The population of the world was expected to stabilise just above 9 billion in the middle of the century but will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100, the United Nations projected in a report. John Bongaarts, a demographer at the Population Council, a research group in New York commented “Is it the end of the world? No. Can we feed 10 billion people? Probably. But we obviously would be better off with a smaller population.”
Joel E. Cohen is professor of populations and head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University. He is an applied mathematician and author of “How Many People Can the Earth Support?” explains the demographic future is not carved in stone. If women have, on average, half a child less than assumed in the U.N.’s medium projection from now to 2100, the population projected for 2100 falls to 6.2 billion, which was the world’s population around 2001. The new report suggests that China could soon enter the ranks of countries with declining populations, peaking at 1.4 billion in the next couple of decades, then falling to 941 million by 2100.
In the 2009-2010 crop year, the world produced 2.26 billion metric tons of cereals. Approximately 0.2 metric tons (440 pounds) of cereal grains provide the food energy an average human needs for a year. Dividing the 2.2 billion metric tons produced by 0.2 metric tons required per person shows that current grain production could feed 11 billion people. Yet of today’s (almost) 7 billion people, nearly one billion are chronically hungry. Why? Roughly one third of grain is consumed by domestic animals. More than one sixth of grain goes into industrial products like biofuels and starch, seeds and other uses. Less than half of world cereal production feeds humans. The world chooses to feed its machines and its domestic animals before it feeds its people.
According to Dr. Art Rosenfeld, formerly of the California Energy Commission, a moderate but sustained increase in how efficiently we use energy would, over time, have an enormous impact. By focusing on efficiency, we could at the end of this century support 10 billion people at a universally high standard of living for less energy than we use today. A 10 billion-human planet worth living on is possible – but only if we think ahead.
Increases in population are no barrier to the establishment of socialism. Socialist society will use the resources of the earth to ensure that every man, woman and child is amply fed, clothed and sheltered. Capitalism cannot do this. It is not overpopulation that is the problem but the chronic and often planned under-production that is a built-in feature of capitalism. Only when the fetters which capitalism places on production have been removed by establishing the common ownership of the means of life can mankind set about ending the threat of hunger and malnutrition. The stark fact is that capitalism is responsible for the starvation of millions of people. The blame must be laid at the door of the social system that is incapable of meeting human needs. Today under capitalism, food is not produced to meet human needs but produced to be sold on the world market with a view to profit. The hungry and under-nourished millions of the world do not constitute a market as they cannot pay for the food they need. So they are left to starve.
SOYMB is not attempting to give the impression that everything will be easy. The massive expansion of food supplies is not a simple matter and will involve environmental implications. But a socialist society is the best-equipped to handle these problems and to strike a balance between ecology and food production. Capitalism, with its ungovernable quest for proﬁt, cannot do this.