Food Scarcity

In the coming years and decades, you can expect more headlines like this one from Scientific American: “World Lacks Enough Food, Fuel as Population Soars.”  It’s a two-sided problem.  On the one hand, demand increases as more people move out of poverty and reach a traditional ‘middle class’ lifestyle.  On the other hand, the world population is increasing FAST, which compounds the first problem of increasing demand.  Perhaps this quote from the article sums it up best though:

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply.

So, what do we do?  Well, decreasing consumption is obviously a priority, and I hope that new technological advances can help reduce the amount of natural resources required to build products (but even then, there’s a finite limit to how much we can dig up out of the Earth…society will need to incorporate virtual reality into our lives if we are to hope to achieve balance).  In the meantime, the UN’s panel on global sustainability recommends managing water and marine ecosystems more efficiently (they’re both key to food supply) and increasing affordable sustainable energy.

You can read the panel’s full report here.

Peak Lumber

Well, not surprisingly, it turns out that lumber is not being harvested in a sustainable manner in the tropics, raising the specter of Peak Lumber in the future, when the demand will exceed supply.  The basic problem is one of greed…trees are being cut down faster than they can regrow.

Of course, this just treats forests like a resource to be exploited.  The concern about Peak Lumber doesn’t deal with the damage that destruction of habitats this can result in.  Logging can be done sustainably, but not when greed is allowed to drive decisions.

Read more about this over at the BBC, or check out Wikipedia for more on sustainable forest management.

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