POPULATION GROWTH, VARIATION AMONG NATIONS
Our global human population, 6 billion at present, will cross the 7 billion mark by 2015. The needs of this huge number of human beings cannot be supported by the Earth’s natural resources, without degrading the quality of human life. In the near future, fossil fuel from oil fields will run dry. It will be impossible to meet the demands for food from existing agro systems. Pastures will be overgrazed by domestic animals and industrial growth will create ever-greater problems due to pollution of soil, water and air. Seas will not have enough fish. Larger ozone holes will develop due to the discharge of industrial chemicals into the atmosphere, which will affect human health. Global warming due to industrial gases will lead to a rise in sea levels and flood all low-lying areas, submerging coastal agriculture as well as towns and cities. Water ‘famines’ due to the depletion of fresh water, will create unrest and eventually make countries go to war. The control over regional bio-logical diversity, which is vital for producing new medicinal and industrial products, will lead to grave economic conflicts between biotechnologically advanced nations and the bio-rich countries. Degradation of ecosystems will lead to extinction of thousands of species, de-stabilizing natural ecosystems of great value.
These are only some of the environmental problems related to an increasing human population and more intensive use of resources that we are likely to face in future. These effects can be averted by creating a mass environmental awareness movement that will bring about a change in people’s way of life.
Increase in production per capita of agricultural produce at a global level ceased during the 1980’s. In some countries, food shortage has become a permanent feature. Two of every three children in South Africa are underweight. In other regions famines due to drought have become more frequent. Present development strategies have not been able to successfully address these problems related to hunger and malnutrition. On the other hand, only 15% of the world’s population in the developed world is earning 79% of income! Thus the disparity in the extent of per capita resources that are used by people who live in a ‘developed’ country as against those who live in a ‘developing’ country is extremely large. Similarly, the disparity between the rich and the poor in India is also growing.
The increasing pressures on resources place great demands on the in-built buffering action of nature that has a certain ability to maintain a balance in our environment. However, current development strategies that essentially lead to short-term gains have led to a breakdown of our Earth’s ability to replenish the resources on which we depend.