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The Forum > Article Comments > Food, water and oil - the hidden link > Comments

Food, water and oil - the hidden link : Comments

By Colin Chartres, published 1/8/2007

Increased populations, water and food shortages and peak oil combined will present society with a huge challenge.

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Colin, you're preaching to the converted in my case and there are many more like me at this site. I'm greatly pleased that you, as a scientist, have such strong concerns for humanity as a whole. It's equally unfortunate that World Governments do not share you concerns.
Governments are in business for only one reason, to Govern those people under their electorate (I'm talking democratic Governments of course) and they do this most effectively by stealing our money through taxes, then handing it to large corporations who in turn use some of that money to make sure the political thieves of their choice retain power over the tax payers.
Our Governments know full well that to make more money to hand to big business, you need an ever increasing fund base. This is done in two ways. 1, by printing "fiat" money and 2 by increasing the population which in turn has to buy that same fiat money by providing their labor, intelligence or both combined. In other words, Governments are hell bent on "creating" as many tax payers as they can with absolute disregard for the environment, water etc. The sad part is that eventually, those Governments will take water rights away from citizens who have provided for the future by installing tanks, dams and recycling systems.
Colin, I wish you well in your endeavors, but you're facing a gigantic juggernaut of Worldwide Governments who know only one way of doing business and that's by using the planet as a giant quarry. Only nature has the power to stop the madness.
Posted by Aime, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 1:05:27 PM
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not true, aime- we can have the power, but first need the will.

listening to you outline so many things wrong with pollie rule, and then just shrugging your shoulders and crying "nothing to be done" is very depressing.

like almost every ozzie i've talked to, your spine was dissolved by school and media. or maybe it's genetic- brits have been tugging their forelocks to survive for 900 years.

i've been inviting ozzies to get up on their hind hooves since 1972. there has been some progress. but lately the forces for authoritarian rule have discovered there is no one to stop them here. so it's by no means clear which way we're going. my best guess is 2084 will be much like '1984'.
Posted by DEMOS, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 1:33:40 PM
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Hi Colin

Increased population is nothing new as far as the human race is concerned.

We see it increasing as people do what the animals and plants cannot do and employ their creative powers (Prometheus anyone?) to make discoveries and employ the fruits of these discoveries for the benefit of all.

There does exist in human history and culture an oligarchic counter current that seeks to limit this kind of progress by instituting a zero sum game whereby the few seek power for its own sake and sentence the rest to live as cattle.

So my question to you is- Do you believe that the employment of new technologies such as desalination is out of the question as regards increasing the supply of fresh water available?

Do you discount any scientific advances in desalination as regards to the solving of this problem and have you taken advanced nuclear/fusion power off the agenda when deciding this? (Why, hello again Prometheus!)

Are you aware of any forces that intend we all get a water ration (issued by guess who?)as well as a carbon trading credit?
Posted by Jellyback, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 2:02:44 PM
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To me, on the face of it, the increased CO2 and precipitation associated with global warming would seem to be good news for food crop production.
But of course global warming, by definition, cannot have any beneficial effects.
In fact any change to the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or temperature, up or down must have catastrophic consequences - the conditions prevailing in 1900 were just right - wait a minute that was the middle of the Federation Drought which, by the way, bore a remarkable resemblance to the most recent drought.
http://www.bom.gov.au/lam/climate/levelthree/c20thc/drought1.htm

If only the $US50 billion so far spent on global warming/climate change research had been spent on genuinely improving the living conditions of most of the world's burgeoning population - a problem that can be solved, but only by rapid economic development.
Posted by Admiral von Schneider, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 6:39:23 PM
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It is a major problem that governments are withdrawing from research and development projects but what is worse is that corporate sector has been incentivised into taking over the "public" plant breeding. Of course they will want very good return on their investment so cost will be far higher and because the average consumer wants cheap food, the incentive to develop non-food crops will win over. Food crops will be replaced by pharmaceutical and industrial crops which will further deplete the food supply. Of course farmers wanting to grow food crops will not be able to do so as consumers will not accept contamination of pharmaceutical and industrial crops. If crops are introduced under the current negligent rules where the food crop growers must keep contaminates out rather than the contaminator being responsible for containing their product, farmers may lose the ability to market a food crop.
Legislation needs to look beyond simply selling the public out for a quick buck for the government.
Posted by Non-GM farmer, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 7:07:50 PM
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$50 billion on climate change research? Do you have a breakdown of that Admiral? Is it USD or AUD? Your military background might give you some insight into the monthly expenditure on the War on Terror. That would be about 50 billion USD a month wouldn't it? How far could those funds go toward developing renewable energy sources and alleviating the world's many problems? Not nearly as much as a few tank battalions and several thousand rounds of depleted uranium perhaps?
Posted by Fester, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 7:17:16 PM
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..and here's me, thinking, it will be "God's" punishemnt.... for all that sex (not babies) we were having! Now you tell me its OUR fault for having too many babies who grow up to be greedy.
Posted by K£vin, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 9:52:00 PM
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For quite a few years now, I have had the opinion that the increasing level of population is the root cause of many of the emerging problems with our earth. It worried me somewhat when Costello urged us all to go forth and multiply.
Posted by Kenwood, Thursday, 2 August 2007 10:22:31 PM
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It's not population, it's consumption. 1.4 billion Indians use 2.4 million barrels of oil a day - and so do 36 million Canadians. Around the world, 307kg of grain are produced for every man, woman and child. 184kg would satisfy all caloric and protein needs. In Australia, we consume 150kg of grain each annually, but we also consume 103kg of meat, which required the livestock to consume 286kg of grain, so we end up with 436kg of grain consumed, directly or indirectly. More than our fair share. That 129kg extra per Australian could feed 14.7 million other people a full 184kg ration.

The world is not under stress because of the high population countries like India or China, but because of (relatively) low population countries like Australia, the UK, France or the United States. Our impact on the Earth may be described as,

Impact = population x consumption (of non-renewable resources)

Population changes only slowly, consumption changes more quickly. We call it "economic growth". If the 1.4 billion Indians achieved Canada's lifestyle, instead of 2.4 million barrels of oil they'd need 1,400/36 x 2.4 = 93 million barrels of oil a day... the world produces 84 or so. But why shouldn't they want that? We have wasteful and greedy consumption, why shouldn't they? Because it might destroy the Earth? Funny how we didn't think of that earlier... when it was just us doing it.
Posted by Kyle Aaron, Friday, 3 August 2007 9:07:05 AM
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Kyle Aaron,

With a lot of capita, it doesn't matter if per capita consumption is low. China has now passed the US as the world's greatest greenhouse gas emitter. This is not because the average Chinese is living high on the hog.

The Redefining Progress site has the environmental footprints of most countries as calculated in 2006. (Environmental footprint is a way of expressing total consumption in notional hectares of land.) The global average per capita footprint is about 22 hectares, already above the sustainable capacity per person, while the US footprint is 109. This leaves an average footprint of 18 hectares for the rest of the world. Now lets assume that all those 300 million high consuming Americans were raptured up into the sky, leaving their resources to be shared among the rest of the world. This would raise everyone else's footprint to 23 hectares. However, the global population is growing at 1.3%. Assuming no increase due to the bonanza, and ignoring further environmental deterioration, peak oil, the pumping dry of aquifers, etc., it would take 20 years of population growth at 1.3% to bring the average footprint back down to 18.

It is undeniably true that you could accommodate more people if they all lived like battery chickens. The problem is forcing them to accept this. I suggest that it would be a lot easier to persuade people to have fewer babies than to give up eating meat. I agree with you that reducing waste and wasteful consumption is a worthwhile goal, but it is wrong to see it as a panacea.
Posted by Divergence, Friday, 3 August 2007 5:52:05 PM
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There's only ONE Earth.
Posted by K£vin, Friday, 3 August 2007 8:55:26 PM
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Is any point for going around-letís be sharp to IT.

A dominant vision of London-masters was manipulating of a world at a stock-exchange locally and by food supply Australia and Canada supposed to be the most substantial producers of.

Climate change corrects this predicament dramatically, and dependence on Muslim oil adds a pepper.

Moreover, a world outside of some European places supposes using more energy than originally calculated by Lawrence of Arabiaís chiefs.

Actually, introducing the nuke power in traditionally pastoral places and shifting to energy-exporting food-importing entities are next realistic steps by "first world" traditionalists.
Posted by MichaelK., Thursday, 9 August 2007 8:53:02 PM
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