Population vs Sustainability: An Engineer’s Perspective

Population vs Sustainability: An Engineer’s Perspective

We all know Thanos views how to achieve a perfect balance between resources and rate of consumption. But was he right? Had he experienced the future and returned to the present to purposefully give up on the Avengers? Following is an undergrad student`s perspective on that very topic- who is the real culprit to the environment?

1) Population:

a) Over:

The Population Bomb is a 1968 book written by Professor Paul R. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich. The book predicts global famine thanks to overpopulation, as well as other major societal upheavals, and advocated immediate response to curtail population growth. Likewise, many books got attention in the post-19th century as the world experienced a sudden surge in population, mainly during the industrial revolution and technological advancements in medicine and farming.

Following duly referenced [1][2][3] table depicts exponential population growth with time despite deadly WW1 and WW2:

The Issue:

The narrative is quite clear- limited resources don’t serve unlimited consumers. We have one planet with rapidly depleting resources. The gender ratio unbalance in China is another alarming issue to ponder on.

Suggestions Suggested:

As a result, abortion was legalized and encouraged in many countries, strict measures we carried out the most popular of which is, of course, one child policy of China from 1980 to 2016, and people started encouraging smaller families to be so-called “Environment friendly”. Resultingly countless family planning campaigns erupted.

b) Under:

The Issue:

Whenever we come across the trending term Population Collapse, only name we can recall is of Elon Musk. According to him, “… civilization would die with a whimper in adult diapers…” provided current fertility rate statistics of the developed world ¬(In 2022, the total fertility rate in Europe was estimated to be 1.49 births per woman compared with 2.7 in 1950[4]). Though 2.1 is the replacement level for any country, rates like 1.07 and 1.09 for Taiwan and South Korea respectively, would mean population decreases with every hour plus a tremendous old population to support, hence more people would require care than gaining productivity from. Here is a map depicting population distribution discrepancy around the globe [5]:

If not timely sorted out, most of the developed world would, in other terms, function as an old age home as the government must feed the old since the lower pyramid of the population has already been skewed. Plus, due to reduced production, there will be lesser demand for technological advancements hence the speed of innovation may highly get reduced.

Suggestions Suggested:

Many countries had different approaches with consequences:

Countries facing population collapse have already started implementing various methodologies to overcome future problems, yet many have implications, and the victims seek protection from governments if they want to continue with the policy. As most of Europe and America are open to workforce immigration, immigrants face racism and hatred in different aspects of their lives.

2) Sustainability:

As far as pollution is concerned, the following chart shows a different picture [6]:

In the chart above, 7 out of 10 have a huge population gap in comparison to the top 10 populated countries (by ranking).

Hence, in my opinion, our focus on pollution should revolve around an unsustainable lifestyle and efforts to overcome it.

Conclusion:

In my view, unsustainability is a major culprit of pollution than population. The world is experiencing the negative effects of so-called environment-friendly “family planning” and estimations suggest exponential demographic and social effects could worsen the situation by 2100.

A larger population demands more engineering activity for problems like housing, electricity, dams, cars, etc. With the population decline, Engineers might be forced to look out for nursing jobs in old age homes as it would be the only job sector left.

By exhausting our first option, we are left with sustainability to work on, and we already have positive results in making our daily life products sustainable. For instance, a million-tesla electric car would pollute less in a year than a hundred thousand 1900`s gas engine car. It is now up to us engineers to strive harder to come up with sustainable solutions to our problems rather than interfering in the social life of people by encouraging or imposing “family planning” laws which already have shown negative results. And now we can safely say Thanos should have joined hands with Ironman to invent sustainable products to bring about perfect balance, rather than wiping out half of the planet!

References:

  1. Max Roser; Hannah Ritchie; Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2013). “World Population Growth”. Our World in Data. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021.
  2. “World Population Prospects 2019, Volume II: Demographic Profiles” (PDF). United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2021.
  3. “Population, total”. World Bank Open Data. Archived from the original on 3 January 2022.
  4. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1251565/total-fertility-rate-in-europe/#:~:text=In%202022%2C%20the%20total%20fertility,compared%20with%202.7%20in%201950.
  5. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/where-will-the-next-1000-babies-come-from/
  6. https://climate.selectra.com/en/carbon-footprint/most-polluting-countries

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Abdul Rahman
By Abdul Rahman

An undergraduate student from NUST, Abdul Rahman on this platform shall try to present interesting facts on engineering in general and Civil Engineering in particular.


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