Conservation is something we’re hearing a lot about these days, because Earth has finite resources and we’re kind using them up fast. But what if we didn’t conserve? What would happen if the Earth ran out of food and water? So, the good news is Earth isn’t going to run out of water anytime soon. The water we have doesn’t exactly do a disappearing act, it just changes state, evaporating into the atmosphere then raining or snowing back down. The problem is, most of that water — about 77 percent — is salt water water. And the fresh water we need is mostly frozen at the poles. But some exists in rivers and streams, which is good for us! And those sources get replenished from rainfall, which is even better. But as populations grow and more people rely on these sources, we have to start literally digging into other resources, namely underground aquifers. These subterranean wells carry us through droughts so we don’t have to curb our habits, but new climate data is showing that we’re draining the largest water reserves in Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas faster than they’re replenished by rain.
So much of the groundwater we use is lost to evaporation or ends up in the oceans meaning it doesn’t get reused, and that’s leaving billions of people without clean water. Not only is there less water, but these dwindling resources don’t exactly abide by geographic boundaries. So nations are fighting for control over limited resources, and it’s sparking wars. The conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan began as a local dispute over access to clean water between African farmers and Arab pastoralist communities. Then it escalated into an all-out war that has hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced an millions since 2003. Yemen is also seeing increased riots over access to water. In both cases water will solve the conflict but that magical peace-bringing water doesn’t exactly exist.
And the biggest user of water, and the people feeling these shortages the most? Farmers, the people who also bring us food. As water becomes more scarce the price will go up, which will in turn drive up food prices. And then we’re in the same position with groups fighting for access to a vital but limited commodity. We’re going to see food wars the same way we’re seeing water wars, literally wars over available food. And war has a nasty habit of destroying land, meaning we could destroy all our crops in the process, leaving us with nothing at all to share once there’s peace. But scientists are already thinking about protecting us from ourselves with seed vaults. There are vaults all over the world that stores seeds to preserve genetic diversity of food, and the global backup is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as the backup in Norway. These vaults aren’t meant to supply farmers, they’re intended to be a genetic resource to breed plants in the future so we don’t lose variety through war.
This will not only give us diverse food, it will give us a way to preserve our ecosystem so we can grow the crops that sustain us. Because without some forethought into preserving our ecosystem, well, we could go the way of the dinosaurs. The Earth will be fine; our planet is resilient. Us and the environment that sustains us? Not so much. So unless we want a future of wars over the snacks on your desk right now, we should probably start taking conservation initiatives seriously. This video was written by space historian Amy Shira Teitel. On the topic of water, she just made a video about releasing water into space! Check it out..