Of the options for avoiding a reduction in population that I outlined in “Future Alternatives,” the mixed strategy (option 6) seems to make the most sense. One way or another, the world will be forced to support its population with new resources within the next 20 years.
My model projects that if we continue our historical increase in consumption (the “No Change” scenario), we will use 46 times this year’s consumption between 2009 and the population peak in 2037. By the time of peak, 144% of this year’s population will be consuming 210% of the resources we will this year. If we are not currently increasing resources, we may need to devote part of our consumption to this task, effectively reducing population growth in the process.
Holding consumption constant would give us a maximum of 17 times the amount we currently consume to use for resource growth. If we wait until 2014, we’ll have less than 10 years of that year’s consumption available. By 2019 we’ll have five years’ consumption available; and by 2024 we’ll have two years’ consumption available. At the end of 2027 we’ll have little more than one year’s consumption to use for resource growth, which is arguably the last chance we’ll have to avoid a loss of population.
If we focus on acquiring renewable resources, we will not need to continually add new resources to replace the amount that we use. We would get the most efficiency out of what we spend to get those resources, leaving remaining (and new) non-renewable resources for dealing with changes in conditions that might force alterations in infrastructure such as global warming.