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Overpopulation and its negative consequences

The United States has been rated as the most populous country after China and India and is estimated to have a population exceeding 265 million. Further, statistics indicate that the country’s population is growing at 2.5 million people per year; hence the United States is one of the world's fastest-growing industrialized nations. For instance, in 1994, there were approximately 3.95 million births versus 2.29 million deaths in the United States, resulting in a net natural increase of nearly 1.7 million. Net immigration therefore stood at approximately 816,000 people. By 2050, the country's population is projected to increase by approximately 130 million people whom critics place as the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California. However, for such an industrialized country, it experiences one of the largest cases of unintended teenage pregnancies indicated by 60 percent of pregnancies and 40 percent of births. The world’s population is currently approximated to be growing at 74 million people every year and projections put forward by the United States indicate that the world’s population shall hit the 9.0 billion mark by the year 2050 assuming the projected decline in fertility rate of 2.65 children per woman shall decline to 2.05. This decline is projected under a comparative analysis since the 1950’s was double this rate at 5 children per woman. The less developed countries such as Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan are expected to account for the largest quota of 5.3 billion with a world’s population of 7.8 billion. The United States however is an exception to this since it’s expected to grow by 44% from a population of 305 million in the year 2008 to 439 million in 2050. Global life expectancy has also increased from 46 years in 1955 to 65 years in 2000-2005 and is projected to rise to 75 years in 2045-2050. Population increase in more developed countries will further be boosted by high immigration rates whereby the net immigration rate is projected at 98 million. Further, deaths are projected to exceed births in developed nations by 73 million by 2050; international immigration shall play a key factor in the net population increase. By 2100, the Unite States population is expected to be at 3,145,049,297. This essay therefore endeavors to show that overpopulation is a major problem in the United States and further discusses its social, economic, political and environmental impact.

There are various merits and challenges of overpopulation. The resultant advantages are however few and it has largely been detrimental to various aspects such as the environment. The large population has largely driven consumption and demand for various goods and services higher. This therefore has created a vibrant market which has boosted the country’s economy. Already, demand for beef and grain has reached staggering levels. In fact, the per capita grain consumption in the United States is four times higher than that in less developed nations.

Rapid population increase has prompted the growth of megacities and rapid urbanization. By 1800, only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities. 47 percent of the world’s population had already migrated into cities by the twentieth century. In 1950, there were already 83 cities with a combined population exceeding 1 million. In 2007, this had risen to 468 agglomerations. In 2000, there were 18 megacities and conurbations such as New York City with populations exceeding 100 million. Greater Tokyo already has a population of 35 million which exceeds Canada’s entire population. By the year 2025, Asia alone shall have over 10 hyper cities each with a population exceeding 20million such as Jakarta with 24.9 million. Currently, cities the world over hold 3.2 billion of the population which is expected to rise to 5 billion by the year 2030 whereby 3 out of every 5 people are expected to live in cities. In the next 25 years, most melodramatic changes are expected to take place in developing countries. This however may not be positive in its totality since cities encourage the rise of shanty towns which are breeding sites for drug addiction, crime, alcoholism coupled with problems such as high unemployment rates, poverty resulting in high child and infant mortality rates and diseases due to poor sanitation, malnutrition and poor basic health care. Currently, one billion people, which is one-sixth of the world's population and a representative of one-third of the overall urban population, lives in shanty towns and is expected to rise as urbanization and the consequent industrialization sets in.

There are however multiple challenges resulting from overpopulation. The greatest challenge of them all is the unavailability of adequate fresh water for domestic purposes as well as sewage treatment and effluent discharge. This has prompted nations such as Saudi Arabia to use highly energy-intensive desalination to solve water shortages. The world over, 1 billion people cannot access a clean glass of water every day. This has resulted in the starvation to death of 10 million children and 8 million adults. These water shortages have not been limited to other nations only. Contrary to popular belief of immunity to this critical problem by the United States citizens, various states have experienced water shortages. Atlanta, Georgia has exceeded its water carrying capacity in the past 4 years yet its population is expected to double from the current 8.2 million to 16.4 million. In Florida, wells have been sunk resulting to the environmental hazard of sunk holes. Yet, homes and malls are rapidly being built and the population is expected to double from 18 million to 36 million by the year 2050. This is truly absurd and uncalled for. In Colorado, 11.5 billion gallon annual shortfall is estimated in contrast to a projected population growth of 5-6 million by 2050. Therefore, Colorado’s water resources shall not only be unable to support humans but also animals and crops. In Denver, 2 million residents are expected to settle in the state by 2050.This shall also greatly strain its water resources. However, the State of California shall be worst hit with an addition net population increase of 1700 a day and 400 vehicles a week! The Colorado River is the chief source of water for desert states such as Arizona, Nevada and California but with the projected population growth rates, the environmental impact on this vital water resource shall wipe it out.
A strain on natural resources has been documented in a recent study carried out by the United States Geological Survey. Deforestation and the loss of ecosystems which sustain the oxygen –carbon dioxide balance has been greatly tampered with. Estimates show that eight million hectares of forest are lost annually the world over. This has ultimately resulted in global warming, the irreversible loss of arable land and desertification. Over 2 billion hectares of arable land have already been lost with a projection of an annual loss of 16 million. In Nigeria alone, 351000 hectares are lost annually due to the expanding population’s activities. Research projects that the United States has lost 90 percent of its northwestern old-growth forests, 50 percent of its wetlands and 99 percent of its tall grass prairie in the last 200 years. Most mass species have become extinct or endangered especially in tropical forests due to human activities such as slash and burn practiced by rapidly expanding rural populations. It is estimated that around 140,000 species are lost annually. An IUCN Red List indicates that 717 animal species have become extinct during recorded human history. Fossil fuels have been largely depleted driving energy costs higher. Estimates indicate that 51% of the world’s fossils are used by China and USA. There is a higher contrast in that Americans constitute 5% of the world's population yet they consume 25 % of the world's energy.

Pollution has been a key effect resulting from overpopulation. Air, water, soil and noise pollution has risen significantly in the last century. Approximately 39% of rivers, 46% of lakes and 51% of estuaries in the United States are still too polluted for safe fishing or swimming. Pollution caused nearly 20,000 beach closings in 2004, the highest level in 15 years. Already in Florida’s Boynton Beach pollution due to overpopulation has resulted in the demise of the popular Florida coral reefs. This is the United States only continental reef system which extends from Boynton Beach to Delray Beach. This is due to the flushing of water from canals which contains high nitrogen and phosphorous levels from the land and sewage. Therefore, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides used on lawns, agriculture and golf courses ends up in the water courses. While pollutants such as ammonia may evaporate, they eventually end up in the lake through rain. This results in marine eutrophication since these substances encourage the growth of algae which kills both hard and soft corals. Consequently, tourism has declined by 25 percent. These are the world’s environmental treasures and they deserve to be protected. In 2004, 31 states had statewide fish consumption advisories in place because of toxic pollution. The EPA’s Wadeable Streams Assessment found that 42% of all U.S. stream miles are in poor condition. More than half of those found in the eastern portion of the U.S. and 40% of those in the central region are considered to be in poor condition. According to American Rivers and the website, eighty percent of streams contain insecticides, drugs, or other chemicals. During 2002 and 2003, in just Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, pollution in rivers and streams killed 3.5 million fish. The numbers of miles of rivers containing fish that may be harmful due to pollution, increased from 2% to 14% from 1993 to 2001. Waterborne germs and parasites cause an estimated 7.1 million mild-to-moderate cases of infectious disease in the U.S. annually. Every year more than 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water and industrial waste are discharged into U.S. waters.  The Environmental Defense Fund reports that 80% of the cancer risks from air pollutants nationwide are from mobile transportation sources. As cities and suburbs continue to grow at record pace, pollution emitted by commuters will only grow worse. About 70 percent of the heavy construction equipment used in California in 2005 was old enough not to have to face any emission control regulations, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. In 2004, fine particle pollution exceeded the annual and daily national health standard at air quality monitors in 55 small, mid-sized, and large metropolitan areas located in 21 states and home to 96 million people. Therefore, overpopulation, as a way to curb pollution, needs to be taken care of.

Finally, governing an overpopulated country presents a load of problems. Since the economy is stretched to the breaking point, civil wars are likely to break out over farmland. These wars lead to underdevelopment since industrialization and urbanization is greatly neglected. The government has to sell vital fossil fuels at cheap prices to raise cash in order to cover rising national debts. In Queensland, Australia, the politics of overpopulation are already boiling over. In the United States, numerous campaigns and awareness programs have already started which are also putting pressure on the government to act on overpopulation.

Overpopulation is therefore a major problem in The United States and the world over. Man does not need land for standing on only as this may be the case by 2100. Major steps such as birth control, economic incentives such as those successfully implemented in China whereby women with less than 2 children are rewarded, removing tax write-offs for large families and employing birth control and family planning methods should be put in place. This shall go a long way in ensuring that Mother Earth is able to sustain her population in coming years.





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