Meeting demand: our changing land

We have all heard about how our planet’s resources are becoming more and more scarce as world population grows past the 7 billion mark and predicted to reach 11 billion by 2100. Oil has apparently only got 53 years worth left of reserves and the pressure on finding alternative for fossil fuels such as this, is therefore growing before it becomes too late. Alternative technology has been developed to enable us to carry on driving our cars without oil as a fuel, although one of the problems with this is that this technology is not widespread enough to be of much use at the moment. Electric cars are a fantastic way of reducing the dependency on fossil fuels although electric cars need charging and there are simply not enough charging points around the UK yet. Until this happens then electric cars will not be an efficient replacement to cars fueled by diesel or petrol .

There are other changes that will be a result of new developments fueled by humans desperation to find alternatives to our addiction to fossil fuels. Solar farms are something that I have seen popping up everywhere lately. On my commute to university alone, a 20 minute journey, I pass 2 solar farms of considerable size. Whilst this type of renewable energy may not be for every country in the world, in the right place it can generate a considerable amount of energy. Cornwall can have some of the most hours of sunshine in the UK so this potential has finally been realised and more solar farms are being built all over the county. However, whilst solar power can create lots of renewable energy to fuel our technology filled lives, it does create the issue that all the farmland that was used to graze livestock or could be used to grow food is now being used to grow energy. This raises the question over whether it is a good idea to build these solar farms as it means there is less land being used to provide humans with food. Therefore prices of food will rise and more will have to be imported, and that process itself uses even more fuel, so is it really worth it?

In my area solar farms are relatively new, the more common type of renewable energy being farmed there is wind power. There are many wind farms that have been working for years. Cornwall can also receive higher wind speeds due to its coastal location on the edge of the Atlantic ocean. I have heard recently of many proposals of new wind farms both onshore and offshore around the UK, and whenever I hear of these there is always the comment of how it is going to spoil someone’s view or how they make too much noise. Whilst this may in fact be true, I don’t think this should stop the development of more renewable energy being created. It is needed now more than ever, and those complaining are likely to benefit from cheaper fuel bills. It is sad to think that the UK has actually got a lot of potential to make up a reasonable percentage of its energy mix from renewable energy, but when new plans are proposed they are met with so much opposition from the public that they never happen.

So, it is clear that in the future the UK will need to make some decisions over what to prioritize; whether it is important to use our farmland for increasing renewable energy or to try to keep food prices down by growing more in the UK  and also whether we should worry more about spoiling the view outside our window or worry about how to keep energy prices down. In my opinion, one thing is clear, neither of those options is going to be easy.

 

sources

  • information about levels of oil reserves available sourced from: http://jalopnik.com/bp-says-the-world-only-has-53-years-of-oil-left-should-1602354842
  • information about world population growth rate by 2100 sourced from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/18/world-population-new-study-11bn-2100
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