Is Population Growth the Main Problem for Resource Provision and Management?

Economics, Medium Reads
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The population is growing rapidly and the utilisation of resources is also increasing massively. This correlation would suggest that population is a large problem for resource provision and management. With the population set to hit between 9-11 billion by 2100, many people may wonder if population growth is the main issue we need to tackle. However, I want to focus on whether population growth is the main problem for resource provision or are there other causes? Resources are a supply of things like raw materials or energy that are necessary to support the quality of life and the standard of living (QoL and Sol) For the purpose of this article we are going to look at food, water and energy as three broad categories of resources. Finally, we need to define resource management – the control and monitoring off resources so that they do not become deplete or exhausted.

Population growth is not the only problem for resource provision and management, there are also other key issues. Food, water and energy are vital to maintain economic development and our own well-being as well. For example, we use many electrical appliances to make food (eg. Toaster, microwave, oven etc.) We also use water to make drinks and to wash things or heat buildings. As the world develops, these high resource consuming appliances become more prevalent and much of an issue. A third issue is also the simple fact that resources are not evenly distributed and some very valuable resources are not managed properly because many countries do not have the infrastructure to extract these resources and transport them around the globe efficiently. In addition, a countries GDP affects the lifestyle and determines how much of an effect the food and water. Trends show that as a countries GDP grows, so does energy consumption.

We know that a greater population naturally requires more energy to sustain itself, but it can be said that population growth just adjusts the scale of much larger problems. As discussed earlier, lifestyle also plays a huge part as the use of power hungry appliances increases energy usage far more than the increase in population. The use of energy will only increase at the rate of the population growth, but when economic development is factored the growth in energy demands becomes exponential instead of linear.

The fact that population growth might not be the main problem is also made more apparent when we look at food. There is enough food being produced to feed the world. The only worries again come from economic development which makes changes to our lifestyles. In this case, overall demand for food would increase as more people could afford it and demand for meat and dairy products also hugely affect demand for energy. As we hinted earlier, not all countries have an equal amount of resources and problems with lack of food or distribution are what cause food insecurity. WHO has published a guideline that people on average should consume 2000-2400 calories per day. However, 2720 calories are produced per person every day which shows that population is not the main problem.

The biggest problem regarding water provision and management is that only 1% of all fresh water is readily accessible as much of it is stored in ice or underground. The biggest problem is clearly that we cannot extract this water otherwise we would have a huge surplus in water. Global demand as a result of changing lifestyles once again is the largest problem as water thirsty crops like cotton and sugar cane are growing in demand. Also, the increase of meat and dairy products in our diet require more water to be used in agriculture. For example, the USA (an MEDC) uses on average 2483 litres of water a day while the figure for Bangladesh (an LEDC) is 896 litres. This clearly demonstrates the economic development is a much larger issue than water because economic development is at the very root of all these issues. Things like water shortages are only a consequence.

To conclude, while people like Thomas Malthus have suggested that we are not producing enough to keep up with the Earth’s needs, this might not be the case. In addition, it is very clear that growing population is only a small factor and if we examine countries like China, we can see that it is actually factors like economic development that are the main problem for resource provision and management. Therefore, population growth is only a problem to a small extent. Instead, the real issue is our increasingly resource hungry lifestyles that are only made more apparent by an increasing population.

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