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Literature Review

HUMAN OVERPOPULATION AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE EARTH: A


LITERATURE REVIEW
Eugene Soule
The University of Texas at El Paso

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Abstract
The purpose of writing this report is to inform readers how overpopulation is a leading
cause in the rapid depletion of the earths resources. It describes which resources are most used
and why. Throughout the report, various facts are stated concerning resource depletion and why
our resources are being exhausted so quickly. The four research questions that are answered
provide more information for further research and also inform those who are not as well
informed on the current problem. This report will bring to light the very real problem of resource
depletion and what would happen to the earth if all our resources were used up. The visual offers
statistics about which countries are using what resources and how much they use. This gives
readers a look into what resources their country should cut back on to further provide for future
generations. This report delivers facts and opinions on the rapid resource depletion problem and
how overpopulation is causing most of it.

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Human Overpopulation and its Effects on the Earth: a Literature Review


The earths natural resources are rapidly depleting due to increased human usage for
electricity, transportation, industrial growth, and every day use such as taking a bath or brushing
our teeth. Blame for resource depletion is often cast upon already developed countries but they
are not necessarily at fault. Rather, developing countries have an extremely large and growing
ecological footprint. There are still a number of currently developing countries causing the earth
to lose natural resources even faster than developed countries. Many assume that because
developed countries desire many luxuries and amenities, they are causing resource depletion and
increasing the size of the already huge ecological footprint it hosts. However, developing
countries need many more resources because they are still growing and they need them to
become developed. To determine the effects of overpopulation is resource usage, these questions
will be answered.
1) If a resource is used completely can it be replaced or can its usage be altered to
lengthen its life?
2) How has the rapid growth in population over the past few centuries caused resources
to diminish and demand to increase?
3) What influences the increased usage of resources?
4) What are the most used and scarcest resources and how has population per capita
affected it?
These questions will look into the effects of overpopulation in developing countries. They will
also attempt to solve any problems concerning the revival of certain depleted resources and their
usages.
If a resource is used completely can it be replaced or can its usage be altered to lengthen its
life?

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Researchers have been struggling to find ways to either regain depleted natural resources or alter
human usage of them to increase their usage capabilities without exhausting them.
According to Ellis (2013): But with current industrial technologies, the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that the more than 9
billion

people expected by 2050 as the population nears its peak could be supported as

long as necessary investments in infrastructure and conducive trade, anti-poverty, and food
security policies are in place.
The only feasible solution that has been found is to place greater effort in the maintenance of the
worlds buildings, equipment, and other basic necessities. Maintaining our most basic necessities
will decrease our resource usage and leave more for future generations. If we consistently
maintain our basic foundations then we wouldnt have to put so much time, effort, and resources
into fixing or replacing them when they break. This would save a lot of resources and we would
be able to use them for years longer than if we had used them all up fixing minor malfunctions
that could have been prevented. However, this is just a possible solution and has not been proven
or tested at this time. The problem remains at the top of researchers priorities to solve hopefully
within the next decade.
How has the rapid growth in population over the past few centuries caused resources to
diminish and demand to increase?
Over the last few centuries, world population has increased at an alarming rate. Many
have attributed the worlds loss of resources to this great development of population.

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Simonetta (2009) states, As birth rates climb, natural resources get used up faster than
they can be replaced, creating enormous economic pressures at home while the
standard

of living plummets throughout the rest of the world.

To make room for growing communities we continuously tear down numerous forests, taking
away many resources in the process. The loss of our forests creates a lack of oxygen and paper.
The population is growing so fast that we cannot replace the resources we strip from the land in
the process of making room for more houses and buildings. We are taking away resources
without the intention of replacing them as we have in previous years. Now the focus is on
providing for ourselves and we often forget that we have future generations to provide for as
well. Resources that we are not replacing today can greatly affect the way of life in the future.
As the result of having so many people who do not understand our reality and its
behavioral demands, we have created an interrelated web of global environmental
problems (Simonetta 2009).
The majority of the population is oblivious to the effects it has on our resource use. We keep
using up resources at our leisure without thinking about replacing them. Only once resources are
on the brink of being used completely is when the population worries about saving them. A
consistently growing population means a growing usage of resources because as humans we will
always want more than we need. However, a majority of the reason that larger populations use
the most resources is because the availability of the resource in that country is extremely easy.
Certain countries produce resources that others do not therefore creating a greater usage of that
particular resource in that country. Other countries have to rely on bigger countries for resources
and cannot get or use as much as the provider country.

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What influences the increased usage of resources?


The usage of resources has been steadily increasing over the last few decades due to a
variety of reasons. The way we chose to house, clothe, shelter, and meet the needs for vital
resources such as food, energy, and water, not only affect the long-term availability of those
resources but well-functioning Earth systems such as climate systems (Powers, 2015). Every
daily aspect of our lives increases the amount of resources we use. Every day necessities like
brushing teeth or showering affects resource usage. It is because they are daily uses that causes
the long-term availability of these resources to dwindle. The way were living, we are already
using 2 to 3 times more of the Earths natural resources than what is sustainable. If we do not act
now, we will see the consequences of depletion of natural resources (Consequences, 2015). If
we continuously use resources, the planet will become dry and barren, ultimately inhabitable.
What are the most used and scarcest resources and how has population per capita affected
it?
The six most used and scarcest resources humans use are water, oil, natural gas,
phosphorus, coal, and rare earth elements such as minerals like Scandium and Terbium (The Six
Natural, 2015). Much of our freshwater is stored as ice in glaciers and ice caps allowing humans
a mere 2.5% to use, consequently resulting in a demand that cannot be supplied. There are over
7 billion people living on the planet but the earth only has enough resources to sustain 2 billion
(Consequences, 2015). The rate at which population is increasing not only as a whole but per
capita plays a significant factor in the diminishing of the planets resources. The larger a
population is per capita, the more resources they will end up using; its undeniable that greater
masses of people require more than smaller masses. Larger populations have more people to
provide for, thus creating an overwhelming demand for resources that cannot be supplied. This

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visual shows different countries and their consumption of various resources. The United States,
China, Russia, and India are the top four countries that use the most resources. The United States
leads in the usage of electricity, corn, natural gas, and oil. The countries that are shown to use the
smallest amount of commonly used resources are Germany, Turkey, Vietnam, Russia, and
Indonesia. The main resources that are used are cotton, coal, electricity, and rice while the least
consumed are wheat and natural gases. However, a majority of the reason that larger populations
use the most resources is because the availability of the resource in that country is extremely
easy. Certain countries produce resources that others do not therefore creating a greater usage of
that particular resource in that country. Other countries have to rely on bigger countries for
resources and cannot get or use as much as the provider country.
For my survey research, I asked the question Do you believe that overpopulation has
caused resource depletion? Sixty percent of the people I asked agreed that overpopulation is
linked to resource depletion whereas forty percent disagreed. Michael Carnera, nineteen years
old, stated No I do not believe that overpopulation has caused resource depletion. I believe it is
the way that we use our resources that is causing them to decrease. However, the majority
agreed that resource loss is linked to
overpopulation and population growth
over the past decades. Lisa Soule and
Niko Hinojos both can say that they
believe overpopulation and the planets
massive population has definitely
caused or is related to resource
depletion. Yes of course

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overpopulation leads to resource loss. There is no way that population would use massive
amounts of resources without having a major jump in population, stated Niko. Lisa Soule
agreed and said, There has been an increase in resource loss since the recent increase in
population and I do believe they are linked.
Many people realize that our resources are being extinguished at an alarming rate yet not
many know how to slow it down or stop it altogether. With this research, I have shown how
population greatly affects resource usage and what resources are being used up the fastest and the
most. This information will be helpful to anyone that wants to save our resources or learn more
about the topic.

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References
Crooks, R. (2009). Mint Map: Resource Consumption by Country. Retrieved from
https://www.mint.com/blog/trends/mint-map-resource-consumption-by-country/
Ellis, E. (2013). Overpopulation is Not the Problem. Retrieved from:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/opinion/overpopulation-is-not-the-problem.html
Hogan, M. (2012). Habitat destruction. Retrieved from:
http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/153224/
Powers, M. (2015). Human Impact on the Environment and Environmental Impact on Humans.
Retrieved from http://www.fewresources.org/ecological-footprints--humanimpact-

factors.html

The Guardian. (2015). The Six Natural Resources Most Drained by our 7 billion people.
Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/oct/31/sixnatural-

resources-population

Simonetta, J. (2009). Human Overpopulation Causes, Effects and Solutions. Retrieved from:
http://ezinearticles.com/?Human-Overpopulation-Causes,-Effects-andSolutions&id=1985200
The World Counts. (2015). Consequences of Depletion of Natural Resources. Retrieved from
http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/consequences_of_depletion_of_natural_resource

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The Times Editorial Board. (2015, January 25). Why we need to address population growth's
effects on global warming. Retrieved from:
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la20150125-story.html

ed-population-and-climate-change-

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Reflection
When writing this review the part I struggled with the most was thinking of the most appropriate way to
show readers that overpopulation is causing our resources to be depleted. I wanted to make sure that
the causes were clearly defined along with possible solutions. I learned a variety of things while writing
this paper. Areas around the world more densely populated are the main regions that are using up our
resources and if we dont do something about it soon, our valuable resources will be all used up and
future generations will suffer. As for myself as a writer, I learned the importance of writing about topics
like these. These topics need to be emphasized more because they can make an impact on people
and cause them to decide to make a change in the world.