Human Carrying Capacity

(Survival manual/2. Social Issues/Human carrying capacity)

I     Our numbers
II    Overpopulation and peak oil: The perfect storm
III   The effects of overpopulation on the environment
IV    Population Concerns in the United States
VI    Our food  and water needs
VII  North  America’s Ogallala aquifer
VIII World  fish stocks over-exploited
IX    The State of the World’s Food and Soil

I.  Our numbers

Approximately 6.6 billion humans now inhabit the Earth. By comparison, there are about 20 million mallard ducks and, among a multitude of threatened and endangered species, perhaps 100,000 gorillas, 50,000 polar bears, and less than 10,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown nearly ten-fold over the past three centuries and has increased by a factor of four in the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural support systems and has greatly intensified our environmental impact.[Photo left: Feb. 2011, Smog on main street of Linfen, China. Dense populations and heavy industrial zones produce the most smog in an area. About 4% of deaths in the United States can be attributed to air pollution according to the Environmental Science Engineering Program at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Photo right: Fresh Kills Landfill, Staten Island, NY. At 4.6 square miles and 225 feet high, it’s the largest manmade structure in the world; a 53 year accumulation of local, household garbage.]

A. Current demographic trends
Until recently, the growth of our numbers  was slow and variable. A pronounced expansion began with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, about two centuries ago. Whereas tens of thousands of years passed before our species reached the one billion mark, around 1800 AD, it took only 130, 33, 15, 13 and 12 years to add each succeeding billion. This accelerating rate of increase is what is meant by the term population explosion. Around year 1970, population growth reached a maximal rate of about 2% per year—perhaps a thousand times faster than growth in prehistoric times. The annual increment has since dropped from 2.0 to 1.1% (or, as demographers prefer, to 11 per thousand), and it is still going down. The greatest annual increment in population, about 90 million individuals, occurred in 1995, while our numbers grew by only around 76 million in 2004. Nevertheless, this cohort is comparable to adding the population of Germany to the planet each year.

Excluding migration, the rate of change of the number of individuals in a population is the difference between birth rate and death rate. The explosion in human population thus reflects the excess of births over deaths fostered by the Industrial Revolution. Until about two centuries ago, birth rates and death rates were both high. Because these two rates were about equal in magnitude, the population grew slowly and unevenly.
For example, human numbers grew at roughly 0.25% per year in 1700 C.E. Soon thereafter, as discussed below, institutional and technical advances caused death rates to fall in one nation after another around the globe. But because birth rates remained high, population growth rates soared, an unintended consequence of the alleviation of human hardship in the modern era.

Why birth rates have declined
Children are naturally loved and valued for themselves. But, especially in traditional (i.e., pre-modern) settings, children are also economic assets: a ready source of capital and security when alternatives are out of reach. Sons are of particular value, since it is they who typically inherit both the family plot and the responsibility for caring for aging parents. For practical reasons, daughters are often less desired: they may be regarded as not as productive and as likely to marry and move on, often with a costly dowry payment. Thus, time-honored wisdom might suggest an investment strategy of having, say, eight offspring. A parent can then expect four sons, one or two of whom will hopefully survive childhood and be there to serve with devotion in the distant future. Such views become institutionalized in cultural norms and shared practices.

While it is possible for a woman to bear as many as 15 children in her lifetime, this is rare. Rather, parents universally chose to limit family size because too many children present costs in excess of benefits.
Pasted from
<http://www.eoearth.org/article/Human_population_explosion?topic=54245&gt;

B. Human Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism’s numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth. Steve Jones, head of the biology department at University College London, has said, “Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now.” The world’s population has significantly increased in the last 50 years, mainly due to medical advancements and substantial increases in agricultural productivity.

[A parabolic rise in an environmental factor as shown above, should be considered the same a wall. A barrier. Consider the time scales. It has only taken a few generations of steam and petroleum energy exploitation to bring about an explosion in population. Our bodies survive to grow and reproduce on a short time scale cycle of 20-25 years. Long term human organizing activities such as   infrastructure, government, culture and religion are following the population explosion, each in its own slower operative time frame. All are approaching ‘the wall’.
A sustained decrease in the energy supply, namely, peak oil and the back side down slope, will be occurring as each of mankind’s organizing structures impact the wall.  The result will be Infrastructure scaled back and in decay; Governmental changes come next, within a couple of years from now;  Cultural disruptions  will occur as we have to extend our personal time scales from todays ‘immediate gratification’ to thinking in terms of ‘next month’ and ‘next year’. Religious organizations should survive largely unchanged, albeit with a more fundamentalist bent. Religion is the longest human tradition and changes very slowly, the crises will be largely ‘resolved’ in the lower Cultural time frame level. Mr Larry]

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past two centuries has raised concerns that humans are beginning to overpopulate the Earth, and that the planet may not be able to sustain present or larger numbers of inhabitants. The population has been growing continuously since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1400; at the beginning of the 19th century, it had reached roughly 1,000,000,000 (1 billion). Increases in life expectancy and resource availability during the industrial and green revolutions led to rapid population growth on a worldwide level. By 1960, the world population had reached 3 billion; it doubled to 6 billion over the next four decades. As of 2009, the estimated annual growth rate was 1.10%, down from a peak of 2.2% in 1963, and the world population stood at roughly 6.7 billion. Current projections show a steady decline in the population growth rate, with the population expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the year 2040 and 2050.

The scientific consensus is that the current population expansion and accompanying increase in usage of resources is linked to threats to the ecosystem. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, which was ratified by 58 member national academies in 1994, called the growth in human numbers “unprecedented”, and stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, were aggravated by the population expansion. At the time, the world population stood at 5.5 billion, and optimistic scenarios predicted a peak of 7.8 billion by 2050, a number that current estimates show will be reached around 2022.
Pasted from http://www.zaxtor.net/HOPI.htm

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II. Overpopulation and peak oil: The perfect storm
18 January 2008, Napa Valley Register, By Jim Lydecker
Pasted from:  http://peakoil.blogspot.com/2008/01/overpopulation-and-peak-oil-perfect.html
Americans have recently become aware of converging crises that can end life as we know it, though experts have been warning us for many years. (TEOTWAWKI =The End Of The World As We know It)

For example, many economists have been warning for decades of the severe consequences resulting from runaway national debt and an imbalance of trade.
And the current mortgage/liquidity crisis was first discussed in the early ‘90s by a number of financial experts.

Global warming, a phenomenon universally accepted as fact within the past five years, was first discussed by the Swedes in the 19th century. Several papers published at Stockholm University warned of global warning with the advent of the industrial age.

For a variety of reasons, humans usually don’t react to problems until they become a crises. All these crises are semi-connected, where one will trigger one or more of the others. However, there are two crises marching toward us now, shoulder-to-shoulder, that will trigger every other, both large and small. At best, they will end our industrial civilization. At worst, they may depopulate most of our species. These two comrades-in-arms, overpopulation and peak oil, are of such complex magnitude, no amount of financial or scientific commitment may stop them. They are creating the perfect storm of which there may be no survival.

The ever-quickening rise in oil prices partly attributed to the ever-weakening dollar. However, oil prices would still be increasing as demand outstrips supply. The slide down peak oil is unstoppable.

Most want to believe oil is limitless. The fact of the matter is it’s a finite resource, a geological gift of nature, half of which we’ve run through in less than 150 years. You only have to look as far as the mature, collapsing fields as the North Sea, Mexico’s Cantarell, Alaska’s North Slope, Russia’s Caspian and various Middle Eastern countries to know we are in deep trouble. In December’s OPEC meetings, it was made public that they were supplying 15 percent less than two years ago despite pumping as fast as they can. The massive Saudi field, Ghawar — by far the world’s largest — has only been able to maintain its five-million-barrel-a-day output by injecting nine million barrels of sea water daily. It’s said as goes Ghawar, so goes Saudi Arabia.

No substance is more interwoven into life as oil. Most of us see it as gasoline and believe more fuel-efficient autos will save the day. This is a fallacy as cars take much oil to manufacture, so if we replace all gas guzzlers with fuel-efficient vehicles, it will make matters worse. And using grain-produced
ethanol is proving to be a mistake. Agriculture is one of the most oil-intensive industries and the more we grow, the quicker we use oil up.

Oil is necessary for drugs and pharmaceuticals, energy, fertilizers and pesticides, chemical production and everything plastic. With the advent of oil came a revolution in medicine, agriculture (where 2 percent of the population now feeds the rest of us, while it was the opposite in 1850), transportation,
information, machinery and industrial production. Never before has life changed so much and oil was directly responsible for this modernization.

If peak oil is the sharpshooter with modern industrial civilization in its crosshairs, overpopulation is the hangman with the noose around our necks.

In 1850, the world population lingered at 1 billion; in America it was 23 million.
The world population is now closing in on 7 billion while here it nears 310 million. It was oil, and its cousin natural gas, that allowed the population to grow to unprecedented proportions as quickly as it did. As oil is depleted, it’s correct to assume the population will decrease proportionately.

In 1974, the government released a study (NSSM 200) that concluded the world population needed to be decreased drastically for humans to survive after peak oil without dire consequences. This was followed by the Carter administration’s  ‘Global 2000’ document that said an immediate goal of less than 2 billion worldwide is necessary. Others suggest a world of no more than 500 million is more realistic.

Knowing so much about a near future of mass migration, epidemics, famines, society collapse and die-offs of biblical proportions, one should ask: Why are we not making population and oil conservation the primary issues? I always wonder why towns are proud welcoming in the first-born of the year when, in the overall scope of things, having a baby is the most selfish thing a person can do. Why encourage our species to breed ourselves toward extinction?

Energy and population are the two subjects you never hear politicians discuss. Columnists, on the left and right, have recently written how it is only OK to talk about conserving oil and decreasing population until it’s too late.
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III.  The effects of overpopulation on the environment
31 January 2008, www.helium.com, by Aidan Luce
Around the world, as populations grow, deficiencies in available freshwater supplies are starting to take their toll on already fragile economies, particularly those in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where Tony Allan of SOAS in London insists “water demand began to exceed supply in the early 1970s for the region. Some countries have faced deficits since the 1950s”.

Each person needs to have 1.8 cubic yards (365 gallons) of good quality water to drink each year in order to be considered water sufficient. The amount they require for domestic use depends on the technological level at which they live, for example someone living in rural Africa can get by with about 4 cubic yards per year, whilst someone in Europe uses about 100 cubic yards per year. These numbers are small, however in comparison to the amount of water needed to produce the food an individual consumes – and where that food is produced has a lot to do with how much water is needed to produce it. An example for you: Wheat grown in temperate latitudes requires about 1 cubic yard of water per 2-1/4 lbs of crop produced, most of it sourced from rainfall; wheat grown in drier climates like the MENA region requires 3 to 5 yards of water per 2-1/4 pounds of crop produced and 99.9% of it is sourced through irrigation and is extracted from rivers and aquifers.

The water required to produce these crops is known as virtual water. Meat products require even more virtual water to produce, because in addition to the water the animals consume, they are more often than not fed on cereals, which themselves have a virtual water content. (Allan 1998)

It is with this in mind that many water scarce countries have since the 1970’s been sourcing much of their staple foods from outside their countries. This end to their food sovereignty is not something which they like to publicize, but it is happening nonetheless. Jordan import 88% of their foodstuffs, Israel 80% and Palestine 65%. (Shuval 2005)These countries and many others throughout the
middle east are becoming increasingly dependent on water rich countries to supply the food they require to keep their population fed.

The US and the EU export 40 million tons of grain to the MENA region every year, using 40 billion tons of virtual water this is the amount of water flowing down the Nile into Egypt for agriculture every year. The word rival comes from the Latin root rivus, which literally means to share a river. The concept of rivalry is intrinsically tied to the competition for water security.
Pasted from <http://www.helium.com/items/831909-the-effects-of-overpopulation-on-the-environment&gt;

__A. Planet could be ‘unrecognizable’ by 2050, experts say
A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an “unrecognizable” world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.

The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, “with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia,” said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council .

To feed all those mouths, “we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000,” said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable” if current trends continue, Clay said.

The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion , said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University. But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years — tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations — and add more strain to global food supplies.

People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said. It takes around seven pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, experts told AFP.

“More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet,” Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.
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__B. Population and environment, a complex relationship
Between 1960 and 1999, Earth’s population doubled from three billion to six billion people. In many ways, this reflected good news for humanity: child mortality rates plummeted, life expectancy increased, and people were on average healthier and better nourished than at any time in history. However, during the same period, changes in the global environment began to accelerate: pollution heightened, resource depletion continued, and the threat of rising sea levels increased. Does the simultaneous occurrence of population growth and environmental decline over the past century indicate that more people translate into greater environmental degradation?

In The Environmental Implications of Population Dynamics, Lori Hunter synthesizes current knowledge about the influence of population dynamics on the environment. Specifically, her report examines the following:
•  The relationship between demographic factors– population size, distribution, and composition–and environmental change.
•  The mediating factors that influence this relationship: technological, institutional, policy, and cultural forces.
•  Two specific aspects of environmental change affected by population dynamics: climate change and land-use change.
•  Implications for policy and further research.

Hunter concludes that population dynamics have important environmental implications but that the sheer size of population represents only one important variable in this complex relationship. Other demographic dynamics, including changes in population flows and densities, can also pose challenging environmental problems.
1)  Environmental Implications of Specific  Population Factors
According to recent United Nations estimates, global population is increasing by  approximately 80 million–the size of Germany–each year.
Although fertility rates have declined in most areas of the world, population growth continues to be fueled by high levels of fertility, particularly in Asia and Africa.
In numerous Middle Eastern and African nations, the average number of children a woman would be expected to have given current fertility levels remains above 6.0–for example, 6.4 in Saudi Arabia, 6.7 in Yemen, 6.9 in Uganda, and as high as 7.5 in Niger. Even in areas where fertility rates have declined to near replacement levels (2.1 children per couple), population continues to grow because of “population momentum,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is young.
2)  Population Size
No simple relationship exists between population size and environmental change. However, as global population continues to grow, limits on such global resources as arable land, potable water, forests, and fisheries have come into sharper focus. In the second half of the twentieth century, decreasing farmland contributed to growing concern of the limits to global food production. Assuming constant rates of production, per capita land requirements for food production will near the limits of arable land over the course of the twenty-first century. Likewise, continued population growth occurs in the context of an accelerating demand for water: Global water consumption rose six fold between 1900 and 1995, more than double the rate of population growth.
3)   Land Use
Fulfilling the resource requirements of a growing population ultimately requires some form of land-use change–to provide for the expansion of food production through forest clearing, to intensify production on already cultivated land, or to develop the infrastructure necessary to support increasing human numbers. During the past three centuries, the amount of Earth’s cultivated land has grown by more than 450 percent, increasing from 2.65 million square kilometers to 15 million square kilometers.

A related process, deforestation, is also critically apparent: A net decline in forest cover of 180 million acres took place during the 15-year interval 1980 to ­1995, although changes in forest cover vary greatly across regions. Whereas developing countries experienced a net loss of 200 million acres, developed countries actually experienced a net increase, of 20 million acres (see chart).

[Chart left: Forest Area in 1995 Compared with 1980. SOURCE: Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), The State of the World’s Forests, 1999, Rome, Italy: FAO, 1998.  NOTE: Data exclude the countries of the former Soviet Union.]

These types of land-use changes have several ecological impacts. Converting land to agricultural use can lead to soil erosion, and the chemicals often used in fertilizers can also degrade soil. Deforestation is also associated with soil erosion and can lessen the ability of soil to hold water, thereby increasing the frequency and severity of floods. Human-induced changes in land use often result in habitat fragmentation and loss, the primary cause of species decline.
In fact, if current rates of forest clearing continue, one-quarter of all species on Earth could be lost within the next 50 years.

4)      Global Climate Change
Recent years have been among the warmest on record. Research suggests that temperatures have been influenced by growing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which absorb solar radiation and warm the
atmosphere. Research also suggests that many changes in atmospheric gas are human-induced. The demographic influence appears primarily in three areas.

    • First, contributions related to industrial production and energy consumption lead to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use;
    • Second, land-use changes, such as deforestation, affect the exchange of carbon dioxide between the Earth and the atmosphere; and
    • Third, some agricultural processes, such as paddy-rice cultivation and livestock production, are responsible for greenhouse gas releases into the atmosphere, especially methane.

According to one estimate, population growth will account for 35 percent of the global increase in CO2 emissions between 1985 and 2100 and 48 percent of the increase in developing nations during that period. As such, both attention to demographic issues and the development of sustainable production and consumption processes are central responses to the processes involved in global warming.
Pasted from <http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB5045/index1.html&gt;

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IV.  Population Concerns in the United States

A.  Population
At the present growth rate of 1.1% per year, the United States’ population will double to about 560 million in about the next 60 years, if current immigration and related trends continue.  Each year over 3 million people are added to the U.S. population.
•  Over 70% of the United States’ annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida and New York) results from immigration.
•  Every person leaves an “ecological footprint” on the Earth — that amount of land which, assuming it is endowed with an average amount of resources, is necessary to sustain one human being indefinitely.  The average American’s ecological footprint is about 25 acres, an area far greater than that taken up by one’s residence and place of school or work and other places where he or she is.  Those 25 additional acres supply the average American with food, fiber, and other resources, as well as capacity for waste assimilation and disposal. (The average footprint of everyone in the world is about 7 acres.)

B.  Land & Food production
One acre of natural habitat or farmland is converted to built-up space or highway for each person added to the U.S. population.
•  More than 99.3% of the U.S. food comes from land, while less than 0.5% comes from aquatic systems.
•  Of the nearly 470 million acres of arable land that are now in cultivation in the U.S., more than 1 million acres are lost from cultivation each year due to urbanization, multiplying transportation networks, and industrial expansion.  In addition, about 2 million acres of prime cropland are lost annually by erosion, salinization, and water logging.
  Iowa has lost 1/2 of its fertile topsoil after farming there for about 100 years.  Their topsoil is being lost about 30 times faster than sustainability.
•  If present population growth and other trends continue, over the next 60 years, both degradation and urbanization will diminish our arable land base of 470 million acres by 120 million acres.
•  Only 0.6 acres of arable land per person will be available in 2050, whereas more than 1.2 acres per person are needed to provide a divers diet (currently 1.6 acres of arable land are available).
•  A doubling of the American population will accelerate the need for food.  For every 1% increase in food demand, the price at the farm gate increases 4.5%.

C.     Food Exports & Oil Imports
•  Currently the U.S. earns $40 billion per year as the largest food exporter in the world.  About 60% of the oil used in the U.S. is imported at a cost of $75 billion per year.  About 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended to feed each American, about 17% of all energy used, each year.
•  If present trends in population growth, domestic food consumption, and topsoil loss continue, the U.S. food exports (and the income from them) will cease by 2030.
•  Fossil energy use in the U.S. has increased from 20 to as much as 1,000-fold in just four decades.
•  Currently, 92% of U.S. energy needs are provided by finite fossil fuels, with 6% of the total energy used for agricultural production.
•  Renewable energy sources, like hydropower and biomass, provide 8% of the U.S. energy and are increasing very slowly.
•  Approaching 2050, most of the oil and natural gas in the United States will be exhausted, and world supplies will be ever closer to depletion.
•  A renewable energy source, solar energy, would require the use of about 20% of the U.S. land area (about 450 million acres) to support a system that would supply only 1/2 of all current energy consumption, and the U.S. oil and gas reserves will have nearly run out by 2050, leaving us with environmentally problematic coal, or nuclear energy.  The advantage of the land space required for solar is that the solar can be above the ground, allowing for multiple use of the land space, such as grazing, agriculture, and warehousing.

D.   Energy
Fossil energy use in the U.S. has increased from 20 to as much as 1,000-fold in just four decades.
•  Currently, 92% of U.S. energy needs are provided by finite fossil fuels, with 6% of the total energy used for agricultural production.
•  Renewable energy sources, like hydropower and biomass, provide 8% of the U.S. energy and are increasing very slowly.
•  Approaching 2050, most of the oil and natural gas in the United States will be exhausted, and world supplies will be ever closer to depletion.
•  A renewable energy source, solar energy, would require the use of about 20% of the U.S. land area (about 450 million acres) to support a system that would supply only 1/2 of all current energy consumption, and the U.S. oil and gas reserves will have nearly run out by 2050, leaving us with environmentally problematic coal, or nuclear energy.  The advantage of the land space required for solar is that the solar can be above the ground, allowing for multiple use of the land space, such as grazing, agriculture, and warehousing.

E.   Water
Water is essential for all life, including productive agriculture. Agriculture consumes about 85% of all fresh water consumed by Americans. In the West, water shortages are increasing.
•  Rainfall is used directly by crops, is stored in diverse water bodies and in underground aquifers.  Groundwater provides 31% of the water used in U.S. agriculture.  Groundwater is being depleted 25% in excess of recharge rates.
•  Even if water management were to be substantially improved, by 2060 the 560 million Americans will have only 700 gallons/day/capita, considered a minimum for all human needs.
This assumes even distribution, which is not the case — much of our population and agricultural production is in arid and semi-arid regions.
•  Almost every house that can afford one now owns some type of water filter. Water quality is decreasing, as are our sources of potable water, due to development, salinity, and pollution.
Pasted from <http://www.enviroalternatives.com/popfacts.html&gt;

€ The ‘bathroom metaphor’”
http://malthusia.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=213
If two people live in an apartment, and  they had two bathrooms then they both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, stay as long as you want, for whatever you need, and everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the constitution.
But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, then no matter how much every person believes in the freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up times for each person; you have to bang on the door, “aren’t you through yet?”, and so on.
Kasanov concluded with one of the most profound observations I’ve seen in years, he says, in the same way, “…democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive over population. Convenience and decency cannot survive over population. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only decline it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people, there are the less one individual matters. And so, central to the things that we must do is to recognize that population growth is the immediate cause of all our resource and environmental crisis”.
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V.  Consequences of peak oil
There are indications that peak oil is either imminent or even may have passed a few years ago. Although the consequences won’t be immediate after the peak, on the long-term they will be dire. We will discuss what the possible solutions to peak oil are in a moment but first, what are we talking about? Let’s start by a few facts:
•  There is only a limited amount of oil on the planet – because the planet is round.
•  The world’s first commercial oil well was drilled in Poland in 1853, and global production reached 4 million barrels a year in the 1860s (one barrel is about 42 gallons).
•  Today’s production hovers just above 70 million barrels a day.
•  2005 was an all-time high at 73.72 million barrels a day. Production is nearly flat since.
•  The Industrial Revolution brought a better understanding of how to use energy and allowed global population to increase ten times compared to what has been constant over millennia. It is  quite clear that our population would never have reached this level without access to all the cheap energy sources we currently have.
•  Our industry, food system and economy have become wholly dependent on cheap fuel.
•  India and China demand for oil is set to quadruple by 2030.
•  Some 64 million barrel per day of additional gross capacity – the equivalent of almost six times the daily output of Saudi Arabia today – needs to be brought on stream between now and 2030 (World Energy Outlook 2008)
•  So if the amount of oil we have is limited, if our demand is growing exponentially and  if production has been stationary for 5 years, how much oil have we left?
•  First we have to realize there aren’t any massive oil field discoveries those days. It is estimated that the peak of oil production lags behind the peak of oil field discoveries by 30 to 40 years depending on the urgency with which new fields are brought on-line. The graph below shows the rate of discoveries of
conventional oil field:

I’d like to stop a moment to let this sink in and consider what actually depends on oil.
•  Most of our transportation: cars, planes, boat, trucks.
•  Commercial shipment: bringing food to the supermarket, shipping building material, most of the industry.
•  Tires: It takes 3.6 billion gallons of crude oil to produce tires for all of the cars in the U.S. and 7 gallons of crude to produce one tire; therefore, should we all switch to electric cars we would still have a problem.
•  Mining equipment, farming and forestry equipment. The energy density of any commercially available battery makes it very heavy to move around and therefore a poor replacement of liquid fuels.
•  Most plastics. Plastics are everywhere. Look around you, starting by your computer and your phone, and the chips inside of them, and then try to imagine a world without plastics.
•  Many pesticides are derived from petroleum. Fertilizers are derived from natural gas, which ultimately will be confronted to the same issue.
•  Motor’s lubricating oil.
•  Asphalt.
•  Our entire food production and distribution network is heavily dependent on oil and fossil fuels. It is estimated that for every calories you eat, 10 calories of fossil fuels (mainly from oil and gas) is being used.
There is no need to panic: we have only consumed half of the amount of oil there is on the planet. However, there is clearly a case to seriously rethink our way of life.

Oil availability and social implications–Past & Future
The effect of energy decline on population will completely overwhelm the underlying reductions in carrying capacity. Those ecological effects will be gradually revealed as our aggregate supplies
decline, and will add to the population-reducing effects to energy loss.

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VI.  Our food and  water needs
The basic need of humans is food. We need food to have energy to perform vital body functions, to reproduce, to work and to have fun. The unit of energy used by dietitians is the Calorie (or kilocalorie), that is, 4200 joules of energy, enough to raise the temperature of one kg of water by one degree Celsius.

The energy need of a typical adult is 2500 Calories per day. Children and elderly need less than that. That brings the average to 2000 Calories per day for all.

The caloric values must come 55% – 60% from carbohydrates, 12% – 15% from proteins and 33% – 25% fats. The variation based on climate, culture and personal preferences. For our calculation we take the most recommended 60% from carbohydrates, 12% from protein and 28% from fats. It must be kept in mind that this is an attempt to summarize highly complex and variable data into a meaningful format. There are hundreds if not thousands of food items available for human use, which particular item one uses depends a lot on one’s religion, culture, climate, personal preference etc.
Food productivity differs a lot on the basis of geographical location.
•  Most people live on a diet based on one or more of the following staples: rice, wheat, maize (corn), millet, sorghum, roots and tubers (potatoes, cassava, yams and taro), and animal products such as meat, milk, eggs, cheese and fish.
•  Roots and tubers are important staples for over 1 billion  people in the developing world. They account for roughly 40 percent of the food eaten by half the population of sub-Saharan  Africa. They are high in carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin C, but low in protein.
•  Ranked in order of their annual production, the world’s 15 most important food crops are: sugar cane, wheat, rice, corn (maize), white potatoes, sugar beets, barley, sweet potatoes, cassava, soybeans, wine grapes, tomatoes, bananas, legumes (beans and peas), and oranges.
•  Nine of the most important animal species include: cattle, horse, ass, pig, sheep, buffalo, goat, chicken and duck.

A.   A scheme of balanced daily  diet

Pounds of food needed/ person/ year for a balanced diet. Avg.  global food output lbs/acre/yr before
the petroleum intensive Green Revolution began (pre ca 1940)
Square yards Land Needed/person for a balanced  diet
Pounds/year Lbs/acre/yr
(2.2lbs/kg)
Yds2/person
Grains & Cereals 220 880 1200
Milk 220 (26 gal) 440 See pasture
Fruits 220 1760 469131
Vegetables 55
Meat (goat, horses, sheep) 55 220 See pasture
Oil 27.5 (~3 gal) 440 300
Sugar 27.5 440 300
Dry Fruits / Eggs 27.5 440 300
Spices 27.5 440 300
Pasture NA NA 1200
Other (coffee, cotton, tea, wool) NA NA 600
4800 sq. yds. overall=1
acre

Notes:

  • Land Needed/ capita =4800 square yards = about 1 acre per person. There are  4840 square yards /acre.
  • It is estimated that egg production in pounds would be at least twice that of chicken meat per acre. That is because of the savings in energy when eggs are used directly in the diet, which would otherwise be used by the chicken in its life time-hatching, growing up and gaining weight up to age of a few weeks before slaughter.
  • Land needed for vegetables is so little (55 vegetables needed/1760 lbs per acre*4200 = 131 sq. yds.=1180 sq ft=a plot 12 ft x 100 ft long) that a side crop along with grains/cereals can be grown for that. That’s the traditional Chinese method of having a crop of vegetables along with rice. A nitrogen-fixing crop is needed anyways as a side crop on land where grains/cereals are grown to maintain soil fertility.
  • A quarter acre dedicated to pasture grows 440 lbs of fodder per year. The total fodder requirement for milk and meat is 880 lbs., 4.4 lbs of fodder is converted to 2.2 lbs of milk and 17.6 lbs of fodder converts to 2.2 lbs of goat/camel/horse meat. The other 440 lbs of fodder comes from crop-residue, leaves etc from grain/cereals, fruits and vegetables. 220 lbs of grains/cereals leave 352 lbs fodder, 220 lbs fruits leave 440 lbs fodder, 110 lbs of miscellaneous (oil, sugar, spices and dry fruits) leaves 176 lbs of fodder. Assuming it would have half of the caloric values left when finally consumed by animals that is equivalent of 440 lbs of fodder.
  • Conversion factors: 1 kg=2.2 lbs, 1 m2=1.2 yd2, 1 ft3=7.48 gal water, 3.79 liters=1 gallon, 1yd3=202 gal water, 1 acre =4840 yd2=43,560 ft2, 1 hectare = 2.47 acres.

A simplified division of land is as follows:

Farm (for grains/cereals) 1/4 acre per person, (100 ft x 100 ft)
Pasture (for growing fodder) 1/4 acre per person, (100 ft x 100 ft)
Orchard (for growing fruits) 1/8 acre per person, (50 ft x 100 ft)
Farm (for tea, cotton, wool) 1/8 acre per person, (50 ft x 100 ft)
Oil (for vegetable oil) 1/16 acre per person, (50 ft x 50 ft)
Sugar (honey or sugar cane) 1/16 acre per person, (50 ft x 50 ft)
Dry fruits 1/16 acre per person, (50 ft x 50 ft)
Spices 1/16 acre per person, (50 ft x 50 ft)

B.  Water
Water is another important factor in farm productivity. A land rich in organic material and minerals is of no use without a supply of water. The primary source of water is rain falling directly on land. Secondary sources like canals are also used to increase productivity. Finally tertiary sources like wells and tube wells are used which to some degree recycles the water already used at the farm.

A 10 inch rain fall on one acre provides 1000 tons of water. For a summer crop, at least in my part of world 80% of rain falls during the monsoon, right when the crop needs it. So 800 cubic meters of water
directly from rain is enough to grow the food per person per acre using these water requirements, assuming 20% loss of water at the farm due to evaporation and soil absorption before being used by plants. The calculation includes water needed for world average use of 7.7 lb  cotton, 2.4 lb coffee and 1.1 lb tea per capita per year.
Pasted from <http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/3090&gt;

C.   Water Footprint
A ‘water footprint’ is quite simply the volume of water used. At the individual level, this is expressed in gallons.
But at the national level, this becomes complex – The water footprint of a nation is equal to the use of domestic water resources, minus the virtual water export flows, plus the virtual water import flows.

The total ‘water footprint’ of a nation is a useful indicator of a nation’s call on the global water resources. The water footprint of a nation is related to dietary habits of people. High consumption of meat brings along a large water footprint. Also the more food originates from irrigated land, the larger is the water footprint. Finally, nations in warm climate zones have relatively high water consumption for their domestic food production resulting in a larger water footprint. At an individual level, it is useful to show the footprint as a function of food diet and consumption patterns.
•  1 cup of coffee needs 37 gal of water.
•  1 qt of milk needs 264 gal of water.
•  It takes 5 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water.
•  1 lbs of wheat needs 162 gal of water.
•  1 lbs of rice needs 359 gal of water.
•  1 lbs maize needs 62 gal of water.
•  The production of 1 lbs of beef requires 2,638 gal of water.
•  The water footprint of China is about 930 cubic yards per year per capita. Only about 3% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
•  Japan with a footprint of 1,320 cubic yards per year per capita, has about 60% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
•  The USA water footprint is 3,120 cubic yards per year per capita.
•  The average American Individual uses 100 to 175 gallons of water per day.
•  The average African Family uses 5 gallons per day.
•  A human adult requires 1.81 cubic yards drinking water per year=365 gallons or 1 gallon per day, another gallon per person per day is required for minimal sanitation and household use.
Source: UNESCO-IHE – Water Footprint

Virtual Water
Virtual water is the amount of water that is embedded in food or other products needed for its production. Trade in virtual water allows water scarce countries to import high water consuming products while exporting low water consuming products and in this way making water available for other purposes.

For example, the virtual water content (in yds3 water/ton product) for potatoes is 192 (cu yards water to produce 1 ton potatoes). Others examples: maize=1,080; milk=1,080; wheat=1,620; soybean=2,760; rice=3,600; poultry=3,360; eggs=5,640; cheese=6,360; pork=7,080; and beef=19,200.
Behind that morning cup of coffee is 37 gallons of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans.

Sustainable human carrying capacity?
Assuming that we can sustainably use 40% of world’s food production for our use leaving the rest for all other species, we can have food for 6 billion people on this planet if our population is distributed evenly, but. since it is not, long-term human population support ranges from 2 billion to 4 billion. Taking the average 3 billion as sustainable, this is roughly the population of the world at the end of the World War II.

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VII.   North America’s  Ogallala aquifer
America’s breadbasket is facing an environmental crisis of unimaginable proportions and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is happening.  The water that is used to irrigate much of America’s Great Plains comes from a massive underground lake known as the Ogallala Aquifer, which.   is being drained at an alarming rate, and that means that the Great Plains could soon turn into the Great American Desert.  If that happens, American could very well see a devastating repeat of the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.

The Ogallala geological formation of the American Midwest is home one of the most vital water sources for American agriculture—the High Plains aquifer.  Commonly referred to as the Ogallala aquifer, it covers an area of 174,000 square miles across eight states and holds over 978 trillion gallons of fresh water.  The aquifer currently supplies approximately 30% of the nation’s irrigation water, whereby it sustains 15% of the domestic corn and wheat crops as well as 25% of the cotton crop.  Since ground water mining of the aquifer accelerated in the last century, the water table has dropped 10-50 feet  in-depth in most regions, with several recorded drops of over 100 feet.

Shown as the shaded region in the figure above.   The quality and depth of the Ogallala groundwater is rapidly declining as water is pumped from its reservoirs far faster than fresh water can replace it.

The Ogallala aquifer was virtually untouched until the 1910s, but the post-depression wartime government of the 1940s readily subsidized irrigation projects drawing from the aquifer as drilling technology improved.  The dry grassland states of the central United States were quickly developed into major crop producing regions.  As of 1980, “20% of the irrigated land in the United States overlay the Ogallala, 30% of the irrigation ground water in the United States was being pumped from it, and 40% of the grain-fed beef cattle slaughtered in the United States were being fattened in the six states of the High Plains.”   This extreme reliance on the Ogallala aquifer has taken a dramatic toll on the ground water supply, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

One of the most critical sites is in the Texas High Plains, where roughly ten times as much water is being pumped out of the aquifer as is being replaced by rainfall.

The Ogallala aquifer is being used today to supply residential and agricultural communities across eight Midwestern states.  For nearly 80 years the nation’s breadbasket has been irrigated from Ogallala groundwater—a practice so unsustainable it severely threatens an aquifer that had flourished for over a
million years.  Farmlands are already shrinking on some portions of the Ogallala that have been mined of water.  As the water table continues to plummet the High Plains will have to take drastic measures, whether communities import costly water or abandon the most profitable farming in the nation.
Either way the decision has to be made soon because the aquifer that once held enough water to cover the entire United States under 1.5 feet of water is rapidly running out.

A.  The Ogallala aquifer running dry: U.S. farmers fear return of the dust bowl
It’s the largest underground freshwater supply in the world, stretching from South Dakota all the way to Texas. It’s underneath most of Nebraska’s farmlands, and it provides crucial water resources for farming in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and even New Mexico. It’s called the Ogallala Aquifer, and it is being pumped dry.

Without the Ogallala Aquifer, America’s heartland food production collapses. No water means no irrigation for the corn, wheat, alfalfa and other crops grown across these states to feed people and animals. And each year, the Ogallala Aquifer drops another few inches as it is literally being sucked dry by the tens of thousands of agricultural wells that tap into it across the heartland of America.

The problem with its use is that the aquifer isn’t being recharged in any significant way from rainfall or rivers. This is so-called “fossil water” because once you use it, it’s gone. And it’s disappearing now faster than ever.

In some regions along the aquifer, the water level has dropped so far that it has effectively disappeared — places like Happy, Texas, where a once-booming agricultural town has collapsed to a population of 595. All the wells drilled there in the 1950’s tapped into the Ogallala Aquifer and seemed to provide abundant water at the time. But today the wells have all run dry.

There used to be 50,000 head of cattle, now there’s 1,000,” says Kay Horner in a Telegraph report (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/83…). “Grazed them on wheat, but the feed lots took all the water so we can’t grow wheat. Now the feed lots can’t get local steers so they bring in cheap unwanted milking calves from California and turn them into burger if they can’t make them veal. It
doesn’t make much sense. We’re heading back to the Dust Bowl.”

The reality is that the Great Plains have not always been a great agricultural area. Way back in 1823, a U.S. government surveyor named Stephen Long was mapping out the Great Plains, and he was quite unimpressed by what he saw.  In fact, his geographer wrote the following in a report about the
expedition….

“I do not hesitate in giving the opinion that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course, uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence.”

Well, thanks to irrigation, the Great Plains are not only “habitable”, but that region is currently one of the great breadbaskets of the world.  What Long’s mapping expedition referred to as “The Great American Desert” has been turned into an agricultural wonder thanks to an expanse of green circles defined by the reach of central pivot irrigation systems. But all of that is changing as the Ogallala Aquifer rapidly becomes depleted

 B.  Water Now More Valuable Than Oil? Savvy Investors and Successful Companies are Turning Water Into Gold,
By Larry West, About.com Guide
The most valuable commodity in the world today, and likely to remain so for much of this century, is not oil, not natural gas, not even some type of renewable energy. It’s water—clean, safe, fresh water.

__Follow the Money
When you want to spot emerging trends, always follow the money. Today, many of the world’s leading investors and most successful companies are making big bets on water. Do a little research, and it’s easy to see why. There simply isn’t enough freshwater to go around, and the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

According to Bloomberg News, the worldwide scarcity of usable water worldwide already has made water more valuable than oil. The Bloomberg World Water Index, which tracks 11 utilities, has returned 35 percent to investors every year since 2003, compared with 29 percent for oil and gas stocks and 10 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

“There is only one direction for water prices at the moment, and that’s up,” said Hans Peter Portner, who manages a $2.9 billion US Water Fund at Pictet Asset Management in Geneva, according to a report by Bloomberg News. The value of the fund increased 26 percent in 2005, and Portner expects water to provide 8 percent annual returns through 2020.

__Freshwater Becoming More Scarce
The United Nations estimates that by 2050 more than two billion people in 48 countries will lack sufficient water.
Approximately 97 percent to 98 percent of the water on planet Earth is saltwater (the estimates vary slightly depending on the source). Much of the remaining freshwater is frozen in glaciers or the polar ice caps. Lakes, rivers and groundwater account for about 1 percent of the world’s potentially usable
freshwater.

If global warming continues to melt glaciers in the polar regions, as expected, the supply of freshwater may actually decrease. First, freshwater from the melting glaciers will mingle with saltwater in the oceans and become too salty to drink. Second, the increased ocean volume will cause sea levels to rise,
contaminating freshwater sources along coastal regions with seawater.

Complicating matters even further is that 95 percent of the world’s cities continue to dump raw sewage into rivers and other freshwater supplies, making them unsafe for human consumption.

__The Need for Freshwater is Increasing Rapidly
Yet, while freshwater supplies are at best static, and at worst decreasing, the world’s population is growing rapidly. The United Nations estimates that the world population—approximately 6.5 billion in 2006—will grow to 9.4 billion by 2050.

The cost of water is usually set by government agencies and local regulators. Water isn’t traded on commodity exchanges, but many utilities stocks are publicly traded. Meanwhile, investments in companies that provide desalinization, and other processes and technologies that may increase the world’s supply of freshwater, are growing rapidly.

C.  Tap Water in 42 States Contaminated by Chemicals: EWG Tap Water Probe Reveals 141 Unregulated Chemicals Flowing into U.S. Homes
About.com Guide, By Larry West,
Public water supplies in 42 U.S. states are contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has never established safety standards, according to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

__Tainted Tap Water Used by Millions of Americans
Another 119 regulated chemicals—a total of 260 contaminants altogether—were found by the
environmental group in a two-and-a-half-year analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests. The tests, which are required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, were conducted at nearly 40,000 utilities that supply water to 231 million people.

 __Pollution Threatens Tap Water Quality
 According to a report by the EWG, the top 10 states with the most contaminants in their drinking water were California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois—in that order.  EWG said the biggest sources of contaminants were agriculture, industry and pollution from sprawl and urban  runoff.

__Utilities Need More Enforceable Standards for Tap Water
EWG’s analysis also found that almost all U.S. water utilities comply fully with enforceable health standards once they are developed. The problem, according to the environmental group, is the EPA’s failure to establish enforceable health standards and monitoring requirements for many tap water contaminants.  [Photo above: Royal Berkey water filter]

Our analysis clearly demonstrates the need for greater protection of the nation’s tap water supplies, and for increased health protections from a number of pollutants that are commonly found but currently unregulated.” said Jane Houlihan, vice president for science at EWG, in a prepared statement. “Utilities routinely go beyond what is required to protect consumers from these contaminants, but they need more money for testing, and for protection of vital source waters.”

.
VIII. 
World fish stocks over-exploited
Feb. 1, 2011, UNITED NATIONS
Global consumption of fish is at a record high, a report says, leaving world fish stocks depleted from over-exploitation.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization says fish consumption reached an average  of 37 pounds per person and fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 145 million tons in 2009. That amounts to about 16 percent of humanity’s animal protein intake, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Thirty-two percent of the fish stocks monitored by the FAO were depleted or in the process of recovering from over-exploitation, the U.N. report said. Most stocks of the Top 10 commercial species, comprising almost a third of global catches, were fully exploited, the U.N. report said.
“That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern,” Richard Grainger, a FAO senior fish expert, says. “The percentage of over-exploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to reaching a plateau.” Fish continued to be the most-traded food commodity, worth $102 billion in 2008, the U.N. report found.

Overall, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, or 8% of the world population. People have never eaten as much fish and more people than ever are employed in or depend on the sector.

All stocks of currently fished, wild seafood species are projected to collapse by 2048 according to a study published in the November 3 issue of The Journal Science. The four-year analysis by an international group of ecologists and economists shows the marine biodiversity loss is reducing its resilience due to overfishing, pollution, and other stresses like climate change.
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[Photo left: Florida Keys, same spot: Change in the typical catch between,ca. 1956 to 2007.]

In the paper, Impact of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services, an international team of ecologists and economists studied the role marine biodiversity plays in maintaining ecosystem services, which are those goods and functions that are essential for the growing human population.

“Worm and colleagues provided the first comprehensive assessment of the state of ecosystem services provided by the biodiversity of the world’s oceans to humanity,” said Science International Managing Editor Andrew Sugden. “At this point,” Worm said, “29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed — that is their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating.

Seafood has become a growing part of Americans’ diet in recent years. Consumption totaled 16.6 pounds per person in 2004, the most recent data available, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That compares with 15.2 pounds in 2000.

Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts’ environment program, pointed out that worldwide fishing provides $80 billion in revenue and 200 million people depend on it for their livelihoods. For more than 1 billion people, many of whom are poor, fish is their main source of protein, he said.
.

IX.      The State of the World’s Food and Soil
 •  “Ninety percent of the world’s food is derived from just 15 plant and 8 animal species.”
“Biodiversity – and especially the maintenance of wild relatives of domesticated species – is essential to sustainable agriculture.”1
 •  75% of the genetic diversity of crop plants has been lost in the past century.

[Chart above: While the amount of irrigated agricultural land increased 98% during the 41 years from 1961 to  2002, the human population doubled from 3.08 billion to 6.2 billion, the effect has been to essentially reduce the amount arable land per person by 45%.]

“In 1960, when the world population numbered reached 3 billion, approximately 1.25 acres of cropland per capita was available, the minimum area considered essential for the production of a diverse, healthy, nutritious diet of plant and animal products like that enjoyed widely in the United States and
Europe.”3

  • Increases in grain production brought about by irrigation and synthetic fertilizer-pesticide inputs have peaked and begun declining. As consumption surpasses production, the world’s stocks of stored grain have been falling relative to each year’s use. When supply can no longer meet demand, free market price competition may starve the poor.
  • “Nitrogen production requires a large and affordable supply of natural gas.” 5
  • “Natural gas is a key feedstock (up to 90 percent of the total costs) in the manufacturing of nitrogen fertilizer for which there is no practical substitute… Nitrogen fertilizer prices tend to increase when gas prices increase.” 4

“10 kcalories (kilogram-calories or ‘large calories’) of exosomatic energy are spent in the U.S. food system per calorie of food eaten by the consumer. Put another way, the US food system consumes ten times more energy than it provides to society in food energy.” 6

Definition:exosomatic energy, as contrasted with endosomatic energy (bodily metabolism), is the useful energy throughput outside the human body.
In the above example, the exosomatic energy is the energy used to drive the farm inputs (plant, fertilize, pest-herbacide and harvest), processing, packaging, and transportation.

[Chart upper left: Fertilizer consumption is increasing worldwide- to maintain and maximize soil productivity. Chart uper right: Grain production has peaked and is declining, meanwhile consumption/demand continues to climb, the shortfall is being made up grain stockpiles which have dropped 75% and are still declining.]

Grain production has peaked and is declining, meanwhile consumption/demand continues to climb, the shortfall is being made up grain stockpiles which have dropped 75% and are still declining.

Who’s eating what and where?
• 
About 2 billion hectares of soil, equivalent to 15% of the Earth’s land area (an area larger than the United States and Mexico combined), have been degraded through human activities.
•  “Over the past 40 years, approximately 30% of the world’s cropland has become unproductive.”2
•  “During the past 40 years nearly one-third of the world’s cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned because of soil erosion and degradation.” 7
•  “About 2 million hectares of rain fed and irrigated agricultural lands are lost to production every year due to severe land degradation, among other factors.” 8
•  “It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25 millimeters (1 inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agricultural production is 150 millimeters. From this perspective, productive fertile soil is a nonrenewable, endangered ecosystem.” 3,9

Food and Soil text sources:
1.  World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, “A Framework for Action on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management”
2.  “Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy”, Pimentel and Giampietro, Nov. 1994
3.  “Soil as an Endangered Ecosystem”, David Pimental, Bioscience; Nov 2000
4.  US GAO report: “Natural Gas: Domestic Nitrogen Fertilizer Production Depends on Natural Gas Availability and Prices”, Oct. 2003, www.gao.gov/new.items/d031148.pdf
5. The Fertilizer Institute, www.tfi.org/Statistics/index.asp
6.  “The Tightening Conflict: Population, Energy Use, and the Ecology of Agriculture”, Pimentel and Giampietro, 1994, http://dieoff.org/page69.htm
7.  “Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy, Pimentel and Giampietro, Nov. 1994
8.  World Bank: “Land Resources Management”, lnweb18.worldbank.org/ESSD/ardext.nsf/
11ByDocName/
9.  “Population Growth and the Environment: Planetary Stewardship”, Pimental, Dec 98, http://egj.lib.uidaho.edu/egj09/piment1.html
10.  UN World Water Development, www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/index.shtml
.

Population Growth Escalates Food Prices
Summer 2008, By The Social Contract press
Food shortages have plagued mankind over millennia. But twentieth century agronomists came up with ways to keep food production on a pace with population growth in most places. Cheap food became a given in post-World War II America. In 1960, Americans spent 17.5 percent of their income on food; in 2006, spending on food fell to 9.9 percent. Alas, the bonanza only encouraged dietary imprudence. As Michael Pollan points out in a new book, In Defense of Food: An  Eater’s Manifesto, the modern American diet of refined white flour, polished rice, soy and corn oil, corn sweeteners and corn-fed animal fats means that “an American born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes in his lifetime.” Obesity in America is pandemic, too — a result of what one nutritionist calls “a national experiment in mainlining of glucose.”

Astonishingly, the U.S. is a net food importer. About 40 percent of our fruit comes from overseas.
Ten percent of our red meat is imported, often from as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
While we import luxury foods, much of the rest of the world must scramble to find basic food supplies. The cereal import bill for the neediest countries is expected to increase by one-third for the second year in a row. The World Food Program (WFP) hopes to feed 73 million people this year, but high prices may lead to reduced rations or fewer people helped. According to the WFP, “hunger’s global hotspots” in February included Afghanistan, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Iraq, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Flood, drought, civil war, and harsh winters were blamed.

How many Americans can U.S. agriculture support in the future? Right now, we have an ample diet and are still able to export nearly one-fifth of our grain production. But Lindsay Grant, in a pamphlet published by Negative Population Growth, Inc., warns that if production and per capita consumption stay where they are, and U.S. population continues to grow at the present rate, “we will be consuming all the grain we produce in less than two decades, and running a deficit in agricultural trade; from then on, we will face mounting shortages.” Satellite maps are said to show that Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land.

The end of cheap food was delayed for half a century by the “Green Revolution.” [started ca 1940] It involves planting mono-cultures of hybrid plant varieties and by applying large amounts of inorganic fertilizer, irrigation water, and pesticides. Using these technologies, global grain harvest has tripled since 1961, while world population doubled. In the U.S., average corn yields climbed to 153 bushels per acre, from just 26.5 million in 1932. (A cost of expanded yields has been a decline in nutritional quality.)

The researchers also used past land-use data to create maps showing how agriculture has spread over the centuries. In 1700, for example, just 7 percent of the world’s land was used for farming.

Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggest that total farmland increased by 12.4 million acres (5 million hectares) annually between 1992 and 2002.

World Population Growth
Year   Population
1             200 million
1000       275 million
1500       450 million
1650       500 million
1750         700 million
1804      1 billion
1850      1.2 billion              [Globally supportable human population
1900      1.6 billion              estimated at 1.2 to 1.6 billion.]
1927      2 billion
1950       2.55 billion
1955      2.8 billion
1960      3 billion
1965      3.3 billion
1970      3.7 billion
1975      4 billion
1980     4.5 billion
1985      4.85 billion
1990      5.3 billion
1995      5.7 billion
1999      6 billion
2006      6.5 billion
2009      6.8 billion
2012      7 billion      [A return to sustainability seems to indicate a 77%
2027      8 billion         reduction in the human population numbers –
2044      9 billion         with 23% remaining, after – the oil decline?! ] 
2050      9.2 billion                                       8-|    (gulp!!)

“The satellite data tells us where cultivation is occurring with good spatial accuracy, while the census data is able to tell us what is being grown there. The maps suggest that an area roughly the size of South America is used for crop production, while even more land—7.9 to 8.9 billion acres (3.2 to 3.6 billion hectares)—is being used to raise livestock.

Connecting the dots, contemplating the future- Mr. Larry
‘The world’s  population was 3.3 billion in 1965, it is now nearly 7 billion, it has doubled  in 34 years. During this time, we have doubled the amount of land under irrigation, while seriously draining the Ogallala aquifer, are losing snow fields and mountain glaciers that have traditionally fed rivers for irrigation on old world continents, we have only a couple of decades before the world’s fisheries have all collapsed to 10% of their former size and have become unproductive, we have by 2011 reached peak oil and will hence forth be experiencing a decline in all things petroleum with an increase in real prices, less fertilizer will be used and grain production will decline faster, the soil will be ‘mined’ faster’and its quality diminish at a faster rate, grain stocks will be reduced to near zero, with harder economic times everywhere, the quality of our drinking water will continue to erode. Currently, with 7 billion people in need of food, we have an area roughly the size of South America used for crop production and the area size equivalent to most of North America used to raise livestock. Where do the continents come from to feed the next doubling of the population, for 14 billion people? Clearly, we have reached a plateau in overall food production. Within this decade, as previously hospitable environmental systems are diminished, our dependant human population will have a ‘numbers’ adjustment.

Prognosis: A less satisfactory life style will be experienced globally, everyone will be taking a step backward toward ‘less’, there will be increasingly ‘harder times’, there will be war over resources, and pestilence will follow. The human population has been, growing explosively for a century due to technologies- all based on fossil oil, now with peak oil it’s becoming apparent that we are numerically out of balance with our resource base. The possibility of an ‘overshoot’ during the coming oil/population decline makes all social matters worse. Gosh…what kind of world will we be navigating into if, during the next 50, 100 or 150 years we collapsed back to an 1850 to 1900 population level of 1.2 to 1.6 billion people?
Yet, how can it be otherwise?’

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