TIL that between 1970 and 2010 the world lost half of it's wildlife while the human population has grown from 3 billion in 1970 to 7 billion in 2014

There is some really fundamental principals of Economics you seem to be misunderstanding. As demand increases and/or supply drops, prices rise and more money gets spent in R&D geared towards increasing the efficiency of current technology/resource utilization and towards finding alternatives to fill those needs.

The reason desalination is currently so expensive and energy inefficient is because there is very very little demand for it other than niche markets (like on ships). As our fresh water sources are depleted the cost of fresh water will eventually rise which adds incentive towards developing more efficient desalination technologies and driving the price down to parity with traditional clean water sources. The very same economic principal is behind the drive for renewable energy and alternate means of crude production.

E.g. We have known about the tar sands for decades but with crude so cheap in the past the sands used to cost significantly more to produce crude from than traditional drilling so they were ignored... now, with the rising price (both economically and politically) of crude, the tar sands have gradually become an economically viable means of producing crude which is why they are being exploited.

The same goes for renewable energy... in the past, renewables were significantly more expensive and less efficient than coal/nuclear/etc (other than in rare cases like with hydroelectric) but with the steadily rising price of non-renewable energy there was suddenly tremendous incentive to spend money on R&D to increase renewable energy efficiency and now they are almost at parity in terms of $/kilowatt hour with traditional non-renewables. Now the only reason for the prevalence of non-renewable energy generation is the initial infrastructure costs of setting renewables up and the added cost of developing an efficient supply chain (and lobbying pressure from the non-renewables). But give that another 20-30 years and all the projections show renewable outpacing non-renewable in terms of use for energy generation.

The same goes for meat and traditional farming methods... the demand will continue to grow until it outpaces the supply and then suddenly the alternatives start getting massive R&D funding and we start using them instead.

/r/todayilearned Thread Link - news.nationalgeographic.com