The growth rate for the human population has been exponential in the last half century of its existence. The past fifty years have seen the population expand to three times its size. Given the relatively short time frame in context to the history of the human species the number is staggering. Contributing to this growth is the widespread access to healthcare that has increased the life expectancy of the individual dramatically. Of course, the lower death rate is disproportionate to the ever-growing birth rate.
As the population inches towards the eight billion mark, the strain it is placing on the earth’s finite resources is apparent. Mass human migration and immigration, increased conflict and even the mass extinction of other species are all direct or indirect by products of this exponential growth.
While the challenge that lay ahead of us are apparent, humans have and will continue to strive towards the advancement of the race as a whole. It is in our nature. With an objective look at the way things stand however it has become clear that one of the biggest challenges that stand in our way is finding a sustainable way to generate a steady supply of food to feed this growing population.
Unlike water, power or minerals, food poses a unique challenge. It cannot be standardized for the entire world. To the consumer power generated through any production method is the same as long as it is affordable.
Food however is not the same. The large, diverse population over time has developed strong habits and preferences in terms of the food they consume. Patterns like aversion to a certain type of meat or affinity to it are deeply ingrained in their psyche through culture and sometimes religion. These deep-rooted preferences are almost impossible to change over a short period of time.
To add to the diversity, modern food trends are surfacing regularly with a growing population shifting towards diets like the ketogenic diet, paleo diet and vegan diet. It is a known fact that the consequences of our choices in terms of the diet and the impact they have on our long term health are significant. Still these modern trends are catching on quickly. It is still early to tell but some of these might be passing trends while others might evolve into wholistic lifestyle choices, however the culture of pizza will never fall out of favor as it is one of the most popular foods amongst youngsters and university students alike. From the convenience of opting for pizza delivery to the customizable toppings, it will most definitely be included in the next food trend.
The vegan movement is one that falls comfortably within the realms of a lifestyle that encompasses more than just a choice of diet. There has been a wave of high profile endorsements of the lifestyle from celebrities, media as well as NGOs.
The movement has received support from the scientific community as well. Reports link the billion dollar cattle rearing industry to global warming, creating a strong case for the long term benefits of the meat free lifestyle. Not only does the massive methane emission from livestock contribute to the build up of green house gasses, the slurry pits that inevitably accompany large farms are also big factors that degrade the environment around them. To add to this the amount of fresh water and land reclaimed from forested area necessary for their operation are a disproportionate strain on resources.
While there was once a school of thought that believed the lack of protein from meat would be detrimental to the development of a healthy physique, the myth has long since died out. Fitness icons and top level athletes have proven that the peak of human physical conditioning is not out of reach for someone on such a diet.
The industry has evolved as well. Today it is no longer difficult to find a vegan meal in most parts of the world. Moreover more evolved food products like vegan protein powder, vegan supplements and even vegan desserts are available making it easier to adopt the lifestyle. Of course, the lifestyle has evolved to more than just food.
While the options in terms of food and lifestyle choices available to us will continue to expand, we can rest assured that one thing will always remain constant. People will disagree. It is what makes us human. There is no way to tell what will happen in the future, but it seems highly unlikely that we will reach a place where everyone agrees to adopt the same kind of eating habits.
Still it is more important than ever for us to come together and find a solution. Find a way to cater to these varied needs ensuring a food supply that is sustainable. Whatever our differences in opinions, religion and culture might dictate, we need to ensure that they do not come in the way of the bigger picture. Our planet has finite resources and without everyone coming together there will be a time when it just can not support the phenomenon we call humanity.