Population growth must end if people are to be fed: world food day 2023
On World Food Day, we are reminded that increasing numbers of people are going to bed hungry and population growth is the main cause, says Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
After decades of improvement in food security, undernourishment has been rising again in the last few years. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates as many as 783 million people are facing chronic hunger while 345 million face acute food insecurity. With several countries on the brink of famine, WFP says the world faces a global hunger crisis of unprecedented proportions.
SPA President Jenny Goldie says food productivity is already falling because of climate change, soil degradation, depletion of water sources and urban sprawl, while global population rises by around 80 million a year.
“What the world is facing is overall decline in farm productivity, largely because of climate change, at a time when there are evermore mouths to be fed,” says Ms Goldie.
“There has to be more than calories, of course, people need protein and micronutrients to maintain optimal health,” says Ms Goldie.
“Climate change is already hurting farmers, including our own. Compared with historical averages, agricultural profits here have fallen 23% over the 20 years to 2020.
“We cannot forget the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 where an estimated 24.3 million hectares of land were burned and farmers lost $4-5 billion.
“Extreme weather events will intensify and become more frequent under climate change,” says Ms Goldie. “If we go to two degrees warming, which is highly likely, droughts will become 2.5 times more likely.
“Africa is already a net importer of food, and will double or quadruple its population by the end of the century, depending on how much effort is made to bring birth rates down.
“We know how to do it, although in some places the challenges are greater because of cultural practices or just sheer poverty.
“We need universal access to modern contraception, equality for women and education for girls. Where women are given the choice and the means to do so, they choose to have smaller families, voluntarily, without coercion.
“Even a rich, food-exporting country like Australia could become food insecure if we allow our population to keep growing. If Australia’s population exceeds 30 million, we might not produce enough grain in a drought year. We would be competing for imports at premium prices. Surely it would be wiser to stabilise our population sooner rather than later.”