The increasing world population, advancement in technology and environmental degradation


This research and argumentative essay will examine the relationship between the increasing world population, advancement in technology and their effects on the environment. The principal argument is that global environment further deteriorates with the rising technological progress and social pressure from the expanding world’s population. In the recent past, there have been claims that the increasing world population has a negative impact on the environment (Cropper, Maureen & Charles 254). Similarly, scholars say that the advancing technology has a positive effect on the climate having in mind that we are moving towards a nanotechnology world (Maynard, Andrew et al. 273). In this paper, I will use scholar articles, published journals and world reports to reinforce my argument that advancement in technology, along with increased population growth has a negative influence on the environment and sustainable development for that matter. Other sources, such as world reports survey of 2013, show that the increasing population and disruptive technologies lead shows a dull future of our world (DES, UN 117). Similarly, they cause excessive consumption of nature-provided goods which threatens the sustainability of the future generations (United Nations 37). In the following sections, I will gather evidence from scholar articles, books, and journals to support my claim that increased population and advancing technology lead to environmental degradation.

First, I will support my argument from a sustainable human progress point of view. In other words, I aim to show that population growth has a negative impact on the sustainability of different economic, environmental and social aspects. First, high population growth rate hurts some extraction activities that aim at satisfying the endless needs of the people. Extraction in this context refers to any event that harvests materials in the environment with the intention of converting them to usable products. From the Malthusian theory, population increases geometrically while production rises arithmetically (Richerson & Boyd 176). That is, the output becomes additive while the population growth rate is multiplicative. From a mathematical point of view, it goes without saying that the population growth (the multiplicative factor) will outdo the production (additive element) in the long-run. The question that arises is, what happens next?

To answer this question, I had to visit my library and retrieve some peer-reviewed publications. My findings showed that prolonged population growth rate and a relatively lower production rate leads to the vicious cycle of poverty (Acemoglu, Daron & James 18). In other words, nations that are characterized by high population growth rate that is higher than their level of production ends up in a permanent cycle of poverty. This idea is evident in the developing nations. They are characterized by a geometrically increasing population growth rate. On the other hand, the level of gross domestic product in these countries is relatively low. That is, the production of the country falls below what the population demands. The citizens of these nations become poorer every day that the population increase. Therefore, the population growth leads to a loss of welfare and other negative impacts on the economic background of a country.

The effects of poverty increased population and worsened economic abilities are then transferred to the environment. For example, the people clear vast tracts of forests in search for more settlement land. This phenomenon is known as deforestation (Rudel, Thomas 47). The long-run impact of deforestation is famine, drought, and desertification (Michaelis & Andreas 67). It is also important to note that forests act as water-catchment areas.  They also play a crucial role in modifying the climate of a given region. In the case where deforestation dominates, the district is faced with a reversal of weather and climatic patterns. This reversal of weather patterns, in turn, hurts agriculture. The trees have an essential role in moderating the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (Callesen & Ingeborg 113). With increased deforestation, as a result of increased population, the world faces a risk of increased global warming, which will come with adverse effects on the world’s economic activities.

From another perspective, the population will have to cultivate the available land over an extended period to feed the increasing population. Once again, cultivation of one piece of land for an extended period leads to soil erosion and loss of soil fertility. Loss of soil fertility, in turn, leads to a loss of vegetation. Decreased plantation lead to low amounts of food available for the population, and the country gets back to the vicious cycle of poverty. Similarly, there arises a question of cause and effect. In this case, poverty, deforestation, soil erosion, loss of soil fertility and reversal in weather patterns are caused by the increased population, either directly or indirectly.

At this end, we can confirm that the increase in population and population growth rate has a negative impact on the environment. These effects can be either direct or indirect. These consequences come along with other harmful disadvantages to the economy, social well-being of the people and the environment at large. At the same time, one adverse effect leads to the other. The overall impact takes a form of a cycle that cause chaos in the planetary economic, social and environmental dimensions. Therefore, we need to cub uncontrolled population growth as a way of preserving our environment and our welfare. One way to reduce population growth, especially in the third world countries is through the use of contraceptives, family planning programs, and public education. The World Bank, World Health Organization, and local governments among other stakeholders have initiated family planning programs in the developing nations. From this fact, we can derive the hypothesis that these agents have already seen the effects of population growth and the need to curb it. Therefore, my argument that population growth has a negative impact on the environment and to our general welfare is valid. I, thus, call upon relevant authorities to consider creating awareness and provide public education to all people, especially the citizens of developing countries, on the need to control population growth as a measure of preserving the environment and human well-being.  The following section will focus on technological advancement and its impact on the environment.

When one mention technology, it is received with much joy in the sense that it has come to make work easier, increase productivity and efficiency (Melville, Nigel, Kraemer & Vijay 297). However, technology has also come along with negative impacts on the environment. In the recent past, there have been hot debates on the level of environmental degradation associated with advancement in technology. York (146) states that the improvement in technology comes along with its paradoxes. It brings environmental pollution as well as the Jevons Paradox. Similarly, Polimeni, John, and Raluca (351) confirm that technological progress brings about the exhaustive use of a natural resource instead of preserving it. The long-run effect of these paradoxes results in environmental degradation. Glenn and Jerome (41) also support the argument by saying that the increased population pressure and advancements in technology lead to ecological degradation. The evidence from this scholar works reinforces my case in this argumentative research.

Practically, the technology brings about a concept of making work more accessible and increasing efficiency. Similarly, it brings about increased productivity. Despite that these effects are positive, they have their dark side. For instance, take an example of the advancement in the technology of mining Gold, Copper, Aluminum, and Oil. The technology will ensure that the mining company harvests enough oil or minerals from the ground to maximize sales, hence revenues and therefore the profit of the firm. The side effect of maximum mining amounts of minerals will be soil degradation, erosion, open pits that will bring side effects to the general population and risk of triggering earthquakes.  All these side effects result from the increase in the mining technology. The other question that arises from this specific advancement in technology is what happens next?

When the mining company gets maximum oil and minerals from the soil, what next? First, the amount of land available for other economic activities decrease. For example, it will be challenging to perform agriculture in such area. At the same time, soil erosion becomes rampant in these regions such that the neighboring population faces the risk of being victims of landslides among other natural calamities. Bearing in mind that the community is also high, the situation even becomes worse. What happens if an earthquake, triggered by the mining companies, establish its epicenter near the highly populated region? The effects will be, the quake will increase in magnitude, shake the ground and destroy buildings and other facilities (Rustemli, Ahmet & Nuray 97). The people in these regions are endangered and faces the risk of losing their lives. The next question we need to ask ourselves is, now that the technology has enhanced production of oil and other minerals, where do these outputs go and what is their effect on the environment?

In response to the question above, it is evident that the oil and minerals get to the market. Remember, the population is already at its highest and creates a ready demand for the metals. The first consumer right from the mines will be oil or petroleum. It is used at the domestic and the industrial levels. At the local level, the paraffin and other constituents of the petroleum lead to the emission of carbon dioxide gas. At the industrial level, the use of petroleum products leads to an even higher release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Vehicles also release another poisonous gas called leaded carbon. These amounts of lead in the coal lead to acidic rains and respiratory disease. The other impact of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is the depletion of the ozone layer (Solomon & Susan 1709). This reduction, in turn, leads to global warming. Solomon and Susan (1708) state that the impacts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are irreversible and that they threaten the future of the coming generations. Remember, all these influences originated from the efficiency in productivity resulting from progress in the technological know-how.  Therefore, we can conclude there are some paradoxes. That is, other than the benefits, advancement in technology have negative impacts on the environment. A more elaborate example is explained by the Jevons Paradox. It is defined in the section that follows.

The Jevons Paradox is best explained using the automotive industry as an illustration of how technical progress increase environmental degradation. According to Cark, Brett and John (97), an improvement in technology in the automotive industry lead to the production of many cars to meet the demand (given that the population is already high). In turn, the technology enhances the efficiency of the vehicles through minimizing their level of fuel consumption and emission. At the time, the manufacturing companies can produce more cheap cars using their technology. With the decreased prices, more people can buy the vehicles. In the long-run, the number of automobiles will be so many, such that their total emission even exceeds that of traditional automotive. It is important to note that in this case, the combined exhaust is increasing because the technology used can produce more cars. Similarly, the vast population can buy all the cars and hence, despite the low emission per car, the overall exhaust waste by all the vehicles exceed that of traditional automobiles that were emitting more massive amounts of smoke and exhaust gasses. These gasses get to the atmosphere and pollute the air. When rains come, there is formation of acidic rain, which in turns leads to river pollution and soil erosion. The total effect is environmental pollution in all dimensions. Therefore, the efficiency and productivity caused by an advancement in technology lead to ecological degradation. This relationship is called the Jevons Paradox.

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The last argument is that technology is directly involved in pollution of the environment through the disposal of technological waste. According to Khan and Sabaa Ahmad (264), high population is related to mass consumption of electronic products. The immediate effect of this course of action is increased electronic waste. This waste is highly toxic as it consists of heavy and poisonous metals such as mercury and lead. When these metals get into the ecosystem, they may disrupt the operation of the food system and hence biodiversity. They may lead to the death of marine life as well as terrestrial life. Similarly, these wastes fill the dumpsites and demand for more land to be set aside for the establishment of more dumping stations. These dump sites occupy an area that could be used for other economic activities such as agriculture. The soils lose their value and become unusable. Examples of such materials resulting from technical changes include plastic bags. These plastics take more than 1000 years to decay. For this long, the soils cannot be used for any useful economic activity. At this end, I can firmly claim that increasing population and advancements in technology has negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, there is a need for policymakers and relevant stakeholders to intervene and define new policies that will lead to a sustainable future.

Implications for my research

The findings of this study imply that increased population confer negative benefits to the environment. Therefore, there is need to control the rate of population growth to avoid poverty, the vicious cycle of problems and unsustainable consumption behaviors of individuals. Similarly, we need to check our population growth rate as a measure to reduce the level of deforestation in the world. The long-run impact of the controlled population will be increased welfare, reduced environmental degradation and an overall gain in economic activities.

Secondly, this research implies that other than the known advantages, technological progress has negative impacts on the environment. These adverse effects are the paradoxes explained by scholars such as Jevon. Therefore, we need to start a program for sustainable technology that does not threaten the future of the next generations. Policymakers can do so by creating awareness to the general public and technology innovators to focus on sustainable future rather than on maximizing efficiency and productivity, which appears to be the order of the day in our current world.

Future Directions

This study has heavily relied on a theoretical approach to stating and addressing the problem. Therefore, there is need to conduct research that uses a quantitative method, which involves actual data collection and empirical findings. In this way, we can answer questions of by how much does technological advancement lead to environmental degradation? And what is the impact on the environment as a result of an increase in the population of a given country?

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