World Meters – Population

Its simple mathematics (part 1): subject – multiplication & the population

Direct from Ecoprofit Management newsletter: Recently I had cause to travel from my home in the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) to Perth on the other side of Australia. It was the trains, planes and shuttle bus thing. On the way back passengers have the option to catch the redeye flight, an overnight flight. I chose that option.

While I waited in the Perth Airport terminal I had time to kill. Out came the laptop. For some odd reason I decided to look up the estimated world population at that time on www.worldometers.com. At 7pm (Perth time) the website showed the total as 7,223,729,300 people. After that I did the emails response/catch-up thing and before I knew it, it was time to board my flight.

Observing the passengers as they waited at the baggage return once we arrived in Sydney, I was able to confirm that the person who came up with the nickname redeye wasn’t a creative genius. No doubt too, others were looking at me and going, wow that guy needs a sleep bad.

Anyhow, I was so glad to get home to my family and before I knew it, it was Saturday. At 10pm on that night I had a sudden thought: its 72 hours since I looked up the world population at the Perth airport terminal. Why don’t I look up how much it is now? I was shocked. The number of people on the earth, after allowing for deaths was 7,224,384,300.

That’s a 655,000 net increase in human beings in three days.

My first thoughts were: how many people are aware of the rate of increase in the human population? It works out to an 80 million per annum increase.

This thought reminded me of Paul and Anne Ehlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb that predicted mass starvation events in the 1970’s and 80’s as a result of the inability of agricultural output to match the predicted population explosion. The book content was essentially an extension on Malthusian Theory.

The Ehlichs were incorrect in the timing of their forecast, but their prediction has every chance of coming true, with the population expected to rise to 10 billion by 2062, and especially when the spectre of the fall-out from global warming is thrown into the mix.

The irony of flooding rain and a sunburnt country

The irony of flooding rain and a sunburnt country. Most recently, floods hurt the Australian eastern states, and a matter of weeks before by devastating fires. This is focusing on the thought – Maybe climate change is closer than we think.

The ABC reporter Tracy Hutchison, on Monday 4 February 2013, made a comparison of Australia facing another summer of floods, and that we are not alone. She centred her story on how Indonesia’s capital grappled with a watery chaos and Beijing being brought to a choking halt by smog. Her point being “Australia’s recent re-acquaintance with devastating flooding in Queensland and northern NSW this summer has been another sobering reminder of the climatic shape-shifting wreaking havoc with lives and livelihoods across the country. 

Yes, Dorothea Mackellar might well have written of droughts and flooding rains in the early 1900s (while homesick for Australia as a teenager in England), but you’d be hard-pressed to find much wistful fondness among the many farmers who have watched livestock, equipment and expanses of primary produce wash away their livelihoods for the second time in two years. 

For many of these much-heralded ‘country folk’, the financial and emotional struggle of staying on the land will be too much; they’ve said as much in shocked-filled resignation as the water came back too soon. 

Watching on, from the fire-prone drier states, the unspoken narrative is screaming; where will these people go? What will they do for a living? And who will grow the food they were growing for both domestic and export markets?”

In another irony, the current Queensland Government did not see anything other than a cost/benefit analysis being required to manage the environment. Because of the events the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is now considering the cost of the climatic events and it is hard to find a benefit calculation other than the need for a capital injection might have to come from public funds to mitigate the damage. One such project would be that some flood-prone residential areas in Queensland could be relocated “to avoid what looks increasingly like the recurring reality of extreme flooding”.

Another pair of ABC reporters, John Morrison & Kerrin Thomas, also on 4 Feb 2013 said New South Wales Premier, Barry O’Farrell, “says his visit to flood-affected regions on the North Coast has reminded him of his visit to Moree around the same time last year. 

Moree was flooded almost exactly one year ago, as floodwaters travelled downstream from Queensland. 

Barry O’Farrell told ABC’s Statewide Drive program the conditions in Grafton this year are very similar to those in Moree 12 months ago”. To paraphrase BOF’s (Premier Barry O’Farrell – we kid you not, it is a published acronym for his name) point is that the city dwellers think it is unusual and the country folk do not.  Too right mate it is bloody heart breaking for country folk, if you did not know!

The reality is what the city dweller is now able to see change, and the statement of BOF of “unusual” is losing credence as the numbers keep stacking up that something is wrong, and climate related events are becoming more extreme and records are being broken nudging the entire population to think again about climate change.

The point is made again: It is not just Australia that is affected, in Jakarta right now, where record flooding has swamped the CBD for the first time in history. As in Queensland (suggested by the Premier Campbell Newman) there is increasing talk that relocating the Indonesian capital is the only feasible solution to an escalating problem. The ABC reporter Tracy Hutchison said, “Jakarta is sinking. Literally. Years and years of unregulated private water-bores has drained the city’s below-sea-level water table dry. The record rain, coupled with an underdeveloped drainage system and the penchant of Jakartans to use the city’s waterways as rubbish dumps, brought this city of 20-odd million to a standstill of a different kind…. Australians remember the massive economic and political impact when Brisbane flooded two year ago – the disruption and cost to business, the national flood levy, the daily Bligh/Newman media show, the rebuild…..The implications of a non-functioning Jakarta are immense and wide-ranging both for Indonesia and the region. But this is the reality…And while the Indonesian capital grappled with a watery chaos, further north a different kind of stultification was engulfing the Chinese capital. The soupy and toxic coal-fuelled smog that has descended across northern China sent monitoring devices off the scale in Beijing. 

Hospitals recorded a 30 per cent increase in admissions for respiratory-related illnesses and residents were ordered to stay indoors as state-run manufacturing was put on the kind of state-instructed ‘go-slow’ not seen since the Blue Sky policies of the Beijing Olympic preparations….There is something darkly delicious about China’s state-run manufacturing boom on a state-imposed go-slow because Beijing’s middle class, the beneficiaries of the boom, can’t breathe. It’s a vexing Catch-22 for China’s new leadership – how to keep a slowing economy buoyant but avoid a widespread public health crisis – and a new twist on boom or bust. Not to mention the regional economic implications for trading partners like Australia, whose coal-exporters might possibly be the elephant in the (Beijing hospital) room? 

It doesn’t seem that long ago that “environmental refugees” living on increasingly brackish low-lying Pacific island states of Kiribati and Tuvalu were dismissed as the political fodder of fear-mongering climate change campaigners. Now, sadly, relocations from what were once primary food-producing areas are a new way of life – and it’s not just Kiribatins and Tuvaluans feeling the watery heat. 

Widespread record flooding and deadly landslides have been a common theme across the Pacific this summer – PNG, Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands have all battled extreme weather events from ferocious cyclones and record rains. A 

It used to be that a few thousand people with wet feet in the Pacific never got much traction outside environmental campaigner circles; perhaps this faraway time of a planet impacted by a changing climate might be closer than we think”. 

Tracey Hutchison broadcasts throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific for ABC News Radio and Radio Australia.

Bringing this closer to home in the story “Fitzroy River continues rising amid ‘sea of water’” by Paul Robinson, Monday February 4, 2013 –the story is of central Queensland and the city of Rockhampton where it two has been hit by severe floods in as many years of the Fitzroy reaching up to 9.2m. This height has the potential to cut off the city for as much as two weeks at a time. Flooding also closed the Airport. However the problem for the city is that much of the water coming in also came from further inland, which brings its own problems in terms of trade. And extensive damage to agriculture. 

Quoted is “We’ve seen loss of livestock, there’s tractors that have been washed out of sheds, four-wheelers that are a couple of hundred metres down the paddock, there’s a lot of irrigation gear and pump sheds that have just gone missing, tanks, like a lot of fodder, round bales, small bales and lucerne, all gone,” he said. 

”Tourism hit

A central Queensland tourism body says tourist operators can expect further hits to business as Rockhampton prepares for Saturday’s flood peak. 

Capricorn Enterprise says highways cut by floodwaters severely damage tourism”. Also affected is rail infrastructure and mining activities and it is reported that “rail company Aurizon says coal rail lines to Gladstone could be closed for more than a week…. An Aurizon spokeswoman says crews are still unable to fully assess the situation because the rail line is under water. However, she says at the moment they expect the Moura and Blackwater systems will reopen within seven to 10 days. 

Freight operations along the coast have also been interrupted by flooding of the Queensland Rail network”. 
We should also say roads are also cut or restricted for use at different points too.

CO2Land org thinks maybe BOF had it the wrong way around. Country folk are finding it unusual that 10, 50 and 100 years events are happening, seemingly every 2 years. It is city folk that are tending to think it is normal and even the assistance appeals are failing to reach the targets.  Is it too late, how can we adapt at this rate? What is the cost of taking the high ground!

the trends with small business and on the farm

Wishing to better understand the trends with small business and on the farm, Caring for our Country demonstrates it continues to actively solicit what is happening and is active in keeping our interest. The following is a part of the outreach activity known as BizQuotes and what follows is part of some of information from that unit:

Australian small businesses are among the least optimistic in the Asia-Pacific region – research by accounting firm, CPA Australia, found 60% of Australian companies expect to grow their business in 2013 – Indonesia was leading the way, with 94% of firms expecting their businesses to grow – 14% of the Australian businesses increased their staff numbers in 2012, compared with 61% in Indonesia – 47% of the Australian firms were forced to use a personal credit card to pay for business activities, compared with only 12% – Source: Indonesia Herald Sun 11 Dec 2012.

Recently a group of criminal hackers was successful in 93% of its attempts overseas to infect personal computers – they froze 18,941 PCs with a message demanding over $100 to unlock them – 15% of the victims paid – the group took about $400,000 in the day – even when payment was made, the hackers didn’t unlock the computers. Source: HBR 11 Nov 2012.

Australia is a nation of entrepreneurs, with 1 actively trading business for every 10 people – but small businesses are growing more than 3 times slower than the economy – almost 40% have collapsed in the last 4 years. Source: SmartCompany 13 Dec 2012.

This year’s Australian Innovation System Report suggests innovative firms of all sizes are almost twice as likely to report an increase in productivity compared to those that do not innovate – innovative firms are also 42% more likely to increase profitability, 3 times more likely to export, and 4 times more likely to increase the range of goods or services offered. But the percentage of Australian businesses seeking finance for innovation has declined by 40% since 2006-07 – venture capital and later-stage private equity investment has also declined substantially over the same period. Sourced: SmartCompany 12 Dec 2012.

The ageing agrifood workforce of 880,000 people involved in 180,000 small to medium-sized enterprises also has the potential to benefit from rapid innovations in remote access technology with 57% living in rural areas. Source: SmartCompany 12 Dec 2012.

The Australian wine industry exports around 65% of its production worth about $1.9 billion. Source: PSNews 11 Dec 2012.

Tourism contributed nearly $34 billion (nearly 10% of total export earnings) to Australia’s GDP – it directly employs over 500,000 people. Source: PSNews 11 Dec 2012.

There are 157,000 farmers in Australia – nearly 300 farmers have left the land each month over the past 30 years, partly because young people have been reluctant to take over the family farm – farmer numbers have shrunk by 40% (by 106,000). Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

But the smaller number of farmers who remain produce $32.5 billion in food exports today compared to $8.2 billion 30 years ago – the proportion that have a university education has increased by 600% since 1981. Source: The Australian 12 Dec 2012.

More than 25% of farmers are older than 65 compared with 3% in other occupations – the median age is 53, compared with 40 for other occupations – and the farmer age of 44 in 1981. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

More than 50% of farmers work for more than 49 hours per week compared with only 17% of people in other occupations – but farmers only earn an average disposable income of $568 a week, nearly 40% less than the average of all other jobs. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

55% of agricultural operations are estimated to turn over less than $100,000 a year – only 6% have operations turn over more than $1 million. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

Over the past 50 years improved farming techniques and technologies have helped to significantly increase crop yields along with a 12% expansion of farmed land use – however, with global food production already uses nearly half of the usable land surface, a further increase in land surface may severely impact on the world’s natural ecosystems. The challenge is that an increase in animal-based production will require much greater land – 1 hectare of land can produce enough rice or potatoes to feed 19-22 people per annum – the same area will only produce enough lamb or beef for 1 or 2 people. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

An average of 7-10 calories of energy input is required to produce 1 calorie of food – varying from 3 calories for plant crops to 35 calories for the production of beef. 78% of the world’s agricultural land is already used for animal production and meat consumption is rising per person in many developing nations – only about 3% of the energy consumed by livestock remains in edible animal tissue. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

For every cubic metre of water applied the potato produces 5.60kcal of dietary energy – maize 3.86kcal – wheat 2.3 kcal – rice only 2 kcal. For the same cubic metre of water, the potato yields 150g of protein (double that of wheat and maize) and 540 mg of calcium (double that of wheat and four times that of rice) – overall, 2 kcal is produced per cubic metres of water used on plant-based food and 0.25kcal is produced for meat-based food. About 40% of the world’s food is produced on irrigated land – taking up 17% of agricultural land. A study in the USA on the amount of water used in processing vegetables found that it ranged from 13 – 64 tonnes of water for each tonne of vegetables – in the case of fruits it ranged from 3.5 – 32 tonnes of water. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

Many thanks to Garry Reynolds of Caring for Our Country in Canberra for providing the sourced material

Farm related posts – Production, Landcare, Investments

Farmers make up less than 1% of the Australian population today and feeds 600 people – in 1950, an Australian farmer fed 20 people – in 1970, the farmer fed 200 people. Source: Lynne Strong, Bega ABARES Regional Outlook Conference 30 Aug 2012.

Artificial fertilizer costs too much and the dairy industry is returning to the use of nitrogen fixing perennial clovers in its pasture mix to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. Source: Joanne Bills, Bega ABARES Regional Outlook Conference 30 Aug 2012.

The global dairy trade is increasing every year by between 9-10 billion litres of milk – equivalent to the size of the entire Australian industry each year. Source: BRW 12 July 2012.

A Tasmanian dairy farm has Australia’s first rotation platform that milks 24 cows without human involvement – separate robots prepare and clean the teats, attach the suction cups and disinfect the teats after milking. Source: BRW 12 July 2012.

Warrnambool Cheese & Butter operates the largest and most efficient dairy processing site in Australia – Bega Cheese owns 17% of the company. Source: AFR 03 Nov 2012.

Research in the UK has found that organic farms are less energy intensive than conventional farming – but they are also less productive – that means organic livestock have higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat. Source: NRM on Farms 04 Sept 2012. 

Dr Carole Hungerford of Bathurst links the health of the population to the health of its food – she says that you can’t get healthy animals from unhealthy land – she relates disease and illness to deficiencies in soils – in turn creating deficiencies in foods – she notes that 1 Australian dies every 2 hours from bowel cancer. Source: National Landcare 04 Sept 2012.

Asa Walquist, writer on rural affairs, says that animal products supply one third of the world’s protein – if livestock were eliminated, half as much again of vegetable protein crops would have to be produced to replace meat – but the shift from pasture to cropping would lead to a reduction in soil carbon – increasing soil carbon will be critical to Australia’s future carbon balance – Walquist says that the most effective way to increase carbon levels in soil used for agriculture is to return some crop land to well-managed pasture, preferably native pasture. Source: NRM on Farms 04 Sept 2012.

In the Western Sydney Parklands of over 5,000 hectares, 500 hectares have been reserved for urban farming – small plots are being leased to farmers to keep a food basin close to the capital city. Source: SMH 27 Oct 2012.

Financial losses from events related to weather in Australia have risen 4 fold over the past 30 years according to reinsurance corporation Munich. Source: SMH 27 Oct 2012.

60% of Australia’s researchers work in universities – the highest percentage of any modern economy. Source: AFR 03 Nov 2012.

The driver of the growth will come from improvements in productivity – labour productivity per person in China is only 20% of that of the US – in India and Indonesia it is about 10%. Source: AFR 29 Oct 2012.

Over the next 20 years almost 9 out of 10 new middle-class consumers worldwide will emerge in the Asian region. Source: AFR 29 Oct 2012.

Asia will be home to 4 of the 10 biggest economies within 13 years according to the Asian Century White Paper – China, India, Japan and Indonesia. Source: AFR 29 Oct 2012.

Between 2005 and 2011, US-based corporations invested $550 billion in Australia compared with $20 billion from China-based companies. Source: The Australian 16 Aug 2012.

Chinese consumers have developed a liking for Starbucks, pizza, Haagen-Dazseven and even Santa – they prefer western brands to domestic competitors. Source: The Deal Aug 2012.

95% of Chinese investment in Australia over the past 6 years was made by state-owned enterprises – nearly $50 billion over the last 5 years and mainly in mining and energy. Source: SMH 25 Aug 2012.

Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 51% last year to $19 billion – Australian investment in China grew by 278% to $17 billion. Source: The Australian 26 Oct 2012.

Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, thinks that for the next few years the US will be more internally focused – and that China and India won’t be willing to step up and assume the responsibility that comes with size – he believes that this creates a major opportunity for responsible companies to step up to be a force for good. Source: AFR Boss July 2012.

Unilever’s targets for 2020 are: to help more than 1 billion people improve their hygiene habits and bring safe drinking water to 500 million people – and halve the greenhouse gas impact of the company’s products across their lifecycle, from sourcing to consumer use and disposal – also to halve the water consumption associated with the consumer, particularly in countries that are populous and water-scarce – plus halve the waste associated with the disposal of products. Source: AFR Boss July 2012.

Unilever currently sources 10% of agricultural raw materials sustainably – by the end of this year it aims to source 30% – by 2015 50% – and by 2020 100% – by 2020 it also aims to link 500,000 smallholder farmers and small-scale distributors into its supply chain. Source: AFR Boss July 2012.

The Indigenous Land Corporation has gained approval under the Carbon Farming Initiative to earn up to $500,000 a year by selling carbon credits from projects combating savannah wildfires on its Fish River property south of Darwin. Source: The Age 02 Nov 2012.

  • CO2Land org queries the Fish River story and asks where this number comes from as it is unlikely in free trade the price will be higher than $AU10 for some time, and the Government itself in a media release said the number of credits generated from the exercise is 20,000 per annum – simple arithmetic = $200,000. It is most likely the number of $500,000 is a Carbon Tax transitional number and not a continuing expectation.  You might notice we posted Unfinished business, The EU ETS continues (Posted on July 17, 2012 by co2land). The story is about the need of the managers to artificially prop up the price after falling values. “To counter this the European Commission proposes to withhold permits and boost prices by “backloading” auctioning. That is delaying sales due next year until later in the 2013-2020 trading phase. This strategy is designed to maintain the EU carbon prices at no lower than €8.” It follows that Australia has elected to follow the EU ETS and make a transition from the Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) to the market.

Co2Land org thanks Garry Reynolds Caring for our Country National Coordinator, Business and Industry – for the inputs.

Wellness for Cities – Greenings naturally

Adapting with climate change, rather than ‘to’ is proving to have multiple benefits. At the city levels the buildings can be our food sources, and can be improved to be more energy efficient, even the street can be better designed to help shield the needs for more energy.

Posted on 9 Sept 2012 Co2land.org was a story of innovation on using cities as part of our food production “Another way to design for food production” this story is also a must read for it also tackles the city problems and the innovation needed to prepare for the future. Featured: Stockolm’s purpose build highrise gardens and a Melbourne Hatch System enterprise.

The following is a post on Chicago and how the city is doing more to prepare for coping with climate change: The scene is set with the iconic CITY HALL building installing an impressive green roof in the city. The building has a 7010m2 (23,000 square foot) green roof and serves as a test bed for researching and measuring the impact of green roofs. This one innovation saves the city about $3600 a year in heating and cooling for the building and can reduce the external surface temperature of the building by as much as 80 degrees Fahrenheit! The roof features a spectacular rooftop garden and grows more than 100 plant species. A rainwater collection system irrigates the roof and several bee hives pollinate the many flower varieties. The plants on the rooftop soak up the sun’s heat to evaporate water, keeping both the buildings underneath and the air above it cooler. It is further claimed an expanded similar project for all roofs in Chicago could save $100 million in energy every year, and help absorb stormwater runoff.

Chicago is known for its climate extremes and residents can endure days of summer when the heat index reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “The city’s annual average temperature has increased by 2.5 degrees since 1945, according to this climate assessment created by a consortium of scientists and commissioned by the city”. Of even more worry is that it is no longer about peak heat, the problem extends as an increase in ambient temperature rises.

To do more the city is working to engineer that it can stay cooler using less energy even as temperatures rise by putting into place innovative ideas and concepts. The green roof is one, and another combating the ‘urban heat island effect’. Simply, concrete and pavement, which absorb and trap heat, make cities like Chicago hotter than surrounding rural areas. Buildings soak up the sun’s rays during the day and release that heat into the night. Additional research (Joseph Fernando of University of Notre Dame) shows that Chicago is about four to five degrees warmer than the neighbouring rural town because of this effect. It is also a worrying trend discovered in research that it is shown that urban sites and rural sites are warming at about the same rate (Thomas Peterson, chief climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). It does appear by the evidence all life styles are suffering because of climate change: You should also read: Global climate data shows the Earth has been warming increasingly over time.

Hat tip to that city’s officials for the $7 billion plan to build a “new Chicago” (source: Karen Weigert, the city’s chief sustainability officer).  That means renovating citywide infrastructure from sidewalk to rooftop. The additional innovation and steps taken by the city include:

  • Chicago already has 359 green roofs covering almost 5.5 million square feet — that’s more than any other city in North America. City planners are pushing for even more.
  • Chicago has mandated that all new buildings that require any public funds must be “LEED” Certified — designed with energy efficiency in mind — and that usually includes a green roof. Any project with a green roof in its plan gets a faster permitting process. That combined with energy savings is the kind of green that incentivizes developers.

But the city is looking beyond buildings — they’re hitting the streets too:

  • That’s why they’re designing new streetscapes that integrate technology and design elements from widened sidewalks for increased pedestrian traffic to tree and plant landscaping that provide shade. The pavements are made of a light reflecting material mix that includes recycled tire pieces and lanes coated with a microthin concrete layer that keep the street from absorbing so much heat.
  • Chicago’s 3058 klms (1,900 miles) of alleyways traditionally absorb heat and cast away potentially cooling rainwater. But new ‘green alleys’ use permeable pavement that absorb rainwater. As that underground water evaporates that also keeps the alley and air around it cool.

CO2Land org enjoys hearing these stories and in particular where cities consider they need to be looking beyond buildings and streets as just a place where we move vehicles and goods. They need to be places that integrate technology and design elements for a better place.

Trends – Food and Nutrition Report

Australia’s Food and Nutrition Report 2012.

Modern agriculture has focused on just a few plant varieties intended for intensive farming – although 250,000 plant varieties are available for agricultural purposes, fewer than 3% are in use today – as a result, this has dramatically reduced the diversity of plants contributing to food supplies – this trend is known as ‘genetic erosion’.The production of 1 kilogram of wheat requires about 1,000 litres of water, whereas for meat-based foods about 5 to 10 times more water is required.

The loss of biodiversity occurring in food and agricultural systems is a risk to future world food security – fewer than 20 animal and plant species now provide most of the world’s food –  just three crop plants, wheat, rice and maize (corn), supply more than half of the world’s food energy – agricultural systems with low genetic variation are more susceptible to pests and diseases and are also less able to adapt to environmental challenges, such as climate change and water scarcity.

Since the 1950s, world beef and mutton production has more than doubled, world grain production has tripled and oceanic fish catch has more than quadrupled – world fertiliser usage rose from 14 million tonnes in 1950 to 141 million tonnes in 2010.

Over the past 50 years, global fish stocks have fallen considerably, with more than 70% of the world’s fish species now either fully exploited or depleted – more than 200 million people rely on fishing and aquaculture for their income and 1 billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein.

Australia is one of the largest net exporters of virtual water i.e. much of the water used to grow crops, such as wheat, rice and cotton, is exported.

Like virtual water, Australia is also a net virtual exporter of phosphorus from the food system – only 5% of phosphorus fertiliser used in agriculture ends up in the food Australians eat – the remaining 95% is lost as waste at all stages of the food system, or exported off our shores as agricultural commodities or fertilisers.

Despite having only 6% of Australia’s surface water run-off, the Murray-Darling Basin accounts for more than 50% of Australia’s freshwater use.

Nearly 90% of the world’s phosphate reserves are found in just 5 countries: Morocco/Western Sahara, Iraq, China, Algeria and Syria, with 70% under the control of Morocco alone – as fertiliser prices increase, this is likely to have major geopolitical consequences.

Unlike fossil fuels, phosphorus can be captured from waste streams and recycled as a form of renewable fertilisers – as this element does not decompose, it is theoretically available somewhere on the earth, but extracting it is likely to become increasingly costly – although the global population consumes about 3 million tonnes of elemental phosphorus from food, about five times this amount is mined for food production – this is because large amounts of phosphorus are currently being lost throughout the food supply chain – from mine to paddock to plate and then sewage.

Compared with average world apparent consumption of various food commodities, Australians have much larger per person availability of alcoholic beverages (308% higher), meat (290%), milk (274%),and animal fats (267%), and moderately higher amounts of sweeteners (196%), vegetable oils (191%),fruit (156%), and seafood (147%) – in contrast, the availability of several categories is less than the world average, such as starchy roots (87% lower), vegetables (83%), eggs (75%), cereals (58%), and pulses (33%).

Bananas have the highest sales in fruit lines – average consumption per person is estimated to be 13 kilograms a year – this makes them one of the top 10 selling supermarket items – 70% are sold to Coles and Woolworths.

In recent years, consumers have preferred unblemished bananas that are large and uniform in shape – it is estimated that 10–30% of all bananas produced are discarded before they leave the farm with the majority of this waste due to the fruit failing to meet the product specifications set by retailers – over 52,000 tonnes of edible bananas are discarded each year due to cosmetic imperfections – embedded in this waste are large amounts of water (16 gigalitres) and non-renewable resources, such as oil (1,407 tonnes), coal (1,064 tonnes), natural gas (1.8 million cubic meters) and phosphate ore (681 tonnes) – in addition, the decomposition of this waste has the potential to generate 23,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Diet-related chronic diseases are now the major cause of death in Australia and their prevalence is increasing – male life expectancy is 79.5 and female 84.0.

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled between 1989–90 (1.5%) and 2007–08 (4.1%), and by 2023 is expected to be the leading cause of disease – this increase is linked to the rising prevalence of people who are overweight or obese, and low levels of physical activity in the population – the incidence of treated end-stage kidney disease is also increasing, with diabetes the main cause.

As of 2011, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas – this represents a significant shift from the 1950s when the figure was less than 30% – 39% live in cities of more than 1 million residents and only 10% in mega cities of more than 10 million – globally, urban dwellers generally eat more meat, fruit and vegetables, whereas rural dwellers eat more cereals, tubers and roots.

Despite a 70% increase in the population, the world’s food system generates 17% more energy per person today than it did 30 years ago – the amount of food produced could supply each person on earth with at least 11,300 kilojoules per day – despite this, there are more than 925 million people without access to sufficient food, mainly due to poverty – in contrast, there are more than 1.6 billion people who are overweight and at least 400 million who are obese.

As countries become more prosperous, there is a shift in eating and physical activity patterns, characterised by people eating more fat, sugar and processed foods, and becoming more sedentary – 8 out of the 10 countries with the greatest increases in obesity rates are developing or newly industrialised nations – in countries such as China, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil and Morocco, obesity is increasing faster than in the Unites States – paradoxically, some countries, like Bangladesh, are experiencing increased rates of obesity and yet are still struggling with high rates of under-nutrition.

Each Australian household throws out an estimated average of $616 worth of food each year.

Greenhouse gas emissions arise from food waste include indirect emissions that are embodied in food from production, transportation, processing and refrigeration, as well as direct emissions from the natural processes associated with the breakdown of the waste.

 A by-product of organic waste decomposing in landfill is gas, with about half (55%) being methane which has a global warming potential 21–25 times that of carbon dioxide – therefore, reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfill would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions – household food waste is estimated to be responsible for 5.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from landfill, equivalent to the total emissions involved in the manufacture and supply of iron and steel in Australia.

CO2Land org has the view, cutting waste benefits all round – no excuse pun intended!

Thanks again the Garry Reynolds of NRM DAFF for these insights.