No. 23, September 21, 2012
In This Issue:
I'd Like Some Tofu, With a Side of Tofu
It looks like vegetarians may one day rule the world. A new report by some of the world's leading water scientists says that, as the world's human population grows, global food supplies will have a difficult time matching demand, including current rates of consumption for animal-based products. People get about 20 percent of their protein from animal products now, but if another 2 billion people join the planet by 2050 there will only be enough water for animal products to provide about 5 percent of total calories. (To say nothing of the sky-high carbon footprint of a meat diet -- we'll revisit that in another issue.)
The study was by the Stockholm International Water Institute, Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations and the International Water Management Institute. One way to cope, the scientists said, is shifting away from animal protein to vegetable, which requires far less water.
Right now, 70 percent of all water withdrawals go to agriculture, so growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place more and more pressure on water supplies also needed for non-agricultural use, the report notes. (As well as for plants and animals.)
"Feeding everyone well is a primary challenge for this century. Overeating, undernourishment and waste are all on the rise and increased food production may face future constraints from water scarcity," said the report's editor, Dr. Anders Jagerskok. "We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future."
As California Grows, New Protections for Wild Places
In 1790 -- the first year a census was taken in the United States (by federal marshals) -- 3.9 million people were counted. Today there are about 314 million, and more than 37 million of them live in California. The Golden State is also a biodiversity hotspot, home to hundreds of threatened and endangered species. For years, the Center for Biological Diversity has been trying to safeguard those species from our collective, voracious appetite for the diverse region's natural resources.
We met with success earlier this month through a settlement that will permanently protect the core of an important wildlife preserve in Southern California's Riverside County. Under the deal, more than 660 acres of the March Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Preserve -- home to a range of imperiled wildlife species including the namesake kangaroo rat, bobcat, western spadefoot toad and least Bell's vireo -- will be set aside for protection. The preserve had been threatened by plans for commercial warehouses; this deal also ensures that any nearby development will be environment-friendly.
The Center continues to push for larger visionary ways to address the global human population crisis but, in the meantime, legal victories like these give wildlife a fighting chance at survival.
West Virginia Newspaper: Population Crisis Needs ‘Better Birth Control'
One of the upsides (OK, very small upsides) of the world population surpassing 7 billion is that it gives the media an opportunity to cover issues that might otherwise go ignored. National Geographic did a year-long look at world population, and the Los Angeles Times just wrapped a series of stories from around the globe. But it isn't just national publications. The Gazette in Charleston, W.V. -- the heart of coal country -- has also been reporting on the issue. Last month the paper's editorial board warned of the dangers of the world population reaching between 9 billion and 11 billion by 2050.
"The obvious cure for overpopulation is better birth control," the newspaper said, noting that funding for the United Nations Population Fund had come under fire in recent years by religious groups. "Another cure is to end subjugation of women. Raising them from inferior status, letting them pursue education and jobs, always lowers birthrates. We hope West Virginia's members of Congress do their best to support international birth control and equality for women."
Until next time,
The 7 Billion and Counting Team
Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710
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Photo of least Bell's vireo (c) Rick and Nora Bowers, 2005.