The Transylvania Times -

Real Battle For Survival

 

April 16, 2018



Thirty-two years. That is not very long, particularly in the life of mankind. But that is how long it is before mankind’s population approaches 10 billion, the ultimate number of people the earth can support as it is presently used.

What happens between now and then, as well as the decades following 2050, will determine whether or not mankind will survive.

The statistical data projects that by 2050, the world’s population will be between 9.8 and 10 billion people. According to the United Nations, the world’s population increased from 7.4 billion in 2015 to 7.6 billion in 2017. It has projected the population to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

For many scientists, 10 billion is the upper limit for the earth’s carrying capacity, which is defined as the maximum number of a species an environment can support indefinitely. But that number may be high. According to Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, there is a limited amount of freshwater and only so much food the earth can produce. It would also require the removal of meat from everyone’s diet. In his book, “The Future of Life,” Wilson wrote, “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people.”

But everyone is not converting to vegetarianism. In addition, the amount of arable land is decreasing substantially every year. In his presentation at Brevard College last Thursday evening, Dr. Robert Ballard stated that each year 5 million acres of farmland is being lost to residential and commercial development. In North Carolina alone, there are thousands of acres of farmland being lost to development every year. And as the world’s climate becomes more erratic, for whatever reasons, more crops fail due to drought or too much water.

The problem is obvious. The world’s population is growing while the world’s arable farmlands are decreasing.

There are numerous actions that can be taken in accordance with each other that can sustain the world’s growing population. As Ballard pointed out, one is to turn to the sea. Since the oceans and seas have been depleted of the larger fish, mankind must turn to aquaculture, the growing of plants in the ocean. Using the seas as a primary food source greatly mitigates the negative impact of the continuing loss of arable land. Since roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans, it’s highly unlikely it would dry up as a food source for several millennium if it is properly managed.

On the other hand, we need to curb our appetite for plastic because more than five trillion pieces are currently floating in the oceans, killing aquatic life. And according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by 2050, there will be more plastic, by weight, than there will be fish in the sea.

Ballard believes the best solution lies in empowering women. By empowering women, they become more economically independent, which in turn causes women to have fewer children and have them later in their lives. According to Ballard, the average age of mothers is 19. In a straight line extrapolation then, the average age of grandmothers would become 38, the average age of great-grandmothers would be 57, and the average age of great-great-grandmothers would be 76. Five-generation families could become the norm, not the rare exception. (Using the same extrapolations, if the average age of mothers were 22, then the average age of great-great-grandmothers would be 88.)

The challenges pointed out by Wilson, Ballard and others are real, yet they do not seem to cross many people’s minds, and most certainly not the minds of today’s U.S. politicians, who seem to have little perspicacity beyond the next election or two.

“Earth will be fine,”’ said Ballard. “Will we?”

If the predictions are correct, we have about 32 years to find a positive answer to Ballard’s question.

 
 

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