“People and the Planet”
During the 352-year life span of the Royal Society, the human population has risen from less than one billion people to seven billion and counting. That boom has been supported by science and technology—Watt’s coal-fired steam engine, Haber and Bosch synthesizing nitrogen fertilizer, Fleming’s discovery of penicillin—and continues today as the world’s population expands at the rate of 78 million people per year.
Now the Royal Society wants the world to do something about population growth in a bid to stave off environmental and economic calamity, according to a new report dubbed “People and the Planet” released on April 26. At the same time, the excessive consumption of the world’s richest billion people must be restrained so that pets in the U.S. don’t consume more resources than people in Bangladesh.
The human economy (as measured by gross domestic product) has quadrupled in the past 50 years, outpacing even the rate of population growth. More recently China, India and other emerging economies have lifted millions out of poverty and begun to afford to some of their citizens the material affluence enjoyed by citizens in Europe, Japan and the U.S. And yet more than a billion people around the world still live in absolute poverty (and have the highest fertility rates).
The impact of the twin perils of population numbers and excessive consumption is readily apparent, and includes climate change from fossil fuel burning and land clearing, oceanic dead zones proliferating thanks to fertilizer runoff, and a sixth mass extinction of other species as we leave less and less room for other life. The list will get longer as we proceed deeper into what geologists are beginning to call the Anthropocene, or age of man. We have become a geologic force.
So how can the world balance the need for economic growth and forestall ecological disaster?
via Scientific American – David Bielloᔥ
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