Overpopulation has been a topic of discussion for centuries. From Plato and Aristotle to modern day scientists and philosophers, the questions of population control – whether we need to impose controls and what those controls should be – have been hotly debated. The world’s population currently stands at approximately 7.6 billion people and every day, around 360,000 babies are born. That’s roughly 15,000 new mouths to feed every single hour. On the flip side, only around 150,000 people die each day. The disparity is obvious and at this rate, population growth is inevitable, but is it a problem? Fifty years after Paul Erhlich terrified the world with his vision of starvation and death in his book The Population Bomb, do we still need to worry about the effects of overpopulation?
From Before Christ Onwards
As far back as the fourth century BC, overpopulation has been a concern. Plato and Aristotle recommended instilling strict birth controls to ensure that the population didn’t rise above 200 million people worldwide– a stark contrast to today’s 7.6 billion! Later, Thomas Malthus famously warned about growing population in 1798, and by 1968, Paul Erhlich argued that it was too late – we’d surpassed a sustainable level and control was no longer an option. Instead, he argued, we needed to actively reduce the population through enforced, compulsory methods. Skip forward to 2018, however, and the fiery conversations about overpopulation have been somewhat dampened. The urgency around reducing the birth rate or even reducing the population itself seems to have fizzled out. Does that mean that it’s no longer a problem, though, or have we simply become apathetic?