Human Population Growth

Long-Term Consequences of Exponential Human Population Growth

Many dire predictions have been made about the world’s population leading to a major crisis called the “population explosion.” In the 1968 book The Population Bomb, biologist Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich wrote, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”Paul R. Erlich, prologue to The Population Bomb, (1968; repr., New York: Ballantine, 1970). While many experts view this statement as incorrect based on evidence, the laws of exponential population growth are still in effect, and unchecked human population growth cannot continue indefinitely.

Several nations have instituted policies aimed at influencing population. Efforts to control population growth led to the one-child policy in China, which is now being phased out. India also implements national and regional populations to encourage family planning. On the other hand, Japan, Spain, Russia, Iran, and other countries have made efforts to increase population growth after birth rates dipped. Such policies are controversial, and the human population continues to grow. At some point the food supply may run out, but the outcomes are difficult to predict. The United Nations estimates that future world population growth may vary from 6 billion (a decrease) to 16 billion people by the year 2100.

Another result of population growth is the endangerment of the natural environment. Many countries have attempted to reduce the human impact on climate change by reducing their emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. However, these treaties have not been ratified by every country. The role of human activity in causing climate change has become a hotly debated socio-political issue in some countries, including the United States. Thus, we enter the future with considerable uncertainty about our ability to curb human population growth and protect our environment.

Link to Learning

Visit this website and select “Launch movie” for an animation discussing the global impacts of human population growth.