Not many of us would like to be told what we can or can’t eat. However, researchers from the Stockholm International Water Institute say animal products may need to be virtually off the menu for most of us due to population pressures and the availability of water.
Our food systems (and how we treat them) are in a shambles. While billions of dollars worth of food is waste each year, nearly one billion people still suffer from hunger and malnourishment – and that is occurring even though food production has been increasing for a very long time.
What will it be like when there are an extra couple of billion people on the planet?
A report from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) paints a grim picture. It’s not just population growth, but climate change as well.
According to the report, at the turn of the century the United Nations set a lofty goal of slashing the number of people suffering from hunger by half by 2015. At that point, 840 million people were in that category. Today, with less than 3 years before 2015; nearly one billion people are still hungry and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts we will need to increase food production by 70 per cent by mid-century.
An analysis mentioned in the report states there will not be enough water for current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 *if* the global trend towards diets common in Western nations continue; i.e. a meat-rich diet. That diet consists on average 20% its of calories being derived from animal based foods.
However, there will be just enough water if animal based foods are limited to just 5 per cent of total calories *and* “considerable regional water deficits can be met by a well organised and reliable system of food trade.”
The rich will always be able to afford meat, but for the majority of us; our diets may be very different in just under 40 years from now (whether we like that prospect or not).
This report likely won’t be met kindly by many omnivores for who the prospect of slashing animal based food consumption by 75% will be nothing short of a disaster. There will be screaming of “rights” and so forth as there always is whenever people feel the threat of being forced into anything.
We need to understand Nature doesn’t care about those rights; they are meaningless – just as Nature doesn’t recognise a “right” to overpopulate. Nature always addresses imbalances in the end, often violently or in a way we would perceive as being cruel – and she appears to be drawing her hand back now in preparation for delivering a massive slap.
So what’s it going to be – the burger or the babies that we forego in order to avoid the slap? Collectively, it seems we have some big decisions to make – and very soon.
The full report – “Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and Opportunities for a Water and Food Secure Future” can be viewed here (PDF)
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