The Enviromnetal Degradation as a Result of Overpopulation 1 Introduction There are simply too many people on our planet, and the population is not showing any signs of slowing down(see Figure 1).
It is having disastrous effects on our environment. There are too many implications and interrelationships to discuss in this paper, but the three substances that our earth consists of: land, water and air, are being destroyed. Our forests are being cut down at an alarming rate, bearing enormous impacts on the health of earth. Our oceans and seas are being polluted and overfished. Our atmosphere is injected with increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, which hurts the entire planet.All of these problems can be traced to our vast, rapidly expanding population, which has stressed our world far too greatly.
Our Population In 1994, the world population was 5 602 800 000. This population had a doubling time of only forty-one years (De Blij and Muller, 1994, p.527). The massive amount of people has had highly destructive impacts on the earths environment. These impacts occur on two levels: global and local.On the global level, there is the accumulation of green house gases that deplete the ozone layer, the extinction of species, and a global food shortage.
On the local level, there is erosion of soils (and the loss of vegetation), the depletion of water supply, and toxification of the air and water. The earth is dynamic though, all of these aspects are interrelated, and no one impact is completely isolated. All of these destructive elements can be traced to our enormous population. As the population increases, so do all of the economic, social, and technological impacts. The concept of momentum of population growth is one that must be considered.It states that areas with traditionally high fertility rates will have a very young structure age. Thus, a decrease in the fertility rate will still result in a greater absolute number of births, 2 as there are more potential mothers. Populations are very slow in adjusting to decreases in fertility rates.
This is especially frightening when considering that South Asia has a population of 1 204 600 000 (and a doubling time of thirty two years), Subsaharan Africa has 528 000 000 (doubling time: thirty one years), and North Africa/Southwest Asia has 448 100 000 (doubling time: twenty seven years) (De Blij and Muller, 1994, p. 529-531)and all of these areas have traditionally high fertility rates. Although third world countries do have a far larger population than industrialized nations, and the trend is constantly increasing, their populations should not bear the responsibility for our population-enduced degrading environment.The impact we make on the biosphere is sometimes expressed mathematically by ecological economists as I = PAT.
I being impact, P population, A affluence (consumption) , and T technology (environmentally bad technology)(Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1990, p.24). Concern regarding population increases often focuses on the third world, since it is there that growth is exponential. Yet, it is necessary to recognize that people are by no means equal or identical in their consumption, and thus their impact on the environment (see Map 2). 3 Our Forests The sky is held up by the trees.If the forest disappears the sky, which is the roof of the world collapses. Nature and man perish together. – Amerindian legend Forests are a precious link in the life systems of our planet.
They are a part of these vital ecosystem services without which earth would not have been habitable by the human species in the first place and would certainly have become inhabitable again. Forests have crucial roles in the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen cycles that nourish and sustain life on earth. They protect the watersheds that support farming and influence climate and rainfall(Lindahl-Kiessling, 1994, p.167).They save the soil from erosion and are home to thousands of species, and forest peoples whose lives depend on them.
They are also a source for industrial and medical purposes. In developing countries, much deforestation is for both local purposes and for export. The UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities) said in its 1990 report that population growth may have been responsible for as much as eighty percent of the forest land cleared between 1971 and 1986 to make room for agriculture, cattle ranching, houses, roads and industries(Ramphal, 1992, p.55). It is estimated that in that period nearly sixty million hectares of forest were converted to farmland and a similar amount of forest was put to non-agricultural uses.This is equivalent to the mass of twelve hundred square metres of forest added to the population(Ramphal, 1992, p. 57). Quite often, areas of forest were cleared in such a way (ex.
: slash and burn) that they will never grow back. After a forest area has been converted to grazing lands or intensive farming, the soil will only sustain it for a few years. Then the land is left lifeless. The increasing demand for fuel wood as populations expand is another important factor leading to deforestation.In most developing areas, wood is the primary source of fuel. In many of these areas, the demand for fuel wood is rising at about the rate of population growth, and ahead of the destruction committed by loggers (see Figure 2) 4 (Hardaway, 1994, p.
201). People are spreading out further and further to reach fresh forested areas to meet their fuel needs. It should also be noted that when wood is unavailable, animal dung is burned for fuel. This diverts a great value of nutrition from the soil. Developed countries deplete their forests at a rate that is just as alarming, and are a great source of the demand for wood from developing countries.
The primary use of this wood is for industrial purposes, i.e.the construction of goods and capital goods. Again, the consumption of individuals here is far greater than those in the third world, so their impacts are not much different overall. The reduction of forest land possesses two main environmental dangers. Forests are great natural repositories of carbon. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and store it, acting as carbon reservoirs.
As such, they are invaluable agents in keeping the level of carbon in the atmosphere stable. As forests are destroyed worldwide, especially by burning, carbon dioxide is released into the air, adding to the stock of greenhouse gases that are now warming our planet and changing its climate. The adverse of this negative effect of forest loss on climate is the positive role of forests in regulating the atmosphere and climate through their life-support services(see Tables 1 and 2)(Ramphal, 1992, 69). Forest land is also the worlds main storehouse of species, the plants , animals, birds, and insects with which earth has been blessed. Tropical forests expand roughly between ten degrees North and south of the equator. In a small portion of the earth lies nearly half of earths biological species, many endemic.The rapid rate of deforestation is erasing our bio-diversity. Desertification is closely related with deforestation.
Again, forests are quite often cleared in an especially destructive manner, rendering them lifeless. This eventually leaves the land barren. Agricultural pressures are the other prime population-enduced source of 5 desertification. Increasing populations in developing countries drive people into drier and drier regions to farm.Attempting to farm in areas that are already poor or unsuitable may damage the soils irreparably. Another indirect cause is as population increases in these villages, so does the number of goats, which are a source of meat and milk. The goats (which multiply rapidly as well) are left to roam the countryside, and erode the soils greatly while doing so(Lourdes, 1994, p.376)(see Map 1).
Our forests are invaluable resource to all. Not just for the wood, but as they maintain life on earth.They are continuing to be destroyed at a rate that will not permit their return when humanity realizes its errors. Our forests are perhaps the most threatened aspect of earth as a result of population growth, and the one that we can least afford to lose. 6 Our Oceans Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean — roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin – his control Stops with the shore. – from Childe Harold, by Byron In the early 1990s, the state of the worlds fisheries made headlines. Many coastal areas of North America have tried to limit their catches, or halt them all together.
It has been recognized that further harvesting could destroy a valuable food resource and aquatic bio-diversity.Our population growth has begun to out pace that of the aquatic life. These steps against vast ocean harvesting are reversing the trend of recent decades. A global seafood harvest of twenty two million tons in 1950 increased to one hundred million tons in 1989(see Figure 3)(Brown, 1994, p. 82). For the average person, seafood consumption doubled.
All of this did not occur without consequences. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that seventeen of the worlds major fishing regions are currently harvested at or beyond their capacity, and nine are in a state of decline(Ramphal, 1992, p. 35). A lack of proper management will only lead to further.As the thought of a future global food shortage looms, overfishing could become especially destructive.
Whereas overfishing is a direct method of humanity and overpopulation depleting fish stocks worldwide, pollution is an indirect way. The Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan yielded forty thousand tons of seafood in 1960(Brown and Kane, 1994, p. 94). The river that fed it was diverted for irrigation. The sea became increasingly salty, and is now biologically dead. Approximately one third of the world population lives within sixty kilometres of a coastline(Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1970, p.
125).This obviously leaves the oceans and lakes vulnerable to a great deal of pollution(see Map 1). The run-off of water tainted with phosphates from fertilizers is a major contributor. In many underdevelope …