Population Growth: The Other Inconvenient Truth

Larger than the threat of global warming is feeding humanity's ever-expanding population. Already, we use 40% of dry land on Earth to produce food. Are we simply running out of planet?

What's the Latest Development?


How to feed humanity's growing population is an environmental concern larger than global warming, says Jon Foley, head of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. Global agriculture already puts more pressure on planetary resources than any other activity and is the single largest source of man-made greenhouse gasses. "We use 60 times more land to grow and raise food than we do to live on. Farming takes half the world's available freshwater, much of which is used for irrigation." With 6.2 million square miles dedicated to growing crops and another 11.6 million set aside for pasture lands, 40% of dry land on Earth is occupied by food production. 

What's the Big Idea?

The most immediate action to be taken, says Foley, is to improve yields in places where infrastructure and design is lacking, such as in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond that, things get tricky. Promoting Green Revolution techniques, i.e. irrigation and chemical fertilizers, which make American farm land so productive, carry environmental risks. Meat production is also highly inefficient, requiring 32 pounds of corn to produce a single steak. As global wealth rises and populations acquire a taste for diets more rich in meat, inefficient farming will be encouraged to grow. Foley says there is no one solution and that changes will be required of large corporations as well as individual consumers. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less