Four approaches to overpopulation

During a Bill Moyers interview, Isaac Asimov (author, scientist, futurist) said that human population is growing like never before.  We are now adding a billion people to our planet every dozen years:  equivalent to 220,000 people per day.


As we know, an exploding population will lead to a series of issues, especially with the environment.  These include the quality of our atmosphere, overuse of soil, loss of forests, deterioration of the ocean environment, crowded living spaces, endless traffic, species extinction, habitat fragmentation and shortages of every manner of resources.  However, we did not address solutions for these big issues in our class.  This troubled me.  For the rest of the week, I searched for solutions to these global problems.  I found local solutions to overpopulation in China, Japan, and Colombia and have listed a few below.  Each remedy possesses a unique set of consequences.

According to Japan’s  Oxford Analytica, Japanese women attained the longest life expectancy among 228 countries.   According to 1982 World Bank data, and have held that position to now. Another fact is Japan’s population peaked in 2004 at 127.8 million. That is to say, population is still a question for the Japanese society.

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1,  Move the Multitude of Large Corporations Out of Big Cities

Research from Tokyo University indicates that young people are unable to marry after moving to Tokyo, where everything is expensive, nurseries are in short supply and houses are too small.  I have lived in Tokyo for several years during the 1990s.  Our apartment was in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.  This one of the key population centers in the greater Tokyo region.  Our apartment was about 60 square meters in building area.  This made it above–average for the neighborhood.  With a population of nearly 36 million people, the greater Tokyo area is one of the most populated regions in the world and also the hotbed of business activity in Japan.

Half of Japan’s 3,500 listed companies are headquartered in Tokyo, packing the capital with over thirty million people and leaving rural areas depopulated. People usually have to wait three times to enter the subway car. One of the solutions is move them to other areas. For example, Komatsu Ltd, which recently began moving some headquarters functions to its hometown of Komatsu City in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast. The heavy equipment supplier said it made the move after discovering big differences in birth rates between female workers in Ishikawa and Tokyo.

2, Underground Living 

In the Chinese region of Shanxi province, caves burrowed out of the soft, loess soil has been protecting their inhabitants from severe winters and high summer temperatures for thousands of years. Local people still prefer their cave dwellings to modern, freestanding homes.



Similar examples from all over the world indicate that underground dwellings are the ideal solution to particular ecological problems and, often, a resource shortage such as a lack of wood or timber, which prevents aboveground structures being built. A survey by Anna Heywood, who is a writer works for the United Kingdom government, shows that there are up to 100,000 semi-subterranean or fully underground dwellings in the USA. But, right now, Japan seems to be at the forefront of underground innovation. “This little overcrowded island has embraced the concept of subterranean living like no other nation, ” she said. Tokyo’s land prices have reached incredible levels – over four billion pounds per acre – driving developers underground and giving rise to some groundbreaking, large-scale projects.




However, living underground is still being debated widely. I believe that the horrible living conditions for citizens and the high taxation on food, clothing and house will make people unwilling to live in the underground. For example, if people agree to live in sewage system, which is much cheaper than living in an apartment, they can get a great deal of money from the government subsides. A house in the system cost 100 yen (equivalent to 1 USD) and 500 yen per person for a month. But the living condition of the sewage system is incredibly bad, even here is in Japan, one of the cleanest countries in the world.

There is also another solution such as one-child policy in China. But they will all lead to other social issues. Controlling the population size in an effective and sustainable way is still a difficult problem to the whole world in the next few decades.

The least desirable approach to a solving a nation’s overpopulation problem is for the state to do nothing at all.    This is one such instance in Colombia:

One thought on “Four approaches to overpopulation

  1. This is an interesting perspective on overpopulation and housing. If this is something you are interested in pursuing, you might want to ask Alejandro Puentes for an architect’s perspective.

    Keep writing: you are getting better!