We are heading for extinction
Population to hit Seven billion
This sounds alarmist and to some an exaggeration.
However, when you stop to consider the facts there simply is no other possible
outcome. When I was born in 1957 world population was less than 3 billion.
Sometime on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 the
world's population is projected
World population has more than doubled within my lifetime. At the same
time, as Jeremy Rifkin
points out in his new book "The
Third Industrial Revolution", we hit the milestone of "global peak oil
per capita" back in the 1970s. This milestone is distinct from the milestone
of "peak oil", which according to the International Energy Agency occurred
in 2006 when we reached seventy million barrels per day.
BP conducted a study on "global
peak oil per capita", which has since been confirmed by other research,
concluding that the available oil, if equally distributed to every person on
the planet, peaked in 1979. So since then we have been increasing our
population and at the same time running out of energy to distribute to this
ever growing number of people.
In 1994, David Pimentel and Mario Giampietro estimated
the output/input ratio of agriculture to be around 1.4. Which means: for
every 0.7 Kilogram-Calories (kcal) of fossil energy consumed, U.S.
agriculture produced 1 kcal of food. The input figure for this ratio was
based on Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN statistics, which
consider only fertilizers (without including fertilizer feedstock),
irrigation, pesticides (without including pesticide feedstock), and
machinery and fuel for field operations. Other agricultural energy inputs
not considered were energy and machinery for drying crops, transportation
for inputs and outputs to and from the farm, electricity, and construction
and maintenance of farm buildings and infrastructures. Adding in estimates
for these energy costs brought the input/output energy ratio down to 1. This
ratio does not include the energy expense of packaging, delivery to retail
outlets, refrigeration or household cooking. So we use more kcals of oil for
every kcal of food we produce. And this ratio does not consider that half of
all food produced worldwide is
Given these alarming facts and the lack of work done to
break our addiction to oil it seems just a matter of time before human
populations will no longer be able to feed themselves. When this milestone
is reached we will turn to our most common reaction to stress: war. We have
already seen the beginnings of this with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
How do we stop the inevitable? There are only two
variables that we can control. The first is population. If we were able,
somehow, to control and ultimately reduce world population we would give our
species some time. However, given human nature I see no way of us achieving
this. The second variable is the development of alternate energy sources.
However, given our poor history with this so far it seems unlikely we will
be able to break our addiction to oil.
We stand at the end of a great milestone in human
history, the end of the age of oil. What we decide to do as a species now
will determine our fate. Will we go on or will we fade out of existence as
so many other species have before us?