How Many People Can Be Fed On Earth?

Heilig GK (1993). How Many People Can Be Fed On Earth? IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-93-040

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Abstract

This working paper examines the question whether food is a limiting factor for population growth. It argues that we must distinguish five levels of food production capacity: (1) the biophysical maximum carrying capacity of the earth, which is roughly equivalent to its "Net Primary Production" (NPP). This purely hypothetical production potential, however, must be decreased due to various constraints and restrictions. Thus, we must study the world's food production capacity as determined by (2) technical and logistic restrictions limitations, (3) environmental constraints and feedback mechanisms, (4) economic limitations, and (5) socio-cultural conditions. The key for balancing people and food is the speed with which constraints can be pushed back or modified that hinder people to utilize the full potential of the earth's food resources in a sustainable way. Technology could easily increase the earth's carrying capacity for sustaining a 12 to 14 billion world population if it is applied with ecological care and in the framework of an economically sound and socially-just development policy. The carrying capacity of the earth is not a natural constant -- it is a dynamic equilibrium, essentially determined by human action.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:02
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2016 06:23
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/3773

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