Where Humans Live: Is There Really an Overpopulation Issue?

In the last 50 to 100 years or so, there has been plenty written about humans having an overpopulation problem. When you read through these articles, you may become concerned that there really is a population problem that’s sweeping the planet. However, rarely (do you ever?) see a picture like the one I’ve included here accompanying those articles. Rather, you usually see a graph (see below), that shows the population has exploded in the last 50-100 years. While that’s true, it’s also true that much of the Earth is still not inhabited by humans.

Of course, I’m not necessarily volunteering to go live in the Arctic, but I think it’s something that’s worth keeping in mind when you hear folks talk about population problems on the planet. I’m not necessarily advocating that we — as a species — go live in the Arctic, but it would appear, at least from a superficial level, that there’s plenty of Earth for humans to spread out, too.

In addition toe “Earth” sprawl, there’s still the option for vertical sprawl. While many major cities in Asia have already ticked that box, there are plenty of areas across the United States were you could just about plant down a new city of 5 million people. There would need to be quite a bit of infrastructure set down first, but there’s room for people.

Should the population continue to grow like it is, humans are just going to have to get a lot more comfortable with each other. In Western cultures, folks are used to having their “own” space. That is, they’re used to some semblance of individuality and personal space. However, if you visit Asian cultures, you’ll find that there’s certainly a lot less focus on the “individual” person and more focus on many people at once (often times, a family — extended or nuclear).

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I still remember in one of my graduate classes a few years back now, there was a student from South Africa (Note: I’m not implying that South Africa is part of “Asian” cultures.) Our assignment was to draw something where we were relating to our families. I don’t exactly remember what it was, but I want to say a family tree. Anyway, just about every student in the class (predominantly white and/or had spent quite a bit of time living in North America), completed the assignment in the conventional way that one would think to. However, this student from South Africa completed it quite differently. Instead of drawing something resembling lineage, they drew themselves in the middle and drew lines out to each one of their family members.

It was an eye-opening experience. It illustrated just how easily it is for two people to hear the same instructions, but complete the tasks in different ways.

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Bringing that back to the topic at hand (adapting to conditions), I have complete faith in the human race to adapt should they need to live in areas they haven’t lived before. If there’s one things humans have become good at over the years, it’s adapting.

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