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Overpopulation: A Crisis throughout History

Currently today, the world sits practically explored to its fullest. Every nook, cranny, crack and crevice has been found, documented, and inhabited. This is all because of the continued drive for humans to explore and expand but with this comes colonies, towns, and villages continuing to grow in size. Due to the concern of the planet’s carrying capacity reaching its limit and our resources becoming more and more scare. A call for an analysis on why overpopulation is one of the driving factors of how humans can become a mere blip on the vast timeline of the universe is needed.

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Beginning in 1789, Thomas Malthus an English cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography who took the issue of overpopulation into serious consideration in the 18th century, best known for his theory and “Essay on the Principle of Population”.  Malthus formulated a theory now known as the “Malthusian Catastrophe.” In his theory, he hypothesized that human population growth would be limited in the near future because population and agriculture grow at significantly different rates. “Population when unchecked increases in a geometric ratio. Subsistence increases only an arithmetic ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison to the second.” (Malthus 1789).  This sparked the beginning of the concern that formed over the threat of overpopulation, with officials such as William Pitt the Younger a prominent british statesman and prime minister forming the first British census that regulated and watched over population statistics in the United Kingdom. Along with this began the neo-Malthusian movement which advocated the awareness of population rates growing exponentially, along with the advocation of controlling population growth with the use of contraceptives. As time went on, population continued to grow at it’s rate of 1.07%, but the concern of overpopulation remained fairly niche. That was until the 1950’s when Chairman Mao Zedong came into power and formed the people’s republic of China, led and reinforced with communist views.

China bolstered a population of 5 million citizens, many of whom were unable to live in under proper conditions (R Lowenthal 1970). But Chairman Mao believed population growth was not a threat to the country, since he believed that China could solve this problem by increasing production. “Even if China’s population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production.”(Whyte, Cai, and Feng 2015).  Zedong noted that the people had their own prerogative to learn how to manage material conservation and production along with  how to ‘manage themselves’.  Mao held his belief  that China was it´s strongest with a large population through the belief  that a high population was crucial to bolster China’s military and economy. Their were a plentiful amount of  communist leaders who strongly enforced the ideology of having a large population with encouraged citizens to have children.  It was easy and simple to look at the positives of having many people to form a workforce and build the country’s infrastructure at the time. However, the simple question of where does everyone fit has became a great crisis in the 1970’s, and it became clear to Chinese government that being the most-populated country in the world can lead to an abundance of issues that require different policies and precautions to be put in place.

The One Child Policy was created  halt and limit the population growth in China controlling it to it’s best ability.  The policy was fairly self explanatory, it was a rule that permitted each family to only have one child. This policy was implemented in 1979 by the Chinese government. This policy was enacted in order to better control China’s growing issue of overpopulation. Chinese government predicted that the new rule would decrease the rate of children born, which could help population stabilize. Officials saw that this policy would benefit families by giving them access to education from this education each family member would have the opportunity to be able to receive a job and earn a living. Another benefit predicted from the policy was  that the families that followed the policy would have health insurance and child care given to them if wanted. In Spite of the great achievements at the time, China was still a developing country, which faced many serious social problems. Even with the one child policy implemented the population still grew at a very high rate. From 2000 to 2010, Chinese population growth was about 6.2% and if one compared the population from 1960 with 2010, the population had grown more than 100%. While half of the Chinese population lived in the rural areas and states, the urban side of the population grew exponentially. In the first month of 2012, the urban population surpassed the rural state population. Now about 100 million rural people become migrant workers which move in and out the cities in search of work. This has caused many problems in China,  most importantly the shortage of food and shelter. Overpopulation has a noticeable influence on the national economy, education and environment. The scarce resources in ChinaF can hardly support the excessively large population that exploits said resources everyday. Take fresh water as an example, in 1990, 58% of Chinese cities suffered from the insufficiency of water. (Cai, Whyte, Feng 2015) It not only brings great disadvantages to people’s daily life, but also has a passive influence on the economic development. Released by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences an academy dedicated to the exploration and development of society and the relationships among individuals within a society. The loss caused by the lack of water is 250 billion RMB (Renminbi) per year, including 230 billion lost due to industrial output and 20 billion lost due to the lack of land for agriculture. As a result, the insufficiency of natural resources  slows down the economic development in china and this is all due to the overuse of resources because of the uncontrolled population growth.

Today we sit at 7.7 billion people and by 2050 it is estimated by Matthew Connelly (a professor) and his research team at Columbia University who dedicate their study to the statistics and information on overpopulation. We as a species will reach 9.1 billion people coming dangerously close to the estimated carrying capacity for earth. Despite our efforts to control population it’s proven that nothing can stop humans from continuing to grow. A solution proposed would be to simply begin spreading more and more awareness on the dangers and threats to the population growing out of control, not only this but begin focusing on ways to reserve and change the way resources are used so that the scarcity becomes lower and lower. Humans may not be able to control and stop the rate that which the population grows, but developing ourselves as a species to become prepared and aware of the consequences of overpopulation can ultimately be the solution on how we become a long lasting species that lives on, and not a blip that fades out.

Works Cited

         Doris Baus (2019). Retrieved 1 February 2019, from
         Bavel, J. (2013). The world population explosion: causes, backgrounds and projections for the future. Facts, Views & Vision In Obgyn5(4), 281. Retrieved from
         Susanne Bradley (2002). Susanne bradley Association. Retrieved 1 February 2019, from
o        Thomas Malthus (1789). Retrieved 1 February 2019, from
         From Colonia to Community. (2019). Google Books. Retrieved 8 February 2019, from
         Bardi, U., & Bardi, U. (2018). Why is Overpopulation Ignored by the Media? The Reasons of a Historical Retrieved 8 February 2019, from
         Gioietta Kuo SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research. (2019). Retrieved 8 February 2019, from
         Lara Marks, Sexual Chemistry. (2019). Google Books. Retrieved 8 February 2019, from


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