Overpopulation is not simply a function of the size or density of the population. Overpopulation can be determined using the ratio of population to available sustainable resources. If a given environment has a population of ten, but there is food or drinking water enough for only nine, then that environment is overpopulated; if the population is 100 individuals but there is enough food, shelter, and water for 200 for the indefinite future, then it is not. Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates due to medical advances, from an increase in immigration, a decrease in emigration, or from an unsustainable use and depletion of resources. It is possible for very sparsely-populated areas to be overpopulated, as the area in question may have a very meager or non-existent capability to sustain human life (e.g. the middle of the Sahara desert or Antarctica).
The resources to be considered when evaluating whether an ecological niche is overpopulated include clean water, clean air, food, shelter, warmth, and other resources necessary to sustain life. If the quality of human life is addressed as well, there are then additional resources to be considered, such as medical care, employment, money, education, fuel, electricity, proper sewage treatment, waste management, and transportation. Negative impacts should also be considered including crowding stress and increased pollution. If addressing the environment as a whole, the survival and well-being of species other than humans must also be considered.
In the context of human societies, 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. Overpopulation is not merely an imbalance between the number of individuals compared to the resources needed for survival,...
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