Magazine article Geographical

Geographical Young Geographer of the Year 2005: One Thousand Aspiring Geographers, One Question: Is the UK in 2005 Overpopulated? Competition Judge Rex Walford Reflects on Some of the Best of This Year's Young Geographer of the Year Entries

Magazine article Geographical

Geographical Young Geographer of the Year 2005: One Thousand Aspiring Geographers, One Question: Is the UK in 2005 Overpopulated? Competition Judge Rex Walford Reflects on Some of the Best of This Year's Young Geographer of the Year Entries

Article excerpt

"To what extent is overpopulation about statistics, and how much is it about state of mind?" asked 14-year-old Emma Lewis of the Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, in the first sentence of her entry in the Geographical Young Geographer of the Year competition.

Emma's entry was typical of the well-researched and cogent analyses of Britain's overcrowding problems provided by many of the entrants to this year's competition. They showed that the art of writing extended essays isn't dead and the nation's geography classrooms continue to be venues for literate and focused consideration of environmental and citizenship issues.

We looked for entries that were not only well researched, but also original, well expressed and thought-provoking. It was great to read so many that fit these criteria, but it made picking the winners difficult.

Most entrants had a good grasp of the issue's statistical elements--the UK is only 50th in the list of population densities--and Malthus's 1798 essay on population was a frequent starting point.

There was no shortage of striking images in the entries. Amy Mount, one of the senior runners-up, likened the concept of optimal population to a three-segmented basketball "spinning precariously on the finger of some celestial sportsperson". The three segments were population size and structure, level of technology and available resources. "The conditions that hold it in place are so complex and dynamic that it could slip off at any moment".

Arresting excursions into the arts and literature also enlivened some of the better entries. Helen Thorpe quoted Thoreau: "I would rather sit alone on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

Julia Grant, a runner-up in the junior class, offered a strikingly personalised conclusion, facing an Orwellian future with equanimity. "[In the future] I cannot see myself living in a house," she wrote. "I think I will probably live in a high-rise block of flats on a Brownfield development, 200 miles from where I work. The fields that I remember by my primary school will have long since disappeared, my parents will have retired to Spain, and my sister moved to Africa. I can only have one child as the government will have introduced a birth control policy."

Winning essays

Junior Geographer

Miles Smith, Endon High School, Stoke-On-Trent

What is overpopulation?

"A condition whereby the number of people is too great to be sustained by available natural resources such as land and water."

What is happening to the UK's population?

Predictions for the future UK population show that by 2050, it will have fallen to 54 million from the current 60 million.

What is it that makes people think that the UK is overpopulated?

Overcrowding: 89 per cent of people live in cities that take up around 13 per cent of the available land. Therefore, 87 per cent of the UK is fairly sparsely populated. The problem, therefore, is not of overpopulation but of unequal population distribution.

Food and water supply: How can it be that in a country where it rains as much as it does in the UK, drought is declared after two weeks without rain? Once again, the problem isn't a lack of water but that most rain falls in areas where there is little population. Hence, the issue is getting the water to where people live by building suitable reservoirs and not wasting the water we do have. Every day, up to 4.5 million litres of water is lost through leaky pipes.

In terms of food, UK farmers could easily produce enough to sustain the current population. The problem is that they couldn't necessarily provide what the population wants. Housing and transport: Currently there are 800,000 uninhabited houses in the UK so, on paper, housing isn't a problem. However, there is a lack of affordable housing in areas of high demand such as London and the Southeast. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.