How To Save Civilization

Natural Systems Under Stress

In 1938, Walter Lowdermilk, a senior official in the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), traveled abroad to look at lands that had been cultivated for thousands of years, seeking to learn how these older civilizations had coped with soil erosion. He found that some had managed their land well, maintaining its fertility over long stretches of history, and were thriving. Others had failed to do so and left only remnants of their illustrious pasts.1 In a section...

Deteriorating Oil and Food Security

The twentieth century was the oil century In 1900, the world produced 150 million barrels of oil. In 2000, it produced 28 billion barrels, an increase of more than 180-fold. This was the century in which oil overtook coal to become the world's leading source of energy.1 The fast-growing supply of cheap oil led to an explosive worldwide growth in food production, population, urbanization, and human mobility. In 1900, only 13 percent of us lived in cities. Today half of us do. The world grain...

Emerging Water Shortages

Africa's Lake Chad, once a landmark for astronauts circling the earth, is now difficult for them to locate. Surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria all countries with fast-growing populations the lake has shrunk 96 percent in 40 years. The region's soaring demand for irrigation water coupled with declining rainfall is draining dry the rivers and streams that feed the lake. As a result, Lake Chad may soon disappear entirely, its whereabouts a mystery to future generations.1 The...