Overpopulation is the condition of any organism's numbers exceeding the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. In common parlance, the term usually refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, Earth.
In the context of human societies, however, overpopulation occurs when the population density is so great as to actually cause an impaired quality of life, serious environmental degradation, or long-term shortages of essential goods and services. This is the definition used by popular dictionaries such Merriam-Webster. If this causal relationship cannot be proven to exist, overpopulation cannot be said to occur, as such an imbalance may actually be caused by any number of other factors such as bad governance, war, corruption or endemic poverty.
- [In response to this question by Bill Moyers: What do you see happening to the idea of dignity to human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?] "It's going to destroy it all. I use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then both have what I call freedom of the bathroom, go to the bathroom any time you want, and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And this to my way is ideal. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up, you have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, aren't you through yet, and so on. And in the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies.
- Babies are the enemies of the human race. . . . Let's consider it this way: by the time the world doubles its population, the amount of energy we will be using will be increased sevenfold which means probably the amount of pollution that we are producing will also be increased sevenfold. If we are now threatened by pollution at the present rate, how will we be threatened with sevenfold pollution by, say, 2010 A.D., distributed among twice the population? We'll be having to grow twice the food out of soil that is being poisoned at seven times the rate.
- Well, in my opinion, you have out-of-control population growth, and you have fewer and fewer—we are heading for the biggest train wreck our civilization has ever come across ever. Ever. And I think that within 40 or 50 years, we’ll be there. If your population curve is on an exponential growth, and the resources are on an exponential decline, what happens first is you get increases in wealth discrepancy, which means that you get rich pockets of gated communities with security guards outside them, and you get more and more poverty outside that area. And the resources go down, and people start having resource wars over water and food and agriculture and arable land, and then you have Joburg in 2050. And you can see signs of it everywhere. It’s just overpopulation and lack of resources. We just aren’t in control of our destiny.
- In fact, people do live in crowded conditions, and always have. We cluster together in cities and villages in order to exchange goods and services with one another. But while we crowd together for economic reasons in our great metropolitan areas, most of the world is empty, as we can see when we fly over it. It has been estimated by Paul Ehrlich and others that human beings actually occupy no more than 1 to 3 percent of the earth's land surface.
- Jacqueline R. Kasun, "Too Many People?"
- Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., acceptance speech, Margaret Sanger award in human rights 1966; Lamont Hempil Sustainable communities.
- There are now 6 billion people on Earth. The planet's population will most likely continue to climb until 2050, when it will peak at 9 billion. Other predictions have the world's population peaking at 7.5 billion in 2040. In either case, it will then go into a sharp decline. The world may soon be facing an under-population crisis -- a prospect that has all but escaped media scrutiny.
- Anthony C. LoBaido, "The overpopulation lie"
- It is not a question of the human population outstripping resources, since food production continues to exceed population growth and non-renewable resources become more plentiful each year as new sources are found.
- J im Peron, published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, "Overpopulation Myths" (October 1995)
- Naturalists and egalitarians don’t believe the rosy predictions about how genetically enhanced food will end famine. Starving people are hungry not because of high population density but inequality in food distribution… Similarly geni-modified food is neither the best nor the only way to feed starving people.
- Peter Rosett, in “World Hunger:Tweleve Myths” in Designer Food: Mutant Harvest Or Breadbasket of the World?, (2002), quoted by Gregory E. Pence, p. 149
w:Eduard Albert Meier (1975-Today) Ambassador bridging the gap between ignorance and knowledge for all Terran. Author of over 40 books including, The Goblet of Truth, The Psyche, Might of the Thoughts. []
- The Earth's population is plagued by famines, energy shortages, epidemics, environmental pollution, degeneration, terrorism, dictatorship, anarchism, slavery, excessive increase of waste materials, racial hatred, food shortages, destruction of rain forests, the "greenhouse effect", pollution of lakes, streams and oceans, hatred towards asylum-seekers; radioactive emissions, chemical pollution of water, air, plants, food, human beings and animals. Crime, murder, mass murders, manslaughter; alcoholism, hatred of strangers, oppression, hatred of one's fellowman, extremism, sectarianism, drug addiction, overpopulation, annihilation of animal species, war, violence, torture and capital punishment, general mismanagement, water contamination, eradication of plant species; hatred, vice, jealousy, lovelessness, lack of logic, false humanitarianism, lack of housing, increased traffic, destruction of arable land, unemployment, the collapse of health care, the collapse of care for the elderly, destruction of nature, the collapse of solid waste removal, and the lack of living space, among others. In spite of the many efforts, mankind's problems are not decreasing but, instead, continue to rise steadily in direct proportion to population increases.
-- "A Crusade Against Overpopulation"
Julian Lincoln Simon (1932-1998) was a Professor of Business Administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.
- Erroneous belief about population growth has cost dearly. In poor countries, it has directed attention away from the factor that we now know is central in a country's economic development, its economic and political system. And in rich countries, misdirected attention to population growth and its supposed consequence of natural-resource shortages has caused waste through such programs as now-abandoned synthetic fuel programs, and the useless development of airplanes that would be appropriate for an age of greater scarcity.
-- Scarcity or Abundance? A Debate on the Environment
- Adding more people causes problems, but people are also the means to solve these problems. The main fuel to speed our progress is our stock of knowledge, and the brake is our lack of imagination. The ultimate resource is people - skilled, spirited, and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and inevitably they will benefit not only themselves but the rest of us as well.
-- The Ultimate Resource
Paul R. Ehrlich
Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich is Stanford Professor of Population Studies and author of The Population Explosion (1990).
- THE POPULATION EXPLOSION (1990)
- Overdrafts on aquifers are one reason some of our geologist colleagues are convinced that water shortages will bring the human population explosion to a halt. There are substitutes for oil; there is no substitute for fresh water.
- The key to understanding overpopulation is not population density but the numbers of people in an area relative to its resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities; that is, to the area’s carrying capacity. When is an area overpopulated? When its population can’t be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources.... By this standard, the entire planet and virtually every nation is already vastly overpopulated.
- Paul Ehrlich, in public discussion with Bill McKibben, author of THE END OF NATURE, in KQED Radio City Arts and Lectures Broadcast, San Francisco 1996
- A series of things have come up since then that have made the problem incredibly grimmer…. The ozone hole… acid rain…. Three hundred million people have starved to death since THE POPULATION BOMB was written. The famines weren’t as large as agriculturists thought they would be… due to the spread of… Green Revolution technology into the poor countries…. What makes us nervous right now is that we’re faced with again having to do something desperate to increase our food production greatly.... In 1965 we knew exactly how to do it, the question was could we deploy it fast enough—Today we have nothing left to deploy—that’s very scary.... As a species we’re not able to live on our income; we’re living on our capital, our deep rich agricultural soils are being destroyed, water is being overpumped, and our biodiversity, our life support system—we’re already far beyond what we can support.
- PAUL EHRLICH AND THE POPULATION BOMB, PBS video produced by Canadian biologist Dr. David Suzuki
- The idea that we can just keep growing forever on a finite planet is totally imbecilic.... Simon, a professor of junkmail marketing, and his kind, think technology will solve everything.... We can use up the Earth then we can just jump into spaceships and fly somewhere else.... Technology does nothing to solve problems of biodiversity or living space or arable cropland.... Fresh water and arable cropland are finite nonrenewable resources.... We are already far beyond what we can support sustainably.... The provincial view you get from someone living in some wealthy American East Coast city is wildly different from reality. Most of the world is tropical, hungry and poor. Visit the developing world and southern hemisphere and you get a very different view of reality.
- Solving the population problem is not going to solve the problems of racism… of sexism… of religious intolerance… of war… of gross economic inequality—But if you don’t solve the population problem, you’re not going to solve any of those problems. Whatever problem you’re interested in, you’re not going to solve it unless you also solve the population problem. Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause without population control.
- Ehrlich, Paul R.
- Quotes on Population and other related subjects, Sustainable Population Australia