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Overpopulation and engineering for the real world

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3087 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Overpopulation. People talk a lot about it, but no one really does something about it. By definition, overpopulation is the condition where the number of organisms exceeds the carrying capacity of their habitat (Oak, 2009). Talking about overpopulation, we could mean two things. First we could mean that there are too many people living on this planet. For example, in 2050, we will be living with 9,3 billion people on this planet. (Bureau of the Census) Second, we could look at the problem as a shortage of resources. According a report of Petrotech (Laherrere, 2003), the demand of oil exceeds the production all ready, and with oil reserves decreasing, this problem will even grow bigger. In this document, we will look at the problems overpopulation brings, and what we can do about it. In this report, we will present a solution to fight against this problem, by focussing on reducing the number of people living on this planet.

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Literature review

How will the earth look like in 50 years? Everybody has his own idea about that, but each of those ideas is more of a doom scenario than an idyllic picture. If we keep on living like we do now, many of the natural resources will be depleted. Also, global temperature will increase with a few degrees, water level will rise and there will be famine in the developing countries. All these phenomena can be contributed to overpopulation, because this seems to be the basis for all these problems.

In the last century, world population has increased with as much as 400%, bringing it to the number of 6,775 billion people living on earth now (UN, 2004).

If the global population keeps on increasing as it does now, exponentially, this will have disastrous effects for the future of many species on this planet. According to research the population will exceed humans by 2050. The U.S. Bureau of Census estimates that there will be in between 7, 3 and 10, 7 billion people. Often, they talk about 9, 3 billion by 2050. (Figure 1) This is due to rise in birth rate and a decline in death rate (Oak, 2009) which is due to evolution in medical science, better hygienic situations and better food supply. Also,

When population rises, the demand of resources will rise, but the reserves will decline because the capacity of earth is limited. In the last century, oil and gas demands have increased a lot, but since 1980, the demand has been higher than the discovery of new supply of oil and gas. We can also see an increase in the prices for both, which also indicates that demands exceed supply (Laherrere, 2003) (Figure 2) We can also notice this problem in the world supply and demand of wood.

Figure 2: Oil/Gas demand, resources and prices

According to a report from U.N. Water, if all the freshwater on the planet were divided equally among the global population, there would be 5 000 – 6 000 m³ of water available for everyone, every year (UN water, 2007). Experts say that we can speak about water scarcity, when people have less than 1 700 m³ of water available per year, so it seems that there is no problem. However, the freshwater is not equally distributed, and it happens to be that the most densely populated regions, have the least freshwater available, because those are very warm regions, and there is a lot of poverty.

For food, there is a similar trend as for freshwater. The world production of food is high enough to satisfy the demands, but the food does not reach all the people who need it. Also, for agriculture, people need water, so in regions where there is a lack of water, there is also a high chance that there is a lack of food. Countries that are rich enough to import food do not face this problem, so again, food is not equally distributed amongst all people (Sustainability Team, 2010).

Also, we would like to say something about the extinction of species, economy fails and global warming.

Overview of existing solutions

Due to the fact that an awareness of overpopulation is existing a few decennia now, there have been a lot of ideas to deal with the problem. The government of China was one of the pioneers with their One Child Policy. They created a policy where they can only have one child (China’s One-Child Policy, 1999), except for the rural areas, where people may have two children because they have to work on the land, after they make a petition. When people do not submit to this rule, the second child would not have medical care, the parents will have to pay more taxes and will be paid less for their jobs. So in general, the family will be punished for having more than one child. In the cities this system works quite well, except for the fact that people will have abortions if they know that they will have a daughter. In rural areas, people often have more than one child, but they do not report it to the government (Oak, 2009).

Some people have come up with more technological ideas. For example, some think that we could send people to other planets. This, however, would not be very effective. If we could ship away 100 000 people per year, this would not have a great effect, because of the fact that every day, 258 000 children are born (Garrett, 1993). Another example is more effective agriculture trough modified crops. History teaches us that this will have an opposite effect, as better food means that less people will die of famine (Kii, 1996).

Another solution would be to give better education to people. This would lead to better sexual education, and thus fewer children. However, this would also lead to a demand for a higher status of living, which would result in a higher demand of resources, which are already scarce. So this is not really an option either. Giving women more rights is another option, because this would lead to women going out to work instead of staying home. But this will also lead to higher standards of living (Oak, 2009).

We could also opt for better health care in developing countries, so mothers would be sure their children will survive, and will make fewer children. Today, mothers in poor countries think that not many children will survive the first years of their life, so in order to be sure to have offspring, they make a lot of children (Johnston, 1999).

Encouraging the right to death could an effective way to decrease population: very ill people must have the choice to stop medical healthcare. Also, people who are sentenced to life, should be given the choice. This would cost a lot less too society. On the other hand, there are not that much people in such situations.

A last option is to decrease the ecological footprint. Earth can support the needs of all people who live here, if we reduce our footprint to 1, 8 hectares per person. This would be a solution for the western countries, but it would mean that people have to live like people in Jordan or Uzbekistan, which is not a very attractive solution (WWF, 2006)

Own solution/ conceptual design

Our solution focuses mainly on the decrease of the birth rate. The birth rate has a great influence on world population, and therefore we want to bring it down. Off course, there are other causes for overpopulation, but we ignore them on purpose. First, we would make all people aware of the problems of overpopulation. In order to do this, we could do a big advertising campaign. Via this campaign we can promote contraceptives, so there would be greater use of those products. We also make sure that this campaign is only used in countries that have a huge population boom e.g. developing countries. This campaign consists out of 2 phases. The first phase consists out of a broadcast of spots on radio and TV which covers the most common contraceptive products. After this phase there is held a survey to understand the effects of this campaign so far and to make adjustments possible. Phase 2 will be a multimedia campaign which main target group is the rural women of limited literacy. The main reason why past campaigns have not worked is because the people who could not read also do not understand the pamphlets and billboards used. So now we try to explain contraceptive use through volunteers. The advantage is that although we focus on the low-literate people, it can also reach the well-literate urban women.

Figure 3: Behaviour change model (Domrei, 2008)

This framework shows the second phase of our media campaign. At first we train the volunteers to show them the current contraceptive methods and the pros and contras of them. We also teach them to share accurate and positive information with the people. This way we ensure that no miscommunication is provided. So we also make sure that no false rumors are repeated by the population.

The multimedia campaign takes place mainly on the radio because it is one of the most effective ways to reach rural women of childbearing age. (Domrei, 2008)

There are also people who do not own a radio or TV, which is why we also use print media. For example we use stickers with a comic targeted at low-literacy readers. Also flip charts are used to support the volunteers. Also “mouth to mouth” advertisement is used. “Word of mouth” is the second most effective source of information for women of reproductive age (Domrei, 2008). That is also why we use volunteers to go to the villages and cities and teach them about contraceptive use so they can tell it to the rest.

The main challenge is to get all the governments united. It is useless to carry out a policy if only half of the countries stick at it. That’s why we suggest making a global arrangement. One aspect of this global arrangement is to bring better education to the people. This will make women do family planning. It so happens to be proven that education of a population is directly related to the amount of children per couple (UN, 2003). Another solution to make the people competent to this problem is more specific education. Today, only in developed countries is education guaranteed. It’s important that the children, all over the world, have school duty with a specific education about ecology and overpopulation. The birth rate decreases when the children need to go to school and so they have no economical use, because they cannot work at the farm (Oded Galor and David N. Weil, 2000).

This solution does not content a small change of today’s education model but contents an ambitious restructuring of the model. It is necessary that tomorrow’s children, the little kids, get competent to the problem about overpopulation so in the future they can support the solutions too.

It’s impossible to say that this change is possible in a few months because it will take years but that does not matter. When those children are grown to take the nature harm by exploiting the natural resources without thinking about the consequences or thinking about bearing children, they will have the age of twenty. The people who are adults today will be competent to this problem by the media and government support.

There are two groups of people who have to be educated, first of all the little children but secondly the untutored adults who live in the developing countries, especially the women.

To make people competent to this problem, there has to be a paradigm, a worldwide change of perception about this problem called overpopulation. For the youngest kids, up to 12 years, it has no sense they get a lesson about overpopulation because they would not remember anything about it within a few years. Therefore we should link this topic with every possible lesson they have, like using books about overpopulation while learning the kids how to read or use overpopulation as a topic when to try to solve some issues during mathematics, etc.

By letting those kids in contact with this topic, we make appeal to their subconscious. It turns out that people observe something as true through their subconscious (Freud). In this way there is the greatest opportunity that those kids will change the circumstances like they are today to some better ones.

It’s very important that those children, when they get older, get instructed in the ecology and the use of contraceptives because increasing the knowledge also gives another problem. Because of the fact that they get the knowledge of the developed countries, they want to live like people from the western world with a high standard of living and therefore a large ecological footprint. However, this is impossible to achieve because it will enlarge the problem so therefore it is crucial to instruct them in the ecology to ensure that the ecological footprint would not rise.

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The lessons in the use of contraceptives are especially useful for the women. The increase of knowledge shall result in the enlargement of the presence at the labor market. With the combination of knowledge about contraceptives there will be a march of emancipation among women, so there will be end of the suppression of men (Oded Galor and David N. Weil, 2000). The women will go to work, make their own money and there will be less time to raise the children. Due the march of emancipation and the use of contraceptives, fewer children will be born. The disadvantage is, like we pointed out before, that the ecological footprint of the educated population will rise. We can compensate this by imparting this people of the necessity of durability. By doing so, this people can even make an example for the rest of the world, who are not so wise about durability.

The government could do some great work in the rich countries to bring back the ecological footprint. Here are some of the ideas.

The government could set up a kind of ECO-label, with different categories. For example, A is the best class, B is still OK, and C is bad. Companies with the C-label are not permitted to advertise. Companies with the B-label are permitted, and companies with the A-label would even be supported by the government in advertising.

Another idea is to force people to isolate their houses, and to set up solar panels on the roofs. In order to do this, there should first be some survey of the financial state of the residents. If the residents don’t have enough money to pay for these installations, the government could support them.

With the ascent of electrical cars, one of the problems is the range of the car. So government could invest in installations where you can refuel your batteries.

In Antwerp, there is a prohibition to drive quads. Government could extend this measure. For example, they could prohibit the use of jeeps, sport cars and quads. Only people who really need a jeep, would be permitted to drive one (Gazet van Antwerpen, 2009).

Also in developing countries, government could mean a lot. Measures like above would not help, because the ecological footprint in those countries is not the problem. Government could help here by stimulating the people to have no more than two children. For example, like in China, the first child gets full medical support and gets money to go to college. The second child would get less money, so the parents would be reticent to have more than one child.

CATWOE analysis


Make sure that only a livable number of people walk around on this planet, so our planet can still support the human needs.

World view

At this moment, earth cannot support the number of people living on it. The ecological footprint exceeds greatly the capacity of the earth. This must most urgently be reduced.


The global population. Everything we want to do is only to be sure the world population will still be able to live on this earth. Our goal is to change their way of thinking and acting without letting them feel harmed.


Only the world leaders can assure a change on world level. This problem is too big to be solved by people without power.


Eventually, the world population will have to realize the problem. Everyone has to do his share if we want to be successful.

Environmental constraints

Educational cost, religious influence, will of world leaders, mutual rivalry, and opposition of companies.

Theory of planned behaviour

Attitude towards the behavior

Our solution is definitely something that is good for everyone, because if we do not change, the world is not capable of feeding us all. Because we also educate the people in saving the environment, it is also good for the world itself. The main problem is that it probably costs some time and money.

Subjective norm

Once we explained the problem to everyone in such a way that everyone understands the problem, everyone has to be assured that there has to change something. Our main goal is not to make everyone happy with our solution, but to make it livable. So we do not focus on confrontation with the people but on a fluent transition to a better way of living.

Perceived behavioral control

It definitely has to be possible to change the way we act now. It is a must. The main goal in the beginning is to make sure that everyone knows that they have to help and stride along with the solution in order to make our solution successful. Everyone needs to help, not only a few. Because when they do not, we have a major problem.


We think our solution will work, because the common people won’t have to do a great deal of work. In the Western world, people will be pushed in a certain way. They still have the choice to do whatever they want (except for the isolating, and the prohibition to drive a jeep). When they want to buy a new car, they will be influenced by publicity, and since only good cars are displayed in the media, people will more easily buy a car that is published.

In developping countries, education will be obligated, so they will grow more competetent to deal with the problems. Also, people will still be able to have more than two children, but they will be affected negatively by doing so.

By applying our solutions, people all over the world will happily and oblivious do the right thing to save the world.


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