Population growth and its effects

Population growth and distribution of said population are key factors in trying to implement global and local environmental management and sustainable living. There are many contributing factors to consider to ensure that environmental management will be successful in the future.

Ultimately, the success of how effective environmental management in conjunction with the sustainability of our resources comes down to the rate at which our population is growing.

Environmental Management with regards to Water Resources

Immediate and appropriate local and global management is required to ensure that our water supply is able to meet and keep up with the demand of a growing population.  “Nearly 2 billion cope daily with the problem of finding enough water and as many as 3.5 billion – almost half the worlds projected population – could face water shortages by 2025. Africa is at particular risk.” (Livernash, 2002)

Sustainable management of this critical resource needs to ensure that all people have access to clean and safe water. Concurrently, we need to sustain our natural water areas and implement environmental management in order to reduce/ prevent water pollution. “Worldwide 54% of the annual available fresh water is already being used. This is based on unequal consumption. Some 1.1 billion people do not have access to fresh water or consume less than the basic daily requirements of 50 litres” (Rosenberg, 2008).

Globally 70% of water is used for agricultural use, 22% industrial and 2% domestic use (UNESCO, 2003), whereas in Africa 85% of water is used in agriculture, 5% industrial sector and 10% used in domestic sector (Water, 2016).

The UN states that humans need a minimum of 50L of water per day for cooking, preparing of food, cleaning and reducing the spread of disease (Water, 2016). If we were to multiply this minimal amount by the number of people on Earth, it would be an extremely high figure which excludes industrial water consumption and agriculture. We are going to battle with keeping up with our water demands.

Food Production & Land Availability

Suitable land availability is declining, thus making basic food production difficult. “Long term gains in food production, especially in developing countries, are threatened by land degradation and by growing competition for water from industrial and municipal sources” (Livernash, 2002). Environmental management needs to ensure that we utilise our land space and resources efficiently. This will allow us to remain as close to sustainable as possible.”By 2030 the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water (High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, 2012). Sustainability is extremely hard to achieve when the population growth rate is exponential. According to (Outlook, 2014) in 2013, 23% of households did not have adequate access to food and 13% experienced hunger.

“In 1997 the world demand for meat was 208 million metric tons and in 2020 its projected to be 327 million metric tons” (IFPRI Impact Projections, 2011). Even on a basic linear scale it is not possible to sustain this growth. With our already limited supply of resources, it is virtually unachievable to produce this amount of meat to feed and maintain our population.

We consume more water than we realise. Professor Tony Allan conceptualised the notion of virtual water. It is the amount of water we consume that is not visible to us, which goes over and above our minimum daily intake of 50 litres. A major contributor to virtual water is food production and consumption.15 455 litres of water is required in order to produce 1kg of beef (Water, 2016).  Cacao requires 27 000 litres for ever kilogram produced (Water, 2016).


Fiona 🙂

5 thoughts on “Population growth and its effects

  1. Thanks for sharing! It is amazing how we take this vital resource for granted. Perhaps society will take heed and develop urban/personal water recycling units that will allow us to recycle and reuse what goes down our drains whenever we simply turn on the spigot.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Edmond, I totally agree with you & really wish we were able to catch/recycle our water that goes downs our storm water drains. We take everything on this planet for granted & think it will all last “forever”. However I think unless we sort out the extreme population numbers, we are going to be in trouble! Thank you for commenting – really appreciate it! Fiona

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Thank you so much for your great comment. I really do appreciate it and love sharing this vital knowledge wherever possible. Despite it landing on deaf ears as you say, I really hope that the more we speak about it the more chance someone will hear it & help to make a change. I totally agree with you 100%. Really hope we can make people more aware and conscious of their actions and the consequence this may have on the environment. Fiona


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