The global human population has experienced exponential growth over the past two centuries, raising concerns about its sustainability and potential consequences for the planet. Population ecologists from the University of British Columbia in Canada argue that the world is currently facing an "advanced ecological overshoot" due to our unsustainable resource consumption and our natural tendencies as humans.
Researchers point out that human expansion, resource consumption, and exponential growth have been a part of our evolutionary history. However, negative feedback mechanisms historically countered these tendencies. The scientific revolution and the use of fossil fuels reduced many of these negative feedback mechanisms, allowing us to unleash our full potential for exponential growth.
This unrestricted growth has led to excessive consumption and pollution, particularly in affluent societies. Ecologists believe these problems will intensify as financial security and population sizes increase. While climate change is a prominent symptom of Earth's strain, it is just one aspect of the broader overshoot problem.
Scientists highlight that we must address multiple interconnected issues, including biomass consumption and the disruption of planetary nutrient cycles. These problems collectively contribute to Earth's sixth mass extinction and threaten the stability of essential life-support systems.
Traditional solutions like switching to renewable energy sources do not address the underlying problem of exponential population growth and can even exacerbate consumption. The question remains whether technological advancements can keep up with the escalating demands our consumption places on the planet. If not, the study suggests that food shortages, habitat instability, war, and disease could impact population numbers.
The scientific community emphasises that addressing overshoot directly would alleviate various symptoms simultaneously. However, he underscores the importance of raising awareness about our predicament and striving for a better balance in our relationship with the planet. Without a concerted effort to address these challenges, the world may face a "population correction," potentially leading to a civilisational collapse, as researchers warn, before the end of the century.