How far is Population Growth a “Major Global Problem”

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Population and the changes that it experiences are important in explaining and understanding many other aspects of human life. For example population levels and population density are commonly used as indicators for development with lower figures considered to denote a more developed region. According to the 2000 revision by the United Nations Population Division “world population reached 6. 1 billion in mid-2000 and is currently growing at a rate of 1. 2 per cent, or 77 million people per year”.

With many nations struggling to support the existing residents and a large number of them being unsuccessful it is evident that this continuous increase in population is causing serious problems. This essay will look at where growth is occurring as well as examining the reasons why and how it affects the world as a whole. Population is measured using data from censuses and civil registrations but these do not take place in every country and as with a lot of data, it is not completely reliable. Therefore a certain amount of estimation and prediction is required using models and past data.

Population growth is simply the change over time of the population of a certain country. The United Nations Population Division revealed that the top three countries in terms of annual world population growth are as follows: India accounts for 21 per cent, China 12 per cent and Pakistan 5 per cent. Pakistan and India are home to many Muslims and their “high birth rate and youthful age structure” (Daniels et al 2001) are obviously major contributing factors to the ranking of these countries in terms of world population growth.

Predictions made by the United Nations Population Division indicate that the population of the more developed regions will remain fairly stable, but that of the less developed regions will increase from 4. 9 billion to 8. 2 billion in fifty years time. Total fertility rate (TFR) is an important element of population growth as it is a measure of children born to a woman over her lifetime. The replacement level fertility i. e. the amount of children born per woman that would be needed to sustain current population levels is 2. 1.

This is because one child is needed to replace each partner – the biological mother and father – and is also taking into account infant mortality, hence it is more than two. The TFR in most of the more developed regions is below replacement rate and so it is immigration that causes the stability of the population level as opposed to a decrease. The TFR in the less developed regions is more frequently above replacement rate for example India at 3. 3 and Pakistan at 5. 5 (Human Development Report 2001). The effects of population growth occur on both a local and a global scale.

One of the more obvious consequences is the increased demand on resources, especially on food. As stated by Thomas Malthus in his 1798 report “An essay on the Principle of Population”, if population growth exceeded food production growth, food prices would rise leading to a decline in wages and therefore the standard of living. This, in turn, could result in an increase in mortality. So there is a greater requirement for food and in extreme situations such as that of famine or natural disaster, aid is provided by those nations with plentiful supplies of both capital and provisions.

In contradiction, it is often the case that those nations in greatest need of food are exporting it to the more developed countries that later supply the aid. This indicates that the problem extends from local to global in terms of impact. It could, of course, be said that it is instantly a global problem as it affects members of the human race and therefore it is in the interest of all to assist. Another significant issue is that of labour supply.

If the labour force expands at a higher rate than other factors of production, and the level of productivity remains the same, the wage will fall and as Malthus suggested, this could result in a decrease in the standard of living and in turn an increase in mortality (www. queensu. ca 2001). The effects of population growth discussed so far have mainly involved less developed regions. There are also difficulties in the more developed regions, as is the case in Florida in the USA. This, again, is a matter of increased pressure on resources and concerns the water supply.

The state of Florida, in the South Eastern USA has a population increase of around 900 people per day. It has a large tourist industry with as many as 39 million people visiting in some years (www. nps. gov 2002). This tremendous number of people require vast amounts of water so much so that many residents of the west coast now drink desalinated water. The problem is intensified by the accommodation requirements of this influx of population as the buildings and paving reduce permeability meaning that less water enters aquifers and so less is available for basic usage (www. nps. gov 2002).

Much of what was previously wetlands in the Everglades National Park has now been drained in order that the land can be used for agriculture. This results in a loss of important natural habitat enforcing the idea that population growth affects many, both directly and indirectly. In order to limit these problems, and at the same time the growth of population, there are several fundamental factors that need to be altered. Education about family planning and the availability of contraception is clearly a step forward but there also needs to be the will to limit family size (Daniels et al 2001).

When it is realised through experience that smaller family size tends to be associated with a better quality of life, change can occur. However it is frequently in the make-up of the culture that families are of a large size and that it is the role of a woman to bear many children. This also links to high levels of infant mortality where children may be less likely to survive due to a poor quality of life and therefore many children are raised. This cultural thinking is difficult, perhaps even impossible to alter and it is not the place of those outside of these cultures to implicate change in this form.

This essay has looked at the recent findings of demographic research in the 2000 revision of the United Nations Population Division as well as the effects of population growth in both a local and global dimension. Methods of reducing population growth have been discussed yet in conclusion it is really only the residents of a nation who have the ability and the right to succeed in this. Therefore it can be determined that population growth is a major global problem to quite a serious degree yet in terms of what can be undertaken globally to resolve these issues, it is limited to those directly affected to take action.

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