The most important topic that will interest Geographers one hundred years from now, I believe, will be population. In 1913, the global population was only 1.65 billion; today it’s over 7 billion and the issues are only just starting. As Geographers we’ve got to ask ourselves how we will cope in the future. Or perhaps more pessimistically, will we cope at all? At its current rate the global population could hit 11 billion by 2113. The biggest global issue will therefore be poverty; despite only working once a week at a local restaurant, 5.15 billion people earn less than me per week. Many of these people on desperately low wages have education and health care to consider, families to provide for. With a current strain on these resources already, what will geographers have to deal with when the population is 11 billion?
Malthusian Theory proposes that human populations grow exponentially while food production grows at an arithmetic rate; therefore eventually food production will be less than the human population and a natural check will occur where we will see great loss of human life – war and famine. Another theory is Boserup’s theory. Boserup suggests that human systems evolve and adapt to demand in supply and technical production of food will adapt and develop to supply the higher demand.
I think Boserup’s theory is the most realistic. We can see that already within the last hundred years we have excelled in science and technology; genetically modified crops and globalisation have both worked to combat poverty. Vertical Skyscraper farming is a potential solution, providing high outputs of food when there’s limited space. Dickson Despommier proposed to build a skyscraper made of many floors of fields and orchards that could feed 50,000 people. Overall, in order to avoid a Malthusian disaster we need to work together in all fields to provide basic needs for each other, most of all to avoid conflict.
Water wars are going to be of particular interest to Geographers in one hundred years. With the population growing at around 80 million people per annum, the demand for fresh water is rising by about 64 billion cubic metres a year. For countries that lie over arid regions of climate the next hundred years are going to involve a lot of planning and cooperation if they are to preserve the water sources. As global temperatures rise regions such as the Middle East are facing serious ground water depletion. This is the result of drought combined with mass pumping of these resources.
In one hundred years geographers will need to work with all fields of professions, from politicians to scientists, on solutions to this growing problem and how we can prevent these conflicts from occurring. Potential solutions could range from signed agreements across all African/ Middle Eastern countries in order to maintain cooperation and peace; or simply an increase investment in local pumps for villages in these dry areas to break the cycle of multiple deprivations associated with water scarcity, allowing them to socially and economically develop.
2113 will be a completely different planet. The topics of population and politics are the geographical factors that are going to impact on the majority of people’s lives on this earth. It is time to start looking ahead and preparing for these challenges. Sustainability is key to the future. Population and politics can dramatically change the planet for the people of the future and we must do our best to ensure this change is fair and respectful to our planet. To quote Ghandi:
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
I hope we can prove him wrong.
Harriet Lavin is an upper-sixth student at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls.