Some speculation. There is a good chance that I will be wrong about this. But just keep it in mind as an idea about the future.
There has been a lot of talk for decades about the ever growing waist line of people particularly in the western industrial world. While there is a definite defined line of inequality of food the world over – typically driven by political motives and not just environmental, there is a potential issue coming over the next few decades that could make this disparity a historical oddity. Be it energy limitations or climate change - the current generations of obese people could be seen as nothing more than a bizarre side effect of a unique one time condition on which we find the planet. Never happened before, and will never happen again.
We live in a world in which for every 1 calorie we get from renewable resources, be it the sun, wind, water, soil – we use 10 additional calories from fossil fuels. While there are some interesting and potentially life saving technologies being developed, we cannot just sit around and wait for something that may never arrive. It is a fairly safe assumption that this 10:1 ratio of energy to output is only a temporary phenomena that will reverse as the economics (the dark art) of energy depletion/fighting climate change make for a much more difficult world to produce food in the quantities we have & need.
It was hypothesised in the 1950's that we are going through a 'carbon blip' that is; if we looked at the history of the planet at a 20,000 year view, there would be a 300 year blip in the middle that would represent the modern industrial world and our use of carbon based fuels. The decline would be either because we would run out of hydrocarbons or we would transition onto another source of energy. There has been very little transition in the last 50 years and while the pace is picking up, there is still a VERY long way to go if it is even possible to produce a total solution. It is a very safe bet to argue that while we will be going to a renewable world, by choice or by force, it will not provide the same energy quantity as current demands and requirements. Just because we demand something does not mean that it is possible to achieve.
With this it is reasonable to see the prominence of farming to become a big issue, output is tied directly to how much energy we can provide farmers and how much energy it take to get the output onto peoples tables. With a decline in energy per person we may see a decline calories per person. We will exchange other luxuries in attempts to keep the plates full but this will only be effective for a few decades. Eventually there will be little to nothing left to sacrifice. As we move back to a renewable world with modern technology but the energy supply of the 1600's, it will be interesting to see how civilisation handles this issue. Most of us reading this in 2019 will only see the beginning few decades of these issues, it is our decedents that will face the full impact of these declines.
We have inherited a challenged world, we can shape and mould it in accordance with nature to make the future a little more bearable for those that come after us.
The old Greek proverb says it all "Civilisation grows when old people plant trees for which they will never sit in the shade".
Back to Index