The current rate of population growth is now a significant burden to human well-being. Understanding the factors which affect population growth patterns can help us plan for the future.
1. Causes of Overpopulation:
i. Decline in the Death Rate:The fall in death rates that is decline in mortality rate is one fundamental causes of overpopulation. Owing to the advancements in medicine, man has found cures to the previously fatal diseases. The new inventions in medicine have brought in treatments for most of the dreadful diseases. This has resulted in an increase in the life expectancy of individuals. Mortality rate has declined leading to an increase in population.
Owing to modern medications and improved treatments to various illnesses, the overall death rate has gone down. The brighter side of it is that we have been able to fight many diseases and prevent deaths. On the other hand, the medical boon has brought with it, the curse of overpopulation.
ii. Rise in the Birth Rate:Thanks to the new discoveries in nutritional science, we have been able to bring in increase in the fertility rates of human beings. Medicines of today can boost the reproductive rate in human beings. There are medicines and treatments, which can help in conception. Thus, science has led to an increase in birth rate. This is certainly a reason to be proud and happy but advances in medicine have also become a cause of overpopulation.
iii. Migration:Immigration is a problem in some parts of the world. If the inhabitants of various countries migrate to a particular part of the world and settle over there, the area is bound to suffer from the ill effects of overpopulation. If the rates of emigration from a certain nation do not match the rates of immigration to that country, overpopulation makes its way. The country becomes overly populated. Crowding of immigrants in certain parts of the world, results in an imbalance in the density of population.
iv. Lack of Education:Illiteracy is another important cause of overpopulation. Those lacking education fail to understand the need to prevent excessive growth of population. They are unable to understand the harmful effects that overpopulation has.
They are unaware of the ways to control population. Lack of family planning is commonly seen in the illiterate lot of the world. This is one of the major factors leading to overpopulation. Due to ignorance, they do not take to family planning measures, thus contributing to a rise in population.
Viewing the issue of increasing population optimistically, one may say that overpopulation means the increase in human resources. The increase in the number of people is the increase in the number of productive hands and creative minds. But we cannot ignore the fact that the increase in the number producers implies an increase in the number of consumers. Greater number of people requires a greater number of resources.
Not every nation is capable of providing its people with the adequate amount of resources. The ever-increasing population will eventually leave no nation capable of providing its people with the resources they need to thrive. When the environment fails to accommodate the living beings that inhabit it, overpopulation becomes a disaster.
2. Population Characteristics:
i. Exponential growth:When a quantity increases by a constant amount per unit time e.g. 1, 3, 5,7 etc. it is called linear growth. But, when it increases by a fixed percentage it is known as exponential growth e.g. 10, 102, 103, 104, or 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. Population growth takes place exponentially and that explains the dramatic increase in global population in the past 150 years
ii. Doubling time:The time needed for a population to double its size at a constant annual rate is known as doubling time. It is calculated as follows:
Td = 70/r
where Td = Doubling time in years
r = annual growth rate
If a nation has 2% annual growth rate, its population will double in 35 years.
iii. Total Fertility Rates (TFR):It is one of the key measures of a nation’s population growth. TFR is defined as the average number of children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime if the age specific birth rates remain constant. The value of TFR varies from 1.9 in developed nations to 4.7 in developing nations. In 1950’s the TFR has been 6.1. However, due to changes in cultural and technological set up of societies and government policies the TFR has come down which is a welcome change.
iv. Infant mortality rate:It is an important parameter affecting future growth of a population. It is the percentage of infants died out of those born in a year. Although this rate has declined in the last 50 years, but the pattern differs widely in developed and developing countries.
v. Zero population growth (ZPG):When birth plus immigration in a population are just equal to deaths plus emigration, it is said to be zero population growth.
vi. Male-female ratio:The ratio of boys and girls should be fairly balanced in a society to flourish. However, due to female infanticides and gender-based abortions, the ratio has been upset in many countries including India. In China, the ratio of boys to girls became 140 : 100 in many regions which led to scarcity of brides.
vii. Life expectancy:It is the average age that a new-born infant is expected to attain in a given country. The average life expectancy, over the globe, has risen from 40 to 65.5 years over the past century.
In India, life expectancy of males and females was only 22.6 years and 23.3 years, respectively in 1900. In the last 100 years improved medical facilities and technological advancement has increased the life expectancy to 60.3 years and 60.5 years, respectively for the Indian males and females. In Japan and Sweden, life expectancy is quite higher, being 82.1-84.2 for females and 77-77.4 for males, respectively.
viii. Demographic transition:Population growth is usually related to economic development. There occurs a typical fall in death rates and birth rates due to improved living conditions leading to low population growth, a phenomenon called demographic transition. It is associated with urbanisation and growth and occurs in four phases:
(a) Pre-industrial phase characterized by high growth and death rates and net population growth is low.
(b) Transitional phase that occurs with the advent of industrialization providing better hygiene and medical facilities and adequate food, thereby reducing deaths. Birth rates, however, remain high and the population shows 2.5-3% growth rate.
(c) Industrial phase while there is a fall in birth rates thereby lowering growth rate.
(d) Post industrial phase during which zero population growth is achieved.
Demographic transition is already observed in most developing nations. As a result of demographic transition the developed nations are now growing at a rate of about 0.5% with a doubling time of 118 years. However, the matter of concern is that more than 90% of the global population is concentrated in developing nations which have a growth rate a little more than 2%, and a doubling time of less than 35 years.
3. Population Explosion:There has been a dramatic reduction in the doubling time of the global human population, as we have already discussed. In the 20th century, human population has grown much faster than ever before. Between 1950-1990, in just 40 years the population crossed 5 billion marks with current addition of about 92 million every year, or so to say, adding a new Mexico every year. In the year 2000, the world population was 6.3 billion and it is predicted to grow four times in the next 100 years. This unprecedented growth of human population at an alarming rate is referred to as population explosion.
India is the second most populous country of the world with 1 billion people. If the current growth rates continue, it will have 1.63 billion people by 2050 and will become the most populous country surpassing China. So we are heading for very serious ramifications of the population explosion problem.
If we look at the population statistics of our country we find that in just 35 years after independence we added another India in terms of population. On 11th May, 2000 we became 1 billion and now we can say that every 6th person in this world is an Indian.
Population explosion is causing severe resource depletion and environmental degradation. Our resources like land, water, fossil fuels, minerals etc. are limited and due to over exploitation these resources are getting exhausted.
Even many of the renewable resources like forests, grasslands etc. are under tremendous pressure. Industrial and economic growth are raising our quality of life but adding toxic pollutants into the air, water and soil. As a result, the ecological life-support systems are getting jeopardized.
There is a fierce debate on this issue as to whether we should immediately reduce fertility rates through worldwide birth control programs in order to stabilize or even shrink the population or whether human beings will devise new technologies for alternate resources, so that the problem of crossing the carrying capacity of the earth will never actually come. There are two very important views on population growth which need a mention here:
i. Malthusian theory:According to Malthus, human populations tend to grow at an exponential or compound rate whereas food production increases very slowly or remains stable. Therefore, starvation, poverty, disease, crime and misery are invariably associated with population explosion. He believes “positive checks” like famines, disease outbreak and violence as well as “preventive checks” like birth control stabilize population growth.
ii. Marxian theory:According to Karl Marx, population growth is a symptom rather than the cause of poverty, resource depletion, pollution and other social ills. He believed that social exploitation and oppression of the less privileged people leads to poverty, overcrowding, unemployment, environmental degradation that in turn, causes over population.
A compromise between the two views is required because all these factors seem to be interdependent and interrelated. Equity and social justice to all, allowing everyone to enjoy a good standard of living is the need of the hour that can voluntarily help in achieving a stabilized global population.