The Earth’s population has now surpassed 6 billion people, a number reached because of levels of exponential growth. This number should be seen as an outstanding accomplishment in terms of having the resources to feed and keep healthy all 6 billion people. However, is this growth the reason for the depletion of natural resources that our world currently faces?
The magnitude of the population number is not necessarily the problem. A bigger problem is the increase in unsustainable and wasteful ways in which natural resources are currently used in many places today.
What matters is the size of the ecological footprint that highly populated nations have on the Earth. With such large populations, it is imperative that the ecological footprint of a nation is not larger than the nation itself. Overpopulation has occurred in many nations, leading to unsustainable uses of resources because of the explosion of trade and consumption, practices leading to poverty stricken people acting in unsustainable ways just to survive, regions not being able to sustain larger populations, and large family sizes due to cultural patterns or levels of education.
This issue is important not just because 6 billion is already a large number, but because the growth is not expected to slow anytime soon. The World Population Prospects, the 2000 Revision Highlights states, “By 2050, world population is expected to be between 7.9 billion (low variant) and 10.9 billion (high variant), with the medium variant producing 9.3 billion.” Therefore by 2050 there will likely be 9.3 billion reasons to understand the effect that population growth has on depleting the Earth’s natural resources. So what’s the solution? Although I wish I had a ‘silver bullet’ answer, as you know, the answer is as complex as the problem. However, minimizing the use of resources and increasing the sustainable use of remaining resources is a great start.