This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Can We Feed These Folks?

New population projections from the UN and PRB have reminded us that we are still a long way from the peak of population growth. The UN thinks we could have 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11 billion people (4 billion more than we have right now) by the end of this century, and PRB thinks we could have 9.8 billion by mid-century (2.5 billion more than at present). How are we going to feed these people? A group of researchers in the UK has been looking for answers and, as BBCNews notes, the conclusion is that the future is a bit risky on this score.
Climate change is increasing the risk of severe 'food shocks' where crops fail and prices of staples rise rapidly around the world. 
Researchers say extreme weather events that impact food production could be happening in seven years out of ten by the end of this century. 
The authors argue that an over reliance on global trade may make these production shocks worse.

The impacts are most likely to be felt across Africa and the Middle East.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation says that increasing population will drive demand for food up by 60% by 2050 in any case, so there is going to be significant pressure on food production.
In a separate but closely related study, global warming has been blamed for making the drought in California even worse than it would otherwise be. Perhaps the only good news for the world this week was that China may not be polluting the atmosphere quite as bad as earlier estimates had suggested. It is still the world's biggest polluter, though (with the US a close second). The sooner we transition to renewable solar and wind energy, the more likely it is that we can sustainably feed the expected new billions of people. 

1 comment:

  1. Prof Weeks - Excellent Commentary and you ask a very good question. How are we going to feed these folks???

    I would feel a lot more comfortable if there was a global emergency response asking the same question ... where will this extra food come from? But I see no such development.

    I think one of the most important demographic studies that could be done ... is to break down the population of countries, by age cohorts or regional differences, and show the ACTUAL nutrition that people are getting. This is especially important in the African countries, and in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm not sure I have seen any detailed "Nutrition Demographics", but it is a vital piece of information for the 21'st Century.

    And by the way - YES, California farmers are in a lot of trouble. With water prices skyrocketing, and Donald Trump on the warpath against immigrants, there is a real question about whether California can stay productive.

    Pete, Redondo Beach, CA