Part 2

What you get when you combine near future population growth with current human behavior

The research for this part 2 started again on the website Our World in Data. The main part of information comes from three sources: “Meat and Dairy Production” by Ritchie, Rosado, Roser 2019; “Land Use” by Ritchie, Roser, 2019; Environmental Impacts of Food Production”, Ritchie, Roser, 2019. Other sources are the Earth Overshoot Day website, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources website and Global Footprint Network.

People want protein.

Meat consumption increases as living standard increases. One of the strongest factors to determine how much meat people eat is how much money they have.  “This is a so-called strong positive relationship: the richer a country is, the more meat the average person typically eats”(Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). In 2014 the average person in the world consumed around 43 kilograms of meat. At the top of the list are the high-income countries, number one is Australia with an average meat consumption of 116 kilogram per person. The United States of America are second place with 110 kilogram. The bottom of the list is taken by India with an average meat consumption of 5 kilogram per person. Meat has become an important source of nutrition for many people, “Big Macs”, “Chicken Wings” and ”Spare Ribs” are all over the place. Global demand for meat is growing, over the past 60 years meat production has increased 4-fold. The world population number 60 years ago was 3.12 billion. Today, according to the news channels on November 15th, the 8 billion was reached. To conclude this section: in the last 60 years the world population more than doubled, meat production quadrupled.

People want protein.

”World milk and dairy production is almost entirely derived from cattle, goats, sheep, buffaloes and camels”(Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). In developed countries almost all milk and dairy is produced by cattle. In recent decades developing countries have increased their share in production, by a substantial increase of producing animals. The demand for milk and dairy is rising with the increase of living standard. It’s the same phenomenon as meat demand, richer countries tend to consume more milk and dairy per person. Worldwide milk and dairy production increased 59% over the last 30 years.

People want protein.

“Livestock counts are measured as the number of live animals at a single point in any given year”( Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). So, the following numbers of producing animals are always present at any moment, on this planet, you can say “24/7”. As a result of the growing demand of meat, milk and dairy the global number of cattle, on this planet today, has reached the 1 billion. This number will increase in the near future, due to growing demand of protein only. Even if the global human population would have stopped growing today; and in a non-existent scenario would stay at 8 billion; demand and production of meat, milk and diary will increase. As the number of producing animals will increase. If you think this number of 1 billion is impressive, remember cattle is just one of many sources of production. Two other sources that are estimated are goat and sheep. I did not expect they would be present in the same amount, but they do actually. The estimated global number of goat, as well as sheep, is also 1 billion. So we already reached 3 billion producing animals with cattle, goat and sheep only. Consider this number to be growing substantially, due to increasing demand and a substantially growing human global population in the near future. And the really big numbers are still to come.

I once saw on BBC, the “national” broadcasting company in the United Kingdom, a program featuring Adeel Akhtar. He is a, born in London, major actor who won the British Academy Television Award in 2017. If you see him for the first time, like I did, you would think he is born in India. He certainly looks that way and also has the typical Indian/English accent. In this program he was looking at a group of men behaving stupid. Not just a bit stupid; behaving stupid beyond imagination, behaving outrageously insane. He looked at them, kept his face without any expression, looked straight in the camera and said: “That is mental”.

Looking at our planet’s surface can provide a way to look at humanity’s demand for protein from a different perspective. Earth surface consists of 71% salt water and 29% land surface. This 29% of the planet is called global land, and is measured as 149 million square kilometers. Of this global land 29% is unhabitable, not suitable for human purposes. Think of deserts, mountains, dry salt flats, beaches, glaciers and sand dunes. All other land surface is what is called habitable land. So, the land surface suitable for human purposes is measured as 106 million square kilometers. A much smaller share than you would expect, just 1%, is what humankind uses to live, have children, sleep, work and move around. Yes, I was surprised too. Just 1% is “built up urban area which includes cities, towns, villages and all other human infrastructure”(Land Use, Ritchie, Roser, 2019).The demand for protein is a quite different matter. Half of all habitable land surface on our planet is used for agriculture.

Although I have been in the United Kingdom many times I never heard the phrase used by Adeel Akhtar. When I heard it the first time I did not understand it, but instead I couldn’t stop laughing and laughing. So maybe I did understand without knowing why. After some research, I understood it is a commonly used phrase in the United Kingdom. Looking in the dictionary there are several meanings of the word mental. Mental means relating to the state of health of a person’s mind. Or relating to the process of thinking. According to the dictionary: if you say that someone is mental, you think they are mad. It is a modern substitute with the older phrase: “daft as a brush”, which means behaving very silly. It is a better phrase for today, because “silly” is an understatement for the behavior of several people I can think of, and maybe for the behavior of human kind in general today.

Returning to the planet’s surface, again the mathematics is easy. Humankind uses 1.5 million square kilometers to live, work, sleep and move around. That is roughly the size of a large country. “Total built-up land (villages, towns, cities and infrastructure) would fit nicely into an area the size of Libya”(Land Use, Ritchie, Roser, 2019). To feed humankind you will need a surface that has quite a different size. Agriculture needs a stunning 51 million square kilometers. That is a size 34 times bigger than the surface humankind needs to live on. “The land surface allocated to livestock, either in the form of grazing land or cropland used for animal feed”(Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019), accounts to 37 million square kilometers. Humans need the size of Libya to live on. For their protein producing animals, humans need the land surface of two continents: North and South America combined. That is mental.

People want protein.

Global meat demand and production increased more than 4-fold since 1961. In 1961 the major part, 45% of global meat production came from North America. Second place was Europe with 25%. In 1961 Asia produced only 12% of global meat. In 2013 this situation was reversed. “Production increases in Asia have been staggering: meat production  has increased  15- fold over this period”(Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). North America has fallen to 15%, Europe to 19% of global meat production. “In other regions meat production increased substantial, growing more than 5-fold”(Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). Including substantial increases of producing animals.  Pig meat has always been, and is still very popular. Of global meat production the share of pig meat is around 35 to 40%, and remained the same over 60 years. The share of other meat types, the share of different producing animals, also changed significantly. In 1961 the major part of produced meat came from cattle and buffalo, 44% of global meat. Poultry; any animal that has wings; was a much smaller source at 12%. Again, in 2013 this situation was reversed. The share of meat from cattle and buffalo decreased to 22%. In 60 years the share of poultry meat tripled to 35% of global meat production. Looking at all these changes, numbers and percentages, please remember that the total global meat production increased more than 4-fold since 1961. And that brings us to the big numbers. “In 2018 humankind consumed an estimated 69 billion chickens; 1.5 billion pigs; 656 million turkeys; 574 million sheep; 479 million goats and 362 million cattle”(Global Meat and Dairy Production, Ritchie, Rosado, Roser, 2019). These numbers do not include producing animals for milk and dairy. These numbers are only the “top 6” of meat producing animals; in reality there are a lot more producing animals than this “short list” of the biggest numbers. Global human population amounts to 8 billion today. It is safe to say humans use more than a 10-fold of their own population number in protein producing animals. That is over 80 billion producing animals for wanting protein; every year. And that is Mental with a capital M.

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