Ron Webb wrote:The present world population, estimated at 6.77 billion, would probably not be sustainable if all of us adopted a modern Western lifestyle. Perhaps it would be sustainable if we were all vegans. Perhaps we could even sustain ten or twenty billion people if we all lived on algae harvested from underground septic tanks, or if we deforested the entire planet to make room for factory farms.
But do we want to?
In my opinion, the question is not how to continue feeding a growing population, but why? Regardless of our lifestyle or our food choices, we know that at some point we will need to limit population growth.
And at some point, we will, according to most projections. Global fertility rates are falling. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs reckons that the world's population will probably peak at around 9.2 billion in 2050; the US Census Bureau puts it at 9.5 billion. Of course, it would be better if we could slow down the growth even more quickly, but one of the best ways of doing that is by reducing poverty, and poverty reduction is always accompanied by increased consumption, including increased consumption of meat and other animal products. So I think the issue of how to feed the world's population is something we need to tackle urgently, regardless of what happens to the size of that population.
Ron Webb wrote:I would far rather live on a planet with only a couple of billion people, with plenty of wide open countryside, natural forests filled with wild creatures, and a diverse diet that includes a moderate amount of meat, fish and dairy products. I do not care to live huddling elbow-to-elbow on a crowded planet eating nothing but vegetables, nor would I wish that lifestyle for my children. Instead of urging everyone to become vegans, which at best will only buy us some time, I think we should be urging everyone to use contraceptives and limit family size.
Why is it an either-or? Why can't we do both? Surely we need all the time we can get.
Actually, I am opposed to urging everyone to become vegan. I would rather urge people to eat much less meat, less fish, and less dairy produce. But we need a multi-pronged approach here, Ron. Yes, pass round the condoms. Yes, limit family size. But you'll always get some people who want to have a dozen kids. So you need some people, like me, who don't have any kids at all, to keep the average family size down. Similarly, even if most people reduce their consumption of meat and animal products to what could be a sustainable level if it were universal, you'll always get some people who continue to eat huge amounts of the stuff. So you need vegans to keep the average consumption down. There you are, you see. We're living on nothing but plants and fungi so you don't have to.
In any case, whatever population policies are adopted, even under the most optimistic scenario, the world's population won't be reduced to 2 billion before around 2300. The way we're going, the wide open countryside and natural forests and wild creatures will all be long gone before then.