The challenge of feeding the world and preserving the planet

The world population is increasing at an amazing rate.
From 6 billion people on the planet in 2000, we will be 9 billion by 2050; an increase of 50%; and we were only 3 billion in 1960.

By looking how much damage has been made to the environment and the huge depletion of natural resources that we have created in the last 50 years (or last time the population grew by 3 billion), one can wonder how we will be able to feed, shelter, provide water and energy to the whole population in 40 years from now.
When it comes to feeding the world, the first question that comes to mind is where can we produce 50% more agricultural products on a land area that will decrease as a result of more area needed for urbanism (unless, we grow cities in height) and 50% more demand for drinking water than now. And these percentages are actually very conservative if we think that the emerging countries are seeing their standard of living increasing, which unfortunately also means that more resources are wasted than just the incremental growth of 50%.
We need to feed 3 billion people more who on average will tend to eat more animal protein at the expense of grain and legumes. This demand for animal protein means more competition between humans and farm animals for the grains and legumes. So, we have less land available to grow so much more food of vegetal and animal origin.
We could consider increasing the agricultural area, but this means more deforestation and a strong reduction of natural habitats. More agriculture will mean more use of energy and water, which will have a huge impact on our environment and the price of commodities. And I am not even taken in the picture the fact that we also want to feed our cars with agricultural product, bio-ethanol.
On the other side of things, we hear more and more calls to restore more balance our environment, to use our resources more carefully. And this is the challenge, if not the dilemma of the coming years: we have only one Earth and it is not expandable, while our population is exploding.
How will we be able to meet both targets? Personally, I do not have the answer to this, but I am sure of one thing: a dramatic change must come, either of our own free will or forced by Nature, and we need to anticipate for this as this will require an adaptability as mankind has not known for a long time.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

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