Population And Its Effect On The Environment

Over time, the world's population has grown at an exponential rate. Many have questioned whether or not our planet can sustain such huge numbers of humans without serious depletion of natural resources, and shortages of vital substances, such as water and air. Many feel that we are inevitably going to use up what we have much too quickly and that we will not realize this until it is too late to change our patterns and habits.

In the United States, there have been many efforts to help save the environment, and to protect our childrens' futures. But these efforts, in relation to the damage being done, are nothing. Germany is known for having implemented effective recycling, and many school children learn to live with recycling and other efforts to save the environment in order to help the future. All of these small changes help the future, but with a global scale reformation it is unlikely that a difference of large enough impact can be reached in time.

After reading an article for the in class debate on what is happening in the Chesapeake Bay Area, it is obvious that our efforts, although noble, are not enough. An example is that we have decreased our harmful emissions by between 30 and 50 percent, but in the same amount of time our population has nearly doubled, so the reduction barely makes a difference simply because of the high population growth in that area.

Another article, this one about Kahzakhstan, tells the sad story about their lake, Kazalinsk, which when translated means 'place of fish death.' The reason behind the name, was the fishing industry. Now it sounds more like a bad joke. Since the 1960's Lake Kazalinsk has been shrinking. Now there is nothing left of it. The elders of the region did not notice the change in the water levels at first. But now it has changed their lives forever. Intestinal and stomach disorders are epidemic, and the infant mortality rate is 50 to 60 per 1000, compared to 8 per 1000 in the United States. One man said, "the children have no idea what the sea was like, or the river for that matter. They have never soaked their feet in the sea's warm, salty waters, never seen the sun sink gloriously into its azure depths, never heard the surf breaking against the shore after a storm, sounding like the fizzle of a million champagne glasses being poured at once." Now it is too late to rescue the Kazalinsk and the children will most likely never know the glory of the sea that once was.

The question being asked is that of sustainability. Can the Earth sustain our huge growing numbers of people? In order to answer this, we must ask ourselves what we mean by sustainability. My opinion of sustainability is what involves a zero-sum game of distributing fixed natural resources among people's regional demands for habitability and life-style. However, this is too confining for our growing world population. A better way to look at this is to consider that the planet is finite, and with that all of its resources are also finite. Unless we restrain ourselves, no matter what happens, we will eventually reach the limits. The exponential trends of population growth and resource depletion will be globally devastating. With this we can see that unless we act immediately and strictly, the quality of life as we know it will only rapidly deteriorate.

Quality of life, as we know it, is most commonly measured using data collected on infant mortality rates, life expectancy rates, and education standards, such as literacy rates. Using these rates we can learn more about the general population of a town, country, region, or even our planet. However, it is absurd to conclude that an illiterate person with a short life expectancy will lead a terrible life. These factors indicate numbers, which must be then put into perspective with the culture and their views on personal freedom, and how they foresee life.

Another big issue with sustainability of the world's population and the environment is whether or not we can feed ourselves. One article I read said that the planet could easily increase food production. In industrial countries only about 10 percent of the work force is needed in production and distribution of food, therefore there are no limitations with the work force. Currently in industrialized nations, more than half of the food produced goes to waste through spoilage. The crucial issues are more likely to be the availability of water, and energy to support the growing, processing and distribution of the food.

Water is a big concern for the growing global population. Water is the world's most valuable, and most wasted resource. If the water needs of the next two hundred years are to be met, then the global population needs to put into effect international and continental management of the water supply. Although many regions have implemented such programs, it has yet to be done on the global scale, which is key.

As we can see through these many examples, the problems we will encounter in the future in relation to population and sustainability are all easily remedied when they are handled promptly and wisely, and most importantly on a global scale. We know what we have to do, and we have the means to do so. The biggest barrier is getting everyone on the planet to participate in order to save the planet for our children, and our childrens' children.

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