7 Billion – an Inconvenient Truth

On or about today, Halloween, the world is expected to surpass 7 Billion human inhabitants. That is, plus or minus 56 million. Based on estimates from the United Nations, October 31st lies in the middle of a 12-month margin of uncertainty, wherein is is highly likely that more than 7,000,000,000 people will simultaneously be alive on this world. While babies being born today are being claimed to be the 7 billionth baby, and statisticians quibble about our lack of an accurate count of the human population and its growth rate, there’s no better day than today to stop and recognize that the human population is indeed growing. This has enormous implications for geo-politics, resource management, social studies, and of course, agriculture.

In the realm of food politics we hear claims that genetic engineering is ‘the solution‘ to world food problems, or that we just need more food per acre. We also hear that it is all about distribution or diet, and that we do not need more food to feed these people. The fact is that both of these dichotomous views are wrong. The task of adequately and consciously feeding, clothing, employing, and protecting 7 Billion people will take all of these things, and a lot more. About a month ago I watched this video created by the University of Minnesota’s Institute for the Environment – and I think it is the best video I have ever seen that sums it up. Watch it.

The Inconvenient Truth is not only that we have this huge task ahead of us, but that many of the people we need to come together to do this would rather bicker about petty political differences. Now how do we get all those people at the table without chucking food at each other?

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Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.