The next problem we will struggle with is energy sufficiency. Three hundred years and the industrial revolution caused a mass migration of the world population to cities. This migration brings new problems with production and energy for all types of infrastructures. In 2006, the population volume in cities crossed the population living in villages and other countryside. The mass migration and concentration of population in cities doesn’t stop but instead keeps growing. These days, over 30 super-towns (big cities) with over 20 million citizens exist worldwide. Such a concentration has an enormous impact on the nature around these cities. Of course, cities consume more energy than villages. They need supporting infrastructure, which consumes more and more land around the cities and damages nature.
By prognosis, in 2050, over 7 billion people will be concentrated in big cities, which means the volume will grow twice compared to cities’ current situation. It may sound incredible, but during the next 30 years, we will develop more urban infrastructure projects than we did during our whole history. And this will strongly impact our environment. From the logistics perspective, communication between cities in 2050 will increase citizens’ volume in travel by over 600%. That would cause a massive impact on ecology. For example, one flight by plane equals eight months of car usage.
The prediction says that in 2050 in the current trends of yearly sold travel tickets that equals 4 billion will increase to 16 billion. With the current lifestyle, we can expect that over 44 million people will travel daily. The same volume of cars on roads will increase to 2 billion. Requirements for energy will also remarkably grow up. Till 2050 the need for energy in the form of petrol, gas, and electricity will increase twice. We’ll have to develop thousands of power generation stations around the world to meet our needs. By the present consumption standards, coal resources are sufficient till the beginning of the 21st century, oil resources for the next 50 years.
Still, the question is the ecological aspect of harvesting these resources. For how many years can the ecology survive with the systematic damaging of its essential resources? Nobody knows. Cheap energy caused us to remarkably increase our comfort and consumption without paying attention to our behavior’s impact. We are consuming without thinking about how we waste or use it ineffectively. Leaving on lights when the room is empty, computers in offices running non-stop – that’s only two examples out of thousands that we daily do in our lives.
Only in the last years, we started to feel the impact of industrialization and overpopulation on natural resources. The world power generators and transportation infrastructure release into the atmosphere billions of tons of CO2, catastrophically impacting the environment and the climate. That highlighted at least about the topic talking over 10.000 scientists during the past years. Storms, hurricanes, and water flooding will impact the population more and more. By predictions of 2050, water flooding will become a dangerous direct impact for over the 1 billion people living on the seaside. All this said, it looks like the demographics growing cause a real danger for the planet, nature, and the environment, but it’s not so exact as it may look at first sight.
The main problem is not in the population itself but the level of consumption. The growing countries by economic trends consume much more than people in the least developed countries. Several studies are available about the central question of how many people can live on Earth in a sustainable form at different consumption levels. Suppose the world consumption would decrease to the level of the average Indian. In that case, the Earth would be capable of producing resources for 12 billion people. If we decreased consumption to the average Rwandan citizen, the Earth would provide resources for even 15 billion people.
In the most extreme scenario, if we decreased consumption to the level of rainforest indigenous with the current technology level, the Earth could accommodate over 30 billion people. On the other hand, in case we increased worldwide consumption to the average European level, the planet would secure enough resources for only 3 billion people, and only 2 billion with USA citizens’ standards. Suppose the whole world population today starts to live based on USA standards. In that case, we would need three planets Earth to cover their standards, like one car for every member of the family, several televisions, phones, computers, thousands of pieces of clothes, and an extreme amount of food.
During the next years, the major migration expansion of population is expected in countries currently stated as least developed countries. Theoretically, the population’s increase with their consumption level in these countries should not negatively impact the environment from the world perspective because these countries use a low level of consumption. For example, over 40% of the population lives with a budget lower than 5 USD, and logically they consume much less than countries with stable economics. Also, due to less consumption, these countries produce much less waste than countries with a robust economic situation like the USA. An excellent example can be dioxide per citizen. Low-income countries produce 1 ton of dioxin per citizen; in high-income countries, it is between 6 to 30 tons of carbon dioxin per citizen. That’s why it is possible to think that population expansion to 10 billion in these countries would not create an additional load to the Earth’s resources and environment. But the world is changing.
Following the population growth in low-income countries, its population will become more prosperous and change consumption standards. Population expansion and migration of people to cities in Africa and other low-developed countries will develop better economic stability. Countries will get better overall, and corporations’ mass marketing will support high-consuming standards. With higher life quality comes an increase in consumption to the level of the average European. This behavior is already visible in China, where the economic situation is rapidly growing, and citizens’ consuming needs are based on their ideals from Europe or the USA. The situation becomes hazardous for the planet Earth, and we can face serious environmental problems. Concerns arise from the African population’s present goals to bring life quality to the level we are currently calling standard one. Many agencies highlight it is fair, to think from the perspective of social equity. And that we should morally support this idea of setting the same life quality level in these countries.
But what should we do? Should we continue to support these countries’ development and, on the other side, try to compensate for their level of consumption by decreasing consumption in already developed countries? It is pretty challenging to explain to people in different countries to eat less meat, travel less by car, or reduce traffic by cutting down tourism. I am pretty sure that nobody will agree on this. But we do have not too many options. Either we radically change our behavior or wait for brutal destruction of the capitalist system and an environmental issue that may cause fatal damage to human civilization.
Let’s think about everything that we understand as standard these days. We are used to permanent economic growth, technological progress, and market dynamics to supply all the known and unknown people’s wishes. Our living standards include comfortable and regular traveling, relaxation on beaches or mountains, private houses, land and cars, and children’s education. We are free to do anything we want, be who we want to be, with whom to be, and who to love and what to trust. We will lose all this privilege if we do not change how we serve.
We are not simple animals programmed to a never-ending reproduction till we damage ourselves. Our smartness capability is fantastic, and often we surprise even ourselves. These days we collected much more knowledge than ever before. It will be tragic if we’ll not be able to use the knowledge to get better and be better. People have unbelievable possibilities to generate ideas to solve any problem in the world. With the usage of big data and artificial intelligence, we should solve any other problem than the overpopulation. We already have the solution to survive. The answer is packed into several agendas without a good or bad mission behind the agenda. European Union has their carbon-free 2050, the US has the New world order plan, India has their Smart Cities strategy, and Russian countries have their Eurasia.
We are already starting to create technologies and automation that give us alternative options for sustainable energy sources. For example, California’s thermal station Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is the world’s most giant thermo-dynamic power plant. At first sight, it looks like solar panels, but they are not. The fields are covered by 300.000 huge mirrors whose position is operated by computer. These mirrors concentrate light waves and route them to the giant water-heater (boiler) that transforms water into steam. The steam powers turbines and generators to produce electricity. One system like Ivanpah can produce electricity to power over 150.000 houses. And this is only one of the examples of the power of our closest star – the Sun.
Besides the Sun, we have other significant sources of energy. Wind power is another one of the most influential power generators used these days globally. In fact, many countries are receiving a considerable part of their energy from wind turbines. The solution is nuclear and alternative technology like fusion power. Based on EON studies, nuclear energy is the cleanest and the most effective in the world these days. Moreover, nuclear power plants can effectively operate for 93%. Although due to Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, people are pretty negative about using this kind of energy. That’s causing another paradox: being afraid of nuclear energy impacts the environment more than nuclear energy itself. Instead of nuclear power plants, people prefer and keep developing coil or gas-based power plants. But during the past ten years, eco-activist and eco-organizations changed their view about nuclear power. As a result, they gave the green flag to supporting nuclear energy. That’s why there is an optimistic prediction that by 2050, we could solve the energy problem. We will be able to receive 100% of our energy consumption from environmentally clean energy.
Every year we are getting from the Sun energy exceeds our needs by 20 thousand times. For the past five years, the volume of the energy we received from the Sun increased by 100%. Most probably, soon, the Sun will be one of the most critical resources that give the necessary energy to our population. For example, in China, it is possible to develop over 400GW of power from the Sun. This volume of energy covers twice the summary needs of the African continent. During the past ten years, Canada increased wind energy usage by 2000%, which caused over 1,5 million houses to operate with zero emissions. But wind and solar energy also have one bottleneck, which’s an unstable situation with the availability of resources.
The efficiency of solar and wind energy is about 30% only. That means that only 30% of the operation is enough light and sufficient wind power to produce electricity effectively. And the population, houses, hospitals, and whole human infrastructure need permanent electrification. Partially we can cover it with accumulators that are vigorously innovating during the last year. However, they’re still not as effective as the direct electric network. In practice, Sun and wind energy we are producing now these days have two weaknesses. One is the high requirement for the land to place harvesting elements. The second is the low efficiency of energy production in time. Most probably, we will not be able to cover the population’s needs with these resources only.