Global Challenges Facing Humanity
3. Population and resources How can population growth and resources be brought into balance?
This is the short description of the challenge as appears in the print version of the 2010 State of the Future report. The more complete version of this challenge along with actions to address it, graphs, and indicators to measure change is available on the CD-ROM included with the report. Please add your suggestions in the space provided after each paragraph and feel free to contact us with any questions.
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Nearly a billion people are undernourished and hungry. A quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested; 80% cannot withstand increased fishing pressure. Food prices rose 52% between 2007 and 2008, fertilizer prices have nearly doubled over the past year, and 30–40% of food production is lost in many poor countries due to lack of storage facilities. An increasingly difficult fungus to stop (Ug99) could wipe out more than 80% of the world's wheat crops unless new wheat varieties resistant to it are created. Conventional breeding techniques can take 9–12 years; hence, a food crisis may be inevitable. To keep up with population and economic growth, food production should double in 30 years and animal protein may increase 50% by 2020, which increases demands on water and land, further increasing prices and competition between rural and urban requirements. Climate change and monocultures undermine biodiversity, which is critical for agricultural viability. New agricultural approaches will be needed, such as meat production without growing animals, better rain-fed agriculture and irrigation management, genetic engineering for higher-yielding crops, precision agriculture and aquaculture, drought-tolerant crop varieties, and saltwater agriculture on coastlines to produce food for human and animals, biofuels, and pulp for the paper industry as well as to absorb CO2, reduce the drain on freshwater agriculture and land, and increase employment. FAO estimates $30 billion a year in infrastructure and agricultural production could eliminate the root causes of hunger by 2025. An animal rights group has offered $1 million to the first producers of commercially viable animal meat without growing animals by 2012.
Over half of humanity lives in urban areas today, which is expected to grow to 80% by 2030. During the same period, the one billion people living in slums today could double. As a result, rural populations are expected to shrink, freeing additional land for agriculture. Without sufficient nutrition, shelter, water, and sanitation produced by more intelligent human-nature symbioses, increased migrations, conflicts, and disease seem inevitable. ICT continues to improve the match between needs and resources worldwide in real time, and nanotech will help reduce material use per unit of output while increasing quality.
Challenge 3 will be addressed seriously when the annual growth in world population
drops to fewer than 30 million, the number of hungry people decreases by half,
the infant mortality rate decreases by two-thirds between 2000 and 2015, and
new approaches to aging become economically viable.
Approaches to address this challenge
Just over 50% of humanity lives in urban areas today. Half of them live in cities of less than 500,000 inhabitants. By 2030 over 80% of humanity is expected to live in urban concentrations. During the same period, the 1 billion people living in slums today could double. About 385 million people are malnourished, and 25% of children worldwide have protein-energy malnutrition, which reduces cerebral development. Continued economic growth will increase the demand for meat, requiring more land and water. This will further increase competition between agricultural resources for food versus energy. However, rural populations are expected to continually shrink after 2015, freeing additional land for agriculture. About 40% of agricultural land is moderately degraded and 9% is highly degraded, reducing global crop yield by as much as 13%. A quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested; 80% cannot withstand increased fishing pressure. FAO estimates that water for agriculture needs to increase 60% to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2030, even as urban water requirements are increasing. Without sufficient nutrition, shelter, water, and sanitation produced by more intelligent human-nature symbioses, increased migrations, conflicts, and disease seem inevitable. ICT continues to more optimally match needs and resources worldwide in real time, and nanotech will help reduce material use per unit of output while increasing quality.
Challenge 1 will be addressed seriously when the annual growth in world population drops to fewer than 30 million, the number of hungry people and the infant mortality rate both decrease by half from their peaks, and new approaches to aging become economically viable.
Please suggest edits concerning Africa:
Europe: The number of elderly people in the EU is expected to increase from 84.6 million today to nearly 150 million by 2050, while some countries, including Germany, Italy, and Russia, are already losing population today. Russia’s population could decrease by more than 30 million by 2050 and its old age dependency ratio could increase from 18% in 2000 to 41% by 2050. The Russian government says its birth rate has begun to increase over the past two years due to reproduction days off and $10,000 when a second child turns three may be working. The fertility rate of France has begun to increase and is now the highest in Europe. Today, eight countries in Europe have a median age of 40 or higher. By 2050, six countries will have a median age of 50 or higher. Europe’s aging and shrinking population and the dearth of young people will force changes in pension and social security systems, incentives for more children, and increases in immigrant labor, affecting international relations, culture, and the social fabric. Migration to Russia increased two-thirds in 2008 compared with 2007, with refugees coming from Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
Please suggest edits concerning Europe:
Latin America: The share of elderly in Latin America’s population is likely to triple from 6.3% in 2005 to 18.5% in 2050. In several Latin American countries, including Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, the share of the population that is older may already be greater than in the U.S. The population is expected to grow from 550 million today to about 800 million by 2050 and become 85% urban by 2030, requiring massive urban and agricultural infrastructural investments. Currently, Latin American’s population is growing at 1.3%. Cuba is losing population. Some 16% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Please suggest edits concerning Latin America:
Please suggest edits concerning North America:
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Thank you for your participation. The results will be sent to you in the next State of the Future.
Survey conducted by the Millennium Project