By 2020 the world’s population could well have doubled to around 12 billion people

By 2020 the world’s population could well have doubled to around 12 billion people. Are there just too many people in the world, or is it a question of a better and fairer distribution of the world’s resources?”

The question is asking if there are too few resources available for the increasing population, or if there are just too many people in the world. The keywords in the question are population and resources. By population, the question is referring to the number of people in the world and by resources; it is asking if there are enough natural assets, such as water, food, oxygen and space. The problems caused by an increasing population include the depletion of natural resources, such as non-renewable energy supplies, and food supplies. Currently resources, and population are very unevenly spread and most supplies occur in areas where they are not needed.

Mankind has reached the point of the exponential curve. Earths population doubled in the 40-year period from 1960 to 2000, from 3 billion to 6 billion. In the last two years, the population has grown another third of a billion people. That offers the possibility of a doubling time of only 27 years to reach 12 billion. Partly as a result of this, it is reported that 420 million people live in countries that no longer have enough cropland to grow their own food. They have to rely on imports. The reduction of cropland could be caused by an increase in pollution, creating negative effects on the environment, or it could be due to the expansion of urban areas due to an increasing population.

A quarter of the developing world’s cropland is being degraded, and the rate is increasing. The greatest threat may not be shortage of land, but a shortage of water. More than half a billion people live in areas prone to droughts. In the next twenty years, that number will increase five times, to between 2.4 billion and 3.4 billion people. Currently, that means half of Earth’s population will run out of water within 20 years. It is impossible to farm animals and grow crops without water, which will therefore lead to a decrease in food availability, especially in areas already suffering from famines.

A recent report, released by the World Watch Institute, declares that, “Mining consumes 10% of the world’s energy, spews out toxic emissions, and threatens 40% of the world’s undeveloped forests.” These effects could be drastically reduced but, unfortunately, governments are not moving quick enough to stem the tide. This indicates that it is suspected that a major contributing factor to the problem is the attitudes of people. Very few governments are taking radical measures in an attempt to prevent the foreseen problems of the future. The reason for this is that because the problems are not yet taking a huge effect, by the time the effect becomes apparent it will be too late, and any attempts at solving the problem will be useless.

One of the great challenges for governments is to help their poorest citizens feel secure in their own homes, make a living and improve their environment. Around 1.2 billion people live in absolute poverty – surviving on less than a dollar a day. As populations spiral upward, the underground water tables are dropping. Many regions face severe drought. Deserts are growing. Forests are being cut down and the land they leave behind is wasting away. Since forty percent of all vegetable and grain food supplies come from irrigated land, a failing water supply creates sever food shortages.

Many countries are facing water shortages in the twenty-first century, especially India, whose population passed one billion in May 2002. They are currently expanding by 18 million per year. Water withdrawals now double the environments ability to re-supply. Half of India’s grain harvest comes from irrigated land.

World Watch reports, “In a country where 53 percent of all children are already malnourished and underweight, a shrinking harvest could increase hunger-related deaths.”

Another threat is shrinking croplands. Some nations already depend almost entirely upon imported food. Eventually, the food will simply not be available to those nations. First, increased costs will drain those nations of their economic cash flows, and one day, the exporting nations will not be able to supply food at any price. Among the countries where shrinking croplands threaten food supplies are Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. Nigerias population will increase from its present 111 million to a estimated 244 million by 2050, while its grain-land per person will stay the same. That means each person will have less than half the current supply. Pakistan is expected to grow from its current 146 million to 345 million by 2050. By that time, each person will be dependent upon a piece of grain-land the size of a tennis court. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan already import 70 percent of their grain.

Water supplies are fixed by nature. They cannot be increased. On the other hand, an ever-increasing population can deplete them. This is also true of croplands.

I feel that although an increasing population is having a drastically negative effect upon the depletion of the world’s resources, and that resources are clearly unfairly distributed. It is the richest and relatively most sparsely populated countries, particularly Western Europe and America that receive the highest share of the world’s natural resources. This is because they are the richest countries and can therefore afford to grow their own resources as well as import others, yet offer very little money for them.

The effect this has is that the worlds resources are being unfairly relocated into the richest countries where it could be claimed that they are being wasted. It is clear that the richest countries currently have an excess of resources that they could share across the world to help combat the problem stated by the question. The problem with this is that it is non-profitable and the countries would lose a lot of money, which in a materialistic world is more important than tackling issues of poverty and malnutrition.

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