Man and Environment: Overpopulation in China

Eight major ways in which we have altered natural systems to meet our needs.

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Pollution is one of the major impacts that is caused by humanity’s needs for industrial development. The use of vehicles, i.e., burning of fossil fuels led to the increases in Earth’s temperature. Genetic modification, used to modify plants, results in weeds immune to herbicides, which requires the use of soil tillage, dangerous for organisms living in it. Non-biodegradable plastic leads to water and land littering; water is polluted, and animals die because they cannot digest plastic. Deforestation for farming leads to a reduction of wildlife populations that have to leave their places of habitat. Water diversion leads to the extinction of species (University of Virginia). The consequences of expanding urban areas are overall increased levels of littering and resource consumption. Coal-burning results in acid rains.

The demographic transition is a concept that includes historical population trends, based on birth rates and death rates. According to it, population growth rate changes depending on the country’s economic development. The four stages are pre-transition, early transition, late transition, and post-transition (Grover).

According to Appleby, population estimates are difficult to project because they are based on a set of different factors, including births, deaths, and migration; earlier projections of fertility rates, for example, overestimated births, while later projections underestimated them (1). Mortality projections also show a turning point where the number of deaths raises, but such turning points move with each projection, which influences their accuracy.

There are several ways of addressing population growth. First, family planning programs are suggested. Together with contraception, they can slow down the growing population rates if provided correctly (Gais). Better general and reproductive education is also necessary, as well as women’s empowerment, as the relationship between citizens’ empowerment and limiting birth rates was proven (Gais). Rapid and uncontrolled population boom should also be perceived as a national security issue.

Overpopulation problem in China

The problems resulting from the one-child policy adopted in China are sex-specific abortions, the skewed gender ratio in the population, and an aging population (Anders). Although it might be assumed that without this policy, the country would experience serious overpopulation problems, there is evidence that the fertility rates in China would be similar to current even without this policy. As Anders points out, the population rate in China would decline as it did in other countries without the one-child policy; for example, Taiwan’s fertility rate is somewhat above one child per woman without any one-child policy, although Taiwan is ahead of China in terms of economic development. Other countries, such as Japan, also experienced a decline in birth rates in the 1980s just as China did but did not introduce any similar policies. Japan’s current fertility rates are also low, approximately 1.3 children per woman.

Instead of introducing such a strict policy, China could have used another approach that is tested in the 1970s before the adoption of the one-child plan. The “Later Longer Fewer” policy, as can be understood from its name, encouraged women to wait longer before having their first baby, as well as motivated them to have fewer children (Anders par. 9). Easier access to birth control was also provided, which supported women in their decision to have children later in life. As was suggested by Gais, contraception, family planning, and women empowerment are suitable tools for addressing and controlling population growth. Thus, if Chinese government officials chose such interventions instead of the one-child policy, it is possible that the growth rates would remain the same as today without such severe interventions.

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Works Cited

Anders, Charlie J. “Did China’s One-Child Policy Actually Reduce Population Growth?” io9, 2014, Web.

Appleby, John. “Population Projections: Why They Are Often Wrong.” BMJ, vol. 349, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1 – 5.

Gais, Hannah. “How Many People Is Too Many People?” U.S. News. 2017, Web.

Grover, Drew. “What Is the Demographic Transition Model?” Population Education. 2014, Web.

University of Virginia. “Human Impact on the Environment.” College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, n.d., Web.

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