The world's population will soon reach a level where there will not be enough resources to sustain life as we know it. Growth must be checked to avoid this catastrophe. Many environmental, social, and economic problems either stem from or are increased in magnitude by the overpopulation problem. With an exponentially increasing population, the problems created by overpopulation grow correspondingly. To ensure population stability not only in the increasingly wealthy third-world areas, but also in the industrialized areas, countries and individuals must work together to achieve zero population growth.
The earth does not contain enough resources to indefinitely sustain the current enormous population growth. For instance, there is a limited area of arable land and living space. China, home to 1.2 billion people or 1/5 the world's population, is an excellent example of the kinds of problems that arise in an increasingly crowded society. Trying to increase the standard of living of its people, China has industrialized and the economy has grown (Hanson). This increase in wealth has increased the demand for food in China. The demand is so great that China went from exporting 8 million tons of grain in 1992 to becoming a net importer of 16 million tons of grain in 1994 (China News Digest). This causes a world-wide grain shortage which raises prices, which in turn puts food out of reach of even more people.
In many areas, there is simply not enough food to feed the growing populations. Each day 40,000 children die from malnutrition and its related diseases. 150 million children in the world suffer from poor health due to food shortages (Turbak, 20).
Another resource, which cannot keep up with an increasing population, is water. The supply of fresh water is limited. The recent California drought exemplifies this problem. Conflicts ensue between farmers, municipalities, environmentalists, and others over water rights. Recently, environmentalists battled with Los Angeles over the diversion of water from Mono Lake to the LA basin. The Mono Lake incident and the aqueduct fights highlight some of the conflicts that arise over water. Creating fresh water can be expensive. A swelling population may have to turn to desalinization for their clean water. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is the only country for which this process has had any success. However, Saudi Arabia does not require the vast amounts of agricultural water that California and other areas need. Another possible solution to the fresh water shortage is towing icebergs from the polar caps. This is just too costly for many areas.
In addition to depleting resources, overpopulation increases environmental problems. Pollution is an environmental problem whose magnitude is increased by overpopulation. As more people drive more cars, use more electricity, throw away more trash, and cut down more trees, the environmental problems we experience are greatly increased. The earth could easily sustain a small population of highly polluting people. But as more people such as ourselves pollute, massive problems occur. Pollution is magnified in developing nations. As those nations with larger growing populations become richer, their pollution increases with their wealth. Developing nations often promote industries that pollute to compete economically. These industries are less tightly regulated in order to stimulate growth.
Besides causing the environmental strains on the earth, overpopulation causes a large number of the social problems in today's society. One example of this is described in the recent study by Ohio State University showing that children whose family sizes were larger did worse in school. "The research, to be published in October's American Sociological Review, found that as family size increases, parents talk less to each child about school, have lower education expectations, save less for college and have fewer educational materials available" (CAPS).