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In October 1999, world population hit 6 billion, and it continues to increase.  Many of the problems we face today - both on a global scale and in our own communities - are the direct result of overpopulation. 

More people fill up more land.  As population pressures push more people further out from the center of current settlements, we are losing rainforests, wetlands, open prairies, and other areas that until now have been left natural and relatively undisturbed.  And this leads to loss of habitat and and loss of biodiversity.  Around cities, this has manifested itself in the ugliness known as suburban sprawl.

Larger populations consume more resources.  Greater demands for both food and land have increased the pressure on farmlands to be more and more productive.  This has led to greater use of harmful pesticides and genetically modified plants and animals.  Overfishing has depleted the oceans and other bodies of water, which virtually eliminated one of the only sources of quality protein for many of those in the poorest areas of the world. 

Every person that is added to the population increases the demand for energy resources.  This has resulted in more fossil fuels being burned, which leads to oil spills, smog, increased greenhouse effect, and environmentally harmful oil exploration and extraction activities.   Greater energy consumption also leads to the need to build and maintain hydroelectric dams which disrupt critical ecosystems and destroy the natural beauty of free-flowing rivers.  And then there are nuclear power plants . . .

Greater population density makes the spread of infectious diseases much easier and faster.  As does the greater number and density of livestock that results from overpopulation.  Additionally, as human settlements push further and further into rainforests and other previously unsettled areas, the chance of unleashing new diseases increases.

Population growth leads to a general diminution of quality of life.  As cities get bigger, and the spaces between fill up with more people, it gets harder and harder to get away and enjoy the solitude and peacefulness of nature.  The next time you're stuck in traffic, think of how much nicer it would be if there were fewer people to fill the roads.

Many people in the United States think that overpopulation is really only an issue in developing nations, and that there is no problem with Americans having large families.  However, they fail to realize that individuals in the most developed countries (and Americans especially) consume far more energy and other natural resources, and produce far more pollution, than do individuals in developing countries.  So when Americans have children, they are contributing far more to global environmental degradation than when people in developing countries have children.  The fact is that world overpopulation is everybody's problem, and the solution is everybody's responsibility.

Here are some organizations dedicated to population stabilization and/or reduction:

Negative Population Growth - their website has some excellent position papers and other materials

Zero Population Growth  - perhaps the most well known organization specifically dedicated to population issues.

Population Action International

Childless by Choice - offers support to couples and individuals who chose not to breed.

The Population Council

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) - this organization may go somewhat beyond what I would advocate in terms of the desired end result, but there is some good information on their web site that supports the desirability of significant population reduction.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Please note that the views expressed in these pages are mine, and mine alone.  They do not necessarily reflect the views other members of my family, past or present employers, or any other person or group with which I have been affiliated.
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Last Updated 22 July 2005
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