Overpopulation Problems 101: The Myths and the Facts

Overpopulation is a term often thrown around by politicians and environmental fans who don’t understand it and don’t bother to do so. While the overpopulation problems may be debatable, it doesn’t mean that unsustainable practices and poverty are not real.

In fact, we need to raise awareness about harmful human behaviors and about alternative ways to function as a healthy society. One of the methods to approach this subject is to question scare-tactics, even if they seem geared towards noble causes.

It does not mean we don’t support causes like ending poverty or providing fresh water to all. Instead, we draw attention to the true origins of the problems and not the effects. This way, we can figure out what the problems are and take relevant steps to create long-lasting changes.



Origins of the Overpopulation Scare

However, before we start, let’s look at the definition of overpopulation. According to the most popular term usage, overpopulation describes a scenario in which the number of people ends up exhausting the resources in a closed environment. As a result, the said environment can no longer support that population.

Overpopulation as a concept finds its origins in England in 1798. Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was among the first to theorize that even though food production increased incrementally, people also reproduced exponentially.

According to his estimations, the world was supposed to be out of food by the 1980s. Malthus’ solution was to encourage population reduction and the raise of mortality rates.

He said, “Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.”

Harsh, right? However, those who supported the push for depopulation over the years called it a necessary evil. Without it, there’s no saving humanity or the planet. But it’s time to talk about the problems posed by this supposed crisis.

Is there really too little space on Earth? Does it have too little resources to support this many people? What are the myths and what are the facts?

Myth #1: Not Enough Space on Earth

Many naysayers believe blame overpopulation on the apparent lack of space on Earth. It is clear to that the planet is not expanding. What we see is what we get, right? And there is only so much space for people to live in. Soon, the planet will no longer be able to support the human population.

Based on this theory, a growing human population is a potential threat to the wellbeing of planet Earth. But is this the truth or just a scare tactic?

Fact #1: World’s Population Could Fit in Texas State

The Worldmeters live counter says that we are 7,268,730,000 people on Earth. While that sounds like a lot, a simple math equation shows we could fit all of them in the state of Texas, which has a landmass of 268,820 square miles. Each person would get 1031 square feet, enough space for everyone on Earth to live in a townhouse inside the state of Texas.

That’s not to say that we should create such a massive subdivision. It wouldn’t be smart, practical, or sustainable. However, it proves the point that we are not lacking space on Earth. As such, saying that there isn’t enough room to fit the people during an exponential population growth is simply not true. Just look how small Texas is compared to the rest of the world!



Myth #2: The Entire World Is Overcrowded

As we already mentioned, we share the planet with more than 7 billion people. Such a massive number easily paints an image of human life spread densely all over the planet. But that picture is not accurate: Humans are unevenly distributed across the planet. Some large areas are densely populated, while others are mostly void of life (see Antarctica and the Australian Outback).

Fact #2: Cities Are Overcrowded, Not The World

It is true: Conditions of apparent overpopulation exist, but only in cities. Rural areas, on the other hand, are more and more deserted, as the urban population continues to rise. Since 2008, more than half of people moved to urbanized areas. It makes sense, seeing that living in a city comes with more opportunities to make money than in the countryside.

At the same time, studies show that urban areas have lower birthrates than rural areas. Cities get crowded because there is a tendency for people to move there from the countryside, not because of overpopulation or reckless reproduction.

Myth #3: Not Enough Food

Overpopulation problems not only refer to the apparent lack of space, but also to the eventual exhaustion of the resources in a closed environment. The theory was supported by reports like the one released by the Global Harvest Initiative. It stated that the world may not be able to feed itself by 2050 if the population increases to 9 billion people. But is that true?

Fact #3: Overpopulation Problems Do Not Cause Hunger

Instead, it’s unfair management that we should be worried about. Food scarcity is a myth, seeing that the world is abundant of resources that could meet the population’s needs if managed correctly. If poor people are starving to death in Third World countries, it’s because rich countries waste more that 220 million tons of food annually.

It is shocking to find out that the world’s hungry people – over one million – could be fed and pulled out of malnourishment with just a quarter of the food waste in the U.S., Europe and UK. Overpopulation is not to blame for world hunger; it’s poverty and inequality that we should look at.

“Don’t think people starve because the world is overpopulated. The world isn’t overpopulated at all. It’s just very badly managed.” – Max Igan

Creating Abundance for All While Protecting The Planet

Thankfully, there are plenty of practices that could help us lead sustainable lifestyles. Better housing and city planning, as well as sustainable agriculture, can ensure that overpopulation problems are no longer used a scare tactic.

There are already practical alternatives to unsustainable agricultural behaviors. Permaculture, for example, can help protect the Earth. On the other hand, implementing eco-villages and high-tech eco-cities could get us out of the habit of pointing fingers at a growing population.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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