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What does 8 billion people mean for the planet?

By Sanjana Bajaj


The world population recently reached 8 billion, a number that is both staggering and concerning. This unprecedented level of population growth has a major impact on the environment and society. It results in an increased demand for resources and land. This leads to deforestation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity, which can have long-term effects on the environment and quality of life. 

Overpopulation is a major global issue that has both environmental and social implications. The most immediate concern is the depletion of natural resources such as water, timber and fossil fuels. With increasing numbers of people competing for these resources, they are likely to become more scarce and expensive. This could lead to shortages of essential items such as food, fuel and medical supplies. In addition, pollution levels are likely to rise as more people consume more energy and produce more waste. This could further damage the environment by contaminating air, water and soil, leading to health problems and even the extinction of species.

Overpopulation is seen when the number of people in an area exceeds the capacity of the environment to support them sustainably. As the population continues to grow, there is an increased strain on resources, such as food, water, and energy. This can lead to environmental degradation, climate change, air and water pollution, and loss of  biodiversity. Areas with high population pressure face a scarcity of fertile lands, which can lead to extended famines and a decline in soil fertility gradually. More land will be required to feed an increasing population, which will lead to forests being encroached upon, reducing the forest cover of the planet. 

The increase in world population to  8 billion has social and economic implications. More people require more housing, infrastructure and services, which can place a strain on existing resources. This can cause a lack of access to education, health care, and other basic needs. In addition, the pressure of population growth could lead to greater inequality between different parts of the world and lead to poverty. For example, some areas may have access to more resources, while others may suffer from overcrowding and poverty. Ultimately, this could lead to unrest and conflict, as people struggle to meet their basic needs.

A few patterns have emerged in the theory of population growth. Over 700 Million people out of the last 1 billion people added to the globe have emerged from low and lower-middle-income countries. It is projected that between 2022 and 2037 these countries will be responsible for over 80% of the total growth. This might be because of the younger population in these countries and improved medical conditions, contributing to a higher fertility rate. However, a higher population makes it difficult for such countries to provide kids with clean water, sanitation and housing. A population boom also shows that development in these areas is lagging. The more literate, employed, and aware the population is, the lesser the fertility rate is.

However, it would be tone-deaf to blame overpopulation for issues such as climate change. While an increasing population puts stress on resources and endangers the environment, developed countries are the most responsible for endangering the lives of people. The entire continent of Africa has emitted not over 3% of the global carbon pollution but has 16.7% of the world’s total population living in it. In comparison, the United States has only 4.5% of the planet’s people but has produced over 21.5% of the total carbon pollution. Many experts hence agree that while overpopulation is a significant problem, consumption patterns should be paid more attention to.

Overpopulation is also a marker of poverty. This happens because poverty leads to a lack of access to resources and education, which gives rise to higher birth rates. In places of poverty, adults devote most of their time to family building, yet do not have enough resources to invest in their families and communities, which continues the cycle of helplessness and poverty. To ensure a sustainable future, it is important to mitigate the impact of the world population reaching 8 billion. This could include investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to reduce the need for fossil fuels. In addition, governments should promote sustainable farming practices to reduce the depletion of natural resources. Finally, it is important to invest in social and economic development to reduce inequality and provide a better quality of life for all.

The effects of overpopulation can be reduced through improved access to contraception, family planning, and education about the environment. Governments can also implement policies to encourage sustainable development and reduce the rate of population growth. In addition, investing in renewable energy sources can reduce the strain on resources and promote more sustainable development. By understanding the potential impact of the world population reaching 8 billion and taking steps to mitigate it, we can ensure a healthy and sustainable future for our planet. With the right policies and investments, we can ensure that the world population does not harm the environment and the people who inhabit it.

About the Author

Sanjana Bajaj is a third-year student at O.P Jindal Global University majoring in Economics. 


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