Approximately 200 years ago, the total population of the Earth was less than one billion. According to the UN, as of 2017 the human population has reached a staggering 7.7 billion. (UN, 2015) Between 1900 and 2000, humanity saw a dramatic increase in its population from 1.5 to 6.1 billion.
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As the global population continues to balloon, one major issue that is looming overhead the human species is overpopulation. By 2050 the world population will reach to 10 billion people; many scientists believe that this will be the breaking point for humanity as far as sustainability and resources are concerned. With a world population of 10 billion, it will be hard to provide the necessary resources for the whole population to survive. Overpopulation is a condition where the number of existing human population exceeds the carrying capacity of Earth. Overpopulation is caused by numerous factors such as reduced mortality rate, better medical facilities, and depletion of precious resources, which are just a few of the causes which results in overpopulation. To explore potential solutions to prevent this problem, science writer Charles C. Mann discusses two broad solutions in his book titled The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. These two solutions are put into categories aptly called wizards and prophets. In short, the Wizard approach is technical. Science and technology that is properly applied will allow humans to produce their way out of this dilemma. For Prophets, the approach is much different. In this category, the solution is to use less and conserve natural resources.
Norman Borlaug, the “”wizard”” in Mann’s book, was born in on a farm in Iowa in 1914. Borlaug studied plant biology and forestry at the University of Minnesota and earned his Ph.D. 1942. He was soon recruited as a research scientist in charge of wheat improvement for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Cooperative Mexican Agricultural Program in Mexico, where he worked for little over a decade (Britannica, 2018). Fittingly, Borlaug’s felt that innovations in science and technology would allow humans to overcome our limits. With his work developing high-yield crop varieties and agricultural techniques, the biologist ushered in the “”Green Revolution,”” drastically increasing harvests around the globe beginning in the mid-20th century (Britannica, 2018).
Similarly, to how Borlaug’s technological advancements brought in the Green Revolution, new technological advancements can also help with the issue of created resources for an overpopulated planet. Scientists and researchers are coming up with different innovative ways to change our agriculture system as well as develop new technology, so that there is enough food to go around for everyone, and to ensure damaging the Earth in a way that will prevent us from growing more food. Sensors have been created to manage air and soil conditions so that farmers will have a more real-time certainty of the land they are using. Also, instead of prescribing field fertilization before application, crop sensors can inform application equipment of the correct amount of fertilizer needed. Scientist are also starting to redefine the way that humans develop their food. For example, genetically created food is being developed by using genetic material strains to develop animals and plants that will eaten at a faster pace than traditionally grown food (Zappa, 2014). As a difference from genetically modified food, genetically designed food would be created from scratch.
The man who represents the prophet in Mann’s book, William Vogt, believed that self-control and conservation will save the human population, not science. Vogt was born in 1902 in Long Island. With no formal scientific training, Vogt transformed his passion for the environment into a prosperous career in conservation. Vogt graduated with honors in 1925 from St. Stephens (now Bard) College in New York (Vogt, 2018). His writings in ecology and ornithology helped lay the groundwork for the modern environmental movement.
Conservation efforts could be viewed as the other side of the coin of technological advancements. Conservation and sustainability are solutions that could help with overpopulation and problems with the environment. The idea of reducing consumption should incorporate the industrial processes that produce goods and get rid of pollutants.
The wizard and prophet are both solutions that can be viewed as being on opposite sides of the spectrum. However, I believe that if humans were to implement these solutions together then humans would have the best chance at keeping natural resources available for all. We need to allow all the world’s citizens a lifestyle that is both reasonable and sustainable. To obtain this, consumption for developing countries should increase, a practical or smaller reduction in consumption for developed countries, and population stabilization will be required for all to ensure that the issue of overpopulation can be solved.
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