Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor
Overpopulation is arguably the cause for all serious environmental issues, thus being the biggest environmental issue world-wide. From the limitation of natural resources to the pollution of water bodies, the demand which rises from an exponentially increasing population encourages the use of land at a rate that does not allow for most of it to re-establish itself. In other words, overpopulation does not allow for the sustainable yield of the earth.
Overpopulation is caused by many factors. From religious practices which encourage the birth of many children, to the lack of contraception in poverty stricken areas, for many, reproduction is not regarded as a world issue, however, it is. According to Science Daily, Dr. Charles A. Hall a professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry states, “Overpopulation is the only problem…if we had 100 million people on Earth—or better, 10 million—no others would be a problem.”
Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” still today captures the essence of why overpopulation occurs and what it results in. Though some environmentalists tend to reject certain notions expressed in the article, “Tragedy of the Commons” is still the model for a general understanding of what perpetuates the most drastic issue in the world today. The article describes the effects of a population which pursues their own best interest in a society that believes in freedom of the commons, or otherwise known as the freedom of accessing available natural resources. He argues that a finite world is only able to support a finite number of people, thus population must be reduced and the only way to do this is by relinquishing the freedom to breed and allow for deaths to be met without replacements.
Because the idea of challenging women’s reproductive rights is a very radical and, for some, a possibly inhumane suggestion for the solution to overpopulation, many tend to disagree with such an approach. So what is the solution?
Without a doubt, for population to decrease, the birth rate must decrease. But people want families and no one wants to be told that they can’t do something. Whether it is for religious reasons or solely personal reasons, most women want the option to reproduce as much as they’d like to. Can this ideology be changed for the greater good which would result in the replenishment of the environment and therefore an overall positive instatement of a new social construction?
As argued by many environmentalists, the only way to reduce the global population is to enact incentives, increase access to contraception and other family planning opprotunities, improve health care in underdeveloped countries and, most importantly, educate and empower women. Increasingly, women in America are reconfiguring the ancient patriarchal notions which suggest that women are child bearers and are expected to have children. Seattle Times editorial columnist, Sharon Pian Chan states, “Am I being selfish if I don’t have children? I’m selfish for not committing to my hypothetical child’s well-being. But I will have a lot more attention and money to shower on real-life nieces, nephews, mentees and philanthropic causes. Also, not having a child is the most important thing I could do to reduce my carbon footprint, according to a 2009 study by Oregon State University statisticians.” This mindset creates the base for a movement towards raising dialogue about the issue and inspire acceptance of the idea.
Overpopulation is a world-wide problem and needs to be regarded in this manner. Mother Nature has no sympathy for religious beliefs and moral inclinations that encourage reproduction with no regards to its environmental impact. She is reacting to the effects of overpopulation and will continue to do so unless there is a global consensus on the importance of reducing the global population and the benefits it can bring humanity.