Raising Energy Efficiency

If rising temperatures continue to shrink harvests and begin driving up food prices, public pressure to stabilize climate by cutting the carbon emissions that cause the greenhouse effect could become intense. The goal is to cut these emissions enough to stabilize climate and eliminate the threat to world food security from rising temperatures. Cutting emissions enough to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels is an ambitious undertaking, but given the technologies now available to both raise energy...

Worlds Leading Source of Soybeans

For Brazil, the door into the soybean world opened in 1972 with the collapse of the massive Peruvian anchovy fishery, a leading worldwide source of protein supplements in livestock and poultry rations. Since this fishery accounted for one fifth of the world fish catch and for an even larger share of animal feed protein supplements before its demise, its abrupt collapse created a protein shortage that drove soybean prices off the chart. These steep price rises, combined with a U.S. soybean...

The Demographic Bonus

In contrast to these countries whose future is fading, countries that have quickly reduced birth rates are benefiting from what economic demographers have labeled a demographic bonus. When a country shifts quickly to smaller families, the number of young dependents those who need nurturing and educating declines sharply relative to the number of working adults. In this situation, household savings climb, investment rises, worker productivity increases, and economic growth accelerates. Since...

Cities Versus Farms

At the international level, water conflicts among countries dominate the headlines. But within countries it is the competition for water between cities and farms that preoccupies political leaders. Neither economics nor politics favors farms. They almost always lose out to cities. In many countries farmers are now faced with not only a shrinking water supply but also a shrinking share of that shrinking supply. In large areas of the United States, such as the southern Great Plains and the...

The Demographic Transition

In 1945, Princeton demographer Frank Notestein outlined a three-stage demographic model to illustrate the dynamics of population growth as societies modernized. (See Figure 2-2.) He pointed out that in pre-modern societies, births and deaths are both high and essentially in balance with little or no population growth. In stage two, as living standards rise and health care conditions improve, death rates begin to decline. With birth rates remaining high Figure 2-2. The Three-Stage Process of the...

Raising Water Productivity

To avoid a water crunch that leads to a food crunch requires a worldwide effort to raise water productivity. The tightening water situation today is similar to what the world faced with land a half-century ago. After World War II, as governments assessed the food prospect for the remainder of the century, they saw both enormous projected growth in world population and little new land to bring under the plow. In response, they joined with international development institutions in a worldwide...

Falling Water Tables

Over much of the earth, the demand for water exceeds the sustainable yield of aquifers and rivers. The gap between the continuously growing use of water and the sustainable supply is widening each year, making it more and more difficult to support rapid growth in food production.3 With river water in key farming regions rather fully exploited, the world has turned to underground water sources in recent decades to keep expanding the irrigated area. As a result, the climbing demand for water has...