Our way of life – Overpopulation [#4]

The way of life of an individual is principally characterized in particular by his habits, his tastes, his interests, his social level, etc. Each country is characterized by its own way of life, but it can be divided into two distinct groups: the northern countries, or “rich” countries, and the southern countries, otherwise called the “poor” countries. The lifestyles of these two areas have a major impact on today’s world. It is obvious that food and water are two major challenges that will be the focus of concern in the coming years if we want to cross the threshold of 10 billion people in a sustainable way. Our lifestyles are at the root of all these challenges and it is from our ways of life that the way we use the Earth is determined.

We are huge consumers of meat, both in developing and developed countries. Despite a decline in recent years, especially in France, the effects are invisible because of an increasing population. This high consumption of meat is a major concern to meet the challenges ahead. Indeed, between 10 and 15,000 liters of water and 6kg of cereals are needed to produce 1kg of meat. Knowing the current situation, where populations still have precarious access to food and water, it is obvious that livestock is partly a cause of this problem. In addition, this sector also has a strong impact on the environment, which we know today, is under threat. In addition to consuming a lot of water, livestock farming is one of the biggest sources of water pollution. This pollution comes from, among other things, medicines and hormones that are given to animals, chemicals used in the tanning industry and pesticides used in cereal farming.

Due to the resources needed for breeding, our demands for meats are not in harmony with an increasing world population. About 70% of the world’s arable land is used for livestock. On its own, animal feed production occupies more than 30% of available land. It implies that one-third of the world’s cereals are used directly for animal feed ; however, a decline in livestock production would not lead to a drop in world hunger despite a certain increase in land and available cereals. In fact, we produce in a large excess to feed the whole world, about 50% of additional production compared to the needs necessary to feed all populations. The problem, therefore, has another origin. It is believed that a decline in livestock production around the world would have a major impact on the environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which today account for about 14.5% of total emissions, as well as water pollution and global impact on biodiversity.

So, we produce enough food for all populations but it is very unequally distributed as mentioned above. In the same way, an increase in agricultural production is not a viable solution for feeding the world. It would only push our limits while aggravating the situation of the planet from an environmental point of view. Our demands for food and the financialization of the world make it less and less possible for the poorest people to have access to food. On average, people in rich countries spend between 10% and 20% of their income, while those living in poor countries spend between 50% and 80% of their income. Our current system leaves today little space and little right to poor countries, which suffer the consequences of our way of lives. As a result, the environment is neglected in favor of our appetite and inequalities are important between rich and poor countries. We already see the limits of this system while 2.5 billion more people are announced by 2050. It is therefore imperative to find viable solutions to meet the challenges ahead.

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