Speaking to the United Kingdom’s 2009 Sustainable Development conference, top government scientist John Beddington projects that by 2030 the world as a whole will face critical shortages in food, water, and energy beyond anything yet experienced on a large scale.
According to Professor Beddington, the world of 2030 will be populated by about 8.3 billion people. Demand for food and energy will have increased by 50%, and fresh water demand will have jumped up 30%.
BBC News reports:
Prof Beddington said the concern now – when prices have dropped once again – was that the issues would slip back down the domestic and international agenda.
“We can’t afford to be complacent. Just because the high prices have dropped doesn’t mean we can relax,” he said.
Improving agricultural productivity globally was one way to tackle the problem, he added.
At present, 30-40% of all crops are lost due to pest and disease before they are harvested.
Professor Beddington said: “We have to address that. We need more disease-resistant and pest-resistant plants and better practices, better harvesting procedures.
“Genetically-modified food could also be part of the solution. We need plants that are resistant to drought and salinity – a mixture of genetic modification and conventional plant breeding.
Better water storage and cleaner energy supplies are also essential, he added.
Prof Beddington is chairing a subgroup of a new Cabinet Office task force set up to tackle food security.
While unstable geopolitics, environmental issues such as climate change and pollution, and financial mayhem all clamor for the attention of today’s busy technocrat, some scientists point out that this simple, potent mixture of rising demand for resources and an aggressively booming population is perhaps the biggest problem our global society has currently to address.
A UK man, his dad, and some friends and passersby have built, for around US$5,000, an ultra-low impact family home in Wales. They say you can do it, too.
Simon Dale and his wife work in the surrounding terrain doing forest management, something Dale says wouldn’t be possible if they had to mortgage a brick home somewhere. Using mainly a chainsaw and a hammer, taking their timber from fallen trees in the environs, and garnering everything from plumbing and wiring to windows from piles of discarded junk, Dale—a self-described first-time architect—has exhibited amazing resourcefulness in creating an ecologically responsible and downright cozy-looking abode.
Why has Dale done this?
Our society is almost entirely dependent on the availability of increasing amounts of fossil fuel energy. This has brought us to the point at which our supplies are dwindling and our planet is in ecological catastrophe. We have no viable alternative energy source and no choice but to reduce our energy consumption. The sooner this change can be begun, the more comfortable it will be.
For our energy consumption to decrease we must reduce consumption and dramatically increase the productivity of our land. This will require developing infrastructure and skills to enable locally self-reliant living. The simplest, sustainable solutions involve small-scale permaculture type land management systems centred around individual or small groups of dwellings. There is significant and growing energy at the grass-roots to start implementing these low impact developments. This enthusiasm comes from a combination of intellectual concern and the innate appeal of living closer to nature. The major obstacle is access to land. The price of land with residential planning permission is not commensurate with the income from this type of living. This will change, but these projects need time to develop and reach productivity. A few people are taking direct action but the numbers are far short of the critical mass that could be realised. If allowances can be made within the planning system to grant access to land, and the right to live on it, to those wishing to live this life, we can allow a grass-roots tide of people to make real progress towards a sustainable society.
The house uses a few solar panels to provide enough electricity for night light and computing. Water comes by gravity from a nearby spring, and heat is provided through a fireplace specially designed to capture and radiate the maximum amount of thermal energy.
CSTF salutes Mr. Dale and wishes him all the best. If there were more of him in the world, it’d be a happier planet.
From The Guardian‘s science blog by James Randerson:
The UK government has issued new guidelines to teachers on what to teach about creationism and intelligent design in science classes. They are pretty explicit that creationism and ID do not belong.
The move seems to be a response to efforts by the ironically named campaign group “Truth in Science“. Last year it sent DVDs promoting ID to every school in the land in the hope that they would be used to teach the creationist idea alongisde evolution in science lessons.
The new guidelines could not be clearer:
Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.
That doesn’t mean it cannot be mentioned of course, but the guidelines state that it should only feature as part of discussions about what does and does not make a scientific theory.
To which we at CStF sigh: “Ex-aaaaaact-ly.” Creationism is an important part of history, certainly. And, apart from illustrating to children what does and does not a scientific theory make—in other words, the difference between scientific research and politically motivated intellectual sophistry—that is where it belongs.