With the increasing world population, and the substantial environmental changes that will result from a warming planet, protection of the Earth’s natural resources will become even more essential to survival of both poor and wealthy nations.
Although the birth rate of the U.S. and other developed nations is falling, the population of developing nations is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth. At the same time, the climate is changing to the extent that large areas of the planet will be unable to grow enough food for their people due to extreme heat, droughts, torrential downpours and other weather disasters.
Peoples in many areas of the world are already fiercely competing for resources that produce food and provide employment. Competition over natural resources has helped fuel armed conflict in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central America.
As the struggle over resources intensifies, there will be massive movements of population out of conflict and poverty zones toward areas where food and peace appear to exist. The number of desperate families fleeing the poverty and violence in Central American countries in hope of finding asylum in the United States will only increase. We have seen the same thing happen in Europe as refugees flee violence and starvation in Africa and the Middle East.
The situation will only get worse, probably much worse, if governments do not take action to reduce population growth and greatly improve conservation and protection of natural resources. The developed nations, particularly the United States, must work proactively with the developing countries to support better protection of their soil and water resources to help feed their people. Along with advice, the effort will require significant financial investment.
The U.S. has had some success with family planning advice and assistance in poor nations, but recent restrictions have hindered those programs. We need to eliminate the red tape and invest more in these efforts. Populations that grow beyond sustainable levels only add to the growing resource crisis.
We must double our efforts to educate and support local leaders in resource conservation programs–protecting soils from erosion, adapting to dry-climate food crops, conserving and enhancing water supplies for both agricultural and culinary uses, development of domestic fish production capacity and the like.
Congress will need to provide the funds to implement resource conservation programs in those areas where governments will actually invest the monies in high-impact grass-roots programs. Controls need to be in place to prevent corrupt leaders from skimming off funds meant to prevent starvation.
Only a tiny fraction of the federal budget goes toward resource conservation programs in food-short nations. But Pentagon planners foresee a serious security threat to the U.S., as well as other developed countries, from spillover of armed conflict over resources and mass migrations fueled by starved populations.
A modest investment in efforts to reduce the growth rate of populations competing for diminishing natural resources will pay for itself many times over in future years–less starvation, reduction in desperate fighting over resource bases, fewer mass migrations. Our national security depends on it.