Global food availability and sustainability:
In the next ninety years the Earth’s population is expected to grow to eleven billion people. One of the reasons for this is the overall lower infant mortality rate and higher fertility rate in places like India. This is a good thing, because it means less babies are dying, but it also means we will need to figure out a way to feed all of these people. Increased globalization around the world has created a higher standard of living, and in turn these people in India and China require a more nutritious diet that resembles the Western diet. So not only will we simply need the food for this greater number of people, but with a higher standard of living, people begin buying more foods like beef. Combined, the amount of land taken up by livestock, and the land taken up by growing food for this livestock, it is even more difficult to sustainably feed this many individuals. China is already one of the world’s largest consumers of beef, as a result, crop production will need to double. On top of this, agriculture overall composes a fourth of greenhouse gas emissions on Earth. The only way we can fix this issue of feeding the growing population without destroying the few remaining forests we have left is to put more research into public agriculture. We need to find a way to more efficiently use the cropland that is already there, and successfully feed the population without destroying the limited resources that are left.
Food Insecurity in the United States
When we think of “food insecurity,” it is easy to automatically think of third world countries, and in return very easy to forget the fact that there are many food insecure households right here at home. One in every seven people in the United States experienced food insecurity in the year of 2013.
The reasoning behind this? There is simply not enough money to buy healthy food for the kitchen. The most recent recession has caused the income gap between the lower, middle, and upper class to greatly widen. Economic globalization has caused many companies to employ individuals outside of the United States, simply because their wage requirements are much lower..in return saving the company money. This has caused many americans to lose their jobs and therefore settle for lower wages once they find new employment. A decrease in income leads to a decrease in purchasing power, which ultimately results in not enough income to provide nutritious food for the family. Food insecurity is not defined as simply having some kind of food or not. By definition, food insecurity is defined as “Access by all people at all times to enough food for an ACTIVE, HEALTHY life.” Healthy food is expensive and not as easily available, even in food pantries. In order to fix this problem, there needs to be alot of thought put into how we can fix our economy, increase the lower class’ income rates, and decrease the cost of nutritious food.
Global Water Scarcity
Although the UN Water for Life campaign states that there exists enough water on earth for its 7 billion inhabitants, poor distribution, usage, and conservation of water has led to a whopping 1.2 billion people experiencing physical water scarcity and another 1.6 billion experiencing economic water scarcity. The UN defines water scarcity as “the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand by all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully.” In more definite terms, water scarcity occurs when the annual water supply drops below 1,000 cubic meters per person.
Thinking about water scarcity requires thinking about water usage. 70% of freshwater is used for agriculture, another 22% for industry, and the final 8% for domestic activities. Agricultural water waste often occurs because of leaky irrigation systems, inefficient methods of water, and giving large amounts of water to crops that require more water than is region-inappropriate. Improper waste management and air pollution are much to blame for industrial water misuse. On a domestic level, an increasing population requires increasing amounts of water, which may not exist.
In order to address global issues of water scarcity in the time of globalization, many different sectors and institutions will have to work together to create solutions that address the many facets of water scarcity and misuse. A potential small-scale solution is investing in water access on the household level. The World Bank found that households with access to credit successfully invest in safer drinking water and sanitation. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, each $1 invested in safe drinking water and sanitation earns an estimated return of $3 – $34. Improving access to clean water will take combined efforts and time, but is an attainable goal.
Water Shortage in the American South West
While catastrophic global issues can catch our attention, it is important to remember that our own country is also on the brink of a crisis. The American South West is home to over 50 million people, multiple major cities, and the heart of western US economy. The Colorado River flows through 7 states in the South West and irrigates 4 million acres of farm land. This singular water source is the lifeline of all living in this section of the United States, and unfortunately, it is dwindling.
The Colorado River is reaching unprecedented lows in water levels. The cause is ultimately unknown, but educated guesses leave of with a combination of potential risk factors. First, a 14 year drought has plagued the south west and limited its water. Additionally, low snow pack levels in the Rockies leave little to melt and feed the Colorado at its source. Record high temperatures are increasing evaporation, further diminishes the supply of water needed to feed an increasing demand as population growth spikes.
The severity of this problem is large, and the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River is reaching a capacity so low the water within will be deemed unable to pump. If this occurs, cities will be without water, crops will fail, and food prices will increase nationwide. 15% of food grown in the United States is located in the Colorado River basin.
There are some proposed solutions, including leveling off farms, recycling waste water, desalination plants, eco friendly construction mandates, landscaping mandates, and in a worst case scenario, water rations. However, this will only alleviate a little of the problem. This drought will more than likely not end, and introduce a new era of climate to the American south west. Despite this critical water issue, people will continue to migrate and over populate an already crowded region, bringing with them their swimming pools and thirsty grass lawns. Additionally, the question of permanent climate change can be pondered. Has global warming and global climate change already created a lasting impact?
Without interference and resolution, this problem could lead to water wars, crop devastation and food storage, and suffering industries. And while this specific problem is localized in one United States region, many similar problems are occurring world wide.
“Climate Change, Globalization and Water Scarcity.” Karen L. O’Brien and Robin M. Leichenko. http://www.zaragoza.es/contenidos/medioambiente/cajaAzul/17S6-P2-OBrienACC.pdf