Overpopulation or Overconsumption?


What is the propelling force of the unsustainable nature of the world we live in? Obviously, unsustainability has to do with the ever-increasing amount of output, which is fueled by an increasing use of our natural capital. Both of these factors play a role in a cycle that needs to be capped off and minimized. There is a debate over whether this unsustainable cycle is driven by over population of our planet or the overconsumption of our planet’s population. This debate is controversial and often quieted due to the potential ethical issues involved. It can be argued that these two concepts are parallel; that overconsumption is a result of overpopulation. In part, this is true. The growth rate of the world’s population is at a record high, currently laying around 6.6 billion and projected to reach close to 9 billion by 2050. Obviously, such a rapidly increasing population will lend to increased use of natural resources as a means to meet the needs of people around the world.  However, this concept is complicated by the different levels of consumption by people around the globe. The population growth rate in developed countries has slowed in latter part of the past century while women are building better careers and having children later on in life with smaller desired family sizes while the growth rate in the developing world continues to rise.  The slower birth rate in the first world is an outcome of increased economic prosperity. Women are building better careers and having children later on in life with smaller desired family sizes.  This difference in population growth rate can be seen by observing the areas underneath this population growth curve:



read more about world population growth here:




It is not that I make an attempt to center the majority of my blog posts on the issues surrounding the wealth gap between the developed and undeveloped world, but the concept always seems to tangle tightly into worldwide sustainability issues. When considering the debate on overpopulation and overconsumption, one must (heavily) take into account the fact that the portion of the world with the highest population (and highest population growth rate) has the lowest ecological footprint:


Countries have been stretched to indicate their effective consumption based on Global Footprint Network 2006 and corresponding 2003 CIA World Factbook data. © Jerrad Pierce. Click for full-size image


Learn more about differing levels of consumption world-wide at:



This low consumption rate in the developing world is not by choice, but due to a lack of access to resources. The overconsumption of the lower-populated first world is causing the majority of the issues that are leading to unsustainability. Of course, as the ways of the developed world must be corrected, practice of sustainable development in developing countries must be a top priority, as we do not want these places to develop into sustainably corrupt societies as we have. In order to achieve this, a paradigm shift must take place so that people no longer equate wealth with happiness.


According to the happy planet index, we may very well be on our way. This index shows the relationships between happiness and ecological efficiency around the world.



The Happy Planet Intex illustrates that happiness does not necessarily equate with a country’s economic prosperity (as measured by GDP) and with high levels of resource consumption. It firmly supports the idea that achieving a long and happy life can be done harmoniously with sustainable, resource conserving practices, which is good news for us!


Check out the Happy Planet Index website here:





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: