Overpopulation: Security-insecurity Paradox | Pakistan Today

By Afnan Wasif

World is facing immense problems. There was a clear distinction between natural and man-made challenges faced by the world in the past. But in contemporary times, spheres of natural and man-made challenges are overlapping. One of the reasons for this overlapping is the sophistication of the world. All the challenges ranging from climate change to poverty, hunger, and lack of quality education, etc. revolve around one core issue and that is population.

On 15 November 2022, the world’s population reached 8 billion people, a milestone in human development. The world population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, and to increase further to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2100. According to World Bank, the most recent number of individuals in Pakistan is 231 million. It was only 45 million in 1960. Scientists have predicted that Pakistan’s population may peak at about 314 million in 2062.

Why is the increase in population alarming? Human beings are dependent on natural resources. And natural resources are inversely proportional to population growth. With the passage of time, natural resources are continuously depleting. For example, the land for shelter is a natural resource. And how it is depleting could be seen on 14 February 2023, when António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, remarked that Rising seas are sinking futures.

Sea-level rise is not only a threat in itself. It is a threat multiplier. Rising seas threaten lives, and jeopardize access to water, shelter, food, and healthcare. The danger is especially acute for nearly 900 million people who live in coastal zones at low elevations — that’s one out of ten people on earth. According to NASA, Antarctica is losing an average of 150 billion tons of ice mass annually. The Greenland ice cap is melting even faster — losing 270 billion tons per year.

Above mentioned issues are disturbing. These all problems stem from population growth. Because we are creating such devastating problems through our own actions. And why we are doing so? Because existing limited resources make us unable to maneuver effectively in order to fulfill the needs of the masses. To overcome this problem, we are compelled to adopt artificial ways to increase our production.

These ways in turn are degrading our planet immensely. It is becoming a sort of Security-insecurity Paradox. Although this particular term is used in Strategic studies to understand the phenomenon of war stating that when two countries each have nuclear weapons, the probability of a direct war between them greatly decreases, but the probability of minor or indirect conflicts between them increases.

It might be applied to the phenomenon of disproportion between population growth and limited natural resources. Securing the needs of individuals indirectly causes harm to our planet in the shape of climate change, sea level rise, and global warming, etc.

In developing and underdeveloped countries the picture is different. They are even unable to go for man-made options to meet the requirements of their masses. For example, Pakistan is striving hard due to its economic crisis nowadays. One of the core problems of Pakistan’s fragile economy is the population.

Its economy and limited resources are unable to bear the burden of about 230 million people. It is destructing the social fabric and cohesion of society. As people are deprived of their basic needs. They have no access to quality education, health, food, water, and shelter. It cannot even afford sophisticated technology to boost its agricultural yield and place industries to increase the wealth pie of the nation. Industrialization and the use of technology in the agricultural sector have severe implications for the earth.

The recent flash floods of 2022 in Pakistan are an example of the effects of carbon emissions from industries including agriculture. In fact, its contribution towards global warming is negligible. But we suffered a lot. Why because other nations are trying to fulfill the necessities of their masses by other means. Ensuring the security of the masses of developed nations makes insecurity for the nations like Pakistan. The entire struggle in both traditional and non-traditional paradigms of security revolves around the population.

Developing and underdeveloped countries must have to think to control their population as China did from 1979 to 2016 by adopting the one-child policy. Awareness among young couples is far more necessary as could be seen in Chinese society. As now in China, couples could have three kids. But they are reluctant to bear new babies as the living costs are too high and most importantly upbringing becomes much more difficult. Such policies and awareness must be implemented and spread respectively, in order to prosper while effectively utilizing limited natural resources to meet the needs of the general masses.

The author is a student of Strategic Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. He tweets at @afnanwasif

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