Global population is food for thought

26 Sep, 2012 02:00 AM

PICK a number and forecast global growth population by 2060.

You know that by 2050 it will be nine billon.

Exponentially that figure will increase to 10b by 2060, according to consultant Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine.

Mr Cribb told delegates at last week's Global Agribusiness Conference the consequences of global population growth were dire considering the confluence of peak oil, peak water, peak fish, peak land and peak phosphorous.

"Major lakes are vanishing, rivers are drying up and it is forecast we will have serious water shortages in the 2030s," he said.

"Each year more than 75 million tonnes of topsoil is being lost and the world will run out of good topsoil in 50 years.

"By 2050, 7.7b people will live in cities and the obvious question is who will feed them.

"Peak oil was in 2006 yet by 2030 there will be 1.2 billion vehicles on the planet and oil will be expensive.

"So what will fuel tractors?

"It will have to be alternative energy.

"We need to double food production with half the available land and no fossil fuels and with a downward trend in research and development spending.

"By the end of this century, grain won't be the mainstay of food production.

"We will have to reinvent farming and a food system of low input eco-farming that also reinvents the global diet.

"Cities will have to be re-designed to recycle water, nutrients and energy.

"On the future farm there will be a major focus on soil biology and nutrient soil recycling and more farms will be developed in urban areas.

"Already buildings in some parts of the world are housing farms."

According to Mr Cribb, fish farming, or aquaculture, will become bigger than the meat industry.

"Peak fish was reached in 2004 and what is being developed now are fish farms with fish feeding on algal blooms," he said.

"Algae will become a big crop by 2050 supplying food, liquid fuels, plastics and chemicals in a $25b industry.

"There will be massive opportunities for farmers and in the next 40 years, agriculture can become the backbone of the country.

"There is a need to get the public fired up and a need to project agriculture as a positive.

"The challenge is for us to rethink food itself, how we produce it and the systems we use to process, distribute and deliver it and to create diets and foods for the future that are safe, healthy, nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet."

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26/09/2012 10:18:23 AM, on Farm Weekly

Perhaps some of these countries should start to think about some family planning, despite protests by the Catholic Church. If people keep popping out 6-7 kids in parts of the third world, no wonder that hunger and poverty continue.
27/09/2012 10:08:24 AM, on Farm Weekly

Julian Cribb is right to acknowledge that the consequences of population growth are dire. As Kanzi said, some countries need to think about family planning, in fact, all of them do. If we are to keep population from growing to 10 billion - which Julian has publicly acknowledged "we won't be able to feed", then we must achieve universal access to reproductive health by ...tomorrow ideally. How many mass famines will it take before the world realises we are hitting the limits to growth already? The 1972 book of that name warned of mass famine and collapse of society in the 2030s or 40s.
Bob Couch
27/09/2012 10:41:39 AM, on Farm Weekly

Changing our farming practices, whilst very important, is not going to save us while we add over 200,000 mouths to feed every DAY to Earth's population. Many countries, especially in Africa and Asia, urgently need to implement effective family planning.
27/09/2012 10:49:50 AM, on Farm Weekly

How is food production meant to double on half the amount of land? This is on top of lack of oil for energy and fertilisers and climate change impacts. What's urgent is not trying to accommodate global population growth, but actually do something to address it. It's estimated that millions of women worldwide do not have access to family planning and contraception, and become mothers unwillingly. The UN should be doing more to address this problem instead of hitting the brick wall of economic/population growth clashing with finite natural resources. Denial is a recipe for disaster.
Jane O'Sullivan
27/09/2012 11:14:07 AM, on Farm Weekly

If you look at the WHO data on where hunger is increasing or decreasing, it correlates almost perfectly with fertility rates (births per woman). We spend about 100 times more on agricultural development aid than on family planning, which gets half as much as 20 years ago, while the number of women with unmet need has doubled. Why not say "the challenge is to ensure all women have access to voluntary family planning, and the global population doesn't exceed the UN's low projection"?
John Coulter
27/09/2012 12:26:00 PM, on Farm Weekly

Julian is unfortunately ignoring the lessons of history. As humanity has increased its ability to produce food, largely because of the invention of ways to extract the energy from fossil fuels, it has taken the increased food supply as a way of increasing its population. Ag research which increases food supply will not improve the lot of humanity unless we recognise that we must limit our population if a more permanent solution is to be found. 220 million women do not have access to family planning/contraception and do not desire a further pregnancy. Far less costly to spend money here.
Julian Cribb
28/09/2012 4:35:47 AM, on Farm Weekly

John, Jenny, Kanzi et al - yes family planning is important, but it doesn't solve the other parts of the human growth problem: that people are living longer lives and eating richer foods. What do you propose: euthanasia for the over-50s? Enforced vegetarianism? Women ARE reducing their fertility voluntarily everywhere on Earth - but they need more help and support, including the reduced poverty and better incomes which ag development brings. This is not a simple problem and won't be solved by simplistic slogans or one-shot 'solutions'.
28/09/2012 7:55:21 AM, on Farm Weekly

Julian, the fact remains that hundreds of millions of women are too poor to access family planning and some of our religious fanatics make sure that they don't get it. Check out the data from the Gutmacher Institute and similar. We could do something about it tomorrow if we chose to. Australia spends $4 billion on foreign aid, how much of that on family planning for the third world? Those are the people who are going hungry. Global population has risen from 1 to 7 billion on the back of cheap oil. Well now its no longer cheap.
28/09/2012 8:02:04 AM, on Farm Weekly

Why do you think there has been war declared on the world's meat producers by the globalist elite ... I mean 'green movement'? Billions of livestock are being fed grain that could have continued the global expansion of man into completely dangerous numbers. Who knows what the end game is there? The same strategies will be used to bankrupt the aquaculture industry in the long run. Ramp up compliance costs, increase rules and regulations and then the final and usually fatal blow of manipulating global trade with calculated crisis. A cup of rice for breakfast and a cup of wheat for dinner?
Tony B
29/09/2012 6:35:02 AM, on Farm Weekly

"Women ARE reducing their fertility voluntarily everywhere on Earth.." But the demand for food is still outstripping human population growth, and there's still not enough access to family planning. Forced euthanasia of over 50s and forced "vegetarianism" is just denial of the explosion of human numbers. The amount of meat-eating is increasing in countries that are developing, which is exacerbating the problem. This means that they are likely to face Western health problems and not have the medical facilities to be able to address them.
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