How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth? – naturalist Sir David Attenborough investigates whether the world is heading for a population crisis.
In his lengthy career, Sir David has watched the human population more than double from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly seven billion. He reflects on the profound effects of this rapid growth, both on humans and the environment.
While much of the projected growth in human population is likely to come from the developing world, it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the West that has the most impact on the planet. Some experts claim that in the UK consumers use as much as two and a half times their fair share of Earth’s resources.
Sir David examines whether it is the duty of individuals to commit not only to smaller families, but to change the way they live for the sake of humanity and planet Earth.
How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?
Human overpopulation (or population overshoot) is when there are too many people for the environment to sustain (with food, drinkable water, breathable air, etc.). In more scientific terms, there is overshoot when the ecological footprint of a human population in a geographical area exceeds that place’s carrying capacity, damaging the environment faster than it can be repaired by nature, potentially leading to an ecological and societal collapse. Overpopulation could apply to the population of a specific region, or to world population as a whole.
Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. It is possible for very sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated if the area has a meager or non-existent capability to sustain life (e.g. a desert).
Advocates of population moderation cite issues like exceeding the Earth’s carrying capacity, global warming, potential or imminent ecological collapse, impact on quality of life, and risk of mass starvation or even extinction as a basis to argue for population decline.