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Human overpopulation (or human population overshoot) is the concept of a human population becoming too large to be
sustained
sustained
by its environment or resources in the long term. The idea is usually discussed in the context of
world population In demography, demographics, the world population is the total number of humans currently living, and was estimated to have exceeded 7.9 billion people . It took over 2 million years of prehistory, human prehistory and human history, history fo ...

world population
, though it may also concern regions. Human
population growth Population growth is the increase in the number of people in a population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size ...
has increased in recent centuries due to medical advancements and improved
agricultural productivity Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural Agriculture is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, ...
. Those concerned by this trend argue that it results in a level of
resource consumptionResource consumption is about the consumption of non-renewable A non-renewable resource (also called a finite resource) is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a quick enough pace to keep up with consumption. An e ...
which exceeds the environment's
carrying capacity The carrying capacity of an environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical ...
, leading to population overshoot. The concept is often discussed in relation to other population concerns such as
demographic push
demographic push
and
depopulation A population decline (sometimes underpopulation or depopulation or population collapse) in human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, ...

depopulation
, as well as in relation to
resource depletion Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Natural resources are commonly divided between renewable resource File:Global Vegetation.jpg, Global vegetation A renewable resource, also known as a flo ...
and the
human impact on the environment Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism In biology, an organism (from An ...
. Discussions of
overpopulation Overpopulation or overabundance occurs when a species' population In biology, a population is a number of all the organisms of the same group or species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classifica ...

overpopulation
follow a similar line of inquiry as Malthusianism and its ''Malthusian catastrophe'', a hypothetical event where population exceeds agricultural capacity, causing
famine A famine is a widespread scarcity of food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual con ...

famine
or
war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (new ...

war
over resources, resulting in
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
and depopulation. Recent discussion of overpopulation was popularized by
Paul Ehrlich Paul Ehrlich (; 14 March 1854 – 20 August 1915) was a Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( , ; 21 October 1833  ...
in his 1968 book ''
The Population Bomb ''The Population Bomb'' is a 1968 book written by Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a Private university, private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among ...
''. Ehrlich described overpopulation as a function of
overconsumption Overconsumption describes a situation where the use of a natural resource has exceeded the Sustainable yield, sustainable capacity of a system. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to the eventual loss of resource bases. The term overconsu ...
, arguing that overpopulation should be defined by a population being unable to sustain itself without depleting
non-renewable resource A non-renewable resource (also called a finite resource) is a natural resource Natural resources are resource Resource refers to all the materials available in our environment which help us to satisfy our needs and wants. Resources can ...
s. Modern proponents of the concept have suggested that overpopulation, population growth and overconsumption are interdependent and collectively are the primary drivers of human-caused environmental issues such as
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...
and
biodiversity loss Biodiversity loss includes the extinction Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...
, and other societal problems. To mitigate this, population planning strategies have been advocated to establish what proponents consider a sustainable population. The concept of overpopulation is controversial. Demographic projections suggest that population growth will stabilise in the 21st century, and many experts believe that global resources can meet this increased demand, suggesting a global overpopulation scenario is unlikely, although other projections have the population continuing to grow into the next century. Critics highlight how attempts to blame environmental issues on overpopulation tend to oversimplify complex social or economic systems, or place blame on developing countries and poor populations— reinscribing colonial or racist assumptions. For these reasons, critics of overpopulation suggest overconsumption be treated as an issue separate from population growth.


History of concept

Concerns about population size or density have a long history:
Tertullian Tertullian (; la, Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus; 155 AD – 220 AD) was a prolific early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religio ...

Tertullian
, a resident of the city of
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
in the second century CE, criticized population at the time, saying "Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us... In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race." Despite these concerns, scholars have not found historic societies which have collapsed because of overpopulation or overconsumption. By the beginning of the 19th century, intellectuals such as
Thomas Malthus Thomas Robert Malthus (; 13/14 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was an English cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, be ...

Thomas Malthus
predicted that humankind would outgrow its available resources because a finite amount of land would be incapable of supporting a population with limitless potential for increase. During the 19th century, Malthus' work, particularly ''
An Essay on the Principle of Population The book ''An Essay on the Principle of Population'' was first published anonymously in 1798, but the author was soon identified as Thomas Robert Malthus Thomas Robert Malthus (; 13/14 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was an English cler ...

An Essay on the Principle of Population
,'' was often interpreted in a way that blamed the poor alone for their condition and helping them was said to worsen conditions in the long run.Gregory Claeys: The "Survival of the Fittest" and the Origins of Social Darwinism, in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 61, No. 2, 2002, p. 223–240 This resulted, for example, in the
English poor laws The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief In Kingdom of England, English and British Isles, British history, poor relief refers to government and ecclesiastical action to relieve poverty. Over the centuries, various authorities hav ...
of 1834 and a hesitating response to the Irish Great Famine of 1845–52. Paul R. Ehrlich's book ''
The Population Bomb ''The Population Bomb'' is a 1968 book written by Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a Private university, private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among ...
'' became a bestseller upon its release in 1968, creating renewed interest in overpopulation. The book predicted population growth would lead to
famine A famine is a widespread scarcity of food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual con ...

famine
,
societal collapse A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from individual agenc ...
, and other social, environmental and economic strife in the coming decades, and advocated for policies to curb it. The
Club of Rome The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei The Accademia dei Lincei (; literally the "Academy An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary o ...
published the influential book ''
The Limits to Growth ''The Limits to Growth'' (''LTG'') is a 1972 report on the exponential Economic growth, economic and population growth with a finite supply of resources, studied by computer simulation. The study used the World3 computer model to simulate the c ...
'' in 1972, which similarly used computer modelling to argue that continued population growth trends would lead to global system collapse.Alt URL
/ref> The idea of overpopulation was also a topic of some works of English-language
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, Parall ...

science fiction
and
dystopian fiction Utopian and dystopian fiction are literary genre, genres of speculative fiction that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction portrays a setting that agrees with the author's ethos, having various attributes of another reality inten ...
during the latter part of the 1960s.
Human population Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and large, complex brains. This has enabled the development of advanced tools, culture, and language. Humans are highl ...
and
family planning Family planning services are “the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of i ...
policies were adopted by some nations in the late 20th century in an effort to curb population growth, including in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...
and
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...
.
Albert Allen Bartlett Albert Allen Bartlett (March 21, 1923 – September 7, 2013) was an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder , mottoeng = Let Your Light Shine , established = , type = Public In public relations and commu ...
gave more than 1,742 lectures on the threat of exponential population growth starting in 1969. However, many predictions of overpopulation during the 20th century did not materialise. In ''
The Population Bomb ''The Population Bomb'' is a 1968 book written by Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a Private university, private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among ...
'', Elrich stated that " the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now," with later editions changing to instead be "in the 1980s". Despite admitting some of his earlier predictions did not come to pass, Ehlrich continues to advocate that overpopulation is a major issue. As the profile of
environmental issues Environmental issues are harmful Human impact on the environment, effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on the individual, organizational or governme ...
facing humanity increased during the end of the 20th and early 21st centuries, some have looked to population growth as a root cause. A 2015 survey from
Pew Research Center The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan Nonpartisanism is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias toward, a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's ...

Pew Research Center
reports that 82% of scientists associated with the
American Association for the Advancement of Science The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an American international non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution ...
were concerned about population growth. In 2017, more than one-third of 50 Nobel prize-winning scientists surveyed by the ''
Times Higher Education ''Times Higher Education'' (''THE''), formerly ''The Times Higher Education Supplement'' (''THES''), is a British magazine reporting specifically on news and issues related to higher education. Ownership TPG Capital acquired TSL Education from ...
'' at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings said that human overpopulation and
environmental degradation Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological facto ...
are the two greatest threats facing mankind. In November that same year, the ''World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice'', signed by 15,364 scientists from 184 countries, indicated that rapid human population growth is "a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats." Elrich and other scientists at a conference in the Vatican on contemporary species extinction linked the issue to population growth in 2017, and advocated for
human population control Human reproduction planning is the practice of intentionally controlling the rate of growth of a human population. Historically, human population planning has been implemented with the goal of increasing the rate of human population growth. Howe ...
, which attracted controversy from the
Catholic church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic church
. In 2019, a warning on
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...
signed by 11,000 scientists from 153 nations said that human population growth adds 80 million humans annually, and "the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity" to reduce the impact of "population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss." According to writer and journalist Krithika Varagur, myths and misinformation about overpopulation of
Rohingya people The Rohingya people () are a stateless Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasion ...
in
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
is thought to have driven their
persecution Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or a group of individua ...
in the 2010s. The Indian government of
Narendra Modi Narendra Damodardas Modi (; born 17 September 1950) is an Indian politician serving as the List of Prime Ministers of India, 14th and current prime minister of India since 2014. Modi was the List of chief ministers of Gujarat, chief minist ...

Narendra Modi
introduced population policies in the 21st century, including offering incentives for sterilization, citing the risks of a "population explosion", although demographers have criticised this basis, with India thought to be undergoing
demographic transition In demography Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek δῆμος (''dēmos'') meaning 'the people', and ''-graphy'' from γράφω (''graphō'') meaning 'writing, description or measurement') is the statistics, statistical s ...
and its . The policies have also received criticism from human and women's rights groups. In 2020, a quote from
David Attenborough Sir David Frederick Attenborough (; born 8 May 1926) is an English broadcaster, natural historian Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμό ...

David Attenborough
about how humans have "overrun the planet" was shared widely online, becoming his most popular comment on the internet.


Advocacy organizations

Population concern organizations have promoted the conversation in academic and policy circles. Organizations focused on population stabilization and population concern often focus on the policy of particular governments, or particular solutions to overpopulation. Some of these organizations are popular or visible because of their association with major public figures, such as
Population Matters Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust, is a UK-based charity that addresses population size and its effects on environmental sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing wa ...
' connection with David Attenborough, while others are more closely associated with particular academic interpretations or solutions.


Global population dynamics, their history and factors

World population In demography, demographics, the world population is the total number of humans currently living, and was estimated to have exceeded 7.9 billion people . It took over 2 million years of prehistory, human prehistory and human history, history fo ...

World population
has been rising continuously since the end of the
Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bact ...

Black Death
, around the year 1350. The fastest doubling of the world population happened between 1950 and 1986: a doubling from 2.5 to 5 billion people in just ''37'' years, mainly due to medical advancements and increases in
agricultural productivity Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural Agriculture is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, ...
. Due to its dramatic impact on the human ability to grow food, the
Haber process The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process, is an artificial nitrogen fixation process and is the main industrial procedure for the ammonia production, production of ammonia today. It is named after its inventors, the German chemist ...

Haber process
enabling the global population to increase from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.7 billion by November 2018. Some researchers analyze this growth in population like other animal populations, human populations predictably grow and shrink according to their available food supply (see
Lotka–Volterra equations The Lotka–Volterra equations, also known as the predator–prey equations, are a pair of first-order nonlinear In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathe ...
), including
agronomist Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plant Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, co ...

agronomist
and insect ecologist David Pimentel,Hopfenberg, Russell and Pimentel, David,
Human Population Numbers as a Function of Food Supply
, ''Environment, Development and Sustainability'', vol. 3, no. 1, March 2001, pp. 1–15
behavioral scientist Russell Hopfenberg, and anthropologist
Virginia Abernethy Virginia Deane Abernethy (born 1934) is an American anthropologist and activist. She is professor emerita of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She has published research on population demography and immigration. She ran for Vi ...
.


History of world population

World population has gone through a number of periods of growth since the dawn of
civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a complex society A complex society is a concept that is shared by a range of disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, history and sociology to describe a stage of social formation. The concep ...

civilization
in the
Holocene The Holocene ( ) is the current geological epoch In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age (geology), age but shorter than a period (geology), period. The current epoch is the Holocene E ...
period, around 10,000 BCE. The beginning of civilization roughly coincides with the receding of
glacial ice A glacier ( or ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its Ablation#Glaciology, ablation over many years, often Century, centuries. Glaciers slow ...
following the end of the last glacial period. Farming allowed for the growth of populations in many parts of the world, including Europe, the Americas and China through the 1600s, occasionally disrupted by plagues or other crisis. For example, the Black Death is thought to have reduced the world's population, then at an estimated 450 million, to between 350 and 375 million by 1400. After the start of the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
, during the 18th century, the rate of population growth began to increase. By the end of the century, the world's population was estimated at just under 1 billion. At the turn of the 20th century, the world's population was roughly 1.6 billion. Dramatic growth beginning in 1950 (above 1.8% per year) coincided with greatly increased food production as a result of the industrialization of agriculture brought about by the
Green Revolution The Green Revolution, or the Third Agricultural Revolution (after the Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrel ...

Green Revolution
.The limits of a Green Revolution?
. BBC News. 29 March 2007.
The rate of human population growth peaked in 1964, at about 2.1% per year. By 1940, this figure had increased to 2.3 billion. Each subsequent addition of a billion humans took less and less time: 33 years to reach three billion in 1960, 14 years for four billion in 1974, 13 years for five billion in 1987, and 12 years for six billion in 1999. On 14 May 2018, the
United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, responsible for producing data about the American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, ...
calculated the world population as 7,472,985,269 for that same date and the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
estimated over 7 billion. In 2017, the United Nations increased the medium variant projections to 9.8 billion for 2050 and 11.2 billion for 2100. The UN population forecast of 2017 was predicting "near end of high fertility" globally and anticipating that by 2030 over two-thirds of the world population will be living in countries with fertility below the replacement level and for total world population to stabilize between 10 and 12 billion people by the year 2100.


Proposed impacts

Biologists and sociologists have discussed overpopulation as a threat to the quality of human life.Wilson, E.O. (2002). ''The Future of Life'', Vintage Some environmentalists, such as
Pentti Linkola Kaarlo Pentti Linkola (7 December 1932 – 5 April 2020) was a prominent Finnish Deep ecology, deep ecologist, Ornithology, ornithologist, polemicist, naturalist, writer, and fisherman. He wrote widely about his ideas and in Finland was a pr ...

Pentti Linkola
, have argued human overpopulation represents a threat to Earth's
biosphere The biosphere (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
.


Poverty, and infant and child mortality

Although proponents of human overpopulation have expressed concern that growing population will lead to an increase in global
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
and infant mortality, both indicators have declined over the last 200 years of population growth.


Environmental impacts

It has been suggested that overpopulation has substantially adversely impacted the environment of Earth starting at least as early as the 20th century. A number of scientists have argued that human impacts on the environment and accompanying increase in
resource consumptionResource consumption is about the consumption of non-renewable A non-renewable resource (also called a finite resource) is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a quick enough pace to keep up with consumption. An e ...
threatens the world's
ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...

ecosystems
and the survival of human civilization. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, which was ratified by 58 member
national academies A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowl ...
in 1994, states that "unprecedented" population growth aggravates many environmental problems, including rising levels of
atmospheric carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide (chemical formula ) is a colorless gas with a density about 53% higher than that of dry air. Carbon dioxide molecules consist of a carbon atom covalent bond, covalently double bonded to two oxygen atoms. It occu ...
,
global warming Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...

global warming
, and pollution. Indeed, some analysts claim that overpopulation's most serious impact is its effect on the environment. Some scientists suggest that the overall
human impact on the environment Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism In biology, an organism (from An ...
during the
Great Acceleration The Great Acceleration is the dramatic, continuous and roughly simultaneous surge in growth rate across a large range of measures of human activity, first recorded in mid-20th century and continuing to this day. Within the concept of the proposed Ep ...

Great Acceleration
, particularly due to human population size and growth,
economic growth Economic growth can be defined as the increase or improvement in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an economics, economy over time. Statisticians conventionally measure such growth as the percent rate of i ...

economic growth
, overconsumption,
pollution Pollution is the introduction of contaminant Contamination is the presence of a constituent, impurity, or some other undesirable element that spoils, corrupts, infects, makes unfit, or makes inferior a material, physical body, natural en ...

pollution
, and proliferation of technology, has pushed the planet into a new geological
epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-E ...
known as the
Anthropocene The Anthropocene ( ) is a proposed geological epoch In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age (geology), age but shorter than a period (geology), period. The current epoch is the Holocene ...
. Some studies and commentary link population growth with
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...
. Critics have stated that population growth alone may have less influence on climate change than other factors, such as greenhouse gas emissions per capita. The global consumption of
meat Meat is animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consume organic material, Cellular respiratio ...

meat
is projected to rise by as much as 76% by 2050 as the global population increases, with this projected to have further environmental impacts such as
biodiversity loss Biodiversity loss includes the extinction Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...
and increased
greenhouse gas A greenhouse gas (GHG or GhG) is a gas that Absorption (electromagnetic radiation), absorbs and Emission (electromagnetic radiation), emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhou ...
emissions. A July 2017 study published in ''
Environmental Research Letters ''Environmental Research Letters'' is a quarterly, peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work ( peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualifi ...
'' argued that the most significant way individuals could mitigate their own carbon footprint is to have fewer children, followed by living without a vehicle, forgoing air travel, and adopting a plant-based diet. However, even in countries which have both large population growth and major ecological problems, it is not necessarily true that curbing the population growth will make a major contribution towards resolving all environmental problems that can be solved simply with an environmentalism, environmentalist policy approach. Other studies also deny such a direct connection. Continued
population growth Population growth is the increase in the number of people in a population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size ...
and overconsumption, particularly by the wealthy, have been posited as key drivers of
biodiversity loss Biodiversity loss includes the extinction Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...
and the Holocene extinction, sixth (and ongoing) mass extinction, with some researchers and environmentalists specifically suggesting this indicates a human overpopulation scenario. The ''Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services'', released by IPBES in 2019, states that human population growth is a factor in biodiversity loss. Some prominent scientists and environmentalists, including Jared Diamond, E. O. Wilson, Jane Goodall and
David Attenborough Sir David Frederick Attenborough (; born 8 May 1926) is an English broadcaster, natural historian Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμό ...

David Attenborough
, contend that population growth is devastating to biodiversity. Wilson for example, has expressed concern when ''Homo sapiens'' reached a population of six billion their Biomass (ecology)#Global biomass, biomass exceeded that of any other large land dwelling animal species that had ever existed by over 100 times. Human overpopulation and continued population growth are also considered by some, including animal rights attorney Doris Lin and philosopher Steven Best, to be an animal rights issue, as more human activity means the destruction of animal habitats and more direct killing of animals.


Resource depletion

Some commentary has attributed Resource depletion, depletion of non-renewable resources, such as Land use, land, Food security, food and Water scarcity, water, to overpopulation and suggested it could lead to a diminished quality of human life.Ron Nielsen, ''The Little Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of Our Planet'', Picador, New York (2006) Ecologist David Pimentel was one such proponent, saying "with the imbalance growing between population numbers and vital life sustaining resources, humans must actively conserve cropland, freshwater, energy, and biological resources. There is a need to develop renewable energy resources. Humans everywhere must understand that rapid population growth damages the Earth's resources and diminishes human well-being." Although Food security, food shortages have been warned as a consequence of overpopulation, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, global food production exceeds increasing demand from global population growth. Food insecurity in some regions is attributable to the globally unequal distribution of food supplies. Some proponents of overpopulation warn expansion of agricultural production to meet population growth is likely to have a substantial impact on the environment, and have expressed concern at Land use, usable land area becoming limited. The notion that space is limited has been decried by skeptics, who point out that the Earth's population of roughly 6.8 billion people could comfortably be housed an area comparable in size to the state of Texas in the United States (about ). Critics and agricultural experts suggest changes to policies relating to land use or agriculture to make them more efficient would be more likely to resolve land issues and Environmental impact of agriculture, pressures on the environment. Water scarcity, which threatens agricultural productivity, represents a global issue that some have linked to population growth. However, water is not scarce on a global scale, and Water issues in developing countries, water issues in many developing countries are related to various local issues and not necessarily population.


Political systems and social conflict

It was speculated by Aldous Huxley in 1958 that democracy is threatened by overpopulation, and could give rise to totalitarian style governments. Physics professor
Albert Allen Bartlett Albert Allen Bartlett (March 21, 1923 – September 7, 2013) was an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder , mottoeng = Let Your Light Shine , established = , type = Public In public relations and commu ...
at the University of Colorado Boulder warned in 2000 that overpopulation and the development of technology are the two major causes of the diminution of democracy. However, over the last 200 years of population growth, the actual level of personal freedom has increased rather than declined. Population growth has been implicated as a factor in numerous social ills, including unemployment, overcrowding, bad governance and decaying infrastructure. Since the Second World War, countries with higher population growth rates experienced the most social conflict. According to anthropologist Jason Hickel, the global capitalist system creates pressures for
population growth Population growth is the increase in the number of people in a population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size ...
: "more people means more labour, cheaper labour, and more consumers."


Future dynamics


Projections of population growth


Overconsumption

Some groups (for example, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Footprint Network) have stated that the yearly biocapacity of Earth is being exceeded as measured using the ecological footprint. In 2006, WWF's Living Planet Report, ''Living Planet Report'' stated that in order for all humans to live with the current consumption patterns of Europeans, we would be spending three times more than what the planet can renew. Humanity as a whole was using, by 2006, 40% more than what Earth can regenerate. However, Roger Martin (diplomat), Roger Martin of
Population Matters Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust, is a UK-based charity that addresses population size and its effects on environmental sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing wa ...
states the view: "the poor want to get rich, and I want them to get rich," with a later addition, "of course we have to change consumption habits,... but we've also got to stabilise our numbers". Another study by the WWF in 2014 found that it would take the equivalent of 1.5 Earths of biocapacity to meet humanity's current levels of consumption. But critics question the simplifications and statistical methods used in calculating ecological footprints. Therefore, Global Footprint Network and its partner organizations have engaged with national governments and international agencies to test the results—reviews have been produced by France, Germany, the European Commission, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Some point out that a more refined method of assessing Ecological Footprint is to designate sustainable versus non-sustainable categories of consumption.


Carrying capacity

Many attempts have been made to estimate the world's
carrying capacity The carrying capacity of an environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical ...
for humans; the maximum population the world can host. A 2004 meta-analysis of 69 such studies from 1694 until 2001 found the average predicted maximum number of people the Earth would ever have was 7.7 billion people, with lower and upper meta-bounds at 0.65 and 98 billion people, respectively. They conclude: "recent predictions of stabilized world population levels for 2050 exceed several of our meta-estimates of a world population limit". A 2012 United Nations report summarized 65 different estimated maximum sustainable population sizes and the most common estimate was 8 billion. Advocates of reduced population often put forward much lower numbers. Paul R. Ehrlich stated in 2018 that the optimum population is between 1.5 and 2 billion. Geographer Chris Tucker estimates that 3 billion is a sustainable number. Critics of overpopulation criticize the basic assumptions associated with these estimates. For example, Jade Sasser believes that calculating a maximum of number of humanity is unethical while only some, mostly privileged European former colonial powers, are mostly responsible for unsustainably using up Earth's resources.


Proposed solutions and mitigation measures

Several strategies have been proposed to mitigate overpopulation.


Population planning

Several scientists (including
Paul Ehrlich Paul Ehrlich (; 14 March 1854 – 20 August 1915) was a Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( , ; 21 October 1833  ...
, Gretchen Daily and Tim Flannery) proposed that humanity should work at stabilizing its absolute numbers, as a starting point towards beginning the process of reducing the total numbers. They suggested several possible approaches, including: * Improved access to contraception and sex education * Reducing infant mortality, so that parents do not need to have many children to ensure at least some survive to adulthood. * Improving the status of women in order to facilitate a departure from traditional sexual division of labour. * Family planning * Creating small family "role models" Some scientists including Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook suggest that, given the "inexorable demographic momentum of the global human population," sustainability can be achieved more rapidly with a short term focus on technological and social innovations, along with reducing consumption rates, while treating population planning as a long term goal.


Education and empowerment

Education and Women's empowerment, empowerment of women and giving access to family planning and contraception have demonstrated positive impacts on reducing birthrates. Many studies conclude that Female education, educating girls reduces the number of children they have. One option according to some activists is to focus on education about
family planning Family planning services are “the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of i ...
and birth control methods, and to make birth-control devices like condoms, combined oral contraceptive pill, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices easily available. Worldwide, nearly 40% of unintended pregnancy, pregnancies are unintended (some 80 million unintended pregnancies each year). An estimated 350 million women in the poorest countries of the world either did not want their last child, do not want another child or want to space their pregnancies, but they lack access to information, affordable means and services to determine the size and spacing of their families. In the developing world, some 514,000 women die annually of complications from pregnancy and abortion, with 86% of these deaths occurring in the sub-Saharan Africa region and South Asia. Additionally, 8 million infants die, many because of malnutrition or preventable diseases, especially from lack of access to clean drinking water. Women's rights and their reproductive rights in particular are issues regarded to have vital importance in the debate. Anthropologist Jason Hickel asserts that a nation's population growth rapidly declines - even within a single generation - when policies relating to women's health and reproductive rights, children's health (to ensure parents they will survive to adulthood), and expanding education and economic opportunities for girls and women are implemented. This incentive, however, has been questioned by Rosalind P. Petchesky. Citing her attendance of the 1994 Cairo conference, she reported that overpopulation and birth control were being diverted by feminists into women's rights issues, mostly downplaying the overpopulation issue as only one minor matter of many others. Upon her observation, she argued this was forging many faults and distractions on the main problem of human overpopulation and how to solve it. A 2020 paper by William J. Ripple and other scientists argued in favor of population policies that could advance social justice (such as by abolishing child marriage, expanding family planning services and reforms that improve education for women and girls) and at the same time mitigate the impact of population growth on climate change and biodiversity loss.


Coercive population control policies

Ehrlich advocated in ''The Population Bomb'' that "various forms of coercion", such as removing tax benefits for having additional children, be used in cases when voluntary population planning policies fail. Some nations, like China, have used strict or Coercion, coercive measures such as the one-child policy to reduce birth rates. Compulsory sterilization has also been implemented in many countries as a form of population control. Another choice-based approach is financial compensation or other benefits by the state offered to people who voluntarily undergo sterilization (medicine), sterilization. Such policies have been introduced by the government of India.


Extraterrestrial settlement


Urbanization

Despite the increase in population density within cities (and the emergence of megacities), UN Habitat states in its reports that urbanization may be the best compromise in the face of global population growth. Cities concentrate human activity within limited areas, limiting the breadth of environmental damage. UN Habitat says this is only possible if urban planning is significantly improved. Paul Ehrlich pointed out in his book ''
The Population Bomb ''The Population Bomb'' is a 1968 book written by Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a Private university, private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among ...
'' (1968) that rhetoric supporting the increase of city density is a means of avoiding dealing with the actual problem of overpopulation, and rather than treating the increase of city density as a symptom of the root problem, it has been promoted by the same interests that have profited from population increase (e.g. property developers, the banking system which invests in property development, industry, municipal councils). Subsequent authors point to Economic growth, growth economics as driving governments seek city growth and expansion at any cost, disregarding the impact it might have on the environment.


Criticism

The concept of human overpopulation, and its attribution as a cause of environmental issues, are controversial. Some critics, including Joel E. Cohen, Nicholas Eberstadt, Fred Pearce, Dominic Lawson and Betsy Hartmann, refer to overpopulation as a myth. Predicted exponential population growth or any "population explosion" did not materialise; instead, population growth slowed. Critics suggest that enough resources are available to support projected population growth, and that Human impact on the environment, human impacts on the environment are not attributable to overpopulation. According to libertarian think tank the Fraser Institute, both the idea of overpopulation and the alleged depletion of resources are myths; most resources are now more abundant than a few decades ago, thanks to technological progress.https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/ExplodingPopulationMyths.pdf The Institute also questions the sincerity of advocates of population control in poor countries. Demographer Nicholas Eberstadt has criticised the idea of overpopulation, saying that "overpopulation is not really overpopulation. It is a question of
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
". In other words, impoverished societies can benefit from reducing birth rates not for environmental reasons but for economical sustainability reasons. A 2020 study in ''The Lancet'' concluded that "continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth", with projections suggesting world population would peak at 9.73 billion in 2064 and fall by 2100. Media commentary interpreted this as suggesting
overconsumption Overconsumption describes a situation where the use of a natural resource has exceeded the Sustainable yield, sustainable capacity of a system. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to the eventual loss of resource bases. The term overconsu ...
represents a greater environmental threat as an overpopulation scenario may never occur. Some human population planning strategies advocated by proponents of overpopulation are controversial for ethical reasons. Those concerned with overpopulation, including Paul Ehrlich, have been accused of influencing human rights abuses including Forced sterilisation in India, forced sterilisation policies in India and under One-child policy, China's one-child policy, as well as mandatory or Coercion, coercive birth control measures taken in other countries.


Women's rights

Influential advocates such as Betsy Hartmann consider the "myth of overpopulation" to be destructive as it "prevents constructive thinking and action on reproductive rights," which acutely effects women and communities of Feminization of poverty, women in poverty. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) define reproductive rights as "the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information to do so." This oversimplification of human overpopulation leads individuals to believe there are simple solutions and the creation of population policies that limit reproductive rights.


Racism

The argument of overpopulation has been criticized by some scholars and environmentalists as being racist and having roots in colonialism and white supremacy, since control and reduction of human population is often focused on the global south, instead of on
overconsumption Overconsumption describes a situation where the use of a natural resource has exceeded the Sustainable yield, sustainable capacity of a system. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to the eventual loss of resource bases. The term overconsu ...
and the global north, where it ocurs.
Paul Ehrlich Paul Ehrlich (; 14 March 1854 – 20 August 1915) was a Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( , ; 21 October 1833  ...
's ''Population Bomb'' begins with him describing first knowing the "feel of overpopulation" from a visit to Delhi, which some critics have accused of having racial undertones. George Monbiot has said "when affluent white people wrongly transfer the blame for their environmental impacts on to the birthrate of much poorer brown and black people, their finger-pointing reinforces [White genocide conspiracy theory, white genocide conspiracy] narratives. It is inherently racist." Overpopulation is said to be a common component of Ecofascism, ecofascist ideology. Demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, who has criticised the idea of overpopulation by saying that "overpopulation is not really overpopulation. It is a question of
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
", indirectly sustains that position, although pointing the fact that a lesser poor population, not being responsible for a substancial reduction in overconsumption, is positive in relation to people's economical welfare. Scholar Heather Alberro argues to reject the overpopulation argument, stating that the human population growth is rapidly slowing down, the underlying problem is not the number of people, but how resources are distributed and that the idea of overpopulation could fuel a racist backlash against the population of poor countries.


By public figures

Some billionaires have expressed concern that impending Population decline, population collapse is the greatest ecological threat, more so than
pollution Pollution is the introduction of contaminant Contamination is the presence of a constituent, impurity, or some other undesirable element that spoils, corrupts, infects, makes unfit, or makes inferior a material, physical body, natural en ...

pollution
,
environmental degradation Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological facto ...
or
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...
. Elon Musk is a vocal critic of the idea of overpopulation. According to Musk, proponents of the idea are misled by their immediate impressions from living in dense cities. Because of the negative replacement rates in many countries, he expects that by 2039 the biggest issue will be population collapse, not explosion. Jack Ma expressed a similar opinion. However, these sentiments are not supported by consensus population projections which point to the human population approaching 10 billion people by 2100, with other data and population projects point towards different types of continued growth.


See also

* Demographic trap * Demographic transition * ''
The Limits to Growth ''The Limits to Growth'' (''LTG'') is a 1972 report on the exponential Economic growth, economic and population growth with a finite supply of resources, studied by computer simulation. The study used the World3 computer model to simulate the c ...
'' * Global issue * Human population planning * Malthusian catastrophe * Overshoot (population) * Planetary boundaries * Voluntary Human Extinction Movement * Antinatalism * Overpopulation in domestic pets


Lists

* List of organisations campaigning for population stabilisation * List of population concern organizations


Documentary and art

* :Overpopulation fiction, Overpopulation fiction (category) * ''Koyaanisqatsi'' * ''What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire'' *''Planet of the Humans'' *''Ten Billion''


References


Further reading

*David Foreman, ''Man Swarm: How Overpopulation is Killing the Wild World''. Livetrue Books, 2015. *Karen Shragg, ''Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation.'' (published November 2015)
Discussion of the book
by the author, March 2017 (video, 91 minutes). *Alan Weisman. ''Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?'' Little, Brown and Company, (2013) * Thomas Robertson,
The Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism
' (2012), Rutgers University Press * J.R. McNeill, Peter Engelke, ''The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945'' (2016) {{Authority control Human overpopulation, Population ecology World population Demographic economic problems Doomsday scenarios Environmental controversies Political controversies