Contribution by Armelle Champion,
3rd-year student in ESSCA’s Bachelor in International Business Development.
« I’m passionate about travel and very open-minded to what is happening in the world. I always like to discover new cultures and learn about the different customs of each one. »
At a time when the issue of climate change is being debated, could we perhaps as human beings question ourselves about our demography?
Indeed, the constant increase in population has become a threat to our planet. After crossing the threshold of 7 billion and a half, it is likely to continue to grow and could reach nearly 10 billion in 2050. We can also analyse the consequences between the rich countries that pollute enormously and the poor countries that have a population growth which has not stopped in recent years. Clearly, we must ask ourselves questions about the consequences of the overpopulation on the Earth.
Demography and our environment
According to the UN, the global population is constantly increasing, from 7.55 billion persons in 2017 to a forecast of 11.18 billion in 2100. 5 billion of these inhabitants are mainly concentrated in China and India. However, despite strong demographic growth, we can see that these countries do not necessarily have a high birth rate, with 2.1 children per woman; they have fallen below the renewal threshold of their populations.
Further, our environment, consisting of land and marine biodiversity, has natural resources that are essential to human life on earth. However, we note that this eco-system is strongly impacted by human activity, which leads to depletion of its resources, deforestation, eradication of animal and plant species, pollution of water, soil and air and therefore threatens the survival of all. Demography is therefore a factor that should not be neglected.
Indeed, we can see that the largest population increase is to be expected in Africa, from 1.3 to 4.5 billion inhabitants. Africa is a very poor continent where we can find the most precarious situations of the inhabitants who despite their limited consumption are still harmful to the global environment. Indeed, with the use of old domestic objects from developed countries such as our old electronic and household appliances, but also by using old petrol cars, burning polluting products in the open air, manufacturing charcoal that causes deforestation, and consuming wild meat that strongly affects our biodiversity, Africa also contributes to a constant degradation of the environment.
However, it is easy to realise that Africa is not necessarily the continent that pollutes the most, since it has a very low greenhouse gas emission compared to North America, which, despite a smaller population, has 5 times higher emissions. With a rich population, Americans have become the biggest polluters on our planet. The cause is excessive energy consumption, particularly through the massive use of coal and oil, intensive agriculture with many pesticides, GMOs and special animal feeds, but also lifestyles in which common transport is carried out by cars with ever larger and therefore more fuel-intensive models or by air. All these behaviours are part of North American culture and weigh heavily on the environment.
The funny thing is that those who are least responsible for climate change are the poorest people on the planet. In addition, these populations are the most vulnerable and least prepared for the consequences of climate change. For example, let us return to the natural disaster of drought in Africa that occurred in February 2018, a historical water shortage that severely affected the population. We can also talk about the devastating hurricanes and floods for Bangladesh, while this very poor country has minimal greenhouse gas emissions. Can this be fair?
The inevitable conclusion
It would be necessary today to readjust individual behaviour, in particular by limiting the use of everyone’s natural resources, especially for developed countries that are over-consuming them.
The idea today is rather to find solutions to preserve our natural resources. For that, we have to distribute them better in the different countries, but also, we need to educate all rich countries that are over-consuming, in order to change their lifestyles and reduce their consumption.. Moreover, the more educated women are, the lower the fertility rate, which can also solve the problem of poor countries (Sergent, 2017). Probably we must better focus on the young generation to change the habits.
Overall, I think it’s our lifestyles that matter. We all need to think about the long-term balance, but especially quickly in the short term. We will not be able to escape the increase in the number of inhabitants by 2050, because it is a demographic trend that no one can prevent. That’s why acting on lifestyles, without waiting, would make us more respectful of the environment and more resource-efficient. One way or another, we will have to take into consideration whether it would be necessary to have fewer children in order to save the planet. (Pison, 2017)
Denis Sergent et al. (2017). Faut-il limiter la population pour sauver notre planète ? La Croix.
Robert Engelman (2009). Population and sustainability. The Scientific American.
Gilles Pison (2017). Sommes-nous trop nombreux sur Terre ? Le Point/The Conversation.