Will the World Starve? Looking out a window upon a barren desert, a dry wasteland unfolds as a carpet to nowhere. Abandoned cities dot the horizon, as the ruins speak volumes to the once populated extravagance of a country which lived on wealth and opportunity. The vision just described is not one out of a Hollywood movie script, but one that is not only possible but probable. Currently, the world population numbers over six billion, with China alone cradling over one-sixth of the worlds total population. With the world population increasing at a rate of one hundred million a year, the numbers are expected to hit ten billion by the end of 2040.
Most scientists agree that the maximum number of people that the earth can sustain is fifteen billion, leaving the earth in a quandary before the end of the twenty-first century when the total world population is expected to reach a staggering sixteen to eighteen billion. The consumption of the worlds natural resources due to this exponential growth could result in worldwide famine, a complete breakdown in the world market, uncontrollable outbreaks of disease, and widespread crime and disorder. Currently, the ratio of land which can be used for agricultural endeavors is estimated to be one in nine acres. The worlds produce producer is only a small sliver of a total land mass apple pie sliced into nine equal, yet tiny slices and as the amount of soil suitable for agriculture dwindles, the slice with which the world relies on continues to shrink. Considering the little amount of available farmland, it should be expected that there would be more of an effort to conserve this vital resource, but unfortunately the issue has not yet risen to a level of global importance. The amount of fertile topsoil is becoming more and more unusable for agriculture.
Water, used for the irrigation of the worlds life giving crops, contains naturally dissolved minerals and over time the minerals from the irrigated water supply collect in the topsoil. After many years of constantly farming a particular region, the soil begins to become less and less fertile. This process, known as salinization, has affected many of the farms around the world. Once this process is complete, the soil becomes totally useless for any kind of farming. Over long periods of time, salinization, combined with the erosion of the topsoil due to wind and rain, starts to cause the worlds farmlands to exponentially dissipate. Ethiopia is a prime example of how salinization, combined with overgrazing and erosion, has affected every aspect of the economy.
Food shortages, lack of domestic trade products, and low incomes for farmers and agricultural workers are all bi-products of a land ravaged by overuse and abuse. With the people scrambling to find a quick fix solution to this problem that has been building for decades, the economy along with the peoples only domestic food source, is slipping further and further into a seemingly unrecoverable disaster. The earths industry is expected to produce enough manufactured materials to support the worlds current six billion people. The list of finished products includes food (from agriculture), clothes and all other luxuries which most of the world has become accustomed. If most scientists are correct, the maximum capacity of which the world can sustain is estimated to be fifteen billion people.
Maximum capacity is described as the amount of people that can be sustained without causing a complete breakdown in society. Numerous scientists have speculated that many of the worlds natural resources used to support current life such as clean water and air, gasoline, oil, and even coal will almost be completely depleted up by the end of the century. With decimated natural resources, a lack of topsoil, and a completely over-populated planet, anthropologists have agreed that the end of the century, if not before, will culminate in a complete breakdown of industry in the world market. With this extinction of resources looming, it is obvious that new methods of energy and topsoil conservation need to be discovered. Speculation has been made that it is too late to turn back the dependence which humans have developed for natural resources. How can anyone be expected to turn away from their gas-powered cars and their electric houses? If, however, the current rate of consumption continues, then there is no doubt what the future will hold. Since 1950 half of the worlds trees have been cut down and every day six square acres of rain forest are lost to the hum of a loggers chainsaw.
With the complete destruction of the worlds forests due to over-population and over-consumption, a complete lack of the worlds naturally made medicine will also be prevalent. Nearly all of the currently prescribed medicines are, in fact, naturally made from plants. Antivirus medicines are produced from animals and even fish. If the worlds ways of making medicinal products for many of the most extreme diseases such as AIDS are completely eradicated, disease will spread rampantly into most major societies. Almost all of the worlds industrialized countries are very dependent on the treatment of many deadly diseases.
In Africa, one in every five persons is infected with HIV, with fifteen hundred new cases discovered daily. Without medicines, diseases like tuberculosis and malaria will become plagues across society, infecting all who come in contact. With the complete breakdown of civilization, which could occur based on the basic overpopulation of the world; crime and disorder would surely follow. Famine and poverty stricken economies have been known to cause the people to revolt, resulting in a coup detat. Looting and robbery just to survive and feed ones family have been shown to become the most prevailing crimes, followed by a tremendous spike in the amount of murders that would occur due to internal strife and frustration of a hopeless situation. With society in such a breakdown, no resources for the military or food for its people there is no way in which a government could control the revolting population. A prime example of this occurred this summer in Mozambique. The rains, which flooded the land, left the country at a standstill.
There was no way for people to obtain food. Many were trapped in their household due to the floods. Farm animals, washed away by the rains, lay rotting in the now barren, stripped fields. The results were ones of violence in the streets and mass emigration to Mozambiques bordering countries, thus putting a strain on the boarder patrols of South Africa as they tried to control the influx of refugees. Now the water has receded, but the problem of too many people, too little food and way too much frustration plague Mozambique.
Could one small African country provide the real life example for what could happen if the people are left without hope and a complete breakdown of the civilization occurs? Maybe the more prevalent question should be; will the world learn from Mozambiques tragedy? A bleak, desolate world where the inhabitants live on substance pills instead of natural food? A military struggling to maintain the order within its own boarders? The land laying fallow for decades upon decades? Plagues without hope of a cure? Is this the vision that the future holds for this great, blue planet? If steps are not taken by the time the world reaches maximum capacity, society as a whole could come crashing down before the populaces eyes. Many scientists need to ask and answer the question of how the exponentially increasing population will be handled. The end of the century may seem a far way off, but from the chair which sees the big picture, the closeness of the new age is only around the corner. Hopefully, with scientific and social awareness, the problems which overpopulation creates will be at the best solved and at the very least resolved. The world in which the children should grow and develop should be one of hope, joy and light, not a place of barren, dry wastelands, plagues riveting the society and abandoned cities.