What is overpopulation?

Popul Educ Interchange. 1988 Dec;17(4):1-2.


PIP: George Morris has defined overpopulation as the state of the population "when there are more people than can live on the earth in comfort, happiness, and health and still leave the world a fit place for future generations." Every element of the definition is open to interpretation. Even the carrying capacity of the land -- the number of people that can be supported in an area -- depends on who is using the land and for what. The same amount of land can support a great many more vegetarians than meat-eaters. Comfort, health and happiness have different standards among peoples, and the next generation may find the world more or less "fit," depending on their level of technology. Population density is not an adequate measure of overpopulation, since countries with advanced economies, like the Netherlands or Hong Kong, can support an extremely dense population. Whether a country is overpopulated or not depends on its population growth rate, standard of living, lifestyle, culture, available technology and resources, economy, and other factors. Some experts feel that the earth's resources are finite and therefore there are limits to population and economic growth; others argue that, as long as science and technology advance, there are no limits to growth.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Demography
  • Environment
  • Geography
  • Population
  • Population Density*
  • Population Dynamics*