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Thinking for a cooler world

Global Ideas Reporter | Ideas

Eat OR drink?

Sprinklers watering carrots

CC BY 2.0 Julie Jordan Scott/

Every human being needs to eat and drink. But in an increasingly crowded world these two basic needs get into conflict: Many people already don’t have access to clean drinking water and/or  not enough food. At the same time, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water use.

Even worse, diets typical of Western industrialized countries are becoming a blueprint for eating habits around the globe – about 3.000 kcal per day with meat accounting for about a fifth of it. That has dire consequences for the global water household, as producing one kilogram of meat requires the amount of water, an average household uses in 10 months (50 L/person/day).

But to feed every one out of the ten billion people expected to inhabit the globe by 2050, 50 percent more water than now is needed. Water, that is not available for drinking anymore. In the future, will people have to choose whether to eat or to drink?

Scientists are still hopeful: If the amount of food wasted – during harvest, in storage, transport and in households – was cut by half, enough water would be available again – even to produce the required additional amounts of food.

So the solution to future food- and water-shortages is something we already know today: Waste less food, eat less meat.

Farmers in Kurdistan

CC BY 2.0 EarthDayPictures/



August 30, 2012