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Population, Food, Oil … Collision?

February 22, 2011


World population and growth

Factoring the net birth minus death rate in the world each year, the annual increase to world population is about 75 million people. The current world population is about 6,900,000,000, or 6.9 billion.

Annually, we add to the planet the equivalent population of any of the following scenarios,

  • New York City (9 of them!)
  • Los Angeles (20 of them!)
  • Chicago (27 of them!)
  • San Francisco (94 of them!)
  • Boston (117 of them!)
  • Unites States of America (25 percent of the country!)

When you think about it, this is a startling number. And that’s in just one year!

Developing, Emerging Nations, and their Demands

Many regions of the world are, and have been undergoing an increase in standard of living, particularly the transitioning, emerging and developing nations, some of which include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa, all part of a list of about 150 nations that the IMF has listed in this category.

These nations are very quickly consuming more and resources (food and energy) to keep pace with increasing population and the demands of a higher standard of living.

Energy, Food, Sustainability

Now stop and think about this one for a minute… between the fact that each year the Earth is burdened with the additional needs of humans that live in the equivalent of 117 cities of Boston (1/4 the population of the entire United States), coupled with the additional annual needs of all the world’s emerging nations whose population standards of living are increasing, how in the world can we keep up with these enormous demands of more food and energy, each and every year?

The answer is, I don’t think that we can. I believe that it is entirely unsustainable.

The food and agriculture systems are already maximized to the hilt in order to deliver just-in-time food to your grocer’s shelves. Feeding 75 million additional people each year is a tremendous undertaking, when you think about it.

What about oil and energy? As you know, oil is the underlying ‘enabler’ of just about everything that we take for granted today. Oil is ‘built in’ to nearly everything that you see, touch, eat, drink, and in nearly every product that you purchase.

How can the world’s oil producers keep pumping more and more oil to keep up with the increasing demands of developed and developing nations, as well as the burgeoning population that is adding 75 million new people each year? The answer is, they can’t! Every heard of Peak Oil?

Peak Oil, Food Shortages, Higher Prices

There is no doubt in my mind that we are reaching the point of maximum sustainability, and in fact, may have already passed that point. When you think about it, while the annual demands for energy, food, and water are increasing so much, while the resources that are demanded are in limited supply… something has to give, sooner or later.

Peak oil. Food supply shortages. Higher priced food. Fresh water. There is only so much to go around.

One could argue that there are untapped resources of oil out there. But the thing is, the easy oil has already been tapped. The rest will continue to cost more to access, just like the 1949 gold rush in California where initially the ’49ers’ were picking gold up off the ground, but eventually had to dig deep into the earth to extract, all at much higher costs.

It wasn’t that long ago when so many families lived on a 5 acre farm (or bigger), and were largely self-sufficient, because they had to be. The development of the modern world allowed most of them to escape the labor of managing a farm and to instead go on and work within the system, a system that has brought great things to the world, while also having built itself an enormous bubble of dependency, one that just very well may burst one day.

Are you ready?

Diversify to be prepared

What can I do to be better prepared?

Adjust your situation so that you are more diversified when it comes to energy and food, for starters.

Consider having more than one source of heating for your home. Instead of relying solely on an oil-fired furnace, how about adding a wood stove?

Instead of relying 100 percent on the electricity that is fed to your home, consider adding some solar panels and/or wind turbines to produce some of your electrical needs.

Instead of depending entirely upon fully stocked grocery store shelves, consider growing some of your own food and learning how to preserve it for later.

It is a similar philosophy to that of investing. Diversify. Think about the things that you rely upon 100 percent, and then consider alternative ways of achieving those needs. Be able to adapt.

Are you ready?

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