Where is the World Heading?
Big Issues Facing Mankind
Signs of the End of the Age
The Optimist: Some hold that the world's problems can be sorted by technology and better government. They maintain that education and family planning will help solve the population problem, a move from a consumer-driven economy to a zero-growth econonomy will reduce the pressure on natural resources, green energy and safer nuclear power will mitigate increased energy demands and climate change, and genetic engineering, new cross-breading plant techniques, desalination, 'seawater greenhouses' and algae farms will mitigate food, water and oil shortages.
The Pragmatist: The pragmatist is more cautious - many of the above concepts are unproved on a large scale. Some see a real urgency on several issues and others sense a global "crunch" is just around the corner. Putting aside the reasons for earth's problems, and possible solutions, let's look at a few facts:
Estimates and Projections of World Population
Data: U.S. Census Bureau
- Population growth: Although the world population growth rate is slowing, there is still a population explosion: 310 million in 1000 AD, 1.6 billion in 1900, 7.2 billion in 2013, and a projected 9.6 billion by 2050. Over half of this growth will be in Africa - more at UN Report 2013.
- Resource consumption: The overall global economy is growing at a rate that is using up the Earth's resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished [The Global Footprint Network]. Our current resource utilization is unsustainable. The planet's natural resources can reasonably support only about 5 billion people, and (at current consumption) 10 billion people will be consuming the equivalent of six Earths [Market Watch].
- Climate change: IPCC AR5 global warming projections conclude that global average temperatures could be more than 2°C above average by 2100, and could reach 4.8 degrees - with potentially catastrophic consequencies. Other theories point to severe cooling and a global temperature drop of 1.5°C by 2020. Either way, the world appears to be experiencing severe weather events, with a consequent affect upon food production.
- Desertification: About 1.2 billion people are at risk from desertification as deserts expand [UN]. Each year, the planet loses 24 billion tons of topsoil [UNEP], corresponding to a loss of some 10 million hectares of productive land. By 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe [UN, 2006], and by the 2050s, 50 per cent of agricultural land in Latin America will be subject to desertification [IFAD].
- Food supply: It is claimed that the world produces enough food to feed everyone and that the principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food. Others point out that even with the present population, the global grain harvest is not meeting demand, and grain reserves are falling [Worldwatch]. The global food reserves in 2008 were at their lowest level in 30 years [UN]. "Slow-growing supply, low stocks, and supply shocks at a time of surging demand for feed, food, and fuel have led to drastic price increases, and these high prices do not appear likely to fall soon" [IFPRI].
- Oil & Gas supply: Peak Oil is the term used to describe the global maximum in conventional crude oil production. Some believe the peak has already been reached, others see a production decline around 2020. It is seen as a crisis since petroleum powers 96% of the world's transportation. At current rates of production, reserves of natural gas will be exhausted in 40 years [Arlington Institute] or perhaps as long as 60 years [BP, 2010].
- Water supply: Global water demand has tripled over the last 50 years and water tables all over the world are falling. When these aquifers are depleted, food production worldwide will fall [Earth Policy Institute, 2003]. At least 1.5 billion people rely upon groundwater. These reserves are nonrenewable and are being over-pumped by at least 160 billion cubic meters a year [USAID]. The Yellow River in China, the Ganges in India, the Niger in Africa, and the Colorado in the United States, among others, are losing water [Meteorological Society and the National Center for Atmospheric Research]. According to IC 2012, the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely, along with state failure and increased regional tensions.
- World economy: The global government debt (also known as national or public debt) is rapidly increasing. Government debt is of great concern since interest payments can often place great demands on governments - resulting in more state interference in the economy, and tax increases. "The world is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s - if not ever" [Governor of the Bank of England, 2012].
- Worldwide Social Change: Today we see social and political unrest simultaneously in many nations. In Western nations biblical morality and ethics are threatened, undermining the family and social structure, and radical political moves (from both Islam and the EU) threaten democracy. Corrupt banking threatens the world economy and political Islam threatens Middle East stability.