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Overpopulation – Is it too late?

As humans we are naturally inclined to want to reproduce – we are genetically inclined to try and keep our species growing and expanding, as every other living organism in this world does. The real question is, do we really have the right to bring a child into this world, or in a general sense, add to earth’s population? Are we equipped with the correct knowledge and understanding that is required to solve our biggest challenge as a species? Is there a magic bullet solution to all of this? These are some of the questions that will be discussed in this article, along with the following questions -

  • Overpopulation – Is the world already overpopulated? Do we have the resources to support a world population that is growing exponentially?
  • Financial Stability – Do we have the money to be able to support a child? Are we already too dependent on welfare, and will this child place a burden on an already fragile system?
  • Disability – What are the ethical and moral considerations for disabled individuals to have children? Are they entitled to just like everybody else?
  • De-evolution – Are we continuing to evolve as a species? Are we putting our species at risk of not surviving in the future?
  • Fundamental Rights – Do we really have the right to decide to have children? Why do we believe this?

Overpopulation

Since the early 1900’s, the population of the world has increased dramatically. This is mainly attributed to better living conditions, better access to medicine and health services and generally cleaner living conditions. Unfortunately we live in a world that has finite resources. We only have access to a certain amount of farming land, fertiliser and water. Food crops are being genetically altered in a way that can produce more yield per square metre, but how far this type of engineering can take us remains to be seen. As this article is being written, the population of the world is over 7.2 billion, and is tipped to hit the 8 billion mark in 2014.

So what are the options that the world faces regarding population control?

- Is it feasible?

The cost of monitoring such an exercise would be phenomenal. This may be possible to some extent in first world countries, however third world countries would not have anywhere near the resources to undertake and then police such a program.

- Is it even possible?

Whilst it would be possible to do this, it could only really work with the cooperation of the general public. It is possible that the population would only resent the further restrictions placed on their lives by governments. People from several different cultures want to have many children due to believing that their children will look after them when they are older. This generally occurs in countries where there are limited benefits such as pensions and welfare. It may not be possible to gain the support and cooperation of many people.

- How could such a program be ‘policed’?

Humans are genetically inclined to reproduce. Many methods of birth control can be prone to failure, so permanent methods of sterilisation would need to be looked at. This brings about more questions than answers, such as the incredible cost of such an exercise, the burden on health services and further complications that could come about from these procedures. Another consideration would be the type of punishment that was administered to people who break the laws. Then there would be the question of what happened to the child. There could be a possibility that people intentionally break the law knowing that the resultant child would not be harmed, as we as humans would not be capable of taking drastic measures such as murder.

- Will the population level out when the earth reaches its carrying capacity, or will we as a species face great levels of famine and disease in order for it to do so?

As aforementioned, the earth only has a certain amount of land for crops and fresh drinking water. Population cannot continue to grow exponentially in a world which has finite resources. Many parts of the world are already facing food shortages which means that the cup is already overflowing. It is inevitable that disease and famine will play a major role in our world in the coming decades unless action is taken swiftly.

Financial Stability

Most people that live in the first world would believe that they have the money to be able to support the birth and upbringing of a child. Unfortunately this is only the case for approximately 15% of the world’s population, and even in such countries the amount of people who are now dependent on welfare continues to increase. It is impossible for such a trend to continue in the current financial climate. As aforementioned, in many cultures parents will choose to have many of children in the hope that one or more of them will look after their parents when their parents are too old to work. Unfortunately this long range plan does not take into consideration the extreme financial burden that is put on these families and governments in the short term. This could possibly be alleviated by a fairer distribution of wealth and resources globally, however this is an issue that has gone unsolved for decades with no solution currently imminent.

Disability

The question about disability, or in particular, the right for disabled people to have children has been a hotly debated topic both morally and ethically. Academics have long since debated whether a mother should give birth to a child knowing that the child will be born with a debilitating disability. Currently the mother is given the ultimate choice in most cases, but the question of whether society should have to carry the burden of such a decision is one that will be debated by both sides.

De-evolution

Ecologists have long since proven that almost all species that exist on earth are constantly evolving. The species will evolve in two ways – firstly they will evolve in a way in which they can adapt to the current conditions that they are living in and secondly they will evolve by natural selection. This means that the species will ‘breed out’ imperfections and constantly try to strengthen their gene pool in order to keep surviving and adapting. This is a trait that has been lost in the human race, as our nature dictates that we try and help people who are born with or later develop illnesses and disabilities. This trait improves humankind as a species who is compassionate and willing to look after their own kin, but whether this will lead to a weakening of the human gene pool, or ‘de-evolution’ remains to be seen.

Fundamental Rights

Most people will believe that it is their ‘right’ to able to have a family of their own. We as humans obviously have evolved in such a way that we can make balanced and informed decisions as to the direction that we take in life. A person who is well off and can afford to bear and raise a child will be of the belief that they should be able to do this without the moral decision. Unfortunately this reasoning does not solve the overpopulation question, especially with the first world’s disproportionate consumption. There is also the debate about whether we as humans have the right to make decisions about unborn babies. If this baby ultimately grows up to be an adult, we may be ultimately affecting the quality of that person’s life, and also placing an unnecessary burden on society.

Conclusion

This article briefly touches on some of the issues that surround the dilemma that the human race faces going forward. There are many uncertainties, with overpopulation and the dilution of resources, and not climate change, looming as the main challenge that we are facing as a species. It is almost impossible for us to be able to stop the population growth, so adaptation is the most likely answer. The problem could be slightly alleviated with better education, a fairer distribution of wealth and resources and the reduction of waste. Only when these measures are realised, and perhaps in conjunction with better farming and water saving engineering, we can look forward to a brighter future on earth.

Sociology


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