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Planet could be 'unrecognizable' by 2050, experts say

A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia," said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.

To feed all those mouths, "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000," said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

"By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue, Clay said.

The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.

But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years -- tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations -- and add more strain to global food supplies.

People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said.

It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, experts told AFP.

"More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet," Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.

Population experts, meanwhile, called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations.

"For 20 years, there's been very little investment in family planning, but there's a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices," said Bongaarts.

"We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning," said Casterline.

Malthusian brainwashing is wrong 21.Mar.2011 01:30


Population is not a problem.

First, it is inequitable consumption of rich countries that are destroying far more than the billions subsisting on less than a dollar or two a day.

Second, militarism is a major destroyers of the environment. Stop militaries from escaping pollution rules.

Third, another problem is that we can grow much more economically though we are kept back by bad material choices that have huge political power. Look at the film Who Killed the Electric Car, for example. If we choose materials that fit within the environment, growth becomes a non issue and will be fine. However, if we keep letting corrupt interests choose our materials for us and edit out the clean ones, then bad choices of evil raw material regimes like oil and coal or pesticide based cotton and GMO crops--will continue to destroy the planet's life. Bad material choices caught up in bad politics that protect them from critique and replacement is the main problem.

Thus this problem is one of technological repression and lack of consumer awareness they are being fed bilk for materials. Educate consumers to wider choices, and remove the bad politics of material regimes that destroy the environment and ecological networks.

Solve those two things and higher populations will be fine because population itself is a red herring.

Killing off people doesn't solve the processes of environmental degradation baesd on bad material choices destroying the planet instead of cleaner ones integrating ourselves into it.

A good rebuttal to such Malthusian populationism is Amartya Sen's Poverty and Famines or Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons.

So is Koch brothers funded fake science 21.Mar.2011 11:55

follow the money

Cash decides truth. Strange fucking weather is then the result of exactly what? A sucker is born every minute.

Food Production and Population Growth 21.Mar.2011 14:48


Daniel Quinn made a video explaining the connection between Food Production and Population Growth.


It is not inevitable that our population will grow to 8, 9, 10+ Billion people. To grow like that would be a disaster. But the only way it will occur is if we keep turning more of the planet into a human food machine.

not to worry. 22.Mar.2011 08:58


When I was a child we were all going to starve to death by 1980. We were all going to die of pollution and be wearing gas masks (before we starved to death). By 1984 all of the worlds rain forests would be gone. ,etc etc. etc.

The prophets of doom have always been making predictions. I have yet to see one come true.

Short-term Profiteering Is the Killer 22.Mar.2011 20:43


It's the sort-term profiteering that's killing us. Not just hedge fund managers and other speculators but pretty-much the way the entire capitalist economic system works. Most corporations have to constantly pay attention to how their quarterly profits will look, so "long-term" planning to them is perhaps 2 or 3 years -- anything longer than that is discounted to practically zero, and especially if it's more than 5 to 7 years into the future. And of course the corporations control the politicians too, so no wonder why we keep heading towards the abyss.

Consequently, those who warn us about what might happen 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 years into the future have essentially zero influence on present-day policies. It will probably take something close to a revolution before things will really change in this country. But who knows? Revolutions have been taking place in the Arab world over the past 6 months, and there seems to be a lot of protests happening in Wisconsin and a few other places recently about worker rights, etc. If this "revolutionary spirit" can just keep growing to also include "long-term sustainability", then maybe we just might have a chance.....

The above was also previously posted to the "discussion" section, because I didn't realize that that was separate (and "hidden") -- sorry....

I = P x A x T 23.Mar.2011 16:04

according to National Geographic

Why is our impact growing?

I (Human Impact) = Population x Affluence x Technology

Is Population growth the root cause? Or is it affluence, which leads to greater consumption of energy and other resources? Or technology, which offers new tools for exploiting and consuming? The IPAT formula says the three factors compound.

Since 1900 world GDP (a measure of Affluence) and the number of patent application (a measure of Technology) have grown even faster than population.


While population is growing faster in the less developed part of the world, the rich are the one gaining a greater share of affluence and benefiting from technology.