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TWO LONG-TERM PROBLEMS: TOO MANY PEOPLE, TOO FEE TREES
In this essay Moti Nissani shows the twin problems of overpopulation and deforestation.
In 1992 over fifteen hundred of the world’s scientists signed a document which expressed their worry about the condition of the biosphere. According to them, human activities have caused a great damage to the natural world. This will endanger human society, and the plant and animal kingdoms. Such practices must be checked. The Royal society of London the US National Academy of science are also worried about environmental damage. Now more people suffer from cancer, emphysema and asthma. Many people have lost their hearing power before they are old because of noise pollution. The rivers, lakes and seas are all polluted. We are uneasy about poisons in our foods and drink. Some species of animals and birds are going to disappear, and some have already been vanished. But the number of human being is rapidly growing. We are using natural resources wastefully. We are producing different types of poison which can’t be removed for thousands of years. We pollute the land or water. Soil erosion, desertification and deforestation are taking place quickly. As a result, we have to face very hot temperatures, floods, tropical diseases and mass migrations.
Human populations always change because everyday some people die while others are born. But the birth rate was a little higher than the death rate and the population grew slowly in the past. After industrial revolution, the death rate decreased to a large extent and the population grew rapidly. Now every year there are 80 million more people than those of the previous year. In 1951, Nepal’s population was 9 million. After less than fifty years, the number rose to 23 million. By the beginning of the twenty- first century, Nepal’s population will be 24,000,000. In 2026, it will be 46 million and in 140 years the number will be 368 million.
On first sight we may think that the more people we have the richer we become and that more people may invent more to make more profits. But the finite world is already overpopulated. For example, can Nepal support 44 million people? More people will need more food. To grow more food we must cut down the forests and there will be no trees. The land, water and air will be polluted. Both towns and villages will be crowded. Food production and facilities for health will not grow at the ratio of population growth and it may make crime, ethnic conflicts and warfare more common.
In America some 60,000 people die each year from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution. The situation is even worse in Kathmandu. But this situation could be improved by controlling pollution and population. The man cause of environmental problem is population growth. More people use more energy and will have more pressure on environment. If we can control population growth, we can solve many of the environment problems. The example of Germany and Sweden show that population can by reduced. In China, Thailand and Egypt, the rate of population growth has slowed down because of combined government action. The major causes of this decline are modernization, literacy, media campaigns, easily available contraceptives and equal opportunities for woman. We know now how to control our numbers, but we must put this knowledge into practice.
Because of rapid population growth, many people developing countries are forced to cut down the trees in the forest in order to grow food. They are also cutting down the trees to sell them at higher prices. The people of the developed countries are also guilty. When they ask for more hamburgers, the Brazilians keep more cows by cutting down the forest. The problem of deforestation was faced in the past, but now the rate of destruction is faster.
In the beginning of this century 40% of the earth’s total land was covered by the forest but now it is about 25% The destruction of the forest will cause floods, landslides, soil erosion and filling the river beds. We may not know the result of massive deforestation. But human beings can’t fell the trees and still hope for better future. We can save the forest by controlling the number of people and by educating them. We can also impose especial tax on wood- product. Moreover, some money should be given those to preserve the jungle reforestation we have biodiversity, pure wilderness, and it will minimize desertification, flooding declines rainfall. The smokeless stove uses less fire wood and the people will have more time pursue study and other more profitable business. If we have fewer people and more trees, we can save the planet for children. For this we need wisdom, courage and compassion.