Iâ€™ve often suggested the possibility of the world coming to an end due to a lack of resources, but never have I considered delving into the likeliness of this actually occurring. How much are we consuming? How much is the earth producing? When will we reach our peak?
Right now, weâ€™re steadying off reproduction at 6.5 billion people â€“ but over the next 50 years, weâ€™re expected to jump to 9 billion.
Even at 6.5 billion, weâ€™re already feeling the pain of food limitations. The price of wheat has more than tripled since 2005 and rice has gone up more than 500 percent.
This phenomenon has been called the â€œglobal food crisis of 2008,â€ or better yet, the â€œperpetual food crisis.â€
Livestock itself has become a huge problem.
In addition to cow farts producing methane gas, as noted in my last column, their calorie yield hardly makes up one fifth the grain used to feed them.
Basically, you are throwing away 80 percent of the calories you could be eating if you ate grains instead of eating helpless, methane-farting cows. Perhaps we should give Meatless Mondays another go?
But, eventually, weâ€™re also going to run out of land to grow that wheat on, since weâ€™re farming about 80 percent of the arable land on this planet. Basically, we still need to find a way to meet an estimated 50 percent greater demand by 2030.
To this, Dickson Despommier, a Ph.D. professor at Columbia University, introduced a concept called Vertical Farming that appeared on â€œThe Colbert Reportâ€ in 2008.
A Vertical Farm is a tower that stretches up into the sky rather than across the land, and is a soil-less growing system that only requires water.
Granted, the thing looked completely ridiculous.
The 30-story tower resembled a giant magic beanstalk in the middle of the Chicago lake. Not to mention that its construction costs would outweigh its benefits.
So, what now?
Weâ€™re facing a decade that closely resembles that of the 1970s: petroleum shortages, high-priced food, a war, and a sudden green movement. Eventually, everything subsided â€“ that is, gas and food became affordable, the war ended and everybody forgot about the Earth as they be-bopped into a consumerist world of 1980s station wagons and mega malls.
But now we are facing a more serious problem with depletion, this time regarding a resource that canâ€™t be replaced, vertical farm or not. Thatâ€™s right, the earthâ€™s oil supply will eventually run out, and here we are giving 42,000 gallons a day to the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico. Geez, what a gift. The ocean gives us shrimp, and we give it an endless supply of an irreplaceable resource. The ocean should consider itself lucky!
If youâ€™ve ever learned about the Hubbert Peak Theory, youâ€™d know that oil depletion should occur before 2050.
Thatâ€™s only 40 years away, so if youâ€™re a 20-something like me, good luck trying to retire peacefully.
The Oil Peak Theory is backed by the vast majority of scientists and energy economists, and according to the theory, weâ€™re very close to that peak point right now, if it hasnâ€™t already passed.
Even the more positive estimations say we might be a maximum of 10 years from the peak at current projections.
If you arenâ€™t convinced yet, check out the â€œLife After the Oil Crashâ€ website, which draws together a scary yet very real range of convictions.
Although the current green movement weâ€™re experiencing may just be a replication of the past, we canâ€™t afford to forget about it this time. Alternative resources need to be considered, or maybe we should start looking for another planet to exploit.