A rapid increase in population from 5 to 6 billion within the last 12 years is a growing concern amongst many environmentalists (Cunningham, Cunningham, and Saigo pp. 126). The underlying concern to this rapid change is triggered by facts that show the rate at which we are depleting our limited natural resources. Population and capitalism are closely connected. Sustaining a large population requires demand for more resources, which is accelerated by capitalists who promote larger sales for greater profits at the cost of the environment (Dauvergne pp. ).
Determinants of a population include birth rate, death rate and net migration. An increase in population occurs when the death rate of a region is lower than the birth rate or when net immigration exceeds emigration. When a population rises above the normal sustainable limit, since food supply increases slowly or is at plateau, it is predictable that there will be an outbreak of hunger and crime. With the accompanying violence, wars and starvation, the environment suffers disastrous consequences (Cunningham, Cunningham, and Saigo pp. 127).
An increase in population leads to an increase in energy consumption. This increase in energy consumption accounts for the new housing, commercial areas, heating, cooling, cooking and recreation done by the increasing population. To accommodate an expanding population, more residential space is required. This space is made available by deforestation and land altering hence causing an imbalance in the ecosystems, loss of species, biodiversity and adverse changes to food chains. Farm crops and animals now have to be produced on larger scales than ever to feed the growing population.
To make this possible more forests have to be destroyed to pave way for farmlands to promote agriculture leading to more resource consumption, escalating problems with waste disposal, increasing rates of disease transmission and disastrous effects on the environment, other animals and plants (Macdonald). The population growth of the less developed countries is increasing exponentially without limits offsetting the effects of declining or stabilizing populations of the developed countries.
As a result there is a net increase in the global population. Most of the developing countries have a relatively smaller area and can sustain only a few millions of people. Population explosion forces many people, most of who belong to the middle class, to migrate to other parts of the world in search of greener pastures. This migration has a great potential to spread diseases across the globe sometimes leading to a global crisis. Moreover, to facilitate migration on land, water and air, more vehicles are being manufactured.
Only a minute fraction of these vehicles will not release pollutants into the environment. Major contributors of the pollutants of air are the automobile and the airplane industries. Currently there are about 1 billion cars in the world (Macdonald), which is a ratio of 1 car to 5 people. As the population increases, so will the number of cars on the road and hence more pollutants and greenhouse gases will be released into the environment.
The automobile industry has made a monopoly within every country and is usually backed up by powerful governmental bodies and policy makers who command and achieve what they desire to promote the sale of automobiles to the increasing population even though they know the environmental concerns associated with them. Most of the manufacturers oppose the idea of public transportation and at times have even destroyed energy efficient transportation systems such as the electric trolley in the United States (Dauvergne pp. 6).
A lot of time and money goes into advertising new products to a growing population, convincing them to buy the product which may not necessarily be a necessity or which may have safer alternatives (Dauvergne pp. 6). Countries such as China and India have high population growth and therefore the labor is cheap and readily available. Industries in the developed countries have externalized manufacturing to these countries to cut down the labor costs and environmental degradation associated with the manufacturing processes leading to exports that are proven to be environmentally harmful (Dauvergne pp. ).
The society we live in today is shaped under a new phase of capitalism that includes banks which offer credits to the population which is growing and thus increasing their spending power (Bottomore pp. 61). This has not only offered an individual to be able to increase his/her ecological footprint through consumption, but has also brought about an opportunity for investment in industry which in turn boosts capitalism but has negative environmental effects often ignored. An increase in commodity consumption due to an expanding population produces tons of waste.
Populations of the developed world have a high per capita consumption and therefore generate as much waste as those of the developing nations if not more (Cunningham, Cunningham, and Saigo pp. 137). A shocking fact is that the industries in the developed nations externalize the environmental cost of disposal to developing countries (Dauvergne pp. 3), which leads to environmental degradation in a country, which is already financially struggling. Most of the developing nations do not have proper disposal facilities and therefore most of the waste goes into landfills.
In conclusion, both population increase and capitalism have a negative impact on the environment. An increase in either one of them causes harm to the environment further accelerated by the other. Most of the times we often blame an increase in population as the major cause of environmental degradation, but we often don’t realize that together with the rise in population other factors such as capitalism cause an even worse damage to the environment. Also noted in our argument, most of the developed countries often throw the environmental burden on the developing countries while enjoying the products that come out of it.