Last week, the world’s population hit another milestone – 7 billion people. The United Nations (UN) projects that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025, and 10 billion by 2083. What’s more, life expectancy in the world has risen from 48 years in 1950 to 69 years today, the UN says.
While China remains the world’s most populous country at 1.34 billion people, India has closed the gap (1.2 billion) and is expected to gain the top ranking by 2030, thanks to its higher birth rate and three decades of strict family-planning rules in China. In fact, China’s population is projected to begin shrinking in 2027, and could be smaller than it is today by 2050, some demographers predict.
The U.S. is the world’s third-most populous country, but a very distant third. The U.S. has one of the highest growth rates among the industrialized nations, but it is growing due to immigration.
The real engine of world population growth is in Africa, which features both the world’s highest birthrates and the deepest poverty; that continent will be a huge contributor to a world population that experts say will hit 12 billion by 2050. In fact, the UN Population Fund reports that in Burundi, Uganda and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the regional population of nearly 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years, accounting for half the projected global population growth over that span. Most of that growth is expected to come in Africa’s cities, the Associated Press reports.
All this means that in less than 40 years, the world will have to increase food production by 40%. That means producing more food on the same amount of land, and with less water. It also means using the grazing lands of the world to convert sunlight into protein, which will fall solely on ruminant livestock production.
This kind of production growth not only demands the increased use of technology in agriculture, but also has caused a new realization within the environmental movement. That movement is starting to grasp that the use of these technologies is no longer considered a threat but a vital component in ensuring that open spaces and the environment are maintained.
Modern agriculture has been vilified by many on the left, which has spawned and helped fuel the growth of the natural, organic and local food movements. But those technologies aren’t as efficient and people are increasingly accepting the notion that the best tool to feed the world in a sustainable way that protects the environment and feeds the world economically and efficiently is high-yield conventional agriculture.
Those who once saw us as the problem are now increasingly seeing modern agriculture as the solution.