Environmental Displacement in Bangladesh
The sea is slowly swallowing the coast of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, inland erosion along riverbanks is eating away much of the arable land. With 50% of Bangladeshis living as farmers, their livelihoods are quickly becoming unsustainable, and many are being left with only one option: migration.

Rising Waters

Over thousands of years, the rivers that lace Bangladesh have forged the land. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers deposited sediment that eventually made up the Ganges Delta. Constant flooding has made the soil incredibly fertile, but it also has made environmental displacement in Bangladesh one of the most pressing issues in Asia.

Projections determine that the country will lose 11% of its land by 2050 because of sea-level rise. Most notably, the increased melting of glaciers in the Himalayas is eroding river banks and destroying 10,000 hectares of land a year.  

Consequently, 87% of Bangladeshi people living in disaster-prone areas have been either temporarily or permanently displaced by flooding, riverbank erosion or sea-level rise. Many of these people move to Dhaka, the densely populated capital city, or across the border into India. 

The Environment’s Impact on Migration

“The impacts of environmental degradation are almost always felt among the poorest populations,” said Pablo Bose, an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont. Dr. Bose studies geography and has published comprehensive research on environmental displacement in Bangladesh, as well as across the globe. 

Unfortunately, few places have accepted these environmental migrants with open arms. India has a 2,000-kilometer fence on its border and a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone trying to cross over from Bangladesh, including unarmed villagers. 

Dhaka, on the other hand, is very accepting of its domestic, rural migrants. However, the population increase has exacerbated pollution, congestion and poverty throughout the capital city. With 13 million people in just 125 square miles, much of the city’s infrastructure is struggling to function

Dr. Bose sees Bangladesh as a “hotspot” for learning about environmental displacement. Globally, projections determine that 200 million people will be at risk from sea-level rise by 2100, so the solutions Bangladesh discovers will be relevant to the entire world in the following century. 

Exploring Solutions

But what options are there to reduce environmental displacement in Bangladesh? From the environmental perspective, there are actually quite a few: as Dr. Bose said, “Our vulnerability to environmental disasters has a lot to do with our choices.” 

For Bangladesh, this process may mean creating further conservation protections for the Sundarbans, which is a mangrove forest located on the southern coast of the country. This area provides the country with essential ecosystem services. For instance, the Sundarbans maintain the health of fisheries and protect the land from hurricanes. 

To prevent environmental displacement inland, the government could work towards planting trees beside rivers. Tree roots help keep the soil of river banks compact, reducing the amount of erosion from rainfall and Himalayan glacier melt. 

The question of how to reintegrate environmentally displaced people is somewhat more complex. The case of  Bangladeshi migrants in India demonstrates the deep influence of socio-political and historical factors. “The question of how we welcome people is a question of how we understand these issues,” Dr. Bose said on the subject, adding, “a lot of who we accept is about identity.” Perhaps viewing migrants as people who experienced environmental challenges, rather than as citizens of a foreign, Islamic country, will help better understand environmental displacement in Bangladesh.

Ultimately, every country in the world may experience environmental difficulties. For this reason, the impacts of environmental displacement in Bangladesh are relevant to every person.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Facts about overpopulation and poverty Overpopulation is defined as “the presence of excessive numbers of a species, which are then unable to be sustained by the space and resources available.” While many definitions of poverty exist, the simplest is that it all but guarantees struggle, deprivation and lost opportunity.

Contemporary understandings of poverty are more holistic, rather than just quantitative measures of income. Considering factors such as health care and education helps broaden the view of poverty and its causes. Here are 7 facts about overpopulation and poverty.

7 Facts About Overpopulation and Poverty

  1. Population growth and poverty present the classic “chicken or egg” dilemma. According to Dr. Donella Meadows, “poverty causes population growth causes poverty.” Her eponymous 1986 essay explains why the classic “chicken or the egg” dilemma regarding overpopulation and poverty leads to different conclusions on how best to intervene. Dr. Meadows ultimately concludes that the question itself is less of an “either/or” and more of a “both/and” question.
  2. There is a cycle of poverty and overpopulation. One factor causes the other and vice-versa. For example, when child mortality is high (usually due to living in impoverished conditions), the overall birth rate is also high. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to lower the child mortality rate by reducing poverty.
  3. There is a correlation between declining birth rates and rising living standards. Declining birth rates and rising living standards have occurred simultaneously in the developing world for decades. This relationship between fertility and economic development results in a virtuous circle, meaning “improvements in one reinforce and accelerate improvements in the other.” As a result, this pattern between fertility and economic development helps reduce poverty.
  4. By the end of this century, the population is expected to grow by 3 billion people. Over the next 80 years, the majority of the increasing population will live in Africa.
  5. Although Africa has experienced record economic growth, the much faster rate of fertility still leaves much of the population impoverished. While Africa’s economy continues to grow, the Brookings Institute notes that “Africa’s high fertility and resulting high population growth mean that even high growth translates into less income per person.” The most effective strategy to combat this is to reduce fertility rates.
  6. The number of megacities has more than tripled since 1990. Megacities are cities with more than 10 million people. Although there are currently 33 megacities in the world, that number is expected to increase to 41 by the year 2030. Of those 41 megacities, five will appear in developing countries. Megacities are susceptible to overpopulation and concerns about disease control. Furthermore, some megacities relieve poverty while others exacerbate it.
  7. A sense of taboo surrounds discussions about overpopulation. Is talking about overpopulation still taboo? Some experts believe so, citing the 17 goals and 169 targets of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda that have been silent on the issue. Luckily, philanthropists and voters are leading the way in normalizing frank discussions regarding facts about overpopulation and poverty.

Despite gradually increasing developments, global overpopulation and poverty continue to remain prevalent. Steps such as viewing poverty holistically and working to end the stigmatization and taboo surrounding discussions about overpopulation help further the much-needed improvements for overpopulation and poverty.

– Sarah Wright 
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

Overpopulation in Brazil has resulted in a widening gap with respect to age, gender and well-being for a large percentage of its populace.​ Around one-fourth of Brazil’s population suffer from inadequate housing. While efforts are underway to change the status quo, there is still much to be done in order to control important overpopulation factors. These are the 10 facts about overpopulation in Brazil.

10 Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

  1. Population total: Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world — equivalent to nearly 3 percent of the total world population. It is estimated that the population of Brazil will reach 225 million by 2025, an increase from 200 million.
  2. Population based on region: More than 80 million people are concentrated in Southeast Brazil. The second-largest populated area is the Northeast with over 53 million inhabitants. The third-largest populated area is the South which ranks in at over 27 million people. The North and Central-West regions have the least population.
  3. Population by age: The birth rate in Brazil has changed since the 50s and 60s and shows a decrease, with an average of fewer than two children per couple. Due to a decrease in mortality, the number of adults and the elderly are greater than the number of children. Children 14 and under make up 21.3 percent of Brazil’s population. Nearly 80 percent of Brazil’s total population are between the ages of 15 and 64. Of note, life expectancy has increased from 66 years in the 90s to 73 years in 2010.
  4. Population by gender: There are slightly more women than men with 51 percent of Brazilians being female and 49 percent being men; however, women are still struggling to find equality. Women, on average, earn 23 percent less than men, even if they have a higher education.
  5. Most costly city: With a population of more than 12 million, Sao Paulo is the most expensive city in South America and the 27th most costly in the world. One-quarter of San Paulo’s population is living in poverty. To have a comfortable life in Sao Paulo, it is estimated that citizens make around $1,500 per person; however, the average salary is $675 per month.
  6. Housing deficit: More than 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing conditions. Pernambuco has the highest housing deficit in Brazil. Of those who lack satisfactory housing, 66 percent live below the poverty line and have limited to no access to banking facilities. It is estimated that Brazil has a housing deficit between 6 and 8 million houses, with the greatest need being in the southeast and northeast.
  7. Organizations that help: Habitat for Humanity is one group that is working toward solving the housing crisis. The organization helps people living in San Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other small cities. Habitat for Humanity provides aid by building new homes, repairing homes and improving access to sanitation. In San Paulo, 100 people will have their houses improved by Habitat for Humanity through community projects. Habitat for Humanity is in the process of building more than 1,600 houses in Pernambuco.
  8. Sanitation: Around 4 million of Brazil’s population lack access to safe water. Inadequate sanitation plagues 24 million of Brazil’s populous. In addition to a  clean water deficit, 45 percent of the population lacks adequate sewage which caused approximately 35 percent of Brazilian cities to break out in disease due to poor sanitation.
  9. WaterCredit to the rescue: helped establish WaterCredit as a solution to Brazil’s sanitation woes. Loans of $2.2 million have been disbursed by its partners, benefitting 9,000 people in Brazil to date. is in the process of certifying other financial institutions with the goal of expanding its reach in Brazil.

A lack of sanitation and housing are just a few consequences of Brazil’s overpopulation issue. However, by empowering women and supporting organizations that help aid in financial and social equality, Brazil’s population could see an end to the issues that its overpopulation has caused.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

How Their 1979 Revolution Brought Iran Into Poverty-TBPRevolutions spin nations into a whirlwind of anxiousness, confusion and often economic changes. The changes that ensued after the 1979 Iranian Revolution sent the nation into economic troubles for a multitude of reasons.

After the revolution, the new government federalized businesses, which has ended up further hurting the economy. With the new sanctions and laws regarding the businesses, families have experienced a more difficult time to provide for themselves.

To add to the shift in government and adjusting to the new laws, a baby boom occurred in Iran following the 1979 revolution. Following the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini asked women of the new Iran to have a substantial amount of babies that could one day protect their nation and faith.

After his call for children, the population came close to doubling from 34 million citizens to 62 million, according to The United States Institute of Peace: The Iran Primer.

With such a drastic jump in population, the Islamic Republic soon came to realize that they could not “feed, clothe, house, educate and eventually employ the growing numbers.” Without the ability, space or resources necessary, many families fell into poverty at a significant rate.

As more families sought refuge and aid in any form available, the option of terrorism became more tempting. Not because they desired terroristic actions, but often terrorist groups will travel through impoverished areas promising to pay considerable amounts to those who join their groups.

When in desperate need of money to care for one’s family, the willingness to join radical alternatives becomes a considerable option. With the insecurity of families and nations placed upon them, the feeling of hopelessness only grows.

However, after the dramatic increase in population, a progressive family planning program was enacted in an attempt to slow the population growth and allow the government to provide for those already born.

The program was advanced, especially for the time. Billboards went up across the nation encouraging smaller family sizes, volunteers were sent door-to-door to advocate for why fewer children were the better option, family planning classes were required before marriage and health centers began distributing free birth control and condoms all in an effort to slow the birth rate and end the baby boom.

With the new program in place, birth rates soon began to decline at what was a comforting rate. In 1988, women were averaging 5.5 births. By 2006, the average had decreased to 1.9 births per woman and was continuing to drop.

Though the birth rate had declined like intended, with the continually dropping rate, a new concern arose. There was now an exceedingly large generation of baby boomers being followed by a generation that would not even replace their parents.

The abrupt decline in births has, and still is, causing problems regarding their ability to support the immense aging population.

With this vast difference in situations and problems, the Iranian government and population are continuing to feel a struggle in the prolonged wake of the 1979 revolution.

Between the excessive number of babies and then the sudden drop in births, the population fluctuation is one of Iran’s numerous economic issues that they as a nation and separate communities are having to deal with.

– Katherine Wyant

Sources: Iran Primer, International Affairs Review, Iran Primer
Photo: Iran News Update

The world is estimated to have a population of over nine billion people by the year 2050. Such a large number of people would require plenty of essential resources in order to stay alive. Food is one of those essential resources. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70 percent more food than is produced now will be needed to cater to this new population size.

Overpopulation is a legitimate threat to the well-being of the inhabitants of Earth. Our natural resources are being depleted more quickly; yet at the same time, we require more of those natural resources. We are playing all of our cards and not getting enough back to play again. At any level of overpopulation, people will always need food for sustenance. That is why research in sustainable foods is becoming more popular.

Impossible Foods is an organization set out to create and provide food that tastes great, is good for you and most importantly, does not have a negative impact on the environment or one’s health. Impossible Foods was started by a Stanford University scientist and has since grown in size to 50 scientists. These scientists look at animal products at a molecular level, and then select specific proteins and nutrients from greens, seeds and grains to recreate meat.

Impossible Foods is severing the connection between animals and meat. We have relied on animals to make our food for us in an unsustainable way. Impossible Foods found a better, more humane way of going about creating meat in particular. On its website for example, one can find a picture of an appetizing cheeseburger, crafted only out of plants. That’s right, both the cheese and the burger were made completely out of plants.

Progression in this field of technology can lead to solutions to the foreseeable overpopulation problem. Our current ways of providing food to the masses is becoming inefficient and is under performing. Companies like Impossible Foods are coming up with ways to increase our food production while maintaining the integrity of the land.

Erik Nelson

Sources: Impossible Foods 1, Impossible Foods 2, CNBC, Sustainable Solutions Development Network
Photo: Kickstarter

Nigeria Overpopulation
Home to about 170 million people, Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest country in terms of population and also one of the fastest growing. In 1950, its population was less than 40 million, meaning it has multiplied several times over in recent decades. With a population growth rate of two to three percent every year, Nigeria’s population is expected to continue to skyrocket.

By 2050, Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the U.S. and could exceed 400 million. By 2100, it is forecasted to exceed one billion and could potentially surpass China; all living in a country about the size of Texas.

The effects of overpopulation are already acute. Lagos is currently one of the largest cities in the world with an estimated population of about 21 million. Since many people live in slums and the government has few resources to conduct an adequate census, the real population is unknown.

Most residents of cities like Lagos live in severely overcrowded slums. Many houses and apartments consist of just one room to house entire families. More than 50 people can share a bathroom, sink and living space. Youth unemployment in urban areas is around 50 percent. This has fueled an increase in crime which is rampant in many cities. This high level of youth unemployment has also helped fuel the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.

Nigeria’s fertility rate is approximately 5.5 children per woman. The Nigerian government has made some effort to address the problem, but to no avail. It has made contraceptives free but many still do not have access to them and, in a religious society like Nigeria, their use is often frowned upon. Several government campaigns have aimed at encouraging people to have smaller families, but these have failed as well and are at odds with Nigerian cultural values.

Many societies in Nigeria have long valued large families as a sign of prestige and many cultures practice polygamous lifestyles. In some Nigerian villages, families with fewer than eleven children are considered small and incomplete.

This problem is very common in the developing world, where impoverished families view having more children as a plus as they can help the family earn money and do chores. Given high rates of child mortality, many feel the need to have larger families as a safe guard in case some children do not make it to adulthood.

Many other African countries are also experiencing population booms. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of population. Currently home to slightly fewer than a billion people and accounting for about twelve percent of the population, by 2100 it is expected to have more than four billion people and account for one-third.

Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. But the problems will be particularly acute in Nigeria. While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemon, many others fear the population boom will cause the country to collapse. The rise in population is likely to place greater strain on Nigeria’s already strained infrastructure and services and increase poverty, unemployment and political instability.

While Nigeria’s population boom certainly has potential benefits it also poses a serious threat if it is not brought under control and many feel the government is not doing as much as it could or should. If Nigeria were to collapse because of its population boom, it would be a disaster for the entire African continent given the country’s economic and political weight. Poverty and overpopulation are intertwined with one another and it is impossible to tackle one without tackling the other.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: NPR, The New York Times, This Day Live, U.N., The Washington Post

A child’s diet for the first 1,000 days of their life is crucial to developing both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, one-third of children under the age of five in the Solomon Islands are considered stunted—too small for their age due to malnutrition. Children who are stunted are often more susceptible to infections and diseases.

The Solomon Islands are not short on food resources.  There is a plethora of fish and sea food available; however, it is common for families to not have the funds required to purchase fresh fish or even canned tuna. Of the citizens who live in rural areas, 60 percent rely on food that they grow themselves. The Solomon Islands have ideal conditions for agriculture; however, those living in urban areas do not have access to land and are forced to purchase overpriced food that they simply cannot afford.

According to the Solomon Islands National Statistical Office, many people suffer from “hidden hunger,” meaning while things might not look physically dire, they are actually desperately lacking the proper nutrition to live long, healthy lives.

Solomon Island communities try to look out for each other and share food. Not only do the citizens highly value their family and friends, they also have their own “wantok”—their neighbors and extended family—who they share cheap food with. The cheapest foods can be bought in bulk like rice and noodles, but it can be very dangerous to live off these foods alone. The people of the Solomon Islands experience high rates of anemia and diarrhea from their lack of proper nutrition.

Also contributing to the lack of proper nutrients is overpopulation; the population of the Solomon Islands grows by 2.8 percent each year. More and more people are in need of food, with less and less of it being available due to the small income the islanders receive. Addressing this problem will involve taking a hard look at the economy and finding a way for citizens to receive an adequate income capable of consistently sustaining them.

– Melissa Binns

Photo: Flickr

poverty alleviationBangladesh is a densely populated country in south-central Asia, that encompasses a predominantly Muslim population. Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh, and is characterized by not only a dense population, but also social and economic diversity. It is one of the most industrialized cities in Bangladesh, with major industries specialized in leather goods, ceramics and electronic products.

Progress in Bangladesh is apparent since it is in a position to reach its Millennium Development Goals; however, it remains a low-income country with substantial inequality, deprivation and poverty. With over 45 million people in Bangladesh, approximately one-third of the population lives below the poverty line with a majority living in extreme poverty. Poverty in rural areas is more severe, with 36 percent of the population in poverty whereas the urban centers are estimated at 28 percent. Plagued with an inadequate diet and massive food shortages, over half of the rural children are chronically malnourished and 14 percent suffer from acute malnutrition.

A large source of this poverty is due to a lack of economic opportunity and a reliance on farming. Agriculture accounts for less than 20 percent of the GDP, however the farm sector is the lifeline of over 40 percent of the labor force. Due to urbanization and industrialization, the amount and availability of farmland is decreasing, and the land itself is less cultivable. A lack of technology and access to open bodies of water has affected the fisheries of Bangladesh as well.

A large source of poverty in Bangladesh has accumulated by overpopulation and climate change. Population density has placed significant pressure on the country’s natural resources, yet the urban and rural industries are unable to provide jobs for all Bangladeshi people; many citizens have been forced to seek work abroad. The impact of climate change has increased Bangladesh’s vulnerability, for it is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world. Severe flooding causes detrimental damage to crops, property and livelihoods. Monsoon floods, cyclones and storms significantly impact the rural poor, for their housing is less adequate than the urban centers, and the re-building process is longer, harder and increasingly difficult.

The World Bank released a poverty assessment of Bangladesh studying from 2000-2010 in June of 2013, and concluded with some striking results. The conclusion stated that the development gap ought to be addressed between the East and the West through increasing the economic opportunities for those in both regions. While Dhaka and several other eastern divisions have experienced growth, their western counterparts have remained primarily stagnant and destitute. The growth of Bangladesh is occurring in an uneven fashion, and the impact of remittances, inadequate electricity, roads and access to markets further contributes to the unequal distribution to goods and resources.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Britannica, Rural Poverty Portal World Bank
Photo: United Nations University

Clarence Gamble was born in 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio and proceeded to attend a slew of universities including the likes of Princeton and Harvard University, where at the latter he received his M.D. degree. Following, he became heavily involved in birth control organizations and research. He worked alongside Planned Parenthood and initiated projects to study population growth in countries such as India and Japan.

In 1957, Gamble founded the Pathfinder Fund, an organization dedicated to providing a wider audience of people with access to safe, efficient and helpful reproductive health services. The fund is donation-based, which came into play as early as the 1960s. In fact in the 1960s the USAID and Office of Population donated $10 million to the organization, thus proving the government’s support of the discussed issues.

Pathfinder was already operating globally in the 60’s and 70’s opening offices in Latin America, Indonesia, Egypt, Chile, the Philippines and actively participating in population schemes in various African countries. Over the decades, the Pathfinder Fund continued to grow and, by the 90’s, it was the Pathfinder International.

In 1996, Pathfinder won the UN Population Award, an award given to someone who has raised awareness of population issues and solutions. And more recently in the 2000’s Pathfinder began the African Youth Alliance program aimed toward people 10-24 years of age in African countries like Botswana and Ghana. It was formed in order to assist with reproductive health.

Nowadays, Pathfinder International continues their hunt for better sexual and reproductive health care for all. They have six main focus areas: Adolescents, HIV/AIDS, Contraception and Family Planning, Advocacy, Abortion and Maternal and Newborn Health.

For example of their comprehensive care, as part of their abortion focus, Pathfinder not only supports a woman’s right to an abortion, but also advocates for safe abortions and rigorous post-abortion care. The organization accomplishes this in a number of ways one being through legislation, and another by funding an expanded number of professionals who can provide the medical and psychological services needed.

Another focus area, the Contraception and Family Planning focus, is also a worldwide project for Pathfinder. Over the years, Pathfinder has involved itself in over 100 countries attempting to integrate family planning concepts and to provide contraception to those in need of it. Above all people need to be educated, and Pathfinder does their best to also take on that responsibility.

Pathfinder International encourages the public to do its part as well. People can host fundraisers and events of that nature to provide contraceptives to people. One of the easiest ways to support the cause is for people to use their voices. People can become a part of their advocacy network or even start a conversation about reproductive health on a public forum. And lastly, Americans can vote for legislation to continue this type of focus. In an ever-growing population, it is important to be as conscious as possible of the world’s sexual and reproductive health.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: Pathfinder International, Harvard Library

As the sixth most populous country in the world, Pakistan has an estimated population of 173 million people, with almost 55 percent being of childbearing age. Currently, the country has the highest total fertility rate in South Asia, which many attribute to the large amount of child marriages.

More than half of the women get married by the age of twenty, while almost 15 percent are married by the age of fifteen. Since females tend to marry young, contraceptive prevalence has remained at a mere 30 percent due to a lack of reproductive education and the fact that young girls are easily manipulated by their husbands to not use contraceptives. Lack of health education, lack of access to health facilities and lack of funding all lead to lower use of contraceptives.

A majority of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, and the influence of religion is prevalent in all aspects of life, including family planning. Women have a great fear of social disapproval by religious leaders and family members that would come from the use contraceptives.

With the Government of Pakistan only spending around 2 percent of its budget for education and health services, problems arise regarding access to health facilities and family planning services. The lack of funding has resulted in a very low contraceptive prevalence rate, leading to almost 25 percent of pregnancies being unintended. These higher rates of unwanted pregnancies contribute to unsafe abortions and higher maternal mortality rates.

A deficit in family planning services could potentially hinder Pakistan’s ability to reach several millennium development goals, including improving maternal health, empowering women and combating diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Poverty also plays a key role in determining the size of the family, with roughly 22 percent of citizens living below the poverty line. Many believe that having more children will generate a greater source of income for the family since those children can be put to work, but having more mouths to feed can also perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

In order to address the issues of family planning and maternal health, it is important for the government to address the root causes of the problem. There is significantly less access to healthcare in the rural parts of Pakistan, so there needs to be a push to improve infrastructure and establish health clinics closer to these parts of the country. Health and sex education is also essential in order to stop the country from overpopulating.

Unfortunately, the poor suffer disproportionately when accessing health care in underdeveloped countries. Poverty is associated with an increase in many of the medical risk factors associated with pregnancy outcomes. Success depends on gaining a local understanding of the dimensions of access to health care services, along with sustained efforts by national governments and the international community to improve family planning services for the poor.

Leeda Jewayni

Photo: Flickr