We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2013 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest. Each year, NPG conducts an Essay Scholarship for high school and undergradute students.
Explain how population growth has negatively affected your community. What solutions do you propose to ensure a decent quality of life for your generation 30 years from now?
By Cheryl Gaul
Have you ever seen the stars? I mean truly seen the stars, with no light pollution inhibiting your view? I had not until last year, when my father and I backpacked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At night, the stars shone with a clarity I had never before thought possible. For sixteen years, I had viewed the stars though the scratched, incredibly dirty lenses of Los Angeles, but now I was finally looking through newly prescribed, clear glasses.
I wish everybody could see stars this way, but unfortunately, the U.S.’s ever-increasing population makes this only a dream. With a population projected to reach 438 million within forty years, the US will suffer in many different ways.
First, increasing populations create large urban sprawl. As more people build and push out into previously rural regions, the U.S. loses other opportunities this land has to offer. Environmentally, the loss of natural habitats forces animals to move elsewhere. Eventually, the continuous loss of habitat means these animals become extinct. Furthermore, the loss of rural farmland hurts the U.S. population. For example, Southern California’s urban sprawl grows every year. Over my short eighteen years of life, I have seen many strawberry fields in Ventura County developed into residential or commercial buildings. A loss of farmland means the U.S. must rely not on “home-grown” foods but instead on imported foods, raising the cost of fresh meat and produce. Moreover, the world’s breadbasket has been shrinking as countries modernize and become less agriculturally based, which also drives prices up. Price increases – a direct effect of a loss of farmland – only harm the U.S. population.
If instead we halt urban sprawl, thus protecting nature and farming areas, the increasing population has nowhere else to live but on top of each other. Instead of spreading out horizontally across the U.S., people would squish together and build upwards. Of course, there are negative consequences to this option. A higher density of people leads to many issues, including housing shortages and overcrowded, overburdened hospitals and schools.
In addition to urban sprawl, a larger population creates more demand for all sorts of resources, such as natural gas and oil. These resources are limited; an increased demand will deplete these resources sooner. Natural gas, coal, and oil, are resources predicted to run out within the next fifty years. With a higher population utilizing these non-renewable resources, that number could easily drop to forty or thirty years. Increased demand for oil and gas also forces the U.S. to rely more on foreign sources, which in turn raises the cost. People complain about gas prices all the time, especially since the national average hit $4.00 a few years ago. But these prices – and the drain on our resources – could decrease if there was less demand, thus a smaller population, for non-renewable forms of energy.
Finally, an increase in population will only compound people-based problems. For example, air and water pollution appear through human activity, such as burning fossil fuels and uncontrolled carbon emissions. A larger population causes this pollution to worsen, hurting both the environment and humans. For instance, acid rain, a direct consequence of pollution, kills off natural habitats every year. In addition, extremely polluted cities such as Los Angeles report many more cases of respiratory illnesses than cities with cleaner air. Air pollution also creates smog, which can block both sunlight and those beautiful stars Los Angeles residents cannot see.
With so many negative repercussions to increasing U.S. population, it is clear that a projected population of 438 million would be disastrous. Our goal shouldn’t be to tackle urban sprawl, shortage of resources, and pollution as separate entities. Instead, we should examine the underlying cause of these issues and work to fix the root problem: the ever-increasing U.S. population.
World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!
From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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