Bursting at the Seams

April 23, 2012
By marvel0us BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
marvel0us BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In 1966, Martin Luther King stated, “Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.” It is frightening to realize how much we have grown (according to the USCB, the population is estimated to be at 6.97 billion as of October 2011), and how unaware we are of the consequences of this growth. It is even more uncomfortable to see how fast we are still growing. It took 200,000 years for the human population to reach one billion in 1804, yet in only two hundred years, that amount has multiplied sevenfold. Though the consequences of this increase in human weight are not imminent in the current day, future times will bring changes caused by the carelessness with which we treat population control today. Shifts in culture and human value will plague all societies. In addition to corruption, the health of the Earth as a whole will decline, destroying what may have been the only place in the entire universe that played host to life, a phenomenon too often taken for granted. Fortunately, easy and effective steps can be taken to counter the exploding human race, if only we were to listen to those who are only perpetuating the truth. Even as the development of human intelligence and innovation is growing at a rate faster than ever before, the alarming reality is that we are living in a world that is bursting at the seams with consequences that are inevitable and not as far as they seem.
Changes in cultural tides will inescapably arise along with numbers in censuses around the world. A growth in population means a growth in the number of able bodies in the work force, but it is useless because history has shown that the availability of jobs does not increase along with the number of people who are qualified for them. In 1950 the United States, before a huge climb in population growth increases, the unemployment rate stayed between four and five percent, with the population estimated at around 161 million people (http://www.bls.gov/opub/uscs/1950.pdf). Today, the population of the United States is estimated at more than double the number in 1950, at 312 million and an unemployment rate of 9.1%, according to the United States Census Bureau. After an increase in unemployment follows an increase in poverty levels, with NPR reporting the United States’ poverty rate at more than 15.1%, the highest it has been in seventeen years (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/13/140438725/census-2010-saw-poverty-rate-increase-income-drop). As numbers grow even larger, economic consequences will be surpassed by cultural and demographic catastrophes. American author and biochemist Isaac Asimov states all too truly that “Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.” As it always has, society will privilege those who will help further human domination, and the rest of the population becomes only a burden of bodies. When human numbers swell out of control, it is inevitable that organization becomes messy with it. The concept is simple: if birth rates refuse to go down, death rates must go up. Wars, riots, and purposely imposed famines in solely brash attempts at population control rip and tear at natural human principles, that we are all created equal. When numbers multiply, societies are more prone to rebellion and conflict between each other, meaning it is more than possible that all of humanity will be thrown into a constant state of atomized conflict and chaos. As less and less matters to the species wielding the most power, human overpopulation robs not only from its own children, but that of the entire Earth.
It is widely believed that Earth is the only planet harboring the jewel of life in the entire universe, but the actions of the human population do not show that this fact is being taken seriously. Human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation have caused the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to increase by about 35% since the beginning of the age of industrialization (http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-dioxide-levels.htm). These increases in greenhouse gases cause increases in atmospheric temperature, thereby causing gradual but extremely harmful changes in the different climates. The extra heat is melting the polar ice caps, destroying habitats of the animals that depend on the ice for food and shelter. It is tweaking the temperature and acidity of waters that cover more than 71 percent of the planet, causing thousands of species to go extinct, many of which we have not yet discovered, and thus we are losing secrets that might hold valuable information even before we have the opportunities to discover them. On land, plants unaccustomed to new temperatures do not have enough time or resilience to adjust to survive. As John Muir said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” One missing species causes consequences for those who depend on it, and so on, leading to a domino chain of unsustainability. Also, the more humans there are, the more resources are needed to fuel human projects. It has been difficult to find a healthy way to dispose of waste, but easy to dump toxins into rivers and oceans, where they wash away, allowing corporations to have peace of mind stemmed from not being able to physically see the consequences of their greed and bigotry. But these poisons affect environmental health as a whole, increasing levels of pollution in the air, water, and earth. It is a fairly simple concept that if there is no Earth to make money on, there is no point in making money. The human population, driven by economic wealth, often does not realize this, which is the most dangerous aspect of the situation; even as we are tearing down the world that we have been lucky to receive by multiplying over the biological capacity for our species, we still do not acknowledge our faults and continue to cross our fingers for the problem to go away while digging ourselves even deeper into this hole we have made. And so, we make the first jump by taking our heads out of the sand.
The steps to bandaging the problems stemming from overpopulation are fairly intuitive, but they have not been taken simply because of lack of awareness. Most know that there are a lot of people. But their knowledge of the human population extends only so far. Perhaps a little light was shed with the breaking of the seven billion point only in late October of this year, but awareness of how fast human numbers are growing is still very limited. When the public becomes learned in the demographic, cultural, and environmental penalties of population increase, it will become more motivated to make a turn in the crash course we have already set for our future and that of those around us. Though a daunting and seemingly unfeasible task, overpopulation can still be reversed. Along with awareness and education, not having children and general physical welfare will be the keys to gradually sloping the population into one that is healthier and more secure for the future. It is obvious as to why sexual carefulness will lead to fewer children. But the reason many women in third world countries borne so many children is the simple fact that not all of them are guaranteed to survive. Therefore, a general increase in physical health will help in slowing down the dangerous rate of population growth. This may seem unrealistic, but the truth is that if we do not at least try, we will never stop our tumult into an irreversible downfall of the planet.
Demographic, cultural, and environmental conflicts have already become imminent, but what we see today is only the tip of an iceberg of consequences. Human worth and morality will fall into the gutter, and the privilege of calling Earth home will be ruined. If the public were to be made aware of the results of its own actions, it will be able to put into action a plan to slow down the presently steep and perilous decline of worldly welfare. Stopping the effects of overpopulation requires a group effort. There is no more evidence needed to show that we must swallow our greed and fear to face the future if we are to save the world from the demise we have created for it.

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