Overpopulation: the Underlying Cause of Most Environmental Issues

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Overpopulation: The Underlying Cause of Most Environmental Issues Katie Caputo
PHI 107
Dr Pamela Klem
September 21, 2009

Overpopulation: The Underlying Cause of Most Environmental Issues Introduction
There are so many environmental issues that are affecting the entire globe today. People often speak of environmental issues as if they have no control over making them better or worse, however, environmentalists feel that many if not all of the environmental problems that we are facing “are either caused or exacerbated by population growth” (West, 2009). That means that people themselves are the very ones causing harm to the environment. What we do or don’t do about the issue of overpopulation will determine the very fate of the environment in the future. This presents the need for ethical decision making. “Global environmental problems are ethical problems” (Brown, 2009). Each and every person has a moral and ethical responsibility toward the environment, the problem is that people often ignore that responsibility, especially when it presents other ethical dilemmas. Defining Ethics

To begin, I would like to define ethics. A definition taken from the National Academy of Engineering states “ethics is concerned with what is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, responsible or irresponsible, obligatory or permissible, praiseworthy or blameworthy” (2006). So what does ethics have to do with overpopulation and other environmental issues? If we know that overpopulation is the direct cause of many of the environmental issues that are affecting the entire globe, ethically, it is our responsibility as humans to come up with a solution to the problem.

Population Growth

“Over-population is the term that refers to a condition by which the population density enlarges to a limit that provokes the environmental deterioration, a remarkable decline in the quality of life or a population collapse” (Biology Cabinet Organization, 2003). In around 1963, the global rate of human population growth peaked, but the number of people living on Earth has grown by more than two-thirds since then, topping out at over 6.6 billion today (West, 2009). Every year, more than 81 million people add to the world-wide population. Every 10 years almost one billion inhabitants are added to the world’s population (BCO, 2006). By the year 2050, the human population is expected to exceed nine billion (West, 2009). What affect does this have on the environment? Effects of Over-population

Global Warming
Global warming is considered to be one of the top environmental issues today. Scientists have determined that it is mostly human activities that are contributing to global warming by adding excessive amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, accumulate in the atmosphere and trap heat that would normally exit into outer space. Many greenhouse gases occur naturally and are needed to create the “greenhouse effect” that keeps the Earth warm enough to support life, but it is human use of fossil fuels that cause the excess greenhouse gases. By driving cars, using electricity from coal-fired power plants, or heating our homes with oil or natural gas, we release carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere (West, 2009). Deforestation

Deforestation is another environmental issue and is a significant source of greenhouse gases because fewer trees mean less carbon dioxide conversion to oxygen. “The most important direct causes of deforestation include logging, the conversion of forested lands for agriculture and cattle-raising, urbanization, mining and oil exploitation, acid rain and fire” (World Rain Forest Movement, 1998). Deforestation and forest degradation occurs both in Northern and Southern countries and its underlying causes also originate in both, although with varying degrees of responsibility. Industrialized...
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