Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 599–611 | Cite as

Will Limited Land, Water, and Energy Control Human Population Numbers in the Future?

  • David PimentelEmail author
  • Michele Whitecraft
  • Zachary R. Scott
  • Leixin Zhao
  • Patricia Satkiewicz
  • Timothy J. Scott
  • Jennifer Phillips
  • Daniel Szimak
  • Gurpreet Singh
  • Daniela O. Gonzalez
  • Tun Lin Moe


Nearly 60% of the world’s human population is malnourished and the numbers are growing. Shortages of basic foods related to decreases in per capita cropland, water, and fossil energy resources contribute to spreading malnutrition and other diseases. The suggestion is that in the future only a smaller number of people will have access to adequate nourishment. In about 100 years, when it is reported that the planet will run out of fossil energy, we suggest that a world population of about two billion might be sustainable if it relies on renewable energy technologies and also reduces per capita use of the earth’s natural resources.


Sustainable world population Fossil fuels Population growth Agricultural land degradation 



The authors would like to acknowledge the following people for reviewing and offering useful comment on an early draft of this paper:

Jack Alpert

Stanford University

Stanford, California

Joachim Braun

International Food Policy Research Institute

Washington, DC

Jason Brent

Las Vegas, Nevada

Joel E. Cohen

Laboratory of Populations

Rockefeller University & Columbia University

John Coulter

Sustainable Population Australia

ACT, Australia

Andrew R.B. Ferguson

Optimum Population Trust

Oxfordshire, UK

Gary Fick

Crop and Soil Science

Cornell University

Bernard Gilland

Espergaerde, Denmark

Tiziano Gomiero

Dept. of Biology

Padua University

Robert Goodland

Arlington, VA 22207, USA

Stefan Hellstrand

Department of Urban and Rural Development

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Ben Ho

Johnson Graduate School of Management

Cornell University

Dr. Ray G. Huffaker

Washington State University

Timothy LaSalle

The Rodale Institute

Kutztown, PA 19530

Ron Leng

Nutritional Biochemistry

University of New England

Armidale, NSW, Australia

Philip McMichael

Development Sociology

Cornell University.

Mario Molina

Prolongación Paseo de los Laureles #458

Despacho 406

Colonia Bosques de las Lomas

C.P. 05120 México, D.F.

Maurizio G. Paoletti

Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Padova

Padova, Italy

John F. Rohe

Colcom Foundation

Pittsburgh PA 15222

Norman Uphoff

Professor of Government

Cornell University

Mathis Wackernagel

Global Footprint Network HQ

Oakland, CA 94607-3510 USA

Walter Youngquist

Petroleum Consultant

Eugene, OR

We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti for the partial support of our research through the Albert Podell Grant Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pimentel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michele Whitecraft
    • 1
  • Zachary R. Scott
    • 1
  • Leixin Zhao
    • 1
  • Patricia Satkiewicz
    • 1
  • Timothy J. Scott
    • 1
  • Jennifer Phillips
    • 1
  • Daniel Szimak
    • 1
  • Gurpreet Singh
    • 1
  • Daniela O. Gonzalez
    • 1
  • Tun Lin Moe
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Comstock HallCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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