Overpopulation, the one crisis that movie super villains seem to fixate on. From Valentine in Kingsmen to Thanos in The Avengers, villains really seem to care about humanity’s swelling numbers and the impact this creates. The question though comes with is it something that we should be taking more notice of?
The human population has been rising steadily since the Black Death ended in the 1300s, the most significant rise in population though has occurred within the last 100 years. Since the 1920s the human population has grown by 5.7 billion people. As of February 2020 there are thought to be close to 7.7 billion people on Earth and that number is only set to rise, reaching 9.8 billion people by 2050.
Population Booms in a World of Limited Resources
Although fertility rates are dropping in many countries, third world nations are still reporting high fertility rates. The UN has reported that 26 African countries are predicted to double their size by 2050 and every continent except Europe and Antarctica are forecasted to continue experiencing population growth over the next 80 years.
This population boom creates a significant challenge in the management and distribution of resources, disposal of waste and land management. Quite simply put, more people need more resources, more space and create more waste. The world however does not offer unlimited resources and this increased demand creates a system that the world will not be able to continue to sustain. Alongside uncontrolled population growth are projected food and water shortages, possibly leading to increased conflict in many areas, increased pollution and increased damage to the environment, further exacerbating global warming and climate change.
It may sound like these super villains might have been onto something with their concern. However, don’t go searching for the infinity stones yet, there are far less drastic ways to control population growth and limit the effects of an increasing amount of people sharing the planet. The first comes quite simply by using less resources. The average middle- class American consumes 250 times more water and 3.3 times more food than is needed to survive, cutting down on our over-usage of resources on a global scale will vastly limit the effects of a rising number of people.
The Power of Education and Family Planning
Another solution comes with education. Research has shown that the more educated a population, particularly the female population, is of a country, the lower the birth rate. A study in Ghana showed that women who had completed high school had a birth rate of two to three children whereas women who had no education had an average of six children. This trend can also be observed on a global scale. In Canada, one of the most educated countries the average birth rate in 2019 was 1.5 births per woman. In 2019, Niger, a country with a lower level of education had an average birth rate of 6.8.
Increasing access to family planning programs and lowering the cost and improving the access to contraceptive treatments is another proven method to reduce population growth. Some groups are also advocating for governments to provide incentives for families to have less children.
Creating life-style changes and reducing carbon emissions is another way that the impacts of overpopulation can be managed and reduced. Switching to green energy sources, reducing meat consumption, increasing recycling and promoting more sustainable farming methods can all create a positive impact.
So, is overpopulation something we should be taking notice of? Yes. However, before you dedicate yourself to the life of a super villain, there are ways it can be managed and slowed to ensure a bright future for all of us.