The Words of the Marsh Family

Understanding Food, Water and the Energy Crisis

Robin Marsh
July 16, 2009

UPF-UK Environment Chapter organized its first environmental conference on 16 July 2009. This is the first in a series of conferences aiming to answer questions, promote discussion and bring awareness to the grass roots through community and interfaith leaders.

UPF has been active in the area of community cohesion, multi-cultural and interfaith activities for many years. UPF wants to mobilize their network of leaders in understanding environmental, renewable issues in view of the upcoming “Copenhagen 2009 Climate Change Conference” in December.

Dr. Yacob Mulugetta, Deputy Director of the Centre for Environment Strategy of Surrey University presented a thorough analysis on issues of food, water and energy crises that humankind is facing today. He concluded his analysis quoting Martin Luther King’s call for change of values.

He used the FAO definition for ‘food security’ that exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life.

World food production must rise by 50% by 2030 to cope with population increases. Currently wheat and corn prices are rising as oil prices and fertilizer rises. There is also a rising demand for high value meat and other products in the developing countries. One kg of meat requires 20.9 square meters of land versus 1.2 square meters for 1 kg of milk and 0.3 square meters for 1 kg of vegetables.

Today 1.1 billion people lack access to water. By 2025 more than 3 billion people could be living in water-stress countries -- and 14 countries will slip from water stress to water scarcity.

We are at the peak of oil supply reserves while we have passed the alarming state where the planet cannot any longer absorb the man-made pollution generated. Dr Mulugetta illustrated how solar energy from the Sahara desert could be used to supply energy for Europe.

In the meantime the following metrics show the cause of crisis for water consumption as our diet has changed over the years:

Beef needs 15,500 liters per kg

Cheese needs 5,000 liters per kg

One apple needs 70 liters of water

One slice of bread 40 liters of water.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has grown steadily in rich countries but people’s happiness and satisfaction doesn’t follow this growth rate. “It took Britain half the resources of this planet to achieve its prosperity. How many planets will India require for development?” Mahatma Gandhi.

The economy is a subsystem of the environment. Resources feed the economy and all of the wastes produced by it return to the environment. Since we live on a finite planet with limited resources, it’s not possible for the economy to grow forever.

‘The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.’ -- Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

‘Revolution of values: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. -- We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. -- A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies… -- A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. -- Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.’ -- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Riverside Church speech 1967

“Making a shift from Vision to Action’’ by Bianca Madison-Vuleta, Complementary Therapist and environmental campaigner.

Ms. Bianca Madison-Vuleta’s message was complementary to the analysis given by Dr. Yacob Mulugetta. She emphasized the internal causes of the problem that have resulted in humankind been driven by their materialistic passions. Bianca stressed the importance of changing our lifestyles as a means to resolve the multi-level crises we are facing today. Waste and over consumption lead to a lifestyle that cannot be sustained any longer because of the scarcity of food, water and energy supplies. Over consumption has led to obesity and results in unhealthy and unhappy individuals.

Vegetarian and balanced diets will both improve people’s health and reduce demand for meat and dairy products that have increased the competition for energy and water resources with other forms of human consumption.

Interestingly enough both speakers came to the same conclusion. ‘’How much, are we prepared to sacrifice?’’

Through the discussion it was pointed out that there is a waste of 30%- 40% and over consumption in protein food alone in the west. There is room to compensate in the coming crisis on resources by changing our behavior alone. We have to face problems with a holistic approach. There were good contributions from the audience from Steve Podmore, Founder of Global Sustainability Challenge, Moeen Yaseen, the Managing Director of Global Vision 2000 and Dr Raffaella Bellanca who is a consultant in sustainable energy with Eco.

UPF Environment Chapter Future Conference: Lawrence C. Bloom, UNEP Chairman, will be the main speaker from 6:30 pm, September 3rd, at 43 Lancaster Gate, speaking on the topic ‘Green Economy Initiative’. Lawrence Bloom is also the Chairman of the World Economic Forum and the Global Agenda Council on Urban Development, Davos.

Participants pointed out interesting websites and activities as shown below:,

Adapted from, with thanks. How much solar energy is available for Europe? The larger red square on the left shows an area of 114,090 km2 from the Sahara desert (about 338 km × 338 km) that, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, would provide as much electricity as the world is now using. The ‘EU’ square (19,200 km2 or about 139 × 139 km), is the second red square, shows a corresponding area for the European Union (when it included 25 countries). 

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