Wiki entry


Population Overshoot and Design

Scarlett Erskine

Jewellery and metal design


Population Overshoot is described in ecology as the number of species exceeding the environments carrying capacity.

If the population numbers exceed the carrying capacity then the death rate should begin to exceed to make the population levels settled. Natural resources cannot keep supplying the vast amounts needed causing resource depletion. The population can also be decreased by the resource depletion or pollution in water and soil. Species are forced to use more non-renewable resources and pollute the environment with waste. By using newly found resources it will reduce the chance of running out the natural resources which we lack.

Human population is beginning to reach overshoot status. Over the years population is becoming more of a problem environmentally and economically. The world cannot sustain the ever-increasing world. Food and other natural resources will begin to deplete. In 2050 it is thought that the world will reach human population overshoot. The world would be using up the resources of two planets. It is unknown what will happen in the future.

‘The population cannot be supported so must decline to match it’s capacity.’

(Mosquin, 2006)


Over the years population overshoot was never a problem as the death rate was always higher than the birth rate, balancing out the population level. The levels were low and steadily growing. In the 19th century the world’s population was around 1 billion. The human race began to grow due to the advances in medicine, the standards of living and agriculture, all improving life expectancies, thus lowering the death rates. This affected the infant mortality rates, lowering them due to the medical advances along with the increase in abortion. In the 20th century the population declined due to war, famine and the plague. Even with the introduction of family planning programs in the 1950’s the population again started rising quickly in the mid 1900 the population was up to a huge 5 billion. This may have been due to lack of knowledge on birth control and the lack of methods. (Shah, 1998) This rapid increasing pattern of growth is called the J curve. Once the curve reaches the carrying capacity the curve must decline.

J curve graph


In 1990 Chinas growing population enforced them to create a new law. The one child policy was brought in to action to help reduce the high rising numbers. Ordering a couple to have only one child. Couples could be fined thousands of pounds if they didn’t keep to the law and had more children without a permit. This design process shows that there are ways to reducing the population and it also having great outcomes, it has prevented around 250 million births. This gives no freedom to people living under this law. (Fitzpatrick, 2009 )

By the 21st century the world population was 6 billion rising by around 80million per year. (Heyden, 2010)

World population


Over the past 150 years the human population has risen rapidly. This was due to the advances stated above improving more so and the availability and cheap prices of fossil fuels. (Jordan, 2009) Now the overshoot is beginning to affect the environment. Humans have been doing ‘unsustainable ‘ things for a very long time and it is beginning to take its toll.

Global warming has become the first ecological problem that is affecting everyone on the planet. It is becoming a large problem due to the human race doing activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Also more environmental problems caused are: depletion of natural resources, mass species extinction and inadequate fresh water. Economic problems are also becoming more of a problem as the population increases. Poverty, unemployment and lack housing are reaching high levels. These are just some of the vast amount of problems caused by overshoot population are affecting the planet and everyone in it. (Dougherty, 2008)


Humans choose the method to reduce the numbers of other species. A wildlife management agency is used to decrease the size of deer in a herd, for example, by hunting the heard to thin them out. Humans can easily decide how to reduce the number of other species but when it comes to us, other techniques are needed to reduce our numbers or solve the problems caused by the overshoot. (Schmitz, 2007)

This is where design comes in. Designers are now trying to find new ways to create new solutions for the overshooting population. As designers we all are trying to change the way people think and change how they act for the better.

Ecological design can really help the problems caused by overshoot population and try to keep sustainable resources. It is about trying to keep the destruction of the environment to a minimum whilst keeping the population supplied. Designers are now coming up with new designs to use environmentally friendly materials and methods. (Ryn and Cowan 1996)

Craftsmen are now using more eco-friendly materials to create pieces of work. Designers are using recycled materials to make jewellery, sculptures, clothes and art using up something that is worth nothing to create a beautiful piece. Designers are also using solar panels to create moving pieces without using up electricity.

Jewellers are trying use more sustainable materials instead of precious metals which are beginning to run out. The over use of the materials in jewellery, electronic devices and metal work have caused the metals to become at risk. By 2030 the amount of silver will reach its limit causing silver in technology and jewellery to diminish. Designers are creating pieces that have preciousness through their attention to detail using unwanted items. Recycling old jewellery that is broken or unwanted has become a new trend, companies such as “Cash for Gold” taking in the unwanted precious metals and making a lot of money recycling these metals helps them not to run out and lets generations enjoy precious metals. (Macdonald, J, 2009)

Mass production has a large effect on overshoot population. Some designers have begun to realise that you can’t produce simple, reliable goods by hand and keep it economically viable. Making mass-produced goods helped to supply the growing population efficiently. Keeping the output rates up and keeping manufacturing costs low. Primark is a good example of how mass produced goods from jewellery to clothes and shoes can be sold cheaply.

Architecture has also helped reduce the problems caused by the effects of an overshoot population by designing buildings to hold a vast amount of people. The high-rise flats built in densely populated areas to help house everyone reducing homelessness.

Architects have also been doing their bit to create a sustainable future by designing new innovative buildings that are eco-friendly. Made from sustainable materials and some run by solar power panels to stop wasting electricity and gas creating more efficient power generators. They are looking into using new ways of heating the buildings using the earth’s natural resources such as the sun. Architects are also trying out new materials for the outer building insulating heat and using new environmentally friendly resources. (Bauer, 2009)

This shows that designers can bring new innovative ideas to help prevent problems affecting the world due to population overshoot. Hopefully making the world a more sustainable place.


Bauer, M, 2009, Green builiding: guidebook for sustainable architecture available online, (accessed on 28/09/10)

Dougherty, B, 2008, Green Graphic Design, New York: Allworth Press

Fitzpatrick, L, 2009, China’s One Child Policy, TIME,,8599,1912861,00.html (accessed on 01/10/10)

Heyden, J V D, 2010, global statistics / population statistics, Geo Hive, , (accessed on 3/10/10)

Johnson, S, n.d, Let observation, with extensive view survey mankind from China to Peru, Design4effect, (accessed on 01/10/10)

Jordan, D, 2009, Overshoot: population and the looming disasters of the 21st century, Essex, Chipmunkapublishing

MacDonald, J, 2009, Jewellery from Recycled Materials, London, A&C Black

Mosquin, T, 2006, Human population: Why set one billion as the upper limit?, Ecocentrism hompage, (accessed on 28/09/10)

Roper, D, L, n.d, Precious Metals Depletion,, (accessed 26/09/10)

Ryn, S V D and Cowan, S., 1996, Ecological design, Washington: Island press

Schmitz, O J, 2007, Ecology and Ecosystem conservation, Washington: Island press

Shah, A, 1998, Ecology and the crisis of overpopulation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar publishing limited

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