I was reading an essay by Jessica Tuchman Matthews from 1989 called "Redefining Security" which was assigned in one of my classes, in which she argued that enviromental issues such as soil erosion, deforestation, overpopulation, pollution and the like needed to be considered part of the national interest, and required nations to respond multilaterally and regionally to be effective.
The bright side is that many of the gloomier predictions have proven to be overstated. This is due in no small part to the recent influence of the enviromentalist movement, to be sure, but Matthews and others expected the major gains to be government mandated. It seems to me that most actual progress has come from social activism on the one hand, and the response of the free market on the other. Government efforts appear to be counterproductive in many cases, and on the whole have negligible effects. California offers a tax-credit for installing solar-power systems in your home of 50% of its cost; yet I can't think of anywhere in the state where I have seen a solar home, because the technology is not ready yet. Meanwhile, better insulation and other techniques which are widely available today could save a great deal of energy, but the government barely notices them. Not trendy enough, I suppose.
Back on topic... one area which worried Matthews greatly was Africa, because it combined rapid population growth, terrible resource-management and agriculture, rapid resource depletion as a result, and unstable societies. Africa has proven to be as bad as everyone feared (with a few twists). Efforts to feed starving populations and husband resources have often been disrupted by wars, corrupt governments, and other such fun things, so it seems that there is little that the developed world can do about it.
The twist is AIDS. At the moment AIDS is having its biggest effects in sub-Saharan Africa, though that may change in twenty years or so. Regardless, at the same time as the northern African states are becoming heavily populated and poor, the southern states, rich in mineral wealth and soil, are seeing a third of their population die off. I would guess that pretty soon now, we are going to see a series of horrific wars in Africa as the big states try to absorb the empty ones, and help the process along by emptying the native population early (read wholesale massacres by machete-swinging mobs). They've already started doing it to minority populations within their own borders, and it won't take long before some Sudanese general (for example) looks south and sees the chance for a land-grab.
Things may get very ugly, very quickly.
My writing classes look very cool. My polisci classes are going to be awesome. Much blogable material!