New York City in 2022. Half the 40 million people in the swarming metropolis are unemployed, the air is thick with pollution, food and water are as precious as jewels. This was the world of the future as envisaged in the sci-fi thriller, Soylent Green, in 1973. Now, according to the World Bank, it could come true unless there are dramatic and immediate changes to the way we live.
Unlike the Charlton Heston movie, the Bank does not suggest that we will be making food from dead bodies in 20 years' time. But its warning of an increasingly dysfunctional global society, with enormous pressure on basic resources such as water, energy and health, is remarkably similar.
Looking into its crystal ball, the Bank sees a world of nine billion people by mid-century generating a global GDP of $140 trillion a year. This staggering fourfold increase in the size of the world economy would be enough to guarantee a large-scale reduction in the 1.2 billion people living on less than a dollar a day, but the Bank argues that the price will be environmental catastrophe, social breakdown and lower living standards for everyone if policies remain unchanged.