Overpopulation is a topic of great controversy among environmental and humanitarian advocates. However, there are often immense amounts of misinformation spread about the scope, severity and impacts of overpopulation. With estimates determining that the population of Africa and Asia will grow by 3 billion by the end of the century, accuracy in information surrounding overpopulation is critical to make effective change. Here are four myths about overpopulation.
4 Myths About Overpopulation
- The Global South is Responsible for the Environmental Consequences of Overpopulation: The idea that the larger populations of the Global South place greater strain on global resources is based on the fallacy that all people have equal access to global resources. The poorest half of the global population is responsible for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions; while the richest 10% is responsible for approximately 50% of global carbon emissions. Simultaneously, Global South nations are experiencing greater consequences from increased CO2 emissions, such as natural disasters; while the Global North remains protected thanks to the development they have experienced at the expense of the Global South. Thus, the belief in equal resource distribution, combined with limited effects of carbon emissions felt by the Global North, leads to the misconception that the Global South is responsible for overpopulation and its consequences.
- The World Needs a Young Population for a Good Economy: While the idea that an elderly population is less economically productive is accurate, one must compare the strain of an elderly population to the strain of overpopulation. In reality, overpopulation creates more impoverishment, decreased health and education outcomes and increased conflict. Overpopulation plagues the Global South by amplifying the issues that debilitate its economies. Rather than producing a young population, a more efficient way to support the economy of countries in the Global South is by funding initiatives to lower population growth and enable low-income countries to allocate resources more effectively.
- The World Will Adapt to Accommodate Any Size of Population: With the emergence of green innovation, comes the argument that the world will adapt to become ecofriendly. However, David Attenborough argues that this is not the case. Attenborough outlines that Earth indisputably has a “carrying capacity” ranging from 500 million to 1 trillion depending on our resource consumption. However, Attenborough argues that even with an eco-friendly adaptation, the world will eventually reach its carrying capacity and will not be able to survive. Thus, while countries can adopt eco-friendly policies to reduce the strain on the world, population regulation needs to occur simultaneously.
- Overpopulation is Too Large of an Issue to Solve: Overpopulation is a complex and intimidating issue, but the world is already making progress. The global population growth rate has dropped from 1.31% in 2000 to 1.08% in 2019. The poorest two-thirds of the world are seeing birth rates dropping almost universally and at a faster speed than death rates. Furthermore, there are many organizations worldwide that have dedicated themselves to slowing population growth.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB)
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) is one of the largest organizations in the U.S. doing invaluable work. PRB is a private, nonprofit organization that provides information and population demographics that guide global action against overpopulation. PRB, as well as many other organizations, must continue to receive funding to further its work that effectively combats overpopulation.
The four myths about overpopulation show that overpopulation is a complex issue that requires accurate information in order to facilitate effective action. Misconceptions regarding overpopulation can be greatly damaging to our collective understanding of the causes and effects of overpopulation. Overpopulation does not just threaten the environment but eliminates the possibility of economic growth for impoverished areas, due to the strain overpopulation places on education, health and infrastructure. However, organizations like PRB are making progress.
– Lily Jones