Once again, Malthusian famine and thirst have been forecast – and failed to materialize.
Twenty years ago, Professor John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, warned of a looming crisis: The world would run out of food, fuel and water by 2030. The primary cause of this ‘Perfect Storm’ was cited as population growth.
Was this a storm in a teacup, or did the warning itself avert the crisis? Over the last two decades there has been so much innovation on so many fronts, it’s impossible to say. Certainly population and urbanization have had a significant impact, but people have again proved to be ultra-resourceful in times of need.
Climate change also weighed heavily in Beddington’s stormy scenario. While there is little man can do to alter the course of nature, it seems our efforts to reduce the impact of the ‘energy economy’ on climate is slowly bearing fruit. At least we’ve learned to mitigate global warming, even if it’s at the eleventh hour.
Perhaps the most astounding is the way the world has tapped new energy sources, and adapted lifestyles to a more consciously green approach. Even birth rates are declining in the face of regional maturity and improving living standards.
Indeed, that’s where the solution ultimately lies. We are so good at learning, adapting and innovating that our success as a species is assured. After all, that’s evolution, isn’t it?
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Where will you hide from the storm?
If the perfect storm is coming, should you run and hide? Not at all. We believe that, with understanding, you can design and create your future.
Future-thinking executives plan for future scenarios, and crises of demand create opportunities for exploitation.
2009: The coming storm
John Beddington, scientific advisor to the UK government, predicts a ‘Perfect Storm’ of global shortages of food, energy and water.
2012: Hydroponic farming and genetics
China’s program to address food shortages with hydroponics, urban cultivation, and genetically modified crops produces good results. Suddenly they are exporting surplus food, instead of merely meeting domestic demand.
2017: Fusion power makes strides
Fusion power is finally coming into the commercial arena. Breakthroughs at the National Ignition Facility provide a roadmap for generating energy from laser-controlled fusion reactions.
2019: Solar power shines
Advances in nanotech solar panels have reduced the cost of electricity from photovoltaic circuits to levels that compete with coal-fired power stations. Desert areas become significant energy producers.
2021: Oil is a renewable resource
Biofuels have changed the face of the oil industry. At least a third of liquid fuels are now produced by synthetic processes from organic feedstocks. As the vast majority of these are not edible crops, competition with food is avoided.
2024: Energy for water
The abundance of electrical energy from solar and fusion power provides ‘water-stressed’ regions with desalination solutions. Fuel cells produce synthetic water as a by-product. Nanotech membranes make water purification a simple process.
2027: Geo-engineering slows climate change
Forests of artificial trees, CO2 scrubbers, and innovative building designs have an impact on greenhouse gasses. While we have not yet achieved the ideal of zero emissions, great strides have been made in reducing the effect of human activity on global warming.
2029: The storm abates
We have averted the perfect storm; rising to the challenge, exploiting opportunities of excess demand, and improving the planet’s structures. We are survivors, and innovative ones at that.