Population Explosion | Meaning, Reasons & Effects

There has been a rapid growth of the human population in the last century due to the difference in the birth rate and the mortality rates. In the next one decade, the population of the world is expected to grow by another billion. The impact of uncontrolled population growth impacts not just a section of the society, but the entire population suffers from its infinite impact on the economy and the environment. With an understanding of the population growth patterns, we can try to understand the contributing factors and how to prepare for the future.

The human overpopulation or population explosion is caused when the ecological footprint of humans in a particular region crosses the actual carrying limit of the place with regards to space and the resources available. A place is considered to be overpopulated if the existing population in the area can no longer be maintained due to the constant depletion of the non-renewable resources or the natural resources leading to a degradation of the environment. However, a change in the lifestyle and the consumption and the use of renewable resources can help reverse the effects of population explosion without an actual or substantial decrease in the population.

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Reasons Behind Population Explosion & Importance Of Population Control

Population explosion can occur due to the increase in the birth rates, a substantial decrease in the mortality rates, immigration or a major depletion of resources creating an unsustainable biome not suitable for habitation. Population explosion can occur in a small region or a very sparsely populated area too even if the available resources in the region are very limited or non-existent and can sustain a very small number of people. Population control is necessary in order to maintain the quality of life and meet the carrying capacity of a region else it can lead to starvation and death causing a sudden and steep population decline.

The population of the world has increased exponentially in the past few decades. Around the year 1810, the population of the world was 1 billion. Just about a century later the population doubled to 2 billion, it increased to 4 billion in the next 45 years (1975) and by January 2019 the current population has reached 7.7 billion. The carrying capacity of the earth is 4 billion to 16 billion. It can be said that population explosion or human overpopulation may have already occurred on the Earth. According to the recent estimates, the world population would have reached somewhere around 10-11 billion between the years 2014 and 2050.

Causes of Population Explosion

Few of the causes of population explosions are discussed below

Technological advancement has been a major contributor to the high growth rate of population. With the improvement in technology the quality of life improved and so did the population in every phase of advancement. The initial tool making revolution helped the primitive hunters to not only provide more food but also give the security that a family needs against external predators and climatic conditions to sustain. This was followed by the agricultural revolution in which the hunter and the food gatherer turned into a farmer and lived in settlements. With the onset of the industrial revolution and the use of machinery and fertilizers, there was an abundance of food which further helped in enhancing the growth of population.

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With the improvement of medical facilities and the eradication of many diseases, human population thrived as the mortality rates dropped and the birth rates increased. With the invention of the contraceptives, there was a significant decline in the population growth in the developed countries. However, in the poorer countries where the women had no knowledge of birth control or had no means to access any form of contraception the population continued to grow. Economic backwardness has now become one of the main factors that have lead to an increasing population.

Another contributing factor to the increasing population is the higher life expectancy of the aged population. Although the birth rate may have declined the mortality rates have also declined significantly due to the availability of better medical facilities. This has also led to a growing concern as the major population in many countries has started aging and the percentage of the population capable of labor has declined. This means that even a minimal growth in the birth rate is actually contributing to the population growth.

Effects of population explosion

The effect of population explosion is multi-layered. It not only impacts the environment and the availability of resources but it also impacts the health of individuals within the population.

Natural resources are depleting constantly with the increasing demand and consumption. Fossil fuel which is the primary source of energy that drives the technology-driven world is fast depleting. Which poses a very important question on what do we depend on once this natural resource has exhausted. Although there is growing awareness on the use of renewable energy like biofuels, solar, wind and tidal energy and others there is still a long way to go where these renewable resources can actually replace the use of fossil fuels.


With the increasing population and the rising demand, there is an increased level in the air, water and soil pollution. This is not only impacting the lives of humans but has also affected the lives of many animals resulting in the endangering of many species and the extinction of many. The high levels of pollution have resulted in contamination of water and soil that has rendered many patches of land and water bodies unfit for use. Drinking water is fast becoming inadequate to support the needs of millions of people. With the increase the demand for crops to meet the global food requirements there has been an increase in deforestation to provide for agricultural land. This has led to a significant contraction in the biodiversity of many regions. Deforestation, on the other hand, has serious repercussions on the climatic condition of the planet. It leads to an increased level of carbon dioxide which is one of the contributing factors to global warming.

Apart from the environmental effects there is a huge socio-economic impact as the countries resources become inadequate to support the needs of a growing population. Countries with high population have high unemployment percentages as well which means that a greater number of people live in poverty, incapable to support the needs for sanitation and health care. It not only means malnutrition but it also leads to increased incidences of epidemics and pandemics.

Living conditions become increasingly compact and crowded which is detrimental to a thriving society and good mental health. It breeds crime and antagonism and higher mortality rates. Overpopulation impacts the entire biosphere as it impacts the environment in multiple levels.

Combating Population Explosion

The most important way to combat a steady rise in the population is education and empowerment. The impacts of a growing population need to be brought to the attention of all. It is not only the question of available resources and its consumption, but it is also a concern about providing a quality life to the current and future generations. Birth control and family planning is the first step that needs to be taken to ensure a gradual decline in the growth rate of the population. About 40% of worldwide pregnancies are unintentional which can be avoided by the use of oral contraceptives or other birth control devices like condoms or intrauterine device.

About 350 million women in the developing countries of the world are unaware of birth control options or the possibilities for family planning. Educating these women and making access to the birth control devices affordable can help in not only controlling the population growth but also help to improve the quality of life for these women and their children. Many countries promote small size families limiting the number of children per family to two or fewer. Male sterilization is also promoted to help in birth regulations. This has been made effective in a number of countries and a positive impact has been seen in the growth rate of the population of those countries.

Urbanization is another proposed method to help combat over population. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), urbanization may be an effective option for controlling the population growth. It suggested that cities tend to concentrate human activity with a limited area thus substantially reducing the breadth of environmental damage that is caused by a growing population. This can be achieved by efficient urban planning and proper maintenance of city services assuring an acceptable quality of life to its dwellers.


Though still a distant dream many scientists have proposed the possibility of Extraterrestrial settlement. The overpopulation on Earth can be easily combated by the use of Extraterrestrial settlements or space habitats that could support life forms. Many Scientists have suggested the use of the Asteroid belt or the Kupier belt to build the future home for humanity. Famous scientists like Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking, Gerard K. O’Neil, and K. Eric Drexter have all suggested space as a potential habitat for the human population to meet the demands for resources and land. There are many ongoing kinds of research that is looking into the possibilities of habitation in Mars, Moon and the upper layers of the atmosphere in Venus and other planets in the Solar system.

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