Social Issues

Population and the Environment

The effects that declining or increasing populations have on a nation varies according to the base economic starting point when the population change occurs. Rich and poor nations are both affected differently by population change. Wairigala Wakabi’s article, “Population growth continues to drive up poverty in Uganda”, demonstrates how a rapidly increasing population can expand poverty in a country that already has a high percentage of poor. According to Wakabi’s article just five years ago Uganda’s impoverished numbered at 7.8 million. This already high number has increased to 10 million in the past five years. In contrast, Nick Pearce’s article, “We may need to have more babies: Observations on population,” demonstrates how declining population can increase poverty in a wealthy state. In Pearce’s article, it states that effects of declining population will contribute to pressure on public finances, housing issues, environmental problems, care needs, poverty and inequality in England. The only thing to be done about it is to slow or reverse the current population trends for each country.

In Pearce’s article, it is pointed out that the declining population in England will intensify environmental problems. The article does not give details on which economic problems specifically are being referred to, but readers can infer an increased demand for housing and perhaps higher personal vehicle usage based on the article’s projection that 8.7 million single-person households will exist in England by 2021, both factors that have an impact on land use, resource usage, and air-quality.  This factor switches for poor countries and again increasing population in a poor country has the same effect as declining population in a rich country. As poor populace increases in Uganda air quality is negatively affected, accumulation of waste increases, and more natural resources are used at a quicker rate. To counteract these environmental issues house planning needs to be reevaluated, alternative energy sources implemented for residential and commercial power use and transportation, and alternative building materials used.

When considering environmental concerns in relation to economic development and population control, I think the main thing to take into consideration is what will do more damage to the environment, a high number of people or increased production? Looking to the two articles, both make mention of a heavy toll on the environment resulting from increased population in the poorer country, Uganda, and decreased population growth in the wealthier country, England. England has been economically well-developed and that is being threatened by the decline in population growth. Uganda has been successful in increasing economic development along with the increase in population, though the increased populace has had a negative impact on environment. So, from the articles, population control comes first when considering environmental concerns.

If economic development is the chicken and population control is the egg, I would say you need to have a good healthy chicken before you start laying a bunch of eggs. From the information provided in Wakabi’s article, it is clear from looking at Uganda that increasing population in a country before establishing a strong economic base will provide too many eggs to be taken care of and not enough chickens to sit on them. Since China is Uganda’s president’s economic role model, this argument could be made stronger if information about China’s economic history was included. As it is, it is not clear from the article if China’s economy was

stable or rich when the population boomed.