There is a real question about global and UK population. It is not about race, it is about numbers.
On 24 August 2017m the Water Resources Institute published a piece on their website looking at “7 Reasons We’re Facing a Global Water Crisis” in a piece written by Leah Schleifer. With credit to them, I try here to relate those lessons to British farming and maybe farming elsewhere in developed counties that do not really think water may be a significant economic problem sooner rather than later.
Reason 2. More People + More Money = More Water Demand.
The Yorkshire Post reports that: “There has been a net loss nationally of 7,000 hectares of agricultural land in the UK between 2006 and 2012”. The Guardian has reported that: “Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years”. There is an insidious water consumption in the UK. While our own water consumption is rising with population growth (net plus 0.5 million people in 2016!) and what we each spend is continually, our consumption of “virtual water” (i.e. that which is involved with production overseas of what we import) is 30 times as much as UK water used, and the WWF reports that; “Taking virtual water into account, each of us soaks up 4,645 litres a day”. That makes us the 6th largest water importer in the world.
Yes, there is a looming crisis.
Conservation farming action;
Build water storage if you can. (There is some useful USA experience in building dams using old tyres.)
Harvest water from roofs and concrete.
Subsoil to allow roots to go deeper and move to reduced tillage – develop understanding and skills in direct drilling (or what is otherwise called “zero till”).
Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd., September 17
A major reason for Le Pen’s capture of a third of the vote was immigration. Can Macron manage immigration and population growth?
Water is the link between farming and immigration as a major issue connected with Brexit and Marine Le Pen. It is worth clicking on the link below (WRI – the World Researches Institute) for a clear view of how forests affect our water supply. The authors point out that “The world’s major watersheds lost 6 percent of their tree cover on average from 2000-2014. Today, about 31 percent of the world’s watershed area is covered by forests.”
The problem is a tension between the facts they point out and the needs of an expanding global population to have food, energy and occupy land. The tension between the two is an exponential curve related to population growth. Something will give. Unless, that is, we control population growth and very urgently.
Each one of us has a choice, individually, as to what we eat, how we exercise, where we live. have a cho
My first job, I hesitate to admit how long ago, was to take part in initiating the development and legal insistence to fit safety cabs to farm tractors – at the time we were killing 150 people a year in tractor accidents in the UK. As a trained and qualified agricultural scientist and a Chartered Environmentalist, I would never wish to dismiss the risks we take in in farming, nor the risks we may pass on in the food we produce. However, in the UK, we probably really do produce the safest food in the world. I have no doubt that there will be some who argue with that but I heard on BBC News recently some interviews on pollution and lung diseases in which a professor, an internationally recognised authority and specialist in lung diseases, was asked about life-shortening risks. He said that if you smoke, you will shorten your life by 15 years, if you are over-weight, you will shorten it by 10 years. He added that if you smoke and are over-weight as well, then you will shorten your life by 30 years. When asked how much you would shorten your life if you live in a city and breathe in traffic fumes, he said 30 days.
The point I make is this. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where most of us are able to make choices about what we eat, how we exercise, how we abuse our bodies. If you are one of many who complain about things here, go try it somewhere else.
The circular economy: 10. Landfill is not a resource bank.
Itis a beautiful world and population pressure is changing it. How can we manage the change better?
The science: It is certainly the case that we can “mine” old landfill sites to reclaim resources. Sometimes. Some of the resources. Not very efficient. Globally, maybe in excess of half the materials we enlist for use get lost to landfill or incineration. Nearly all the energy is lost.
The bad news: Globally, we are still geared up to derive energy form burning hydrocarbon fuels. We do have enough for decades, maybe a century, but they will increasingly expensive to extract and, we cannot get away from it, they produce greenhouse gas. Further, CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage is not likely to solve the global problem, ever.)
The good news: We can reduce waste in manufacturing. For example, we used to make solid furniture from solid wood, shaved down with the shavings discarded. Now, most domestic furniture is made by chipping nearly all the original timber and making strand board and MDF. High quality MDF really is a very useful material. Next step currently is to take discarded furniture and use it for Energy from Waste (EfW). Better still if we could collect it all and make new product out of it. If we could do that at local level to cut out the energy and pollution cost of long distance logistics, we really would be winning.
Feeding everyone is technically possible BUT not without some dramatic changes. Suppose we do not feed everyone?
The circular economy: 6. Population, resources and the price of bread.
The science: As population rises, resources will become rarer or in shorter supply. That will not only put prices at the retail shop up, they will fluctuate progressively more.
The bad news: In rich countries, commodity prices will certainly go up. In poor countries, prices will go up too far for survival and people will either die of migrate.
The good news: Population rate of increase is falling (but most observes would agree we must do more). As an agricultural scientist, I do believe that we have the technology to feed the world provided we stop breeding people right now. Feeding a greater population will certainly increase resource use and that means we have to dramatically increase efficiency as well as total output.
Bill Butterworth 26 March 2016
P.S. Try the book, “Reversing global warming for profit”, by Bill Butterworth, published by MX Publishing, available from all good bookshops or on line at Amazon.
Europe at night. We are growing in numbers and wealth. How long will it last?
Over the next dozen or so entries on this blog, I will look at the reasons why we really do have to do something about the way we treat this planet. It really is very urgent, not just for our children, it is much closer than that, the next ten years is critical.
The bad news; Increasing affluence and population on the exponential curve of rapid upward growth is already leading to resource scarcity, pollution and health risks which we may not be able to manage.
The good news; More affluent people means more waste – that is an opportunity to re-use and re-cycle.
Bill Butterworth 14 February 2016
P,S. Generally, I plan to post a Sunday blog on The Circular Economy and, on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, a piece on environment, farming or waste and sustainability.
For our children’s sake and ours, think about people numbers and energy supply.
In recent months, I have progressively moved in favour of the UK leaving the EU unless significant changes could be made in corruption at the centre and a real reduction in regulation which would involve a removal of prescriptive regulation and living with statements of principle such as “Thao shalt not pollute”. However, I now see two reasons for not leaving and these are growing in my mind.
The first is immigration. Mr Vladimir Putin understands that supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria with enough arms to literally destroy the infrastructure of the country has resulted in millions on the move and aiming at Europe. Mr Putin understands that the ancient principle of “divide and rule” works and he is on the edge of destabilising the EU. The only way the individual countries of the EU can survive the immigration tide is firm action on a united front. It is not logical that one country on its own can stop the flow.
The second fear I have is that there are significant and repeated rumours, with some evidence, that again Mr Putin (who understands energy politics on a different level compared to our amateurish mutterings) is funding anti-shale groups. Further, that he has been doing so for a long time and intends to keep doing so. There are also rumours of another, oil-producing state, is similarly funding anti-shale groups.
My conclusion is that if the EU does not wake up and work very actively together, then Russia will call the shots, walk into the whole of the Ukraine and then do what it wants, where it wants. Fortunately, at the time of writing, it appears that the “Islamic State” action in Paris has united EU members against such an in-human foe.
We really do have to stop the tide of immigration and that means doing a diplomatic deal over Syria – the price will be interesting. We really do need to develop energy security and that means developing shale gas production very urgently. We do not need more regulations. We do need basic principles laid down without complicating them. That applies to corruption, to shale gas and everything else.