In my mind, most of the biggest environmental issues such as deforestation, overuse of natural resources, water quality and scarcity, really boil down to one problem we need to face: overpopulation.
I was reading this story on Reuters explaining a report from the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Global Sustainability issued Monday that touched on the problem of overpopulation (Read the overview of the report here). Really, it’s a tough issue and most governments don’t seem ready to tackle it.
“Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply,” according to the article.
Whenever I think about the problems of our growing population, which recently reached 7 billion globally, I remember a story my college sociology professor told us, which (if I recall correctly) was based on this case study of a reindeer herd on St. Matthews Island.
The island was home to a small group of reindeer that were brought to the island by the Coast Guard. The population grew and grew, and happily chomped through all the available food; they continued to breed until the original group of 29 ballooned to 6,000 in just over 10 years.
The year after that peak, the population starved and died off, leaving only about 50 survivors.
This is a simplified analogy of what happens when you have a population (think: people) confined in a limited space with limited resources (Earth) who have offspring at rates higher than can be sustained by the resources at hand.
According to the article, there isn’t enough headway being made on sustainable development and there’s not enough political will to do what needs to get done.
“There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year – an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather,” the article says.
The U.N. group suggests some courses of action to support sustainability, including having governments agree on sustainable development goals, working on increasing productivity and reducing resource use, avoiding the continued loss of biodiversity and lots more.
Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think all the world’s governments will be able to coordinate the action needed to control the problem, especially since people often don’t like the idea of government controlling personal freedom. I feel like this is an issue that will lead to some horrible consequences. I hope I am proved wrong.
I suppose until then, we should all at least do what we can – recycle, reduce our consumption, support sustainable practices – and just wait and see what happens.
Website for the week:
I will stop being a Debbie Downer for a minute and direct you to a website that offers all kinds of eco friendly items: LiveEcoFriendly.com. I’ve found lots of useful stuff here, and they have a great selection. Add it to your bookmark list.