Last week’s “To The Contrary” on PBS did a fabulous job on the growing water shortage in the Western U.S. It seems that climate change and population growth have gotten the better of our ability to deploy technology and conservation, and are putting a severe crimp on agriculture in this part of the world, thus endangering the food supply and the jobs that are associated with this sector.
Like so many other things, our entire approach to water is unsustainable. Over a period of thousands of years, nature built huge aquifers that now, through just a few decades, are largely depleted.
At the root of humankind’s problems lies this: we don’t have a problem behaving as though there is an inexhaustible supply of water–or crude oil, or fish, etc.—when this so clearly is not the case. Few people in our world today ask, when they develop a certain practice with respect to natural resources: What will be the effects of continuing—and expanding—that practice as our population continues to grow?
Of course, the population growth rates are higher in the developing world, where the per capita rates of resource consumption are far lower than they are in ther developed world. But let’s look at the U.S., whose population (317 million today) will reach 400 million in 2039. It’s not a good scene.