Today, as of November 2018, there are around 7.7 billion people living on our planet! Hominids have been around for only 5 to 6 million years. But, in this time we have grown at such a rate that it seems doubtful if this 4.5 billion year old planet, with all its resources, will be able to sustain us for long.
Probably, it's time we took Thomas Malthus' theory of population more seriously, and took steps to fight the ill effects of overpopulation.
The tremendous development in the field of medicine has ensured that we are no longer prey to the diseases that would have wreaked havoc earlier. With scientific and technological advancements, the standard of living has improved remarkably.
This is corroborated with the spurt in population, which took place with the Industrial Revolution. All this has led to an increase in birth rate, drop in death rate, and an increase in the average life span of human beings.
Depleting Natural Resources
Technological advancements have not only transformed human life, but also the face of this planet. Cars, trains, and aircraft have all helped us to save time, which has added immensely to the efficiency of human beings. However, the numerous factories and industries, which manufacture goods need a regular supply of energy.
For years, we have fallen back on fossil fuels, but so rampant has been the growth of industries that we have practically dug up all the known deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas. The state of affairs is so grim that we have raged ghastly wars against other nations for want of energy.
Extinction of Species
To accommodate more people, we need more land. For setting up more industries and factories, we again need land. To build power plants, we require land. Our needs do not seem to end, but the land area definitely is limited. So desperate is our requirement for space that we have been recklessly cutting down trees and clearing large areas of forests.
With this we have been, and still are, wiping out hundreds of species, each day. These species are important for maintaining the delicate balance of nature, on which existence of every life form on this planet depends, including ours!
Other than land, we witnessed how indiscriminate hunting of animals for food and business has pushed some of the magnificent animals like the cheetah, blue whale, and the tiger to the brink of extinction. Currently there are more than 96,500 species on The IUCN Red List, and more than 26,500 are threatened with extinction.
Other than guzzling down tons of fuel everyday, the thousands of industries, factories, and vehicles that have become our lifeline, are continuously spewing out toxic gases. Besides this, the harmful effects on our health and global warming is one of the gravest consequences of overpopulation.
With the average temperature of the planet increasing at a steady rate, the levels of seas and oceans are also rising. These elevated levels threaten to submerge low lying areas in the world.
It is being speculated that the melting ice sheets of Greenland and the crumbling glaciers of Antarctica will submerge major coastal cities by the end of the century. Coastal Alaska has been frequently hit by storms and floods due to climate change. As a result, villagers living in these areas have been relocated a couple of times already.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives was heard appealing to other nations, when he said this to the UN in 1992 "I stand before you as a representative of an endangered people. We are told that as a result of global warming and sea-level rise, my country, the Maldives, may sometime during the next century, disappear from the face of the Earth."
Effect on the Economy
Population growth pushes the GDP per capita of a nation down. While the government tries to meet the needs of its people, increase in population increases the demand for resources. With not enough food to take care of its men, such countries can't even think of producing surplus to export, and with this starts the vicious cycle of relying on foreign debt.
This was just the tip of the iceberg. With more people and less resources, there is unemployment, which leads to poverty and increased crime rate. Shrinking habitat is giving rise to increased conflict between man and animals.
As the borders between forests and human settlements gets blurred by the day, human beings are being exposed to viruses that are carried by wild animals who have the immunity that we lack. This is precipitating in newer and more virulent strains of microorganisms, causing serious diseases in human beings.
Overpopulation problems are myriad, but the solution is just one. We need to stem the rampant growth of human population or devise ways to prevent the harmful overpopulation effects. As per present knowledge, there isn't any other planet that can support complex life forms such as us.