7 billion and counting: how will infrastructure handle it?
I have to give a shout out to Joe.My.God for sharing this video. It really got me thinking…
There are a lot of statistics in this video, and some made me ponder more heavily than others. The one that startled me the most was the increase of population in the last decade and the projections for mid century. We added a billion people in the last decade or so, and can expect to add another 2 billion by 2045. That is a pretty heavy duty prediction.
We already know that we are using the planets resources at a rate that is not sustainable. If we continue at the current rate, we will see our supplies of minerals, water and oil depleted far faster than most people realize. If we are seeing the current electrical grid and use of power as tight as it is now, imagine the stress on the system when you add a 25-30% increase in the use of those resources. If we cannot manage our oil and fossil fuel consumption now, what will we do with an extra 87 million people to worry about?
We are also moving from an agrarian society to an urban one. For the first time, we now have more people living in cities than in rural areas. We have seen an increase in megacities, that is cities with over 10 million people. In 1975, there were only 3 of these enormous urban environments, but now we have 21. In this video, they estimate that in 40 years, 70% of us will live in these mega cities. Reflecting on these numbers brings up the importance of dense urban growth, and the importance of building smartly to accommodate these huge population increases in our cities. Cities that do not embrace new technologies and new planning ideas could suffer greatly in the coming decades. In America specifically, we do not have a power grid that can support a huge increase in populated areas.
Not only are we going to have to find a way to produce more power, but also to manage it more efficiently. If cities like Los Angeles experience problems with pollution now, how will they remain livable while they add another 2 million or so people? While issues like these will affect everyone, these mega cities are going to feel the pinch more than most. Then there is the issue of food production. Much like the growth of the urban environment during the industrial revolution, efficient food production and transportation is going to be a huge concern. As we have to go farther and farther from the urban core to produce food, the cost to produce and transport it will go up. Furthermore, the quality of produce will continue to diminish as we prepare for more of our food to come from mega corporate farms.
In the US, there is the concern of our crumbling infrastructure. Currently, our electrical grid is in danger. Bridges, water delivery systems, sewers, dams and more are in trouble. We can currently only afford to repair and replace our infrastructure as it falls apart. Look no farther than Cleveland’s own I-90 bridge and our postponing of its replacement for years to see the proof. We are patching it to make it safe, but it is long overdue for replacement. Minneapolis and Seattle have seen major bridge failures in the last couple of decades. Sludge dams from coal mining are failing in some areas. Levies in need of replacement may have been the biggest cause of Damage in New Orleans. If we are seeing this stress on the infrastructure now, imagine when we add a 20% increase in population. If California is searching for places as far away as the Great Lakes today, what will they do in 40 years?
5% of us use 23% of the energy produced in the world. 13% of the population does not have access to reliable clean drinking water. 38% lack adequate sanitation. If we have failed to solve these issues for a population of 7 billion, how can we expect to solve it for 9 billion? Then there are the issues of food shortages, natural disasters, climate change, they only get bigger and worse if do nothing to solve them now.
And just to make you aware, China has a one child policy for urban areas. A large portion of the country is limited to having only one child per couple. Over the years, they have become more lax on this policy. Some imagine this policy will go away in the next decade. If it does, what will that do to the overall planet overpopulation?
Sustainable Cities Collective