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Is the competitive Berkeley housing market a symbol of urban overpopulation?

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MARCH 07, 2023

As we are treading further into the 21st century, worries about overpopulation are at the forefront of the climate crisis conversation. Humans feel the effects of what one may consider overpopulation in high-density urban areas, where it appears as if humans are packed together into small apartment complexes with small living spaces.

In the city of Berkeley, finding housing is a troublesome task, typical of a college campus community in a larger urban area. I know my friends and I have found it beyond worrisome and extremely stressful when the second semester rolls around to find housing for the next academic year when over 40,000 students are looking for the same thing in the same small radius.

The pressure I feel when trying to find housing represents a significant issue at hand that is becoming more pertinent. As the population grows, how will we be able to supply the necessary resources for everyone to have shelter, food and water? Especially if there are already high rates of malnutrition and scarcity, it almost seems incomprehensible to visualize what the world may be like. 

This topic of overpopulation is highly conversationalized and debated amongst the media, scientists, researchers and policymakers. Government officials can find many negative drawbacks of overpopulation as it will bear the effects of limited resources, migration, agricultural pressure and increasing conflict among nations.

A study in 2020 found that if the climate crisis continues to be unaddressed, as many as 3 billion people will be living in uninhabitable areas because of increasing temperatures. The pressure of a growing population has led to the need for increased productivity which arises through the production of fossil fuels.

However, it is essential to recognize that focusing the conversation of overpopulation on specific groups of people shifts the focus away from the inherent structure of the economy and those in power. For example, recent studies by the International Energy Administration show that solar panel installation is cheaper than oil or natural gas. If we can rework this primary form of energy production to solar, greenhouse gas emissions will decrease. Therefore, although the population may be increasing, if this growth is reliant on solar energy, overall emissions will not increase. 

A more sustainable method of tackling the problem of overpopulation is to address the root cause of the issue instead of trying to limit population growth in other ways. By 2050 it is expected that around two-thirds of the human population will be living in urban areas, currently, it is about half. Council members in growing cities must work to transition to green cities, which emphasize public transport, increasing biodiversity and recreational areas, and using renewable energy sources. 

Although Berkeley may be one example of an urban area with a high housing demand, it is a larger signifier of how cities across the globe are also reaping the effects of an influx of people into the same square mileage. By addressing these issues now, policymakers can become more capable of adapting and mitigating the potential side effects of overpopulation as we head into the middle of the century.

Contact Ashley Carter at 


MARCH 07, 2023