The effects of overpopulation & depletion of natural resources

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The effects of overpopulation & depletion of natural resources
Megacities accommodate millions of people but cannot reverse the depletion of natural resources. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Depletion of natural sources is one of the most critical problems the world community has to face, especially after the sharp increase in the world population during the last century. Each person has a number of vital (food, drink, clothing) and non-vital (education, employment, entertainment) needs, all of which require consumption of Earth's resources. When the number of people demanding these needs becomes extremely high, scarcity becomes a critical issue that in extreme cases can cause a "Malthusian catastrophe" (from English scholar Thomas Robert Malthus, who warned about the dangers of overpopulation).

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Rising Prices

As natural resources become scarcer, production is bound to shrink. However, in an overpopulated society, demand remains high. This causes prices of goods to rise, in a bid to balance demand and supply. However, a change in price cannot suddenly curb a large population's needs. Therefore, prices remain high and even keep rising as long as people consume the expensive products.

Scarcity

An extreme scenario of critically depleted natural resources combined with an extremely high consumer base is scarcity. It this case, production becomes so low (for example oil wells become dry) it cannot even cover the needs of those consumers accepting extraordinary prices. When an economy reaches this point, the only way for a government to cover this problem is to avoid market mechanisms and regulate the provision of goods, through coupons for instance.

Unemployment

In overpopulated societies, the number of people available -- and willing -- to work is high. However, if the local economy doesn't have the ability to expand and include the ever-growing work force, then the result can be widespread unemployment. An example of such a case is Zimbabwe of 2011. According to the CIA World Factbook, the African state is the world leader in both population growth rate, with an estimated annual population rise of 4.31 per cent (as of 2011), and unemployment rate, 95 per cent (as of 2009).

Rising Government Costs

The public sector provides for a large number of the population's needs, such as education, health care, national defence, safety (policing) and welfare (children, housing and unemployment benefits). Everyone has these needs, and a rising population can only lead to rising costs for the government. Therefore, the public sector either needs to slash some services -- or sacrifice their quality -- or even privatise them. This relieves the government but can raise the cost to "ordinary" citizens.

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