Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Overpopulation, serious political and economical problems

  1. Mar 31, 2010 #1
    I have no exact figure, but I have seen the number 6.8 billion being used recently for how many human beings there is on this earth now. To what extent is overpopulation a driving force behind today's very serious political and economical problems that so many countries are grappling with? This is only personal conjecture, but I have a feeling that we are rapidly approaching, if we haven't already reached, a kind of breaking point in this respect. No matter how that plays out, it's going to be painful. We can already see that "life" is a commodity of very relative (but steadily declining) value - and the "rich" nations are putting up real and metaphorical fences to protect themselves against the inevitable influx of desperate people.

    What can "we" do? Each and every one of us? The situation seems hopeless.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2010 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    I had posted this before, it seems that overpopulation isn't a popular topic, but something needs to be done.

    Unfortunately there was a huge backlash against the UN by the Catholic church for stating that overpopulation was a problem and the UN was forced to drop it.
  4. Mar 31, 2010 #3
    Re: Overpopulation

    The probably unintended (?) pun here made me giggle.

    It seems terribly irresponsible to not take this issue seriously - but then again why should that be surprising? Anyone who tries to point at this as a problem will be lambasted from east and west with more or less Godwin-law regulated arguments. As long as there are strong economical incentives for cranking up the population numbers in poor countries, this is what will happen. My personal suggestion for an in-part solution would be to exterminate the entire global financial sector, starting with government bonds.
  5. Mar 31, 2010 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Overpopulation

    The rate of population growth for the world is slowing. Population (not rate) is actually shrinking in many developed countries, and if not for immigration would be shrinking in many more. So the solution seems to be to encourage development.

    Some examples:
  6. Apr 2, 2010 #5
    Re: Overpopulation

    Population research is always painful because it carries with it the implication of population controls. It's no wonder that one post has already mentioned "extermination." No one likes being targeted for "population control" in the supposed interest of everyone else.

    That said, there are resource problems and social problems that emerge from infrastructure and land use patterns. It's important to distinguish between population as a cause directly, though, and culture as a mitigating factor between individuals and resources.

    Whenever anyone complains about overpopulation, the first thing I ask them is if they drive. Driving creates traffic and stresses infrastructure by allowing relatively few individuals to travel per unit-width road. Also, the large cargo-capacity of many vehicles encourages people to consume more, which stimulates waste and resource depletion and waste over a wider supply-chain range.

    I don't know how many more people could live sustainably if everyone or at least most people would give up their cars and bike or walk for transportation, but I imagine it would be manyfold. When the conflict is between a luxury like traffic-reduction and a human right like having children, it seems clear to me that one person's human rights shouldn't be constrained for another person to drive everywhere all the time.

    There are plenty of ways to maintain luxuries like driving while reducing their everyday usage levels. Rental cars can be used and insurance companies could make it easier for people to share cars. Businesses and residences can move closer to each other. That's not an easy task, but I think it will be a slowly evolving social-geographical pattern that creates more freedom for population growth far into the future.

    This is the peaceful alternative to doomsday scenarios of war and famine typical of traditional Malthusian population forecasting.
  7. Apr 2, 2010 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Overpopulation

    Overpopulation is clearly an issue. Perhaps you should leave and help the rest of us out (just kidding).
  8. Apr 2, 2010 #7
    Re: Overpopulation

    The last time I was having this discussion, I suggested (half in jest) that voluntary sterilization should be rewarded, for instance with 10,000 dollars if you're a man and 50,000 if you're a woman. Paid in cash, no questions asked. As you can imagine, this caused a bit of an outrage.
  9. Apr 2, 2010 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    First, tv shows that praise people for having 19 kids and paying all of their expenses should be stopped. We're praising people for being socially irresponsible. Sex education should be a must in all schools. We need to educate people on how overpopulation is hurting the planet and that a responsible number of children per couple is 2. There was a "zero population growth" movement in the 70's and it stuck with me. It was just educational, no rewards, no penalties, just trying to break the old way of thinking that you need a houseful of kids to be happy.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
  10. Apr 2, 2010 #9
    Re: Overpopulation

    Where is my $10,000 ?
  11. Apr 2, 2010 #10
    Re: Overpopulation

    I have heard that people were picked up by local police for sterilization prior to WWII. If it was done on a reward basis, it would be really sad to see all the people lined up to sacrifice their reproductive rights/choice to avoid foreclosure.

    I think population discourse is so popular (is that a pun in some way?) because people are able to transcend the micro-reality of everyday resource-use to fantasize about the macro-level where their everyday activities pale in the shadow of the large-scale events they imagine being responsible for the fate of "the world."

    Global warming, population issues, globalism, and even nationalism and localism are all epistemological/ontological frames that dwarf individuals in their everyday activities.

    How is "overpopulation" a problem in your everyday life? How much more land is used to feed a family with four kids than a family of two kids? Compare the resource depletion of a couple with four kids and one car, who conserve economic resources by cooking efficient, inexpensive food like dry beans, pastas, grains, etc. to a young professional couple with no kids, two cars, lots of business trips, plenty of disposable income to consume and throw away as much as they want, and the justification that they are saving the world from overpopulation by not having kids!

    Now you can say, "what about when the kids grow up and each have four kids, etc.?" I don't know if that is as much of a problem as resource inefficiency as a result of various cultures of consumption and industry/distribution. Certainly it doesn't hurt anything for people to have only one or two kids, and I even think it's nice for kids to have to share their parents less instead of more, but I think as far as planetary resources go, culture is so much more influential than human quantity.

    To avoid finger-pointing and calls for social controls (always at someone else's expense/cost), I think any discussion of population control should be accompanied by one about cultures of consumption and resource-utilization efficiency. It's not fair to talk about controlling reproductive rights without curtailing consumption and industrial resource waste.
  12. Apr 2, 2010 #11


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    Just to show a striking similarity between population growth and world temperature over the same time period. This is not about Climate Change, it's about overpopulation.

    Attached Files:

  13. Apr 2, 2010 #12
    Re: Overpopulation


    I hope we don't see the above scenario within any of our lifetimes.

    Other than in China, there are no other measures being taken to control the population. Are there similar policies in India?

    Poor, uneducated, and often illiterate people reproduce many times more so than their social counterparts. These people will one day outnumber the educated, middle and upper-classes in every single country and continent.

    A Malthusian catastrophe is utterly inevitable.

    See the documentary "2100" which is available for viewing on youtube. To get a better understanding of what I'm saying.
  14. Apr 3, 2010 #13
    Re: Overpopulation

    I wasn't saying that there is or isn't a correlation between global warming and global population growth. I was pointing out that when people think in macro-theories like these, their attention tends to shift away from their behavior and power as individuals in everyday life. Furthermore, they forget that in order for population control to be attempted, some individuals have to make an attempt to exercise power/control over other individuals, which brings rights into question, and is a form of repressive violence. I wonder if people realize they are arguing in the direction of repressive violence in this thread. It's easy to forget when you frame it as a macro-scale issue where the lives of individuals become little more than pixels making up a bigger picture.
  15. Apr 3, 2010 #14
    Re: Overpopulation

    Do you have any idea how some people react to a statement like this when they don't have the critical intelligence to question the underlying assumptions? Never mind, I'll just tell you - it produces a strong sense of fear when people are faced with the threat of unacceptable catastrophe combined with no hope that it is preventable.

    If you want to avoid your ideas having a potentially terrorizing effect on some people, you should include some achievable alternative scenarios. What is the point of alarmism?
  16. Apr 3, 2010 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    As with every other catastrophy you've posted your fear about on PF in the last year, this one is nonsense too. Population growth rate slows as countries develop, so developed countries will level off (most already have). Countries like India and China are already overpopulated, but with development will come a drop in population. Africa may have problems, but they won't spread to the western world.
  17. Apr 3, 2010 #16
    Re: Overpopulation

    I wonder if people who hold onto this logic of developed and developing countries developing differently in terms of population patterns realize that the only reason these differences happen is because of draconian resistance against migration.

    Migration control IS a catastrophe of development. Humans naturally migrate to expand to seek more resources when their cultures prove successful for achieving population growth. Eventually, humans should start migrating into outer space and other planets. There's no reason that repressive control over population and migration should become a permanent state of affairs for human life. If it does, it is only because a sufficient number of people have become completely unable to empathize with the plights of those whose will to reproduce, migrate, or both is repressed.

    Everything spreads globally one way or the other. All attempts to contain humanity and culture within separated regions ever achieves is global repression, its discontents, and the eruptions of violence that occur as a result.
  18. Apr 3, 2010 #17
    Re: Overpopulation

    I'd wager that African problems in this respect will spread to the western world in (at least) two different ways: On is quite indirect, based in the need for some kind of economical sustenance for the growing population; and that is deforestation, depletion of natural resources and pollution. The other is a very direct tendency of migration towards the north (Europe), by any means available, including illegal ones, causing an increase of social problems and crime.
  19. Apr 3, 2010 #18
    Re: Overpopulation

    Important to note that much of the criminality of migration is the result of policies specifically designed to criminalize migrants and by doing so create a disincentive to migration in order to control it.

    So when people go on about "illegal immigrants," it's kind of a catch-all demonization to justify forced emigration for anyone who can be denied naturalization or other resident status. Now that "human trafficking" and other crimes of migration are being developed, the legal means of criminalizing and policing people are being expanded. This is in addition to employment-permitting and similar controls. Of course, some of this is actually to promote migration where people keep a low profile and work for whatever pay or conditions.

    Either way, the important point with regard to population growth is that geographical borders are utilized as a means to ensure that population growth can be contained within defined boundaries and that relatively wasteful cultures of consumption and land-use are protected for others.

    It would be wonderful to say that everyone who is concerned about the negative consequences of population growth is also interested in reducing those consequences by transforming culture so that more people can be comfortably sustained with the same resource-footprint and migration can take place in a way that promotes development instead of conflict - but there's so little willingness to even consider taking responsibility for global problems, that migration control seems to be just one more level of ignoring problems instead of solving them.
  20. Apr 3, 2010 #19


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    I don't feel that the answer to world overpopulation is to spread people until every liveable spot on the earth is packed beyond the ability to sustain them.

    I know some people say that sooner or later the issue will resolve itself, massive wars, famine, plagues. Is that how we want to resolve things?

    We need to start educating everyone to limit the number of chidren they have.
  21. Apr 3, 2010 #20
    Re: Overpopulation

    I understand this position, but I'm not an idealist in this matter.

    It is a fact of the field that uncontrolled immigration into already quite crammed spaces will lead to social problems and crime. This is not me pointing my finger at anyone and saying that they are to be blamed, it is me trying to relate to unsentimental facts. It may be better for someone from, say, Lagos, Nigeria, to claw his way to Italy to become a street-runner for the Neapolitan Comorra, thus becoming a cog in the wheel of international crime, bit it's hardly a good thing for anybody but the most cynical operators - and a few bleeding heart liberals.
  22. Apr 3, 2010 #21
    Re: Overpopulation

    Would you then agree to live with your parents for your entire life? What about letting your kids live with you for yours? If you wouldn't, then aren't you "spreading people until every livable spot is packed?"

    Or do only look at this restriction from spreading on the macro-level?

    Since you ask, the way I want to resolve things is by pursuing cultural reform until no further efficiency is possible.

    I have no problem with people creating and preaching cultures of few or no children. I do think it becomes a problem when people go beyond practicing and preaching culture and begin creating cultures of control and manipulation to intervene in the reproductive choices of others without due process and respect of the rights of the accused.
  23. Apr 3, 2010 #22


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    I have no problem with the current imigration laws. Imigration must be controlled otherwise we will have total chaos. I think uncontrolled migration would end in bloody territorial warfare.

    If we can't control ourselves by voluntairly agreeing to control the population, then we may be in for a disaster on a scale never seen before, considering the numbers in the future. I believe that recent figures put population increase at over 90 million a year, this is net *increase*. We simply cannot sustain this long term. We've already see what the world population is doing to the planet.

    Voluntary control *now* could possibly avoid mandatory control in the future.

    BTW, my two younger sisters have decided to have no children and one lives with my mother. I had two kids and one is moving in with me, the other has moved in with her father.
  24. Apr 3, 2010 #23
    Re: Overpopulation

    I think ethnic territorialism and conflict leads to bloody territorial warfare. I think nationalism and other forms of ethnic territorialism set the stage for war by creating a separatist "peace."

    Well, I wish people would talk about cultural effects on the planet instead of assuming it's a quantity problem. Please tell me you at least see the difference between assuming that culture is fixed and quantity is the problem and considering that culture is variable and how much impact quantity has depends on how they live.

    I also think that culture is responsible for the social disasters that combat population growth, such as wars and economic repression. When fear of overpopulation spreads, people go on alert for everything from migration to whether to turn the computer off or put it to sleep.

    People should be concerned with the social and resource impact of their activities, but they should start by understanding the relationship between activities and resources. Until they have a strong grasp on quantities of resources consumed by various activities, they should resist alarmist reactions to population statistics.

    I have seen too much hate and violence result from population fears to support malthusian propaganda.

    That's like threatening someone that if they have more than two kids you'll kill them.

    Not to be rude, but have you ever thought that all of you living in the same house together could free up one more domicile for someone else? In fact, if you would move in with another family, you would increase the ratio of people to houses by a factor of four. That allows 4x the population to live in the same number of houses. You may not like the idea of densification, but isn't it preferable to forced population control?

    I say this but really I don't think the issue is that dire. If you look at how much land is unused or inefficiently used for things like parking lots, there's plenty of room for population growth.

    The main factor, imo, is driving - because large vehicles create traffic problems and the impetus for road-expansion, which is the most detrimental in terms of environmental impact I think. When people walk or bike instead of driving, the number of traffic in the same width of road goes up tenfold.

    Another waste of resources is animal husbandry. Have you ever read the amount of land-area and water resources that go into each pound of meat compared with vegetables? I think it's something like 7 vegetarians that can eat from the same land area, agricultural resources, and water as one meat-eater.

    If someone is a vegetarian and only walks or rides their bike everywhere, and they want to complain about population, I'd be a little more inclined to take them seriously. When someone says that there's not enough resources on Earth but they're living like a king, I wonder why they don't at least attempt to promote cultural reforms before immediately calling for population control.

    It's like when people complain about their utility costs, but they refuse to change their thermostat, blow insulation into their attic, or any other usage change that will lower their bill. They expect others to drastically modify their activities to sustain their culture, but aren't willing to even consider modifying theirs - and in the name of freedom!
  25. Apr 3, 2010 #24


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Overpopulation

    Basically, it comes down to having too many people on the planet, and people need to be educated to have fewer children, otherwise we are going to have even more serious problems ahead of us.

    It sounds like you live in an area that has some extreme cultural issues that prevents people from seeing the bigger picture. They are too consumed in their own little circle of predjudices to care about what goes on in the world outside of them. That's a shame. I live in the US, so I see things in a different perspective.
  26. Apr 3, 2010 #25
    Re: Overpopulation

    I rub my eyes... but yes, it says what it says.

    It also goes on to regurgitate the stupidest of the stupid *vegetarian* utopia oxcrap.

    Dude, get a frackin' grip. Grow up, get *funked* up, whatever it takes. These are *humans* we are talking about. Predator monkeys. Mean and vicious creatures, not at all like the puppies you see in Disney movies. Nor very much like the guitar swinging, choir-singing "we shall overcome some day" hippies with flowers in their hair that you will find on campus. The reality of large masses of generally quite poor people is violence and misery; a constant and merciless war over ever diminishing natural resources.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook