Two Long Term Problems: Too Many People, Too Few Trees

Posted: July 16, 2013 in RKG sir notes class-12

Two Long Term Problems: Too Many People, Too Few Trees Moti Nissani

Main Theme
This essay is about two problems that are going to make people’s lives much worse. It is possible they will destroy all life on our planet. These problems are that there are too many people in the world (overpopulation) and that our forests are being destroyed. The problems are linked because when there are too many people, forests get cut down more quickly and trees do not get replaced.

In 1992, over 1500 of the world’s scientists signed The World Scientists Warning to Humanity, a document reflecting growing concerns about the state of the biosphere. They worried about what is happening to the world. The concern was also concurred by the Royal Society of London and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The biosphere is becoming much polluted. The air and water are becoming poisonous and many types of plants and animals are disappearing. The population of the world is going up because people are living longer than in the past, and too many children are being born. Every hour some10, 000 new members are added to the already huge population that the earth is carrying. Our excesses don’t end there. We have also dirtied space. We clean pollutants up rather than use cheaper and healthier means of prevention.
For the last few hundred years, human population has increased, especially in the Industrialized countries with the improvements in nutrition, sanitation, and health. People there are living longer and have longer fertility rate. Similarly the world population is growing by more than 80 million people. The population of Nepal has increased exponentially from 9 million to 23 million in less than 50 years. Nepal’s population is expected to touch 46 million by 2026. There will be shortage of food and consequently the disappearance of trees. The land, water and air will be polluted. Towns and villages alike will be crowded. Food production and facilities for health will not grow at the ratio of population growth and it may make crime, ethnic conflicts and warfare more common. The world’s resources are being used up and problems caused by pollution, like diseases and changes in the world’s climate are getting worse. The world already has been facing frightening problems like desertification, depletion of nonrenewable resources (e.g., petrol, natural gas, and helium), acid rain, loss of wild species, ozone layer depletion, and the greenhouse effect.
Notwithstanding this, it is possible to stop the growth in population. This has happened in Sweden and Germany. Other countries like China, Thailand and Egypt have lessened their population through the active role played by their governments. Factors such as modernization, literacy, media campaigns and equal economic, educational, and legal opportunities for women, and information about how to avoid having babies (family planning) help reduce population growth. We know now how to control our numbers but we must put this knowledge into practice.
As the population of Nepal grows, forests are cut down to turn the land into farmland. The demand of rich people in the west for beef is also causing forest land to be changed into grassland for cattle farming. Rich people’s demand for wood and paper products is also causing the destruction of forests. When forests are chopped down, the soil is destroyed and this can lead to disastrous flooding. Such is the pitiable condition of earth’s forest cover that it has come down from 40% in the early part of this century to about 25% now. Indeed, the destruction of forests contributes to such things as the greenhouse effect, irreversible loss of many thousands of species of plants and animals, landslides, soil erosion, siltation of rivers and dams, droughts, and weather extremes. Eventually this ongoing deforestation would damage the quality of life on earth, reduce the number of life forms that share the planet with us, and hamper the ability of the biosphere to sustain life.
Deforestation can be reduced if the increase in the number of people is controlled. Education, family planning and changes in the way we use wood are important. The short term remedy would involve massive tree plantings on abandoned deforested land and on unused lands elsewhere. Sometimes, appropriate and economical technology like the use of smokeless stoves in countries like Nepal can reduce the amount of firewood needed, thereby increasing time to study and provide opportunity to practice other more profitable business. However, even though we know what changes we must make, we are not brave or clever enough to make those changes. Moti Nissani ends optimistically by telling us that the problem of overpopulation and deforestation can be solved by the application of wisdom, courage, and compassion.

Board Exam Questions
1. How can we save our forests? (2062)
2. Explain the links between overpopulation and deforestation? (2058)
3. What are the causes, consequences and cures of overpopulation and deforestation? (2061/2066)

Overpopulation has a direct effect on forest cover. The increase in human numbers means increased demand for food and fuel, and thus the process of deforestation will continue till trees will vanish to leave way for farmlands. In the present time cutting down of trees is taking place at an alarming rate because of exponential growth in human population. For example,, in the beginning of the third millennia Nepal had a population of 23 million which by 2026 is expected to double to 46 million. So, millions of Nepalese will have to be fed and sustained. Also, in this century, only 25% of land is covered by forests, and this is causing a host of damages in the form of greenhouse effect, loss of plant and animal species, increase in droughts, and weather extremes.. When trees of Nepal, for example, are cut the topsoil is lost and this leads to flooding in Bangladesh and India, killing people and ruining crops, the source of food. Population pressure in addition to new technologies and affluent lifestyle of some people also exacerbates deforestation. Deforestation also brings other threats like ozone layer depletion, airborne pollution, and acid rain. The eventual outcome of deforestation would damage the quality of life on earth and hamper the ability of the biosphere to sustain life. The destruction of forests can be controlled by investing in family planning efforts through education, moving towards participatory democracies, involving greater efficiency in the use of wood products, recycling, providing financial incentives for preserving forests for sustainable forestry, mass afforestation programme, and switching to eco-friendly technology.

Some Q & A
1. Are most living Nobel Prize winners optimistic about the future of humanity? Why or why not?
The Nobel Prize winners are guardedly optimistic about the future of humanity, because they are of the opinion that there could be imbalance between the natural world and human world if we don’t apply positive attitude towards environment. They warn of the human beings’ increasing possibility of inflicting irreversible damage on the environment and on its resources. They opine that if human beings don’t check their current bad practices, then life on this planet of and of plants could be at risk, and it may also affect the sustainability of life in the manner we know or like. Thus, urgent change in our approach towards the environment, they say, could avoid the inevitable: irreparable degradation of the environment.

2. What leads Nissani to the belief that the world is facing an overpopulation crisis?
There are various negative indicators that lead Nissani to believe there is an overpopulation crisis. Every year 80 million people new mouths are added to the overburdened earth, which means there is more demand for food, and the corresponding damage to the forests. The trees are felled to clear land for farming. There is increase in pollution and pollution-induced diseases. 60000 Americans die each year because of human-induced pollution. What’s more overcrowding has invited crime, conflicts, war, and mass migrations. Many animal species are vanishing or have vanished. Increased population has increased energy use, resource consumption and environmental stress too. Desertification, depletion of natural resources, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, droughts, floods, and weather extremes are other negative markers of overpopulation crisis.

3. What’s wrong, in his view, with a treeless Nepal?
There is bound to be a lot of environmental and human disasters happening in the absence of trees in Nepal. Trees keep the top soil intact, however with their disappearance; the fertile top soil can easily be carried down by rivers, particularly during monsoons, whereby causing landslides and other natural disasters in the mountains and hills and devastating floods and siltation of rivers and dams in the Terai and beyond. Floods kill people as well as ruin standing crops, the source of food. The Koshi carnage is one infamous event in recent history. The bare mountain and hill land become a wasteland too. Many thousands of species of birds and animals could be endangered or lost forever. And, over a long period of time, felling of trees could inflict other environmental repercussions like the greenhouse effect, droughts and whimsical weather patterns.

Raj Kumar Gautam, Lecturer, English Department, Arniko HSS, Biratnagar, Morang, JULY 17, 2013

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