Energy, Food, Demographics and the Future of Humanity (Part 2)
Chapter 2- Life’s Recipe
All life on Earth is composed of the same basic ingredients: DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids. Proteins are made from amino acids. Lipids, which store energy, are made from carbon and hydrogen. DNA and RNA, the most basic building blocks of life contain phosphate. Unlike carbon and hydrogen that are abundant, phosphate is not infinite and cannot be substituted.
For thousands of years, farmers used organic fertilizers by spreading human and animal waste. With the exponential growth of the population, farmers had to switch to inorganic fertilizers to feed the growing number of people. Phosphorus which is mined from phosphate rocks became a vital ingredient to our survival. About 90 percent of the world’s known reserves are located in five countries: Morocco, Jordan, South Africa, the United States and China.
Inorganic fertilizers are often made of Nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Inorganic fertilizer are one of the main reason the planet has been able to support the exponential population growth. Today it is estimated that almost half the population is fed by nitrogen synthetic fertilizers. We obtain nitrogen from the air, but we must mine phosphorus and potassium.
Nitrogen and Potassium are abundant throughout the earth. Phosphorus on the other hand is much scarcer. The vast majority of phosphorus compounds are consumed as fertilizers. This vital un-substitutable ingredient which is essential for life is rapidly being depleted.
Morocco has the ultimate monopoly. They control 40% of world phosphate, one of the most important ingredients of life. Outside Morocco’s reserves, there is phosphate, estimated to sustain 100 years. However once those non-Moroccan’s reserves are depleted, Morocco will surely become one of the most sought of countries in the world. They will control everyone’s survival.
Thinking about a ‘‘phosphateless’’ world is certainly scary. Yet, whether estimates of reserves being depleted in 100 years are accurate or not, the real issue remains the same:
Is 10 Billion people too much of a burden for our blue planet?