Well Saturday is the day. The end of the world as we know it. The will be a massive earthquake and that is it. Or so they say. There is another theory that there will be the Rapture and only the good guys and gals will be taken up to heaven. I wonder if Usama and all those virgins will be there.
For those of us either left behind or doomed, I want to raise a bit of uncertainty. Let’s climb aboard your space shuttle or late model UFO and take a look at this blue marble from afar. My question is one of sustainability.
It is not hidden in a gospel verse, Nostradamus or the stars. It is called plain old pragmatism. Not tree hugging nor fire and brimstone. Just reality. To sustain life as we know it we need water, food and energy. There is just one tiny little problem. It’s us.
Right now give or take a few million we have 6.5 billion members of the little club we call civilization. By the year 2050 we will have 10 billion. To put that in perspective it is like we are adding the total population of Europe, North and South America combined to this place we call home.
This isn’t Al Gore speaking but a naturalist by the name of David Attenborough. He seems like a sensible chap and did not come across as an alarmist but a scientist. We will have an additional 100 million in the US of A alone. Russia and parts of Europe will actually lose people. The greatest growth will come from undeveloped countries.
How to feed them ? Right now probably a third of the planet is hurting for nourishment. Up to now we have made a lot out of a relatively small amount of arable land. Crop management and fertilizers have done a great deal for our productivity. However what if all the 1.5 billion Chinese decided to have an egg tomorrow morning? Buy futures.
The real problem is water which of course is the building block of food and life. Of all the water in the world only 2 1/2% is potable. Of that we only have access to about one percent with the rest being at the poles and in glaciers. The devil is in the details.
You see it takes 120 liters of water to create one cup of coffee. 150 for a glass of beer. A hamburger comes in at a whopping 8000 liters when it gets to your plate and a cotton shirt 3000. I am not suggesting we swear off booze or red meat but we really do have to realize the consequences of our actions. I think about your and my lawn, golf course, natural gas wells, manufacturing etc. Extra long showers? Hard to think of this with the Mississippi raging.
By 2050 our energy needs will grow by 40%. Right now the world consumes 85 million barrels per day. We can drill, baby drill but something has got to give. Let’s face it. We are living beyond the means of our environment. Again this is not global warming but just the way we are devouring our resources.
Guess who is leading the parade? They did a study of consumption of food, water and fuel the world over. Let’s try to figure out how many people we can sustain on our planet? If we all lived like sub Saharan Africa we could support the ten billion ahead with no problem. If we consumed at the rate of the United States does today we could handle 1.5 billion. Oops.
Okay you say, the hell with the rest of the world. Nice thought but it really doesn’t work. At the face of things, as human beings we are the only phylum of living things that can really affect our destiny and that of all the others.
Boy, TTG you are really a bummer. Sorry about that. Not just the US but the rest of the world seems to lack strategic planning. Tactical yes to get through the next ten- twenty years or the next raise of the debt ceiling. But taking a look at all we have and managing it properly is going to take a lot of serious thought and symbiosis.
We need to reduce consumption of foodstuffs and energy. We have to throw all the technical know how we have into sustaining our planet and not worry about the latest download. We have to get great minds addressing this rather than the next LBO or quarterly report. We really do have to stop the rate of population growth. Yes, Catholics worldwide, that means us too.
Once again this is not the fervor of this or that crusader. It is one who is looking at the numbers and they don’t lie. What it is going to take is people, towns, states and countries really coming together. I am fascinated that in watching this special on PBS, TTG (who reads a lot) has never seen this problem presented in such a forthright fashion. Maybe you already knew.
Believe me I would love to hear some thoughts to the contrary. Please tell me I am wrong. Let’s stop patting ourselves on the back and saying how great we are. As a planet we may someday be looking back and saying what could have been. There is still time brother and sister, but it really is running out.
See you next week if we are all still here.
Ted The Great
Las Vegas uses approx. 7,000 megawatts of electricity on an average summer day. The “Strip” uses 20% of that or approx. 1,400 megawatts. That is the output of a large coal fired or medium sized nuclear power plant. Turn out the lights after you flush.
We have had the same amount of water on earth since the start. From condensation to evaporation the total stays constant.
Roughly 30% of food produced in the US is thrown away as waste or spoilage.