On October 31, 2011, the world welcomed its seven-billionth human being. This event makes it clear that, in a matter of years, our generation will have to make some difficult decisions associated with the effects of overpopulation.
According to a United Nations projection, the world population will reach nine billion by 2050, when Generation Me will have become the parents, workers, consumers, leaders and primary decision-makers of this country.
“The Earth can only support so many people, and unless someone figures out how to live on other planets or under water, the population will not be able to keep increasing at such a high rate,” said sophomore Madeline McGovern.
This is the worry of international groups such as the World Population Organization, which focuses on the “need to halt exponential population growth.”
The most extreme measures to control overpopulation are being taken in China, where women are allowed to bear only one child. While the United States would never propose such draconian rules, there are Americans who are vigorously advocating for more serious family planning.
A National Public Radio broadcast recently featured an environmental science teacher at a high school in Iowa who hands out condoms to her students to raise awareness of the movement to reduce overpopulation. “You are the first generation that has to ask itself whether or not you will have children, and if you do, how many,” said the teacher.
But while the American population growth rate is slowing, it is increasing in other parts of the world, often where resources are scarce. Tewodros Melesse, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, reported that the population growth rate in Africa is “2.3 percent a year,” mostly because poor African women are not allowed or cannot afford to obtain contraceptives.
Our world’s limited amount of resources is a contributing factor to this debate. “If we cannot feed everyone in the world now, what will we do when there are even more people?” said junior Andrew Citera.
Physicist and climate expert Joe Romm says that the wealthy, who make up seven percent of the population, use 50 percent of the resources. In addition to the U.N., “Roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.”
These imbalances, combined with rapid population growth, will lead to more devastating food shortages in poor countries.
“The fact of the matter is that with the wealth of the world so unevenly distributed, we simply cannot sustain more and more people,” said junior Ben Oster.
Our generation should pledge to promote education and women’s welfare worldwide, which could lower birthrates while raising family incomes.
“If the world is heading toward a problem of overpopulation, it is one our generation will be left to solve,” said Citera.