As the world changes inevitably we will face new challenges, but will these challenges be met with invention and ingenuity or fear and despair? And as we look into the future at the things that can go wrong, will we be paralyzed or use the opportunity of a future quite different to make a world better than what we have now? Futurists have taken a grim look at climate change and its effects on our lives and it seems each voice serves only to beat us with grim reminders of how much we must all give up. But could these same challenges make life easier for all humanity?
Patrick Dixon is an author and futurist who has gotten some attention recently over his prediction that the world’s water supplies will grow so scarce that wars could in theory break out over the precious resource. Water is needed in all avenues of life for drinking, agriculture, industry, and even personal hygiene. Without it our society and even the human race would grind to a halt within days. And with a massive water shortage compounding each year alongside water increased demand for it there seems to be a massive need for clean drinking water. But will the conflict eventually become so great that countries will actually go to war over it?
It is always the job of futurists to study every aspect of current trends and apply them to a theoretical model of the future. In this way Dixon has taken the current trend of water shortages and then applied them in greater extremes to future projected population growth. And he is certainly not alone in the field of futurists predicting resource wars over water. With climate change and threats of tainted water supplies there does seem to be a case for future supplies becoming more dangerously low. So low, in fact, that prices could surpass $20 per gallon in some areas during crisis events. And if the American Midwest continues to get hotter each year the most comfortably habitable zone may move North to Canada effectively making it a global superpower according to Laurence C. Smith’s book “The World in 2050.” The US, by comparison could become far hotter and less habitable in desert areas.
So what would we get in a scorched Earth such as those predicted by climate futurists? For one thing, agriculture in places such as Florida would become much more difficult as balmy weather migrated up from the equator. Mountain regions may accumulate less rain water as droughts drive the cost of even the most basic foods up. And surprisingly the cost of food would be most hard hit in the meat industry.
Believe it or not, most grain is not actually consumed by the cattle industry. A single pound of meat is equivalent to sixteen pounds of meat as this is the amount the cow must eat from birth to death. If cows were perfect machines for producing meat rather than actual living beings would be roughly three pounds of silage for each pound of meat not counting other minerals and things that must also be consumed. This silage comes from crops that must be grown using crops. A reliable estimate from writer John Robbins suggests that each pound of beef requires some 2,500 gallons of water including water that must be used to grow the crops themselves.
My personal prediction is that there will be an economic struggle between the cattle industry and the water industry for the creation of meat. Regardless of whether our nation becomes less meat reliant may rely both on the efficiency by which water can be used and its availability. It seems likely this would happen long before the alleged water wars.