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5 - The Global Population Conundrum.docx

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University of British Columbia
BIOL 111
Lynn Norman

The Global Population ConundrumBetween now and 2050 three billion people will join the six billionplus that already live on this planet How will we possibly feed them Lester Brown population expert founder of the environmental think tanks Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute and a man whom theWashington Post has called one of the worlds most influential thinkers has been consumed by this question for decades In this sobering interview Brown addresses this conundrum and its complicating factors such as the falling water tables and rising global temperatures that imminently threaten our worlds food supplyLester Brown feels that when coupled with a rapidly expanding global population the real fallout from decades of environmental neglect will come on the food frontand soon EnlargePhoto creditWei LinTHREE BILLION MORENOVA Some people say Oh those dire predictions of Paul Ehrlich they were all wrong Is the population explosion overBrown If we define the population explosion in terms of the rate of growth the historical rate of growth peaked somewhere around 1970 at about 2 percent Its now down to 12 percent or so But 12 percent of the population the size of the world population today 63 billion still gives us some 74 million more people each year Thats less than the 85 million we were adding annually a decade or so ago but it is still more people to feed each yearAdding 74 million each year is equivalent to adding 25 Canadas each year Its not a trivial addition to world population particularly at a time when cropland is becoming so scarce and water shortages are now cropping up Not only is almost all the projected population growth going to be in the developing world but the vast majority of the nearly three billion people to be added by 2050 will come in countries where water tables are already falling and wells are going dry Thats not a recipe for economic progress and political stabilityCan the Earth support three billion more peopleThe question is if we look at it just in food terms at what level of living If were talking about living at foodconsumption levels today of say the average person in India then the current world harvest can support 10 billion people But if were talking about the US level of consumption then were talking about a world that will support two and a half billion peoplePage1
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