The Role Of Technology And Science In Population Growth

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Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, world population increased exponentially in accordance to immigration, technological advances that improved quality of life as well as elongated lifespans, and exponential growth in food production productivity. These factors have created persistent population growth even as mortality and fertility rates decrease. In the United States alone, through demographic transition, there has been ascending growth as family size decreases. However, surging problems have aroused in accordance to sustainability in relationship to quality of life. Human behavior, reproduction, the population’s continuous growth rate, and immigration are key influencers of population change around the world and specifically in the United States. The effects of perpetual population growth yield immense strain onto agriculture/food production. Sustainability or extinction can become either one of the possible outcomes for persistent population growth in relation to food production within the United States. In order to be possible, major population adjustments, changes in human behavior, innovations in technology, as well as policy alterations will need to be introduced to provide enough supply to meet the United States’ developing population needs. Can U.S. food production keep up with U.S. population growth?

As the population of the world, the whole number of humans on Earth, has continually increased, growth rates have both declined and increased over the course of the United States’ history. Fertility rates, defined as the number of births that occur to an individual/population, examine one aspect of growth and trend of populations. Another factor that illustrates the change of population is the population growth rate, known as the percent of growth in a population; along with crude birth rate which shows the amount of births per thousand people in a year. Opposingly, the crude death rate depicts the amount of deaths per thousand people in a given year. With these rates in mind, construction of United States’ population is possible to be known statically and accounted for. The current population of the United States today is around 329 million. While still being a low producing, continually growing population, the population growth rate has been estimated at: “0.62 percent this is the lowest registered population growth rate in the past 80 years. While the nation’s growth rate has varied through wars, economic upheavals, baby booms, and baby busts, the current rate reflects a further dip in a trend toward a lower level of growth.” (Frey, 2018). Factors within the time span from 1950 to the early 2000s have shaped new generations and ideals of family size. Not only has the spread of accessible contraception and free education decreased family size, it has also affected the when people are beginning to have children. Fertility is determined by social, environmental, and demographic factors. The current U.S fertility rates is below replacement level fertility; on average a woman will currently have 1.73 kids in her lifetime. At replacement level, specifically within the United States, a woman will have 2.08 children in order for the population to reproduce itself. However, as of today women have been putting off starting families as a result of an increase in women in professional work as well as a rise in accessible contraceptives. “Based on Data from Center of Disease Control showed that America’s 3,853,472 births in 2017 has been the lowest since 1987. Furthermore, illustrating how the United States is now further away from a viable replacement.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Yet, even with the United States’ population growth rate under replacement level fertility, the population is still projected to reach around 78 million people before 2060. Another factor of continually increasing growth, population momentum, accounts for the increasing level of population as a population that is growing will continue to grow for several generations after reaching replacement level fertility. Living in a time of a post-industrialist society, innovations have been met that have contributed to the older population of the United States. Growth has been increasing due to the falling mortality rates and the decreasing fertility rates as the age structure of the population begins to house greater numbers of older ages rather than younger ages. Even as growth begins to slow, it remains to be expanding at unprecedented rates.

Within the U.S. alone, the agriculture produced is extremely diverse and readily available. Over the past one year, the United States has grown from shipping $139.5 billion in agricultural products to $141 billion (Bureau of Global Public Affairs, 2018). Due to the diversified high-quality products of American farmers, exports have become increasingly sought after. The top five U.S. agricultural exports are soybeans, corn, tree nuts, beef, and cotton. The U.S. food supply’s quality and variety represents the efficiency and diversity of the whole agricultural sector. Consumption patterns of Americans has created contributing factors to how food is expended as well as wasted. “In 2010, the U.S. food supply provided 4,000 calories per person per day. Accounting for waste, the average American consumed 2,476 calories per day in 2010.” (University of Michigan SES, 2017). Based on the calculated depictions by the University of Michigan, around 38 percent of calories are wasted due to transportation limits or even simply due to unused food. “An estimated 21 percent of the edible food is wasted at the consumer level, 50 percent more than in 1970. This waste accounts for roughly 15 percent of the municipal solid waste stream and represents a loss of $450 per person each year.” (University of Michigan SES, 2017). With the trends of waste in mind, American consumer’s waste greatly affects production levels as well as energy use in order to produce this food that will eventually be wasted. Within the current U.S. food system constructed, the food supply chain is a conglomerate as the basic framework of transporting farm to table food has many variables and depends on independent stages of processing and shipping. A combination of decreasing food production in conjunction with increasing food waste has impacted the sustainability of the food system. In order to keep up with the development of population and produce more food with changes in demographics and environment, the United States will have to adopt progressively effective and maintainable generation techniques and adjust to environmental change.

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As it has been shown, the population in relationship to its exponential increase regardless of slowing growth rate, greatly affects the proportion in which crops are grown as well as harms production possibilities. “By 2050 the world demand for food is expected to increase by 60 percent.” (Maxwell, 2019). Population growth creates the issue of more Americans to feed in greater rates, meaning a greater production of agriculture, that will in-turn create the increased requirement for the utilization of arable lands. Specifically, within the United States, the population will double to almost more than 500 million people within the century. “Humans are producing more food than ever, but land degradation is already harming agricultural productivity on 23 percent of the planet’s land area. The decline of wild bees and other insects that help pollinate fruits and vegetables is putting up to $577 billion in annual crop production at risk.” (Plumer, 2019). As time has passed, humans have become more egotistical as well as self-serving without regards to what their impacts have specifically on the environment and in what sense how incredulous populations strain resources. The American population has allowed capitalistic perspectives of market goods translate into their lives. “Human behavior is often affected by culture. Because North American culture is largely materialistic and anthropocentric, attempts to demonstrate the value of biodiversity have centered on direct or indirect benefits to humans.” (Gehrt, 1996 p.10). America’s culture, while it contributes to a large consumer economy, negatively contributes to production and utilization of resources as the lax attitude towards environmental resources plagues conservation efforts. Another impact of American population can be seen: “conversion of natural areas to agricultural use is the leading cause of forest loss globally. Moreover, human vacillation between complacency and concern in response to perceived resource availability can threaten the viability of long-term conservation and keep the human-environment system perpetually in the vicinity of a dangerous tipping point” (Bauch, Anan, Singer, & Levin, 2016). With increases in population size, less availability of arable lands for food production will be able to be used, creating a disequilibrium to the amount of people the United States agriculture will be able to support. Current growth rates predict an unsustainable course for the resource provisions set. More people within the United States equates to more space taken up for habitation rather than production, limiting the amount of agricultural production and sufficient lands that could be utilized for things that could aid in provision rather than above average sized homes. While almost the entire world population could fit within the state of Texas, Americans favor dispersed housing and consumerism-based societies that persuade the ideas of large houses for small family sizes.

In accordance to America’s population growth and its harms to production, the environmental factors are causes for concern of unsuitability to support future society. The small portion of rural society within the United States has been consistently influenced by global warming and changes in climate. Anticipated changes in climate and weather patterns have evolved American agricultural production, yet the ability to produce/keep-up with negative impacts by humans on the environment has proved difficult. “On-going soil erosion and expanding urbanization contribute to the continuous loss of cropland in the United States. Annually more than two million acres of prime cropland are lost to erosion, salinization, and waterlogging” (Pimentel, 1994). The demands of urbanized and capitalistic societies are creating a shortage of farmland. Not only do erosion and land degradation affect the production of food, but climate change increasingly threatens efficiency/productivity as well. In 2050, the average global temperature is predicted to rise up five degrees yielding decreases in productivity of agricultural and meat production. (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). Another influencer of environmental unsustainability in relationship to human’s capitalistic nature is technology. Technology allows a certain level of leniency in regard to how American’s view the environment and the effects they have upon it. “Humanity’s technological capacity to exploit nature now exceeds nature’s regenerative capacity. Humans tend to use up available resources, a trait that is constantly enhanced by evolving technology” (Rees, 2010). Due to innovations in technology, indifference and negligence towards the well-being of the environment has increased because of American’s disregard. Water sources also play a larger role in association to carrying capacity consequences. “7 percent of the world’s population live in areas where water is scarce and is predicted to rise 67 percent by 2050” (Wallace, 2000). A combination of factors contributes to the deterioration of value of the environment. Along with movement of population to non-rural areas, there have become significant demands for increase infrastructure to house. “Urban-based and international demands for agricultural products are recognized as drivers of deforestation. The strong trend in movement of people to cities in the tropics is associated with greater pressures for clearing tropical forests” (Defries, Rudel, Uriarte, & Hansen, 2010). This increase in rural to urban movement associates human’s ecological footprint to forest-loss and the destruction of natural lands that could be used for alleviating the pressures of producing enough food per person.

Estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United States food production levels will need to increase around 70 percent in order to meet the capacity of a growing population. The likely effects of climate change and global warming are meant to reduce food production productivity/efficiency. Effects of American’s activity and (in correlation with how many there are and the nation’s economic activity) has had progressively negative impacts on the environment. “Today, humans are relying on significantly fewer varieties of plants and animals to produce food. Of the 6,190 domesticated mammal breeds used in agriculture, more than 559 have gone extinct and 1,000 more are threatened. The food system is becoming less resilient against pests and diseases” (Plumer, 2019). However, in order to produce sufficient levels of food for the growing United States population, changes in human behavior, innovations and technology, and policy adjustments will have to be enacted. “To meet the expected food needs on a sustainable basis: increased investment in research and development for sustained productivity growth, and infrastructure institutional reforms” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018). Innovation has the potential for expanding the advantages that we get from nature. Assets can be utilized all the more productively; contamination can be diminished and controlled; exhausted fish stocks or farmlands can be restored. Based on projections calculated by the United Nations, increasing levels of population within the United States can be met with enough food production. In order to reach desired levels/boost output, there would have to implement soil tillage, economical fertilizer use, and conservation of water resources. A policy adjustment, recently made into law, signed by the current president Donald Trump, known as the 2018 Farm Bill, set aside billions of dollars in order to allocate investments for the specific purposes of reforming and continuing of agricultural programs that will enable research abilities to progress and conservation efforts to be even more effective. Another factor of food production that would enable a leniency in producing more food to feed the growing population is it create goals to reduce food loss/waste. Between 30 percent to 40 percent of United States’ food supply is wasted. “At the consumer and retail levels 31 percent of the food supply became food loss and waste, equaling 133 billion pounds and almost $162 billion” (United States Department of Agriculture, 2010). Due to the complex food chain/supply system, food is lost at almost every stage (from spoilage, transporting, damage by insects/weather). Food waste is a great detriment to the availability of food and holds a great value of produce that could otherwise be resourced effectively allowing to bridge the gap between increasing food production. Healthy foods that could have helped feed families is most often sent to landfills. Land and water are utilized mostly in processing, shipping, and transporting instead of being allocated to source other means of productions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the United Sates Department of Agriculture, has set a goal to cut the nation’s food waste in half by 2030. Another significant issue that decreases food production capabilities is deforestation. In order to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and halt inevitable damages to biodiversity, “farmers need to commit to deforestation-free supply chains.” (Elferink and Schierhron, 2017). Many factors in producing, harvesting, transporting, and even growing agriculture leads to the erosion of arable lands and deforestation to clear more pastures for farm animals. Introducing an operation known as “sustainable intensification” will allow farmers to incorporate methods that will bolster crop production while decrease negative impacts on the environment. While the inevitable reduction in farmland requires the improvement in productivity and efficiency of pre-existing farms, the ability to bolster production of crop harvests in pre-existing lands will allow for a portion of sustainability of the expanding American population. Both the profitability and productivity of existing farms will need to improve altogether. Unquestionably innovation will continue on based on the principal “necessity is the mother of invention.” Incorporating methods of chemical fertilization, mechanizations of efficiency, and allocation of resources more effectively will allow for the intensification of sustainable agriculture become a reality.

Over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first century, technology and agricultural intensification has led the rapid increase in population size of the United States. With the exponential increase of population in the U.S., techniques of proficient production diversified in order to support humans. While decreases in mortality and fertility rates have decreased and slowed the growth of the current United States population, the number continues to rise as demand for more food produced efficiently is required to meet the needs of the American people. Not only has population growth within the United States affected demand of food, it has affected the ability and system to which food is able to be produced. Growing of the American population has harmed agricultural production in aspects of reducing arable land for farming as well as leaving behind human’s carbon footprint, affecting the environment through increases in pollution and urbanization of societies leading to deforestation and increases in carbon dioxide levels. The ability to reach a sustainable future for the United States’ increasing population is possible as intensification of agriculture and reallocation of funding/food will enable production facilitation to meet carrying capacity. Yet, with changes in human behavior from self-serving mindsets to those that include the welfare of others, policy adjustments, and finally innovations within technological aspects, U.S. food production will account for the mass population growth.

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