Population and Resources

2030: “Perfect storm”

In 2009, professor John Beddington said our food reserves are at a 50% low, but by 2030 we need to be producing 50% more food, creating 50% more energy and access to 30% more fresh water.

Population and Resources, figure 1

How is global population changing?

Population Theories


  • Believed that population grew exponentially (doubling at each stage: 1:2:4:8:16) and that food production grew arithmetically (adding one unit at each stage 1:2:3:4:5)
  • Once population outstrips food supply, population will decrease through starvation (a natural check), other natural checks included war, disease and morality
  • Influenced by deep religious beliefs and believed that people had a moral duty to keep the population low through restraint from marriage and sexual relations


  • Famines are frequently happening in less developed world countries
  • Global warming, oil spillage, ozone depletion, desertification could result in less food being grown
  • Malthusian supporters argue that everything at the moment may appear ok but this doesn’t mean we won’t face future disasters
  • A lot of people believe that future conflicts could be fought over water supplies

Ester Boserup (1910-1999)

  • A Danish economist who worked for the UN
  • Opposed the ideas of Malthus and did not like the idea of ‘natural checks’
  • Argued that food production does not limit or control population growth, and that instead population growth controls farming methods
  • She believed that people would invent solutions to the problem through agricultural intensification and using better farming techniques and chemical fertilisers


  • There is enough food to feed the world – trouble is, its not always where it is needed
  • Famine is more likely to be the result of a natural disaster or war
  • New farming machinery means farmers can grow more, higher yields
  • The green revolution produced seeds that could grow quicker and bigger

Population and Resources, figure 1

Population and Resources, figure 2

Population and Resources

A final part to the debate. A ‘crisis’ might occur because the quality of remaining resources becomes low rather than the quantity becoming to small. Rivers and lakes could be so polluted that their was is unusable. Soils may become so eroded and infertile that few crops can be grown. When oil and gas run out, we may turn to burning very dirty, polluting coal.

The real questions?

  • Whether the price of resources will become to high for some people?
  • Whether the billion or so very poor and hungry people today will ever be able to access the resources they need?
What is happening to demand for energy, food, resources? How is global population changing?
Your answer should include: Growing / Technology / Demand / Third / World / Countries
Malthus and Boserup proposed two theories to explain resource exploitation and population growth, explain them.
Your answer should include: Exponentially / Green / Revolution
Explain how the debate on population and resources may change in the future.
Your answer should include: Price / Population / Growth / Technology