posted on Sep, 2 2009 @ 02:32 PM
provided by Cornell University:
ne hundred years from now, democratically determined population- control practices and sound resource-management policies could have the planet's 2
billion people thriving in harmony with the environment. Lacking these approaches, a new Cornell University study suggests, 12 billon miserable humans
will suffer a difficult life on Earth by the year 2100.
"Of course, reducing population and using resources wisely will be a challenging task in the coming decades," says David Pimentel, lead author of
the report titled "Will Limits of the Earth's Resources Control Human Numbers?" in the first issue of the journal Environment, Development and
"It will be much more difficult," Pimentel says, "to survive in a world without voluntary controls on population growth and ever diminishing
supplies of the Earth's resources."
Even at a reduced world population of 2 billion in AD 2100, life for the average Earth dweller will not be as luxurious as it is for many Americans
today. But the lifestyle won't be as wasteful of resources, either, the Cornell ecologist predicts. Some observers are seeing early signs that nature
is taking a hand at reducing human populations through malnutrition and disease. According to the report, global climate change is beginning to
contribute to the food and disease problems.
"With a democratically determined population policy that respects basic individual rights, with sound resource-use policies, plus the support of
science and technology to enhance energy supplies and protect the integrity of the environment," the report concludes, "an optimum population of 2
billion for the Earth can be achieved."
Then the fortunate 2 billion will be free from poverty and starvation, living in an environment capable of sustaining human life with dignity, the
report suggests, adding a cautionary note: "We must avoid letting human numbers continue to increase and surpass the limit of Earth's natural
resources and forcing natural forces to control our number by disease, malnutrition and violent conflicts over resources."
Among the key points in the report:
* The world population is projected to double in about 50 years.
* Even if a worldwide limit of 2.1 children per couple were adopted tomorrow, Earth's human population would continue to increase before
stabilizing at around 12 billion in more than 60 years. The major reason for continued growth is "population momentum," due to the predominantly
young age structure of the world population.
* The US population has doubled during the past 60 years to 270 million and, at the current growth rate, is projected to double again, to 540
million, in the next 75 years. Each year our nation adds 3 million people (including legal immigrants) to its population, plus an estimated 400,000
* Increasing US and global population will place restrictions on certain freedoms: freedom to travel and commute to work quickly and efficiently,
freedom to visit and enjoy natural areas, freedom to select desired foods and freedom to be effectively represented by government
* Today, more than 3 billion people suffer from malnutrition, the largest number and proportion of the world population in history, according to
the World Health Organization. Malnutrition increases the susceptibility to diseases such as diarrhea and malaria.
* One reason for the increase in malnutrition is that per capita production of grain has been declining since 1983. Grains provide 80 percent to
90 percent of the world's food. Each additional human further reduces available food per capita.
* The reasons for this per capita decrease in food production are a 20 percent decline in cropland per capita, a 15 percent decrease in water for
irrigation and a 23 percent drop in the use of fertilizers.
* Biotechnology and other technologies apparently have not been implemented fast enough to prevent declines in per capita food production during
the past 17 years.
* Considering the resources likely to be available in AD 2100, the optimal world population would be about 2 billion, with a standard of living
about half that of the United States in the 1990s, or at the standard experienced by the average European.
The study was funded by Cornell University. In addition to Pimentel, authors of the Environment, Development and Sustainability report include Owen
Bailey, Paul Kim, Elizabeth Mullaney, Joy Calabrese, Laura Walman, Fred Nelson nd Xiangjun Yao, all students at Cornell University.