Overpopulation and Overconsumption

As of 2001 there were nearly 6.1 billion people on the planet. Although there are signs that the rate of world population growth is slowing in many parts of the world, even with lower growth rates the earth's population is expected to reach 10 billion by the year 2050—nearly doubling what it is today. This growth will be concentrated in less developed countries. Expansion of agricultural lands, sprawling urban areas, and increased demand on water, forests, and other resources are tied to growing human populations. As our population grows, human influence increasingly encroaches on the last remaining remnants of biodiversity.

The impact of human population on the environment is complex, depending not just on the total number of people on the planet but also their distribution and consumption rates. Developed countries consume 10 to 100 times more resources than developing countries. As individuals we require a certain amount of land and resources to support our consumption and waste production; this impact on the earth is called our ecological footprint. The world's average ecological footprint is 1.8 hectares per person. Children born in India will each need on average 0.4 hectare to support their consumption and waste, compared with 5.4 hectares in the United States. Thus a child born in a developed country will have a much greater impact on the environment. This unequal distribution of the world's resources has many consequences.

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