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New York, New York, Population Council, 1993. 37 p. (Research Division Working Papers No. 53)This review aims to expose the diversity of existing views on the consequences of rapid population growth for food production and to summarize the opposing views on the state of natural resources. A deteriorating environment is viewed as inevitable and the developing world improves its standard of living and population increases. Population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. Food consumption varies by quantity, quality, and country. The developed world has a diet rich enough in calories and animal products to impair health, while Africans have the poorest diets and Latin Americans the best in the developing world. The developing world's 4.1 billion population in 1990 consumes an average of 4000 gross and 2500 net calories of food crops per capita every day. Production needs in 1990 are 0.7 billion hectares of harvested land with an average crop yield of 2.2 tons of grain per hectare (tge/ha), or its equivalent in nongrain crops. Net imports are 5% of the food supply in the developing world. The needs for 2050 and a population of 8.7 billion can be estimated based on the following scenarios: 1) no change in diets, 2) a 50% increase in gross per capita intake to 6000 calories per day, or 3) a 150% increase as represented in diets in developed countries. Production needs for option one would be an increase from 2.2 tge/ha to 4.7 tge/ha in 2050. Option two would require 14 tge/ha, which is an impossibility considering the current US cereal production is 4.2 tge/ha. Harvested land would need to increase by 50% by 2050 and yields would have to increase to 3.1 tge/ha for option one, 5.2 tge/ha for option two, and 9.3 tge/ha for option three. Global weather conditions are likely to change due to greenhouse emissions and global warming, which will both positively and negatively affect agriculture. The question remains as to how to apply new technology for growth in agriculture for increased production and acceptable environmental costs. Progress is unlikely to be uniform, and the poor will suffer the most. Three hunger scenarios are possible: poor countries with no reserves of land or water and reliance on food aid, ample resources and unequal distribution and ineffective policies, and political instability and civil strife.
EARTHWATCH. 1992 Jul-Aug; 6-9.For the past several decades ecologists and economists have been engaged in a debate. Ecologists have a philosophy that is based on the belief that the carrying capacity of the Earth refers to the integrity of ecological systems. Economists have a philosophy that is based on the belief that the carrying capacity of the Earth refers to human welfare. There has been some progress in the debate. Economists are now starting to realize that ecology must be factored into economic models. This is especially true when economics are dependent on something ecological. Food production is a classic example. If the ecology is damaged to a certain degree, then it cannot grow food and food prices rise in that area. Ecologists are now starting to realize that economic markets are good places to make changes in the ecology. Tax credits and government subsidies of money or land are examples of economic forces that can be harnessed to protect the ecology. Population is a factor of great importance, but consumption is equally as important. Every year Bangladesh adds twice as many people to its population as the US, yet each American consumes 20 times more energy than each person from Bangladesh. So while the population growth rate in developing countries does legitimately threaten the ecology, so does the high consumption levels in developed countries. To the credit of the economists, technology and innovation has to date managed to solve all the major problems humanity has created. But, to the credit of the ecologists, there are several very serious problems, E.G., deforestation, decertification, drought, famine, global warming, and ozone depletion that do not appear to have imminent solutions. As ecological conditions worsen, economists and ecologists will continue to work more closely if for no other reason than necessity.