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As
of now, we have to concede that our increasing population may be unstoppable
for many decades to come and have to play our part in cutting down our
individual carbon footprint to reduce our impact on the environment. Perhaps
then, we would no longer be accused of harming the planet on which we reside.       

However,
actually tackling the root issue of overpopulation is difficult; Central
Intelligence Agency data reveals that the top nine countries with the highest
Total Fertility Rate (TFR) are all African countries. The region, generally
impoverished, relies on agriculture to power their economy. Locals often opt to
have many children for the practical reason of making backbreaking work on
farms easier. Efforts are being made to educate the locals on family planning
and contraceptive use, the effectiveness of which remain to be seen.

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With
this in mind, then comes the question: how do we resolve the issue of
overpopulation? Unfortunately, like most environmental problems, human
overpopulation does not have a clear-cut solution. Sure, efforts have been made
to reduce the impact of human overpopulation, seen in the local government’s
use of road taxing policies in a bid to reduce the number of cars on the road
and, by extension, the carbon footprint of Singaporeans.

Effects
of climate change have been observable locally for the past decade or so, with
the annual mean temperatures in Singapore showing an increasing trend since
1997. The recent cold spell during which temperatures hit a low of 22 degrees
Celsius may also be attributed to the effects of climate change, according to
the National Environmental Agency. In similar fashion, more erratic weather
patterns are also being observed in other countries. In 2017, the four major
hurricanes that rocked the United States have caused $200 billion dollars in
damage to infrastructure, according to TIME magazine, the 2nd costliest
mainland U.S. hurricane season since 1900. Clearly, overpopulation is acting as
a catalyst for a costly and potentially deadly environmental phenomenon.

In
the same vein, our existence has also contributed directly to global warming
through our carbon emissions. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, humans
have reduced nature’s ability to cope with the greenhouse gases within the
atmosphere. At the same time, we have also increased the rate of production of
greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere, through manufacturing more
carbon-emitting vehicles, and via the construction of more “dirty” factories
and power plants that emit greenhouse gases. An individual’s carbon emission,
otherwise known as carbon footprint, is the measurement of how much every human
being is contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In
2008, America’s Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT) estimated that the
average American produces 20 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.
Paired with our ever increasing population, this rapidly becomes a recipe for
over-production of greenhouse gases – in fact, if one were to compare a graph
of carbon emission trends from the 1990s to the 2000s to a graph of population
growth over the same period, it would quickly become apparent that the two
factors have a causal relationship. The greenhouse gases act as insulation,
trapping heat from the sun in our atmosphere.

According
to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an estimated 18
million acres of forest are lost each year, with agriculture being the leading
cause of deforestation. Unsurprisingly, the exponential growth of human
population all across the world has led to a corresponding increase in food
demand. As a result, efforts to make room for more farms never cease.
Eventually, we would run out of forests to destroy, resulting in the loss of
countless precious and unique species of flora and fauna that reside within the
rainforest ecosystem. Quite apart from the loss of biodiversity is also the
issue of climate change; the various plant-life within forest ecosystems is
essential in regulating the amount of harmful greenhouse gases, such as carbon
dioxide within the atmosphere. With the loss of forest areas, nature’s ability
to cope with the greenhouse gases is drastically reduced. As a result of the
greenhouse effect, which causes global warming and climate change, is
drastically worsened. Indirectly, through our irresponsible logging to create
agricultural land, humanity has crippled the natural regulation of the amount
of harmful gases within our atmosphere.

In The Matrix,
Agent Smith said in his soliloquy that “Human beings are a disease, a cancer on
this planet”. This quote, while a mere hyperbole within a fictional universe,
does have some basis in reality. Human beings, or more specifically, the
exponential growth of human population, is the single most potent environmental
issue facing the modern world. Like a disease, human beings have exacerbated
many detrimental environmental phenomena, worsening their effects drastically.

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