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Overpopulation

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  • Jan. 2013
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Overpopulation

Overpopulation is a generally undesirable condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth, or smaller geographical areas such as countries.

The population has been growing continuously since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1400, although the most significant increase has been in the last 50 years, mainly due to medical advancements and increases in agricultural productivity.

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past two centuries has raised concerns that the planet may not be able to sustain present or larger numbers of inhabitants. Steve Jones, head of the biology department at University College London, has said, "Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be". Many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, are aggravated by the population expansion. Other problems associated with overpopulation include the increased demand for resources such as fresh water and food, starvation and malnutrition, consumption of natural resources faster than the rate of regeneration (such as fossil fuels), and a decrease in living conditions. However, some believe that waste and over-consumption, especially by wealthy nations, is putting more strain on the environment than overpopulation.

Limiting birth rates through legal regulations, educating people about family planning, increasing access to birth control and contraception, and extraterrestrial settlement have been suggested as ways to mitigate overpopulation in the future. China and other nations already have regulations limiting the birth rate, with China using the one child policy. Contraception is a response to the fact that nearly 40% of pregnancies are unintended and that in the poorest regions mothers often lack...