The current world population is estimated to be slightly over 6.8 billion people. By the year 2040, the world’s population is expected to increase by almost one half so as to be approximately 9 billion. Even more remarkable, in just another ten years, or by 2050, the world’s population is projected to be 10.6 billion and by the year 2100 is expected to be 15.9 billion. What this reflects is the increasingly exponential rate of world population growth, with the world’s population having increased fourfold in just the last 100 years. This has been a characteristic of human population since the first homo sapiens, with the human species being unique in the way that it has spread and populated the globe. As humans have learned to control disease and increase food production, however, so has the human population exploded beginning around the 1400’s, or shortly after the Black Plague that previously had killed off much of the population of Europe. Such an explosion of the human population has occurred despite two world wars and world-wide disease epidemics such as the 1918 flu. Because of the exponential nature of the explosion of the human population, this creates resource and environmental management problems that are increasingly raising questions as to the earth’s carrying-capacity to support our human population at current population growth rates and demands that our current society place on the environment (i.e. human “foot-print” impacts). Each day more than 200,000 people are added to the world’s population and thus demand for food and other natural resources. Following in the sections below are a discussion of some these global environmental and resource issues caused by the rapidly increasing human population.
The UN-Habitat Report of 2008 reports that by 2018 half of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, and by 2060 over 6 billion people, or over two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. 93 percent of this increased urbanization is expected to occur in developing countries in Asia and Africa. As an example, by 2030 China is expected to have an urban population of 1 billion and India an urban population of 590 million. This contrast with Europe’s current urban population of 533 million. Also, by 2030, China is expected to have 221 cities with a population of more than a million people while India will have 68 cities with a population of over 1 million people. This contrast with Europe with today 35 cities with a population of over a million people. Already, close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million urban dwellers each year. Such rapid urbanization causes numerous problems, including urban sprawl that consumes agricultural lands, traffic congestion and related air pollution, urban slums as previously agricultural-subsistence populations move to urban areas to look for jobs, increased demands for housing, and increased crime and disease. And as we become an increasingly global society where in hours goods and individuals can travel half-way across the globe, increasingly urban problems of one region can quickly spread throughout the globe. As such, all of us have a vested interest in finding ways to deal with manage the world’s increasing urbanization.