the Shape Of Things To Come...

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CHANGE[image, unknown] The shape of things to come...

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The shape of things to come.

Just 1,000 years ago beings were an insignificant species on this planet: only a quarter of a billion people, barely into the Iron Age, spread thinly across the earth and subject to nature's whims. Today that species has increased more than fifteen-fold and its power has increased to immense proportions. The human race has made the world produce more, has covered it with cities, is felling its forests and consuming its oil. From being at Nature's mercy we now have the power to determine our own futures. But this new power brings with it tremendous and unprecedented responsibilities. It is now up to us to shape our own future.
Projected global grain yield.

If current trends continue food production will keep pace with population growth. But feeding the world's hungry depends on better distribution of production, not just higher yields.

Annual per capita grain consumption in kilograms.

Average annual increase in world population (millions).

Population growth is already slowing down. By the year 2110 global population is predicted to stabilise at around ten and a half billion.

.OIL If exponential increases in oil consumption continue the wells will be dry by 2025.
.URANIUM The costs of extracting the earth's diminishing uranium deposits will become almost prohibitive by 2050.
.TREES 5.6 million hectares of forest are being felled annually - an area the size of Sri Lanka.
.DESERTS 19 per cent of the earth's surface is threatened with desertification. .POLLUTION Between 1978 and 2000 the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have increased by 15 per cent.

Conserving the earth's resources means an 'energy transition' from non-renewable to renewable sources. Whether or not we continue to devour the earth's resources depends on who controls them and the price tag we put on them.


The rich will get richer and the poor will get slightly richer too. But if the division of the world's wealth remains the same as today, when the world population stabilises the Third World will have 90% of the world's people and only 20% of the world's wealth.

Per capita Gross National Product

By the year 2000 three-quarters of people in the North and half of people in the South will be living in cities. Urban growth in the North is fuelled by investment in industry. In the South people flock to cities to escape poverty in the countryside. By the year 2000 eight of the ten biggest cities will be in the Third World.

Giant Cities

Inequality fuels unrest within countries. Untrammelled growth leads to competition and conflict between nations. Both men increased military expenditure. Today the world has approximately:

• 50,000 nuclear weapons
• 25 million regular armed forces.

There are twice as many people in military occupations as there are doctors, nurses and teachers in the world.

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Source: World Military and Social expenditures 1981, by Ruth Sivard.

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New Internationalist issue 113 magazine cover This article is from the July 1982 issue of New Internationalist.
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