Population growth or the interrelation of food, water and energy

There are dangerous pressures from the growing demand for food, water, and energy that will be placed on these finite resources and are  fuelled by factors such as climate change, rapid urbanisation, increased wealth, and an increased reliance on biofuels. [1]

We are facing the challenge to provide for as many as nine billion people by 2050 within a finite envelope of land, water and natural resources, whilst adapting to a warmer, less predictable climate. 

Sir John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisor UK calls this situation“the perfect storm” and explains it very well in the video below.

The wold population is growing constantly and a peak of 8.8 billion people is estimated to be reached by 2100 [2]. Due to technological progress, better food production and distribution, medical care and sanitary and improved living and working conditions, we are able to live healthier and therefore longer which also leads to a decline in mortality rates. Hence the population is growing [3].

This trend comes with several negative environmental side effects, putting pressure on our natural resources, as all individuals need housing, food, water, energy and some kind of jobs [3].




A big issue is the food supply; we have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have in the past 8000 years.

A big issue is the food supply; we have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have in the past 8000 years. Imagine what we need to produce all of this – only in terms of water [4]. On average, approximately 70 % of the global freshwater is drawn for agricultural purposes. Water use for agricultural, industrial, and domestic purposes is forecasted to continue increasing until 2025 [3]. There is additional pressure on the availability of water due to bad resource stewardship and natural reasons. Some ways in which water supply is conceded include:

Inefficient water use in industry, farming, and homes,

Damage to ecosystems that secure water supplies,

Disruptions in the water cycle due to climate change

Wealthier countries tend to use more water than poorer countries, for example, water use per person in the USA is five times higher than water use per person in Bangladesh [5].

Another side effect of a growing population is the demand of energy for all kinds of things, e.g. housing, growing economy due to higher demand and more people seeking for jobs.

Today’s energy demand is still mainly served by fossil fuels, increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to climate change [6]. 

Considering the facts above, it is very clear who is responsible for solving the issue of water shortage – the once who are using the majority of it. Does your company measure the water usage and if so, are there any actions taken to reduce it? Please let me know in the comments below!

Sue Carter offers a great solution, which she explains in this TedX talk, I recommend you to watch:

Sources

1. I. Sample &  science correspondent, Beddington: World faces “perfect storm” of problems by 2030. The Guardian, (2009).

2. R. Gladstone, World Population Could Peak Decades Ahead of U.N. Forecast, Study Asserts. The New York Times, (2020).

3. The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017).

4. R. Van Hooijdok, Humanity must produce more food in the next four decades than we have in the last 8,000 years. Richard van Hooijdonk Blog, (2018). https://www.richardvanhooijdonk.com/blog/en/humanity-must-produce-more-food-in-the-next-four-decades-than-we-have-in-the-last-8000-years-the-dutch-may-have-the-solutions/ (accessed July 24, 2020).

5. H. Ritchie & M. Roser, Water Use and Stress. Our World in Data, (2017).

6. United, The Role of Fossil Fuels in a Sustainable Energy System. United Nations, (n.d.). https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/role-fossil-fuels-sustainable-energy-system (accessed July 24, 2020).

1 thought on “Population growth or the interrelation of food, water and energy”

  1. It seems to me that nobody dares to call the true reason for the shortage of water and food:
    There are too many people in the world and the world-population is still growing!

    If we will consume less or produce more, then the room for population growth will increase.
    Malthus has described this problem already in 1798 and it is still true.

    The real question is how to stop and even reverse population growth.

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