We Are Living Longer and Eating More

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People worldwide are, in general, living longer and consuming more calories than their relatives did, according to an extensive new Royal Society report entitled "People and the Planet."

In terms of aging, the report documents that in 1950, 5 percent of the entire human population was 65 and above. In 2010 it reached 9 precent. By 2050, it is expected to be 20 percent, or almost 2 billion people. In the U.K. alone, the percentage of the population that is over 65 is predicted to rise from 16 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2050.

Most of us are consuming more calories as well.

Globally, average calorie consumption increased by approximately 15 percent between 1969 and 2005, according to the report. I'm guessing that percentage is still on the rise since 2005.

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The calories are not equally distributed, however. While the overall data shows a rise, the report also reveals that, in 2010, close to one billion people did not receive enough calories to reach their minimum dietary energy requirements

The inequality also applies to water consumption.

The report mentions that a child from the developed world consumes 30-50 times as much water as one from the developing world and it is now estimated that by 2025, 1,800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.

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Other findings:

  • The annual increase in numbers of the world’s population peaked in the 1990s and the rate of population growth has been declining since the mid 1960s.  Continued global population growth is inevitable for the next few decades but is not inevitable in the longer term.
  • Between 2010 and 2050, it is projected that global population will add 2.3 billion people and become predominantly urban. 
  • Energy:  Utilising COemissions as a measure of energy consumption, per capita CO2 emissions are up to 50 times higher in high income than low income countries, with energy insufficiency a major component of poverty.

Sir John Sulston, fellow of the Royal Society and chair of the report working group, was quoted in a press release as saying, “Ultimately, we should all strive for a world in which every individual has an opportunity to flourish. Science can help us to achieve this goal, not only by developing practical solutions that improve our health and living standards and optimise our use of resources, but also by identifying potential problems, such as emerging diseases or the impact of greenhouse gases."

"However," he concluded, "science is not a panacea and scientists alone cannot solve the challenges we now face. Humanity must now act collectively and constructively if we are to face the future with confidence.”

Sulston will present key findings of the report to delegations from United Nations Member States in New York on May 1. You can download a full copy of the report and learn more about it online at this Royal Society page.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons image

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