Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Can the World Feed 10 Billion People?

The world population will hit 10 billion by 2100. That's what the United Nations says in its latest estimate.
Is this finally the "population bomb" that will end the world as we know it, as Paul Ehrlich wrongly predicted in 1968? Or can we really feed this many people—even with sustainable agriculture?
Well, there are promising signs that we will be able to feed a growing world. Earlier this year, two French research organizations released Agrimonde, a report detailing two possible scenarios for feeding 9 billion over the next five decades. One model emphasized economic growth over the environment and required an estimated 80 percent growth in farm productivity. The other emphasized an agro-ecological system, requiring a 30 percent growth in agricultural productivity. What both models had in common: They used a global average of 3,000 calories per person per day.
Three thousand calories is well below our current consumption in the United States (and other blue regions in the map below). In other words, we can feed the world if you stop eating so many steaks, snacks, and sodas.

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