Powerful Images that Capture the Effects of Overpopulation

Trash wave
Indonesian surfer Dede Surinaya catches a wave in a remote but garbage-covered bay on Java, Indonesia, the world’s most populated island
‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.’ Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Photo Credit: Zak Noyle

Overpopulation is an unwanted situation where the number of existing people surpasses the carrying capacity of where they are in the world. Overpopulation is triggered by many factors. Mortality rate reduction, improved medical standards, and a reduction of valuable resources are just some of the conditions which lead to overpopulation. It is also possible for a thinly populated area to become thickly populated if it is not able to sustain life. Advances in technology with each year has affected the world in a myriad of ways. The capacity to save lives and generate better medical treatment for all is a most welcome fact for those living today, but this reality also exacerbates the burgeoning population numbers.

Waves of humanity
Sprawling Mexico City rolls across the landscape, displacing every scrap of natural habitat
‘If our species had started with just two people at the time of the earliest agricultural practices some 10,000 years ago, and increased by one percent per year, today humanity would be a solid ball of flesh many thousand light years in diameter, and expanding with a radial velocity that, neglecting relativity, would be many times faster than the speed of light.’ Gabor Zovanyi
Photo Credit: Pablo Lopez Luz

Consequently, increased lifespans equate to population growth. In the past half century alone, the population has spiked in unprecedented numbers. In the history of man, the birth and death rates have always been able to sustain an equilibrium wherein the population growth rate is able to maintain the status quo.

Rectangular fields
No room for nature, the entire landscape is devoted to crop production in China
‘Globalisation, which attempts to amalgamate every local, regional, and national economy into a single world system, requires homogenising locally adapted forms of agriculture, replacing them with an industrial system – centrally managed, pesticide-intensive, one-crop production for export – designed to deliver a narrow range of transportable foods to the world market.’ Helena Norberg-Hodge
Photo Credit: Google Earth/2014 Digital Globe

This is what these images so graphically show us. From Mexico City, Brazil, to India and China, each picture conveys the urgent message that we should somehow put the brakes on the global population explosion. It is a dangerous balance (or lack of it) where the world now sustains more people than ever before. We are also knee-deep in the culture of overconsumption and waste.

 Greenhouses grow greenhouses
As far as the eye can see, greenhouses cover the landscape in Almeria, Spain
‘We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire – a crackpot machine – that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate.’ Edward Abbey
Photo Credit: Yann Arthus Bertrand

Overpopulation can be viewed, in a long-term viewpoint, as occurring when a population cannot be maintained without the quick exhaustion of non-renewable resources or without the deterioration of the ability of the environment to give sustenance to the population.

Oil spill fire
Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
‘We must realise that not only does every area have a limited carrying capacity, but also that this carrying capacity is shrinking and the demand growing. Until this understanding becomes an intrinsic part of our thinking and wields a powerful influence on our formation of national and international policies we are scarcely likely to see in what direction our destiny lies.’ William Vogt
Photo Credit: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Advocates of population control mention issues like quality of life, carrying capacity and risk of starvation as being a basis to oppose high human population growth and for a population drop. These arguments make very valid points, especially when one views these graphic images of a world that is burdened by just too many people, their needs and the ensuing waste that follows.

British Columbia clear-cut
Sometimes called the Brazil of the North, Canada has not been kind to its native forests as seen by clear-cut logging on Vancouver Island
‘Human domination over nature is quite simply an illusion, a passing dream by a naive species. It is an illusion that has cost us much, ensnared us in our own designs, given us a few boasts to make about our courage and genius, but all the same it is an illusion.’ Donald Worster
Photo Credit: Garth Lentz
Feedlot Industrial livestock production in Brazil
‘Despite the industry’s spin, concentrated animal feeding operations are not the only way to raise livestock and poultry. Thousands of farmers and ranchers integrate crop production, pastures, or forages with livestock and poultry to balance nutrients within their operations and minimise off-farm pollution through conservation practices and land management. Yet these sustainable producers, who must compete with factory farms for market share, receive comparatively little or no public funding for their sound management practices.’ Martha Noble
Photo Credit: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

See the rest of the images here.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.