The competition for world resources is entering into a dangerous phase. Rising consumptions, consumerism and lust for resources have reached a point where clash of civilizations or a global war is becoming imminent. It might be carrying any name of clash of civilization, crusade or war against terror but the reality is that main cause behind the suffering in today’s world is Human desire for all the wealth and Man’s Conflict with Nature.
The world resources are limited and cannot satisfy the growing hunger of the humans. It cannot grow equally to the growing human demands. Some nations have raised their consumption so high that world is incapable of meeting it, let alone meeting demands of all the humans. The ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory has failed because in this small world, societies co-exist and humans cannot enslave human specie as it did with many other species. Dangerous pursue of this theory by some nations have made the world unsafe and unsustainable. The result is emergence of Conflicts, a struggle at two fronts, between Humans and Nature and between Humans themselves.
Take the example of oil. The price of oil begins to set the price of food, because of rising fuel costs almost everything we eat can be converted into fuel for cars. Wheat going into the market can be converted into bread for supermarkets or ethanol for service stations. Owners of the world’s 800 million cars will be competing for food resources with the 1.2 billion people living on less than $1 a day. Rise in demand for automotive fuel will encourage farmers to clear more and more of the remaining tropical forests to produce sugarcane, oil palms, and other high-yielding fuel crops, resulting in more desertification.
Demand for oil brings two big nation China and USA in direct competition over it. China consumed 380 million tons in 2005 while 260 million tons were consumed by United States. U.S. oil use expanded by 15 percent between 1994 and 2004, while use in China more than doubled. Sources of other energy options have also moving upwards. China’s annual burning of 960 million tons of coal exceeds the 560 million tons used in the United States.
At the current annual U.S. grain consumption of 900 kilograms per person, including industrial use, China’s grain consumption in 2031 would equal roughly two thirds of the current world grain harvest. If paper use per person in China in 2031 reaches the current U.S. level, this translates into 305 million tons of paper—double existing world production of 161 million tons. There go the world’s forests. And if oil consumption per person reaches the U.S. level by 2031, China will use 99 million barrels of oil a day. The world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day and may never produce much more.
If China one day should have three cars for every four people, as the United States now does, its fleet would total 1.1 billion vehicles, well beyond the current world fleet of 800 million. Providing the roads, highways, and parking lots for such a fleet would require paving an area roughly equal to China’s land in rice, its principal food staple.
The conclusion to be drawn from these projections is that there are not enough resources for China to reach U.S. consumption levels. The western economic model—the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy—will not work for China’s 1.45 billion in 2031. If it does not work for China, it will not work for India either, which by 2031 is projected to have even more people than China. Nor will it work for the other 3 billion people in developing countries who are also dreaming the “American dream.”
Of the 23 leading oil producers, output appears to have peaked in 15 and to still be rising in eight. Petroleum geologists say that 95 percent of all the oil in the world has already been discovered. “The whole world has now been seismically searched and picked over,” says independent geologist Colin Campbell. Once oil companies or oil-exporting countries realize that output is about to peak, they will begin to think seriously about how to stretch out their remaining reserves. As it becomes clear that even a moderate cut in production may double world oil prices, the long-term value of their oil will become much clearer. Petroleum is also backbone for the Modern agriculture as it depends heavily on the use of gasoline and diesel fuel for tractors and Irrigation pumps.
Even though oil scarcity may be imminent, most countries are counting on much higher oil consumption in the decades ahead. Indeed, they are building automobile assembly plants, roads, highways, parking lots, and suburban housing developments as though cheap oil will last forever. New airliners are being delivered with the expectation that air travel and freight will expand indefinitely. Yet in a world of declining oil production, no country can use more oil except at the expense of others.
Like Oil, world is incurring a vast water deficit. Because much of the deficit comes from aquifer overpumping, it is often not apparent. Unlike burning forests or invading sand dunes, falling water tables are often discovered only when wells go dry. This global water deficit is recent, the result of demand tripling over the last half-century. The drilling of millions of irrigation wells has pushed water withdrawals beyond the recharge of many aquifers. The link between water and food is strong. We each drink on average nearly 4 liters of water per day in one form or another, while the water required to produce our daily food totals at least 2,000 liters—500 times as much. This helps explain why 70 percent of all water use is for one purpose—irrigation. Another 20 percent is used by industry, and 10 percent goes for residential purposes.
Deep wells [drilled] around Beijing now have to reach 1,000 meters [more than half a mile] to tap fresh water. Serious though emerging water shortages are in China, they are even more serious in India simply because the margin between actual food consumption and survival is so precarious. Observation wells near the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi show a fall in the water table between 1982 and 2000 that ranges from 1 to nearly 2 meters a year. In the province of Balochistan, water tables around the capital, Quetta, are falling by 3.5 meters per year. Richard Garstang, a water expert with the World Wildlife Fund and a participant in a study of Pakistan’s water situation, said in 2001 that “within 15 years Quetta will run out of water if the current consumption rate continues.” Large rivers that either run dry or are reduced to a mere trickle during the dry season are the Nile, the lifeline of Egypt; the Indus, which supplies most of Pakistan’s irrigation water; and the Ganges in India’s densely populated Gangetic basin. Many smaller rivers have disappeared entirely. Since 1950, the number of large dams, those over 15 meters high, has increased from 5,000 to 45,000. Each dam deprives a river of some of its flow. Pakistan, like Egypt, is essentially a river-based civilization, heavily dependent on the Indus. This river, originating in the Himalayas and flowing westward to the Indian Ocean, not only provides surface water, it also recharges aquifers that supply the irrigation wells dotting the Pakistani countryside. In the face of growing water demand, it too is starting to run dry in its lower reaches. Pakistan, with a population projected to reach 305 million by 2050, is in real trouble.
In 2003, the searing heat wave that broke temperature records across Europe claimed 49,000 lives in eight countries. Italy alone lost more than 18,000 people, while 14,800 died in France. The earth’s rising temperature is raising sea level both through thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Scientists are particularly concerned by the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which has accelerated sharply in recent years. If this ice sheet, a mile thick in some places, were to melt entirely it would raise sea level by 23 feet, or 7 meters.
Even a one-meter rise would inundate vast areas of low-lying coastal land, including many of the rice-growing river deltas and floodplains of India, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and China. A World Bank map shows a one-meter rise in sea level inundating half of Bangladesh’s riceland. Some 30 million Bangladeshis would be forced to migrate, either internally or to other countries.
Hundreds of cities, including some of the world’s largest, would be at least partly inundated by a one-meter rise in sea level, including London, Alexandria, and Bangkok. More than a third of Shanghai, a city of 15 million people, would be under water. A one-meter rise combined with a 50-year storm surge would leave large portions of Lower Manhattan and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., flooded with seawater.
We are now in the early stage of the sixth great extinction. Unlike previous extinction events, which were caused by natural phenomena, this one is of human origin. For the first time in the earth’s long history, one species has evolved, if that is the right word, to where it can eradicate much of life. World Health Organization (WHO) data indicate that roughly 1.2 billion people are undernourished, underweight, and often hungry. At the same time, roughly 1.2 billion people are overnourished and overweight, most of them suffering from excessive caloric intake and exercise deprivation. So while 1 billion people worry whether they will eat, another billion should worry about eating too much. As land and water become scarce, we can expect competition for these vital resources to intensify within societies, particularly between the wealthy and those who are poor and dispossessed. This could lead to unmanageable social tensions that will translate into broad-based conflicts.
American dream is for America only or for few developed nations. If most or many nations try to copy it, they will be competing with America and Americans won’t be willing to leave their luxuries for others, that too, when they have resources to fight for it (its Military Might).
History is of full of examples when small nations perished due conflict with nature or within themselves. Humans now possess weapons of mass destruction, which adds new dangers to problem. There is very high risk of conflicts escalating into regional or global level not because of any religious or political motive but because of desire for control over world oil and water resources. Also, there is strong possibility of Nature’s reaction to the few ambitious nations in the form of any climatic event of catastrophic magnitude. One can only hope that leaders of the super and mini super powers especially of US, China, EU, Russia and India will realize their responsibilities and learn to live within their own resources even though they have power to capture the resources of the entire world. The salvation lies in ‘Live and Let others Live’ only.