Monthly Archives: June 2015

Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

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World Environment Day 2015
June 5, 2015

Theme: Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

The well-being of humanity, the environment, and tWorld Environment Day 2015
June 5, 2015

Theme: Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption. The WED theme this year is therefore “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” Living within planetary boundaries is the most promising strategy for ensuring a healthy future. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur are not a necessary by-product of economic growth.
Announcing World Environment Day 2015, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “While industrialized countries account for the bulk of the world’s resource consumption, unsustainable consumption patterns are becoming more prevalent worldwide, with 3 billion middle class consumers expected to be added to the global population by 2030 – many of them from emerging economies.”
“Food production is one of the most obvious examples of unsustainable consumption patterns, with 1.3 billion tonnes of food being wasted every year, while almost 1 billion people go undernourished,” he added. “This is an issue that UNEP is helping to address with partners like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through our joint campaign against food waste, Think.Eat.Save. We are glad the Expo’s theme also focuses on sustainable food systems.”
“World Environment Day provides us with an important opportunity to identify solutions for re-engineering our consumer culture to create a sustainable society in which everyone has enough to live well while staying within the planet’s regenerative capacity. It is time to look seriously at what our appetite-for-more is costing the planet, our health, our future, and the future of our children,” he said.
Feeding the Planet- Energy for life
About 7 billion people are alive today. Every second three more are added to the total, a growth of more than 10,000 an hour, over 80 million in the space of a year. The world population has almost tripled since 1950.
The world population (the total number of living humans on Earth) was 7.244 billion as of July 2014 according to the medium fertility estimate by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division and it was projected to reach 7.325 billion in July 2015.
World Population: Past, Present, and Future
At the dawn of agriculture, about 8000 B.C., the population of the world was approximately 5 million. Over the 8,000-year period up to 1 A.D. it grew to 200 million (some estimate 300 million or even 600, suggesting how imprecise population estimates of early historical periods can be), with a growth rate of under 0.05% per year.
A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).
Even though the rate at which it is growing has slowed down from its peak 2.4% a year in 1965, it has risen to over 6 billion by the turn of the century. The maximum expansion has been fueled not by an increasing birth rate but by a gradual extension of life expectancy and by a huge reduction in the number of children who die when young. More than half the people now living are under 25. In Africa almost half are under 14.
In Europe, Japan and North America, however the number of births has already dropped so as to be almost in balance with the number of deaths and the population there is now virtually stable. For the world as a whole, the balance will not come, according to UN predictions, until about the year 2110 when there might be 10.5 billion people striving for living space.
• During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
• In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.
• Because of declining growth rates, it will now take over 200 years to double again.
World Population Milestones
8 Billion (2024)
According to the most recent United Nations estimates, the human population of the world is expected to reach 8 billion people in the spring of 2024.
7 Billion (2011)
According to the United Nations, world population reached 7 Billion on October 31, 2011.
The US Census Bureau made a lower estimate, for which the 7 billion mark was only reached on March 12, 2012.
6 Billion (1999)
According to the United Nations, the 6 billion figure was reached on October 12, 1999 (celebrated as the Day of 6 Billion). According to the U.S. Census Bureau instead, the six billion milestone was reached on July 22, 1999, at about 3:49 AM GMT. Yet, according to the U.S. Census web site, the date and time of when 6 billion was reached will probably change because the already uncertain estimates are constantly being updated.
Previous Milestones
• 5 Billion: 1987
• 4 Billion: 1974
• 3 Billion: 1960
• 2 Billion: 1927
• 1 Billion: 1804
Growth Rate
Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.14% per year. The average population change is currently estimated at around 80 million per year.
Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.
The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050.
This means that world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate compared to the recent past. World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will take a further 43 years to increase by another 50%, to become 9 billion by 2042.
The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2062.
Food:
Food is mankind’s raw energy source-the fuel that fires the human boiler- and maintaining the supplies constitutes man’s biggest single concern.
Agricultural efficiency has increased at a staggering pace: in 1980 the world’s farms produced twice as much food as they did in 1950. As a result the earth today grows enough food to support its population, with plenty to spare. But the pattern of production is uneven and many areas still go short. Although the world produces enough food for everyone to receive an adequate diet, yet food shortages and famines still occur. The main causes include overpopulation, particularly in India and China, draught, which has repeatedly occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, and war. Famines induced by human conflict have provoked international action to alleviate hunger and improvements in global communication.
Thousands of different types of plants are consumed by man, but just three- wheat, corn and rice – account for about half of the world’s harvest.
By no means every corner of the planet’s surface can be exploited for crop farming, however for a combination of three basic factors- sunshine, moisture and soil- determine where the global harvest can be gathered in. At present only 11 % of the earth’s surface is farmed for crops, while a further 20 % is thought to be cultivable.
Beyond the Green Revolution:
Hunger became a global issue in the wake of first and second World Wars. International armed conflict disrupted food supplies highlighting the need for an agency to assure that every country could meet its food requirements. In 1945 the UN FAO was established with the intention of raising levels of food production and nutrition worldwide.
An acceleration in population growth after the Second World War reached its peak in the early 1960’s. In 1963 the FAO launched the Green Revolution, aiming to provide enough food to cater for future population expansion. They developed higher yielding varieties (HYVS) of cereals such as rice, wheat and corn through selective breeding. HUYS produces three crops annually on the same land. Farmers also encouraged using high levels of fertilizers and pesticides to improve yields.
By the 1980’s, wheat and rice yields had increased dramatically; some developing countries produced a surplus for the first time. The increased income led to mechanization of more farms, further increasing yields. Agrochemical companies making fertilizers and pesticides grew into large business. Worldwide food production has doubled in the last 50 years.
Thus one major factor in the recent boom in food production has been the development of new high-yielding strains of wheat, corn and rice. Cultivated with modern fertilizers, these grains have generated what is known as green revolution.
The disadvantages: Overall the wealthier farmers benefitted from the initiative more than the poorer ones, who were unable to afford the new HYV seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Mechanization led to unemployment, and repeated cropping damaged the soil. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides were found to be toxic to workers and caused pollution.
Bumper harvests have been the result. But the techniques modeled on the practices of US agriculture, have had their critics too. The chemicals required by high yield strains are derived chiefly from fossil fuels, which have become increasingly costly since the oil crisis of 1973. Mechanized farming too drains out energy resources- about 2 gallons of gasoline are required to produce an acre of corn in USA. Such farming tends to benefit the large farmer with capital invest at the expense of small farmer.
In coming decade the world may well see some adjustment toward the kind of organic farming practiced in China. Here crop waste is recycled to provide fertilizer, so that less synthetic matter is required. In addition mixed cropping is practiced: grains are planted with legumes, such as peas and beans, which produce their own nitrogen for fertilizer through the bacteria in their roots. One legume – the Soy bean is already a post world war II success story in the developing world. It is grown increasingly for its high protein content and adaptability and the oil is used for making paints and chemicals, as well as margarines and cooking oils.
Some authorities believe the answer to world food shortages now lies in a new revolution based on genetically modified (GM) crops. Perhaps the greatest hopes for feeding future generations lie in the plant breeding and genetics. Resistance to pests and diseases can be bred into the crops so that spraying with hazardous chemicals becomes increasingly obsolete. Strains may be developed to cope with the harsh climates of desert and tundra. Modern techniques of gene transfer offer possibilities for cultivating radically improved species. Tens of thousands of potentially edible species have been identified and it may yet prove possible to carpet the world’s most barren wastes with new forms of nutritious vegetation.
Global calories consumption: According to UN, an average adult should consume a minimum of 2400 kcal per day to lead a healthy, active life. Thus who are more active or live in cold climates, require more calories than those who are less active, or live in tropics. In countries, where the average daily consumption is 200 kcal or less (roughly equivalent to 2.2 kgs of potatoes or 1.4 kgs of rice). The majority of the population is malnourished. Some 800 million people in the developing world do not get enough to eat. In the developed world, about 34 million people have poor diets and unreliable food supplies.
Food Chains:
Sunshine: The sun is at the start of food chain. And since scientists believe that sun has another 5 billion years of life ahead, the first of agriculture’s major needs appears to be well catered for. Plants convert solar energy into food through photosynthesis. In general therefore, the more sunshine there is, the higher crop yield. Even the most efficient crop cover, however cannot convert more than about 3 % of incoming solar energy into the chemical energy of plant growth, or biomass. Only a fraction of this biomass will be edible food. The levels of solar energy in different parts of world are:- Above average, Average and Below average.
Water: The sunnier the climate is, the more water plants need- for almost as much water is lost from a field of corn as would be evaporated from a lake of similar size. Although there is no shortage of water on a global scale, its distribution is uneven. Farmers adjust to water deficits by irrigation. In China 46 % of agricultural land is irrigated. In North America and Europe, where most areas receive sufficient rainfall, about 10 % of the land now benefits from some supplementary watering. The water budget in the globe ranges from large surplus to small surplus to small deficit and large deficit.
Soil: Crops need more than just sunshine and water. They also require soils rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Naturally fertile soils account only as small proportion of the earth’s surface and are not evenly distributed among the continents. Even these soils need to be rested or left fallow, unless the farmer can replace what he has removed in the crop. Soils that are not naturally fertile can be enhanced by the use of fertilizers.
How the planet provides:
Climate and environment are the world’s great chefs, giving Mexico its torillas, Greece its goats milk cheese, China its pork spareribs, and Japan its seafood dishes. And it is regional variations in these two factors that strongly influence what is raised where.
As stated the world’s three main cereals are wheat, corn and rice, each of which has its special needs. Wheat is a crop of temperate prairies and will tolerate very cold winters. Corn is vulnerable to frost and it is therefore confined to a warmer climate band. And rice favors the special combination of warmth and copious rainfall that is found especially in monsoon zones.
Grain constitutes about half of the world’s food production by weight, but similar factors associate other crops with particular environment for example, grapes with Mediterranean climates and the potato with dull, cloudy skies and clammy soils. Feast and Famine: If the global harvest were to be shared equally, each person could receive 2.3 kgs of food per day. Hunger need never be with us.
The reason why famines still take their terrible toll has more to do with the complexities of politics, economics, storage, and distribution other than physical capacity of the earth itself. The planet is fertile. Science has opened up new possibilities. And in the opinion of many experts, the age old scourge of hunger could with global cooperation have been eradicated by the end of last century.
To meet the future needs, we can colonize the world’s inhospitable areas. The earth’s total cultivable land is some 7.9 billion acres (3.2 billion hectares) of which less than half is currently being farmed. Although the remainder may be harsh or inaccessible terrain, we have the means to drain swamps, plant hill sides, and bring deserts into bloom.
One short term response to starvation in the third world is to transport surplus food from where it is stock piled and where it is needed. The biggest grain exporters are the United States, Canada, Australia and Argentina. Thanks to the Green Revolution, India, Thailand, Burma and Suriname can now be added to the list of smaller net exporters. Many others for example Mexico and Russia would be net grain exporters but for the demands of livestock which now consume more grain than grass.
In the long term, however this does nothing to help farmers in poor countries to produce more. Pouring cheap food in the third world can lower the prices there so much that local farmers are put out of business. Except in emergencies perhaps what poor countries need most is appropriate technology, transport facilities, education, and better administration.
Fruits of the earth: The crops that feed the world fruits have been cultivated as food for about 10,000 years. Until recently, however, the diet of a particular region was more or less based on what grew under local climate and soil conditions. In the 20th century, science, along with a revolution in communication and transport, has created a lucrative global market in fruit and vegetables. Almost anything is now available anywhere at any time – for a price.
Breeding and Rearing: Livestock provides mankind with food, clothing and muscle power. Scientific breeding and advances in veterinary medicine are now helping to create more profitable animals, but there can be an unforeseen price to pay for this, in the form of poor quality meat, and the spread of deadly disease across the species.
There are vast expanses of desert and bleak uplands whose lean and rocky soils support little more than coarse grasses. Since human stomach cannot digest grass, it is the livestock here- in particular the sheep and the goats – that act as our food converters, yielding meat, milk and cheese.
Cattle can be raised for the world’s overpopulated regions and due to their vulnerability to the tsetse fly, are especially scarce in the humid tropics. China is the main producer of pork, yielding nearly 40 % of the global total.
Harvesting the seas: Fishing has grown from supplying local needs into a major commercial enterprise. At the end of 20th century it was estimated that around 5 million people worldwide made a living from fishing, and for many countries, such as China, trade in fish products is vital to their economy.
In all major fisheries of the world catch sizes are increasing faster than breeding is capable of replenishing stocks. An outright ban has been placed on the fishing of endangered species in some areas. With effective management of depleted stocks, it was hoped that there will be an increase in world annual production to 144 million tonnes by 2010; without it there would be a shortfall of 20 million tonnes.
Methods of fishing: Modern fishing fleets use sophisticated equipment for locating and hauling in fish. Aerial surveillance along with computer-controlled, satellite and sonar tracking devices, and enormous nets ensure that catches are large.
Fish Farming: 20 % of the fish we eat comes from aquaculture, in intensive cultivation of fish. Fish eggs are placed in warm water tanks until they hatch into fry, and then reared in fresh water or sea water tanks or cages.
Asia has a long tradition of crop farming, and now produces 90 % of the world’s output. Salmon and trout fisheries, which originated in Norway and Scotland, also flourish today in Chile and Canada, both major producers for the European market. The tilapia and perch like fish is being successfully cultivated in parts of Africa.
Fish like all other foodstuffs, display preferences for habitat. Cod favors the cold waters of the North Atlantic, while tuna prefers warmer seas; flat fish, such as halibut, feed on the seabed,- while herring cruises close to the surface. The principal fishing grounds are all in coastal zones where nutrients, leached from the land, mix with rich sediment that is swept up from the sea floor by ocean currents and offshore winds. These waters comprise our teaming marine meadow lands, thick with tiny plankton supporting larger organisms that are, in turn consumed by shoaling fish.
In total the earth’s fishing fleets bring in some 68 million tons a year. Japan with its intricate network of islands has an ancient fishing tradition and remains the largest single harvester of the sea.
Water for Life:
Water is a limited resource, which needs to be carefully managed. Its natural abundance in a region, and how it is collected, stored and distributed, has a major impact on a country’s economy, determining what crops can be grown, and whether there is sufficient to meet domestic and industrial demands. The establishment of the first civilizations in the Middle East was due to the inspired use of Nile flood water for irrigation.
The water we use: If water is to be available on demand all year round, it needs to be collected and stored. How this is done varies around the world, according to climate and geography.
The water in most rivers and lakes is clean enough to support wild life, but before it flows out of the tap it must be made safe for human consumption. This is achieved at a water treatment plant in a series of steps. But in spite of the fact that Kashmir Valley was supposed to have purest form of water, it is unfortunate that we have to import bottled water from outside the State.
The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest lake. But from the 1960’s on, the rivers feeding it were diverted to irrigate the cotton fields of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The sea began to recede, and its dwindling waters were irredeemably polluted with pesticides and other agrochemicals. The Aral is now an ecological disaster zone and as predicted it was supposed to disappear by 2015, leaving a poisonous desert in its place.
How we use water?: More than 90 % of world water consumption goes to agriculture. Domestic use accounts for less than 3 %, with only a little more being consumed by industry. The major industrial use of water is for cooling nuclear and other thermal power plants, and for turning turbines in hydroelectric plants. Other heavy industrial users are the chemical, oil, paper and machinery manufacturing sectors.
Land Irrigation: UNESCO estimates that nearly half the world’s crop production, in terms of value, comes from irrigated land. Without irrigation many nations would find it impossible to feed their population or develop their economics. In China and India the high yield of rice is totally dependent upon controlled floods, which irrigate the river plains in the dry season. Egypt would be as fertile as the Sahara desert without the heavy monsoon rains from the East African highlands which flood the River Nile. The water is stored, via the Aswan High Dam, in the lake Nasser reservoir. The thriving fruit farms are dependent on water from the Colorado River via 390 km long aqueduct. The Desalination is the other process used by some Arab countries to boost their fresh water supply. Artesian wells also serve as a source of fresh water at some places.
The Energy resources:
Energy Consumption: Fueling the world-using natural resources to drive the global economy- The world’s most developed countries are its most voracious consumers of energy. Every year the USA consumes energy in all its forms equivalent to around 8 tonnes of oil per head of population: its poorer neighbor Mexico consumes the equivalent of just 1.5 tonnes per head. Most of this energy is created by burning non-renewable resources such as oil, coal- how long these will lat depends on the speed of industrialization in currently underdeveloped countries, and on global efforts to conserve energy by using it more efficiently.
Measuring world energy consumption: Global energy consumption is measured in tones of oil equivalent, which includes all forms of energy from fossil fuels to alternative resources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and solar power. In 1998, the world consumed energy equivalent to more than 9.5 billion tones of oil- each person consumed an average more than 1.6 tonnes of energy.
Fossil fuels: Almost 80 % of the energy consumed globally is produced by burning fossil fuels- coal, oil (petroleum) and natural gas- the remains of living organisms that have been buried in the earth for millions of years. Fossil fuels are the cheapest and most effective way of energy, but resources are finite and are steadily being used up.
Alternative renewable resources: such as solar and water power will eventually have to replace fossil fuels as the world’s major energy resource. I have seen Masdar City coming up in Abu Dhabi that is totally designed to use solar energy for all purposes like lighting, warming water, air conditioning, transportation etc. and no fossil fuels shall be used there. They are planning ahead before fossil fuels run out.
Carbon dioxide levels: Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, by trapping infrared radiation in the atmosphere known as “the green house effect”. China, the Middla East and the former USSR produce the largest amounts of carbon dioxide in relation to the amount of energy they create.
Oil: About 95 % of the world’s oil has been produced by 5 % of its oil fields. Two thirds of the largest fields have been found in the Middle East. Scientists estimate that reserves will run out before 2060.
Natural Gas: Russia and Middle East originally contained the world’s largest natural gas reserves. Only 14 % of global reserves have been used up, but it is estimated that remaining reserves are likely to run out before 2115.
Coal: Coal reserves exist in every continent, including Antarctica, but technology and economics will only allow the recovery of 7 %. Estimates of when reserves will run out range from 2250 to around 3400.
Nuclear Power: Nuclear power is generated by the fusion, or splitting apart of atoms of uranium or plutonium. The process releases huge amount of energy using small amount of raw material: the fusion of 1 kg of uranium releases as much energy as burning 2000 tonnes of coal or 8000 barrels of oil.- But this process too has its pros and cons like use of less raw material and non release of uncontrolled emission into the atmosphere unlike fossil fuels. However nuclear power stations are expensive to build and public concern has led to protests over the storage of highly radioactive waste and the danger it poses to human health, and the possibility of appropriation for the unlicensed manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Renewable Energy:
The unrelenting global demand for energy and the knowledge that fossil fuel will not last forever, has led to a hunt for renewable resources. The use of hydroelectricity is well established. In countries such as Norway and Brazil, it accounts for more than 90 % of domestic electricity generation. The oil crisis of 1970’s created renewed interest in wind power, a field now led by Germany, the USA, Denmark and India. Tidal and wave power and wind power is also being developed at suitable places.
By the end of 20th century, several viable alternatives to fossil fuels have emerged. Solar power heats water in more than a million homes in Greece. Iceland capitalizes on its natural general resources to heat 85 % of its houses. Biomass energy produced by burning or chemical process of organic matter, provides 15 %*- of domestic power in Scandinavia and is the main energy source for millions in China and India.
Mineral resources: More than 2500 minerals have been identified. Their widespread occurrence and durability made them ideal for trading in the ancient world – bars of metal were exchanged for goods in Egypt as early as the 4th millennium BC. Today mineral and metals – even precious substances such as diamond and silver – are more vital to the global economy for their broad industrial applications than as a medium of exchange.
Precious metals and minerals: Scattered deposits of diamond, gold and silver were discovered in river beds in ancient times. The Romans began mining gold and silver in Spain in the first century BC. Platinum mining began after the first deposits were discovered in Colombia in the 16th century. Diamond mining began with the first discovery of rock-bound specimens in South Africa in 1870.
Non metals like fluorspar, phosphate, sulphur, potash were discovered in 12th century and put to industrial use. Similarly metals like aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, zinc, starting from 5000 BC, were found useful for use in machinery and in the production of electricity and nuclear power.
Sustenance in Earth for Men and All who search or Ask:
Allah has blessed the hills and the earth with sustenance in measured quantities for all who search and ask for it and on which all kinds of life depend and derive benefits to sustain themselves (41:10). Allah has provided all kinds of natural resources in measured quantities in the hills and in other parts of the earth for man and for all other living creatures i.e. sustenance from forests and deserts, plains, hills, mountains, rivers and seas etc. which yield all kinds of produce for sustenance i.e. fodder, food, shelter and mineral wealth, from which man and other living creatures like animals, birds, insects, aquatic life and all known and unknown wild life derive benefits.
The Holy Quran says:
وجعل فیہا رواسی من فوقھا وبٰرک فیہا وقدر فیہا اقواتہا فی اربعتہ ایام سوآ ؑللسآ یؑلین ۃ
“He set on the (earth), Mountains standing firm, High above it, And bestowed blessings on The earth, and measured therein All things to give them Nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance With (the needs of) Those who seek (sustenance)” (41:10)
وارزقنا وانت خیرالرٰزقین ۃ
“And provide for our sustenance, For Thou art the best Sustainers (of our needs)” (5:114)
Aameen!
Presented by:
Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili FIE (Retd. Chief Engineer)
he functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption. The WED theme this year is therefore “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” Living within planetary boundaries is the most promising strategy for ensuring a healthy future. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur are not a necessary by-product of economic growth.
Announcing World Environment Day 2015, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “While industrialized countries account for the bulk of the world’s resource consumption, unsustainable consumption patterns are becoming more prevalent worldwide, with 3 billion middle class consumers expected to be added to the global population by 2030 – many of them from emerging economies.”
“Food production is one of the most obvious examples of unsustainable consumption patterns, with 1.3 billion tonnes of food being wasted every year, while almost 1 billion people go undernourished,” he added. “This is an issue that UNEP is helping to address with partners like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through our joint campaign against food waste, Think.Eat.Save. We are glad the Expo’s theme also focuses on sustainable food systems.”
“World Environment Day provides us with an important opportunity to identify solutions for re-engineering our consumer culture to create a sustainable society in which everyone has enough to live well while staying within the planet’s regenerative capacity. It is time to look seriously at what our appetite-for-more is costing the planet, our health, our future, and the future of our children,” he said.
Feeding the Planet- Energy for life
About 7 billion people are alive today. Every second three more are added to the total, a growth of more than 10,000 an hour, over 80 million in the space of a year. The world population has almost tripled since 1950.
The world population (the total number of living humans on Earth) was 7.244 billion as of July 2014 according to the medium fertility estimate by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division and it was projected to reach 7.325 billion in July 2015.
World Population: Past, Present, and Future
At the dawn of agriculture, about 8000 B.C., the population of the world was approximately 5 million. Over the 8,000-year period up to 1 A.D. it grew to 200 million (some estimate 300 million or even 600, suggesting how imprecise population estimates of early historical periods can be), with a growth rate of under 0.05% per year.
A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).
Even though the rate at which it is growing has slowed down from its peak 2.4% a year in 1965, it has risen to over 6 billion by the turn of the century. The maximum expansion has been fueled not by an increasing birth rate but by a gradual extension of life expectancy and by a huge reduction in the number of children who die when young. More than half the people now living are under 25. In Africa almost half are under 14.
In Europe, Japan and North America, however the number of births has already dropped so as to be almost in balance with the number of deaths and the population there is now virtually stable. For the world as a whole, the balance will not come, according to UN predictions, until about the year 2110 when there might be 10.5 billion people striving for living space.
• During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
• In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.
• Because of declining growth rates, it will now take over 200 years to double again.
World Population Milestones
8 Billion (2024)
According to the most recent United Nations estimates, the human population of the world is expected to reach 8 billion people in the spring of 2024.
7 Billion (2011)
According to the United Nations, world population reached 7 Billion on October 31, 2011.
The US Census Bureau made a lower estimate, for which the 7 billion mark was only reached on March 12, 2012.
6 Billion (1999)
According to the United Nations, the 6 billion figure was reached on October 12, 1999 (celebrated as the Day of 6 Billion). According to the U.S. Census Bureau instead, the six billion milestone was reached on July 22, 1999, at about 3:49 AM GMT. Yet, according to the U.S. Census web site, the date and time of when 6 billion was reached will probably change because the already uncertain estimates are constantly being updated.
Previous Milestones
• 5 Billion: 1987
• 4 Billion: 1974
• 3 Billion: 1960
• 2 Billion: 1927
• 1 Billion: 1804
Growth Rate
Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.14% per year. The average population change is currently estimated at around 80 million per year.
Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.
The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050.
This means that world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate compared to the recent past. World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will take a further 43 years to increase by another 50%, to become 9 billion by 2042.
The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2062.
Food:
Food is mankind’s raw energy source-the fuel that fires the human boiler- and maintaining the supplies constitutes man’s biggest single concern.
Agricultural efficiency has increased at a staggering pace: in 1980 the world’s farms produced twice as much food as they did in 1950. As a result the earth today grows enough food to support its population, with plenty to spare. But the pattern of production is uneven and many areas still go short. Although the world produces enough food for everyone to receive an adequate diet, yet food shortages and famines still occur. The main causes include overpopulation, particularly in India and China, draught, which has repeatedly occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, and war. Famines induced by human conflict have provoked international action to alleviate hunger and improvements in global communication.
Thousands of different types of plants are consumed by man, but just three- wheat, corn and rice – account for about half of the world’s harvest.
By no means every corner of the planet’s surface can be exploited for crop farming, however for a combination of three basic factors- sunshine, moisture and soil- determine where the global harvest can be gathered in. At present only 11 % of the earth’s surface is farmed for crops, while a further 20 % is thought to be cultivable.
Beyond the Green Revolution:
Hunger became a global issue in the wake of first and second World Wars. International armed conflict disrupted food supplies highlighting the need for an agency to assure that every country could meet its food requirements. In 1945 the UN FAO was established with the intention of raising levels of food production and nutrition worldwide.
An acceleration in population growth after the Second World War reached its peak in the early 1960’s. In 1963 the FAO launched the Green Revolution, aiming to provide enough food to cater for future population expansion. They developed higher yielding varieties (HYVS) of cereals such as rice, wheat and corn through selective breeding. HUYS produces three crops annually on the same land. Farmers also encouraged using high levels of fertilizers and pesticides to improve yields.
By the 1980’s, wheat and rice yields had increased dramatically; some developing countries produced a surplus for the first time. The increased income led to mechanization of more farms, further increasing yields. Agrochemical companies making fertilizers and pesticides grew into large business. Worldwide food production has doubled in the last 50 years.
Thus one major factor in the recent boom in food production has been the development of new high-yielding strains of wheat, corn and rice. Cultivated with modern fertilizers, these grains have generated what is known as green revolution.
The disadvantages: Overall the wealthier farmers benefitted from the initiative more than the poorer ones, who were unable to afford the new HYV seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Mechanization led to unemployment, and repeated cropping damaged the soil. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides were found to be toxic to workers and caused pollution.
Bumper harvests have been the result. But the techniques modeled on the practices of US agriculture, have had their critics too. The chemicals required by high yield strains are derived chiefly from fossil fuels, which have become increasingly costly since the oil crisis of 1973. Mechanized farming too drains out energy resources- about 2 gallons of gasoline are required to produce an acre of corn in USA. Such farming tends to benefit the large farmer with capital invest at the expense of small farmer.
In coming decade the world may well see some adjustment toward the kind of organic farming practiced in China. Here crop waste is recycled to provide fertilizer, so that less synthetic matter is required. In addition mixed cropping is practiced: grains are planted with legumes, such as peas and beans, which produce their own nitrogen for fertilizer through the bacteria in their roots. One legume – the Soy bean is already a post world war II success story in the developing world. It is grown increasingly for its high protein content and adaptability and the oil is used for making paints and chemicals, as well as margarines and cooking oils.
Some authorities believe the answer to world food shortages now lies in a new revolution based on genetically modified (GM) crops. Perhaps the greatest hopes for feeding future generations lie in the plant breeding and genetics. Resistance to pests and diseases can be bred into the crops so that spraying with hazardous chemicals becomes increasingly obsolete. Strains may be developed to cope with the harsh climates of desert and tundra. Modern techniques of gene transfer offer possibilities for cultivating radically improved species. Tens of thousands of potentially edible species have been identified and it may yet prove possible to carpet the world’s most barren wastes with new forms of nutritious vegetation.
Global calories consumption: According to UN, an average adult should consume a minimum of 2400 kcal per day to lead a healthy, active life. Thus who are more active or live in cold climates, require more calories than those who are less active, or live in tropics. In countries, where the average daily consumption is 200 kcal or less (roughly equivalent to 2.2 kgs of potatoes or 1.4 kgs of rice). The majority of the population is malnourished. Some 800 million people in the developing world do not get enough to eat. In the developed world, about 34 million people have poor diets and unreliable food supplies.
Food Chains:
Sunshine: The sun is at the start of food chain. And since scientists believe that sun has another 5 billion years of life ahead, the first of agriculture’s major needs appears to be well catered for. Plants convert solar energy into food through photosynthesis. In general therefore, the more sunshine there is, the higher crop yield. Even the most efficient crop cover, however cannot convert more than about 3 % of incoming solar energy into the chemical energy of plant growth, or biomass. Only a fraction of this biomass will be edible food. The levels of solar energy in different parts of world are:- Above average, Average and Below average.
Water: The sunnier the climate is, the more water plants need- for almost as much water is lost from a field of corn as would be evaporated from a lake of similar size. Although there is no shortage of water on a global scale, its distribution is uneven. Farmers adjust to water deficits by irrigation. In China 46 % of agricultural land is irrigated. In North America and Europe, where most areas receive sufficient rainfall, about 10 % of the land now benefits from some supplementary watering. The water budget in the globe ranges from large surplus to small surplus to small deficit and large deficit.
Soil: Crops need more than just sunshine and water. They also require soils rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Naturally fertile soils account only as small proportion of the earth’s surface and are not evenly distributed among the continents. Even these soils need to be rested or left fallow, unless the farmer can replace what he has removed in the crop. Soils that are not naturally fertile can be enhanced by the use of fertilizers.
How the planet provides:
Climate and environment are the world’s great chefs, giving Mexico its torillas, Greece its goats milk cheese, China its pork spareribs, and Japan its seafood dishes. And it is regional variations in these two factors that strongly influence what is raised where.
As stated the world’s three main cereals are wheat, corn and rice, each of which has its special needs. Wheat is a crop of temperate prairies and will tolerate very cold winters. Corn is vulnerable to frost and it is therefore confined to a warmer climate band. And rice favors the special combination of warmth and copious rainfall that is found especially in monsoon zones.
Grain constitutes about half of the world’s food production by weight, but similar factors associate other crops with particular environment for example, grapes with Mediterranean climates and the potato with dull, cloudy skies and clammy soils. Feast and Famine: If the global harvest were to be shared equally, each person could receive 2.3 kgs of food per day. Hunger need never be with us.
The reason why famines still take their terrible toll has more to do with the complexities of politics, economics, storage, and distribution other than physical capacity of the earth itself. The planet is fertile. Science has opened up new possibilities. And in the opinion of many experts, the age old scourge of hunger could with global cooperation have been eradicated by the end of last century.
To meet the future needs, we can colonize the world’s inhospitable areas. The earth’s total cultivable land is some 7.9 billion acres (3.2 billion hectares) of which less than half is currently being farmed. Although the remainder may be harsh or inaccessible terrain, we have the means to drain swamps, plant hill sides, and bring deserts into bloom.
One short term response to starvation in the third world is to transport surplus food from where it is stock piled and where it is needed. The biggest grain exporters are the United States, Canada, Australia and Argentina. Thanks to the Green Revolution, India, Thailand, Burma and Suriname can now be added to the list of smaller net exporters. Many others for example Mexico and Russia would be net grain exporters but for the demands of livestock which now consume more grain than grass.
In the long term, however this does nothing to help farmers in poor countries to produce more. Pouring cheap food in the third world can lower the prices there so much that local farmers are put out of business. Except in emergencies perhaps what poor countries need most is appropriate technology, transport facilities, education, and better administration.
Fruits of the earth: The crops that feed the world fruits have been cultivated as food for about 10,000 years. Until recently, however, the diet of a particular region was more or less based on what grew under local climate and soil conditions. In the 20th century, science, along with a revolution in communication and transport, has created a lucrative global market in fruit and vegetables. Almost anything is now available anywhere at any time – for a price.
Breeding and Rearing: Livestock provides mankind with food, clothing and muscle power. Scientific breeding and advances in veterinary medicine are now helping to create more profitable animals, but there can be an unforeseen price to pay for this, in the form of poor quality meat, and the spread of deadly disease across the species.
There are vast expanses of desert and bleak uplands whose lean and rocky soils support little more than coarse grasses. Since human stomach cannot digest grass, it is the livestock here- in particular the sheep and the goats – that act as our food converters, yielding meat, milk and cheese.
Cattle can be raised for the world’s overpopulated regions and due to their vulnerability to the tsetse fly, are especially scarce in the humid tropics. China is the main producer of pork, yielding nearly 40 % of the global total.
Harvesting the seas: Fishing has grown from supplying local needs into a major commercial enterprise. At the end of 20th century it was estimated that around 5 million people worldwide made a living from fishing, and for many countries, such as China, trade in fish products is vital to their economy.
In all major fisheries of the world catch sizes are increasing faster than breeding is capable of replenishing stocks. An outright ban has been placed on the fishing of endangered species in some areas. With effective management of depleted stocks, it was hoped that there will be an increase in world annual production to 144 million tonnes by 2010; without it there would be a shortfall of 20 million tonnes.
Methods of fishing: Modern fishing fleets use sophisticated equipment for locating and hauling in fish. Aerial surveillance along with computer-controlled, satellite and sonar tracking devices, and enormous nets ensure that catches are large.
Fish Farming: 20 % of the fish we eat comes from aquaculture, in intensive cultivation of fish. Fish eggs are placed in warm water tanks until they hatch into fry, and then reared in fresh water or sea water tanks or cages.
Asia has a long tradition of crop farming, and now produces 90 % of the world’s output. Salmon and trout fisheries, which originated in Norway and Scotland, also flourish today in Chile and Canada, both major producers for the European market. The tilapia and perch like fish is being successfully cultivated in parts of Africa.
Fish like all other foodstuffs, display preferences for habitat. Cod favors the cold waters of the North Atlantic, while tuna prefers warmer seas; flat fish, such as halibut, feed on the seabed,- while herring cruises close to the surface. The principal fishing grounds are all in coastal zones where nutrients, leached from the land, mix with rich sediment that is swept up from the sea floor by ocean currents and offshore winds. These waters comprise our teaming marine meadow lands, thick with tiny plankton supporting larger organisms that are, in turn consumed by shoaling fish.
In total the earth’s fishing fleets bring in some 68 million tons a year. Japan with its intricate network of islands has an ancient fishing tradition and remains the largest single harvester of the sea.
Water for Life:
Water is a limited resource, which needs to be carefully managed. Its natural abundance in a region, and how it is collected, stored and distributed, has a major impact on a country’s economy, determining what crops can be grown, and whether there is sufficient to meet domestic and industrial demands. The establishment of the first civilizations in the Middle East was due to the inspired use of Nile flood water for irrigation.
The water we use: If water is to be available on demand all year round, it needs to be collected and stored. How this is done varies around the world, according to climate and geography.
The water in most rivers and lakes is clean enough to support wild life, but before it flows out of the tap it must be made safe for human consumption. This is achieved at a water treatment plant in a series of steps. But in spite of the fact that Kashmir Valley was supposed to have purest form of water, it is unfortunate that we have to import bottled water from outside the State.
The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest lake. But from the 1960’s on, the rivers feeding it were diverted to irrigate the cotton fields of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The sea began to recede, and its dwindling waters were irredeemably polluted with pesticides and other agrochemicals. The Aral is now an ecological disaster zone and as predicted it was supposed to disappear by 2015, leaving a poisonous desert in its place.
How we use water?: More than 90 % of world water consumption goes to agriculture. Domestic use accounts for less than 3 %, with only a little more being consumed by industry. The major industrial use of water is for cooling nuclear and other thermal power plants, and for turning turbines in hydroelectric plants. Other heavy industrial users are the chemical, oil, paper and machinery manufacturing sectors.
Land Irrigation: UNESCO estimates that nearly half the world’s crop production, in terms of value, comes from irrigated land. Without irrigation many nations would find it impossible to feed their population or develop their economics. In China and India the high yield of rice is totally dependent upon controlled floods, which irrigate the river plains in the dry season. Egypt would be as fertile as the Sahara desert without the heavy monsoon rains from the East African highlands which flood the River Nile. The water is stored, via the Aswan High Dam, in the lake Nasser reservoir. The thriving fruit farms are dependent on water from the Colorado River via 390 km long aqueduct. The Desalination is the other process used by some Arab countries to boost their fresh water supply. Artesian wells also serve as a source of fresh water at some places.
The Energy resources:
Energy Consumption: Fueling the world-using natural resources to drive the global economy- The world’s most developed countries are its most voracious consumers of energy. Every year the USA consumes energy in all its forms equivalent to around 8 tonnes of oil per head of population: its poorer neighbor Mexico consumes the equivalent of just 1.5 tonnes per head. Most of this energy is created by burning non-renewable resources such as oil, coal- how long these will lat depends on the speed of industrialization in currently underdeveloped countries, and on global efforts to conserve energy by using it more efficiently.
Measuring world energy consumption: Global energy consumption is measured in tones of oil equivalent, which includes all forms of energy from fossil fuels to alternative resources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and solar power. In 1998, the world consumed energy equivalent to more than 9.5 billion tones of oil- each person consumed an average more than 1.6 tonnes of energy.
Fossil fuels: Almost 80 % of the energy consumed globally is produced by burning fossil fuels- coal, oil (petroleum) and natural gas- the remains of living organisms that have been buried in the earth for millions of years. Fossil fuels are the cheapest and most effective way of energy, but resources are finite and are steadily being used up.
Alternative renewable resources: such as solar and water power will eventually have to replace fossil fuels as the world’s major energy resource. I have seen Masdar City coming up in Abu Dhabi that is totally designed to use solar energy for all purposes like lighting, warming water, air conditioning, transportation etc. and no fossil fuels shall be used there. They are planning ahead before fossil fuels run out.
Carbon dioxide levels: Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, by trapping infrared radiation in the atmosphere known as “the green house effect”. China, the Middla East and the former USSR produce the largest amounts of carbon dioxide in relation to the amount of energy they create.
Oil: About 95 % of the world’s oil has been produced by 5 % of its oil fields. Two thirds of the largest fields have been found in the Middle East. Scientists estimate that reserves will run out before 2060.
Natural Gas: Russia and Middle East originally contained the world’s largest natural gas reserves. Only 14 % of global reserves have been used up, but it is estimated that remaining reserves are likely to run out before 2115.
Coal: Coal reserves exist in every continent, including Antarctica, but technology and economics will only allow the recovery of 7 %. Estimates of when reserves will run out range from 2250 to around 3400.
Nuclear Power: Nuclear power is generated by the fusion, or splitting apart of atoms of uranium or plutonium. The process releases huge amount of energy using small amount of raw material: the fusion of 1 kg of uranium releases as much energy as burning 2000 tonnes of coal or 8000 barrels of oil.- But this process too has its pros and cons like use of less raw material and non release of uncontrolled emission into the atmosphere unlike fossil fuels. However nuclear power stations are expensive to build and public concern has led to protests over the storage of highly radioactive waste and the danger it poses to human health, and the possibility of appropriation for the unlicensed manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Renewable Energy:
The unrelenting global demand for energy and the knowledge that fossil fuel will not last forever, has led to a hunt for renewable resources. The use of hydroelectricity is well established. In countries such as Norway and Brazil, it accounts for more than 90 % of domestic electricity generation. The oil crisis of 1970’s created renewed interest in wind power, a field now led by Germany, the USA, Denmark and India. Tidal and wave power and wind power is also being developed at suitable places.
By the end of 20th century, several viable alternatives to fossil fuels have emerged. Solar power heats water in more than a million homes in Greece. Iceland capitalizes on its natural general resources to heat 85 % of its houses. Biomass energy produced by burning or chemical process of organic matter, provides 15 %*- of domestic power in Scandinavia and is the main energy source for millions in China and India.
Mineral resources: More than 2500 minerals have been identified. Their widespread occurrence and durability made them ideal for trading in the ancient world – bars of metal were exchanged for goods in Egypt as early as the 4th millennium BC. Today mineral and metals – even precious substances such as diamond and silver – are more vital to the global economy for their broad industrial applications than as a medium of exchange.
Precious metals and minerals: Scattered deposits of diamond, gold and silver were discovered in river beds in ancient times. The Romans began mining gold and silver in Spain in the first century BC. Platinum mining began after the first deposits were discovered in Colombia in the 16th century. Diamond mining began with the first discovery of rock-bound specimens in South Africa in 1870.
Non metals like fluorspar, phosphate, sulphur, potash were discovered in 12th century and put to industrial use. Similarly metals like aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, zinc, starting from 5000 BC, were found useful for use in machinery and in the production of electricity and nuclear power.
Sustenance in Earth for Men and All who search or Ask:
Allah has blessed the hills and the earth with sustenance in measured quantities for all who search and ask for it and on which all kinds of life depend and derive benefits to sustain themselves (41:10). Allah has provided all kinds of natural resources in measured quantities in the hills and in other parts of the earth for man and for all other living creatures i.e. sustenance from forests and deserts, plains, hills, mountains, rivers and seas etc. which yield all kinds of produce for sustenance i.e. fodder, food, shelter and mineral wealth, from which man and other living creatures like animals, birds, insects, aquatic life and all known and unknown wild life derive benefits.
The Holy Quran says:
وجعل فیہا رواسی من فوقھا وبٰرک فیہا وقدر فیہا اقواتہا فی اربعتہ ایام سوآ ؑللسآ یؑلین ۃ
“He set on the (earth), Mountains standing firm, High above it, And bestowed blessings on The earth, and measured therein All things to give them Nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance With (the needs of) Those who seek (sustenance)” (41:10)
وارزقنا وانت خیرالرٰزقین ۃ
“And provide for our sustenance, For Thou art the best Sustainers (of our needs)” (5:114)
Aameen!
Presented by:
Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili FIE (Retd. Chief Engineer)