Overpopulation as a Social Problem

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Sociology 103
Research Project
April 25, 2011
Overpopulation as a Social Problem
In our world today, there are shocking numbers. For example, 3 people are born every second, 170 people are born every minute, 10,000 people are born every hour, and 240,000 people are born every day (Heyword, n.d.). The world’s population is currently approximately 6.9 billion people, yet the sustainable population level based on available resources is approximately 2-3 billion people, based on a European standard of living (“Current population is three times the sustainable level”, 2010). With these shocking numbers in mind, it is not hard to believe that overpopulation is an issue in the world today, effecting countries on nearly every continent. For the record, overpopulation is not a complete concrete concept; many different opinions exist in determining criteria for overpopulation and deciding which countries should be labeled “overpopulated.” However in this paper, the following questions concerning overpopulation will be addressed in hopes of developing a better understanding of overpopulation and how it affects many countries of the world: What is overpopulation? Where are some places in the world that are heavily overpopulated? Why is overpopulation a social problem? What are some solutions that have been carried out to address overpopulation? What is overpopulation?

In referring to human population, overpopulation occurs when the population of a country, city, or area exceeds the amount of resources available in that area during a given time period. In other words, the concept of overpopulation not only depends on the size of the population, but the ratio of population to sustainable resources available (“Overpopulation”, 2011). Overpopulation also depends on the way that resources are used and distributed throughout the population, large or small. For example, very low population areas like desert or arctic areas can be considered overpopulated if the amount of resources available is not enough to sustain human life. Essentially, overpopulation affects resources on two different levels: basic life sustaining resources and quality of life resources. An area can be primarily considered overpopulated if resources such as clean water, clean air, food, shelter, and warmth are in shortage, but areas can also be considered overpopulated if certain quality of life resources are in question, such as medical care, education, clean sewage treatment, and waste disposal (“Overpopulation”, 2011). Where are some places in the world that are heavily overpopulated? The Optimum Population Trust, which is a British organization that advocates population control in the United Kingdom, produced an overpopulation index that ranks countries of the world by assessing three different primary criteria: per capita consumption (ecological footprint) versus per capita biologically productive capacity (measured in global hectares per capita), self-sufficiency versus dependency, and actual population versus sustainable population. According to this index, the ten most overpopulated countries of the world are Singapore, Israel, Kuwait, Korea Republic, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Belgium. Although China and India are two of the most typically conceived overpopulated countries, they respectively rank 29th and 33rd on the index because they are marginally less dependent on other countries for resources (“Overpopulation index”, 2010). The Optimum Population Trust states that this helps to demonstrate that overpopulation is not just a matter of population size or density.

Why is overpopulation a social problem?
The lack of resources that defines overpopulation makes overpopulation a social problem and leads to other social problems. The most obvious result of overpopulation is in land usage. Close to 90% of the worlds food is produced on land. The more land that is required for living decreases the amount of land that can be...
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