The looming threat of overpopulation continues to be one of the major concerns for countries globally. Currently the world population has crossed 7 billion and continues to rise but the question is can all these people be accommodated on earth? Do we have enough resources to support this ever rising population and how do we provide for the additional man power on earth? Well this ain’t a hypothetical problem anymore. Already one in eight of does not have adequate food and the problem does not seem to be ending anytime soon?
According to some recent studies by the UN, the world population is unlikely to peak off by 2045. This is quite contrary to what demographers had estimated earlier. The previous assumption was that population levels will begin peaking out around 2045 after reaching the crucial 9.4 billion mark. But demographers now feel that this might not be the actual situation. The understanding now is population levels may continue to leap ahead and may be well on track to hit the 11 billion mark by 2100. Experts have even gone ahead with an 80% probability of the population spurting even beyond the 12 billion mark by 2100.
The Agriculture Conundrum
Therefore it becomes extremely important to assess the current position of our resource base like:
- Food supply
- Mineral reserves
- Climatic conditions& Climate Change
- Assessing the stress on environment
Let us not forget that these are all finite means and are unlikely to continue eternally if they continue to be used in the current condition and pace. Therefore it becomes imperative to not just use the available resources judiciously but also keep innovating ways to improve the output. For example though more than 800 million people go without adequate food right now, a starvation as envisaged by Malthus probably is unlikely. This is only due to scientific advances. Better agricultural techniques, higher seed quality, improved fertilisers all go to expand the overall harvest base many times thereby and providing some indication of a potential solution that could be attempted.
In this context some key factors need to carefully assessed:
- The current standing of global population projections and the mechanism that is put into place to remain ahead of the curve
- Looking at ways to narrow down the yield gap in terms water and nutritional challenges
- Use technology and power of information to disseminate and discuss means to improve output, conserve the environment and adapt the changing demands
- Special focus on soil conditions and fertilizers
- Agro-financing innovations and insurance provisions
Well does the last bit about agro-financing raise any kind of doubt about the exact connection. Well recent studies indicate that the food scarcity that is being witnessed world over is not just about growing sufficient quantity but also about providing the same at an affordable rate. Food could be scarce but what is scarier is the impact of international trade and overall economic policies which have resulted in reduced access to what is available by making it more expensive.
Living Beyond Means
If the study made by the Global Footprint Network is referred to, one will be stunned to realise that Mother Earth is already stretched to the core. The resource that we use now is equivalent to 1.5 planets and as per the Stockholm Resilience Institute, we on Earth have already exceeded planetary boundaries for climate change, biodiversity loss and nitrogen pollution.
And surprising despite using up resources of this stature, the gaping disparities often overwhelm you. While energy consumption is hitting the roof, 1.3 billion or more people are yet to experience reliable lighting and cooking facilities. Sanitation, basic education and better quality life continues to be a distant dream for many while Earth’s almost bursting at its seams.
Therefore while the live population visualization presented ‘Coupon machine’ can project a scary overpopulation scenario, it can also act as a warning bell for many who are yet to truly understand the key impact of over population at the ground level.
While rising population and new projections of low chances of population peeking out are sure signs of worry and issues that need detailed discussion, I think it is important that we don’t take our eyes of the overall impact aspect and work consistently towards constructive solution models.