IMechE Population report

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Wed Jan 12 09:57:00 GMT 2011

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Lot of unchallenging/unquestioning media kerfuffle on this report today.

If I were to summarise the primary inconsistency of this report (admittedly 
after only an hour's speed reading) -- "we're facing an infrastructure crisis 
because of growing population so we need to consume more resources to solve 

We've been here before. The Green Revolution in the 60s didn't "solve" the 
issue of world hunger, it allowed an extra 2 billion people to enter the 
population to become hungry in the future. Likewise the bottom line of this 
report, that we need a major building splurge to solve the present global 
resource problems, is equally doomed to follow the same pattern because it 
fails to make its argument within the clear ecological limits of the planet.

Pity. Rather than looking holistically at the development conundrum the report 
reduces the problems to a demand for the same large-scale infrastructure 
agenda that's gotten us to this point in the first place.

Download the PDF from


Population Explosion: Can the Planet Cope?

World pressured by population growth – but Engineering Development Goals hold 
the key. 


Wednesday 12 January 2011

A groundbreaking Population report (Wed 12 January) by the Institution of 
Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has revealed the world is hurtling towards 
population overload placing billions at risk of hunger, thirst and slum 

Population: One planet, too many people? is the first report of its kind by the 
engineering profession.  Unless the engineering solutions highlighted in the 
report are urgently implemented then the projected 2.5 billion more people on 
earth by the end of this Century (currently there is 6.9 billion) will crush 
the earth’s resources.

Urbanisation will soar. ‘Mega-cities’ of more than 10 million people will rise 
to 29 by 2025 and the urban population will increase from 3.3billion (2007) to 
6.4 billion (2050).  Food will also become an increasingly precious commodity 
and developed areas such as the UK will be forced to stamp out its ‘throwaway’ 
lifestyle. Water consumption will increase by 30% by 2030 and there is 
projected to be a 50% hike in water extraction for industrial use in Asia. 
This, the report states, could create civil unrest and land battles for 
resources  as climate change looms.

 Unless the engineering solutions recommended throughout the report are 
brought in now, there could be devastating consequences not only for 
developing nations – but right on our own doorstep. “The challenge is how to 
apply engineering knowledge, expertise and skills around the world to build a 
new sustainable future.” (p16)

“To have the public knowledgeable about it (the report) is crucial. Political 
actors in every country should bring this to the attention of their 
government. Societal infrastructure cannot keep up, in fact it is crumbling,” 
said Dr John Bongaarts, Vice President of the Population Council in New York. 
He worked along with Dr Fox and a 70-strong delegation of engineers around the 
world to compile the research.

Energy, food, water, urbanisation and finance are the five areas which will be 
significantly affected by the effects of population growth. These are dubbed 
Engineering Development Goals (EDG) and should be the next step for the UN’s 
Millennium Goals (MDG), the report says.

Lead Author, Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy, Environment and Climate Change at 
IMechE, said: “In less than four years, the MDGs will expire and to date there 
is nothing, except the recommendations in our report, to replace them. (pic 
left is an aquifer. One of the engineering solutions in the report to respond 
to the projected water consumption rise.)

“Population increase will be the defining challenge of 21st Century, a global 
issue that will affect us all no matter where we live.  Britain is in a 
currently in a prime position where it has, at its fingertips, some of the most 
groundbreaking engineering solutions in the world – and the brightest and most 
educated engineers. We need to work right now with the Department For 
International Development to set up a knowledge ‘swap-shop’ of engineering 
skills with other countries. This is not altruism. This is self defence.

“Up to 1 billion people could be displaced by climate change over the next 40 
years and we are likely to see an increase in unrest as resource shortages 
become clear.  The term Nimbyism will become obsolete.  No-one’s back yard 
will be immune from these effects. “

NB: The findings of this report will be put before a group of MPs at a briefing 
at IMechE, Birdcage Walk.  This report responds to issues raised by the 
International Development Select Committee in their report of December 2010.


- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

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