Essay On World Population Explosion

World Population Explosion

 

Outlines : It is grossly irresponsible to talk of the Earth being able to support an ever-increasing population. If that happens, the world’s life support systems will collapse. The plain statistics of world population are staggering. It now stands, but not still, at around 5.3 billions (1 billion = 1,000 millions), and is increasing at the rate of over 200,000 babies every day. By 2,000, there will be a billion more people, the near equivalent of another China. While the West is worried about global warming, ozone depletion, and such other less tangible hazards, India is faced with an immediate environmental crisis that threatens millions of her people whose livelihoods depend on the land. It shows how the country’s forests, farmlands, air, and water were deteriorating rapidly from the heavy toll of industrial development and overexploitation. A film was presented as a consequence of a policy of massive and multipurpose industrial and hydroelectric irrigation projects which had been seen as the path of economic salvation to escape the twin traps of poverty and underdevelopment. The result was a legacy of polluted water, degraded farmland and disappearing forests. The dilemma facing the country, then, was stark : how could India develop without destroying its natural resources and could its future be greener as well as richer?

There were interviews with planners, ministers, industrialists, farmers and their families. There was general consensus that the direction economic development had taken after Independence had been wrong, and while the huge projects had brought some benefits, they had also caused far more serious natural and sociological devastation. Not everyone agreed, however, but there was no doubt that the majority thought that the process could not go on, and needed a basic change of course. Some economists were shaken by the planner who complacently said that India could support twice the present population provided the economy was properly managed. That is, with policy change, which one had to assume was capable of immediate and effective implementation, the country could feed, clothe, and house twice as many people as there are today, to acceptable standards. The statement recalled similar statements which used to be made in the Fifties and Sixties by experts in their several fields, how, when India achieved a certain measure of steel production or a usage level of so many cusecs of river water per head of population, the country would have reached a `takeoff to prosperity. These fantasies were based on pickings from irrelevant extraneous sources but nevertheless delighted the politicians. Ecology and environment were growing out of infancy in those years, but the experts had not heard of them or found them inconvenient in furthering their per theories. The basic official approach to large-scale development has not changed. In the same strain, a Chief Minister defended the Narmada project and seemed oblivious of its potential for disaster. He showed a startling understanding of ecology when he gave an assurance that for every tree destroyed by the project, he would have four planted elsewhere. And who could ask for more? It was all a bit terrifying. A 10page article on India’s river basins’ development by a Secretary to Government in New Delhi, in an Indian engineering journal made not a single reference to environment. One thing is certain; the dire prediction of Mark Cardwardine, zoologist and environmentalist, that “If we leave it to nature to solve the population problem, before the end of the next century there are likely to be environmental and human catastrophes that would dwarf anything ever seen to date,” is more likely to be realised if India’s population doubles.

Of course, more people could be fed (and clothed and housed) if radical changes are made in the use of land and resources. Vast areas of arable land in the Third World are used to grow cash crops (growing these bestows status on farmers in some countries) for export to the richer nations. If that land was used to grow crops for local consumption, it would both help assuage hunger and reduce pressure on encroachment of marginal lands. Equally, a less materialistic lifestyle in the rich countries would lower the impact on the environment. But neither of these desirable changes is likely in the foreseeable future. In fact, one can confidently say that they will not take place. One needs only to look at the development plans of the Third World Countries, or travel a little in Britain, the U.S. or Japan, and speak to their ‘common men’ about their expectations. A new awareness of environment notwithstanding, few are ready or willing to contain their quest for material riches. Therefore, a prediction that with a change of direction in its national economy, leading to massive economic growth, a poor country could absorb huge increases in its population, can only be an act of faith. In any case, such economic growth is unlikely.

It is of interest to look at how such a geometric increase in human numbers has come about. All figures of world population, except those of the recent past, can only be estimates. But demographers have toiled on them for years, and a pattern has emerged.

From an estimated 100 millions in 500 B.C., world population rose to its first 1,000 million around 1830. By 1930, it doubled : further 1,000 million were added by 1960, 1974, and 1987, that is, it increased fivefold. (The dip in growth was caused by the Black Death, the bubonic plague which swept across Asia and Europe in the 14th Century. The death toll in Europe alone is estimated at 20 millions, while far reliable, but undoubtedly greater, figure for Asia exists). These high growth rates occurred in populations already of very large size, with peaks in the early sixties, when each year growth was around 2 per cent or 70 million. Since, with a slightly smaller growth rate, absolute numbers have gone up to 80 millions a year, because of the higher base. We need not go into the ways of this explosion in any great detail. Suffice to say that the two primary causes were the industrial revolution of the 19th century, and the rapid economic and industrial development of the present. In the latter context, increased food production, better nutrition, medical and sanitation services, and social insecurity have all been factors. A commonly held theory that population will continue to grow with increase in food production is now seen as simplistic. The rich countries which grow most food, have the least, or even zero or negative, growth, while famine stricken countries continue to increase their numbers. Nutrition, medical and sanitary improvements have obviously contributed to greater survival rate. The influence of the Catholic Church in Latin America and Islam in the Muslim countries cannot be disregarded. But, perhaps, most significant of all, are some traditional compulsions. Insecurity of parents and high child mortality lead to a choice of large families as insurance for old age. Resistance to and effective means of birth control, the myth of more children as proof of men’s virility, and the low status and self-esteem of women in poor religion dominated societies, all lead to bigger families.

Can we predict what the world population is likely to be in future? Population projections are extremely difficult. They can only represent extensions of current assumptions to future 8 to 12 billion have been variously suggested as likely between mid 21st century to its end, nearly 90 per cent of it in the Third World with smaller increases in the rich countries not ruled out. Comes the crunch question : can the Earth support these numbers in reasonable prosperity? Even with half that number at present, half of this again live in an appalling state of poverty, malnourishment, and near starvation. Under present economic systems—and there is no great sign that these are in the process of radical change the carrying capacities of many areas of the world have already been exceeded, in sort case irreversibly.

 International conferences on population and the environment of the last 20 years, have repeatedly stressed that millions of people were likely to die of starvation before the end of the century. The famines of Africa and elsewhere lend tragic credibility to these dire predictions.

It is grossly irresponsible to talk of the earth being able to support an everincreasing population. If that happens, the world’s life support systems will collapse. The more people there are, the greater the strain on the environment, the greater the consumption of natural resources, and the greater the production of waste. Do those, who talk blithely of greater numbers pause to think of the reduced quality of life that would inevitably be imposed on the greater numbers? The legitimate question to ask is, how many people can the earth support with some assurance of a reasonable living standard. Do we really want to put the predicted 8 to 12 millions to the test, or ought we to strive towards a smaller cut off, considering what a gigantic task even that would be! One also needs to remember that populations trend to concentrate in the large cities, where a semblance of essential services is available, and in no conceivable way can they be evenly spread as climatic and geological conditions, ground fertility, ethnic rivalries, and a host of such other factors make this impossible.

The well-known Global 2,000, an American compilation made for the President of the U.S. in 1980, concluded strongly, ‘If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Despite greater material output, the world’s people will be poorer in many ways than they are today. For hundreds of millions of the desperately poor, the outlook for food and other necessities of life will be not better. For many it will be worse life for most people on earth will be more precarious in 2000 than it is now.’ True to the statement made at the start of this essay, responsible opinion that differ 2d from the general consensus on environmental matters was countered by L. Simon and H. Kahn in their “The Resourceful Earth—a Response to Global 2000.” They saw an improved outlook for food and other necessities by that year. Sadly, world situation in these respects has worsened in the last 10 years, and thus this optimistic scenario cannot be supported.

Successful development and successful population are interdependent. In the long term, the world’s population can be checked only by grappling with the complex economic issues which are the cause of the problem, and by making a conscious and all-out effort to keep numbers in control as that process is set going. If we do not take action that is successful, there is little doubt that nature will do it for us, in a peculiarly merciless way. If India doubles her population, she will not be able to take successful action in these terms.

The explosion of human numbers has also meant the extermination of many other living creatures. There appears a close connection between population growth since the mid17th century and the number of species that have become extinct. Extinction is a biological, reality—from which we are not exempt—and is part of the evolutionary process. In any period, including the present, there are species which are doomed from an incapacity to adapt to naturally occurring planetary changes. But the rate of animal extinctions in the post17th century period is abnormally high compared with previous centuries. Overhunting and overexploitation, with development of technology, began this process of unnatural extinctions : but, today, the accelerating reduction of natural habitats of the animals is clearing them out by the spiteful. As the book “A Response to Global 2000″ put it,—the extinctions projected for coming decades will be largely human generated, and on a scale that renders natural extinction trivial by comparison. Efforts to meet human needs and rising expectations are likely to lead to the extinction of between one fifth and one seventh of all species (of plants and animals), over the next two decades.” To me, this is a truly horrifying prospect. An apocalyptic faith in explosive economic growth as the cure-all of man’s ills, is not an escape route from a self-imposed self-destruction.

August 30, 2017evirtualguru_ajaygourEnglish (Sr. Secondary), LanguagesNo CommentEnglish 10, English 12, English Essay Class 10 & 12, English Essay Graduation

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