The world population projections show that the population shall increase up to 9.6 billion people in 2050 from the current 7.2 billion (U.N report, 2011). Most theories on population emphasize on population and environment in respect to agricultural production but, the theories affect all natural resources on earth. This paper analyses some of the impacts of future population growth on natural resources and conservation. Expanding population generally exerts pressure on land resources. The fallowed land reduces considerably. Since the land is a fixed natural resource, the population shall move to fragile areas, leading to extreme deforestation. This shall be fuelled by need for farming land, settlement, and regions to set up cities and industries to supply products for the expanding population.
Cleared land and over-cultivated land shall be vulnerable to soil degradation including erosion and nutrients exhaustion. The conserved areas are mostly the world water towers. Water been one of the major natural resource and the main life supporting natural resource, water shortage can likely be caused by destruction of the forests and other water catchment areas. The high population shall be using more water on a daily basis than before and hence the rate of extraction of fresh water shall be on its highest. With increased pollution of the air water and soil, water borne diseases and other pollution related illnesses shall increase. Currently, unclean water kills over 12 million people annually in developing countries (have the highest population growth rates).
The high population leads to high demand for food. Overgrazing, overexploitation of fisheries, reduced productivity of the land, and consequently increased occurrences of famine, landlessness and poverty shall occur (Alain Marcoux, 1999). This, together with deforestation leads to loss of biodiversity and extinction of some species.
The high population consumes the highest amount of energy. The increase in the number of industries to supply goods and services is a must occur. The number of cars and machinery needed to sustain life of this high population cannot be supplied by fossil fuels alone that are exhaustible. Therefore, there is need for alternative sources of power. Although, many scientists are researching and discovering new forms of power like solar power, wind energy, tidal energy, their usage has not yet become as popular as fossil fuel.
Population growth in developing countries has been falling while in the developing countries has been increasing. There is a need to find out why there is a steady population growth rates in developing countries than in developed countries, although, many researches have been contacted on the same few link the population growth and natural resources damages and the need for sustainability. This is because in the developing countries, the natural resources have not yet been fully extracted. However, this does not mean that the population growth rates do not have impacts on the natural resources. The greatest pollution of the environment is associated with developed countries due to higher levels of industrialization.
As population and demand for natural resources increase, the environmental limits shall be apparent, famine and water shortage shall be expected to affect over 3 billion people by 2025(Don Hinrichsen,2000). The sub-Saharan countries shall be much affected. Family planning and other mitigating measures need to be taken to reduce the population growth rates and consequently reduce the effects on the environment. What is the optimum population that the world can hold with sustainability in the environment and resources?
- World population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 – UN report, 2011 retrieved from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45165#.UwWoJs6C-ZQ on 20-02-2014
- Alain Marcoux. Population and Environmental Change: from Linkages to Policy Issues. Sustainable Development Department (SD), Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. 1999; retrieved from http://www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/wpre0089.htm on 20th February, 2014
- Don Hinrichsen and Bryant Robey. Population and the Environment: The Global Challenge, 2000; retrieved from http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/hinrichsen_robey.html on 20th , February 2014.