ever-changing natural environment and world economy, human overpopulation acts as a significant yet silent threat. This is especially due to the fact that global warming, environmental degradation, and the consumption and competition of finite natural resources often times overshadow the issue of overpopulation. However, overpopulation itself is one of the major contributors to these issues, especially since humans are depleting the earth’s resources faster than they can be recovered.
Currently, the global human population stands at approximately 7 billion, and if this trend continues, the world’s population is projected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. Previous attempts have been made to curtail overpopulation, with the most famous being China’s single-child policy – a nationally enforced government policy to control families’ ability to conceive no more than one child. Even after the astonishing jump in the projected world population and extreme political initiatives, overpopulation remains under the radar.
How can the population’s growth be curtailed? Along with the need for greater awareness on this issue, overpopulation can be restricted by providing youth across the world with quality education. Global research done by UNICEF indicates that, in 2013, 91 percent of primary-school-age children were in school and 83 percent of lower secondary-school-age children were acquiring primary or secondary school education. However female youth still accounted for 59 percent of the total illiterate population. By educating children, they not only gain exposure to various fields of study, but also enhance their ability to make well-informed decisions, especially in regards to reproduction. In addition, by empowering women and providing them with education, they are given the opportunity to join the visible workforce and gain greater independence. This allows for a more stable socioeconomic standing and can also result in women having children later in life, further decreasing the rate of overpopulation.
Alongside the promotion of education, it is important to educate the population on how to establish a healthy lifestyle, including the possible risks of early age sexual activities, the use of contraceptives, and the dangers of youth childbearing. Globally, there are about 225 million women in developing countries who want to stop or delay pregnancy, with the highest number of unintended pregnancies arising from low-income families. For families who are struggling to meet basic needs, raising a child can push them further into poverty. In many developing countries it is common to begin working at a young age to afford life, compromising their ability to travel to school and get educated, continuing the cycle of poverty. This problem can be ameliorated through accessible and affordable health products such as contraceptives. By eliminating such barriers, female adolescent dropout rates will decrease, and the number of unintended pregnancies will be much lower.
Though education and accessibility can inevitably lessen the world population’s growth rate, putting them into practice is the most challenging part. Oftentimes, gaining third-world governmental support in the revamping of infrastructure (education or otherwise), is quite a difficult feat. Unfortunately, it is these same governments that suffer the most from overpopulation. Among developing nations, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050, yet West and Central Africa have the lowest youth literacy rate of below 50 percent. Mali is a country in Africa with a current population of approximately 20 million, and it is expected to reach close to 80 million people by 2100. However, if every family in Mali statistically conceived a variant of negative 0.5 child, the country could house less than 60 million people. On the other hand, if Malawians were to statically conceive a variant of positive 0.5 child, the country would reach 110 million by 2100.
Despite the lack of governmental support in light of the impending threat of overpopulation, the United Nations (UN) has provided a possible solution: the Sustainable Development Goals . Established in 2015, these 17 goals aim to transform the world. For the next 15 years, the UN strives to work alongside nations, global citizens, and varying institutions to end poverty, create a sustainable environment, and protect every aspect of the planet, from land to water. The Sustainable Development goals are not only crucial in the creation of a healthier world, but they also play a key role in decreasing the risk of overpopulation. For example, many of the Sustainable Development Goals include creating a world with no poverty, utmost health, quality education, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable communities.
As overpopulation remains a rising concern in its impact on our planet and its ability to sustain life, education, awareness, and governmental involvement are not the only things that can combat the threat. In fact, global citizens from all walks of life can assist in combatting overpopulation. Believe it or not, by changing simple habits, such as taking shorter showers, using more energy efficient equipment, or composting, every person can help conserve the world’s natural resources, which can be ultimately used to sustain the growing world population. As past UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon said, “Ours can be the first generation to end poverty – and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late.”