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Global resource consumption and security

Infant mortality rate in Africa is still 10 times more than that of Europe Almost half of the world population live on less than two dollars a day One in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water

Unit 3: Global trends in resource consumption

Consumption means using up of a resource.  The word ‘Resource’ denotes anything that has functionality. It could be natural substances like water, wood or supply of skilled workforce.  Geographers are particularly concerned to study the balance between the availability of natural resources, demand and consumption pattern of the resources and the role of technology to unlock resource potential.


Carrying capacity

It signifies the number of people that can live at a high standard of living in any given environment or in any country  in respect to the available resources and technological capabilities.. The concept of  population ceiling was first suggested by Malthus as a saturation level where population equals the supporting capacity of the resource (to him it was food production).


Our Shared Responsibility

Global Consumption of Resources: We are consuming more and more: 

Overshooting of the carrying capacity

Definition of Ecological Footprint: The theoretical measurement of the amount of bio-productive land and water a population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste under prevailing technology. Ecological footprints are measured in global hectares (gha).

Ecological Footprint is not evenly distributed across the globe. Calculation of the Gini coefficient for total Ecological Footprint and its components helps to understand the pattern of inequality in overall resource use. According to a study be Dr. Margaret Lowman at New College of Florida, the average ecological footprint for one Chinese citizen calculated in 2006 is 2.0 (meaning that it takes two global acres of resources to sustain each individual). The average footprint in Beijing is 6.2, indicating that urban residents consume more energy than rural dwellers. In contrast, the average ecological footprint of an American is 24. According to the Global Footprint Network (Aug, 2017), humans are using resources that will not be replenished. At some point of time, human ingenuity will come head to head with the rising population and demand through higher crop yields, application of the energy efficient technologies and by developing a sustainable water-food-energy nexus.


Class Work:

Calculate your own ecological footprint using GFN calculator

Click here to view the map of global ecological footprint: Analyze the distribution and find out the reasons behind.

WWF report on ecological footprint :  We would need the regenerative capacity of 1.6 Earths to provide the natural resources and ecological services we currently use.

India’s rising ecological footprint approaching critical limit

China with 1.4 billion people leave smaller footprint than USA


Linking TOK: 

knowledge question: Humanity’s demand on nature has exceeded what our planet can replenish.  Is it justified that India, China and other developing countries to develop faster? – debate on the basis of facts, opinion, ethics and rationalism.

Threats to existance

Plastic Ocean

Food Waste

Poverty: Concept and definition

Poverty is scarcity or the lack of certain amount of material possessions or money that causes deprivation and inequality in terms of access to resources to satisfy even the basic human needs. Nearly half of the world population is still poor and live on 2.50 dollars a day. Nearly half of the world’s poor live in just 5 countries – India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh.

Absolute poverty or destitution: when people are not able to or deprived of satisfying their basic human needs, which commonly includes food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care and education.  According to the World Bank, nearly 9% of the world’s population lives in absolute poverty on less than US$1.90 a day,

Relative poverty is defined contextually as the difference in economic capability or in access to services and resources in a particular country or society. It is a comparative approach. When we compare in terms of who is getting what, where and how.


Progress towards poverty reduction

 Since 1990, nearly 1 billion people moved out of poverty: Poverty reduction is a major goal and issue for many international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. The World Bank estimated that 1.2 billion people were living in absolute poverty in 2008. Of these, about 400 million people in absolute poverty lived in India and 173 million people in China. In terms of percentage of regional populations, sub-Saharan Africa with 47% of the population living in absolute poverty in 2008, recorded the highest incident of poverty. However, since 1990, nearly 1 billion people moved out of poverty.  According to the World Bank, the world attained the first Millennium Development Goal target—to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015—five years ahead of schedule, in 2010.  In 1990, 1.85 billion people were living in extreme poverty. In 2015,  736 million people lived in extreme poverty with less than $1.90 a day. Two regions, East Asia and Pacific and Europe and Central Asia have already reduced extreme poverty to below 3 percent (2030 target).

Poverty rates have declined in all regions, progress has been uneven: More than half of the extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2030, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of the global poor live in rural areas, are poorly educated, employed in the agricultural sector, and under 18 years of age.

Class Work : Article Review

Refer to World Bank report on poverty, updated in 2018

Article review on Multidimensional poverty in the world: Note down the major 10 points that you have learned.

Poverty in developed country: Who are the poor Americans?


Growth of the New Global Middle Class (NGMG)

Defining the new middle class:

  1. The growing mass of people who no longer experience absolute poverty and is able to meet the basic needs of life
  2. Not yet achieved the so called affluent lifestyle of the West World  but willing and trying to achieve it.
  3. They are mostly left with significant proportion of disposable income and thereby creating an emerging market segment for consumer goods
  4. According to the Brookings study (refereed below), a global tipping point has been achieved in the recent times where half of the world is composed of middle class.
  5. The new global middle class in China, India and Brazil together have created an equal the size of economy of the industrialized G7 countries. By 2050, they are expected to account for nearly half of world output, far surpassing the G7.


Article Review on NGMC

Brookings study on the expansion of the New Global Middle Class

A global tipping point

The bulging middle class in Asia


Where do the world's most poor people live

Poverty in USA

To locate extremely poor people


Water is one of the most unique molecules known to man
We are comprised of mostly water

Unique properties of water molecules
A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The three atoms make an angle; the H-O-H angle is approximately 104.5 degrees. The center of each hydrogen atom is approximately 0.0957 nm from the center of the oxygen atom. In the solid state, the particles of matter are usually much closer together than they are in the liquid state. So if you put a solid into its corresponding liquid, it sinks. But this is not true of water. Its solid state is less dense than its liquid state, so it floats. Water behaves differently from most other chemical compounds. In almost all substances the atoms and molecules move closer together as they get colder. They then solidify. Water, however, attains its greatest density at four degrees Celsius because the water molecules are packed closest together at this temperature. Many freshwater lakes have a temperature of four degrees at their deepest point because the heavy water sinks to the bottom. But surprisingly, to reach the solid ice phase, the water molecules again move farther apart. This phenomenon is referred to as the water anomaly. Ice is lighter and floats at the surface. This is seen in the large ocean regions at polar latitudes, which are partly covered by ice. The reason for this anomaly lies in the unusual properties of the water molecule (H2O). Its oxygen atom (O) and the two hydrogen atoms (H) are asymmetrically arranged. This produces a dipole, a molecule with one negatively and one positively charged end.
Another unique property of water is its ability to dissolve a large variety of chemical substances. Water is sometimes called the universal solvent because it can dissolve so many things. water has the highest surface tension of any common liquid except mercury. It is the tendency of water molecules to attract to each other or cohere to each other at the surface of water. Because of this adhesion and cohesion properties water plays an important role in the internal transport system of plants and animals. The other widely-cited anomalous property of water is its high boiling point. a molecule as light as H2O “should” boil at around –90°C; that is, it would ideally exist in the world as a gas rather than a liquid if H-bonding were not present.


Water Crisis: Usage and supply 

  • Water is the most essential and pivotal resource. It is the largest single component of the human body, and is essential for life. The longest a person can survive with out water and food is about 8-10 days.
  • The Stockholm International water Institute has estimated that each person on earth needs a minimum of 1000 m3 of water per year for drinking, hygiene and growing food for sustenance. Whether this water is available depends on where people live on the planet as water supply is extremely inequitable.
  • Water scarcity affects every continent. For about 40% of the world population, lack of water is a constant threat. By 2025, almost half of the would population (around 4 billion people) will live under condition of severe water threat specially in Africa, Middle East and south Asia. UN estimates states that by 2025 around 1800 million people will be living in the countries or regions with absolute water scarcity and around two-thirds of the world population would be around stress condition.
  • The situation is getting worse as the demand for water is doubling in every 20 years. In 20th century, global water consumption grew 6 fold.
  • Colorado river is running dry and no more reaches the sea. Most of its water has been diverted to irrigated agriculture, so that in a normal year, no water at all reaches the river’s mouth.
  • Yemen and Jordon are withdrawing 30% more from ground water resources than is being annually replenished. In Africa around 200 million people at present live in severe water stressed situation
  • Half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last 30 years. 20% of the fresh water species are engendered or extinct. Many important aquifers are seriously depleted. water table in many parts of the world are dropping at an alarming rate. Ground water recharge is a slow process, drained faster can not be replenished.
  • The quantity of water used today for all purpose exceeds 4700 cubic kilometers per year. Agriculture is the largest user, consuming two-thirds of all water drawn from rivers, lakes and groundwater. Since 1960, water use for crop irrigation has risen by 60-70%. Industry uses about 20% available water and municipal sector (domestic use) uses about 10%


Article Review:

Guardian report on the access to drinking water around the world

TerminologiesExplanationsSelf Research Copy right free photos (thanks to the contributors)
Potable waterWater that is free from impurities such as contaminants and bacteria and is thus safe to drink. Huge inequalities persist between and within countries; in Sub- Saharan Africa, almost half of people drink water from unprotected sources.There’s nothing more essential to life on Earth than safe drinking water. People are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need. Amazing progress has been made in making clean drinking water accessible to 2.6 billion people in developing countries from 1990 to 2015. That’s an increase from 76% of the global population to 91% during that time. Yet around 800 million people lack basic drinking water access that is nearly 1 of every 9 people on the planet. Click here for more facts and figures from World Vision.
Different methods of water supplyThe objective of water supply is to take water from its source to the point of its usage. Water supply systems must also meet the requirements for public, commercial, and industrial activities. It generally denotes provision of water by public utilities such as supply of potable water through piped system. Water supply system include infrastructure for the collection, transmission, treatment, storage, and distribution of water for domestic, agriculture (including irrigation) and other commercial purposes as well as for special public needs as firefighting etc. Nearly 90% of the global population has access to piped water supply. A fraction of them also possess their own house supply such as protected wells or boreholes besides the municipal supply. Look at the next column for the the major methods of water supply.
1. Dam and reservoir: Dams are the barriers that controls the flow of the excess water, normally built across a river. Reservoirs are artificial lakes used to store water. They can be 'on channel' or 'off channel'.
2. Wells and boreholes: These are the methods of trapping ground water (Aquifer). Wells are relatively 0f larger diameter than boreholes. Aquifer provides nearly half of the global drinking water supply.
3. Desalinization plants: In this expensive process salt from the sea water is removed by distilling water using boiling process. This process is widely used in the wealthy Middle East countries where waste gasses from the oil wells are used to distill water.
4. Rain water harvesting: This includes collection and storing of rainwater for future use. Click here for more relevant information on the water supply system.
Water stress: When water supply is below 1700 cubic meters per person per year. Water scarcity affects every continent.
Infographics from Waterlogic: Source

Click here to learn more about the problem of water crisis from

Water supply in Singapore

Contaminated water

Water crisis in Mali

Virtual or Embedded Water 

It is the amount of water that is required to produce food or any other product that we use and to transport it to the market and thus essentially embedded in the item. For example, 1 kg of wheat takes around 1000 liters of water to produce, so the import of this amount of wheat to another country will save the amount of water it requires to produce that item domestically, however it will increase the country’s virtual water consumption and related water footprint. Greater liberalization of trade in agricultural products would further increase virtual water flow between the countries. The concept of virtual water therefore also refers to the way in which water is transferred from one country to another. According to the Guardian Report  on an average 400 liters of water is required to produce 1 liter of Coca-cola.

The world’s population is growing by roughly 80 million people each year. Changes in lifestyles and eating habits in recent years are requiring more water consumption per capita, putting a stress on the available fresh water resources. People in high income countries consume greater amount of virtual water than in low income countries because of different lifestyle and diet. Agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of all water consumption, compared to 20% for industry and 10% for household water consumption.

Gallon to Liter conversion  1 gallon = 3.7 liters

Water footprint comparison by countries

Water Footprint Calculator: Know what is your water footprint

Review WaterStat data:  one of the world’s most comprehensive water footprint database

Reading: The use of water today: A report by World Water Council 

Water footprint / embedded water

CommoditiesVirtual / embedded water
(average including production of raw materials and manufacturing)
1 can of Cola (300ml)200 liters
1 cotton shirt3000 liters
1 pair of leather shoes8000 liters
1 pair of Jeans760 liters
1 smartphone900 liters
1 cup of tea (300ml)35 liters
1 cup of coffee (300ml)140 liters
1 liter of bio fuel4000 liters
1 hamburger2400 liters
Comparison by countryAverage water footprint per person per day
UAE8500 liters
USA8300 liters
Canada6400 liters
EU4600 liters

Incredible water footprint

How much water we consume daily

CAS Idea? : MIT's community service to flight with the problem of food waste


What does it mean?

  • Safe collection, storage, treatment and disposal/reuse/recycling of human excreta
  • Management/reuse/recycling of solid wastes (trash or rubbish)
  • Drainage and disposal/reuse/recycling of household waste water (often referred to as grey water)
  • Collection and management of industrial waste products; and management of hazardous wastes (including hospital wastes, and chemical/ radioactive and other dangerous substances)

Importance of sanitation
The discharge of untreated waste water and excreta into the environment can affect human health in several ways

  • Polluted drinking water; 80% of diseases in the developing countries are associated with water, causing 5,000 children to die every day from diarrhea or one every 17 seconds.
  • Entry into the food chain, for example via fruits, vegetables or fish and shellfish.
  • Bathing, recreational and other contact with contaminated waters
  • polluted water bodies are the breeding sites for flies and insects that spread diseases.

WHO and UNICEF recommended improved sanitation system:

  • Flush Toilet – disposes of human liquid and solid waste, by using water to flush it through a drainpipe to another location for disposal.
  • Connection to a piped sewer system- Off-site disposal
  • Connection to a septic system. A septic tank is a key component of the septic system, a small-scale sewage treatment system common in areas with no connection to main sewage pipes provided by local governments or private corporations. This is an on -site disposal
  • Ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine. A pit toilet is a dry toilet system which collects human excrement in a large container and ranges from a simple slit trench to more elaborate systems with ventilation.
  • Waste water treatment

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