INSAne

Ressource management – Overpopulation [#3]

While famines are still relevant, food waste has reached records. Nowadays, 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away. Only in France, no less than 10 million tons of food are discarded per year, or about 150 kilograms per inhabitant, counting the entire sector. This food waste costs France about 12 to 20 billion euros each year. On a global scale, the wasted value reaches 640 billion euros.

While we could say that the waste mainly concerns the northern countries, it turns out that it spares no country. This phenomenon, however, is directly related to the way of life of developed countries. Indeed, when we go shopping, we are used to having the shelves always full, with a huge diversity of products. Then when we go to the fruit and vegetable department, it is almost impossible for us to see a deformed vegetable: all are identical and flawless. The figures speak for themselves: production alone accounts for nearly 1/3 of food waste. Countries are affected differently by this waste, according to their incomes, related at the same time to the “producer” and “consumer” countries. In northern countries, 65% of the waste comes from the upstream of the chain (i.e. production, storage, …) while for southern countries, this waste represents 90%.

In order to feed a more urban and richer population in 2050, food production will have to increase by 70%, according to a FAO’s report. Water will be directly impacted by this huge increase in production. Farming is using 70% of freshwater resources, which implies that its demand will explode by 55% by 2050. Water control is a major geopolitical issue, especially in the Middle East, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. In this region of the world, Iraq and Syria depend on Turkey for the flows Tiger and Euphrates. These two rivers have their source in Turkey and 88% of the flow of these rivers also comes from this country. Syria and Iraq, which are downstream of these rivers, therefore depend on the Turks for the irrigation of their fields. Water is now nicknamed by some people “blue gold”. The United Nations has noted in its latest reports that this resource is increasingly poorly managed, despite the exploding demand. If water management does not change in the coming years, the Earth could face a water deficit of nearly 40% by 2030, well before the 10 billion mark. North Africa already reports a global water deficit of 30% of its needs. Like access to food, people still do not have access to an “improved” water source (defined by the UN as water that has never been in contact with animals). Not less than 740 million people do not have access to these water sources.

The explosion in water demand is also the consequence of the explosion of energy demand, the evolution of our way of life (consumption of more and more meat) and global warming. All these phenomena are interrelated, which only aggravates the situation.

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