Every 20 minutes, the world adds another 3,500 human lives but loses one or more entire species of plant or animal life – at least 27,000 species per year.
The world is adding a city the size of LA every 2 weeks, one the size of San Francisco every 3 days, and in the time you were in one of your classes, we added a city the size of Yuba City. Now, this is all fine and dandy, but what does this information mean to you? Well, it means that in the time you’re alive, population could very well double. Think rent is bad now? Wait until there are twice as many people here. But the financial impact of this kind of population growth pales in comparison to the environmental dangers we face.
I know it’s easy to brush it off and assume that it’s not going to do any serious damage in your lifetime. After all, any large scale disaster would take forever to develop. Or, maybe not. Global environmental change is only gradual until critical thresholds are passed, after which disaster could strike in a matter of months. Look at the increase in skin cancer; in the last two decades, non-melanoma skin cancer rates have doubled. Didn’t know that hole in ozone was affecting you that much, huh? Maybe you ought to knock it off with the hairspray.
Much of the damage that we’re doing to the earth is irreversible in any meaningful time period, such as groundwater depletion and contamination, deforestation and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. And many more of them are completely irreversible, most notably the depletion of raw materials such as oil and biodiversity loss. Don’t think you’ll miss the pink-tufted wobbler puffin? You might not right now, but what about when scientists find out that their feathers contained a nutrient that could have prevented cancer?
Natural disasters, caused largely by environmental degradation resulting from our humongous population growth, have cost the world roughly $608 billion over the last decade; as much as in the preceding 40 years combined. Scientists figure the world’s average temperature will rise six degrees in the next 100 years, the results of which will be significant water shortages, decreased food production and a widespread increase of such diseases as malaria and dengue fever.
Here are some statistics from United Nations Development Programme that reveal the damaging effects of overpopulation: