January 9, 2008
Briefing Paper—IGA/Global Overpopulation
The population of the world is constantly rising as the average life span continues to
increase and birth rates soar. By 2042, the population of the world will reach 9 billion. The Earth
cannot sustain the development and growth of such a large number of people. Control over
population growth is necessary. There is not an unlimited supply of resources; population growth
needs to be constrained.
The worldwide population growth rate is 1.167%. At this rate, the population will
increase by one billion people every thirteen years. The biggest increase in populations will be
seen in developing regions. The number of people in developed regions of the world will roughly
stay the same. In developed regions, the population is predicted to level out around 1.2 billion
people; whereas, the less developed regions will grow steadily until the total population reaches
about 8 billion by 2050. The developing regions of the world will experience rapid and
One factor that is helping limit growth is fertility rates throughout the world. The recent
decline of fertility rates over the past few years has served to retard what once was a greater
population growth. Worldwide, 65 countries’ fertility rates have fallen below the replacement
level, which is two children per woman; however, in 123 countries the fertility rates are above
the replacement level. In developing countries, the fertility rates are as high as 3-5 children per
woman, and some countries surpassing that with over 5 children per woman. The declining
fertility rates of some countries are helping slow population growth, but to further limit
population growth, other countries’ birth rates need to fall so that they are at or slightly above the
As the number of inhabitants of the Earth continues to increase there is a greater strain
placed on the Earth’s resources. Each person in the world uses a percentage of the Earth’s natural
resources. The Earth has 1.8 hectares of productive land available per person. Currently each
person in the earth uses, on average, 2.2 hectares of productive land. The Earth’s resources
cannot sustain the current demand for land for a prolonged period of time. The global
population’s ecological footprint far exceeds that of the biocapacity of the Earth. Natural
resources are being depleted far more quickly than they can be replaced. Earth’s resources are
finite and the demands for those resources are continually increasing. The Earth cannot sustain
an infinite number of people. As the population increases, the number of hectares available per
person will continue to decrease. The Earth can only sustain a finite number of persons before all
of the natural resources become depleted.
In the dialogue of global overpopulation, the issue of population control is often
discussed. There are many means of controlling population growth. Legalized abortion is often
cited as one small way in which the population growth rates could be decreased. A high rate of
abortion is necessary, however, to achieve rates of growth below 1% worldwide. Abortion is
considered a surgical method for terminating a pregnancy but for some raises serious moral
questions. Fifty-four countries, which contain roughly 61% of the world’s population, have
legalized abortion. In 97% of countries, abortion that would save the mother’s life is legal.
Abortion policies have become less strict over time but it is still not legal worldwide for matters
of population growth control.
Preventing pregnancy is also a way for population growth to be lessened, or controlled.
The use of contraceptives has steadily been climbing since the 1960s. Worldwide, 61% of
women that are married or in some form of a union use some contraceptive method. In less
developed regions the rate of contraceptive use is only 59%. Developed regions, however, have a
rate of 69% use of contraceptives. It is projected that the use of contraceptives, particularly in
developing regions, will aid in the lowering of the birth rates around the world.
Another method that is a good option for decreasing the number of children per family is
holistic family planning. Holistic family planning is primarily used for married couples that wish
to plan when to have children. This is primarily done through education and the use of
contraceptives. Family planning has enabled families in all areas, more recently in developing
areas, to try and limit the number of children they have and have more control over when they
choose to have children. Education is the key of effective family planning. Educational
programs, for family planning, stretch across the globe, but unfortunately, do not reach people in
rural or remote areas of the developing world. If the use of family planning is expanded, it could
help control population growth and enable families to have more say in when and if they choose
to have children.
Limiting the number of children a family is allowed to have is effective, if controversial,
means of population control. China is currently the only country in which there is policy that
allows families to only have one child. The policy allows for families to have one child unless
one or both of the couple are from an ethnic minority. Another exception is if both parents are
only children. This policy has prevented over 250 million births since 1980. Forced abortion and
sterilization ensures adherence to the policy. There are also severe financial penalties for families
who choose to have more than one child. This policy was created to slow population growth.
China is the only country that places limits on the number of children a family can have.
The global population is continually rising, creating more issues in regards to the natural
resources available for consumption. Soon, the quality of life that can be attained will be
affected. Around the world, life spans are increasing and birth rates continue to soar. As the
population of the world increases a greater strain is placed on the Earth’s resources. In 2050, the
population of the world will reach 9.2 billion people. Even today, the Earth’s resources are being
used faster than they can be replaced, this will continue and become even worse in the future.
With such a large number of people, the Earth cannot sustain the development and growth of
such a large populace. There is not an unlimited supply of resources upon the planet; population
growth and consumption need to be constrained so that future availability and enjoyment can be
An additional excellent resource is the International Relations and Security Network, or ISN,
found online at http://isn.ch. This is not merely another stop in a Google search, but rather a
professional-level, comprehensive information service administered by the historically neutral
Swiss government. Especially useful for security topics, ISN also has much information on
global healthcare, most easily accessed via the LASE (Limited Area Search) database.