The contemporary times have seen a rise in the cost of resources and increased pressure on the available resources. Natural resources such as water, food and minerals are reported to be underground consumption at rates higher than the rates of their production. This is attributed to the bludgeoning population growth rates, which are described to be greater than exponential. Based on the present consumption reports and the data for the past 50 years, some scholars have argued that overpopulation is bound to result in resource depletion. On the other hand, some scholars argue that population growth is a natural phenomenon and that the carrying capacity of the world cannot be exceeded since natural checks such as famine come into play. From a survey conducted through college students in was determined that people tend to look for alternatives when resources are scarce and thus overpriced. Other outcomes of resource depletion as indicated from the literature and the survey include increased innovation and creativity and industrialization. This in turn results in the encroachment of the available natural resources and eventually leads to famine. These outcomes are associated with changes in the climate which cause low productivity and reduction of water resources. It can therefore not be said that famine comes about to check over-population, but is an indirect result of resource over- exploitation.
Resources accessibility is a key concern of the growing populations in the contemporary times. Throughout the world, resource constraints have been felt in different extents at the same time that the population is experienced to be growing at alarming rates. Crucial natural resources such as water, vegetation and different types of minerals have shown variations in availability, with some being projected to near extinction in the next 50 years. Various studies in the past have created a link between the population growth rates and the growing resource depletion rates in the world today. Compared to a century ago, the natural resources are experiencing higher depletion rates attributable to the rate of their consumption across the world. These rates, instead of being minimized through strategic use of the available resources, are increasing due to demands. Population growth thus poses a challenge to natural resources besides other factors such as climatic variability and sustainable development.
While many studies focus on making the connection between resource depletion and population growth, other authors have made it a debatable argument by asserting that an increase in population beyond the carrying capacity results in natural off-setting events such as famine. In the argument provided by Zabel (2009) for instance, the population growth rate does not impact the resource availability since there are natural countering processes. On the contrary, the population growth rate is influenced by the energy changes in the world. This paper therefore brings to the fore the arguments pertaining to each side of the debate with the objective of understanding what outcomes would result from an increase in resource demand beyond the carrying capacity of the world as a result of population growth. The research questions that guided the researcher towards achievement of this objective include:
- What are the observable outcomes of population growth?
- How would these outcomes be projected in the next 50 years?
The answers to these questions will be sought based on a combination of secondary research and primary research based on surveys. The paper is organized into distinctive sections including a literature review, methodologies, results and discussions sections. The paper ends with a list of recommendations provided by the researcher on how to tackle the subject of overpopulation and its impacts on resources.
The population growth rate in the world during the contemporary times is described as being greater than exponential (Parolari, Katul and Porporato, 2015). According to a study conducted by Sherbinin and others (2007), the total world population was 6.7 billion as at 2015 and is projected to have grown to a total of 9.2 billion by 2050. Similar sentiments about the ever-growing population have been sounded by other authors such as Hails (2006), and Gleick (2003). Gleick argues that the population grows; the number of people in the world becomes infinite resulting in increasing demand for the available resources. According to Lutz and others (2011), unprecedented population growth poses significant challenge to sustainability in the supply of resources such as water and energy. Moreover, the growth is also accompanied by changes in other sectors of life such as development and industry (Lutz et al., 2011).The sentiments produced by different researchers raise concern about what would happen in case the population continues to grow unprecedentedly.
Younger (2006) adds to the discourse relating to reduction of water resources through the argument that increased population levels are indirectly responsible for lack of safe drinking water, particularly in the developing nations. In most underground water sources, the water is untreated and thus reduction in the amount of water at the source implies that people access dirty water which is potentially unsafe for their consumption. In Younger (2006) reports that nearly 14,000 to 30,000 people die annually across the world due to lack of safe drinking water. Water borne diseases are common in areas where there is no access to clean drinking water. This formed the foundation of the 2030 global environmental goal of increasing clean and safe water access to all people across the world.
Parolari and others also support the argument that water is the most fundamental resource in the world today (2015). They however go on to claim that in spite of the greater than exponential population growth experienced today, the modern populations are also very resource- use efficient. As such, their consumption of essential resources such as water is significantly lower than that of the past generations. Gleick (2003) explains that the universal carrying capacity is finite, capable of holding a finite amount of the essential resources. The high population growth rate has resulted in an infinite population which incessantly competes for the finite resources in the world.
Sherbinin and others also attribute various resource challenges to the infinite population in the world today. According to them, the pace of resource increase is linear and incomparable to the rate of population growth. For instance, the rates of food production are growing linearly and at times reducing. This results in pressure on the available resources which may be offset by natural balances and checks such as famine which decrease the population massively (Sherbinin et al., 2007). The debates on the impacts of overpopulation in the world should thus be centered on the comprehension of the dynamics in the human – environment interactions. While some authors such as Hails, Sherbinin and others argue that overpopulation is a predecessor to resource stretching, others like the World Economic Forum (2014) and Zabel hold a contrary opinion.
In Egan’s argument, the total consumption of grain in the last 8 years was greater than the total production in the eight years (2010). Similarly, other outcomes have been identified including catastrophic climatic conditions and the potential depletion of minerals such as tin, lead and cupper within the next 25 years if extraction were to continue at the current rates. Other authors also view the impacts of overpopulation through different perspectives. For instance, Speidel and others (2009) assert that overpopulation has led to increase in the demand for water, food, timber and fiber among other resources. On the other hand, Asoka, Thuo, and Bunyasi (2013) adopt and urban centered analysis through which they find out that overpopulation puts pressure on resources such as water, sewerage systems besides encroaching into reserved areas. They therefore recommend that land use planning should take into consideration factors such as demographics, socio- spatial issues, economics, and environmental factors (Asoka et al., 2013).
In spite of the many assertions made concerning the role of excessive population growth on resource depletion, the World Economic Forum (WEF) (2014) argues that the examination of the potential for future resource availability has been pegged on fallacious paradigms such as threats to natural resources; stress on increasing costs; prominence of resource abundance; and focus on the occurrence of social justice which do not examine the underlying assumptions to the arguments supported. The WEF further argues that if the assumptions are to be considered, it would be observed that population growth would have no significance on resource demand in comparison to economic growth by 2035 (The World Economic Forum, 2014)
Stern (2007) opines that instead of the conventional paradigms, focus should be inclusive of the resource distribution processes. Authors such as Zabel (2009); Zabel (2000) and Wrigley (1990) have posited that population growth is not a driver of resource demand but rather an outcome of shifts in energy supply. This brings forth the perspective of a population driven towards and maintained at equilibrium through natural processes.
The key method used in the study besides the literature reviews was a survey approach. Creswell (2007) describes surveys as an approach to qualitative research that represents views collected directly from the sources. The results obtained through surveys are thus considered reliable.
The interview participants were 49 students from the campus. The selection process was conducted through a random sampling technique where only those who were requested to participate and did so willingly were considered. The students were all aged between 15 and 18 years old. 18 of the participants were male while the remaining were females.
The surveys were conducted using a questionnaire as the key material. The questionnaire was designed to address the key aspects of population growth and their connection to resources availability. The intention was to determine the perspective held by the participants concerning the role that population plays on resource allocation and how they would react in case of strain in the availability of resources.
The participants were contacted randomly on the days of the survey which was conducted on 6th and 7th March 2017. Each of the respondents was then given a survey questionnaire consisting of 8 key questions on the second part. The questions were divided into two sections, the first entailing the demographic information section. This contained questions which required the participants to give information concerning their age, number of family members, and their grade. In the next section, the participants were required to give answers about their concern for the environment and shopping strategies and frequencies. When issuing the questionnaires, the potential participants were requested to participate and informed of the objective of the study. They were also informed how their contribution would be essential in achieving the study objective and made to understand that the information they gave would be accorded unique value and used as it is. Moreover, the surveys adhered to the ethical research standards through requiring the participants to use antonyms instead of their actual names for identification. This would help the researcher to code the information received during analysis without putting the identity of the participants at risk.
The argument that population growth rate is greater than exponential brings about the impression that the population growth rate does not follow a normal curve and thus has the potential of resulting in similarly unexpected outcomes. According to many studies, the world carrying capacity is impacted negatively through unprecedented population growth rates across the world. As the populations go beyond the carrying capacity, the available resources are strained, resulting in greater pressures in the natural resources. The carrying capacity describes the maximum population that the ecosystem can comfortably support without straining the available resources. When populations exist below the carrying capacity or at the carrying capacity, the rate of formation of natural resources corresponds to their rate of consumption resulting in a balance of the ecosystem and subsequently sustainable supply throughout the ages. However, when the carrying capacity is superseded, the resources are developed at rates far lower than the rate of consumption. This indicates that there is an inevitable outcome of resource depletion in the coming years. The objective of the survey was then to understand what would happen in the world should resource depletion occur.
The survey was distinguished into two sections. The first section pertained to the demographic information which was essential in determining the reactions of individual participants to resource scarcity questions. The second section was coded based on the following questions and information. Each of the questions was identified with a number which was used to refer to it and to describe the answers graphically as depicted in the chart below.
|Are you a person who generally cares about the environment?||1|
|Do you think it is true, that resources are becoming scarcer and that we can no more fulfill our demands?||2|
|Do you stick to buying what you need only or do you always buy extra things?||3|
|How often do you go shopping?||4|
|The price of a resource is increased when it starts to become scarce. What do you think?||5|
|If an essential, favorite product that you buy is not available in the market anymore due to scarcity would you stop buying it or go for the second-best alternative/available option?||6|
Figure 1: Survey Questions and corresponding codes
The first question was aimed at determining whether the participants were environmentally conscious or not as this could influence their answers to the other questions. Those who are environmentally conscious are more likely to raise concern over resource scarcity in comparison to others. It was realized that 18 out of the 28 who answered ‘yes’ to the first question also agreed that resources were indeed getting scarcer. The chart below gives the results obtained in greater details.
Figure 2: Survey Results
The results indicate that most of the participants were environmentally conscious, some were unsure whether they were or not while a few were not environmentally conscious in any way. This implies that the decisions made regarding other questions may have been influenced to a large extent by their stance on environmental care. From the first question, it was expected that similar trends could be observed in the ensuing questions. In the third question, most of the respondents reported that they bought more than what they actually needed. This goes contrary to the information obtained from secondary sources, particularly Parolari, Kalut and Porporato’s argument that in spite of the population growth, people have become more resource- use efficient. If this were the case, it would be expected that most people purchased only what they needed. The tendency to purchase more inevitably leads to greater probability for wastage of resources.
Most participants also reported that the prices of commodities increased as they became scarcer. Based on the findings by Gleick (2003), scarcity is experienced when there is an imbalance between demand and supply such that an infinite number of people are competing to access a finite resource. In the case of goods, the same could be said to be true. The impacts of overpopulation translate to increased demands versus a declining supply which inadvertently leads to overpricing. Moreover, the tendency to adopt other optional products is clearly visible through the answers to the last questions. From the observations, only a few people would stick to products whose prices have escalated beyond affordability. Most of the participants argued that they would change while others said they may change products. This could explain the reasoning behind the impacts of population growth on issues such as development. As demand for resources continues, humans tend to develop other optional resources through industrialization and agriculture. They also tend to change consumption habits to fit the resource availability at any given time. In this way, the available resources befit the societal needs at different times. This implies that reduction in resource availability in situations where the demand is far much above the supply can increase innovativeness and creativity. The evidence of this is seen through events and durations such as the agrarian revolution and the industrial revolution in the west. At each of these times, the main objective of change was to address the resource shortage at the time. This only means that in future, if resource demand would be above the supply, humans would find ways of coping through different strategies.
The argument that pressure on available resources would result in creativity and innovation also comes with a challenge to the remaining natural resources. When the natural resources are scarce, seeking optional resources through industrialization is inevitable. Consequently, with pressure on land use, it will be observed that reduction in natural resources eventually leads to overexploitation as people encroach reserves for purposes of production. As resources such as forests are encroached, climate change becomes an unavoidable outcome. This could explain the assertion that nature acts through checks such as famine. When the climate is modified unsustainably, famine is inevitable as food production is lowered, access to water is limited and forests are exploited unfavorably.
Although it is difficult to predict the population growth rate from the survey results, it is evident that families are still large as the average number of family members reported by participants was 5. This is contrary to the conventional belief that family sizes are reducing with people generally having 1 or two children. It may also imply that people still value the traditional extended family set-up.
The place of over-population in resource depletion is still debatable. While most scholars argue that overpopulation is what results in resource depletion as people compete for the finite natural resources, others opine that population growth aims to reach an equilibrium level, after which natural processes come into play to place limits on the growth. In the former argument, resources such as underground water, food and minerals are cited as the key victims of overpopulation since their production grows linearly, contrary to the population growth rates which are higher than exponential. The latter argument posits that changes and improvements in energy providing processes were the drivers of rapid population changes during certain times in history. Through the survey, it has been established that even though people are environmentally conscious and consider resources to be becoming scarcer, they still purchase more than they need, a depiction of inefficient resource use.
Furthermore, it has also been shown that as resources continue to be depleted, costs continue to rise, driving the consumers to other resources. This inadvertently results in overexploitation of natural resources, and eventually events such as famine. Based on this latter argument, the positions held by some authors such as Zabel on the role of famine in the balance of resources and population, do not hold any water. This is because famine is the result of overexploitation which results in climate change and poor productivity. Similarly, it cannot be said that population growth is driven by energy changes since there is no substantial evidence of the same. It would thus be crucial to conduct research on strategies that could be used to enhance resource- use efficiency in order to avoid need for action when the resources are eventually depleted.
Carr and Khan (2004) identified some of the barriers to effective population control to include contraception failure, unintended pregnancies and discontinuation of contraception. The authors also attributed various resource limitation challenges to overpopulation. Based on this information, the author recommends that family planning strategies should be strengthened through activities such as awareness creation campaigns.
Secondly, internal agreement policies could be made within nations to ensure that population growth is not only controlled but that resources are also utilized efficiently. Efficiency in resource use could be as simple as using just what one needs. Sensitizing the masses on the reality of resource depletion could be the starting point of more efficient resource use. This would help to reduce the rate of depleting and hence somehow create alignment between the rate of production and the rate of resource consumption.
The idea of developing a cohesive and conclusive research paper had never crossed my mind prior to taking this class. However, I have managed to independently understand the creation of different sections alluded to a research paper. Based on this understanding, I was able to put together a paper that I believe not only represents accurate information to the reader, but also do so in a congruent and comprehensible manner.
While working on this paper, I learnt many new concepts that I would desire any student to be aware of. For instance, I previously imagined the search for secondary information to be an effortless process that would involve sitting in the library and searching through the internet. I however realized, through working on this paper that I had to have a plan, lay down the study objectives and clearly note down the characteristics that would make a piece of literature relevant to my study. In essence, this enabled me to develop a clear sense of direction and vision in my paper. I would therefore recommend that any student intending to understand their studies more should take time to dig out information from various sources as this could be the point of distinction between a good student and a half baked professional.
Asoka, G., Thuo, A. and Bunyasi, M. (2013). “Effects of population growth on urban infrastructure and services: a case of Eastleigh neighborhood Nairobi, Kenya.” Journal of Anthropology and Archaeology, 1(1), 41- 56.
Carr, D. and Khan, M. (2004). The unfinished agenda: meeting the need for family planning in less developed countries. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.
Creswell, J. (2007). Quantitative research strategy: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, sage Publications.
Egan, T. (2010, August 25). “Sustainability: Carrying capacity and ecological footprints.” World Population awareness and world overpopulation awareness, Accessed from http://www.overpopulation.org/consumption.html
Gleick, P. (2003). “Water use.” Annual review of Environmental Resources, 28, 275- 314.
Hails, C (Ed.). (2006).The living planet report, 2006. Gland, Switz: WWF International.
Lutz, A., Thomas, J. and Keita, M,. (2011). “Effects of population growth and climate variability on sustainable groundwater in Mali, West Africa.” Sustainability, 3, 21- 34.
Parolari, A., Katul, G. and Porporato, A. (2015). “The doomsday equation and 50 years beyond: new perspectives on the human- water system.” Wiley periodicals Inc.
Sherbinin, A., Carr, D., Cassels, S. and Jiang, L. (2007). “Population and environment.” Annual review of Environmental Resources, 32, 345- 373.
Speidel, J., Weiss, D., Ethelstone, S. and Gilbert, S. (2009). “Population policies, programs and the environment.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,34(1532).
Stern, R. (2007). The economics of climate change: The Stern Review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
World Economic Forum (WEF). (2014 November). “The future availability of natural resources: A new paradigm for global resource availability.” World Scenario Series.
Wrigley, E.A. (1990).Continuity, chance and change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Younger, P. (2006).Ground water in the environment: An introduction. Blackwell: Oxford.
Zabel, G. (2009). “Peak people: the interrelationship between population growth and energy resources.” Energy Bulletin.
Zabel, G. (2000) “Population and energy.’ Web, Accessed from http://dieoff.org/page199.htm
|What is your age? (15- 16) or (17- 18)|
|What grade are you in?|
|How many members are in your family?|
|Are you a person who generally cares about the environment?|
|Do you think it is true, that resources are becoming scarcer and that we can no more fulfill our demands?|
|Do you stick to buying what you need only or do you always buy extra things?|
|How often do you go shopping?|
|The price of a resource is increased when it starts to become scarce. What do you think?|
|If an essential, favorite product that you buy is not available in the market anymore due to scarcity would you stop buying it or go for the second best alternative/available option?|
|Gender||Age?||Grade||Family size?||Are you environmentally conscious?||Are resources becoming scarcer?||Do you buy extra products?||how often do you go shopping?||Does resource scarcity result in price increase?||Can you be influenced by product price to choose another alternative?|
|Male||17-18||Senior||1 sister 3 uncles 2 uncles 2 aunts||Maybe||Yes||what I need and extra sometimes||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||5||Yes||Maybe||extra things||every month||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||4||Maybe||Yes||buy extra things||every month||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||5||Maybe||Yes||what I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||5||No||Yes||in between||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Male||17-18||Senior||7 (me included)||Yes||Yes||what I need||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Yes|
|Male||17-18||Senior||A lot||Yes||No||I might buy more than I need in case of emergency||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Maybe|
|Male||17-18||Senior||6||Maybe||No||buy extra||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||3||Yes||Yes||Buy extra things||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
|Male||17-18||Senior||A lot||Yes||Yes||A combination of what I want and need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||5||Yes||Yes||I tend to buy extra things||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
|Male||17-18||Senior||4||Yes||Yes||A little bit of both||every month||TRUE||Yes|
|Male||17-18||Senior||4||Yes||No||a little bit more for emergencies||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||7||Yes||Yes||sometimes I buy extra things but mainly I focus on my needs||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||7||No||Yes||what I need only||I barely go shopping||FALSE||No|
|Male||17-18||Senior||5||Yes||Yes||sometimes a bit of both sides depends on the mood actually||every month||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||7||Yes||Yes||generally what I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||7||Maybe||No||what I need||every 2-3 months||FALSE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||6||Yes||No||only what I need||every 4-6 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||including me we’re 5||No||Maybe||sometimes I buy extra things||every 4-6 months||FALSE||Maybe|
|Male||15-16||Sophomore||5||Maybe||Yes||What I only need.||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||6||Maybe||Maybe||no I buy extra things||every month||TRUE||No|
|Male||15-16||Sophomore||5||Maybe||Yes||sometimes my needs other times my wants||every 4-6 months||TRUE||No|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||5||Yes||Yes||kind of||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||6||Yes||Yes||buying what I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||3||Maybe||Yes||sometimes yes but they’ll mostly be snacks||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||5||Maybe||Yes||I buy the things I need and extra things||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Yes|
|Male||15-16||Freshman||4||Yes||Maybe||What I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||5||Maybe||Yes||depends||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||3||Maybe||Maybe||sometimes extra||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Male||15-16||Freshman||too much||Yes||Maybe||buy what I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Male||17-18||Junior||7 including myself||Maybe||No||Stick to what I need||every 4-6 months||FALSE||No|
|Male||17-18||Senior||3||Yes||Maybe||extra things||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||15-16||Freshman||8||Maybe||Maybe||Maybe||I barely go shopping||FALSE||No|
|Female||15-16||Junior||4||Yes||Yes||Stick to what I need||every month||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Junior||5||Yes||Yes||extras are needed sometimes||every 4-6 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Senior||4 other than me||Maybe||Yes||What I need||every 4-6 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||5||Yes||Yes||I tend to buy extra things from time to time||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||17-18||Junior||5||Yes||Yes||extra||I barely go shopping||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||15-16||Freshman||4||Yes||No||what I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||6||Maybe||Yes||It depends on the things I need||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Yes|
|Female||15-16||Sophomore||5||Yes||Yes||Only the necessary||every 2-3 months||TRUE||Maybe|
|Female||17-18||Senior||We are 5 in total||Yes||No||Yes, but of course I buy extra stuff I want.||every month||TRUE||Maybe|
Researcher [First Name, Surname]
What is research?
Research studies are conducted to help us learn new things and test new ideas by first asking a question and then attempting to answer it. In the present study, we desire to understand what would happen if the natural resources in the world were to be scarce due to over- population.
- In the study, we intend to find more about responses towards resource scarcity.
- We would like you to participate because we believe you have sufficient information to help us with this study.
- The research will not hurt you in any way.
- You can choose not to answer the questions you feel uncomfortable with.
- Participating in the study would probably help you learn more about your shopping habits
- We will not reveal any information about you and you should not expect any question concerning your private life.
- In case of any question, feel free to ask [name] at any time.
The researchers have informed me about the research objective and requested me to participate on my accord. I have been given an opportunity to ask questions and informed that I can ask questions at any given time and that I am free to leave the study at any time in case I so desire.
Participation is your personal choice and the researcher will not be offended in any way if you decline to participate.