General Question

HoneyBee's avatar

Is over-population a real threat to earth's current inhabitants?

Asked by HoneyBee (347points) October 3rd, 2010

Is it a myth or is there any truth to it at this point in time?
Or is it propaganda or used as a scare tactic or something else?
Referring here to the United States.
Obviously in China it’s a real threat based on their one child policy just to name one example. But what about in the US?

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16 Answers

Coloma's avatar

There is truth in everything.

Yes, with finite resources and over population we are taxing our planet at this moment in history.

It is also true that the earth will right the balance eventually, and this probably means mass extermination to regain the balance.

Unless we blow ourselves to bits with nuclear weapons mother earth will shake off her parasites when she can no longer sustain the draw.

Maybe next month, maybe not for another 40,000 years. lol

Ame_Evil's avatar

Overpopulation on a world with limited space and limited resources is definitely a problem. Especially if you look at world population trends you’ll find it will be sooner before 40,000 years before we are facing trouble.

crisw's avatar

Well, as long as “current inhabitants” includes non-humans. of course it’s a threat. Habitat destruction is the primary cause of species extinction.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Although I disagree with the anthropomorphism, @Coloma‘s statement is a summary of the Malthusian trap.

However, I fail to see how the one child policy means that the Malthusian trap is a real threat in China. It’s evidence that there is a large population in China and that’s about it. The US consumes far more resources per person than any other nation. With rising competition from abroad – notably China and the far East, we could expect that, if the situation remained as it is now, food and other commodity prices would eventually spike as other nations – notably China – develop technological infrastructure and the expecations of their populations increase. Increased competition for energy and food resources will drive prices through the roof, leading to severe economic problems and possibly conflict. This is not propaganda – we saw oil and gas prices spike in 2007, which caused a spike in home energy bills and road fuel prices.

If the US continues to turn over arable land to biofuel production, the next spike in food prices for staples such as wheat will be exacerbated in the US domestic market. Just imagine the civil unrest if the poorest 20% of the population suddenly can’t afford to feed itself.

However, this ignores techonlogical advances in food and energy sciences. There is a reason that the majority of Western governments are sponsoring research and investment in renewable energies and GM foods – increased crop yields and energy independence are critical areas of both domestic and international policy for the next 50 years.

It could get very, very nasty – if the energy requirements of the US, EU or China are not met by fair means in the next century, I would fully expect any of them to go to war to secure them. I see no reason why food is not the same.

The jaws of the Malthusian trap will snap shut unless we can innovate our way to something sustainable. The US is not immune.

cockswain's avatar

Although I don’t have a source handy, I read a few months ago some predict the population to level off around 10 billion. Also, as a nation becomes more industrialized and “free”, the population growth rate tends to decline.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

However, if everyone in the world started living like Americans – it would take 3 Earths to fulfill the demand for resources

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Your question is worded in such a way that it pretty much answers itself. “Over-population” is the key word there. Certainly if the world is “over-populated” with anything then by definition it’s a problem, a threat.

And it is certainly true that the increasingly large (which is to say “growing”) population of humans is certainly a threat to many other species. Not all species, but most of the larger ones that prefer to live in the wild. (We’re not much of a threat to the continued existence of chickens, cows, cats and dogs, for example, but we’re a near-certain extinction vector to tigers, bears, gorillas and tuna, to name a few. Conversely, bacteria and certain insects and spiders are doing better and better around us.)

So I don’t know how to reword your question with less bias. Do you perceive the potential threat to “other human inhabitants” or “all other living inhabitants of the planet”? Because we haven’t even touched on the plant kingdom, and they inhabit the planet, too. And since I don’t understand how your question is directed, I can’t answer it.

Cruiser's avatar

Nope and never will be as Mother Nature is the great equalizer. No matter how smart we may think we are, there simply is not enough resources to stave off some plague or mass starvation event that will sufficiently thin the herd to sustainable populations.

laureth's avatar

Besides food and energy, water is expected to be a problem. Saltwater is already ruining the ground water in California, and it won’t be pretty in the Plains states when the Oglala aquifer is gone. That’s the thing about hungry people who have nowhere to go – they come a-knockin’ on your door. Another Migration age is a danger for everyone in its path.

wenn's avatar

Yes, yes it is.

An isolated example is Easter Island, population grew, not enough space and resources to accommodate the increasing number of people, they all died off.

zophu's avatar

Population management is possible. Resource management can be much more efficient than it is, and alternative resources can be developed. Theres no reason to be gloomy and doomy about that. People should collectively demand these technologies to be developed and used, though, instead of waiting for it to be done for commercial or political interests. Because its not in commercial or political interest to be efficient or sustainable, or especially humane. Profits can’t be made unless theres something scarce in demand; control can’t be had if voluntary groupings of people can live well on their own in technological independence. Resource depletion, natural disaster and war are great news for those safe in their towers. It’s just the right environment to manipulate the vulnerable world into something more ideal. I just wish the average person was more organically idealistic, so that we would collectively have a sense of at least trying to get something meaningful done for our world.

seagull51's avatar

basically, the amount of resorces you have, and the amount of habitable space, decides what your maximum population can be. At the moment less people are wanting to be farmers so food production is down and for other reasons we will soon hit a population ‘wall’ where we cannot provide for our population and a massiave amount of us will die.

85% of people who have ever lived over 65 are alive today

Coloma's avatar


That’s an interesting statistic, wow!

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s a combination of overpopulation and mismanagement of the available resources.

20,000 people starve to death each and every day.

Jabe73's avatar

Finite resources, finite amount of space I would say yes. Great question. In fact it is the absolute biggest threat to mankind and the future of our planet. Don’t believe ne now? Just wait another 50 years.

@cockswain I hope you’re right.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I think it is an issue at this point in time. At the rate population is growing, somewhere along the line earth is going to reach it’s capacity and space and resources will run out, obviously. So the sooner one slows down this growth towards an inevitable catastrophe, the better.

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