Hard Questions About Tomorrow’s World
May 4, 2005. Louis Clark Vanuxem Lecture
In both developed and developing worlds, humans on average live longer and healthier lives, with more energy subsidies and food per person than in earlier times. But sensible estimates suggest that the resulting ecological “footprints” cast by humans may already exceed levels the planet can sustain, and certainly are likely to do so within the next decade. This talk will briefly survey some of the consequent challenges that confront us. These include: still increasing human numbers, mainly in dense urban aggregates (whose slums differ in many important ways from those of the West’s 19th century industrialization); the emergence of new diseases (witness HIV/AIDS); how to manage increasing demands for energy, when today’s input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are already changing the global climate in serious ways: and the sustainable and equitable production and delivery of food, when the Green Revolution already is plateauing and 29 countries with half a billion people already have insufficient water for agricultural and other uses (with these numbers set to rise to more than 50 countries with roughly three billion people by 2020).