So, I was watching this show on the History Channel last night called Prophets of Doom. It wasn’t your typical uplifting show as these guys were basically talking about why there is going to be a collapse in the USA and around the world really. Some of what they had to say made a lot of sense though, and they are things I’ve been personally concerned about for a long time. The problem is that most humans don’t want to accept problems like this, something scientists refer to as cognitive dissonance. Here are a few highlights of what the “Prophets of Doom” were talking about.
I don’t think it’s a big shock to anyone that the world’s population has been increasing. However, I’m not sure much of us stop to give it a lot of thought. You see numbers all the time: China now has 1.3 billion people, India has 1.2 billion people, the USA now has over 300 million people, etc. Since these numbers are too big for us to really comprehend they don’t really have a lot of meaning to us. So, let me show you a chart of the world’s population growth:
Hopefully this visual will really put things into perspective for you. It’s estimated the the world’s population was about 300 million, about the total population of the United States, in the year 0. Over the next 1,000 years we added about 10 million people. Since then we’ve added about 6.5 billion people to the planet. As of January 31, 2011 there are approximately 6,896,891,051 people in the world.
The world simply doesn’t have enough water to sustain this sort of population growth. Water is the single most important thing to sustain human life and we’re running out of it. As someone who’s lived in Las Vegas for a number of years I’ve seen the issues water shortages have caused first hand. Lake Mead is only at 41% of capacity – down 130 feet. This has already caused a reduction in power generation at the Hover Dam power plant.
The average American uses twice as much water as the next closest country and almost 10x more than the average person in the world.
Lets put it in perspective…
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. This gives a false sense of water being overly abundant, which is certainly isn’t. That’s because 97.5% of all the water on earth is salt water. This means that only 2.5% of the water on the planet is fresh water. However, nearly 70% of that fresh water is frozen in icecaps (we’re doing a good job of melting those, but that’s another story). Most of the remainder of that fresh water is deep underground aquifers or as groundwater not accessible to humans.
So, way less than 1% of all the water on earth is accessible for direct human use. This is water that you would find in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and underground sources that are actually accessible.
So, what does this all add up to? About 0.7% of all the water on the planet is accessible for human use! The planet is having a water crises. Stop ignoring it!
Most of us go to the grocery store or restaurant and don’t give a second thought. Did you know that the average American meal travels about 1,500 miles to get to your plate? This is staggering to me considering the average food at a farmers’ market travels less than 80 miles. This is one of the main reasons I’ve been trying to support my local farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture.
Why is this important? Think about how much fossil fuel is needed to transport food from point A to point B. Also, the majority of the world’s food is grown using pesticides created from fossil fuels. Once the fossil fuel starts to dry up, so will the world’s food supply. The average small family needs about five areas to organically self-sustain themselves. However, more people now live in cities than rural acres.
Did you know the planet only has about 75 years of fossil fuel remaining? This isn’t a problem for most of us since we won’t be alive when this really becomes an issue, but for those of you who have kids, you should REALLY be thinking about this. If you look back at the population growth chart above, you’ll notice a direct correlation between the discovery of fossil fuels and population growth. There are many studies out there that speak directly to this and to the long term “carrying capacity” of the planet.
The reality is that the planet is poised for a sharp decline in population growth. In fact, we’re setting ourselves up for a massive population decline and it won’t be nearly as enjoyable as the population increase. Imagine living in a world where you have limited access to food, water, and power. This won’t all happen overnight, but rather though a slow decline in resources.
As the water supply starts to dry up, so will proper sanitation. As sanitation starts to become an issue, world-wide disease will start to run rampant. The planet will be introduced to plagues that will have a similar effect as the black plague.
As fuel supplies dry up, so will the food supply. This will certainly lead to complete disorder and anarchy. There is a really interesting article about this here.
In the end, we all need to make some changes, some big changes before it’s too late….