The World in 2050 - Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith gives an interesting perspective into how our lives are likely to change over the next 40 years. The book is based on the assumption that technological change will continue at its current growth rate and that there will be no major disruptive event such as a Third World War. Given current trends and projections Smith sees four global forces shaping our future:
- Demography - the ups, downs, and movements of different population groups within the human race,
- Demand for Natural Resources - both finite assets like hydrocarbons, minerals, and fossil groundwater; and renewable assets like rivers, arable land, wildlife, and wood.
- Globalization - the set of economic, social, and technological processes that are making the world more interconnected and independent.
- Climate Change - the effect and consequences of the result of human industrial activity changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
The startling reality that Smith describes is the compounding effect that these global forces have on one another. The population of the earth has increased by 50% over the last 40 years and is projected to increase by another 50% during the next 40 years. At the same time emerging nations driven by the globalization of the world economy are experiencing new wealth resulting in accelerating demand for fossil fuels, water, and other natural resources. Most of that growth will occur in areas where water availability is already at its limit for supporting the growing of crops to provide food for its existing populations. Along with that growth comes increasing industrialization with uncontrolled polluting byproducts. The thawing of the permafrost in northern latitudes has the potential to release vast amounts of methane which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Reading The World in 2050 will make you more aware of what needs to be done to develop new technologies, conserve our resources and build a sustainable future for our world.
Until next time,