Overpopulation and the Carrying Capacity of the Earth

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Overpopulation and the Carrying Capacity of the Earth

As humans start a new millennium, we have close to 4 billion more than we had at the beginning of the last millennium. In the next 50 years we are looking at adding another 3 billion people. Such a rapid increase has placed great strains on the Earth and leads us to ask – how many people can the earth support? The answer is rather obscure, however it seems like we are approaching our limit rather soon. With decreasing aquifers, shortages in food, and increasing pollution, the Earth has reached its limit.

Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that can be supported by the available resources while still leaving resources for future generations. All living organisms have this concept behind them. The main factors of food and water and space give a ballpark figure as to how many of one species can live in a certain area. Humans also have a carrying capacity however; unlike our lesser-developed counterparts in the animal kingdom our “certain” area encompasses the whole world. On top of that, our carrying capacity seems to change from time to time. Technological advances in agriculture and in health services have vastly increased life expectancy and other factors of carrying capacity. The first major, change of carrying capacity probably came around the Industrial Revolution, safe water was becoming available, refrigeration was being used, and the advent of the automobile and ship travel allowed humans to spread out and sustain themselves. Even today our carrying capacity is changing, with medical and agricultural breakthroughs being heard of everyday, life expectancy in developed countries is increasing all the time.

As the Industrial Revolution came ...

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... land degradation also contributes to overpopulation. Land once full of life sustaining minerals and resources have been destroyed by deforestation and desertification, rendering them inhabitable and pushing people closer together.

In the end, damage has been done so extensively we can only hope to control the situation. Optimistically, we as humans can hope technology can somehow find a way to keep sustainable resources and to increase the carrying capacity of the earth. However, if the technology did present itself, the countries that need it most would not be able to afford it. The only key to controlling the spin overpopulation has placed the earth in is through education. Education in family planning, education in eco-friendly practices, and educating minds to help solve the problems that we have created basically in the last 100 years are our only hope.
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