A third of Thailand is under water. Epic floods have taken people's lives, destroyed businesses and crops, and are now sweeping into Bangkok.
As the capital braces itself, some people are beginning to point fingers at various culprits: the unusually heavy rains possibly linked to climate change, ineffective communications within government, and poor infrastructure decisions.
Population growth, however, is not the biggest skeleton in the closet when it comes to our planet's ability to absorb human impact. Far more damaging than the booming birth rate in low income countries are the resource-intensive lifestyles of the global rich and middle class.
Conditions are changing in our world. Some are feeling the
impact now, from the heat wave and wildfires in Russia of the last two years,
the devastating floods in Pakistan and Australia, tornadoes in the United States,
mudslides in Brazil, drought in China. Others are worrying about the impacts to
come: the tea growers in Kenya’s highlands who are seeing cases of malaria they didn’t see
only five years ago; the cocoa farmers in Ghana who think about how changes in rainfall will
affect their sensitive crops; the rice farmers in Vietnam who are increasingly concerned about
rising water levels.
Can the current food production system feed a growing population in a changing climate while sustaining ecosystems? The answer is an emphatic “no.”
A new approach is imperative and overdue, one in which the world feeds more people—an estimated 9 billion by 2050—with less ecological impact. To be successful, this new approach must address both how we produce and how we use food.
This post was written with James Anderson, Communications Coordinator at the World Resources Institute.
“This is unprecedented fire behavior. We’ve never seen conditions like this before. Not a single one of our firefighters has ever faced such extreme conditions.”
This statement from the director of the Texas Forest Service makes it clear that the recent wildfires that scorched Texas belong in a new category of disaster. Already, the state’s wildfires this season have consumed 3.6 million acres (an area the size of Connecticut), swallowed over 1,500 homes, and killed at least four people. According to NOAA, the current wildfire is costing more than $1 million per day and exceeds $5 billion in overall damages across the Southwest. These are costs that will be borne by government, business and residents, alike.