Too Many People/Not Enough Resources

February 8th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

Last week the United Nations put out a report which states that population growth and a mushrooming global middle class will, by 2030 (just 18 years from now), require a 50 percent increase in food production, 45 percent more energy, and 30 percent more water. The report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing,” explores the dramatic increases in demand for natural resources facing the world in coming decades and concludes that the current trajectory for global development is unsustainable.

If we fail to resolve this issue, we run the risk of condemning up to 3 billion people to a life of poverty. Unfortunately, in the world today, it’s nearly impossible to get political leaders across the globe to focus on sustainable development and growth. What’s most cost effective and expedient rules the day.

The U.N.’s “High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability,” which issued the report, calls on the international community to form a “new political economy” for sustainable development that “recognizes that in certain environmental domains, such as climate change, there is ‘market failure’, which requires both regulation and what the economists would recognize as the pricing of ‘environmental externalities’, while making explicit the economic, social and environmental costs of action and inaction.”

While the panel finds that the current problems of resource and population challenges can be fixed with sound public policy, they conclude that major reforms of the global economy must be undertaken quickly. “Tinkering on the margins will not do the job,” they write. “The current global economic crisis …offers an opportunity for significant reforms.”

Our rising global population is as serious a threat as climate change. Combine the two issues and that’s the barrel we are currently looking down. We must begin to take these issues far more seriously than we have to date. We need progressive and thoughtful public policy, otherwise, our legacy will have been to hand off to the next several generations a world that’s barely manageable. It’s amazing how we (the big global we) respond to so many issues with such passion, purpose, and focus – why not with the issues of climate change and population growth? If we don’t have a sudden epiphany and begin to right the course, the many other issues that we so fervently support and work for, won’t have a home to be issues in the first place.