The following extracts have been taken from
"Phosphorus in the environment: its chemistry and biochemistry" by John R. Van Wazer
of the Chemistry Department of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
(CIBA Foundation Symposium 57, 1978.)
The unprecedented increase in the worldwide population of humans - a growth which has been underway for two centuries and has been continuously accelerating - seems to be a root cause of many of the problems of today. Current events once more arouse fears that the probable conclusion of our present growth era will unfortunately consist of widespread death from famine, pestilence, and social disruption of various kinds.
People living in areas of high population density can exist in long-term equilibrium with the land without appreciable ecological damage; but a rapidly growing population has little chance of attaining this state because of ceaseless struggles to support the newcomers.
The rapidly growing poorer countries cannot possibly fulfil their aspirations for 'development' while maintaining their present birthrates.
In any event, soil erosion and other factors converting arable lands into wasted areas continue relentlessly while more and more supporting territory, such as swamps and forests, are converted into farm-land. The problems of soil erosion and other forms of land degradation are not restricted to the developing countries. The USA and Canada in their role as providers of food for the rest of the world are experiencing erosion of the soil by water and wind at a much higher rate than is at all consistent with permanent agriculture.
WHAT THE FUTURE MAY BRING
In view of these speculations about the future, what attitude should be taken with respect to the use of phosphorus? In the long-term, whatever is done about the use of phosphate rock is unimportant; in the short-term, it seems advisable for the good of all mankind (regardless of race, country or economic status) not to support population growth by any means (including phosphate-based fertilisers) in geographical areas where little or no attempt is being made to check this growth. Likewise, phosphorus chemicals should not be used to support over consumption, so that the environment need not be degraded frivolously.