More Information on Non-Renewable Energy

Fossil fuel
Nuclear energy
The population
The Kyoto Protocol

Population, Part Four

Population Home Part I Part II
Part III Part IV Part V

Effects of the Current and Future Population On :

Food Supply

The most pressing issue of population growth is food supply. Since 1984, global grain harvest per person has been declining. Although cropland has increased since 1950, population has grown 7 times faster. Between 2000 and 2050, it is estimated that cropland per person will drop from 0.3 acres to 0.2 acres. This is an average, as there are many countries that are self-supportive while others cannot feed their own citizens. These concerns raise many questions of future sustainability. Will we have enough productive cropland to grow an adequate amount of food? If so, will import systems be able to provide food to the countries that cannot grow enough of their own? Will those countries have enough money to pay for imported food?

In 1999 there are 82 countries that cannot grow enough food to feed their people, nor can they afford to buy it from another country. As the population increases in many developing countries their cropland per capita will shrink to unsustainable levels. Countries like Japan and Taiwan already import 70% of their grain, but they have the money to do so.

Food "Facts"

Forests

Forests are extremely endangered by population growth. Just about everything humans do in order to grow and cook food, build shelter, acquire power sources, and develop areas affects forests. Clearing land for agriculture in developing countries is the top cause of forest destruction, as food production must keep up with the growing numbers of mouths to feed. Tropical forests are being cut down at an estimated rate of 59,500 square miles the size of Florida every year for various reasons.

Forests provide many services for the environment. Frontier forests can store "more carbon than is likely to be released by fossil fuel burning and cement manufacture over the next 70 years or so." But once the trees are cut down, they release into the atmosphere the carbon they stored. In fact, forest clearing accounts for 25% of the world's carbon emissions. Forests are also a source of many medicines that we manufacture today, and there is no telling how many cures are being destroyed every day. Humans are trading biodiversity, food and medicinal sources, nutrient recycling, climate regulation, and watershed management for cropland, pasture, fuel, and urban development.

Forest "Facts"

Water Quality and Supply

Intensive farming practices and deforestation cause siltation of streams and rivers. Urbanization creates industrial and residential run-off, contaminating water supplies. Between water pollution, rising affluence from socioeconomic development and a rapidly growing population, an insufficient supply of clean water threatens many regions.

Water "Facts"

Species Diversity

No matter how humans interact with their environment, there is a clear correlation between population and species loss. The more people, the less wildlife. Paul Harrison studied 50 countries and concluded the following:

Population per Square Kilometer

Original Wildlife Habitat Remaining

294 people or less

59%

379 people or less

45%

454 people or less

33%

1,190-1,888

15%

Biodiversity "Facts:"

Urbanization

The population will be increasingly more urban in the 21 st century. It is estimated that half of the global population will be living in cities, in numbers exceeding the current world population. Urban sprawl has already taken a toll on the environment. It has been calculated that 50% of wetlands, 90% of northwestern old growth forests, and 99% of tall grass prairie in the United States have been lost in the last 200 years due to development.

Urban "Facts"

People

While the U.S. enjoys its longest peacetime prosperity in history, 16% of the world's population lacks clean water, sanitation, health care, and education. One in five people live on less than a dollar per day. By year 2000 it is estimated that over 75% of urban families living in developing countries will be impoverished. The "Pollyannas" are adamant that humans will overcome future problems, but a growing proportion of impoverished people lack good health, education, and other resources needed for survival. In effect, we may have a larger population with about the same "stock of imagination" as we had with a smaller population.

People "Facts"

# of Children per Family

Families in Poverty

 5%

3

25%+

4

35%+

5

50%+