Population Matters

Will our children eat?

Will our children eat?

A series of reports from different sources have, in recent years, sought to reassure readers that food security for all is still possible in 2050. Analysis reveals, however, that most of them share a variety of often unstated ‘heroic’ (ie optimistic) assumptions about future developments, including the following:

1. Climate change will not prevent continuing increases in crop yields;

2. Ocean acidification will not reduce fisheries;

3. Water will continue to be readily available for farming;

4. Salination of land irrigated from groundwater will somehow be eliminated;

5. Aquifer abstraction rates will reduce to recharge rates without affecting crop yields;

6. Sea level rise will not submerge major food-producing river deltas;

7. Agriculture will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, notably oil;

8. The energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process will maintain sufficient nitrogen fertiliser supplies;

9. Phosphate supplies, notably from Morocco, will not suffer geo-political or other disruption;

10. These macro-nutrient fertilisers can continue to replace sound soil husbandry in the long term;

11. ‘Integrated pest management’ can replace the pest-control services of both winter (in mid-latitudes) and natural predators;

12. These predators (birds, bats, insects etc) will suffer no population decline;

13. Natural pollination services (bees etc) will be maintained at current levels;

14. Growing demand for meat, biofuels etc will not reduce grain supplies to the poor;

15. Grain prices will not rise faster than the incomes of the poor;

16. Population growth will rise only with the medium UN projection, without any policy intervention;

17. Civil unrest at price rises or violent competition for food will not disrupt food production;

18. Distribution systems will operate with near-prefect efficiency;

19. Food-exporters will not apply export bans in times of domestic scarcity;

20. As yet unknown ‘techno-fixes’ will compensate for all adverse eventualities.

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