Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 313–349 | Cite as

Optimum Supportable Global Population: Water Accounting and Dietary Considerations

Article
  • 175 Downloads

Abstract

In this paper we develop a novel, comprehensive method for estimating the global human carrying capacity in reference to food production factors and levels of food consumption. Other important interrelated dimensions of carrying capacity such as energy, non-renewable resources, and ecology are not considered here and offer opportunities for future work. Use of grain production (rain-fed/irrigated), animal product production (grazing/factory farm), diet pattern (grain/animal products), and a novel water accounting method (demand/supply) based on actual water consumption and not on withdrawal, help resolve uncertainties to find better estimates. Current Western European food consumption is used as a goal for the entire world. Then the carrying capacity lies in the range of 4.5–4.7 billion but requiring agricultural water use increase by 450–530% to 4725–5480 km3, the range based on different estimates of available water. The cost of trapping and conveying such water, will run 4.5–13.5 trillion over 50 years requiring an annual spending increase of 150–400%, straining the developing world where most of the population increase is expected. We reconfirm estimates in the literature using a dynamic model. ‘Corner scenarios’ with extreme optimistic assumptions were analyzed using the reasoning support software system GLOBESIGHT. With a hypothetical scenario with a mainly vegetarian diet (grazing only with 5% animal product), the carrying capacity can be as high as 14 billion. Ecological deterioration that surely accompanies such a population increase would negatively impact sustainable population. Using our approach the impact of ecological damage could be studied. Inter- and intra-regional inequities are other considerations that need to be studied.

Keywords

carrying capacity estimates food production and consumption scenario analysis water use accounting 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bos, E., Vu, M.T., Massiah, E. and Bulatao, R.A.: 1995, ‘World Bank World Population Projections: 1994–1995’, Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, L.: 1995, ‘Who Will Feed China?: Wake-Up Call for a Small Planet (The Worldwatch Environmental Alert)’, W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, L.R., Kane, H. 1994Full House: Reassessing the Earth’s Population Carrying CapacityW.W. Norton & CompanyNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen, R.S. 1990Refugees and HungerAlan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger ProgramProvidence, Rhode IslandGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, J.E.: 1995, ‘How Many People Can the Earth Support?’, W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  6. Crocker, D.A.Linden, T. eds. 1998Ethics of Consumption: The Good Life, Justice, and Global StewardshipRowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD585Google Scholar
  7. FAO: 2004, Technical Document 2015–2030, http://www.fao.org
  8. FAOSTAT (Food and Agricultural Statistical Database), http://www.fao.org, accessed 1/15/02.
  9. Gilland, B. 2002World population and food supply: Can food production keep pace with population growth in the next half-century?Food Policy274763CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hjorth, L.S., Eichler, B.A., Khan, A.S. and Morello, J.A.: 2000, ‘Technology and Society: A Bridge to the 21st Century’, Prentice Hall, 537p.Google Scholar
  11. Hopfenberg, R., Pimentel, D. 2001Human population numbers as a function of food supplyEnvironment, Development and Sustainability3115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Islam, N.: 1995, Toward 2020: Conclusions from a Roundtable on Food and Population to 2010, 2020 VISION Synthesis, February 1995 (also available on http://www.ifpri.org/2020/synth/islam.htm- accessed April 4, 2005).
  13. IWMI (International Water Management Institute) 2000, World Water Supply and Demand 1995 to 2025, Colombo, Sri LankaGoogle Scholar
  14. Laherrer, J.H.: 1999, World oil supply what goes up must come down, but when will it peak? Oil and Gas Journal (February 1) 57–64.Google Scholar
  15. McLaughlin, L. 1993

    A case study in Dingxi county, Gansu Province, China

    Pimentel, D. eds. World Soil Erosion and ConservationCambridge Univ. PressCambridge6386
    Google Scholar
  16. Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J., Behrens, III W.W. 1972Limits to GrowthUniverse BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Mesarovic, M.D., Pestel, E. 1974Mankind at the Turning Point: The Second Report to the Club of RomeDuttonNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Mesarovic, M.D., McGinnis, D.L., West, D.A. 1996Cybernetics of Global Change: Human Dimension and Managing of Complexity, MOST Policy Paper 3UNESCOParisGoogle Scholar
  19. Pimentel, D., Bailey1, O., Kim, P., Mullaney, E., Calabrese, J., Walman, L., Nelson, F., Yao, X. 1999Will Limits of the Earth’s Resources Control Human Numbers?Environment, Development and Sustainability11939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Postel, S.: 1999, ‘Pillar of Sand: Can The Irrigation Miracle Last?’, Worldwatch Institute.Google Scholar
  21. Rojstaczer, S.,  et al. 2001Human appropriation of photosynthesis productsScience29425492552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rosegrant, M.W., Paisner, M.S., Meijer, S. and Witcover, J.: 2001, ‘Global Food Projections to 2020: Emerging Trends And Alternative Futures’, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).Google Scholar
  23. Sen, A.: 2000, ‘Development as Freedom’, Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  24. Smil, V.: 2001, ‘Feeding the World: A Challenge for the Twenty-First Century’, , MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Tolba, M.K. 1989Our biological heritage under seigeBioscience39725728Google Scholar
  26. UNESCO GENIe Coordinating Center: 1997, ‘Reasoning About the Future with GLOBESIGHT Vol. II ’, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Systems Engineering Department.Google Scholar
  27. United Nations, 1998: Revision of the World Population Estimates and Projections: 1998Google Scholar
  28. Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: 2004, html.http://unfccc.int/documentation/items/2643.php.
  29. USDA, Summary Report 1992: 1994, Natl., Resources Inventory, Washington, D.C., Soil Conservation ServiceGoogle Scholar
  30. Vali, A.M.: 2002, Complex Systems Approach to Sustainability: Beyond Carrying Capacity Constraints, Ph.D. Thesis, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Vitousek, P.M., Ehrlich, P.R., Ehrlich, A.H., Matson, P.A. 1986‘Human appropriation of the products of photosynthesis’Bioscience36368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wen, D. 1993

    Soil erosion and conservation in China

    Pimentel, D. eds. Soil Erosion and ConservationCambridge Univ. PressNewYork6386
    Google Scholar
  33. WHO (World Health Organization): 2005, http://www.who.int/home-page/
  34. World Energy Outlook 20002000Int. Energy AgencyOECD/IEAParis, FranceGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gundo Susiarjo
    • 1
  • Sree N. Sreenath
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ali M. Vali
    • 1
  1. 1.Global Systems LaboratoryUSA
  2. 2.UNESCO Global Problematique Education Network Initiative (GENIe)ClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Electrical Engineering and Computer Science DepartmentCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations