Deforestation for palm oil production in Sumatra.

Population and consumption     Click here for more detailed information about rainforests!

The underlying cause of most environmental problems is human population and over-consumption: both the population in the temperate region that relies on resources derived from tropical rainforests, and the expanding population of developing tropical nations, who exploit the rainforest for survival.

While it may seem hard to believe, people in rich countries like the United States have a disproportionate impact on the environment through our consumption patterns. We use far more resources than poor farmers in tropical countries. For example, the food we buy in grocery stores may be produced through deforestation for soy in the Amazon or palm oil in Indonesia. The materials and energy to build and power our mobile phones and laptops may come from the destruction of rainforests in the Congo and Colombia. The paper we use for printing, packaging, hygiene products and the books we read may be produced from the logging of rainforests in Indonesia. Only by reducing our environmental footprint at home can we ever hope to save rainforests and other wilderness areas.

Overpopulation is a major concern. As more people are added to the planet, there are fewer resources to share. Crowded conditions and scarcity of resources often lead to conflict or other problems. Animals lose habitat to cities and expanding farm lands.

By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: March 21, 2014