World Population Awareness

Population Dynamics in the United States

December 07, 2014

In 1969, President Nixon issued to Congress a "Message on Population." Referring to the expectation of the time that the U.S. population might exceed 300 million by the year 2000, he said:

This growth will produce serious challenges for our society. I believe that many of our present social problems may be related to the fact that we have had only fifty years in which to accommodate the second hundred million Americans. In fact, since 1945 alone some 90 million babies have been born in this country. We have thus had to accommodate in a very few decades an adjustment to population growth which was once spread over centuries. And now it appears that we will have to provide for a third hundred million Americans in a period of just 30 years. doclink

U.S. Population Milestones

1915: 100,000,000     1967: 200,000,000    2006: 300,000,000 doclink


10 Countries with the Largest Projected Population Growth: American Exceptionalism

January 31 , 2013, Huffington Post   By: Howard Steven Friedman

Aa nation's population can increase through internal growth (having more births than deaths) and through external growth (having more immigration than emigration). Internal growth rates are strongly predicted by factors like the country's age distribution, desired family size, life expectancy, the use of contraceptives, and the abortion rate. Because the internal and external factors vary greatly across countries, there are sharp national differences in projected population growth. The top countries in order of the expected increase in population between 2010 and 2050 are:

(1) India 467 million
(2) Nigeria231 million
(3) Pakistan101 million
(4) Tanzania93 million
(5) United States93 million
(6) DR Congo83 million
(7) Ethiopia62 million
(8) Philippines62 million
(9) Uganda61 million
(10) Kenya56 million

The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the top 25 and is the only country in the top 10 with a total fertility rate near the replacement rate. The other top 10 countries have much higher total fertility rates, vastly exceeding the global average. The U.S. is the only country in the top 10 list with a median age of over 30 years (at 37 years). In fact, no other country in the top 25 has a median age over 30. No other country in the top 25 has more than 6% of its population foreign born (13% in the U.S.). The current American population of around 310 million is the third largest in the world, exceeding only by India and China. That means that a 1% increase in the U.S. population contributes far more to the world population than a 1% increase by Mexico, Turkey or any another OECD country. The population growth difference isn't due to the life expectancy differences.* After all, the U.S. has a life expectancy of around 78 years, near the bottom of the OECD countries. Age distribution plays some role. The U.S. has the 7th youngest population of the OECD countries, averaging about 7 to 8 years younger than Japan, Germany and Italy. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the author seems to be ignoring the large number of baby boomers entering their retirement years.

A decade ago, children under age 18 made up a significant component of annual population growth and exceeded the growth of those ages 65 and older. But by 2011, these patterns had reversed: The number of people under age 18 declined by 190,000 between 2010 and 2011, while the number of elderly increased by 917,000. Growth in the number of working-age adults, including those in prime childbearing ages, is also down sharply.

See also:

Reports That the U.S. Birth Rate in 2011 was the Lowest in History Are, Well, Wrong

November 28, 2012, Population Reference Bureau blog

Recently we heard 'news' of the U.S. "birth rate" being the lowest (n 2011) since records have been kept. But what these various sources have been calling the "birth rate" is actually the general fertility rate -- that one was the lowest ever. The total fertility rate, which is the correct measure to use, has not recently seen the lowest rate ever.

There are three "birth rates": the crude birth rate is annual births per 1,000 total population; the general fertility rate is annual births per 1,000 women of childbearing age; and the total fertility rate is the average number of children women would bear in their lifetimes if the pace of childbearing remained constant for the long term.

The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics noted that the general fertility rate (GFR) of 63.2 for 2011 was the lowest ever reported. The crude birth rate was also the lowest ever. But both of these measures are affected by age structure. The general fertility rate can also be affected by a population's age structure within the female population of childbearing age, usually 15-49.

The U.S. population now has a smaller proportion of younger women in the childbearing population than before.

The total fertility rate (TFR), on the other hand, is unaffected by age structure and is directly comparable over the years. If the rate of childbearing were the same today as it was in 1976, the U.S. would have had 3.7 million births instead of the 3.9 million it did have. In 1976 the TFR was the lowest in U.S. history and it still is. Not 2011. doclink

Statistical Malpractice at the U.S. Census Bureau? - How Fast Does the U.S. Grow?

June 10 , 2012, You Tube

It was probably Mark Twain who said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots." He also remarked "There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Examines the way in which the Census Bureau downplayed U.S. population growth during the release of the 2010 Census results. doclink

Americans Put Off Having Babies Amid Poor Economy

July 25, 2012, USA Today

The USA's birthrate has dropped to its lowest point in 25 years as young adults postpone having babies because of the poor economy.

Demographic Intelligence - a Charlottesville, Va., company that produces quarterly birth forecasts for consumer products and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Procter & Gamble -- has said the fertility rate is not expected to rebound for at least two years and could affect birthrates for years to come.

The average number of births per woman has fallen 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007 and is projected to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year -- the lowest since 1987.

The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown, telling us that "births have clearly been affected by the economy." says Sam Sturgeon of Demographic Intelligence.

The effect of this economic slump on birthrates has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression.

Sturgeon says. "People are a bit in a wait-and-see pattern. … There's a sense of hesitancy, of 'What does better look like? How will we know?' -- especially for those of prime child-bearing age." Many young adults are unemployed, carrying big student loan debt and often forced to move back in with their parents.

"The more you delay it, the more you delay the possibility of a second or third child," says Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families. "There's a growing sense that college is prohibitively expensive, and yet your kids can't make it without a college degree," so many women may decide to have just one child.

Asian and European countries, where fertility rates are as low as 1.1 (Taiwan) and 1.3 (Portugal), are worried about their populations aging and not having enough young workers to support them. Immigration has helped the USA maintain higher birthrates, but that segment has been hard hit by this downturn. The birthrate for Hispanics tumbled from 3 in 2007 to less than 2.4 in 2010.

Hispanic immigration has slowed, and studies show some immigrants have returned home. Carl Haub, demographer at the Population Reference Bureau says: "Their overall proportions of births are enormous -- roughly 25% of the U.S. total." doclink

Karen Gaia says: Having more children to support the aged is not the answer: who is going to take care of those children when they are older? Where are they going to find jobs? We already have a giant baby boom in the world. Having more children is like a giant Ponzi scheme.

In Case You Didn't Know: Increased Life Span Accounts for One-half of US Population Growth

May 06, 2012

In 2007, the former U.S. Census Director from 1994-1998, Martha Farnsworth Riche, said video that immigration accounts for maybe 1/2 of the U.S. population growth, the birth rate is at replacement level, and the primary source of population growth occurs because people are not dying as young as they used to. The video is from an online course called the Habitable Planet.

http for the link to video (see minute 14:35). doclink

Economic Crisis Slows U.S. Population Growth; the U.S. Population is Growing at the Slowest Rate Since the Great Depression After Two Decades of Robust Increases

February 16, 2012, USA Today

Since 2009, U.S. population has grown only 0.7% a year, down from 1% in previous years and the lowest since the late 1930s. The total U.S. population is now 311.6 million.

The government says the recession ended in June 2009. Although the economy has improved, the downturn's effect on birth and immigration lingers. From July 1, 2010, to July 2011 the number of babies born dropped 200,000 from the same period in 2008-09 while the number of additional immigrants fell 150,000.

"It's an indicator of an unhealthy economy," Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau says. "People are obviously still delaying births, and immigration has continued to drop because job opportunities are not there."

The U.S. fertility rate, formerly at 2.1 children per woman is now 1.9, estimates demographer Joseph Chamie, former director of the UN Population Division and more recently research director at the Center for Migration Studies.

Chamie said "Even with the slight current downturn in births, the U.S. population will very likely reach 400 million midcentury."

Environmental groups have questioned how many more people the nation can support, fueling a push for "sustainable" communities that encourage conserving green space and relying less on autos.

"Population does not necessarily equal economic growth anymore," says Bill Fulton, vice president for policies and programs at Smart Growth America, a coalition of environmentalists, planners and others working to slow sprawl. Las Vegas' population boom created low-paying jobs that disappeared when the housing market collapsed. But Pittsburgh lost population while household wealth went up. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we'll see how we survive peak oil, a massive debt, and the erosion of the middle class.

California's Population Takes Aim at 38 Million

January 16, 2012

California, the most populous state in the U.S., is predicted to reach a population of 38 billion in May, according to On Numbers' latest population estimates.

Texas was next, reaching 26 million on New Years Day, New York is at 19,442,080, Florida 19,221,784 and Illinois 12,906,281. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I couldn't find the On Numbers website.

Is Economy Best Birth Control? US Births Dip Again

November 17, 2011, Associated Press

For the third year in a row, U.S. births have dropped. Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s.

"I don't think there's any doubt now that it was the recession. It could not be anything else," said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization.

In 2007, U.S. births reached an all-time high at more than 4.3 million. Now it is just over 4 million, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For teens, birth rates dropped 9% from 2009. For women in their early 20s, they fell 6%. For unmarried mothers, the drop was 4%.

It seems that women who are worried about money, particularly younger women, feel they can't afford to start a family or add to it.

While birth rates fell for younger women, for women 40 and older, they rose. Those who face a closing biological window for having children and may be more worried about that than the economy.

The total fertility rate, which tells how many children a woman can be expected to have if current birth rates continue fell from 2.1 to 1.9.

For Hispanic women total fertility rate rate fell from 3 children to 2.4 in just a few years. Haub suggested that some young women who immigrated to the United States for jobs or other opportunities may have left. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it would be interesting to know how much the drop in fertility rate for the total is due to the drop in fertility rate due to Hispanic women who have left.


U.S.: Ben Franklin's Sister - Poor Jane’s Almanac

April 23, 2011, New York Times*

The Republican's new economic plan this month is called "The Path to Prosperity," a nod to an essay written by Benjamin Franklin, called "The Way to Wealth."

Franklin was the youngest of 10 sons. His sister Jane, 6 years his junior, was the youngest of seven daughters. Their family was poor, which meant that, in school, boys learned to write but girls only learned to read. Jane never went to school. Against poverty and ignorance, Franklin prevailed; his sister did not.

At 17, Franklin ran away from home. At 15, Jane married Edward Mecom; and she was probably pregnant, since a third of all brides then were. She and her brother wrote letters to each other all their lives: his were learned, warm, funny, delightful; hers were misspelled, fretful and full of sorrow.

Franklin told his sister: "You write better, in my Opinion, than most American Women," and he was right.

He wrote the "The Way to Wealth" and a famous autobiography, and his picture is on the $100 bill.

She had one child after another and struggled, and failed, to keep her familiy out of debtors' prison, the almshouse, asylums. But she read, thirsting for knowledge.

She had 12 children and buried 11 of them.

The story of Jane Mecom is a reminder that, especially for women, escaping poverty has always depended on the opportunity for an education and the ability to control the size of their families.

In 1789 when Jane Mecom was 77, Boston, for the first time, allowed girls to attend public schools. The fertility rate began declining. The American Revolution made possible a new world, a world of fewer obstacles, a world with a promise of equality.

Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia in 1790 at the age of 84. He left Jane the house in which she lived and he gave one hundred pounds to the public schools of Boston.

Jane Mecom died in that house in 1794. Later her house was demolished to make room for a memorial to Paul Revere. doclink

Karen Gaia says: many Americans chide other countries for the way they treat their women, but we were there in their shoes a little over 200 years ago.

U.S. Population Landmarks

January 4, 2010, George Plumb of Vermonters for Sustainable Population

1915 - Margaret Sanger brought the diaphragm from the Netherlands to the U.S. It was the first truly effective birth control device under the control of women.

1916 - Margaret Sanger organized the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1921 she founded the American Birth Control League which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

1925 - Sanger's second husband financed the first manufacturing of the diaphragm in the U.S.

1950 - The U.S. population was 150 million.

1954 - The Hugh Moore Fund first used the term "population bomb" on their published pamphlet. He was a philanthropist from Pennsylvania. His mantra was "Your cause is a lost cause unless you support family planning."

1960 - The "pill" was invented and became available to women for contraception.

1965 - Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, ending four decades of restricted immigration. This law, while removing limits based on country of origin, included provisions for family reunification, opening the door to "chain migration."

1965 - The U.S. Supreme Court decision of Buxton and Griswold vs. Conn. legalized birth control for married couples offering "privacy of the bedroom."

1967 - U.S. population reached 200 million.

1968 - The Population Bomb, by Paul R. Ehrlich was published by the Sierra Club. This book laid the foundation for widespread concern about population growth among environmentalists and others that followed in the early years of the 1970's.

1968 - The organization Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was formed. There were dozens of local chapters throughout the country. ZPG later became Population Connection, with a focus on world population.

1970 - Earth Day was declared with population growth a major issue on the agenda. Dr. Mary Steichen Calderon, past medical director of the PPFA, established the Sex, Information and Education Council (SIECUS).

1972 - The Commission on Population and the American Future report, chaired by John D. Rockefeller III, stated "We have looked for, and have not found, any convincing economic argument for continued population growth. The health of our economy does not depend upon it, nor does the vitality of business, nor the welfare of the average person." President Richard Nixon supported this and the National Security Study Memorandum 200 on population, both of which were defeated by Congress.

1972 - The Limits to Growth, is published by the Club of Rome. The book modeled the consequences of a rapidly growing population and finite resource supplies. The book was updated in 1993 and in 2004 under the name Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. In 1996 one of the authors, Donella Meadows, founded the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vt.

1973 - The U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade affirmed a women's the right to abortion. doclink

US Ohio;: Women in Their 20s Lead Rise in Out-of-Wedlock Births

January 23, 2007, Associated Press

Up to 40% of last year's births among unmarried women, up from 29% in 1990. The birth rate among teens declined in 2006 to the lowest level on record. The increase has been led by women in their late 20s who have delayed marriage or are in live-in relationships. Behind are women in their 30s and 40s with college degrees and careers.

Appropriate partners may not be available due to death or incarceration. doclink

The United States at 300 Million

October 03, 2006,

The US is set to become the third country after China and India to have 300 million people. Within another 37 years, we are projected to pass 400 million. Natural increase drives nearly 60% population growth annually. International immigration accounts for about 40%. One of the most significant trends has been the shift of the population west and south. Between 1970 and 2000, the population share in the South and West rose from 48% to 58%. People are moving farther from central cities and their inner suburbs, pushing into woodlands and farmland.

The percent of the total population living in the suburbs of metropolitan areas grew from 38% to 50% between 1970 and 2000, while those living in central cities stayed at around 30%. People are concerned about crowding.

One-person households are more than twice as common as those of five people or more at more than 26% of the total. Young adults are moving out on their own. Older people who are divorced or widowed often choose to live alone.

Many forces underlie these changes. The age at first marriage has risen from 23 to 27 for men and from 21 to 26 for women. Increasing levels of women's education give women more options for independence outside marriage.

Children are moving back home after college. Saddled with school loans, many overcome any reservations they might have had to returning to the nest.

Between 1970 and 2004, the share of women in the labor force rose from 43% to 59%. The array of occupations include far more than the traditional options. Economic forces exerted pressure on families until it was hard for one-income families to get by.

Experts believe the current Social Security system will not be able to cover the payments promised to retirees after 2030. Of Americans ages 25 and older the share who finished high school soared from 55% to 85% between 1970 and 2004. Now more applicants are expected to have a college degree. The number of foreign-born people in the US has reached more than 35 million. But at 12% of the population, the share is lower than it was between 1860 and 1920, when it ranged to 15%.

The largest share of immigrants to the US still comes from Latin America, and from Mexico in particular.

Many are not authorized to be here. Recent estimates peg the number of unauthorized migrants at 11.5 million, with more than one-half from Mexico.

Immigrants are fueling the growth in the number of ethnic minorities. One-fifth of all children under age 18 are either foreign-born or in a family where at least one parent was foreign-born. Today, almost half of all children under age 5 are members of a racial or ethnic minority. And if current trends persist, that share will increase.

These trends could have an impact on the US. Since 1974, the under age 18 have been more likely to live below the poverty line than other age groups. In 2005, 18% of the young lived in poverty, compared with 10% of people 65 and over and 11% ages 18 to 64. Members of racial or ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, with blacks the most likely 34%, Hispanics 28% and whites 14%.

If we don't address these age and race differences in poverty and well-being, today's children may be less able or willing to support the predominantly white when they reach adulthood. doclink

U.S. Population Growth and Its Effects on Our Environment Must Be Addressed, Experts Say

August 06, 2006, San Diego Union Tribune

The top-priority campaigns of the nation's big environmental groups emphasize animals, pollution and global warming.

What's missing are initiatives that tackle U.S. population growth.

The environmental establishment has abandoned talking about the nation's growing populace, particularly as it relates to immigration. The debate centers on economics and national security.

The US population has nearly doubled since 1950, and is expected to hit 300 million in October.

The link between population and the country's environmental capacity, its water supply, farmland, fisheries and other natural resources, is getting more attention from groups that aren't among the names in environmentalism.

The scientific data shows that the U.S. is reaching many of the nation's ecological limits, and that many are linked to population trends. It's a shame that environmentalists haven't found a way to get involved in a prominent way. Countries in Europe, with Russia and Japan, have shrinking populations because births aren't keeping pace with deaths.

America's relatively high population growth and high rates of consumption and pollution make result in the largest environmental impact per capita.

Americans occupy about 20% more developed land per capita for housing, schools, shopping, roads and other uses than they did 20 years ago, partly because the average number of people per household has dropped while the average size of homes has swelled. About 40% of the nation's rivers and 46% of its lakes are too polluted for fishing and swimming. Wetlands are shrinking by 100,000 acres a year, mainly because of development.

More than half the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and can damage seaside ecosystems.

There's no universally accepted estimate of how many people the nation can accommodate.

The number is ultimately a question of balancing quality and quantity.

Technological advances that help clean the air, conserve water and grow more food on less farmland have helped to mitigate or delay predicted population-induced disasters.

Last year, one of every five immigrants worldwide lived in the United States. The National Audubon Society supports international family planning while taking no position on U.S. immigration. Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council largely stay out of domestic immigration issues, though neither explain why.

Sorting out the ecological costs and benefits of immigration and population growth can be enormously complex and has led some environmentalists to say their groups should stick with saving species, curbing pollution and preserving open space.

Aggressively advocating birth control or abortion rights could alienate church groups. The U.S. population grew by 14.9 million between April 2000 and July 2005. Immigration accounted for more than 42%.

Immigrants also play a key role in population growth once they arrive in the United tates.

A 2005 report found that there was an annual average of 84 births per 1,000 foreign-born women in the U.S., compared with 57 births per 1,000 native U.S. women.

The US has 12 million unauthorized immigrants. About 3 million of them, mostly from Mexico, live in California. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we could work harder at preventing unintended pregnancies, especially for teens, who have the highest birth rate in the developed world.

U.S.: Data on Marriage and Births Reflect the Political Divide

October 13, 2005, New York Times*

In New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, the median age of first marriage is 29 for men and 26 or 27 for women, four years later than in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah. The age of first marriage has been rising since 1970. But it is impossible to say whether the early-marrying states are moving in the same direction, at the same pace, as the later-marrying ones. In states where people marry later, there is a higher proportion of unmarried-couple households. The study found states in the Northeast and West had a higher percentage of unmarried-partner households than those in the South. In Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, unmarried couples made up more than 7% of all coupled households, twice those in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. On teenage births, the same differences become clear. In New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, about 5% of babies are born to teenage mothers, while in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming, 10% or more of all births are to teenage mothers. Over all, 15% of women who had given birth in the US in the previous year were not citizens. While noncitizens made up a third of the new mothers in California, and more than 20% in Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas, there were a dozen states where less than 4% of the new mothers were not citizens. While 21% of all women who gave birth in California in the last year and 14% in Arizona, Nevada and Texas did not speak English well or at all, there were 14 states where less than 2% of new mothers had limited English skills or none. There was no evidence that immigrant mothers were poorer than others. There was no correlation between language, citizenship and poverty status. doclink

Incredible Shrinking US Family

December 02, 2004, Monitor, The(Uganda)

Over the last several decades the size of US families has shrunk. The percentage of households containing five or more people has fallen by half and the number of single and two-person households has soared. Compared to the middle of the 20th century, marriage is not a universal status of adulthood. Disney films have depicted a number of untraditional family groups but the model of three children living with both their natural parents, is retro today. In 1970, 21% of households had five or more people, today it has dropped to 10% while households with one or two people increased from 46% to 60%. The number of people per household decreased from 3.14 to 2.57. The proportion of young, never-married singles has increased, particularly women 30 to 34 which has tripled since 1970. The reduced fertility is the result of the increase in the percentage of women who work and the rising expense of raising children. Parents are more concerned with putting effort into the raising of each child and unlike European societies, the US has limited government support for families. Big families may be becoming the province of the upper classes who can afford them. The US has an estimated 5.5 million stay-at-home parents, and of these, 5.4 million are women. There are only 98,000 stay-at-home dads. doclink

US Life Expectancy at All-time High, but Infant Deaths Up - Cdc

February 12, 2004, Push newsfeed

Life expectancy for 2002 reached 77.4 years, up from 77.2 in 2001. Infant mortality increased from 6.8 deaths per 1,000 in 2001 to 7.0 per 1,000 in 2002. In 2002, there were four million births and 27,977 infant deaths. The rise was due to an increase in infant deaths of less than 28 weeks old, particularly infants who died within the first week of life. The three major causes were birth defects, premature birth low birth weight, and maternal complications. SIDs declined from 2001 to 2002. The US mortality rate dropped by 855 across all ethnic groups except native Americans and non-Hispanic white females, whose death rates remained unchanged. Homicides dropped by 17% from 2001, although that figure was distorted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Among leading causes of death, heart disease dropped 3%, stroke nearly 3%, accidents and unintentional injuries, nearly 2% and cancer, 1%. Death from HIV/AIDS, dropped 2%. HIV mortality has decreased 70% since 1995, but remains the fifth leading cause of death from people ages 25-44. doclink

Fertility, Births

U.S. Deaths Reach Record as Population Grows, Ages

October 12, 2012, LubbockOnline   By: MIKE STOBBE

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that U.S. deaths reached a record of 2.5 million last year, 45,000 more deaths than in 2010 , reflecting the nation's growing and aging population. The annual number of deaths has been generally rising for decades as the population has swelled.

"If you have an older population, of course you have more deaths," said Qian Cai, a University of Virginia demographer who studies population trends. "That doesn't mean the population is less healthy or less vital."

The rate of deaths actually dropped to an all-time low - about 314 million per 100,000 people. That was offset by the fact that there are so many Americans.

U.S. life expectancy for a child born in 2011 was about 78 years and 8 months, which hasn't changed from the previous year.

The gap in life expectancy between the sexes, which was nearly 8 years at its widest in 1979, remained at less than 5 years in 2011.

The infant mortality rate dropped to a new low of 6.05 deaths per 1,000 births.

Heart disease and cancer remain the top killers, accounting for nearly half the nation's deaths. But the death rates from both continued to decline.

Increasing were the death rates for diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, Parkinson's disease, and pneumonitis.

The rise in pneumonitis deaths is another sign of an aging population. Mainly in people 75 and older, it happens when food or vomit goes down the windpipe and causes deadly damage to the lungs.

Even though U.S. births have been falling for several years, there more than enough newborns to replace Americans who die. The number of births last year was close to 4 million. Add in immigrants, and the total population is growing by 2 million to 3 million people a year. doclink

Karen Gaia says: because of the excessive footprint of Americans, it would be best if U.S. population growth slowed from its current .9% and dropped to below zero for awhile, at least until a more sustainable U.S. footprint is achieved.

U.S.: Knocked Up and Knocked Down; Why America's Widening Fertility Class Divide is a Problem

September 26, 2011, Slate Magazine

Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor U.S. women into sharp relief.

Childlessness has increased across most demographic groups but is still highest among professionals. The Pew Research Center says about one quarter of all women with bachelor's degrees and higher in the United States wind up childless. This is higher than in England, where 22% of all women are childless.

At the same time, the numbers of both unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women have climbed steadily in recent years. About half of all pregnancies in this country are unplanned, with poor women now five times more likely than higher-income women to have an unplanned pregnancy, and six times more likely to have an unplanned birth, according to the Guttmacher Institute's analysis.

Women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. The very fact of having a child increases a woman's chances of being poor.

The declining fertility of professional women highlights the extent to which our policies are deeply unfriendly to parents. Europe has policies designed to make it easier to simultaneously work and parent, yet here, because our overall birthrate is robust, we have no national paid leave law in place and no decent childcare system.

The Center for Work-Life Policy report says that professional parents are working longer and harder, shouldering new responsibilities for aging parents, and striving overtime to provide their children with all that they, in many cases, had lacked—a smooth path of success and both parents by their side. The costs are steep and include anxiety and exhaustion.

Poorer women are having more unintended pregnancies. Only about 40% of women who needed publicly funded family planning services between 2000 and 2008 got them, according to the Guttmacher Institute. During that same period, as employment levels and the number of employers offering health insurance went down, the number of women who needed these services increased by more than 1 million.

With growing poverty rates and political attacks on already inadequate family-planning funding threatening to drive the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women even higher, and little effort being made to address the pressures driving other women away from having kids, the gap between professionals and poor women could widen. Still, both are struggling with the same problem: an untenable "choice" between children and financial solvency. doclink

U.S.: The Cost of Raising a Child Has Risen 40% Over the Past Decade

September 21, 2011, CNN Money

Providing a child with the basics has become more than most parents can afford.

The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was only $60,000 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830. From buying groceries to paying for gas, every major expense associated with raising a child has climbed significantly.

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute says "Many parents are working longer hours, or another job, and they are giving up time at home. It's a complete catch-22."

Food prices, in particular, have weighed on parents' budgets as rising demand for commodities like corn and wheat, along with other factors such as rising oil prices, drought and floods, have made even a box of cereal pricey.

Another increase has been in gas prices. Between 2000 and 2010, consumers paid an average of 85% more per gallon at the pump, according to AAA.

Employers have scaled back or even did away with medical coverage in recent years, while at the same time, costs for doctors visits, medications and other health services also climbed - for families with children rising 58% over the decade, said Mark Lino, a senior economist at the USDA.

Incomes are shrinking and unemployment is near an all-time high. Over the past decade, median household income has fallen 7%, according to a recent report from the Census Bureau.

In addition a large part of the paycheck must go for child care. In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.

Also see: The anti-baby boom: Why the U.S. birth rate keeps falling - Go to this link to see a great chart of birth rates from 1910 to present, linked to various economic downturns. doclink

Karen Gaia says: According to the US Census Bureau: while the percentage of young people (under 17 years old) in the U.S. population went down slightly between 2000 and 2010, the number of young people actually went up by 1.9 million. The only age group that showed a 2010 decrease in numbers was the 25-44 year old group at minus 2.9 million.

  • So this could be another reason we see lower birth rates which are defined as births per 1000 and the 1000 includes the baby boomers. In other words, the people who can have children are still having children and we don't have to worry about going extinct.
  • People are influenced by their ability to raise children, however, and should be allowed to tailor their family size to their circumstances.
  • After all, the U.S. is still growing and this is straining our natural resources.
  • Unfortunately the cost of contraception relative to income also goes up to a point where many women can no longer afford it, while lawmakers are threatening to cut contraception from public funding.
  • Recession Makes Educated Women in Rich Countries Postpone Having Babies; Fertility Worldwide Dropped but UK Population Rose by 470,000 in 2010 Because, Say Experts, Less Educated Had More Children

    July 01, 2011, The Guardian

    A study for the European Union by the Vienna Institute of Demography shows that, in many rich countries, highly educated young women have delayed having children due to the the global recession, and -- if governments slash public spending -- may wait for an additional five to eight years.

    A steep decline in fertility rates occured in the US and Spain in 2009-10, while rates stagnated in Ireland and most European countries.

    Britain was an exception, with population rising by 470,000 to 62.2 million in 2010, the highest annual growth rate for nearly 50 years, a rise caused by natural change rather than immigration for the third consecutive year.

    Tomas Sobotka, one of the Austrian report's authors. "It is possible this is because the educated women are choosing to delay having while the less educated are having more."

    The report claimed that highly educated women delay having children, especially if they are childless, when employment is uncertain, while "less-educated women often maintain or increase their fertility under economic uncertainty."

    On the other hand, men with "low education and low skills face increasing difficulty in finding a partner or in supporting their family, and often show the largest decline in first child birth rates."

    Rising unemployment, failing consumer confidence, tighter credit and falling house prices have all affected the birth rates, says the study. 26 out of 27 EU countries had rising birth rates the year before the recession started, but by 2009, 13 countries saw their fertility rates decline and another four countries experienced stable fertility rates.

    The massive cuts in social spending in Greece, Britain, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere "could lead to a double dip fertility decline," said Sobotka.

    The present recession could have a more permanent effect on birth rates. "Women's age at first birth has reached around 28 in most European countries and Japan," Sobotka said. "This leaves women and couples less flexibility to postpone parenthood until a later age." doclink

    US Births Down for 3rd Year; Economy May Be Factor

    June 16, 2011, Associated Press

    Births in the U.S. had been on the rise for years, and the number hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007.

    Last year, the number of births fell 3%, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The falling birth rate seemed to bottom out in October, November and December, so the decline could be slowing, but it's too early to say.

    The lower birth rates may be because women who are unemployed or have other money problems feel they can't afford to start a family or add to it.

    In 2008 and 2009, the only increase in births was in women older than 40 — considered more sensitive to the ticking of their biological clocks.

    Another factor behind the decline may be a drop in immigration to the United States, blamed on the weak job market. "Hispanics have higher birth rates," said Dr. Roger Rochat, a researcher who has studied fertility and abortion trends. doclink

    Bring on the Baby Boom

    May 6, 2009, USA Today

    Judging by magazine stories on celebrity bumps, babies dominate pop culture these days. In 2007, the total fertility rate in the USA hit 2.12 births per woman, a bit higher than 2006, and much higher than the 1.74 in 1976.

    The U.S. is one of the few developed countries to have a fertility rate above replacement level. Demographers debate the reasons, but there's a case to be made that not only is a high birthrate a good sign, we should be hoping it rises at least a bit more.

    Surveying childbearing across the developed world, America is a fecund outlier. Demographers have many theories for our exceptionality. The USA has a high teen pregnancy rate and many unplanned pregnancies.

    Across the developed world, many women say they want two kids. In the U.S., the average woman is likely to sometimes go over.

    Compared with Japan's 1.2 rate, getting families to the desired two kids is noteworthy. Our fertility rate rose 22% from 1976 to 2007, as women's workforce participation rates rose an equal amount. In other words, women think they can manage jobs and families. More professional and educated women who 10-15 years ago felt like 'I can only handle one child' say 'I can have a second.'

    Environmentalists fret that high birthrates strain the planet; a 3.8 would mean a billion-plus Americans within two generations. A rate of 2.1-2.5 keeps us growing manageably, and there's an argument for hoping it climbs within that range.

    With fewer workers supporting an aging population, Social Security, for instance, will exhaust its trust fund about 2041.

    A higher birthrate could ease that. The economic growth a rising population will shrink our debt to a more manageable percentage of GDP. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: To respond to these wild claims, send an email to: Include your full name, address and day and evening phone number so they can verify your letter. Submissions are edited for length (250 words or less), accuracy and clarity. Begin your letter by citing the article [e.g. Laura Vanderkam's column. ('Bring on the Baby Boom') misses the point.

    Large numbers of women and teens are reporting unintended or unwanted pregnancies, particularly now that some many have experienced joblessness and lowered wages. Rather than promoting more babies, we should be expanding comprehensive sex education in the schools and increasing eligibility under Medicaid for family planning services.

    An increase in fertility to 2.4 or 2.5 children per women, combined with projected immigration trends, could easily push U.S. population over the 1 billion mark by the end of the century.

    There are not enough natural resources to sustain a projected population of 9.2 billion. Why should we add more Americans to this number, particularly a child born in America has a much larger 'ecological footprint' than a child born in a developing country. Americans already account for about 25 percent of the world's consumption of scarce resources, like oil, and we emit at least 20 percent of all greenhouse gases.

    In a world of rising food prices, growing water scarcity, climate change, and projected energy shortfalls, population growth rates - particularly in the U.S. - pose far greater risks to the environment and economic well-being than any benefit that would be derived by shoring up the fiscal solvency of Social Security.

    Using what amounts to a Ponzi scheme to attempt to fix Social Security makes no sense. When the additional babies being promoted by Laura Vanderkam grow up, it will be in a poorer America due to depletion of natural resources by our growing population. America rose economically on the oil boom. This boom will soon bust. Already in urbanized areas of the world, joblessness is becoming a large problem. Will there be jobs for the next generation of baby boomers? And who will support them when they become old?

    U.S.: Birthrate is Lowest in a Century

    August 27, 2010, New York Times*

    The United States birthrate dropped for the second year in a row since the recession began in 2007. Births fell 2.6% percent last year even as the population grew. The birthrate, which takes into account changes in the population, fell to 13.5 births for every 1,000 people last year. That is down from 14.3 in 2007 and way down from 30 in 1909, when it was common to have big families.

    The situation is a striking turnabout from 2007, when more babies were born in the United States than in any other year in the nation's history. When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children. The birthrate dipped below 20 per 1,000 people in 1932 and did not rise above that level until the early 1940s.

    Nearly half of low- and middle-income women surveyed a year ago said they wanted to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they have because of money concerns. Besides finances, experts said a decline in immigration to the United States might also be pushing births down.

    The new United States report is a rough count of births from states. It estimates there were 4,136,000 births in 2009, down from a year ago's estimate of 4,247,000 in 2008 and more than 4.3 million in 2007. doclink

    Teen Birth Rates Up in 26 States

    January 07, 2009, USA Today

    There are increases in the number of teens having births and the rate at which they are having births.

    The data shows significant increases for 2006. In the two previous years only one state in each year had a significant increase.

    In 2006, the general fertility rate hit its highest level since 1971. New data gives credence to the idea that the downturn in birth rates is over. The highest teen birth rates are Mississippi with 68.4 per 1,000, followed by New Mexico, with 64.1 and Texas, with 63.1. The lowest rates are in New Hampshire with 18.7 per 1,000, Vermont, with 20.8 per 1,000, and Massachusetts, with 21.3 per 1,000.

    Some blame a more sexualized culture and greater acceptance of births to unmarried women. Others say abstinence-only and a de-emphasis on birth control may play a part.

    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy claims that abortion is driving higher teen birth rates and suggests that increases in high-profile unmarried births in Hollywood, movies and even politics is a factor for impressionable teens.

    The new data reflects the first decline since 1968 in the average age of first-time mothers, from 25.2 years in 2005 to 25 in 2006. doclink

    Sexual Responsibility

    Thanks to Better Sex Ed, California's Teen Birth Rate Has Plummeted by 60 Percent

    July 19, 2013, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler

    California's teen birth rate has dropped 60% since 1991, according to new data from the state's health department.

    Public health experts attribute this to the requirement that California's public schools to offer comprehensive sex ed classes with scientifically accurate information about birth control. Family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens were also credited with lowering rates.

    Overall, the United States' teen pregnancy rate has been plummeting due to teens gaining better access to contraceptive methods and opting to use birth control as soon as they become sexually active. Community-based youth programs are one of the most effective strategies of instilling teens with healthy attitudes and safe approaches toward sexuality.

    Teen pregnancy rates remain high in the South where adolescents there tend to receive ineffective abstinence education, and are more likely to lack access to birth control resources. doclink

    U.S.: Publicly Funded Family Planning Services Help Women Avoid Unintended Pregnancies While Generating Substantial Financial Savings

    July 16 , 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    Publicly funded contraceptive services in 2010 helped women prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 1.1 million unplanned births and 760,000 abortions. Without these services, national levels of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion among all women would be 66% higher and 73% higher among teens. By providing women the contraception they need to avoid pregnancies they don't want, publicly funded contraceptive services yielded $5.68 for every $1 spent.

    The number of women in need of publicly funded contraceptive services rose from 16.4 million in 2000 to 19.1 million in 2010, most likely the result of a growing number of poor women in the overall population due to the recession.

    In 2010 6.7 million women were serviced by publicly funded safety net centers and 2.2 million women received care from private doctors that was paid for through Medicaid. 4.7 million women received services through centers that received some funding through the federal Title X program. These services helped women avert 1.2 million unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 590,000 unplanned births and 400,000 abortions. Without the services provided by Title X clinics, the national incidence of these events would be 35% higher among all women and 42% higher among teens.

    Guttmacher senior researcher Jennifer Frost said, "Each year, millions of women are able to access highly effective contraceptive methods through these programs. Investing in family planning to help women avoid pregnancies they don't want and for which they are unprepared is good public health policy. Saving money as a result of that investment is just common sense." doclink

    New U.S. Study Highlights Need to Include Men in Strategies to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy

    September 2013, Guttmacher Institute   By: Laura Lindberg and Kathryn Kost

    Having children, whether intended or unintended, is a shared experience. After reviewing the results of the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute wrote "Exploring U.S. Men's Birth Intentions."

    They found that, like women, men reported that about 40% of kids they fathered were unintended, with two-thirds of these births being mistimed, and one-third being unwanted.

    The prevalence of unintended births varied by several factors.

    Both younger men and men with low education levels had more unintended births. Only 25% of births reported by married men were unintended, but 75% of single men did not intend to father a child, and about 10% of those men first learned about the pregnancy after the child was born.

    The acceptability of parenting outside of marriage varied by race and ethnicity. Among single men, more births were intended by black fathers than by white fathers. White men had the fewest unintended births (34%), while 51% of births among black men were unintended and 38% among Hispanic men.

    Hispanic fathers more commonly reported planned births than white or black fathers. Not surprisingly, men who planned the birth of a child were more likely to be happy about it than those who had not planned the birth. However, many men who had an unintended birth, particularly those who were married, reported being happy about it.

    Laura Lindberg concluded that most men preferred having children within marriage, but "others might be happy having a child as a single dad. … Regardless of a man's marital status or race, his community and health care providers should recognize his fertility desires and empower him to plan his family. We need to include men in our discussions about unintended pregnancy and foster strategies to help men work as individuals and with their partners to control when or if they have children." doclink

    The 'Condom Fairy' Gives Contraception Gifts to BU Students

    February 25, 2013   By: Joanne Hunt

    Boston University launched a program this month called the ‘Condom Fairy,' a free service that delivers contraception to students, according to BU's Office of Wellness and Prevention Services.

    Katharine Mooney, Wellness Coordinator at BU's Wellness and Prevention Services, said she believes this is the first condom-by-mail delivery service at a university. The program launched two weeks ago, she said, and since then the university has satisfied nearly 500 orders.

    "It's meant to be discreet," Mooney said. "So when you go to your mailbox, no one will know what you're getting."

    Follow the link in the headline for more. doclink

    Education Soaps From Population Media Center Now Showing in the U.S.

    February 10 , 2013, William N. Ryerson, Population Media Center


    US Abortions Drop 5 Percent During Recession; More Birth Control, Bad Economy Likely Causes

    November 21 , 2012, Washington Post

    U.S. abortions fell 5% during the recession, perhaps because women are more careful to use birth control when times are tough, researchers say. Both the number of abortions and the abortion rate dropped by the same percentage.

    Women are "more careful about birth control," said Elizabeth Ananat, a Duke University assistant professor of public policy and economics who has researched abortions.

    Not all states send in data on abortions. While experts estimate there are more than 1 million abortions nationwide each year, the CDC counted about 785,000 in 2009 because of incomplete reporting.

    Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate reported, at 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The state also had only a couple of abortion providers and has the nation's highest teen birth rate. New York, second to California in number of abortion providers, had the highest abortion rate, roughly eight times Mississippi's.

    Nationally since 2000, the number of reported abortions has dropped overall by about 6% and the abortion rate has fallen 7%.

    A government study released earlier this year suggested that about 60% of teenage girls who have sex use the most effective kinds of contraception, including the pill and patch. That's up from the mid-1990s, when fewer than half were using the best kinds.

    There are also there is an increased use of IUDs, T-shaped plastic sperm-killers that a doctor inserts into the uterus. Earlier this year the Guttmacher Institute reported that IUD use among sexually active women on birth control rose from less than 3% in 2002 to more than 8% in 2009.

    IUDs essentially prevent "user error," said Rachel Jones, a Guttmacher researcher.

    Also on the increase is the use of the morning-after pill, a form of emergency contraception that in 2006 was approved for non-prescription sale to women 18 and older. In 2009 that was lowered to 17.

    The economy, which was in recession from December 2007 until June 2009, is likely another factor. Americans ere still worried about anemic hiring, a depressed housing market and other problems.

    John Santelli, a Columbia University professor of population and family health, said: "The economy seems to be having a fundamental effect on pregnancies, not abortions."

    The majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetus is about the size of a lima bean.

    Black women have an abortion rate four times that of white women .

    About 85% of those who got abortions were unmarried. doclink

    U.S.: Ob/Gyns Back Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills

    November 21, 2012, Fox News

    The influential American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has declared that birth control pills should be sold over the counter, like condoms.

    But the company would have to seek government permission first, and it's not clear if any are considering it.

    And what would the cost per pack be like if it were no longer covered by insurance? The new ACA health care law requires FDA-approved contraceptives to be available without copays for women enrolled in most workplace health plans, but If the pill were sold without a prescription, it wouldn't be covered under that provision, just as condoms aren't, said a Health and Human Services spokesman.

    Already, 17 year-olds don't need to see a doctor before buying the morning-after pill - a higher-dose version of regular birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken shortly after unprotected sex. And earlier this year, the FDA held a brainstorming meeting about how to sell regular oral contraceptives without a prescription.

    Half of the nation's pregnancies every year are unintended, a rate that hasn't changed in 20 years, said Dr. Kavita Nanda, an OB/GYN who co-authored the opinion for the doctors group, and a scientist with the nonprofit FHI 360, formerly Family Health International. "It's unfortunate that in this country where we have all these contraceptive methods available, unintended pregnancy is still a major public health problem," she said. Many women have trouble affording a doctor's visit, or getting an appointment in time when their pills are running low - which can lead to skipped doses, he added. If the pill didn't require a prescription, women could "pick it up in the middle of the night if they run out."

    ACOG's opinion says any move toward making the pill nonprescription should address that cost issue. Not all women are eligible for the free birth control provision, it noted, citing a recent survey that found young women and the uninsured pay an average of $16 per month's supply.

    The doctors group pointed out that: blood clots, while a risk of birth control pills, happens very rarely, and are a bigger threat during pregnancy and right after giving birth; women who smoke or had a previous clot should avoid the pill, other over-the-counter drugs have rare but serious side effects, such as stomach bleeding from aspirin and liver damage from acetaminophen; and women on birth control pills should be told to continue getting check-ups as needed, or if they'd like to discuss other forms of birth control such as implantable contraceptives that do require a physician's involvement.

    A study of 500 women who regularly crossed the border at El Paso, Texas into Mexico to buy birth control pills for a few dollars a pack found that the women who bought in Mexico stuck with their contraception better than another 500 women who received the pill from public clinics in El Paso. It was possibly because the clinic users had to wait for appointments, said Dr. Dan Grossman of the nonprofit research group Ibis Reproductive Health. "Being able to easily get the pill when you need it makes a difference," he said. doclink

    U.S.: New Study Confirms What Many Have Long Believed to Be True: Women Use Contraception to Better Achieve Their Life Goals

    September 25, 2012, Guttmacher Institute

    The reasons women use contraception were revealed in "Reasons for Using Contraception: Perspectives of U.S. Women Seeking Care at Specialized Family Planning Clinics," by Jennifer Frost and Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute.

    "Women value the ability to plan their childbearing, and view doing so as critical to being able to achieve their life goals." ... "They need continued access to a wide range of contraceptives so they can plan their families and determine when they are ready to have children."

    63% of participants reported that contraception allowed them to take better care of themselves or their families, 56% said it allowed them to support themselves financially, 51% : complete their education, 50% : keep or get a job.

    The single most frequently cited reason for using contraception was that women could not afford to take care of a baby at that time (65%). 25% of women reported that they or their partners were unemployed, which was a very important reason for their contraceptive use. Among women with children, nearly all reported that their desire to care for their current children was a reason for contraceptive use.

    Other reasons include not being ready to have children (63%), feeling that using birth control gives them better control over their lives (60%) and wanting to wait until their lives are more stable to have a baby (60%).

    2,094 women receiving services at 22 family planning clinics nationwide were surveyed.

    "Notably, the reasons women give for using contraception are similar to the reasons they give for seeking an abortion," according to Lawrence B. Finer, author of a previous Guttmacher study on that topic. "This means we should see access to abortion in the broader context of women's lives and their efforts to avoid unplanned childbearing, in light of its potential consequences for them and their families." doclink


    Immigrant Human Katrina Flooding Into the United States

    February 18, 2008, - Frosty Wooldridge

    Obama, Hillary and McCain promise to give amnesty to 20-30 million illegal aliens, continue chain migration, double U.S. immigration from 1.0 to 2.0 million annually and accept millions of anchor babies. This means 70 million immigrants and their children will flood into America by 2040. The following interview with Dr. Albert Bartlett of Colorado University will give you plenty of reasons for taking action to prevent this.

    Lake Mead which provides water for millions of people in the West, will dry up by 2023. The cause comes from drought, global warming and population growth. Lake Lanier, Georgia has already dried up in 2007 while Georgia expects to add six million more people in four decades.

    We cannot change drought. At the same time, population growth devours water faster than it can be recharged. Everyone thinks population growth remains inevitable. False! Nature stops populations from growing when they cannot obtain enough water or food.

    In America, corporations, political leaders, realtors and home builders salivate at the word growth. They pour concrete onto 6,000 acres daily and 2.19 million acres annually.

    It's time to try again to correct the innumerate experts who say that growth is inevitable. They fail to recognize that after maturity, continued growth is either obesity or cancer.

    The authors of growth would like us to believe that the battle against growth is lost, so our only role is to be the best losers. We should remember that Smart Growth and Dumb Growth both destroy the environment, but Smart Growth destroys the environment with good taste.

    Our leaders yank our leash into unending, unacceptable and relentless growth? Such growth yields chronic and painful ramifications for everyone in America regarding quality of life and standard of living?

    What does growth really bring to you and me? It creates a few rich people. It brings more homeless and unemployed, more people living in poverty, more traffic congestion, higher parking fees, more school crowding, more unhappy neighborhoods, more expensive government, more and higher taxes, more fiscal problems for the state, more air and water pollution, higher utility costs, diminished democracy, crowded highways, growing costs of infrastructure maintenance, higher food costs and more destruction of the environment. You will encounter overloaded campgrounds, beaches, ski resorts, more litter, higher gas costs, greater housing costs, water shortages and loss of choices and personal freedom.

    It's not clear why the government would think that people would want these known consequences of growth. Crude oil increased from $20 a barrel in 2002 to $100 a barrel in 2008. We could look at $500 a barrel in another six years.

    Culprit? Immigration causes 80% of our growth!

    By their continued promotion of growth, the innumerates are speeding the arrival of painful but predictable shortages and consequent rationing of gasoline, natural gas and water across America.

    Bartlett concluded: The arithmetic of population, resources and growth is inexorable. The consequences cannot be avoided by believing that wishing will make it so. doclink

    Mexico: Toward a Green Agenda on Immigration

    April 18, 2006, Grist Magazine

    The debate in Congress over immigration, has touched very little on NAFTA. But the issues are related, for NAFTA stipulates that capital and goods must flow freely across the U.S.-Mexico border, while leaving policy about labor to the respective governments.

    Right now, the battle is being waged between Republicans who want to punish undocumented Mexican workers and Republicans who want to exploit them. Kennedy will succeed in cobbling together a bill that preserves a militarized border, a guest-worker program and a large disenfranchised army of undocumented workers.

    In the last decade, businesses have been able to easily relocate overseas. Meanwhile, workers fleeing Mexico's crumbling rural economy have been sneaking north. The argument that "they're taking jobs Americans don't want" doesn't tell the whole story. Illegal immigration has been a boon to Wal-Mart and its shareholders -- and not just because the retail behemoth has itself exploited it. Thus the global model embodied by NAFTA -- capital and goods move freely, while workers are restricted, has led to rising corporate profitability and stagnating wages.

    The immigration boom is a legacy of the free-trade fervor that conquered the Mexican elite in the early 1980s. The U.S. investor class has reaped the benefits.

    If we agree that a global economic system hinged on export and long-distance trade is energy-intensive, and that U.S. policy has worked to promote global trade, then a way forward comes into view.

    An environmentalism that challenges this status quo has potential to bolster sustainability. By promoting local production for local consumption on both sides of the border, the U.S. economy can wean itself from its addiction to Mexican labor. And the Mexican economy can begin to work for its own citizens. To do so means challenging the assumption that state power exists to promote long-distance trade. One place: the 2007 Farm Bill, which will govern how the government subsidizes agriculture. Since the 1970s, the federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars rewarding production of environmentally ruinous commodities like corn, which threaten rural livelihoods in Mexico.

    Let's work to promote organic agriculture destined for nearby consumption. Ending the commodity-corn subsidy will instantly provide relief to rural Mexicans now contemplating a trip north. doclink

    U.S.: We Don't Need 'Guest Workers'

    March 21, 2006, Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration

    In 1964 Congress killed the seasonal Mexican laborers program despite warnings that its abolition would doom the tomato industry. Then scientists developed oblong tomatoes that could be harvested by machine and California's tomato output has risen fivefold. Now we're being warned again that we need unskilled laborers from Mexico and Central America to relieve U.S. "labor shortages." Guest workers would mainly legalize today's vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We'd be importing poverty. They generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line has risen 162%, while the number of non-Hispanic whites in poverty rose 3% and blacks, 9.5%. What we have now is a policy of creating poverty in the US while relieving it in Mexico. It stresses local schools, hospitals and housing and feeds social tensions (witness the Minutemen). Some Americans get cheap landscaping services but if more mowed their own lawns it wouldn't be a tragedy. Among immigrant Mexican and Central American workers in 2004, only 7% had a college degree and nearly 60% lacked a high school diploma. Among native-born U.S. workers, 32% had a college degree and 6% did not have a high school diploma. The illegal immigrants represent only about 4.9% of the labor force. In no major occupation are they a majority. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." Most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages below prevailing levels. Hardly anyone thinks that illegal immigrants will leave, but what would happen if illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers; others would find ways to minimize those costs. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005. Some lost jobs to immigrants and unemployment remains high for some groups. Business organizations support guest worker programs - they like cheap labor and ignore the consequences. Why do liberals support a program that worsens poverty and inequality? Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. We've never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that's shown to be ineffective, we shouldn't adopt guest worker programs that add to serious social problems. doclink

    Politics and Funding

    U.S.: Morning-after Pill Not Making Women Slutty

    February 17, 2013, Mother Jones

    CDC reports that 5.8 million American women have used emergency contraception (EC) between 2006 and 2010. Nearly a quarter of sexually active women ages 20 through 24 have used it.

    In 2002, only 4% of fertile, sexually active women said they had used EC, compared with 11% today.

    Only 5% of women over 30 have used it. Most respondents say they have only used it once -- disproving the theory that the morning-after pill is enabling women to be irresponsible hussies.

    Last year, HHS ruled that Plan B One Step could be sold to women under 17 only by prescription. This differed from the FDA's determination that it is safe for all women who are old enough to bear children.

    The HHS decision made it harder for all women, not just teenagers, to access EC. Now people get carded at the pharmacy, which makes it more difficult for women without ID -- or their male partners -- to purchase the drug. Delays in accessing EC can reduce its effectiveness since it must be used within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

    Black and Hispanic women - and women with no more than a high school diploma - were more likely to have used EC after unprotected sex. White women and women with a bachelor's degree or higher use it as a backup method when they feared their primary method had failed.

    The prevalence of EC will likely increase, especially when places like Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania install EC vending machines. doclink

    U.S.: FDA Allows College Campus to Make Contraception More Accessible with Plan B Vending Machine

    January 29, 2013, Think Progress

    Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania has a vending machine that dispenses emergency contraception to its students when they insert $25. The machine was installed after 85% of the student body said they thought Plan B should be available on campus grounds. Last year an uproar from anti-choice advocates prompted a review of the university's practices. The university added a feature to the vending machines that requires students to swipe their student ID to verify they attend the college and are above 17 years old. This additional feature has satisfied the FDA: under FDA guidelines, Plan B is already available to everyone over the age of 17 without a prescription.

    Students are no longer forced to delay taking the pill by having to schedule an appointment. junior Chelsea Wehking said she has "heard some kids say they'd be too embarrassed" to make a trip into the surrounding small town to purchase Plan B.

    After controversy over Obamacare's contraception mandate first erupted last year, fueled by the anti-choice community's myth that Plan B induces abortions, emergency contraception became more controversial. But the morning after pill (which is safer than aspirin) simply prevents pregnancy within the first 72 hours after intercourse. doclink

    U.S.: The White House's Contraceptives Compromise

    February 1, 2013, Washington Post   By: Sarah Kliff and Michelle Boorstein

    For religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, the Obama administration proposed a measure that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage.

    Under the plan, objecting nonprofits with self-insured plans opting out of contraceptive coverage would notify the company that administers their health benefits. That third-party administrator would then be responsible for arranging "separate individual health insurance policies for contraceptive coverage from an issuer providing such polices." This policy would stand apart from the employer's larger benefit package. Insurers who create these plans for self-insured companies will receive an offset from the federal government: lower fees to sell plans on the new health exchanges run by the Obama administration.

    The faith-based employer would not "have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds." Some of the 40 lawsuits filed against the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement were put on hold until the Obama administration clarified its policy on the issue.

    Last February, the Obama administration announced an accommodation to faith-based nonprofits: A third-party insurance company would cover the cost of contraceptive coverage. Religious leaders derided the policy as an "accounting gimmick," arguing that the premiums they pay to a health insurer could ultimately end up paying for the contraceptives they opposed.

    Cardinal Timothy Dolan, leader of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - essentially the spokesman for the U.S. church said: "Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later."

    "HHS and the administration have gone out of their way to resolve the concerns of religious institutions that object to covering contraceptives in their insurance programs," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of prominent Catholic magazine America and a well-known writer. "They have also found creative ways to provide contraceptives to the employees of religious colleges and hospitals without the involvement of these institutions."

    Many women's health groups quickly supported the new policy. doclink

    U.S.: Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2012 State Policy Reviewed

    January 10 , 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    In U.S. state capitols over the course of the year 2012, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services. Although 2011 saw 92 abortion restrictions enacted, 2012 saw the second highest annual number of new abortion restrictions. This analysis refers to reproductive health and rights-related "provisions," rather than bills or laws, since bills introduced and eventually enacted contain multiple relevant provisions. During the contentious presidential campaign -- in which abortion and even contraception were front-burner issues -- supporters of reproductive health and rights were able to block high-profile attacks on access to abortion in states as diverse as Alabama, Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Similarly, attacks on state family planning funding were down, and only two states disqualified family planning providers from funding in 2012, compared with seven in 2011. That said, no laws were enacted in 2012 to facilitate or improve access to abortion, family planning or comprehensive sex education*. Arizona enacted abortion seven restrictions; Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin each enacted at least three. Most of the new restrictions enacted in 2012 concerned limits on later abortion, coverage in health exchanges or medication abortion. By March 2012, ultrasound requirements were introduced in 10 states. Mandatory ultrasound provisions are intended to convince a woman to continue her pregnancy to term and require a provider to perform an ultrasound even when one is not medically necessary. In February, a firestorm erupted in Virginia when it became known that the proposed mandate would, in practice, necessitate performance of a transvaginal ultrasound. The controversy not only led to passage of a somewhat weaker requirement in Virginia but also is widely seen as having blunted efforts to mandate ultrasound in Alabama, Idaho and Pennsylvania. The new law in Virginia also requires providers to give women the option to hear a fetal heartbeat in advance of having an abortion. In addition, laws adopted in Louisiana and Oklahoma require abortion providers to make the fetal heartbeat audible to the woman prior to an abortion. In 2012, Arizona, Michigan and Virginia took steps to establish stringent regulations - Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) - that affect only surgical and medication abortion providers, but not other providers of outpatient surgical and medical care. Another TARP attempt failed in Minnesota when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a measure that would have imposed requirements on abortion providers' facilities, but not other similar outpatient health care facilities. Legislation to require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges was introduced in five states and enacted in three; this provision is not mandated for other outpatient surgical and medical providers. Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana enacted measures to ban abortion prior to fetal viability in direct conflict with U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The exceptions contained in these restrictions do not allow for an abortion when necessary to protect a woman's health, as required by the Court. Only the Louisiana restriction is fully in effect. It bans abortion at 20 weeks postfertilization (22 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period or LMP). Arizona's provision prohibits abortion at 18 weeks postfertilization (20 weeks LMP); enforcement of the restriction has, so far, been blocked by the ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals. In New Hampshire a law was passed which bans the procedure before viability, even when the woman's health is endangered. When the provision goes into effect in 2013, 19 states will have bans on "partial-birth" abortion. Four states enacted provisions banning abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges being established under the Affordable Care Act. Provisions enacted in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin permit coverage of an abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Alabama also permits coverage in the case of ectopic pregnancy, and Wisconsin permits it when a woman's physical health is at serious risk. This brings the number of states restricting abortion coverage available through state insurance exchanges to 20. In 2012, three states limited provision of medication abortion by prohibiting the use of telemedicine, which is becoming a routine part of health care, particularly in rural areas. Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin enacted provisions requiring that the physician prescribing the medication for the abortion be in the same room as the patient, bringing to seven the number of states that prohibit the use of telemedicine. South Dakota and Arizona enacted provisions requiring a woman seeking an abortion to obtain counseling that includes inaccurate or irrelevant information. This brings the number of states that require that women seeking an abortion be given misleading information to 18. Finally, the new ultrasound mandate in Virginia also requires that women who live less than 100 miles from the clinic undergo the ultrasound 24 hours in advance of the abortion compelling women to make two trips to the clinic before receiving an abortion. 10 states now have laws that necessitate a woman to make two trips. Three states - Montana, New Hampshire, and Ohio - adopted requirements that either mandate parental involvement or make it more cumbersome for a minor to use the judicial bypass procedure to obtain an abortion in the absence of parental involvement, bringing the total number of states requiring parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion to 10. Research has found that minors typically involve a parent when deciding to obtain an abortion and many of those who do not talk to their parents report they would experience physical violence or abuse if their parents knew. Eight states adopted other measures related to abortion. In 2011, funds for family planning were cut by more than half in Montana, New Hampshire and Texas. In New Jersey family planning funds were cut drastically in 2010. However, 2012 saw steep cuts only in Maine where funding was slashed by 25%. In 2011, seven states (Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Indiana and Texas) moved to enact new restrictions on eligibility for family planning grant funds, often including both state funds and federal funds that flowed from the state treasury to providers. Although most of these restrictions remain in effect, only two states added new restrictions in 2012. In practice, these restrictions affect only clinics operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates. These changes bring to nine the number of states that restrict access to family planning funds Provisions relating to the mandates on contraceptive services through insurance coverage -- and specifically which employers may refuse such coverage -- were introduced in eight states and enacted in two. Eight states now have an "expansive" exemption to their contraceptive coverage mandates. Between 2007 and 2010, seven states enacted legislation related to sex education, and all but one expanded access to comprehensive sex education or added requirements that the sex education provided be medically accurate. Over the past two years, however, five states enacted legislation, and all but one supported abstinence-only education, bringing to 26 the number of states which stress abstinence in sex education. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: In 2012, a law was passed and signed in California that made contraception more available in rural areas via nurse practitioners.

    U.S.: Texas: Likely Increase in Births Has Some Lawmakers Revisiting Cuts

    December 07, 2012, New York Times   By: By EMILY RAMSHAW

    When Texas state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

    The Health and Human Services Commission projections now indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state's general revenue budget alone -- and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

    In the next legislative session lawmakers will grapple with an existing Medicaid financing shortfall. "I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session," said Rep. Donna Howard, Democrat, who said she had been discussing ways to restore financing with several other lawmakers in both parties. "I think there is some effort they'll be willing to make to restore whatever we can."

    Planned Parenthood would still probably be excluded from future financing because they are "affiliated" with clinics that perform abortions.

    Senator Bob Deuell, Republican, said last session's family planning cuts had gone too far. He has the support of some of Texas' leading anti-abortion groups to seek more money for birth control and reproductive health care in 2013.

    Dr. Deuell, a primary care physician said he has debated this with people who say "it's not the government's role to provide family planning," .."Ultimately, they're right. But you have to look at what happens if we don't."

    The nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated that the cuts would lead 284,000 women to lose family planning services, resulting in 20,000 additional unplanned births at a cost to taxpayers of $231 million.

    With Planned Parenthood largely out of the picture, will there be the political will to restore money for birth control, which has increasingly found itself lumped with abortion in Republican debates about family planning. doclink

    U.S.: State Facts About Unintended Pregnancy

    December 19, 2012, Guttmacher Institute

    There are 6.7 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year About half of these are unintended. Births resulting from unintended pregnancies have been linked to adverse maternal and child health outcomes and myriad social and economic challenges, including costs to the federal and state governments of $11 billion (2006).

    The Guttmacher Institute has launched a new tool that gives the incidence and outcomes of unintended pregnancy in each state, including the proportion of all pregnancies that are unintended; the rates of unintended pregnancy; the proportions of unintended pregnancies that result in births and abortions; and the proportion of all births resulting from unintended pregnancy;

    Also given is the public cost of unintended pregnancy in each state, and the impact in each state of publicly funded family planning services.

    Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher, said of the fact sheets: "They are a comprehensive resource that documents the significant state-level benefits of investing in publicly funded family planning services, both in helping women avert unintended pregnancies, births and abortions, and generating considerable savings to the federal and state governments." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Sounds like a very useful tool for activists to use when having a conversation with their legislators.

    U.S.: Planned Parenthood Bill Blocked in Ohio Senate

    November 28, 2012, Toledo Blade   By: JIM PROVANCE

    In Ohio, the Senate failed to bring measures to the floor that would cut, if not eliminate, family-planning funding for Planned Parenthood and all but outlaw abortions in Ohio. This means the bills would die with the close of the two-year session in mid-December and would have to start the legislative process over next year.

    "I think you have to look at the entirety of the work that's done by Planned Parenthood, and I believe they offer much-needed services that are not available other places," said Senate President Tom Niehaus (R., New Richmond). "I chose not to take the bill up in lame-duck."

    The House committee had voted two weeks ago to send House Bill 298 to the full House. House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) questioned whether to go forward with a House vote if the Senate would not take it up.

    The bill would have placed Planned Parenthood's 32 Ohio clinics last in line for funds behind government entities, federally qualified health centers, Community Action Agencies, hospitals, and private practices that offer comprehensive primary and preventative health care in addition to family planning services.

    Planned Parenthood could have lost up to $1.7 million in state-administered federal aid as a result.

    The so-called Heartbeat Bill, House Bill 125, will also die in the Senate. "If you look at past experience, this is the most pro-life Senate that we've had in the General Assembly," Mr. Niehaus said. But he questioned the slow speed at which proponents of the bill have offered compromises. "I still have constitutional concerns," Niehaus said.

    The bill would require a doctor to test for a fetal heartbeat and would prohibit an abortion if one is detected. A heartbeat could be detectable as early as six weeks after conception.

    Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), the sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill said he hasn't given up on a Senate vote on the Heartbeat Bill. The bill's supporters contend that presence of a heartbeat is the best indicator that a fetus is likely to be carried to full term. They hope the bill it would give the U.S. Supreme Court an excuse to reverse its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that extended a woman's right to privacy to decisions pertaining to abortion.

    The bill would effectively outlaw abortions in most cases in Ohio, particularly if a woman doesn't realize she's pregnant until after the heartbeat is detectable.

    Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said: "Make no mistake about it, the threat to women's health may be delayed, but it remains," ... "We fully expect anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women's health when the legislature reconvenes in January." doclink

    U.S.: Faith, Fear, and Family Planning

    October 22, 2012, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

    In the past year, the religious right has dominated the political discourse, making it appear that the broader electorate has taken a sharp turn to the right on contraception. But polls shown that most people of faith, like their secular counterparts, believe that women should be able to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. And that is true of practicing Catholics and Protestants alike.

    It was refreshing recently to see evangelical leaders at the National Press Club issue a statement warning that the association and the confusion of family planning with abortion has caused intense religious opposition by Christians and others with the result that opposition has extended not just to abortion, but to family planning as a whole.

    This confused opposition to family planning is an international phenomenon, and has hindered funding and support of desperately needed family planning services both in the United States and around the world.

    The statement also issued a special call to "pro-life" Christians, urging them to back off their opposition to the funding of organizations that provide both contraception and abortion services. Citing the crucial role contraception plays in preventing abortions, the statement called upon pro-life advocates to "consider how a deeply moral commitment, focusing on the flourishing of all human beings made in God's image, actually ought to lead to support for family planning."

    Unless more people of faith dare to speak out publicly, the religious right will continue to gain ground in their efforts to shut down family planning clinics. The U.S. House of Representatives wants to cut all funding for Title X, the federal program that helps to provide low-income women with access to birth control. So do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and spurred on by the religious right, several governors and legislatures have slashed state funding for clinics serving low-income women.

    When social conservatives win against family planning, women and their families will lose. Maternal health will suffer, and it will lead to more abortions, not fewer. doclink


    Energy Cost Impacts on American Families, 2001-2012

    June 20 , 2012, EIA

    This EIA report analyzes consumer energy cost increases from 2001 to 2012 for all U.S. households and examines the pattern of energy expenditures among four income levels and for senior and minority families.

    In 2010, the median household income of U.S. families was a little under $50,000. In 2001, families with gross annual incomes below $50,000 spent an average of 12% of their average after-tax income on residential and transportation energy. By 2005, energy costs rose to 16% and in 2012, that number is expected to be 21%.

    Family incomes have not kept pace with the rising costs of energy. Since 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that real (inflation-adjusted) median household income has declined by 6% (from $52,823) and is 7% below the median household income peak ($53,252) that occurred in 1999.

    The number of people in poverty in 2010 was the largest number in the 52 years since the Census Bureau began to publish poverty statistics. Poverty is more prevalent among some minority groups. Some 27% of Blacks and 26% of Hispanics lived in poverty in 2010, compared with 15% for the overall population.

    Higher gasoline prices account for nearly 80% of the increased cost of energy for consumers since 2001. Average U.S. household expenditures for gasoline will grow by 136% from 2001 to 2012 while residential energy costs for heating, cooling, and other household energy services will increase on average by 43%.

    Electricity prices have increased by only 51% in nominal dollars since 1990, well below the 72% rate of inflation in the Consumer Price Index. The nominal prices of residential natural gas and gasoline have nearly doubled and tripled, respectively, over this period.

    Because energy represents a larger portion of poorer families' household budgets, energy consumes c20% or more of the household incomes of lower- and middle-income families, reducing the amount of income that can be spent on food, housing, health care, and other necessities.

    In 2010, 62% of Hispanic households and 68% of Black households had average annual incomes below $50,000, compared with 46% of white households and 39% of Asian households.

    In 2010, the median gross income of 25.4 million households with a principal householder aged 65 or older was $31,408, 36% below the national median household income.

    The 60 million households earning less than $50,000 - representing 50.4% of U.S. households - will devote an estimated 21% of their after-tax incomes to energy, compared with 9% for households with annual incomes above $50,000. For the 28 million lower-income families with incomes between $10,000 and $30,000, energy expenditures will consume 24% of average after-tax incomes, compared with 14% in 2001. doclink

    Population Or Affluence?

    April 28, 2011, Rewilding Institute - Dave Foreman - Around the Campfire

    Refering to the IPAT equation (Impact = Population X Affluence X Technology), there seems to be a never-ending squabble over which is heavier in making Impact: Population or Affluence. It's both. We need to freeze and cut both population and consumption.

    However, without lowering population, cutting back on the high consumption can't do the job. Looking at the Ecological Footprint we see that the production and consumption of goods and services depends entirely on arable soils, forests, croplands, pasture lands, fishing grounds, clean waters and air, the atmosphere, ozone layer, climate, fossil fuels, and minerals - to perform the ecological services and provide the materials and energy and waste sinks that sustain civilization.

    Those who see Affluence or consumption as the key use the Ecological Footprint as a yardstick for lowering their Impact, such as: * Drive less/Get a higher mileage car/Take the bus/Bicycle/Walk; or Buy food grown nearby/Eat organic/Grow your own/Eat lower on the food chain; or Make your house more energy efficient/Have a smaller house/Live with others.

    Americans can lower their footprints by trimming fat - but they aren't going to give up too much. They may be willing to go to the leaner Japanese and Western Europeans lifestyles, but cutting back to how Mexicans or Nigerians or Bangladeshis live, is not an option that Americans will consider.

    We can bring our per person footprint down, but not nearly enough for generous sustainability, which includes creating societies that leave sufficient natural resources for future human generations to live good lives; and sharing the landscape generously with nonhuman beings.

    This leaves us with no choice but to freeze how many we are and begin to become fewer.

    Environmentalists who think we can double or triple U.S. population without wiping out wildlife and scalping our last wildernesses, are living in a fool's paradise.

    Research from Murtaugh and Schlax at Oregon State University shows that a hypothetical American woman who switches to a more fuel-efficient car, drives less, recycles, installs more efficient light bulbs, and replaces her refrigerator and windows with energy-saving models, would increase her carbon legacy by 40 times if she has two children.

    Murtaugh and Schlax have shown well how overweight P is in I*PAT, not only for carbon emissions, but for the consumption of fresh water, for example. We can't lower Impact only by lowering Affluence.

    And Americans have the biggest Affluence footprint per person of any people in the world. Any population growth in the United States, then, is growth of these big Affluence footprints, making U.S. population growth more harmful to the world than population growth anywhere else. The world cannot afford more Americans.

    The author has more on this in his book, Man Swarm. doclink

    What to Do About the Upcoming Peak Oil and Food Shortage Crisis?

    April 2011, Georgetown Gazette by Ray Griffiths

    In 1956, a geologist working for Shell Oil named M. King Hubbert predicted that US petroleum production would peak in 1970, and steadily decline in the years thereafter. His prediction showed that, like many other natural phenomenon, oil production over time forms a bell-shaped curve.

    It now appears that peak oil was in 2008 to 2010. Mr. Hubbert can be forgiven for missing the date, as he was a petroleum geologist, and geologists usually think in terms of millions of years.

    Oil forms in basins on the edge of oceans that are anoxic (lacking oxygen), which prevents the oxidation of the constant rain of dead algae and animals that settle to the bottom of all oceans. The preserved remains, mixed with sand, clay and other accumulations, are then capped with an impervious layer and buried between 7500-15000 feet (1.5 to 3 miles) beneath the earth. At this depth, the temperature is high enough (about 175 degrees F) to "cook" the organic sediments into petroleum. Below this range, it is cooked so far that it all turns into natural gas. The petroleum, trapped by the impervious layer, will reside there, waiting for an industrious oil company to tap it with a well rig. Early oil companies found the "light, sweet crude" that would just push up to the surface when under pressure. 'Light' because it makes a lot of gasoline, and 'sweet' because it doesn't have much sulfur.

    But other oils consist of heavy tar residue, or not have enough natural gas, and need to be pumped from great depths, or have high sulfur that takes a lot of processing to refine. Any of these flaws require energy to overcome so that the cost may rise. The Texas oil wells drilled in the early 1900's got 20+ barrels of oil for each barrel of oil it took to pump and process. Today the ratio is as low as 5 barrels of oil "costing" one barrel. If the ratio approaches one to one, there isn't any point in pumping the oil anymore.

    A pound of petroleum contains more energy than most other equivalent energy sources, and some sources are very hard to contain, (think of batteries to store electricity compared to a gas tank in a car or truck). Hydrogen would require 7 tanker trucks to carry the energy equivalent of one tanker of gasoline.

    For the last 100+ years or so, the production of oil increased almost every year. Now, there will begin to be a bit less oil every year. Over the long term, the price will increase because we are dependent on it and the cheap, easily refined oil has already been pumped. Using oil to replace human labor with machines became the basis for economic success. Now labor will become cheaper than machinery. But politicians don't mention this because a permanent decline in our economy would assure defeat at the polls.

    Employment will initially decline, so it will be a tough economy to live in. Food, and every other commodity that depends on oil to be produced or shipped will cost more.

    What can you do? Grow your own food if you can. Learn to enjoy cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in the winter. Try to move close to where you work. Get rid of the gas hog. Walk. Expect to pay lots for exotic fruit. Invest in a solar home, if you have anything to invest. Insulate. Stay healthy, and maybe think about alternative health care. Think of strategies to survive when you are poor.

    The answers, most of them, have been part of the human condition for generations.

    Many cultures have declined, but most haven't talked about it much. Rome in about 1 AD, the Maya of Central America in 700 AD, are examples. Both took involved a decade or two of decline followed by a decade or two of getting by. N

    Expect hunger, disease and war - the 'Three Horsemen' to return. On the bright side, we do know more about causes of disease than in the past, and we know how clean water and sewage handling affect public health. Hunger won't be easy either - our current system of baking all the bread at one point and shipping it around the country is likely to get pretty pricy in a while. There just won't be the funds available to rebuild so quickly after an earthquake, flood or fire. One can already see it in the response to Hurricane Katrina, there are parts of the Gulf Coast that won't return for a very long time, if ever. More locally, living in California has some definite advantages as well as disadvantages. The potential for earthquakes in LA and the Bay Area is kind of scary. On the other hand, the agricultural potential of the Central Valley isn't going to disappear, though the water to irrigate may be a problem.

    So, what strategies are likely to help? Learn a trade, grow some of your own food, make friends with your neighbors, you may need their help sooner than you think. A lot of the survival strategies are also just common sense. Look for opportunities to develop your local resources - everyone will still need to eat, drink and be merry, any way they can.

    Some of the benefits to living in California - close to food sources, relatively warm climate, many Native Americans present during "Pre-European-American contact", indicating that California had a relatively high "carrying capacity", the ability for land to support people living without petroleum.

    Some of the detriments to living in California - too many people, (though most of them are down South), fragile infrastructure supplying everyone, too many earthquakes, droughts, fires and floods.

    Some benefits/detriments to living in the Sierra Foothills - lower elevations can support agriculture if water is available, lots of oak trees supplying acorns for people to eat, but, travel is difficult and slow, we need to learn to live with fire, and, this is where everyone from the Bay Area/Southern California will come if times get tough. If we ever have a flood like we did in 1862, the Central Valley will fill with water and many of those people will head for these hills.

    From "Up and Down California in 1860-1864" by William H. Brewer: In the Winter of 1861, "The great central valley of the state is under water - a region 250 to 300 miles long and an average of at least twenty miles wide . . . Although much of it is not cultivated, yet a part of it is the garden of the state. Thousands of farms are entirely underwater - cattle starving and drowning.", and "An old acquaintance, came down from a ranch that was overflowed. The floor of their one-story house was six weeks under water before the house went to pieces. This was in the Sacramento Valley. . . . Nearly every house and farm over this immense region is gone. There was such a body of water - 250 to 300 miles long and 20 to 60 miles wide, the water ice cold and muddy - that the winds make high waves which beat the farm homes in pieces."

    Any natural disaster during our decline is likely to cause immense personal losses, which will not be compensated by government. Locally, we can rely on natural resources such as timber and firewood which will still retain value. On the other hand, we very much need to learn to manage our forest - in the past we have cut the big trees and sold the wood. Now we have a dense, overgrown forest which desperately needs to be thinned. The people who lived here for thousands of years managed the forest with fire - they were after different products of course, but the cost of fire suppression is something we will not be able to afford in the future. Planned fire prevents wildfire, and learning to control fire will be one of our most important tasks.

    Some references for readers: The Long Descent, by John Michael Greer, Beyond Oil, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes: Up and Down California in 1860-1864, by William H. Brewer, edited by Francis P Farquhar. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: While the writer has some good ideas, I disagree that we will have enough agricultural capacity without oil or alternative to farm machinery or transport food. However, it is extremely important that we, as individuals, and as political groups, prepare for the future!

    The World's Largest Bond Fund Dumped All of Its U.S. Government Debt - The Devaluing of the Dollar

    March 09, 2011, Reuters

    PIMCO Total Return is the world's largest bond fund. It has dumped all of its U.S. government-related debt in the biggest signal yet of how negative investors have become about the U.S. Treasury market.

    The move followed in the wake of a vicious Treasury market sell-off and just days after he questioned who will buy Treasuries once the Federal Reserve halts its latest round of bond purchases in June.

    Bond prices have come under severe selling pressure because of a strengthening U.S. economy and as investors brace for what could happen when the U.S. central bank ends its controversial quantitative easing program.

    PIMCO's co-chief investment officer has often railed against U.S. deficit spending and its inflationary impact. He has advocated buying bonds with "safe," higher yields -- such as emerging-market bonds -- that can withstand possible erosion of returns by inflation. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We are following the path of unsustainability: Peak oil(when demand exceeds supply), housing speculation and debt-based economics; stagflation; rising food prices and hunger.

    Income Inequality Pushes U.S. Down in Well-Being Ranking

    November 04, 2010, Market Place, Public Radio

    The United Nations latest Human Development Index shows the gross domestic product isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all measurement of economic health. In addition to income, the Index looks at measures of health and education. In 1980, the U.S. was number one in the income ranking.

    Today, the U.S. is number 4 for well-being behind Norway, Australia, and New Zealand. What has changed is that, for the first time, the rankings were also filtered for inequality, gaps between rich and poor. Consequently the overall Human Development Index fell by about 11%, which is quite significant, dropping the U.S. from 4th to 13th in the world. , Tamara Draut, who tracks U.S. income inequality and says "The middle class has lost ground and lower income households have just been clobbered. That is the story of the last couple of decades."

    America's record on education, on the other hand, has helped its ranking on the Index. doclink

    American Psychosis: What Happens to a Society That Cannot Distinguish Between Reality and Illusion?...

    September 14, 2010, Project World

    Note: I admit that this is a very pessimistic, perhaps unrealistic article. But there many grains of truth to be found here. I know many people around me who seem to have blinders on, to be in denial. I believe Americans have gotten so accustomed to material goods, that they think they deserve them, when, in fact, they are exceeding the carrying capacity of the world ... Karen Gaia

    The United States is a country entranced by illusions, captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television. In the cult of the self, we have a right to get whatever we desire. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism.

    We seem to believe that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked.

    A society that cannot distinguish reality from illusion dies. The belief that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the accumulation of vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others is exposed as a fraud. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out.

    America stays afloat by selling about $2 billion in Treasury bonds a day to the Chinese. It saw 2.8 million people lose their homes in 2009 to foreclosure or bank repossessions - nearly 8,000 people a day - and stands idle as they are joined by another 2.4 million people this year. It refuses to prosecute the Bush administration for obvious war crimes, including the use of torture, and sees no reason to dismantle Bush's secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Deficits are pushing individual states to bankruptcy and forcing the closure of everything from schools to parks. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have squandered trillions of dollars, appear endless. There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called "near poverty." One in eight Americans - and one in four children - depend on food stamps to eat. And yet, in the midst of it all, we continue to be a country consumed by happy talk and happy thoughts. We continue to embrace the illusion of inevitable progress, personal success and rising prosperity.

    As the gap widens between the illusion and reality, as we suddenly grasp that it is our home being foreclosed or our job that is not coming back, we react like children. We scream and yell for a savior, someone who promises us revenge, moral renewal and new glory. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually, emotionally and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans and will usher America into a new dark age. It was the economic collapse in Yugoslavia that gave us Slobodan Milosevic. It was the Weimar Republic that vomited up Adolf Hitler. And it was the breakdown in Tsarist Russia that opened the door for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to loudmouth talk show hosts, whom we naïvely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. And as in all totalitarian societies, those who do not pay fealty to the illusions imposed by the state become the outcasts, the persecuted.

    The decline of American empire began before the first Gulf War or Ronald Reagan. It began when we shifted, in the words of Harvard historian Charles Maier, from an "empire of production" to an "empire of consumption."

    By the end of the Vietnam War, when the costs of the war ate away at Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and domestic oil production began its steady, inexorable decline, we saw our country transformed from one that primarily produced to one that primarily consumed. We started borrowing to maintain a level of consumption as well as an empire we could no longer afford. We began to use force, especially in the Middle East, to feed our insatiable thirst for cheap oil. We substituted the illusion of growth and prosperity for real growth and prosperity. The bill is now due. America's most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the very foundations of our society. In the 17th century these speculators would have been hung. Today they run the government and consume billions in taxpayer subsidies.

    As the pressure mounts, as the despair and desperation reach into larger and larger segments of the populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability. The emergence of the corporate state always means the emergence of the security state. This is why the Bush White House pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of "extraordinary rendition," warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot- counting. The motive behind these measures is not to fight terrorism or to bolster national security. It is to seize and maintain internal control. It is about controlling us.

    And yet, even in the face of catastrophe, mass culture continues to assure us that if we close our eyes, if we visualize what we want, if we have faith in ourselves, if we tell God that we believe in miracles, if we tap into our inner strength, if we grasp that we are truly exceptional, if we focus on happiness, our lives will be harmonious and complete. This cultural retreat into illusion, whether peddled by positive psychologists, by Hollywood or by Christian preachers, turns worthless mortgages and debt into wealth. It turns the destruction of our manufacturing base into an opportunity for growth. It turns a nation that wages illegal wars and administers offshore penal colonies where it openly practices torture into the greatest democracy on earth. doclink

    Ralph says: Written by an author who does nor have a true understanding of our world. Karen Gaia says: the author never mentions why the consumption of Americans is not sustainable.

    'Greed Culture' Killing Planet

    January 14, 2010, Guardian (London)

    The average American consumes more than his or her weight in products each day, fuelling a global culture that is emerging as the biggest threat to the planet. In its annual report, Worldwatch Institute says the cult of consumption and greed could wipe out any gains from government action on climate change or a shift to a clean energy economy.

    "Until we recognise that our environmental problems, from climate change to species loss, are driven by unsustainable habits, we will not be able to solve the ecological crises."

    Humanity is burning through the planet's resources at a reckless rate. The world now digs up the equivalent of 112 Empire State buildings of material every day to meet surging global demand.

    The consumer culture has spread from America across the globe, with excess now accepted as a symbol of success in developing countries.

    China this week overtook the US as the world's top car market.

    Such trend are the result of efforts by businesses to win over consumers.

    The average Western family spends more on their pet than is spent by a human in Bangladesh.

    Encouraging signs are that schools are trying to encourage healthier eating habits among children; a younger generation is also more aware of their environmental impact; and US corporations such as Wal-Mart were stocking organic produce and sustainably raised fish.

    It said a wholesale transformation of values and attitudes was needed to end the world's obsession with conspicuous consumption. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: of course the deep economic recession will force us to curtail our overconsumption. This may help, unless population growth overtakes our efforts.

    Human Consumption Unsustainable

    September 26, 2009, Nipomo Free Press / The Sustainability Project

    Severn Susuki, environmental activist and daughter of Dr. David Susuki, environmentalist has some very important concerns. We consume about 40% percent of Earth's primary productivity. Every day we burn up an amount of energy the planet needed over 27 years to create.

    The U.S. population constitutes only 5% of world population, but consumes 24% of world's energy. The U.S. is losing 400,000 acres of rural land per year, while urbanized land area increased between 1969 and 1990 at twice the rate of population growth in the same time period.

    Cities lost 33-50% of their pre-1950 population density, as automobiles became the primary mode of transportation and families moved to the suburbs. The average suburban shopping center takes up as much land as the core center of the city of Florence, Italy.

    These are only a few of the statistics showing that our current levels of consumption are not sustainable. We cannot continue gobbling up our diminishing oil supplies and rural lands at the rate we have been doing. We need to bring our social, economic and environmental systems back into balance in a way that replenishes them for future generations.

    Is our city sprawling outward, or is it becoming more compact, walkable and transit oriented? Are we creating convenient transit systems, and mixed-use streetscapes that encourage walking and biking? What percentage of our land use is devoted to neighborhoods where people are within a 10-minute walk of basic necessities?

    Do city residents have greater access to public parks, plazas, community gardens and urban farms than to parking lots, strip malls and big-box stores? Are we encouraging the use of renewable energy, while reducing the use of carbon-based fuels?

    "I think this is the most exciting time to be alive in all of human history. In the following months and years, we're going to have to make some big decisions. Whether we make the right decisions or fail to make the decisions, will determine the fate, not only of all human kind, but of countless species of plants and animals.

    "This is the defining moment, when we will decide whether or not we're going to be a spectacular, flash- in-the-pan failure, or whether we can step up to the plate and show that we are capable of finding humility, compassion, patience and wisdom to truly find a sustainable path." doclink


    Biodiversity: Next Steps: More of Us = Fewer of Them

    November 26, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    As the world's population counter keeps ticking higher, more and more species are being driven toward extinction.

    Just as we reached 7 billion the Vietnamese Javan rhino, the last mainland Asian rhino, was declared extinct. And this past week, its related western black rhino species in Africa was also declared extinct. Like so many rare species, these rhinos simply ran out of places to live. More humans meant fewer of them, until the last of their kind vanished.

    We recently posted a new report on 10 U.S. plants and animals threatened by the effects of overpopulation: loss of habitat, freshwater scarcity, pesticide bombing and an ever-expanding network of roads that keep the threats traveling: . Find out about imperiled species near you with our online Species Finder:

    We're also hashing it out and keeping you updated on a new Twitter feed, @EndSpcsCondoms. doclink

    U.S.: Don't Let Nevada Water Hogs Drain the Great Basin

    November 22, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Great Basin ecosystem in Nevada and Utah is under attack by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is trying to export groundwater via a 300-mile pipeline to Las Vegas -- a city hoping to expand in the driest desert in North America.

    This is obviously a bad bet, and we need to say so right away.

    The proposal would cut the lifeline of a wild area the size of Vermont. Species that are dependent on the Great Basin ecosystem, like the imperiled greater sage grouse (pictured here), would be hurt, while some fish and springsnails that live nowhere else on Earth could die off completely.

    Please ask the Nevada state water engineer to deny the Southern Nevada Water Authority's applications.

    There are better options for securing water for Las Vegas than laying waste to the heart of the Great Basin.

    Click on the link in the headline to see more and to take action. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: More people and more consumption means less water for wildlife, particularly in a desert state like Nevada.

    U.S.: Help Save Alaska's Beluga Whales From the Pebble Mine

    May 2011, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)


    U.S. Tells California to Cut Water Use to Save Fish

    June 2009, Reuters

    Salmon and other fish have been pushed to the brink of extinction by Californians' demand for water, ruled the National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency. Officials were ordered to cut water supplies by 5-7% to cities and farms.

    To turn southern desert into productive farmland, a monumental system of dams and pipelines were built, leaving less water for trout, salmon, sturgeon and other fish.

    With the state in its third year of drought, and climate change and a growing population, the fate of some salmon runs looks untenable without change.

    If water conservation, recycling and groundwater use do not offset the cuts, the state may be more tempted to build more dams and canals to capture the last trickles that bypass the system.

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional director said the mounting restrictions on water "just cannot be offset in any given year and maybe over time." State and federal water projects this year have slashed deliveries to about 40 percent of most requests, due to drought, and agricultural losses are expected near $1 billion.

    The fisheries agency plans to keep more water behind big dams during the year to ensure a supply of cold water in which salmon spawn, restrict some pumping, and find ways for fish to get to historical spawning grounds upriver from dams. doclink

    U.S.: Humans: the Number One Threat to Birds

    2008, Alley Cat Allies

    Concern over the declining populations of certain bird species has generated debate about the most effective steps toward preserving and restoring those populations. The real cause of declining bird populations is the impact of the human species.

    The major cause of bird species loss is habitat destruction, caused by a myriad of human activities, including logging, crop farming, livestock grazing, mining, industrial and residential development, urban sprawl, road building, dam building, and pesticide use.

    Of 1,173 threatened bird species, habitat loss affected 83% of the species. Across the US, little land is left untouched by human development. Human activities have led to the extinction of 10% of the world's bird species, while in some locales, that number rises to 90%. Today more than a thousand bird species are listed as threatened, and between 500 and 600 of those will go extinct in the next 50 years.

    In the US, much of the impact is a result of growing population and faster-growing development of land. Between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. population grew by 33 million people, the greatest increase the country has ever seen. Future growth is predicted to add 27 million people each decade for the next 30 years.

    An analysis reveals that urbanized land increased by 47% between 1982 and 1997 and population in suburbs, increased twice as fast as in cities. By 2030, half of the buildings will have been built after the year 2000. With this level of growth, the loss of bird species - due to habitat destruction, pollution, and fragmentation - will continue for decades to come.

    The real danger to birds is humans. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we SHOULD care about the birds: after they go, humans will follow.

    Supreme Court Hears Case on Navy Sonar, Whales

    October 09, 2008, Los Angeles Times

    The Supreme Court was closely split on whether environmental laws can be used to protect marine mammals from the Navy's use of sonar. An administration lawyer urged the court to throw out a Los Angeles judge's order that requires the Navy to turn off its high intensity sonar whenever a whale or dolphin is within 1.2 miles of a ship.

    This order disrupts the Navy's war-game exercises. U.S. Solicitor Gen. Gregory Garre disputed claims that the sonar causes harm to the whales.

    But lawyer Richard B. Kendall said beaked whales dive deeply to escape the sound, and sometimes suffer bleeding and death when they try to resurface. He also said the order has had a minimal impact on the Navy. Only on a few occasions have ships been forced to turn off their sonar.

    The case has turned into a major dispute over whether judges have the power to stop the government from conducting a crucial exercise because it had not carried out an environmental impact statement.

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered "Why couldn't you work this out?" rather than having a court resolve the dispute. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more people you have to defend, the more animals stand in the way of "human supremacy" and have to be sacrificed.

    U.S.: Endangered-Species Protections Reinstated for Gray Wolves

    July 21, 2008, Associated Press

    A federal judge ruled that wolves should be returned to the endangered-species list, derailing plans for wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The 2,000 or so gray wolves that inhabit the three states were removed from the endangered list in March; environmentalists sued to get them back on, saying populations were not yet stable. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, over 100 gray wolves have been killed by hunters in the days since they were delisted. The federal judge will decide if the relisting should be permanent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may appeal. doclink

    US Colorado: Local Lynx Survival in Doubt

    March 01, 2008, Durango Herald

    Federal wildlife officials will not designate land in Colorado as critical habitat for lynx. They are uncertain whether the habitat in Colorado will support a lynx population. The agency left Colorado out of its proposal to designate more than 40,000 square miles in six states as critical lynx habitat, despite the success of Colorado's reintroduction program. The agency's main concern was the decreasing number of litters born in the wild.

    Canada lynx were first released into the southern San Juan Mountains in 1999; today, about 150 radio-collared lynx roam throughout Colorado.

    The Fish and Wildlife Services' concerns are valid, in Colorado, it's still an experiment whether lynx are going to survive or not.

    The majority live on U.S. Forest Service land outside Durango. Their territory stretches from Durango north to Silverton and from Dolores east to Pagosa Springs.

    At Durango Mountain Resort, lynx are commonly spotted passing through the ski area. It seems to be an area that's very important for lynx.

    State biologists report they are in excellent health, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about a recent dip in litter numbers.

    Nearly 100 kittens were born in the wild in 2004 and 2005. Litter totals dropped to 11 in 2006 and hit zero in 2007. That was a surprise and the division will be watching litter sizes closely in the next few years. Biologists believe lynx can survive three years of low reproduction rates.

    Colorado has the habitat to allow lynx to survive well into the future.

    Environmentalists disagree, arguing that one of the best ways to protect lynx is to protect their habitat.

    On the one hand, the US Fish and Wildlife is going to designate critical habitat. On the other hand, they're saying we're not sure about the viability of lynx. Environmental groups will probably bring a lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife over the exclusion of Colorado and other areas from the proposal. Reintroduction efforts in Colorado will continue.

    We believe we can reach a sustainable population in Colorado. It can be 10, 20 years before we can really know. Our program won't change. doclink

    Coastal Areas

    U.S.: Drastic Cuts in Fish Quotas Expected

    December 20, 2012, Boston Globe   By: Beth Daley

    Fishery regulators are likely to impose devastating cuts on the New England fishing fleet in the vast Gulf of Maine; however, blame for the disappearance of once-abundant cod and flounder populations is shifting from fishermen to warming waters and an evolving ocean ecosystem possibly related to man-made climate change.

    Researchers acknowledge they don't know whether prized cod and flounder stocks will ever rebound and what species will take their place. John Bullard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's regional chief. "We can control overfishing -- it's hard but we can do it -- but how do you control this?" The only option is to dramatically restrict fishing to give the fish any hope of a comeback.

    The New England Fishery Management Council would cut up to nearly 80% for some stocks of cod, as well as cuts to other species. To ease the pain, the New England Fishery Management Council, a governmental body made up fishermen, industry representatives, state officials, and environmentalists, will also decide whether to open more than 5,000 square miles of conservation area now closed to most fishermen.

    Fishermen are struggling to comprehend how the sacrifices they made in the last decade to idle boats and catch fewer fish were for naught. Only four years ago, scientists said cod populations were healthy and growing, a rosy assessment that unraveled last year when researchers discovered serious errors in their analysis had led them to overestimate Gulf of Maine cod by nearly 300%.

    Eight months into the fishing year, the entire fleet has caught just 44% of this year's cod quota. Some fisherman say that cuts may not be as drastic as they sound because so many fishermen can't catch their quota anyway.

    The sea floor is recording temperatures of 50.5 degrees. "That is almost unheard of, we should be in the mid-40s," said one fisherman. There have been cycles of cooling and warming, and scientists are not sure whether the Gulf of Maine's warming is from natural cycles, climate change, or a combination of both.

    NOAA research shows that about half of 36 fish stocks they analyzed in recent years, including cod, flounder, and lesser-known species, have been shifting northward or into deeper waters in the last four decades. While locally caught Atlantic cod are disappearing from restaurants and stores, other fish that thrive in warmer water, such as Atlantic croaker, could take their place. But it's unclear if fishermen will be able to make as much money from these species.

    The timing of spring plankton blooms -- the foundation of the marine food web -- may also be shifting, scientists say, coming earlier in the spring, as it did this year. Plankton changes, combined with rising ocean temperatures, could affect the success of young marine life because so many species time their spawning to the spring bloom.

    Predator fish that feed on cod are increasing in the area. doclink

    Human Impacts of Rising Oceans Will Extend Well Beyond Coasts

    May 28, 2011, Science Daily

    Researchers Katherine Curtis and Annemarie Schneider from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that identifying the human impact of rising sea levels is far more complex than just looking at coastal cities on a map. Basing on current, static population data can greatly misrepresent the true extent - and the pronounced variability - of the human toll of climate change, they said.

    The researcher's report will be published online in the peer-reviewed journal Population and Environment. It will examine the impacts of rising oceans as one element of how a changing climate will affect humans. Economic and social vulnerability was linked with environmental vulnerability to better understand which areas and their populations are most vulnerable.

    Existing climate projections and maps were used to identify areas at risk of inundation from rising sea levels and storm surges, then coupled those vulnerability assessments with projections for future populations.

    "Future climate scenarios typically span 50 to 100 years or more. That's unreasonable for demographic projections, which are often conducted on the order of decades," explains Schneider. The researchers worked to better align population and climate data in both space and time, in order to describe social and demographic dimensions of environmental vulnerability.

    Four regions susceptible to flooding were studied: the tip of the Florida peninsula, coastal South Carolina, the northern New Jersey coastline, and the greater Sacramento region of northern California. Using current patterns of population change to predict future population demographics in those areas, and patterns of movement to or from those areas, they were able to determine that, by 2030 more than 19 million people will be affected by rising sea levels in just their four study areas.

    Through these migrations networks, "environmental impacts will have a ripple effect," Curtis says. For example, people who would have moved to Florida would have to remain where they started or move elsewhere if Florida floods.

    A population's demographic, social, and economic profile affects the ways in which people can respond to local disaster, she adds. For example, children or elderly require a different approach to evacuation and resettlement than a largely working-age population, while workers from the agricultural lands of northern California will face different post-displacement labor challenges than those from the industrial corridor of New Jersey.

    "As we anticipate future events, future natural disasters, we've learned how dramatic it can be -- and there are things that can be done in advance to mitigate the extent of damage in a location," Curtis says. doclink

    U.S.: BP Disaster in Gulf: One Year Later

    April 21, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    It is the one year anniversary of the explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then we all came to realize the full, nightmarish extent of the oil spill catastrophe -- and the extent of political corruption, mismanagement and weak regulation in the offshore drilling industry.

    The Center for Biological Diversity has become the nation's leading critic of the offshore industry, uncovering rampant disregard for environmental regulation and petitioning for the protection of multiple species affected by the spill.

    The BP spill was the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history and should have been a wake-up call. But unfortunately, regulation of the offshore industry is the same as it was in April 2010 and the Department of the Interior just recently began issuing new offshore drilling permits.

    More than 200 million gallons of oil and 225,000 tons of methane were spilled into the Gulf and oiled more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.

    More than 82,000 birds; about 6,000 sea turtles; nearly 26,000 marine mammals, including dolphins; and an unknown, but no doubt staggering number of fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the spill and its aftermath.

    More than 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants were sprayed into the Gulf -- which may actually be making waters more toxic for species -- without regulators ensuring the chemicals wouldn't harm endangered wildlife or their habitats.

    The Center for Biological Diversity has launched nine lawsuits, including a pending $19 billion suit against BP and Transocean for violations of the Clean Water Act, and ratcheted up the pressure on politicians to reform offshore oversight, halt dangerous drilling, save imperiled species and hold the federal government and BP accountable.

    It's vital that we seize this moment marking the one-year anniversary of the Gulf disaster to push ahead for real, long-term reforms that ensure people, wild places and wildlife are safe and protected.

    Here is our interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!


    Karen Gaia says: With Peak Oil - where we will have drill ever deeper and harder for oil - and until adequate transportation alternatives are found, the demand for oil will put tremendous pressures upon the earth. I am happy that the Center for Biological Diversity recognizes overpopulation as a problem for the survival of species on the earth.

    U.S.: Chesapeake Bay is Still Hurting

    April 20, 2007, Baltimore Sun

    There was little good news in the 2006 Assessment put out by the Chesapeake Bay Program. The report found degraded water quality, a decline in the blue crab population, contaminated rivers and huge losses in bay grasses.

    The University of Maryland offered a river-by-river report card for water clarity, dissolved oxygen levels and quality of life for small clams and worms. The results were equally dismal. The flush tax, which former Gov. Ehrlich Jr. signed into law in 2004, is expected to raise about $65 million a year to upgrade sewage treatment plants to reduce pollution.

    Dozens of scientists in the region are studying the bay's creatures and looking at ways to help them thrive in an increasingly toxic environment.

    Many said they have grown weary of hearing the same gloomy assessments of the bay's health.

    The VP of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said state and federal officials have long known what to do but have not the political will to do it.

    State leaders should be working to secure federal aid for the bay. Agriculture is the 800-pound gorilla when you're looking at nutrient pollution, but population growth is the 8,000-pound gorilla waiting in the wings. doclink

    California, Oregon and Washington Plan to Lobby Bush, Congress

    September 19, 2006, The Seattle Times

    The governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced a pact to safeguard the ocean and lobby Congress and the president.

    Gov. Schwarzenegger signed seven bills that his office said would "extend the state's leadership" on ocean protection.

    Our Western states have started to work together to fight global warming and protect our air, and we now join forces to make sure we are doing everything to maintain clean water and beachess, Schwarzenegger said. Members said their efforts would bolster economies by protecting coastal tourism and enhancing fisheries.

    Key concerns include pollution from urban runoff and the environmental effects of off-shore oil drilling.

    The U.S. Geological Survey announced a report that shows 66% of California's beaches have eroded over the past few decades. The states want more money to deal with the problems.

    Protecting the oceans isn't likely to leapfrog to the top of the national agenda.

    The agreement was crafted during the past six months. Similar collaboration goes back to 2004, when the three states started trading ideas for slashing air pollution. In coming months, experts from the participating states plan to meet with environmental and business leaders to develop initial recommendations.

    The governors intend to send a series of statements to the president and Congress, urging them to:

    Provide money for programs aimed at curbing urban runoff. Expand funding for key regional research efforts.

    Request that federal agencies, including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, are directed to provide technical assistance. The governors intend to oppose expansion of offshore oil and natural gas exploration.

    Similar agreements have been negotiated among Great Lakes, Gulf Coast and New England states.

    California's marine problems have been building for years as people cram the coast with development and pollutants endanger sea life. doclink

    California Seal Pups Beat Kids in Battle Over Beach

    April 27, 2006, Environmental News Network

    This week San Diego officials roped off a prime stretch of the La Jolla shoreline to keep people from disturbing the harbor seals who have taken up residence.

    Any move can spook the animals to flee into the ocean and abandon their newborn babies, violating federal marine mammal protection laws.

    Seals need adequate sun and sand time in order to maintain good health. The city was urged to act after receiving an increase in complaints that angry residents were harassing the marine mammals.The council voted to erect the barrier each year from January 1 through May 1. Federal officials have installed 24-hour surveillance cameras to watch for people deliberately swimming, kayaking or sunbathing in the area.

    Many residents said they were undeterred as it's the only place around with a lifeguard station and bathrooms. A steady stream of tourists and environmental activists clusters around the roped area, unfazed by the stench. The cove has been a popular La Jolla spot since the early 1930s. Nobody knows why the animals began flocking to the shore in the late 1990s but about 200 seals live there. The rope barrier is also meant as a warning to stay away from seal fecal matter and birth byproducts.

    A California judge ordered the city to dredge and clean up the beach but the decision has been tied up in litigation and a foul fishy stench remains.

    San Diego Council president Scott Peters said he did not feel there was evidence of seal harassment. "The issue isn't so much that people can't get along with seals, it's that people can't get along with people," Peters said. doclink

    State of the Environment - North Carolina's Most Urgent Environmental Challenge

    December 16, 2005, Charlotte Observer

    If projections from scientific experts are remotely accurate, North Carolina is in for significant change within our lifetimes related to global climate change. One estimate says 770 square miles of the coast could submerge. Air quality may worsen as temperatures rise, and the health of citizens could decline. Some will die of heat stroke. Environmental Defense, among others, has suggested a series of strategies to limit the harmful impact and prepare its residents to make some money off the changes. This year, air quality drops out of the top 10 problems because there were fewer bad air days, because controls on smokestack pollution have begun to take effect. Each of these assessments is subjective, not scientific. Summers have been getting drier, while falls have been getting wetter. As a consequence, North Carolinians have less water available than they did 100 years ago and a future with insufficient water in some areas as the state continues its dramatic urbanization. Raleigh has problems with one of its key reservoirs. Falls Lake which has been below normal level, forcing Raleigh to think about asking for a transfer from Kerr Lake. Concord and Kannapolis have sought to drain 38 million gallons a day from the Catawba River. Storm runoff, nutrients and sediment remain a top concern. Development is overwhelming the ability to keep pollution out of water supplies but the state is losing the war to protect water quality and the environment in North Carolina and America. Rapid growth and inappropriate development has been near the top of the list for 10 years. Residential growth consumes farmland, green space and forests, putting new strains on air quality and water quality. But sprawling low-density development and quality-of-life concerns could interfere with future prosperity. Growth and development has threatened places where no one ever imagined. A growth surge in coastal counties has caused problems and the land use planning program for the coast is totally broken. The very people who depend on waterfront availability for their economic survival can no longer afford that access. How North Carolina will meet its energy needs at an affordable cost will dominate debate affecting the environment. Utilities are interested in building more nuclear plants and pressure grows for the state to rescind its opposition to offshore natural gas exploration. While some fish stocks have made recoveries in N.C. waters, others have declined in alarming ways. River herring have become so depleted that catches failed to reach a quota limit. Oysters, bay scallops and blue crabs are species of "concern" because of low catches. Population growth has increased the amount of garbage going into landfills while the state might begin importing garbage in landfills proposed for sparsely populated areas an environmental threat. The state continues to search for solutions to large-scale hog farm waste. Thousands bought up the shoreline and built out-of-scale mansions to replace the fish camps and clapboard cottages. The loss of natural areas to upscale residential developments has changed what North Carolinians see from our windows. Litter accumulates along our highways, costing the state millions in collection costs and providing volunteers with more work than they can keep up with. Utility poles and wires mar the viewscape. Environmental concerns fail to consider long-term implications and doesn't recognize the interdependence of conservation and development. North Carolina has more than 17 million acres of forests and large stands of trees in national and state forests, parks and wildlife reserves. But the huge stands of hardwoods and regal longleaf pines are now a small fraction of what they once were. In a state where development has gobbled up 100,000 acres of forested lands and natural areas per year, recent legislation may make it harder for local governments to preserve land at a time the state's population continues to grow and consume more natural areas. doclink

    Sounds just like most of the states along the east coast. Most of these problems are population and consumption. Where it is a consumption problem, any population growth magnifies it. The problem with people being rich is that they are able to distract and insulate themselves from the problems, which puts them in a state of denial.

    Hard Choices Seen in Efforts to Help Louisiana Wetlands

    November 20, 2005, The Times-Picayune

    Restoring Louisiana's wetlands, or maintaining those that remain, will be impossible, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The time has come for state and local governments, businesses and citizens to start talking about which wetland areas can be preserved and which must be abandoned. The proposal put forward by the state and the Army Corps of Engineers had worthwhile elements but would not come close to halting wetland loss. The panel considered an area of about 12,000 square miles from Texas to Mississippi. Wetlands support fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, much of the nation's oil and gas production, a growing eco-tourism industry and Louisiana's Cajun culture. But since the 1930's, 1,900 square miles of marsh has been lost beneath the waters of the gulf. Many consider the wetlands a major defense against storms like Katrina, an idea panel members discounted. Marshes may dampen the effects of minor storms, but for Katrina it would not have made any difference. The panel was charged with evaluating a proposal developed after the White House complained that the 30-year, $13 billion Louisiana Coastal Area study, was too large, cost too much and looked too far into the future. The revised proposal, comprises five projects, with an estimated cost of $1.9 billion, that could get under way in 5 to 10 years. The Corps of Engineers said the narrow time frame was a response to the Bush administration, and there was wide agreement in the corps that you need to think where you go long term. The projects are: an embankment along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a canal from the river at New Orleans southeast to the gulf; levee culverts to carry river water into the Maurepas Swamp, and three projects south of New Orleans, a river diversion to support wetlands in the Barataria Basin, improvements to channel banks, weirs and pumps along Bayou Lafourche and a project to rebuild beaches, dunes and marshes near Port Fourchon. The canal is reviled as having accelerated marsh loss but panel members said that this could not be demonstrated but it would be a mistake to reinforce the canal before the corps decides whether to decommission it. The panel said the other projects are scientifically sound, but estimated that in aggregate they would slow marsh loss by only 20%. Wetland loss peaked in the early 1980's, when Louisiana lost about 40 square miles a year. Its annual loss now is 12 to 20 square miles. doclink

    Mountains, Desserts, Rivers, Wild Areas

    Our Wilderness Gets Crowded

    August 02 , 2013,   By: Froma Harrop

    From Yosemite National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to New Hampshire's White Mountains and so on, our favorite places have become so crowded that it is difficult to enjoy them.

    Three things have happened.

    * There has been a population explosion in the United States, regardless of what you hear from conservatives panicking over a mythical "baby bust."

    * Growing prosperity in other parts of the world has created new markets for U.S. tourism. China, Brazil and India now account for the largest growth of foreign tourists, a total of 67 million last year.

    * It used to be that Americans might take their family in a car for visit to a national park. Now, cheap airfares have made formerly remote places more accessible, fostering the fast-paced three-day weekend.

    The macro-solution is: slow population growth. U.S. population is now 314 million, but projected to grow by almost 19 million through 2050. Keeping our birthrates and immigration numbers in check would go far to stem the tide. doclink

    Evan says: A proven way to protect Yosemite would be to limit access to 1000 visitors a day. This approach has many precedents in limiting federal river and state park access. Limiting immigration has unintended side effects: The morality of limiting opportunities for the less fortunate, nativism, and feasibility (it just does not work).

    Karen Gaia says: I first became interested in population when I noticed that it was less fun to go camping in my home state California. My family went camping just about anywhere in the wild areas.. They did not need to make reservations. But when I tried to take my children camping, there were reservations and big crowds where ever we went. However, I have to admit that we were part of the problem. After WWII, huge numbers of servicemen moved their families to sunny California, then proceeded to have lots of kids (the national birthrate had risen to 3.7 by the late 1960s). Fortunately for the legalization of contraception in 1963, birthrates rapidly dropped after that.

    I agree with Evan on immigration.

    U.S.: Save the Frogs

    May 2011, Natural Resources Defense Council

    April 29 was Save the Frogs Day, and we would like your help to protect frogs from one of the biggest threats to their survival. Please ask the Environmental Protection Agency to ban a widely-used weed killer called atrazine that is threatening frog populations.

    Frogs are especially sensitive to chemicals in their surrounding environment. Their numbers have been plummeting around the world, and one of the major causes is the widespread use of pesticides like atrazine. Frogs act as an indicator species for the overall health of the environment.

    In agricultural areas, as much as 75% of all waterways contain some level of atrazine. Atrazine in our environment isn't good for us either. The European Union has already phased out its use entirely. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the bigger the population, the more farmers relay on chemicals to produce enough food to feed us all.

    California Wildlands at Risk


    The Tioga Pass into the Sierra Nevada Range, the vast Sonoran Desert, the San Francisco Bay/ Delta and all of the Pacific Coast beach areas are at severe risk, according to a recent publication by the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC).

    While the report is primarily about risks caused by potential climate change, it states that the direct cause of damage and threat in the desert is due to unsustainable water use from explosive population growth; in the Sierra, population growth, recreation and changing land use, and in the Bay/ Delta, unrealistic human demands on water.

    UCLA geography professor Hartmut Walter said, "Land coverage change, and the rapid increase in people who need places to live and things to eat, drastically changes the ecosystems rapidly." ... "Climate change is a fact, but I believe right now in the near future the threat to California's ecosystems comes from changing land use practices and development."

    Conservation International said, "Human population pressures have rendered California one of the four most ecologically degraded states in the country, with all or part of the nation's eight most threatened ecosystems represented." They estimate that only 25% of the original vegetation of the region remains in more or less pristine condition.

    The population of the city of Indio in Riverside County has nearly quadrupled since the 1980 census, for example.. Merced, "The Gateway to Yosemite," and now home to a new University of California campus, has experienced a nearly 20% growth rate over the last census period. Population growth in Southern California affects the Bay/Delta region, which is the major conduit for north/south water transfers. More than 60% of California's population lives in Southern California and largely depends on northern water.

    In some of these areas, including Southern California, more than 30% of that population is foreign-born, somehow leading the author to conclude that the answer is to reduce immigration. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we can also reduce population growth by addressing unintended pregnancies, which account for a large part of the growth.

    Center for Biological Diversity Announces Support for Global Population Speak Out

    February 26, 2009, Center for Biological Diversity

    The Center for Biological Diversity supports a collaborative effort to highlight overpopulation in efforts to restore the planet's ecological health. For many years human population size and growth has been the elephant in the room. Overpopulation is at the root of virtually all of the ecological threats facing our planet. Species extinction, pollution, resource depletion, and climate change can all be traced back to unsustainable population growth.

    The Center has won protection for more than 350 species and hundreds of millions of acres of habitat. But that could be overwhelmed as too many people compete for too few resources and create too many burdens for ecosystems. The correlation between human population growth and species extinction has been clearly documented.

    Humans use up to 40% of the world's Net Primary Productivity, a measure of energy from the sun that is converted into life-sustaining resources by photosynthesis. A range of extinctions can be tied directly to the energy, housing, food, and other resource demands of our population. The extinction crisis threatens to grow exponentially with climate change, and energy demands of a rapidly growing global populace. doclink

    U.S.: Envisioning a Sustainable Chesapeake

    February 17, 2008, Annapolis Capital

    It's been most inspiring to see discussions begin to address the future of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.

    They prompt us to ask: "What does a sustainable Chesapeake really mean?"

    My vision is built upon a balanced, vibrant ecosystem teeming with fish, shellfish, underwater grasses and clear, healthy waters. But to be truly sustainable, the Chesapeake ecosystem needs to exist while also supporting the region's human population.

    Creating a sustainable Chesapeake will not be easy. But as we look around the state, we're seeing more and more positive steps being taken.

    Recently, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change made recommendations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving energy throughout the state. These actions will require that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25% within the next 12 years.

    An initiative was introduced that will seek to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among the 28,000 students graduating each year. It will also foster research and prepare the new "green" workforce.

    By changing our own actions, each of us has the ability to reduce our impact on the bay and the planet.

    As long as the region's population continues to grow, and we develop lands faster than needed to accommodate that growth, we make it more difficult to maintain the sustainability equation.

    We have struggled more than 20 years to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the bay and we are still far from where we need to be. Another 10, 20 or 30 years of pollution-fighting efforts will still not be enough. Bay restoration efforts will be needed in perpetuity.

    We need to manage for sustainability by remaining aware of what will cross our path in the future. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The way things are going, we will be forced to reduce our greenhouse gases because we have passed peak oil, meaning our consumption of oil will be reduced.

    Tree Huggers Embrace Eco-Friendly Logging

    August 07, 2006, Los Angeles Times

    The Conservation Fund, a 21-year-old Arlington, Va.-based organization, strives to balance natural resource protection with economic goals. Timber sales will be used to pay for forest and watershed restoration.

    The Conservation Fund is banking on transforming the sustainable production and sale of timber that has grown back on previously logged land into dollars that can be used to permanently shield the property from development while improving wildlife habitat and providing jobs.

    After buying 24,000 acres along the Garcia for $18 million in 2004, the Conservation Fund is purchasing an additional 16,000 acres in two nearby watersheds for $48.5 million, mostly with state financing. And the group hopes to buy 165,000 acres more, which would make it one of the biggest timber concerns on the North Coast.

    Private forest ownership is held by half a dozen companies and families, but is struggling, with land values rising. We are talking about very low density…development but it alters the ecosystem. Lots of animals do not like dogs, cats, horses and cars coming in and out all the time and the land still provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

    Financially stretched government agencies often cannot afford to make large-scale acquisitions to create parkland.

    Two years ago, the organization bought the Garcia lands for $18 million in partnership with the state Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board and the nonprofit Nature Conservancy.

    Now the Conservation Fund has designated 35% of the property as forest reserve. On the rest, it plans to continue commercial timber production. Foresters say this would promote sustainable forestry, but it is hard to get society to accept this notion. The land has been logged repeatedly, and most trees are less than 2 feet in diameter. The key, said forester Craig Blencowe, is "cut less than you grow and leave good trees."

    The problem is the strategy might not produce enough timber to cover annual operating costs.

    When a plan was submitted to the state for logging a few hundred acres, local environmentalists questioned the proposed use of herbicides to kill tan oaks that have taken over previously logged areas.

    The proposal was withdrawn for revisions and herbicides will not be used.

    But forest activists applaud the Conservation Fund's responsiveness and its decision to run a working forest rather than a park, partly because the region needs the jobs.

    The Conservation Fund hopes to close a $48.5-million deal with Hawthorne Timber Co to acquire 11,600 acres in the Big River watershed and 4,345 acres in the Salmon Creek watershed.

    The state water board recently approved a $25-million loan for the project. The Conservation Fund wants the property because it provides habitat for endangered species and is vulnerable to development. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: There is no good indicator that growing trees for lumber can be sustainable with the U.S.'s growing population. Perhaps we need to find other ways to conserve forests.

    US Florida;: $310m Purchase Finalized; State Officials Accept Deed to Nearly 74,000 Acres of the Property

    August 01, 2006, Naples News

    Florida's biggest-ever land purchase, 74,000 acres of wild land bought by the state for over $350 million, comes with a catch, 17,000 acres of adjoining property will belong to developer Syd Kitson, who plans to build a new city. The purchase will preserve about 80% of the Babcock Ranch in the southwest of the state. It will create a corridor for wildlife, from Lake Okeechobee nearly to the Gulf of Mexico. Other green groups lament the development which clears the way for a new community with 19,500 homes, 6 million square feet of office space, and potential for 50,000 residents. The Sierra Club sued to stop the purchase, but dropped the lawsuit when Kitson promised to leave the most sensitive parts of the land undeveloped. doclink

    US Florida: Overpopulation is the Real Culprit

    January 21, 2006, Detroit Free Press. Sports Section

    Overpopulation is the culprit. Fishing was still going pretty strong in the late 1960s when lots of fish could be caught by trolling in Tampa Bay. But it had all gone to hell by 1980. Mackerel stocks had collapsed, and redfish were decimated. For a long time, like many people concerned with the environment, I was convinced the problem was habitat destruction and overexploitation. If we could just convince people to use less of the resources and preserve as much habitat as we could, things would work out. But the environmental messes we see all around us are only symptoms of the real cause, way too many people in many parts of the country, and a looming tidal wave of overpopulation that threatens to swamp any hope that our great-grandchildren will be enjoy the kind of outdoors pursuits we do. Florida's population is nearing 20 million, and some projections say it will double in 20 years. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is having an awful time trying to manage the state deer herd, but the problem doesn't lie with the deer. The problem is that when you have roughly 800,000 deer hunters, all of whom want a good chance to kill a deer, you can't satisfy the demand and still maintain a deer herd in line with what the habitat will support. Trying to preserve habitat and stop pollution is a losing battle with the kind of population growth America is experiencing. Some projections that the U.S. population will double to more than 600 million in 100 years. Do you think we could continue to maintain the kind of wildlife habitat we have now will the best efforts at controlling air and water pollution do more than slow the rate of degradation? The issue of population growth and its effects on the natural world will become more important with every passing year. doclink


    U.S.: ‘Baby Bust' Blues, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Population Bomb

    April 19, 2013, CAPS - Californians for Population Stabilization   By: Leon Kolankiewicz, Caps Senior Writing Fellow

    Jonathan V. Last, senior writer at The Weekly Standard, insists that America is heading over a demographic cliff because we're not making enough babies. And the Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, The Los Angeles Times, and others, gave him a forum.

    The U.S. has relentlessly added 2 to 3 million people per year for decades —33 million in the 1990s, 27 million in the 2000s. We added more than 100 million in the last 40 years, and in the next 40 to 50 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, we will add another 100 million, most of it directly and indirectly from immigration.

    Our current population of 315 million runs a substantial ecological deficit that is pushing us ever deeper into ecological debt, according to the Global Footprint Network, which says: if every country in the world were as overpopulated and resource- intensive as the United States, it would take more than four Earths to support us all. But we only have one planet at our disposal.

    Part of caring for our planet is having the collective wisdom to live within limits, including limiting the size of our families and population.

    We are busily sawing off the limb upon which the entire human enterprise rests—degrading and squandering the "natural capital" that makes sustainable economic prosperity possible.

    Mr. Last quotes Julian Simon who said that "…growing populations lead to increased innovation and conservation. Think about it: Since 1970, commodity prices have continued to fall and America's environment has become much cleaner and more sustainable—even though our population has increased by more than 50%. Human ingenuity, it turns out, is the most precious resource."

    Commodity prices did fall from 1970 to 2000, but in the 2000s prices for almost all raw materials have increased sharply. Americans mistook temporary abundance of nonrenewable natural resources like the fossil fuels and metals as permanent sufficiency. It's a miscalculation with monumental consequences.

    We have fewer wetlands, fewer free-flowing rivers, less available surface and groundwater, less open space, fewer remaining fossil fuels and high grade metal and mineral ores, fewer arable soils, fewer healthy and more diseased forests, more wildfires and droughts, record temperatures, fewer fish, less de facto wilderness, more threatened and endangered species, more harmful invasive species, higher carbon dioxide emissions, and more crowded parks and beaches than ever before. The climate is becoming more erratic; sea level is rising, and the oceans are becoming more polluted and acidic.

    Julian Simon once bragged: “We now have in our hands—in our libraries, really—the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years."

    Physicist Al Bartlett calculated that after just 17,000 years (only 0.00024% of 7 billion years), a population growing at the underwhelming but steady rate of 1% annually—about equal to the U.S. growth rate—would produce as many humans as atoms in the known universe. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: It was once said that immigration added 1/3 to the U.S. population, natural births added 1/3, and births to immigrants added 1/3. However, more seniors living longer lives has also added to our population. And, as for solutions, the births (natural and immigrant) can treated by addressing the 50% unintended pregnancies in the U.S. by making contraception more accessible, affordable and effective.

    Furthermore, Americans can do the world a big favor by consuming less. Americans are the biggest consumers in the world.

    U.S.: Roughly 125,000 New Jobs Need to Be Created Each Month in the United States Just to Take Care of Population Growth.

    October 04, 2012, Al Bartlett website   By: Al Bartlett

    Politicians and business people seem to think it is a sign of progress the number of new jobs created in the US increases. Recently, the monthly number of new jobs has been in the range from 40,000 to 100,000.

    The population of the US is a little over 300 million and the current population growth rate is a little under 1% per year which means that the population of the US is increasing by about 3 million people per year. About half of these people are workers and the other half are dependents so that is an increase of about 1.5 million workers per year in the US or 125,000 new jobs needed each month to accommodate population growth in the US. This agrees with figures sometimes pointed in U.S. media.

    It's no wonder that the employment rate has not gone down even though lots of jobs have been created.

    Mitt Romney promised in one of the presidential debates, "I will create-help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes." 12 million new jobs in 8 years amounts to 125,000 new jobs a month - just enough to keep up with population growth without any reduction of the number of people now unemployed.

    The availability of resources, including water, needed to support these new people and new jobs is declining rapidly, causing prices to rise. This leads to hardships for all and it will lead to limits to growth.

    How long do you suppose it will take before someone in the Congress or the Administration in Washington, DC connects the dots and concludes that it's urgent for us in the US to stop our country's population growth? doclink

    Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Buckling

    July 26, 2012, New York Times

    From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation's infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms.

    Recently a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. Clay-rich soils under highways in East Texas shrink, leading to "horrendous cracking". Highway sections expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and "pop up," creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.

    A nuclear plant in Chicago had to get special permission to keep operating this month because the pond it uses for cooling water rose to 102 degrees, just over its license limit. In a different power plant the body of water from which it drew its cooling water had dropped so low that the intake pipe became high and dry.

    "We've got the ‘storm of the century' every year now," said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 "derecho" storm that moved across the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

    There has been a multibillion-dollar effort to increase the height of levees and flood walls in New Orleans because of projections of rising sea levels and stronger storms to come. In the Washington subway system, trains will be ordered to slow down if it gets too hot, causing rails to become too long and risk kinking.

    After the derecho last month, both the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Md. are discussing the option to put power lines underground.

    Heat waves are changing the pattern of electricity use, raising peak demand higher than ever. "We build the system for the 10 percent of the time we need it," said Mark Gabriel, a senior vice president of Black & Veatch, an engineering firm. And that 10 percent is "getting more extreme."

    Violent storms and forest fires can be expected to affect water quality and water use: runoff from major storms and falling ash could temporarily shut down reservoirs.

    Many agencies have officially expressed a commitment to plan for climate change, but sometimes the results from the Federal government on the ground can be frustrating. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: If our economy continues to go down due to depletion of resources, such as oil and arable farmland, how much longer will we be able to brace up our already-deteriorating infrastructure?

    U.S.: An Unfair Fight for Renewable Energies

    December 02, 2011, Washington Post

    By Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California

    More energy from the sun hits Earth in one hour than all the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.

    In those terms, it is absurd that our federal government spends tens of billions of dollars annually subsidizing the oil industry, which pulls diminishing resources from underground, while the industry focused above ground on wind, solar and other renewable energies is derided in Washington.

    Federal support for development of new energy sources is lower today than at any other point in U.S. history, and our government is forcing the clean-energy sector into a competitive disadvantage. To bring true competition to the energy market, ensure our national security and create jobs here rather than in China or elsewhere, we must level the playing field for renewable energies. In this presidential primary, Americans need to hear where the candidates stand on this critical issue.

    When the oil, gas and nuclear industries were forming, federal support for those energies totaled as much as 1 percent of federal spending. Subsidies available to the renewables industry today are just one-tenth of 1 percent.

    To read more, click on the link in the headline above. doclink

    Facing Limits: Jobs

    November 14, 2011, Lorna Salzman

    Regardless of whether the majority of the world's adults want to work or not in order to gain an income and have job satisfaction, the world cannot support full-time jobs for everyone because many jobs are based on ravaging the natural world to turn living things into dead products (i.e., forests into cardboard boxes and other packaging materials, disposable newspapers and chopsticks, etc.), and we have too many people to maintain such behaviors on the scale needed. Simultaneously the conversion of life into products is destroying habitats for forest residents (including indigenous tribes) and many species in other environments so that they die off at a high rate. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: add to this the fact that jobs are going to lower bidders in other countries, and even countries like the U.S. have big problems.

    How the U.S. is Becoming a 3rd World Country - Part 1

    November 11, 2011, Financial Sense

    The U.S. is experiencing high unemployment, lack of economic opportunity, low wages, widespread poverty, extreme concentration of wealth, unsustainable government debt, control of the government by international banks and multinational corporations, weak rule of law and counterproductive government policies -- all fundamental characteristics that define a 3rd world country.

    While other factors such as public health, nutrition, and infrastructure rank the U.S. above 3rd world countries, they are below European standards, and will rapidly deteriorate in a declining economy.

    The evidence suggests that, without fundamental reforms, the U.S. will become a post industrial neo-3rd-world country by 2032.

    Offshoring of manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs and deindustrialization are aspects of globalization, shoving the U.S. labor market into a long-term downward trend. The U.S. workforce has declined by approximately 6.5% since its year 2000 peak to roughly 58.2% of working age adults and the U.S. now suffers chronic unemployment of 9.1%. Although the workforce grew in the 1980s and 1990s, as dual income families became the norm, the size of the workforce is shrinking due to a lack of economic opportunity.

    Before the Clinton administration, unemployment measures included workers who are now no longer counted as part of the workforce. Thus, while the official long-term unemployment is 16.5%, using pre-Clinton measurements, unemployment exceeds 22%, only 3% below the worst point (24.9%) of the Great Depression, and not far from Armenia at 28.6%, Algeria at 27.3% and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip both at 25.7%. The highest unemployment for countries with over 2 million population is Macedonia with 33.8% unemployment.

    Young Americans are being left behind in terms of economic opportunity. Student loans exceed $1 trillion while the labor force participation rate for those aged 16 to 29 who are working or looking for work fell to 48.8% in 2011, the lowest level ever recorded. The fact of millions of unemployed college graduates and lack of economic opportunity for other young Americans, is a political wildcard reminiscent of countries like Tunisia.

    American workers cannot yet directly compete for jobs with workers in countries like China and India. In China, for example, gross pay, in terms of purchasing power parity, is equivalent to approximately $514 per month, 57% below the U.S. poverty line. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. trade deficit with China alone caused a loss of 2.8 million U.S. jobs since 2001.

    The cost of living is rising faster than wages, leaving Americans who earn more dollars poorer in terms of purchasing power. If household income is adjusted for inflation, most American families have grown significantly poorer over the past ten years. While wages have risen slightly, when adjusted for inflation, the wages of most Americans have not kept up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Also, according to economist John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics, CPI systematically understates inflation.

    Prices rise when the money supply is increased faster than population or sustainable economic activity. Apparent economic growth created through credit expansion, i.e., by increasing the money supply, has a temporary stimulative effect but also causes prices to rise.

    The decline in real household income has set Americans back to 1996 levels, despite many households now having two incomes rather than one. The poverty rate in the United States rose to 15.7% in 2011, having risen sharply since 2006 and continues to climb. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as "food stamps," now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children.

    The household income and wealth of the wealthiest Americans has increased sharply, despite the overall deterioration of the U.S. economy.

    Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned that concentration of wealth undermines the consumer base of the economy, causing GDP to decline and resulting in unemployment, which reduces living standards.

    Economic data from several sources, including the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), show that wealth and income in the United States have become increasingly concentrated with the wealthiest 1% of Americans owning 38.2% of stock market assets, e.g., shares of businesses. For the wealthiest 1% of Americans, household income tripled between 1979 and 2007 and has continued to increase while household wealth in the United States has fallen by $7.7 trillion.

    The Gini Coefficient, a measurement of disparity in income distribution, the United States is now at parity with China and will soon overtake Mexico, a still developing country. Even though the U.S. remains a far wealthier country overall, if the current trend continues the U.S. will resemble a 3rd world country, in terms of the disparity in income distribution, in approximately two decades, i.e., by 2032. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we must take the money used for war and use it to prepare for hard times. Let's cut our waste, tighten our belts, become more efficient and build a more friendly social structure for our future.

    How the Economy is Killing Americans

    October 20, 2011, The Credit Blog

    Follow the link in the headline for an informative chart on current American health.

    In the last year, there's been a .6% increase in Americans who smoke, a 2% decrease in Americans who say they eat healthfully all day, a 1.9% decrease in those who eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables 4 days a week, and a .7% decrease in those who exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 days a week.

    77% of workers say they constantly feel "burned out" at work, and 43% report their on-the-job stress level has increased in the last half year. This also costs the economy $300 billion a year in no-shows, accidents, insurance and medical claims.

    Medical patients feel the economy has affected their health, including 35% of people with heart disease, 21% of cancer patients and 39%. 19% of diabetics have skipped or put off medical appointments for financial reasons, while 15% have postponed tests. 18% have said they can't follow the prescribed diets for their condition, either.

    Almost 25% of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes patients have incurred credit card debt in order to pay for their care.

    Almost 33% of Americans say the economy has affected their sleep, and economic woes account for about 30% of calls made to suicide hotlines. The strongest mental impact of job loss and pay cuts is depression, which 71% of laid off/fired people and 51% of recipients of a pay cut experienced. One in six Americans can't afford the food they need-there are 49 million Americans without enough food, and 16 million of those are children. doclink

    American jobs went overseas when there were millions of educated people in other parts of the world who were willing to work for less. The world can no longer afford to support the life styles of so many middle class Americans. U.S. debt - public, private, and individual - as well as the overdrawing of natural resources - was a sign that things were not going well, sustainability-wise.

    U.S.: Time to Get Real: Demographics is a Bigger Problem Than Health Care Costs

    June 23, 2011, Keith Hennessey website

    The rapid growth of per capita health spending in the U.S. needs to be addressed. However the aging of the population is the primary driver of our federal budget problems over the next 30-40 years.

    America is rapidly aging, due to two factors: people are living longer and the Baby boomers.

    People living longer means that people will be collecting benefits for more years. That's good for older people and expensive for the government.

    The Baby Boom is due to fertility rates surging after World War II from about 2.2 in 1946 to 3.6 babies per woman in 1960. These rates went down from there to 2.0, where it is predicted to stay.

    The first cohort of Baby Boomers started collecting their checks at age 62 in 2008.

    Current workers pay, by way of payroll taxes, for the Social Security and Medicare benefits of current retirees. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying payroll taxes for each retiree collecting Social Security benefits. Today, there the number is 3.3 workers, In the future there will be only 2.

    [A recent analysis showed that, to maintain the SS and Medicare systems at projected costs, a 45% payroll tax would be necessary, or 60% to include other projected federal expenditures.] doclink

    Karen Gaia says:

  • Another thing to consider is that seniors require more health care than younger people
  • Medicare began 45 years ago, in the days of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Life expectancies were 5-years less than now. Woman now take benefits 33% longer and men 44% longer than the days of LBJ. It was expected that wages for American workers would continue to rise, but today they are either stagnant or declining
  • In a poll of students of economics, about 70% indicated they would never be a recipient of SS and Medicare
  • Last, there is nothing in the works to protect retires against loss of the value in their homes, and inflation, which is sure to come with the huge deficit.
  • Land and Agriculture

    California: More Prime Farmland Feared to Be Lost to Population Growth

    August 5, 2012, Daily Democrat

    There has been concern in California recently that prime farmland in the state is under threat from population growth and the supporting infrastructure which comes from an increased population such as a high-speed rail link and solar-power development.

    John Lowrie of the California Department of Conservation said at the July meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento that although population density in the state is low due to the size of the state, at 40 million people California is the most populous state in the US with population concentrated in a few areas. As such these areas are at particularly high risk from the effects of urban growth.

    Lowrie went on to add that in his opinion the increasing density in the San Joaquin Valley is one of the more alarming developments as it is "one of the major agricultural areas of the state."

    Edward Thompson Jr. of American Farmland Trust told the California State Board of Food and Agriculture that although 30% of developed land in California was originally prime farmland, in the Central Valley it was as much as 60%.

    Thompson claimed projections showed that by mid-century California could lose another 2 million acres of prime agricultural land. In the San Joaquin Valley there are currently approximately 11 acres of prime farmland for every 1 developed acre, but projections suggest that this would fall to less than 5 acres of prime farmland for every 1 developed acre by mid-century. With 6 million acres of productive farmland in the San Joaquin Valley a loss of half a million acres (as projected) is seen by Thompson as being a significant shift.

    John Gamper, taxation and land use director for the California Farm Bureau Federation expressed concern regarding the development of high-speed rail and solar-power projects. With most cities in the area located near the best farmland, many utility companies and independent solar developers are proposing developments on prime farmland due to the proximity of "substations or other interconnection sites". Gamper is concerned these developments could cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land.

    Gamper explains that there is a conflict between the Farm Bureau (who seek to protect prime farmland in California) and some members of the environmental community (who are opposed to solar development in the desert). It is Gamper's recommendation that non-agricultural development be limited to "marginal or non-productive land" of which he claims "there are hundreds of thousands of acres, if not a million acres" in the Central Valley. doclink

    A Punch to the Mouth: Food Price Volatility Hits the World

    January 03, 2012

    2011 saw yet another enormous increase in damages from natural disasters. During the past few decades the frequency of weather-related disasters (floods, fires, storms) has been growing at a much faster pace than geological disasters (such as earthquakes). Insurance group Munich Re noted in a late 2010 letter that weather-related disasters due to wind have doubled and flooding events have tripled in frequency since 1980. This has broad-reaching implications particularly for food.

    Factors such as population growth, urbanization, the decline of arable land per person, and the upgrading of diets have produced higher food prices. But more damaging than food inflation has been the pushing of global food prices out of their long, quiet envelope of stability.

    In the UN Report on the World Food Situation, the FAO Index shows that, while prices are once again down from a peak, a troublesome volatility started to affect food prices this decade. These are the very prices that caused social instability in countries like Mexico in 2007-2008 (pressure on corn prices, owing in part to US corn ethanol mandates) and more recently in northern Africa (Arab Spring).

    There has been a rough correspondence of food prices with oil prices - understandable since inputs to food production are heavily composed of fossil fuels. High volatile oil prices play havoc with economies, and so do food prices and marginal speculation in food.

    The average oil high of 2008 was at $99.67 a barrel and 2011 also saw the highest average oil prices since then, at $94.81 per barrel. In between was a crash in oil prices -- and most commodities.

    The USDA has forecast that the CPI for all food is projected to increase 3.5%, with more to come next year. This falls on top of a deeply under-utilized US economy in which tens of millions derive income from government transfer payments, most of which are not sufficiently ratcheting higher from "inflation-adjustments." Food Stamp recipients, for example, are not seeing food inflation adjustments in their benefit checks that would compensate for the price increases.

    Milk is up 40% in the futures market, beef prices are up 9.8%, egg prices are up 10.25%, and potato prices are up 12%. The Food Stamp benefit is basically flat year-over-year. In December of 2007, just after the declared start of the "recession," national participation in SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) stood at 27.385 million. As of the latest data, this has ballooned to 46.268 million.

    The chart of Los Angeles County SNAP users (click on the link in the headline to see it) echoes the FAO chart from the United Nations. Upward-moving volatility in energy is concurrent with wild swings in food prices and waves of people in need of public assistance. Wages in the US have remained flat while millions of workers remain either unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, urbanization in the developing world has continued apace, forcing food prices and energy prices up at the margin.

    When demand begins to hit a resource whose supply cannot be easily increased, then price moves to ration demand and price becomes more volatile. The US is not running out of oil, or corn, and the world is not running out of coal, or copper. Industrialization in the non-OECD, have combined to put an unexpectedly large burden of demand on world resources -- at a rapid rate. Meanwhile, many natural resources, such as copper and oil in particular, had already reached a more difficult place in the arc of their own extraction history when this started to unfold.

    In a study of urbanization in China's Pearl River Delta and its aggregate effect on climate and precipitation it was found that paving over the earth decreases rainfall. Photos from NASA show comparing satellite views of the Pearl River Delta over a 14-year period from 1979 to 2003. The loss of arable farmland per capita in China has placed enormous pressure on the global food system and all of its inputs, especially fertilizer. There are limits to the miracle of the food (Green) revolution. We can only convert so much farmland to urbanscape while making up the difference with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (fertilizer) before we lose resiliency in the global food system. It did not used to be the case that a bad wheat crop in Australia or the Ukraine would hit global wheat prices so hard.

    Stagflation has now entered the US economy - flat wages and rising food prices. Will Americans be able to afford to pay what the world can afford to pay, for food? doclink

    EPA Silently Continues Support for Corn Ethanol, Bumping Target for 2012

    December 30, 2011, DailyTech

    Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the power to push alternative fuel targets, with a hard target of reaching 36 billion gallons of production by 2022.

    The target for corn ethanol was increased 3.39%, cellulosic biofuel (derived from woody plant waste) 31.06%, biomass-based diesel (e.g. refined spent cooking oil) 25%, and advanced biofuel (sugarcane ethanol, algal oil, etc.) 48.15%. Total renewable fuel 8.96% (after adjustment for volume.

    Click on the headline above for the article, a descriptive chart and infographic.

    The corn ethanol increase was disappointing for those pushing for oil independence and lowered emissions. It's broadly known that corn ethanol both increases greenhouse gas emissions and increases food prices. The EPA appears to be in the minority of remaining federal supporters. Congress recently finalized the cut to corn ethanol's tax subsidy.

    Since the EPA now has the right to force importers and refiners to use a certain amount of corn ethanol, regardless of how expensive it is, the corn ethanol industry will likely push the issue by simply raising prices to recoup their lost subsidy.

    The cellulosic ethanol figure was orders of magnitude smaller than the original EISA proposal - cellulosic ethanol startup companies like Coskata seemed promising, but difficulty in establishing a solid food-chain to deliver biomass stock and finding the funding to scale laboratory work to production-scale designs has led to the great cellulosic ethanol fizzle. However, there is still hope for this novel technology, which turns non-viable biomaterial (woody waste) into fuel. In 2012 the EPA is increasing the cellulosic ethanol target from the prior year - possibly a signal that the industry is making progress.

    The U.S. Navy's deep investment in algal fuel cut costs from $424/gallon last year to $26.67 this year, which would account for the steep rise in advanced biofuel.

    From the comments at the bottom of the article 'm15' said that, to provide enough corn ethanol to fulfill our needs for vehicle fuel would require more (1.7 to 6 times) than the total agricultural land area available in the US. Corn ethanol uses almost as much energy to produce the fuel as the fuel itself contains.

    Corn ethanol uses an extensive amount of water and intensive tilling, which causes top soil loss. 1 inch of topsoil is lost every 5-10 years and takes 500 years to replace. We are sacrificing our future food growing farmland to make biofuels now. doclink

    The EROI (energy returned over energy invested) of corn ethanol is about 1.07 - not enough to make a profit
    on except for the subsidies.( ) So the taxpayers are paying 4X for a product that uses about as much energy as it produces: once for subsidies, once for more car repair bills, once for poorer fuel economy, and once for higher food prices.

    Can the United States Feed China?

    March 23, 2011, Earth Policy Institute

    In 1994, after an article in World Watch magazine entitled "Who Will Feed China?" came out, it was reposted in Washington Post's Outlook section with the title "How China Could Starve the World," which unleashed a political firestorm in Beijing. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture denounced the study and said advancing technology would enable the Chinese people to feed themselves. The leaders in Beijing are survivors of the Great Famine of 1959-61, during which some 30 million people starved to death. As a result of that traumatic experience, no leader could acknowledge that China might one day have to import much of its food.

    China launched an all-out effort to maintain grain self-sufficiency. The government instituted a 40% rise in the grain support price paid to farmers, an increase in agricultural credit, and heavy investment in developing higher-yielding strains of wheat, rice, and corn, their leading crops. They offset cropland losses in the fast-industrializing coastal provinces by plowing grasslands in the northwestern provinces, a measure that contributed to the emergence of the country's massive dust bowl. In addition to overplowing, they expanded irrigation by overpumping aquifers.

    China decided to abandon self-sufficiency in soybeans and concentrate their agricultural resources on staying self-sufficient in grain. China now imports four-fifths of its soybeans.

    In response to China's decision to import soybeans, the United States now has more land in soybeans than in wheat. Brazil has more land in soybeans than in all grains combined. Argentina, with twice as much land in soybeans as in grain, is fast becoming a soybean monoculture. In North and South America, there is now more land in soybeans than in either wheat or corn.

    The United States, Brazil, and Argentina account for more than 80% of the world harvest and nearly 90% of soybean exports, with 60% of that going go to China.

    Soil erosion, overpumping of aquifers, paving of land for automobiles, urbanization, overplowing and overgrazing are hampering China's grain production. The numerous dust storms originating in the region each year in late winter and early spring are now regularly recorded on satellite images. For instance, on March 20, 2010, a suffocating dust storm affected over 250 million people. Wang Tao, one of the world's leading desert scholars, reports that from 1950 to 1975 an average of 600 square miles of land in China's north and west turned to desert each year. By the turn of the century, nearly 1,400 square miles of land was going to desert annually.

    Satellite images show two deserts in north-central China expanding and merging to form a single, larger desert overlapping Inner Mongolia and Gansu Provinces. To the west in Xinjiang Province, two even larger deserts-the Taklimakan and Kumtag-are also heading for a merger. An estimated 24,000 villages in northwestern China have been totally or partially abandoned since 1950 as sand dunes encroach on cropland, forcing farmers to leave. Unlike the U.S. Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when many farmers in the Great Plains migrated to California, China's "Okies" do not have a West Coast to migrate to. They are moving to already heavily populated eastern cities.

    Water tables are falling and wells are starting to go dry under the North China Plain, which produces half of China's wheat and a third of its corn. The overpumping of aquifers for irrigation temporarily inflates food production, creating a food production bubble that eventually bursts when the aquifer is depleted.

    Earth Policy Institute estimates that some 130 million Chinese are being fed with grain produced by overpumping - by definition, a short term phenomenon. Underground water now meets three fourths of Beijing's water needs. The city is drilling 1,000 feet down to reach water-five times deeper than 20 years ago. A World Bank report on China's water situation foresees "catastrophic consequences for future generations" unless water use and supply can quickly be brought back into balance.

    China is also losing cropland to residential and industrial construction, and to paving land for cars as their numbers multiply at a staggering rate. In 2009, vehicle sales totaled 14 million, surpassing those in the United States for the first time. In 2010, sales jumped to 18 million, and in 2011 they are projected to reach 20 million, the highest ever for any country. Adding 20 million cars to the fleet means paving one million acres for roads, highways, and parking lots.

    In addition, as industrial wages rise, it becomes more difficult to find young people to work at low-return jobs in rural areas. As the rural labor supply shrinks, so does the potential for labor-intensive double-cropping (such as planting winter wheat and then corn as a summer crop in the north or producing two rice crops per year in the south), a practice that has dramatically expanded China's grain production.

    In November 2010, the food price index was up 12% over a year earlier. It seems likely that China soon will turn to the world market for massive grain imports, as it already has done for 80% of its soybeans.

    If China were to import only 20% of its grain, it would need 80 million tons, an amount only slightly less than the 90 million tons of grain the United States exports to all countries each year. This would put heavy additional pressure on scarce exportable supplies of wheat and corn.

    If China enters the U.S. grain market big time, as now seems inevitable, American consumers will find themselves competing with 1.4 billion Chinese consumers with fast-rising incomes for the U.S. grain harvest, driving up food prices. This would raise prices not only of the products made directly from grain, such as bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals, but also of meat, milk, and eggs, which require much larger quantities of grain to produce.

    If China were to import even one fifth of its grain, there would likely be pressure from U.S. consumers to restrict or to ban exports to China, but the United States has sold over $900 billion worth of U.S. Treasury Department securities to China finance the U.S. fiscal deficit. China is our banker. Restricting grain to China today may not be possible. For Americans, who live in a country that has been the world's breadbasket for more than half a century, a country that has never known food shortages or runaway food prices, the world is about to change. Like it or not, we are going to be sharing our grain harvest with the Chinese, no matter how much it raises our food prices. doclink

    U.S.: Shucking Corn Ethanol Subsidies Would Save Taxpayers Billions

    March 11, 2011, National Wild Life Federation

    The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit Repeal Act would save taxpayers $6 billion a year by eliminating ethanol subsidies.

    "At a time when Congress is considering deep and painful budget cuts across the board, wasteful and duplicative tax credits for corn ethanol, which cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year, should be the first to go," says Julie Sibbing, Director of Agriculture Programs, National Wildlife Federation

    Blenders of ethanol and gasoline receive a 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit. In 2010, these subsides cost over $5.4 billion, giving ethanol producers free money to do something they have to do by law. It also increases food prices and harms wildlife and the environment. Refiners could buy cheaper, environmentally-friendly ethanol from overseas, and foreign companies would not be able to pocket American ethanol subsidies. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: There is serious doubt that the energy it takes to produce ethanol is profitably more than the energy it produces. See . Eliminate the subsidy and ethanol will no longer be produced in the U.S. This will help the production of more food to provide for the hungry in the world, but will still not be enough. In the meantime, wouldn't it be wonderful if we spent a few billion of the savings on international family planning and reproductive health?

    US Corn Crop Shrinks, Smallest Stocks in 14 Yrs

    October 08, 2010, Reuters

    The U.S. corn crop is likely to be far smaller than expected. The corn stockpile will shrink to less than a four-week supply by next fall. The U.S. Agriculture Department cut its corn crop estimate 4% and soybeans 2%, based on conditions Oct. 1.

    With the harvest in full swing, USDA reported a downturn in corn yields from Ohio to Nebraska. It pegged the average yield at 155.8 bushels per acre, down 4% from its prior estimate. USDA cut yields by 14 bushels an acre in Illinois, by 10 bushels an acre in Iowa, the No. 1 state; and by 9 bushels in Nebraska.

    On the Chicago Board of Trade, prices of corn, wheat and soybeans all rose by the maximum amount allowed in a day. Livestock and ethanol prices also rose, as did shares of fertilizer companies.

    With high demand, the corn surplus will shrink to 902 million bushels by the end of this marketing year, the smallest since 883 million bushels in 1996/97. The stocks-to-use ratio would be a tight 6.7%.

    USDA's estimate of wheat end stocks, 853 million bushels, was 2% lower than traders expected.

    Private consultant John Schnittker said USDA's steep reduction in corn yields "is almost unprecedented" and added that the stocks-to-use ratio "is pretty low, putting real pressure on acreage and yield next year."

    The projected corn crop would still be the third-largest on record, and the soybean crop would be the biggest on record. Ethanol makers and corn growers said corn supplies will be adequate, although smaller.

    U.S. live cattle and hog futures surged as an inducement to producers to fatten livestock in the face of rising feed prices.

    Fertilizer shares also rose, with analyst Edlain Rodriguez of Broadpoint Glecher saying farmers will need nutrients to boost production. Bids for cash ethanol jumped 12 cents a gallon but there were no offers. Corn is the main feedstock for U.S. fuel ethanol.

    On Sept 30, USDA said there were 1.708 billion bushels in reserve as this year's harvest began, far more than expected. That report ended a rally and knocked corn prices below $5 a bushel for a week. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Some attribute this downturn in production to a drought. At any rate, climate change may result in more shortages. In the meantime, U.S. population continues to grow.

    U.S.;: Family Feud Why Agribusiness Giants Are Facing Off Over Corn Ethanol

    May 24, 2007, Grist Magazine

    The rapid price increase for corn, inspired by federal policies that encourage transforming corn into ethanol, is jacking up food prices and squeezing low-income people.

    This has given rise to a "food vs. fuel" debate. You either support cheap corn, and a food supply that serves the poor, or you support the ethanol boom, whose goal is to "break our dependence on foreign oil."

    A report by The Wall Street Journal outlines the growing rift within the agribiz lobby.

    When corn was cheap and overproduced the entire agribusiness lobby rallied around the ethanol cause. But now that ethanol is taking food from feedlots, the community has grown less friendly. Tyson has been complaining about corn prices. Its CEO told the Wall Street Journal that elevated grain prices, linked to ethanol, would add $300 million to the company's costs this year.

    The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is raising its voice as well. It finds government intervention and the group has demanded an end to government tax credits for ethanol and a cut to the import tariff on foreign ethanol. They are demanding free markets and free trade. The growing rift in the agribiz lobby is concerning the politicians who cater to it. Presidential hopefuls feel compelled to favor the allegedly fuel that's going to free us from Middle East oil, but support for corn-based ethanol is starting to wane.

    Legislators continue to aid ever-increasing ethanol use, but more of them are capping the amount of corn that can be used. The shine is off corn ethanol, and its explosive growth appears to have peaked.

    The corn-based ethanol never had a shot at significantly reducing petroleum use. Its energy-saving potential is thin, if not imaginary. The backlash plays into Tyson and its peers, who hate ethanol because it interferes with feeding cheap corn to confined animals.

    Last fall, U.S. farmers scrambled to plant corn anywhere they could and will likely harvest the largest corn crop in U.S. history.

    If Congress pulls back support for ethanol, the corn price will tumble and will mean a windfall for feedlot operators, and will likely spur government commodity payments to corn growers under the farm bill.

    In essence, we're being asked to choose between low-quality food and low-quality fuel. We should reject both. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: if we hadn't produced so many people, there would be enough food and fuel for all.

    U.S.: We Don't Need 'Guest Workers'

    March 21, 2006, Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration

    In 1964 Congress killed the seasonal Mexican laborers program despite warnings that its abolition would doom the tomato industry. Then scientists developed oblong tomatoes that could be harvested by machine and California's tomato output has risen fivefold. Now we're being warned again that we need unskilled laborers from Mexico and Central America to relieve U.S. "labor shortages." Guest workers would mainly legalize today's vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We'd be importing poverty. They generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line has risen 162%, while the number of non-Hispanic whites in poverty rose 3% and blacks, 9.5%. What we have now is a policy of creating poverty in the US while relieving it in Mexico. It stresses local schools, hospitals and housing and feeds social tensions (witness the Minutemen). Some Americans get cheap landscaping services but if more mowed their own lawns it wouldn't be a tragedy. Among immigrant Mexican and Central American workers in 2004, only 7% had a college degree and nearly 60% lacked a high school diploma. Among native-born U.S. workers, 32% had a college degree and 6% did not have a high school diploma. The illegal immigrants represent only about 4.9% of the labor force. In no major occupation are they a majority. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." Most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages below prevailing levels. Hardly anyone thinks that illegal immigrants will leave, but what would happen if illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers; others would find ways to minimize those costs. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005. Some lost jobs to immigrants and unemployment remains high for some groups. Business organizations support guest worker programs - they like cheap labor and ignore the consequences. Why do liberals support a program that worsens poverty and inequality? Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. We've never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that's shown to be ineffective, we shouldn't adopt guest worker programs that add to serious social problems. doclink


    U.S.: The Growth Ponzi Scheme

    2011, Strong Towns

    This article originally appeared in Grist. It is available at no charge for non-commercial reprinting. Please credit Strong Towns and link back to our site at

    We often forget that the American pattern of suburban development is an experiment, one that has never been tried anywhere before. We assume it is the natural order because it is what we see all around us. But our own history — let alone a tour of other parts of the world — reveals a different reality. Across cultures, over thousands of years, people have traditionally built places scaled to the individual. It is only the last two generations that we have scaled places to the automobile.

    How is our experiment working?

    At Strong Towns, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization I cofounded in 2009, we are most interested in understanding the intersection between local finance and land use. How does the design of our places impact their financial success or failure?

    What we have found is that the underlying financing mechanisms of the suburban era — our post-World War II pattern of development — operates like a classic Ponzi scheme, with ever-increasing rates of growth necessary to sustain long-term liabilities.

    Since the end of World War II, our cities and towns have experienced growth using three primary mechanisms:

    * Transfer payments between governments: where the federal or state government makes a direct investment in growth at the local level, such as funding a water or sewer system expansion.

    * Transportation spending: where transportation infrastructure is used to improve access to a site that can then be developed.

    * Public and private-sector debt: where cities, developers, companies, and individuals take on debt as part of the development process, whether during construction or through the assumption of a mortgage.

    In each of these mechanisms, the local unit of government benefits from the enhanced revenues associated with new growth. But it also typically assumes the long-term liability for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange — a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation — is one element of a Ponzi scheme.

    The other is the realization that the revenue collected does not come near to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the cost at $5 trillion — but that's just for major infrastructure, not the minor streets, curbs, walks, and pipes that serve our homes.

    The reason we have this gap is because the public yield from the suburban development pattern -- the amount of tax revenue obtained per increment of liability assumed -- is ridiculously low. Over a life cycle, a city frequently receives just a dime or two of revenue for each dollar of liability. The engineering profession will argue, as ASCE does, that we're simply not making the investments necessary to maintain this infrastructure. This is nonsense. We've simply built in a way that is not financially productive.

    We've done this because, as with any Ponzi scheme, new growth provides the illusion of prosperity. In the near term, revenue grows, while the corresponding maintenance obligations -- which are not counted on the public balance sheet -- are a generation away.

    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we completed one life cycle of the suburban experiment, and at the same time, growth in America slowed. There were many reasons involved, but one significant factor was that our suburban cities were now starting to experience cash outflows for infrastructure maintenance. We'd reached the "long term," and the end of easy money.

    It took us a while to work through what to do, but we ultimately decided to go "all in" using leverage. In the second life cycle of the suburban experiment, we financed new growth by borrowing staggering sums of money, both in the public and private sectors. By the time we crossed into the third life cycle and flamed out in the foreclosure crisis, our financing mechanisms had, out of necessity, become exotic, even predatory.

    One of humanity's greatest strengths -- our ability to innovate solutions to complex problems -- can be a detriment when we misdiagnose the problem. Our problem was not, and is not, a lack of growth. Our problem is 60 years of unproductive growth -- growth that has buried us in financial liabilities. The American pattern of development does not create real wealth. It creates the illusion of wealth. Today we are in the process of seeing that illusion destroyed, and with it the prosperity we have come to take for granted.

    That is now our greatest immediate challenge. We've actually embedded this experiment of suburbanization into our collective psyche as the "American dream," a non-negotiable way of life that must be maintained at all costs. What will we throw away trying to sustain the unsustainable? How much of our dwindling wealth will be poured into propping up this experiment gone awry?

    We need to end our investments in the suburban pattern of development, along with the multitude of direct and indirect subsidies that make it all possible. Further, we need to intentionally return to our traditional pattern of development, one based on creating neighborhoods of value, scaled to actual people. When we do this, we will inevitably rediscover our traditional values of prudence and thrift as well as the value of community and place.

    The way we achieve real, enduring prosperity is by building an America full of what we call Strong Towns. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This article only covers part of the problem. To be sure, no part can be neglected, but we must also look at our unsustainable drawing from the world's bank of natural resources. When a resource such as oil, per-capita soil, or per-capita water peaks, then the economy suffers and people pay the price. This usually happens with overpopulation and/or over consumption. In the U.S., both have contributed to the sprawl, paving over of farmland and wildlife habitat, and resource depletion.

    U.S.: The Myth of Smart Growth

    July 19, 2012, Fodor and Associates

    By Eban Fodor, author of Better, Not Bigger

    "Smart growth" is an urban growth management strategy that applies planning and design principles which are intended to mitigate the impacts of continued growth. Even if smart growth is done correctly, it is part of the "culture of growth" that perpetuates the "endless growth model."

    Often smart growth advocates claim that population levels and growth rates are not the problem; it's merely a matter of how we grow. If we are less wasteful and more efficient in our urban growth, everything will work out fine, they claim.

    The "smart growth" movement tends to undermine earnest public concern about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of continued growth. Concern about the amount and pace of growth has been transformed into a discussion about how we should best continue growing. "Smart growth" is actually just a means of postponing the inevitable consequences of too much growth.

    Smart Growth (SG) is largely a response to widespread public dislike of urban sprawl, a low-density, market-driven development pattern which uses land in an inefficient manner. Sprawl results in the accelerated loss of undeveloped rural land and open space. Sprawling development is associated with environmental impacts, costly and inefficient demand for new public infrastructure and services, overreliance on automobile transportation, and loss of community character.

    SG strives for denser development patterns that require less land. Mixed-use and neighborhood design strategies are included to help make the denser development more appealing. SG has the potential to reduce developer costs for land, roadways, parking, and utilities. These savings may be offset by the extra amenities required to make such compact development attractive to homebuyers and businesses.

    Gabor Zovanyi has boiled down the tenants of SG as: 1. Growth containment in compact settlements; 2. Protection of the environment, resource lands, and open space; 3. Multi-modal transportation systems; 4. Mixed-use development; 5. Collaborative planning and decision making

    The clear impression one gets from smart growth literature is that, as long as new growth is compact and efficiently-planned, it is acceptable for development to continue consuming rural land and for the urban footprint to keep expanding. SG proponents believe that growth, if done properly, can be transformed from a costly blight on the landscape into an attractive development with predominantly positive impacts on the community.

    U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Portland, Oregon, has been a champion of SG from its beginnings. He was interviewed on the topic by NPR a number of years ago. When asked if people in Oregon were concerned about too much growth, he replied that Oregon has about the same land area as the United Kingdom, but the UK has 20 times the population, implying the state could accommodate 20 times the population without a significant problem or any need for concern. Perhaps when the population of Oregon reaches the UK's population of 60 million, the Congressman will cite an example such as Singapore. With a population density of 19,000 people per square mile, Singapore is accommodating 475 times more people per square mile than Oregon.

    SG fails to recognize that even the smartest growth places a heavy burden on our environment and our communities, and creates significant impacts, most of which cannot be fully mitigated. An expanding local population requires more land, more expensive infrastructure, more services, more energy, more natural resources, more waste production, more greenhouse gas emissions, more water, more food production, and more transportation.

    SG proponents claim that the benefits from continued growth are greater than the costs, as long as their SG formula is applied. SG is a form of the 'technological fix' ideology that tries to solve growth problems through better planning and design.

    Amory Lovins, in his book Factor Four, estimated that, by fully utilizing technology to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, the world could potentially sustain the same lifestyle and wealth we enjoy today with 1/4th the energy and resource use. We could use the achievable savings to double our wealth while halving our resource use. The book notes that if consumption were to grow at a 4% annual rate, it would quadruple in just 35 years and all the savings achieved by this tremendous efficiency improvement would be neutralized. So, while eliminating waste and using our limited resources wisely seems like a good idea, it does not ultimately solve the problem of growth.

    SG may postpone the "day of reckoning," but would not prevent its arrival. Smart growth may be better than dumb growth, but if it doesn't ultimately help us solve the problem of too much growth, then it just ends up becoming a diversion, and thereby part of the problem.

    Recognizing Limits to Growth: Globally, more people were added to the population in the past 50 years than in all prior history. We've passed the 7 billion mark and added the latest billion people in just the last 12 years. With more than half of these people living in poverty and one billion of them in hunger, it seems heartless and even cruel to actively pursue a policy of continued growth.

    One-third of all the land ever developed in the U.S. was developed in just the last 25 years. The combination of population growth and farmland loss resulted in an alarming decline in the amount of farmland per-capita from 4 acres to 3 acres in the 20 years from 1989 to 2009.The US became a net food importer in 2005 for the first time in at least 50 years. Current agricultural productivity is highly dependent on fossil fuels, making it vulnerable to energy price and supply fluctuations.

    There will always be those who remain in denial about the impacts of human expansion on the planet. Other believe there can be perpetual growth. Growth that is not only desirable, it's unavoidable.

    Evidence of the past 20 years include species extinction rate and declining biodiversity, fisheries collapse, groundwater decline, deforestation, soil erosion, farmland loss, and anthropogenic climate change.

    The SG program contains many sensible planning and design strategies that have been tested and proven over the past 40-plus years. If properly applied, they should improve the quality of new development. However, SG advocates have taken this formula too far by claiming their medicine is a cure for the growth ailment.

    Instead of building more urban development under the SG banner, we need less development. We need to leave our remaining greenfields green. We need to keep our urban footprints from expanding onto more farms, forests, and open spaces. We must move beyond SG and begin to plan stable and sustainable communities that allow humans to prosper without overrunning the landscape and overwhelming the natural life support system. We must respect the local and regional carrying capacity, while leaving ample breathing room for other life on the planet to also prosper. Doing so will assure an enduring legacy of humans in balance with the earth. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I have had my share of
    'conversations' with smart growth advocates, and
    most of them don't want to admit that population is a
    problem. However, since we can't stop population
    from growing quickly, we will need some way to
    mitigate its effects - as long as we don't use it to
    encourage more growth.

    Anchoring Wealth to Sustain Cities and Population Growth

    August 03, 2012

    With the U.S. population set to grow by at least 100 million - and likely 150 million - people by 2050 and American cities so spatially and economically unstable, anything beyond superficial sustainability planning seems impossible.

    However, the author of this article believes we can radically change existing community and regional planning strategies to more sustainably house and serve the growing population. One approach involves building local economies that anchor capital in place through community, worker, or public forms of ownership - so-called green community wealth strategies. By linking such stabilizing forms of economic organization to democratic forms of local, regional, and national planning, cities can regain the capacity to target jobs and investment to specific locations.

    As jobs move in and out of cities in uncontrolled ways we literally throw away housing, roads, schools, hospitals, and public facilities-only to have to build the same facilities elsewhere at great financial, energy, and carbon costs. All the while, the instability makes it impossible to carry out coherent transportation and high-density housing planning.

    In places like Detroit and Cleveland, the devastated landscape in many areas looks like bombed-out World War II cities. Of the 112 largest U.S. cities in 1950 with populations over 100,000, fully half of them had experienced population decline by 2008. The people moved elsewhere, where all the usual facilities had to be built anew to serve them - and, built under conditions that were inherently likely to be subject to future instability and disruption.

    Cities in general, of course, have gained population since 1990, but the long-term trend of instability is dominant.

    39% of U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings, 33% from transportation, and the remainder from industry. So the built environment and transportation are critical to climate change mitigation efforts.

    Transportation Management and Engineering Magazine reports that carbon emissions in communities with very high densities have half the per capita carbon emissions of rural residents (0-50 households per square mile). And a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development found that New York City had a per capita average of 7.10 metric tons of carbon emitted per resident, compared to 23.92 metric tons nationwide.

    Rural families in the U.S. "own twice as many vehicles as households in high density areas and these are likely to be less efficient." Moreover, average vehicle miles traveled for rural households exceed those of metropolitan households: 28,238 compared to 21,187.

    To improve the fate of cities it is imperative to improve quality of life within cities and to reduce gaping social disparities within cities, and third to stabilize the economic underpinnings of cities - that is, the job base.

    One solution involves fostering "green community wealth building" - linking green development to institutions that inherently increase stability. The goal of green community wealth building is to increase the proportion of capital held by actors with a long-term commitment to a given locality or region. Green community wealth is tied to place. Public enterprises, employee-owned firms, neighborhood-owned enterprises, and nonprofits all are rooted in particular communities. Communities with a higher proportion of such capital are better positioned to achieve economic stability and plan effectively for a low-carbon future.

    Cleveland Ohio is a an example of this approach. By the 2010 U.S. census, Cleveland's population had fallen below 400,000. But the legacy institutions remain - namely, the city's leading hospitals and universities. Daily, more than 50,000 people commute to the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the other so-called anchor institutions within the University Circle, a small business district located roughly four miles northeast of downtown Cleveland. The purchasing power of these institutions exceeds $3 billion a year.

    However, University Circle is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods with 43,000 residents, whose median household income is only $18,500 and Cleveland also exhibits a classic pattern of sprawl. A new strategy spearheaded by the Cleveland Foundation, and involving neighborhood groups, major hospitals and universities, as well as city government, aims to reverse both the economic and environmental devastation.

    The goal is to leverage the city's existing anchors - in this case, hospitals and universities - to provide a long-term market for new worker-owned cooperatives while providing living-wage jobs and access to business ownership to employee-owners situated in surrounding low-income, largely African American communities. The first point is to recycle purchasing power to achieve greater stability. The second-and critical-point is to target firms owned by people who live in the community and create an ongoing stabilizing effect.

    In 2009 a co-op industrial-scale laundry opened its doors: a state-of-the-art, ecologically green commercial facility capable of handling ten million pounds of health-care linen a year. Its sophisticated business plan provides all employee-owners a living wage and health benefits. After seven years on the job, if current projections are realized, each employee will have a $65,000 equity stake in the enterprise. In the same year a second employee-owned, community-based company began large-scale installations of solar panels for the city's largest nonprofit health, education, and municipal buildings. Another business scheduled to start operations within six months is a year-round hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three million heads of lettuce and approximately 300,000 pounds of basil and other herbs a year.

    A cooperative development fund, currently capitalized by a $3 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation, expects to raise an additional $30-40 million to support a growing network of cooperatives.

    In general, green community wealth building strategies are also an important tool in neighborhood revitalization that benefits existing residents and reduces poverty (rather than moving poor people around). Reducing poverty improves the quality of life in both central city and older suburban neighborhoods, making them more attractive options for residents and thereby helping in a second way to achieve stability.

    Traditional employers have an incentive to keep labor costs low and hence will use workers only for as long as they are needed on a particular job. Community enterprises, in contrast, aim to maximize employment over the long term. Instead of treating employees as disposable, such employers commonly seek ways to find new work for their workforce.

    Stabilizing population centers - whether old or new - is also a first step to building the high-density, well connected hubs that will house the next 100 million Americans in a low-carbon future. The current pattern of American suburbanization has created a social pattern - one in which poverty and social problems are dramatically concentrated in central cities - that is itself a major impediment to the needed inside-out revitalization of metropolitan America. Current trends are not encouraging: A 2010 study of residential construction in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in two periods (1990-1995 and 2003-2008) found that while the central-city share of residential construction showed some increases in the latter period, suburban areas still accounted for the majority of new construction in every metropolitan area except New York - indeed, over 85% of new construction in nearly half the areas.

    Instead of simply allowing the next 100 million Americans to add to sprawl, the dual strategy of creating anchored community wealth building institutions on the one hand, and using an overarching community-stabilizing approach in regional planning on the other, could help concentrate and support the population in old cities, in new areas, and around small existing towns viewed as "nodes" of new city development. The result could be the capacity to achieve sufficient stability to allow sustainability planning in both old and new areas.

    Other options: Britain's New Towns movement led to the construction of over two dozen new towns in the first half of the twentieth century and is widely credited with reduced sprawl. Vauban, Germany, (outside Freiburg) provides a more contemporary example, creating a "carless suburb" based on the assumption that residents will not own cars; bike-friendly, transit-oriented Dutch cities - such as Amsterdam where cars are present but decidedly secondary. A range of other European policies raise the effective cost of driving, combined with ample public support for transit, have largely succeeded in making it possible for middle-class and working-class urban residents to have full access to the city and its opportunities without depending on a car. Distant as it may seem, that is the goal American cities must aim to achieve over the coming generation if they hope to meet the larger sustainability challenge.

    Creating sustainable metropolitan areas in the United States is a massive challenge, one similar to that facing other nations and yet unique in several respects. For America, there are two "elephants" in the room-highly unstable local economic patterns and population growth - that must be acknowledged. A major national effort to stabilize the economic basis of our communities is not only a moral or economic imperative; in the era of global warming, it is an ecological necessity - and one that needs to be taken on using every available policy tool. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Over 30% of the world's energy is spent on the food supply, so these numbers do not add up: "39% of U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings, 33% from transportation, and the remainder from industry."

    Smart Growth: the Worst Kind of Sprawl?

    June 07, 2012

    (article written in November 18 2008, by Rick Shea)

    Energy use and carbon emissions of suburban building and "smart growth" urban high rise building were compared in a well researched article. Turns out that people have about the same global footprint, i.e. the land it takes to grow their food and fabric resources, wherever they live (about 25 acres for a U.S. lifestyle). Transportation is a small part of that (around 11%) which is offset by the greater demands on our resources in building high rises. The best thing for the environment is to stop our population growth and stop residental construction.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, "density is (an) integral component to the creation of neighborhoods that offer convenience, value and a high quality of life.

    However, in a 2007 a study of Portland Oregon - supposedly a model for smart growth - showed that the number of goods passing through Oregon needs to double by 2030 to keep pace with population growth, globalization and expanding markets. But the harbor and city infrastructure are lagging. Traffic congestion and delays on Portland roads are cited as hindrances to business efficiency, and as a significant factor in increasing business transportation costs. The proposed solution is more harbor facilities, significant improvements in rail and road infrastructure through Portland - the very things that smart growth is supposed to help prevent.

    Vancouver, B.C., dubbed "the Northwest's smart growth leader" had an ecological footprint 207 times its actual size. This includes 7,000 square kilometers for food production, 3,000 square kilometers for forestry products, and 13,000 square kilometers to accommodate energy use."

    The study found that relatively dense cities (by North American standards) have an ecological footprint about 200 times their actual geographical size. That footprint includes, among other things, appropriated farmland in other countries which supply our food, land used for industrial development in other countries which supply our goods, and land used to supply energy in those countries and deal with wastes.

    Los Angeles, California has one of the highest urban densities in the United States. Yet farmland and natural space around the city continue to disappear. And L.A. continues to have some of the highest rates of traffic congestion, and of poor air quality, in the United States.

    It was found that many highrises use more energy per resident than a well-built townhouse, and not much less than a small well-built single family home.

    With dense development, the food must come from farther and farther away. The denser the development, the farther the food must be transported. In the words of William Rees, “cities necessarily appropriate the ecological output and life support functions of distant regions all over the world through commercial trade." ...

    A residential lot in suburbia is only a tiny portion of the degraded land footprint. Even highrise dwellers still require virtually all of that infrastructure, including highways and roads to escape the city for recreation (as there aren't many golf courses and ski hills in the downtown cores of most large cities) and to bring in goods and services.

    And then, investments in stock portfolios, RRSPs, mutual funds, and pension plans relies heavily on these sorts of activities, even growth in many of the so-called “ethical" funds and investments.

    There are those who say that peak oil will force people to drive less, we will have to use alternative energy sources, and we will have to relocalize production of food and other commodities. But cities like Vancouver, hard up against other cities already, will find it impossible to do so, as there simply isn't enough agricultural land left within easy transportation distance to supply all the needs of the residents.

    Some say we will see the demise of large cities in a post-carbon world, with claims that villages and small cities with populations up to 80,000 people will be the only urban forms able to sustain themselves with what they find locally.

    People are beginning to realize that current alternative energy sources still rely quite heavily on fossil fuels for materials, manufacture, transport, and maintenance and cannot supply all of our energy needs.

    Hopes of saving farmland and natural spaces through dense urban development are doomed by population growth. Each additional person consumes more goods, land, food, energy, and degraded land. Each additional person places more pressure on natural areas and adds more risk to threatened species, not just locally, but across the planet. And, finally, each additional person creates more waste and emissions.

    The mantra “Grow up, not out" has somehow convinced us that we can feel good about population growth as long as it is “planned" properly, and directed to denser development. But these slogans a are hiding the fact that we are creating something much, much more destructive for this planet than urban sprawl - something that is rapidly destroying other species, depleting resources, gobbling up farmland and natural space, and polluting the land and the water and the air. doclink

    US Michigan: Detroit, Green City

    March 30, 2008, Michigan Citizen

    Urban planners say the best way to turn an industrial city into a green city may be to just leave the city be.

    At a presentation three areas were said to become the focal points for future development. The most important was population density and building up is a great way to minimize land waste.

    Studies show walkable cities are the goal, so developing the city around pedestrian traffic is another way to gain more density. Mass transit is vital; Detroit is without a system.

    Mass transit means that residents without cars could have a reliable ride to work, there would be fewer cars, and a reduced need for parking and a turnaround in air quality. Light-rail stations may help attract investors and mixed-use buildings that house both businesses and people. With people come density, more transit options and a boom for economic development.

    Mixed-use buildings are efficient and have proved to be places people want to be. Parking lots are are seldom full, they absorb money and resources. Traditional development leads to lower density and greater infrastructure costs. These practices are not economically feasible. Population density is the key to a sustainable city.

    The third aspect to sustaining a green city is reuse and preservation of buildings. The carbon footprint of demolition, waste transportation, and rebuilding is enormous. Building preservation and adaptive reuse are the best ways to employ sustainability.

    The recent emphasis on being environmentally responsible and the financial benefits may spark investors to build green.

    There is increasing evidence that green buildings cost less in the long run, mainly through better energy and water efficiency, but also by reducing waste, improving indoor air quality and through lower operation and maintenance costs. A change in lifestyle is necessary for green urbanism. doclink

    USA Today: Where Will Everybody Live?

    December 05, 2006, USA Today

    The USA is growing faster than any other industrialized country in the world. The USA added 100 million people in the past 39 years and around 2040, the population will be past 400 million.

    The USA trails only China and India in population. Space itself isn't the issue. But people want water in the desert, plentiful fuel to power long commutes, energy to cool and heat bigger houses and clean air and water. How and where they live could determine how well the nation and the environment will handle the added population.

    People who work on smart growth development issues say there's no way we can continue over the next 40-odd years without severe consequences to the environment. We have to find different ways to reside on the land. Each American occupies almost 20% more developed land (housing, schools, stores, roads) than 20 years ago. The rate of land consumption is twice the rate of population growth.

    The major growth patterns of the past 50 years are being challenged by changing demographics.

    Americans are reconsidering traditional retirement paths. More are eyeing downtown condos, households are smaller and townhouses more appealing.

    More immigrants are arriving, increasing mass transit ridership and carpooling in a country where driving alone still dominates.

    The next 100 million people will create 73 million new jobs, about 70 million new homes and 100 billion square feet of non-residential space. Urban town centers that combine condos, shops and offices in pedestrian-friendly settings are sprouting in suburbia. Residential construction in downtown districts is on the rise. Areas are are investing billions in light-rail lines. It takes more money to heat and cool a big house, when you factor in the true cost including transportation and energy, Americans will change how they live.

    Growth issues are manifesting themselves in traffic congestion, loss of open space and more water and air pollution.

    The paper then goes on to describe in great detail some of the transit and building changes already under way. doclink

    Ralph says: The article does not consider in any way the suply of water, power and food to the millions of new residents.

    Around D.C., a Cheaper House May Cost You; Longer Commutes Outweigh Savings of Living in Outer Suburbs

    October 11, 2006, Washington Post

    A study of metropolitan areas found that the costs of one-way commutes of 12 to 15 miles cancel any savings on lower-priced homes.

    People tend to focus on the price of a closer-in house compared to one in the outer suburbs, but they don't realize how much they're spending on commuting costs

    The average cost of owning a Toyota Camry and driving it 15,000 miles a year works out to $7,967 according to AAA.

    The study found that a lack of affordable housing in the Washington area and elsewhere forces low- to moderate-income families to live in outer suburbs where transportation costs are high.

    Of the 20 fastest-growing counties in the US, 15 are located 30 miles or more from urban centers. Many communities have identified a lack of affordable housing as critical. We need to have regional solutions about both housing and transportation. Most people in the outer suburbs pay so much for transportation because they have to use their cars for nearly every errand.

    The study noted that 62.1% of the U.S. metropolitan population lived in the suburbs in 1996, up from 55.1% in 1970.

    The median national household income has been outpaced by housing and transportation costs. The data highlight a disconnect between where people live and work. A three-car family puts a lot of money into depreciating assets, instead of into mortgages and college educations. doclink

    US Georgia: Few Willing to Tackle Georgia's Most Pressing Issue - Growth

    March 28, 2006, Gwinnett Daily Post

    The most terrifying but potentially most beneficial issue facing Georgia is population growth. Most politicians don't like to discuss the population explosion - it's too complex. Georgia is having trouble coping. The infrastructure, from health care and education to law enforcement and traffic control, is breaking down. No one dares speak the unspeakable but runaway growth may kill us if we don't deal with it. State Supreme Court Justice Harris Hines outlined the challenges "They're talking about making I-75 23 lanes wide in a few years in Cobb County, and in the next 20 years, Georgia will increase its population by 50%." The prison population has risen from 15,200 in 1983 to 46,900 in 2003. Recent estimates show growth is continuing at an even faster pace, with about 60% from new people moving into the state. Georgia, with 8.4 million people, has the ninth-largest population of any state. Georgia has 2.2 million, 28.7% blacks, highest of any state. Hispanics 13%, Asians 2.1%. The median age for all Georgians is 33.4 and will have one of the fastest rates of growth of the elderly. Georgia has low educational attainment and income. More than 21% did not graduate from high school. Among blacks, 27.5% failed to finish high school. Per capita income is $28,523, No. 25 in the country. From 1990 to 2002, 36% of all Georgia births were to unwed mothers, 25% of births to white women were to unwed mothers, and 66% of births to black women were to unwed mothers. Georgia has four problems, high school dropouts, diabetes, substance abuse and gambling. The lawmakers take bows for denying some state services to hordes of illegal aliens without inflicting much pain on the corporate employers who induced them to come here. doclink


    Tunnel Vision Part Two: Rivers in Peril

    How Jerry Brown's plan to build two giant water tunnels, along with legislation in Congress, could ultimately spoil the last of Northern California's wild and scenic rivers
    June 19, 2013, East Bay Express   By: Robert Gammon

    California has many beautiful rivers, including the breathtaking Merced, which flows over two waterfalls in Yosemite, Nevada and Vernal and then begins a one-hundred-mile journey to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately there are plans afoot to remove the federal wild and scenic designation on a section of the Merced River west of Yosemite National Park.

    Water purveyors want to raise the Exchequer Dam on the Merced river to trap more water in Lake McClure, a massive reservoir holding about 500,000 acre-feet of water. Ironically the move would likely won't provide much water to the irrigation district, providing no more than 12,000 acre-feet of additional water for Lake McClure, an amount that represents just 2% of the reservoir's normal capacity, according to Friends of the River. But it would set a precedent for other rivers designated wild and scenic, which keeps them from being dammed or diverted.

    If the bill gains the backing of Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein, it could win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and would pass since it has already been approved by the House.

    The wild and scenic McCloud River near Mount Shasta has been similarly threatened so that Shasta Lake can be made larger and more water can be sent south.

    A Bureau of Reclamation report said that raising Shasta Dam would add about 133,400 acre-feet of water to the state's water conveyance system; opponents contend that taxpayers will ultimately have to pay at least a portion of the costs of expanding Shasta Lake because the additional water won't produce enough revenue due to the cheap water prices given to Westlands and Metropolitan.

    The Eel, the Smith, and the Trinity on the North Coast contain millions of acre-feet of water that could be diverted and could be used by big Agribusiness and powerful water interests if their wild and scenic designation were removed.

    The state's water conveyance system, particularly in the Delta, also entails restrictions which are threatened. The fragile estuary serves as a natural barrier to those who want to move more freshwater from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Removing too much freshwater from the Sacramento before it reaches the Delta would salt up the estuary.

    Although Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two giant water tunnels underneath the Delta does not propose sending more freshwater south than the state does now, the huge water tunnels could easily accommodate both the extra water created by damming up more of the McCloud River and from diverting millions of acre-feet of water from the North Coast.

    As Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity points out, "at some point, it's going to be used to its max." Both Westlands and Metropolitan water districts are pushing hard for Governor Brown's giant water tunnels plan.

    The Smith on the North Coast is truly wild, the only major undammed river in the state. It begins in the mountains that straddle the California-Oregon border and wends through a spectacular canyon of old-growth redwoods in Del Norte County on its way to the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City.

    In the decades to come, the pressure to ship more water south will intensify, especially if the state has the infrastructure in place to make it happen.

    NASA predicts that, as temperatures increase around the globe, regions that receive a lot of precipitation will likely get wetter, while drier areas, like Southern California, will likely get drier. But California, as a whole, particularly southern California, will be 15 to 35% drier by 2100."

    According to studies, climate change will result in more periods of drought, especially in arid regions — thereby creating additional pressure to ship water to Southern California. Climate change will also likely produce more heat waves, and thus magnify the demand for even more water to keep crops from wilting.

    California's population is expected to top 50 million people by 2050, according to the state Department of Finance. And most of that growth is projected to occur in Southern California. More people also will mean the state will need to produce more food to eat.

    Also if the fracking boom expands here as it has in other states, massive amounts of water and chemicals will be shot deep into the earth in order to release otherwise trapped natural gas and oil. Each fracked well uses between 5-10 million gallons of water.

    Environmental groups are wary. "It is hard to imagine that the exporters would pay the additional billions of dollars to construct the 15,000 CFS tunnels ... unless the true plan and project is to operate at that level," Friends of the River wrote in a letter to federal water officials.

    Westlands is the largest water district in the nation in terms of acreage. It includes 600,000 acres of desert land on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley that has been turned into an agricultural cash cow thanks to cheap water diverted from Northern California through the Delta. Westlands began receiving Delta water in 1960 after a politician bankrolled by the district, US Representative Bernard Sisk, a Fresno Democrat, vowed to Congress that the water would allow Westlands to become a bastion for small-scale family farms. Instead, Westlands used the huge profits that they reaped from all that water to make sure that the area has remained primarily in the hands of Big Ag. Westlands and its major growers have spent millions on lobbying and political donations over the past few decades. At the same time, the district has pocketed more than $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

    In 2012, Westlands spent $360,000 lobbying on issues relating to the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Endangered Species Act. Westlands growers have contributed heavily over the years to Feinstein and Congressman Costa, the San Joaquin Valley Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill to remove the wild and scenic designation on the Merced River.

    It makes no sense to dam up and divert the Smith, Eel, and Trinity rivers - unless the twin tunnels are built to send millions of acre-feet of additional water south. "If you construct the water tunnels," noted Ron Stork of Friends of the River, "then it could be politically easier" to remove the wild and scenic designations on the rivers of California's North Coast.  doclink

    U.S.: As Colorado River Dries Up, The West Feels The Pain

    June 26, 2012, NPR National Public Radio

    South of the U.S.- Mexico border the Colorado River Delta and its once-rich estuary wetlands have been reduced by 95% since the river was restricted by dams, and are as parched as the surrounding desert.

    The river begins in the Rocky Mountains and flows into Mexico's Sea of Cortez providing drinking water, and irrigation of millions of acres of farmland.

    But the river is drying up. As it does, those who rely on it for farming, cattle ranching, fishing and tourism fear economic disaster. doclink

    U.S.: Drought, Population Force City to Find More Water

    February 26, 2012

    The city of League City, in Texas, can pump only about 21.5 million gallons of water a day. The drought - coupled with the city's growing population - has meant the city came close to its limit during the past summer.

    The city's population is at roughly 85,000 now, Oller said. That is more than double what it was 10 years ago.

    The city is trying to acquire 10 million gallons of water a day from the city of Pasadena. League City buys 16.5 million gallons from the city of Houston. The water travels down a 42-inch diameter pipeline. Another 2 million comes from the Gulf Coast Water Authority, which is piped up from south of the city, and about 3 million gallons come from city wells.

    Part of the city's problem is that no more water can be pumped in through existing pipelines, and city wells are not producing as much as they once were. A pipeline between the cities needs to be built - before that water could reach the city.

    If population growth continues, by 2035 the city will need about 50 million gallons a day, more than twice its current capacity. To meet that need, the city will have to use ground and surface water, and it will have to promote conservation and the reuse of water. The city may have to look at alternate technologies such as desalinization.

    The city has had an existing reuse system since the mid 1980s. Water is treated to a level that is not potable but is safe for human contact and irrigation. A golf course is the city's only customer for the reclaimed water. Hopefully the reuse system can be extended to irrigate green spaces during the summer, and more businesses and large water users, such as homeowner associations, will take advantage of the system.

    Water only is going to get harder to come by as cities in the region continue to grow. doclink

    U.S.: The Coming Mega Drought

    December 31, 2011, Scientific American

    Over the last decade Australia experienced the worst and most consistent dry period in its recorded history. The Murray River failed to reach the sea for the first time ever in 2002. Fires swept much of the country, and dust storms blanketed major cities for days. Australia's sheep population dropped by 50%, and rice and cotton production collapsed in some years. Tens of thousands of farm families gave up their livelihoods. The drought ended in 2010 with torrential rains and flooding.

    What happened in Australia could happen in the U.S. Southwest, with devastating consequences to the region and to the nation. However, we can learn from Australia's experience.

    There is a resemblence between the southwestern U.S. and parts of Australia before the drought. Both include arid regions where thirsty cities and irrigated agriculture are straining water supplies and damaging ecosystems. The Colorado River no longer flows to the sea in most years. Water levels in major reservoirs have steadily declined over the past decade; some analysts project that the largest may never refill.

    In Australia average rainfall has decreased 15% since 1950, while from 1995 to 2006 average temperatures over southeastern Australia were 0.3 to 0.6 degree Celsius higher than the long-term average. The combination of higher evaporation and lower precipitation depletes soil moisture and reduces runoff, making droughts more intense and more frequent. Australian scientists forecast a 35 to 50% decline in water availability in the Murray-Darling river basin and a drop in flows near the mouth of the Murray by up to 70% by 2030.

    Australians responded to this Millennium Drought with a wide range of technical, economic, regulatory and educational policies. Urban water managers in Australia have been forced to put in place aggressive strategies to curb water use and to expand sources of new and unconventional supplies. They have subsidized efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, launched public educational campaigns to save water, and more. Between 2002 and 2008 per capita urban water use declined by 37%.

    Other efforts include reuse of gray water, cisterns to harvest rooftop runoff, sewage treatment and reuse, and desalinization by the country's five largest cities, which will meet 30% of current urban water needs. The government has continued with plans to restore rivers and wetlands by cutting withdrawals from the Murray-Darling river basin by 22 to 29%.

    The southwestern U.S. states would do well to push for these kinds of reforms before a similar disaster strikes. doclink

    U.S.: Water for Energy: Future Water Needs for Electricity in the Intermountain West

    November 2011, Pacific institute

    A Pacific Institute study examines the water requirements for current and projected electricity generation within the Intermountain West, which is the area bound by the Rocky Mountains in the East and the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains in the West. While water and energy conflicts are increasing across the United States, the Intermountain West is of particular interest due to a growing population, a diverse fuel mix for power generation, and existing water constraints and limitations that are expected to worsen.

    By 2035, water withdrawals and consumption for electricity generation in the region are projected to increase by 2% and 5%, respectively, from 2010 levels.. In addition to the water needed for electricity generation, population and economic growth will increase demands for water resources, even as climate change makes the available water supply less reliable.

    To significantly reduce water requirements while permitting increases in electricity production, solutions are: expanding energy-efficiency efforts, installing more dry cooling systems, and relying more heavily on renewable energy, such as wind and solar PV, the new analysis shows.

    The Pacific Institute report recommends: 1) improve data, information, and education on the impact of the energy sector on water resources; (2) accelerate water and energy efficiency improvements; (3) accelerate development and deployment of renewable energy systems; (4) establish cooling technology requirements that limit water use; and (5) promote switching to alternative water sources (such as wastewater and industrial water). doclink

    Power Plants Chop Fish and Waste Water

    May 2011, Sierra Club


    Karen Gaia says: The more people we have with high consumption rates, the more use of fossil fuels, the more carbon emissions, and the more destruction of the environment. Let's do whatever we can to stop this destruction, including smaller families, conserving energy, and writing our policy makers. Our future depends on it.

    U.S.: The Last Drop: Climate Change and the Southwest Water Crisis

    2000, Stockholm Environmental Institute

    Homes, businesses and farms in the Southwest use far more water than is produced by rain and snowfall, and groundwater reserves are shrinking.

    A study finds that without prompt action to reduce water usage, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah will face a combined shortfall of 1,815 million acre feet from population and income growth alone, plus 282 million to 439 million more from climate change - at a combined cost of as much as $5 trillion.

    As conventional water sources dry up, the Southwest could find itself facing serious water crises in dry years, with unexpected disruptions that could devastate agriculture and affect homes and businesses as well.

    Frank Ackerman, director of the Climate Economics Group at SEI-U.S. and lead author of the study said: "Climate policy choices we make today are not just about exotic environments and far-future generations - they will help determine how easy or hard it is to create a sustainable water system in the most arid region of the country."

    Water imports, desalination and additional groundwater extraction have been considered as ways to meet the shortfall, but the study concluded that none can solve the problem. The Southwestern states should promptly implement substantial conservation and efficiency measures as well as price increases for both urban and agricultural users. They also advise phasing out low-value crops, some of which are worth less than the water used to grow them. doclink

    U.S.: Water Wars in the Southeast: Are Georgia, Alabama and Florida Fighting Over Water Or Over Growth?

    September 16, 2010, Economist

    Average yearly rainfall in the three states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida exceeds 40 inches. Georgia and Alabama abound in lakes and rivers. Florida has almost 1,200 miles of coastline. But rapid growth in the region has put pressure on its water supply, and the three states are battling over water from two big river basins, the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT), the outcome of which may shape the area's development for decades.

    Metropolitan Atlanta is about 80 miles from the headwaters of the Chattahoochee, so far upstream that its water supply is particularly vulnerable to floods and drought. In the mid-1940s Congress authorised the construction of Buford Dam to create Lake Lanier, an immense reservoir divided among the five counties north-east of Atlanta. The purposes of the dam were: flood control, power supply, ensuring an adequate downstream flow for navigation and "assure a sufficient and increased water supply for Atlanta."

    But between 1956 and 1969 the number of houses doubled within two-and-a-quarter miles of Lake Lanier and between 1960 and 2008 the population of metro Atlanta rose from just over 1 million to nearly 5.4 million. In 1990 Alabama and Florida sued the Army Corps of Engineers over withdrawals from Lake Lanier by Georgia. Since then the states have veered between negotiations and lawsuits; both have proved fruitless.

    Alabama wants to ensure a steady supply of water from the Chattahoochee, which forms much of the border between it and Georgia, and from Lake Allatoona and Weiss Lake, which sit near the two states' borders in the ACT basin. Florida wants to ensure an adequate flow to the Apalachicola river, formed by the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee. The Apalachicola basin is an area of great biodiversity, and Apalachicola Bay, where it meets the Gulf of Mexico, is home to a thriving oyster industry. Georgia's downstream farmers also want to ensure an adequate supply for irrigation, making this more a battle with Georgia, Florida and Alabama one one side versus metro Atlanta on the other.

    In 2009, a federal judge ruled that Congress must approve withdrawals from Lake Lanier and that those must be frozen at current levels pending either congressional authorization or a negotiated solution. Should neither be in place by 2012, then withdrawals would revert to their "baseline" levels from the 1970s, before the Corps of Engineers started issuing interim contracts (and when metro Atlanta had less than a third of the number of people it has today). In his ruling, the judge dryly noted, "The Court recognizes this is a draconian result."

    Congressional authorization seems unlikely, but a negotiated settlement appears inevitable since the alternative is escalating the fight to the Supreme Court. Some in Atlanta see the battle not as a legitimate fight over water, but a way to redirect growth towards Alabama and southern Georgia. doclink

    Fossil Fuels

    Trouble in Fracking Paradise

    August 07, 2013, SmartPlanet   By: Chris Nelder

    Shell announced a $2.1 billion write-down due to the poor performance of its fracking adventures in U.S. "liquids-rich shales." "The production curve is less positive than we originally expected," said Shell's CFO.

    On 2010 Shell acquired mineral rights at inflated prices, but these properties are only yielding only 50,000 barrels per day compared the 250,000 barrels per day Shell said it would produce in five years. The company intends to sell half of its portfolio of shale gas and tight oil and is now targeting financial performance instead of a production target of 4 million barrels per day by 2012-2018.

    Supermajors Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Total SA, Statoil, and Eni SpA all reported sharply lower profits in the second quarter, and only Total SA reported an increase in production.

    The decline in profitability and production was primarily a result of lower oil prices and rising costs. Spending for the top 100 U.S. producers in 2012 rose 18%. Costs will be higher still this year.

    Producers of tight oil are struggling to maintain output while existing well output declines rapidly. New wells in the Bakken shale of North Dakota show an average decline rate of 60% to 70% for the first year of production. Rune Likvern at The Oil Drum estimated that most Bakken wells production falls by 40% to 65% in the second year.

    Producers have to keep drilling more each year to simply keep output flat. That increases costs.

    Rising costs are also due to the ever-increasing difficulty of finding new prospects, and overall price inflation for basic commodities like cement and steel.

    The Utica shale of Ohio has shown disappointing results for investors, and the Monterey shale in California has continued to prove troublesome.

    The Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Permian formations will turn out to be the major tight oil producers, but production growth in the Bakken stalled in early 2013 despite the continuous addition of new wells.

    Newer wells aren't as productive as earlier wells since producers drill the most productive “sweet spots" in a shale play first.

    Geologist David Hughes estimates that 1,440 new wells per year are needed to offset decline in the Bakken, meaning that, of the 720K barrels per day produced from the Bakken in April, 319K will be lost to decline this year. Bakken production has tapered off over the past six months as the undertow of depletion overcomes new well additions.

    While production is still growing in the Eagle Ford shale in Texas, the increase in production per new well has been falling.

    Tight oil production is still growing, and should continue to grow for several more years at least, just not as quickly as it has for the last several years.

    Bob Brackett of AllianceBernstein says, “the prime locations have already been drilled" in U.S. tight oil plays, and that drillers are moving on to less prospective areas.

    Prices will need to go up so producers can keep drilling. Best get a more efficient vehicle. Don't settle for less than 40 mpg. Consider an electric vehicle.

    Follow the link in the headline to see all the charts in this article. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: move closer to work and your other activities. Buy less and buy online. Eat local foods. Eat less meat.

    Canadian Government: Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Tar Sands May Double by 2020

    August 11 , 2011, Think Progress   By: By Stephen Lacey

    The Canadian government reports that greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta's tar sands could double from 2010 to 2020. This is contrary to Canada's pledge at the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 to reduce GHG emissions 17% by 2020.

    Emissions increases from the tar sands in Canada would offset any decreases that may come from cleaner electricity generation. However current measures will only meet about 25% of Canada's targets.

    Previous analysis shows that CO2 emissions from tar sands can be more than 20-35% higher than conventional oil. The findings illustrate the environmental impact of U.S. State Dept. approval of the proposed Keystone XL project — a $13 billion pipeline that would pump an extra 500,000 barrels of dirty tar sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas each day.

    "The keystone pipeline sends a signal from Gulf Coast refineries to Alberta that ‘we're open for business.' Of course, that is going to drive far more production at the tar sands. And that's a sad story from a climate perspective, because we're talking about unlocking a lot of new emissions," says Ryan Salmon, an energy policy advisor at the National Wildlife Foundation, in an interview with Climate Progress.

    Last month, a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks showed that a former U.S. State Department official had coached Canadian officials on how to ensure more positive media coverage of the project.

    U.S. energy companies involved with the project are claiming that the increased crude capacity would drive down fuel costs for consumers, a claim that some experts doubt.

    The Keystone XL pipeline would go straight to the Gulf Coast where fuel could be sold on the global market. For example, Shell is partnering with a state-run oil refining company from Saudi Arabia in the Gulf - raising suspicions about where the fuel is really going.

    It will certainly be a boon for Gulf Coast refiners and companies operating in Alberta's tar sands. But it may not help the American consumer - and it definitely won't help the Canadian government reduce emissions. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: and then there is the environmental damage along the pipeline, which is very likely to leak.

    Tar Sands Pipelines: the Dirtiest Oil on Earth - Video

    June 19 , 2012, Sierra Club Population News listserve

    The Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign will block the most dangerous oil projects (Keystone XL, Enbridge Gateway, Trailbreaker pipelines) and revoke the oil industry's license to operate above the law and interfere with our transition to a clean energy future. doclink

    What the Frack? is There Really 100 Years' Worth of Natural Gas Beneath the United States?

    December 2011, Slate

    By Chris Nelder - The recent press about the potential of shale gas would have you believe that America is now sitting on a 100-year supply of natural gas. It's a "game-changer."

    Assuming that the United States continues to use about 24 tcf per annum, then, only an 11-year supply of natural gas is certain. The other 89 years' worth has not yet been shown to exist or to be recoverable.

    In addition, those 273 tcf are located in reserves that are undrilled, but are adjacent to drilled tracts where gas has been produced. Due to large lateral differences in the geology of shale plays, production can vary considerably from adjacent wells.

    One complicating factor here is recoverability, because we are never able to extract all of an oil or gas resource. For oil, a 35% recovery factor is considered excellent. But recovery factors for shale gas are highly variable, due to the varied geology of the source rocks. Even if we assume a very optimistic 50% recovery factor for the 550 tcf of probable gas (536.6 tcf from shale gas plus 13.4 tcf from coalbed gas), that would still only amount to 225 tcf, or a 10-year supply. That plus the 11-year supply of proved reserves would last the United States just 21 years, at current rates of consumption.

    Follow the link in the headline for the rest of the article, plus some excellent visuals. doclink

    The Big Fracking Bubble: the Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon's Gas Boom; It's Not Only Toxic - It's Driven by a Right-Wing Billionaire Who Profits More From Flipping Land Than Drilling for Gas

    March 01, 2012

    This article says pretty much the same as a May 2011 article from Post Carbon Institute at - but here are some highlights:

    "Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners. For Chesapeake, the primary profit in fracking comes not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas. The company is now the largest leaseholder in the United States, owning the drilling rights to some 15 million acres - an area more than twice the size of Maryland. McClendon has financed this land grab with junk bonds and complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged, deeply indebted company that has more in common with Enron than ExxonMobil. As McClendon put it in a conference call with Wall Street analysts a few years ago, ‘I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet.'"

    Arthur Berman, a respected energy consultant in Texas says: ‘When you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down.'

    "In January, the Energy Department cut its estimate of the amount of gas available in the Marcellus Shale by nearly 70%, and a group affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines warns that there may be only 23 years' worth of economically recoverable gas left nationwide.

    In addition, because of fugitive emissions of methane from wellheads and pipelines, natural gas may actually be no better than coal when it comes to global warming.

    Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy buys up such huge swaths of land requires huge chunks of cash - and the money often comes not from gas production, but from selling off land or going into debt. After Chesapeake drills a few wells in a region and ‘proves up' the reserves, it hawks the leases to big oil and gas companies looking to get into the shale-gas game. In 2010.

    Recently Chesapeake has also sold futures in oil production, the first deal was made with Deutsche Bank and a Swiss investment firm for $1 billion in return for 15 years of future production from 4,000 wells. Because Chesapeake is not liable if the production fails, this gives the company a poor credit rating.

    "To make its operations even riskier, leaseholders like Chesapeake are required by law to drill on the land within three to five years after acquiring the rights or wind up forfeiting the lease. ‘The more land they acquire, the more capital they have to spend upfront,' says Deborah Rogers, a former investment banker. ‘They have to drill it or lose it, which further adds to capital costs. And the more they drill, the more gas they produce, which lowers the price of gas and further reduces their revenues. In the end, this drilling treadmill is difficult to sustain for long - especially if the wells under­perform, or the resource turns out to not be as valuable as they thought.' Thanks to McClendon's gambles, Chesapeake is struggling to cover $10 billion in long-term debt." doclink

    U.S.: Tar Sands Or Farm Lands? Keystone XL's Threat to America's Breadbasket

    February 09, 2012, National Wildlife Federation

    Farming and ranching are important parts of the economy of the Great Plains states. Until recently, pipeline safety wasn't an issue. But TransCanada Corp. appplied for a permit to establish a route that would have run the Keystone XL pipeline through the sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska.

    Fierce opposition from farmers, ranchers, and citizens of every political stripe forced the company to scrap that idea, for public health reasons.

    Now TransCanada is trying to identify a new route. But there is an even greater hazard to consider: almost any feasible pipeline route through Nebraska will still run over the Ogallala aquifer, which provides 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States, and drinking water for 2 million people. As Nebraska's Republican Governor Dave Heineman stressed in a letter to the White House, "This resource is the lifeblood of Nebraska's agriculture industry."

    The aquifer's enormous stores of fresh water are the only reason the "Breadbasket of America" can exist-it irrigates farms that harvest nearly 20% of our wheat and cotton, and 15% of the U.S. corn-and makes possible a booming cattle industry across the Plains states.

    Oil spills happen all the time-a dirty secret that's not so secret anymore, thanks to the scrutiny faced by the industry the last few years. There has been a 1.1 million gallon spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River; a 42,000 gallon spill in the pristine Yellowstone River in Montana; and a 21,000 gallon eruption in North Dakota on TransCanada's first Keystone 1 pipeline - which has been plagued by at least twelve spills since it was completed in 2010.

    A University of Nebraska analysis found that the worst-case spill scenarios were much higher than TransCanada's estimates, with up to "91 major spills over a 50 year design life of the pipeline" and even the potential for benzene contamination of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. A study after the Kalamazoo spill found that nearly 60% of area residents experienced gastrointestinal, respiratory or neurological symptoms from exposure.

    Tar sands pose an enormous risk to the Ogallala aquifer and the crops that feed Americans from coast to coast. A poll conducted by Hart Research Associates shows that 64% of voters think that the risk of a toxic oil spill in the Ogallala aquifer was a "very convincing" or "somewhat convincing" reason to block construction of Keystone XL.

    Do we decide to protect Americans' food supply and drinking water, or pad the profits of foreign oil companies that want to cut through our farmland on the way to overseas markets? It should be an easy choice. doclink

    The Big Fracking Bubble: the Scam Behind the Gas Boom

    March 15, 2012

    Aubrey McClendon is a right-wing billionaire producer of natural gas who profits more from flipping land than drilling for gas. His company 'fracks' gas by blasting apart gas-soaked rocks a mile underground and pumping the fuel to the surface.

    McClendon donated $250,000 to the presidential campaign of Rick Perry, and secretly gave $26 million to the Sierra Club to fight Big Coal. He claims the cleaner-than-coal fuel he produces will revive our faltering economy, free us from the tyranny of foreign oil and save the planet from global warming. He also claims that, while the industry has drilled more than 1.2 million wells nationwide, so far there have been only a few confirmed cases where things have gone wrong - despite dire warnings from scientists and environmentalists that fracking pollutes rivers and streams, contaminates drinking water and turns large swaths of farmland into industrial moonscapes.

    President Obama estimated that there's enough to fuel the country for nearly 100 years.

    In January, the Energy Department cut its estimate of the amount of gas available in the Marcellus Shale by nearly 70%, and a group affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines warns that there may be only 23 years' worth of economically recoverable gas left nationwide.

    For Aubrey McClendon's gas company, Chesapeake Energy, the primary profit in fracking comes from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas, not from the extraction and selling of gas. The company is now the largest leaseholder in the United States, owning the drilling rights to some 15 million acres - an area more than twice the size of Maryland. McClendon has financed this land grab with junk bonds and complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged, deeply indebted company that has more in common with Enron than ExxonMobil. He said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts a few years ago, "I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet."

    Arthur Berman, who is a respected energy consultant in Texas who has spent years studying the industry, says Chesapeake and its lesser competitors resemble a Ponzi scheme, overhyping the promise of shale gas in an effort to recoup their huge investments in leases and drilling. "In fact, when you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down."

    Shale gas now provides 25% of America's gas supply. Fred Krupp, who heads the Environmental Defense Fund, called the gas boom as a cleaner energy source that could replace coal and oil for a few decades, until wind and solar power developed enough to replace fossil fuels. But we don't know how much gas and oil we can continue to squeeze out of deep sources like shale rock.

    When fracking oil and gas producers operated in the wide-open spaces of Texas and Oklahoma, nobody cared. But after 2007, when drilling operators made a run on the Marcellus Shale, a broad region of gas reserves that stretches through Pennsylvania and up into Ohio and New York, fracking's technological miracle became an environmental menace. Gas contaminated residents' water to where they could literally light their faucets on fire. Gas drillers dumped millions of gallons of irradiated wastewater loaded with toxic chemicals into Pennsylvania's rivers and streams, largely without regulatory oversight.

    Because of fugitive emissions of methane from wellheads and pipelines, natural gas may actually be no better than coal when it comes to global warming.

    Chesapeake's land operation became almost as technologically sophisticated as its drilling operation, with a huge databank of property records and mineral-ownership rights across the country. "The goal is not just to pump gas," explains Pickens. "It's also to lock up future reserves." The company's financial statements estimate that it currently holds drilling rights to as much as 100 trillion cubic feet of gas - enough to supply the entire country for five years.

    After Chesapeake drills a few wells in a region and "proves up" the reserves, it hawks the leases to big oil and gas companies looking to get into the shale-gas game. In 2010, it pocketed $2.2 billion by selling land it bought in Texas for $2,000 an acre to one of China's largest oil companies for $11,000 an acre.

    Also the company has also sold off the future proceeds it expects to receive from thousands of wells - a complex financing deal that enables it to borrow cash now without counting the debt it will owe when it has to drill the wells later. The very first deal brought Chesapeake more than $1 billion in return for 15 years of future production from 4,000 wells. "It's not illegal, but most gas and oil companies don't do it," says Bob Brackett, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "Chesapeake's poor credit rating pushes them to turn to unconventional financing."

    The problem with all sophisticated technology, of course, is that things inevitably go wrong. Last April, a Chesapeake well in Bradford County suffered a massive blowout. It was the onshore, natural gas version of what happened to BP in the Gulf two years ago: A wellhead flange failed, and toxic water gushed uncontrollably from the well for several days before workers were able to bring it under control. Seven families were evacuated from their homes as 10,000 gallons of fracking fluid spilled into surrounding pastures and streams. Pennsylvania fined the company $250,000 - the highest penalty allowed under state law.

    During the financial meltdown in 2008, McClendon was forced to sell off 94% of his stock in Chesapeake - some 33 million shares - for $550 million to meet a margin call on his personal investments.

    Thanks to McClendon's gambles, Chesapeake is struggling to cover $10 billion in long-term debt. In recent weeks, the company has announced it will sell off more land and shut down some production. McClendon also hopes to increase demand and boost gas prices by promoting cars and power plants that run on natural gas, and by cutting deals to export gas to Europe and Asia, where prices are five times higher than in the U.S.

    Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University says: "The idea is to drill everywhere." Tougher laws and stricter enforcement could mitigate the damage to people and the environment, but widespread drilling - especially at the boomtown pace that McClendon is pushing - will inevitably result in mishaps. Well casings will fail. Fracking chemicals will be spilled. Drinking water will be contaminated. Methane will seep into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. When you add it all up, you can see why many environmentalists and clean-energy activists no longer see natural gas as a bridge to a more sustainable future.

    Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, recently blogged: "It's time to stop thinking of natural gas as a 'kinder, gentler' energy source." doclink

    The Pig in the XL Pipeline; Insider Reveals Concealed "Error" in Pipeline Safety Equipment That Could Blow Away the GOP's XL Pipe Dream

    January 22, 2012, Greg Palast website

    A 'PIG' is a robot Pipeline Inspection Gauge, required by Federal law, that passes through oil and gas lines. It has a GPS and it beeps as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds a problem.

    But a whistleblower has come forth to reveal that the PIG's software engineers on the XL Keystone Pipeline project were told to calibrate it to ignore or minimize deadly problems. And when the whistleblower's team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it. But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem from regulators.

    The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements. But pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill.

    Recently, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply. The GOP claims that that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

    But it's the Pipeline that's the killer. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others. An untampered PIG would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

    Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won't contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states' crucial water source. Keystone's permit application boasts that we can rely on XL's "full pigging capability."

    Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River - only months after a PIG had been installed.

    New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe. doclink

    Karen Gaia: Heavy per-capita consumption of fossil fuels X large numbers of American consumers - who want low-cost fuel - puts demands on oil producers to produce more oil at less cost, which can only be done by cutting corners. Democrats blame the oil industry but it is the consumers who drive the demand. Time for us to conserve.

    Pollution and Global Warming

    Study: Megacities to Impact World Climate

    August 13, 2012, United Press International

    The expansion of the world's "megacities" will have significant climate impacts, computer modeling by U.S. researchers suggests.

    Maximum summertime warming resulting from projected expansion of Arizona's urban Sun Corridor could approach 7 degrees Fahrenheit, concludes researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

    The Sun Corridor is the most rapidly growing megapolitan area in the United States, composed of four metropolitan areas: Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Nogales. The area is expected to exceed 9 million people by 2040.

    "The worst case expansion scenario we utilized led to local maximum summer warming of nearly 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees F.) In the best case scenario, where Sun Corridor expansion is both more constrained and urban land use density is lower, our results still indicate considerable local warming, up to about 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees F,)" Georgescu said. doclink

    Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

    July 19 , 2012, Rolling Stone

    June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. Before that, May was the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere - the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

    There are three magic numbers to remember, ones that will help us understand the seriousness of the matter: 2 degrees Celsius, 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide, and 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

    Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Barack Obama didn't even attend. We're losing the fight because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

    At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 the accord drafted by President Obama asked for only voluntary agreements committing no one to anything, and with no enforcement. However the accord did have one important ingredient. It did formally recognize "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius." (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). And it declared that "we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required... so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius."

    So far the average temperature of the planet has risen just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected: one-third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30% more acidic, and the atmosphere over the oceans is 5% wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods. These impacts have led many scientists to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.

    "Any number much above one degree involves a gamble," writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, "and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up." NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet's most prominent climatologist, says: "The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster."

    At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: "Some countries will flat-out disappear." Delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a "suicide pact" for drought-stricken Africa. 167 countries responsible for more than 87% of the world's carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target.

    Scientists have said that there is reasonable hope that we can stay below the two degrees if we don't pour more than roughly 565 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury. The 565-gigaton figure was derived from one of the most sophisticated computer-simulation models that have been built by climate scientists around the world over the past few decades. And the number is being further confirmed by the latest climate-simulation models currently being finalized in advance of the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Since we've increased the Earth's temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, one would think we're currently less than halfway to the target. However, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we're already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target. And Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist. said, "When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees." That's almost a horrendous 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

    In the meantime, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures - CO2 emissions last year are up 3.2% from the year before. U.S. emissions fell slightly following a warm winter and conversion of more coal-fired power plants to natural gas; China's carbon output (now higher than the U.S.) rose 9.3%; the Japanese lost nuclear plants after Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4%. Study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly 3% a year, which will put us at our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years.

    There will be another opportunity to change our course in November, when the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Qatar. This will be COP 18, having started in 1995, and since then the process has accomplished essentially nothing. We're in the same position we've been in for a quarter-century: scientific warning followed by political inaction.

    In an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists produced the Carbon Tracker Initiative, and the important fact that came from this report is the amount of fossil fuel we are currently planning to burn, derived from the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries that act like fossil-fuel companies. That number is 2,795 gigatons, which is five times higher than 565 gigatons.

    The 2,795 number doesn't fully reflect the recent surge in unconventional energy sources like shale gas, and they don't accurately reflect coal reserves, which are subject to less stringent reporting requirements than oil and gas, but for the biggest companies, the figures are quite exact

    As Rolling Stone puts it: "Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit - equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit - the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That's the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour."

    While 80% of this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil, it's already economically above ground - it's figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. Those reserves are the primary asset of the fossil fuel companies; it's why they've worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada's tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

    John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. If you paid fossil fuel companies to keep their reserves underground, the cost would be $20 trillion.

    Individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that "while recycling is widespread in America and 73% of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper," only 4% had reduced their utility use and only 3% had purchased hybrid cars.

    Barack Obama has achieved only one significant change: a steady increase in the fuel efficiency mandated for automobiles. It's the kind of measure, adopted a quarter-century ago, that would have helped enormously. But it's obviously a very small start.

    At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it's burned. But the president has gone out of his way to frack and mine. "Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy," he said.

    The fossil-fuel has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.

    Late last month, on the same day the Colorado fires reached their height, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told a New York audience that global warming is real, but dismissed it as an "engineering problem" that has "engineering solutions." .. "Changes to weather patterns that move crop-production areas around - we'll adapt to that." This in a week when Kentucky farmers were reporting that corn kernels were "aborting" in record heat, threatening a spike in global food prices. It's not an engineering problem, in other words - it's a greed problem.

    In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surpassed both the Republican and Democratic National Committees on political spending; the following year, more than 90% of the Chamber's cash went to GOP candidates, many of whom deny the existence of global warming. Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon - should the world's scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, "populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations."

    Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break - if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. Once Exxon has to pay for the damage its carbon is doing to the atmosphere, the price of its products would rise. Consumers would get a strong signal to use less fossil fuel.

    It's not clear that the power of the fossil-fuel industry can be broken. Public outrage may be the key. In the 1980s there was the campaign demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. By the end of the decade, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties had taken some form of binding economic action against companies connected to the apartheid regime.

    There is much more to this article. It is well worth reading in its entirety. Click on the link in the headline to read the whole thing. doclink

    Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Buckling

    July 26, 2012, New York Times

    From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation's infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms.

    Recently a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. Clay-rich soils under highways in East Texas shrink, leading to "horrendous cracking". Highway sections expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and "pop up," creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.

    A nuclear plant in Chicago had to get special permission to keep operating this month because the pond it uses for cooling water rose to 102 degrees, just over its license limit. In a different power plant the body of water from which it drew its cooling water had dropped so low that the intake pipe became high and dry.

    "We've got the ‘storm of the century' every year now," said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 "derecho" storm that moved across the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

    There has been a multibillion-dollar effort to increase the height of levees and flood walls in New Orleans because of projections of rising sea levels and stronger storms to come. In the Washington subway system, trains will be ordered to slow down if it gets too hot, causing rails to become too long and risk kinking.

    After the derecho last month, both the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Md. are discussing the option to put power lines underground.

    Heat waves are changing the pattern of electricity use, raising peak demand higher than ever. "We build the system for the 10 percent of the time we need it," said Mark Gabriel, a senior vice president of Black & Veatch, an engineering firm. And that 10 percent is "getting more extreme."

    Violent storms and forest fires can be expected to affect water quality and water use: runoff from major storms and falling ash could temporarily shut down reservoirs.

    Many agencies have officially expressed a commitment to plan for climate change, but sometimes the results from the Federal government on the ground can be frustrating. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: If our economy continues to go down due to depletion of resources, such as oil and arable farmland, how much longer will we be able to brace up our already-deteriorating infrastructure?

    U.S.: Greater Los Angeles to Heat Up an Average 4 to 5 Degrees by Mid-Century

    June 21 , 2012, Science Daily

    UCLA climate expert Alex Hall is lead of a groundbreaking new study - "Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region" - that shows climate change will cause temperatures in the Los Angeles region to rise by an average of 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of this century, tripling the number of extremely hot days in the downtown area and quadrupling the number in the valleys and at high elevations.

    Hall, an associate professor in UCLA's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences who is also a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

    Though scientists knew to expect warming, this is the first time policymakers in the Los Angeles area have precise information on which to base their plans.

    "UCLA's model shows projected climate changes down to the neighborhood level, allowing us to apply the rigor of science to long-term planning for our city and our entire region," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "With good data driving good policies, we can craft innovative solutions that will preserve our environment and enhance the quality of life for the next generation of Angelenos."

    The data covers all of Los Angeles County and 30 to 60 miles beyond, including all of Orange County and parts of Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and reaching as far as Palm Springs, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara.

    Coastal areas like Santa Monica and Long Beach are predictedby the study to warm an average of 3 to 4 degrees. Downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys will warm an average of 4 degrees, and mountain and desert regions like Palm Springs and Lancaster will warm 4 to 5 degrees. Wrightwood will warm 5.37 degrees. All figures are only annual averages.

    Southern Californians should expect slightly warmer winters and springs but much warmer summers and falls, with more frequent heat waves. Temperatures now seen only on the seven hottest days of the year in each region will occur two to six times as often. In Palm Springs, the number of extremely hot days will increase from an annual average of 75 to roughly 120. "When you tack on warming of 5 to 6 degrees, that's a pretty noticeable difference," Hall said. "If humans are noticing it, so are plants, animals and ecosystems.

    Cutting greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the impact on Los Angeles, Hall said. However, even if the world has unanticipated success in drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the greater Los Angeles area will still warm to about 70% of the currently predicted levels. doclink

    Pollutants Mucking with Food Production

    May 24, 2012, Discovery News

    Black carbon and tropospheric ozone, both of which derive from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, are the most likely primary drivers of the tropical expansion observed in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the main culprit is depletion of stratospheric ozone.)

    A map of the expanded tropics can be seen by clicking on the headline.

    When the tropics widen, mid-latitude storms shift toward the poles, and southern portions of the U.S. and Asia could become drier, which could in turn disrupt regional agriculture, warns climatologist Robert J. Allen of the University of California, Riverside.

    Direct observations have shown that the tropics widened by 0.7 degrees latitude per decade between 1979 and 2009, and previous climate simulations revealed that heating of the atmosphere at mid-latitudes is to blame. Allen and his colleagues discovered that simulations that ignored black carbon and tropospheric ozone underestimated the observed tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere by about a third.

    The results imply that these two pollutants are responsible for about 70% of the recent tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Black carbon and tropospheric ozone both absorb solar radiation and both persist in the atmosphere only one or two weeks, so they cause the greatest atmospheric heat gain near their sources, which in the Northern Hemisphere tend to be the heavily populated low- to mid-latitudes.

    "Greenhouse gases do contribute to the tropical expansion in the Northern Hemisphere," Allen said. "But our work shows that black carbon and tropospheric ozone are the main drivers here. We need to implement more stringent policies to curtail their emissions, which would not only help mitigate global warming and improve human health, but could also lessen the regional impacts of changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation."

    ~ ~ ~

    Note: From Wikipedia: In Climatology, black carbon or BC is a climate forcing agent formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. The term black carbon is also used in soil sciences and geology, referring either to deposited atmospheric BC or to directly incorporated BC from vegetation fires. Especially for the tropics, BC in soils significantly contributes to fertility as it is able to absorb important plant nutrients.

    Up to 30 % of the total carbon stored in soils is contributed by black carbon. Especially for tropical soils BC serves as a reservoir for nutrients. Experiments showed that soils without high amounts of black carbon are significantly less fertile than soils that contain black carbon. In this context, the slash and burn agricultural practice used in tropical regions does not only enhance productivity by releasing nutrients from the burned vegetation but also by adding black carbon to the soil. Nonetheless, for a sustainable management, a slash-and-char practice would be better in order to prevent high emissions of CO2 and volatile black carbon. Furthermore, the positive effects of this type of agriculture are counteracted if used for large patches so that soil erosion is not anymore prevented by the vegetation. doclink

    Protect Our Waterways From Pesticides

    November 16, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

    Pesticides in our waters are linked to higher cancer rates, hormone disruption and other serious health effects in people. Fish and amphibian populations have been devastated by these toxics, which can be the last straw for endangered species already in crisis.

    Right now chemical and agribusiness lobbyists are pushing a radical revision of our clean-water laws - H.R. 872 - that has already passed in the right-wing-dominated House of Representatives but we may be able to stop this disastrous polluter bill from passing in the Senate.

    Our water supply is too precious to poison. Please take five minutes to call your senators and tell them to protect the Clean Water Act. Senate Bill 718 is a hazard to all life in the United States, and should be rejected, along with any companion bill to House Resolution 872, proposed by Sen. Pat Roberts. Tell them to support the EPA's safeguards against pesticides through the "pesticide general permit" process. This protects our environment and public health.

    Click here to find the number for your senator: Let us know you were able to get through by clicking here: doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Overpopulation has raised the demand for food. As farmlands are lost from overuse, erosion and urbanization, more and more pesticides will be required to produce crops. How to keep them out of the water supply?

    Wyoming's Smog Exceeds Los Angeles' Due to Gas Drilling

    March 09, 2011, USA Today

    In western Wyoming's Upper Green River Basin, ozone levels in January exceeded the worst days in major U.S. cities in 2009, due to its boom in natural gas drilling. Local residents complain of runny eyes, nosebleeds and shortness of breath and say the air is hazy.

    Ozone levels recently got as high as 124 parts per billion, which is two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion. In 2009 there were also days when ozone levels exceeded Los Angeles' worst for 2009.

    Wyoming is trading off health for profit, critics claim. It has one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates, 6.4%, and is expected to run a budget surplus this year.

    Gas industry officials say they're trying to curb smog by reducing truck traffic and switching to drilling rigs with pollution control equipment, and they report fewer emissions contributing to smog than in 2008. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more our population grows, the higher the demand for energy, and as long as fossil fuel resources remain cheap through subsidies, the fossil fuel industry will continue to take risks with the environment and human health.

    US Washington: Seattle Reports Milestone in Cutting Emissions

    October 30, 2007, Seattle Times

    Seattle is one of the first major U.S. cities to cut greenhouse-gas emissions enough to meet the Kyoto treaty.

    Keeping down emissions in the future means confronting the problems: how to get people out of their cars and driving less.

    Overall greenhouse-gas emissions fell by 8% between 1990 and 2005 the amount attributed to transportation rose 3%, due to more gas used by cars.

    Critics say meeting the Kyoto targets nationwide would hurt the economy, supporters call it a critical step toward deeper reductions needed to slow global warming.

    Seattle's reductions were the result of energy conservation and changes in power production.

    Nickels has lobbied the nation's mayors to sign a pledge promising to meet the Kyoto Protocol's target of cutting greenhouse gases to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

    The City Council passed a resolution adopting the Kyoto goals in 2001.

    City Light operations produce no net greenhouse gases. The utility sold its part-ownership in a coal-fired power plant and stopped buying power from a natural-gas plant in Klamath Falls, Ore. City Light has embarked on aggressive conservation measures and bought greenhouse-gas offsets, paying someone else to stop polluting to make up for emissions from sources such as its utility trucks.

    Another share of the drop came from homeowners and businesses switching from fuel oil to cleaner-burning natural gas. The city was helped temporarily by a drop in 2005 emissions from the two cement plants.

    But those plants were expected to boost production after 2005, Nicholas said.

    Seattle is trying to lure people from their cars. Two tax measures are aimed at improving bus service, bike lanes and sidewalks.

    The city has passed development rules to encourage people to move downtown, where they will drive less. But the city will need to do more if it wants to keep greenhouse gases from creeping up, as the population grows. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: getting people out of their cars is imperative.


    U.S.: As Landfills Close in Big Cities, Garbage Travels Farther

    July 12, 2005, USA Today

    The trains from the Harlem River rail yard are filled with garbage and are part of an armada that performs a nearly constant exodus of waste from the nation's largest city. Each day, they carry 50,000 tons of trash from New York to landfills and incinerators in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina. In 2003, nearly a quarter of all municipal trash crossed state lines for disposal Congressional Research Service. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now pushing to extend his city's trash, putting garbage on barges that could be shipped up and down the East Coast. The plan is fueling a fresh round of debate in places that could be potential destinations. At issue is the smell and the threat to the environment. New York transports more than 1,300 tons of garbage each day to Fox Township, Pa., 130 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Living near the landfill isn't bad because it's hard to smell or see from the street. But the landfill's protective liners won't hold up forever and 50, years from now, they'll be saying, 'What were those guys thinking, allowing this to be built in this community?. New York's new disposal plan is being watched in Virginia, which imported 7.8 million tons of garbage last year, up 67% from 1997. The issue has been contentious since laws to slow the importation of trash were struck down by the courts. Officials in the Portsmouth area are considering a port that could receive up to 2,500 tons of waste a day from New York with a fee for every ton brought in, generating $1 million per year, plus $7 million more if enough went to an existing incinerator. "We're rich," executive Keller said, noting the township has bought new police cars and fire trucks with trash tipping fees. "We have millions of dollars in the bank." The risks for these communities are few, said Mickey Flood, chief executive of IESI Corp., a Fort Worth company that owns landfills throughout the eastern part of the country. Standard landfills don't accept hazardous materials and waste is also transported in sealed containers that are designed to be leak-proof. All water that touches garbage is required to be treated for pollutants. Still, problems arise. In December 2003, two schools near a landfill in Pennsylvania temporarily shut down when an overwhelming stink made it impossible for students to concentrate. Investigators blamed decaying gypsum board and made adjustments to a system that extracts vapors and burns them off. "Transporting garbage so far away means that the people that generate it don't have to deal with it, and where is their incentive to create less of it?" doclink

    Soon there will be no 'there' to ship waste to.

    U.S.: Closed Military Bases Can Leave Behind Pollution Problems

    March 29, 2005, Scripps Howard News Service

    Only a small fraction of the site of the army's Fort Ord in California has been developed because of scarce and contaminated freshwater; the presence of endangered species; fear that development would increase sprawl and traffic; and unexploded munitions. With the Defense Department poised to release a new round of base-closures, possibly the largest number ever, the lesson from Fort Ord is that they can harbor environmental hurdles. While they may have a grand vision of what this property can become, the reality is that decades of working with weaponry and toxic substances has left the Defense Department with tracts of land that are unfit for most kinds of human habitation without costly environmental cleanup. Unexploded ordnance contaminates an estimated 10 million acres. There is not great technology for finding unexploded ordnance, people have to dig and walk the land using metal detectors. The Defense Department has spent nearly $12 billion on environmental cleanup at bases closed during previous closures. A third of the land at closed bases has yet to be converted to civilian control primarily because of contamination; there are still a lot of challenging environmental cleanup projects left. Some communities have had an easier time, and more than 10,000 people live and work in new communities on the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. In less desirable areas, finding replacements for the tax base generated by closed installations can be a struggle for local officials. In low-income neighborhoods bordering the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, nearly 300 purple crosses have been erected in front of homes where residents are afflicted with or have died of cancer. Residents want the Air Force to clean up a plume of toxic chemicals in the groundwater. Federal studies have found no link between pollution and local health problems but a recent study did not rule out the possibility. doclink

    Kentucky Sewage System Worst in Nation

    September 11, 2003, Lexington Herald-Leader

    Kentucky is last in in national rankings on education, income, and now plumbing. 40% of Kentucky homes rely on septic tanks or "straight pipes" that discharge waste into streams and rivers. Ridding the state of "straight pipes" could cost $3 billion, but the main problem is lack of information to find these pipes. Eastern Kentucky PRIDE is a program that funds sewage treatment plants and sewer lines. doclink

    US Rhode Island: Locals Pour Energy Into Cleansing Water

    June 30, 2003, Washington Post

    The Blackstone River in Rhode Island has suffered 200 years of pollution. Over the past 30 years volunteers hauled tons of trash from the river, more than two dozen dams were brought down, and fish species rose from 2 to 36. New parks have been built along the river's banks, old mills converted into housing, and plans prepared for riverside hotels and eateries. There are problems to be tackled of stormwater runoff, sewage drainage, toxic sediments, but Blackstone boosters aim to make the river safe for fishing and swimming by 2015. doclink

    U.S. Population News

    What Drives U.S. Population Growth?

    December 23, 2002, Patrick Burns

    Between 1990 and 2000, 33 million people were added to the U.S. population, 40% from immigration. 67% of future U.S. population growth will be due to immigrants and their progeny. Differential mortality and fertility rates between Canada and the U.S. can be attributed to the Canadian health care system as folks are more likely to seek treatment in that country than they are in the U.S. The Canadian government prevents drug company price-gouging, so more women in Canada are likely to be using the Pill which costs half as much as in the U.S. and is used much more often in that nation. The U.S. will add 140 million people by 2050. The fertility rate in the U.S. was higher than that of 70 other countries, including China, Korea, Thailand, Iran, Cuba, Singapore, and Sri Lanka.
    The population of illegal immigrants is larger than the population of many states. In 1980, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy proposed a cap on immigrants of 425,000 per year. Some conservative senators thought the numbers were too high and opposed an amnesty for illegal immigrants. In 1986, an amnesty was passed without a cap on legal immigrants. Legal immigration is over twice the level called for in the above-cited amendment. Population growth makes other environmental problems harder to solve. 33 million more people requires over 12 million housing units, 15.8 million more passenger cars that will consume about 825 million barrels of oil a year, all of the recoverable oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in less than four years. Over 75 million acres of forest will be needed to supply 33 million people with paper and wood, an area larger than that protected under the forest conservation rule. doclink

    U.S.: Title X-Funded Clinics in California Facilitate Access to Care Better Than Other Providers

    December 11, 2012, Guttmacher Institute

    A study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that Title X -funded clinics in California are more likely to offer services during evenings or weekends; to provide outreach to hard-to-reach populations, such as males, teens and individuals with limited English proficiency; and to use advanced technologies, such as electronic medical records and online appointment scheduling, to streamline clinic operations.

    The data came from surveys of more than 1,000 public- and private-sector Family PACT clinicians in 2010. They found that Title X-funded clinics have implemented a greater array of infrastructure enhancements that promote access to and improve the quality of services for underserved populations than have other providers.

    The authors suggest that Title X-funded clinics can serve as a model and recommend that nationwide health care reform build on the California model to improve infrastructure and the quality of care as family planning providers increasingly serve marginalized populations. doclink

    America Then and Now (Jan 2009 - Dec 2011)

    June 02, 2012, US Congress House Ways and Means Committee





    Number of Unemployed1

    12.0 Million

    13.1 Million


    Long-Term Unemployed2

    2.7 Million

    5.6 Million


    Unemployment Rate3




    "High Unemployment" States4




    Misery Index5




    Price of Gas6




    "Typical" Monthly Family Food Cost7




    Median Value of Single-Family Home8




    Rate of Mortgage Delinquencies9




    U.S. National Debt10

    $10.6 Trillion

    $15.2 Trillion


    1. Number of unemployed in January 2009 and December 2011.
    2. "Long-term unemployed" means for over 26 weeks; data for January 2009 and December 2011.
    3. Unemployment rates in January 2009 and December 2011.
    4. "High unemployment" means having a 3-month average unemployment rate of 6% or higher. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Extended Benefits Trigger Notice" for January 18, 2009 and January 22, 2012. and
    5. The "Misery Index" equals unemployment plus inflation. For January 2009 and December 2012.
    6. Average retail price per gallon, January 2009 week 3 and January 2012 week 4.
    7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, values represent monthly "moderate" cost per family of four for January 2009 and November 2011.
    8. U.S. median sales price of existing single-family homes for metropolitan areas for 2008 and 2011 Q3.
    9. Residential mortgage delinquencies (real estate loans) for 2008 Q4 and 2011 Q3.
    10. Values for January 21, 2009 and January 23, 2012.

    Karen Gaia says: I was shocked to see how this House Committee is being used to discredit the President. No thought that many of the contributors to the economic crisis occurred before President Obama took office: credit default swaps, shabby mortgage practices, control and misuse of the money supply by the Federal Reserve, slipping away from a balanced budget, shipping jobs out of the country, and ignoring resource depletion, with no effort to conserve, war mongering at huge expense, and so on.

    Too bad no one looks at resource depletion. Going into debt so we can grow, grow, grow, is the last thing we want to do.

    U.S.: Gargantuan Large Investment in Infrastructure Needed, Experts Say

    October 14, 2011, Washington Post

    A nationwide transportation system built in the middle of the 20th century is falling apart, burdened with a system that has deteriorated after decades of deferred maintenance, according to a general consensus at a transportation conference that heard from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and his predecessor as chairman, and others.

    The U.S. population is forecast to grow by 100 million - a 30% increase - before the middle of the 21st century. There isn't enough money to arrest the transportation system decline, and the public is largely oblivious to the need.

    To the average consumer the transportation system appears to be working reasonably well but the amount of money needed to restore and expand it is so enormous that few taxpayers can relate.

    The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that an investment of $1.7 trillion (and the Urban Institute says $2 trillion) is needed between now and 2020 to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems and dams that are reaching the ends of their planned life cycles.

    Fail to invest now, and the cost will increase later. Already, the civil engineers said, infrastructure deficiencies add $97 billion a year to the cost of operating vehicles and result in travel delays that cost $32 billion.

    In the meantime Congress grapples with taming a massive deficit, talking about $45 billion a year in the House and $54 billion in the Senate.

    If the nation does not fix these infrastructure deficiencies it will not remain competitive with other countries. doclink

    U.S.: Who Will Care for the Onslaught of Aging Baby Boomers?

    March 22, 2011, The Miami Herald

    As the 78 million baby boomers live longer with more chronic illnesses, the country will face a shortage of professionals trained to meet the special needs of the elderly.

    Not just the elderly will be affected by this shortfall. Fewer medical practices will accept new patients and people will face longer waits to see physicians -- if they see them at all.

    If current graduation and training rates continue, the United States could face a shortage of about 130,000 physicians by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The physician shortage will likely be exacerbated by the aging population, which uses more health care, and the possibility of having as many as 32 million newly insured Americans by 2014 under the new national health plan.

    About 7,100 physicians are certified geriatricians nationwide -- or about one specialist for every 2,546 older Americans, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. By 2030, when all the boomers will have turned 65, an estimated 36,000 geriatricians will be needed, a figure unlikely to be reached considering that the number of geriatricians has dropped by 25% in the past decade.

    \About 4% of social workers specialize in geriatrics, one third of the number needed. And less than 1% of physician assistants, pharmacists and registered nurses are certified in geriatrics.

    Healthcare workers in general are inadequately prepared to deal with the complex issues of elderly patients.

    Society is in "general denial" of what it will take to maintain a growing number of older people in the community. A study released last fall by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that people 45 and older -- boomers are 45 to 65 years old -- made up 38% of the U.S. population in 2008. But they were responsible for 57% of doctor's office visits and 70% of prescribed medication.

    There's a shortage of data on aging compared to other life stages. Clinical studies have not been done on older people.

    The typical elderly patient often has chronic conditions that require management, not cures; the possibility of overmedication to treat those conditions and the resulting effects on balance, cognitive understanding and independence.

    Geriatricians make far less money than specialists. A large number of social work students indicate they do not want to go into geriatric work.

    "Increasingly young people are not connected to older adults." The average salary of a home health aide is $10.12 an hour -- often less than an office or house cleaner. doclink

    Karen Gaia (a senior) says: A harsh reality: If our economy continues to slide, the attitude toward seniors from the younger generation may change, with there be so many seniors using the country's resources.

    Can We Save California's Water?

    February 23, 2008, AlterNet

    An effort is under way to save The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California's least-known environmental jewel, a unique ecological, economic and cultural resource. The Delta is also a source of drinking water for two-thirds of California's 37 million residents.

    The Delta is in crisis. The levees providing flood protection and secure water supplies are crumbling. The complex system by which water is moved through the Delta is over-subscribed and under the jurisdiction of federal and state court judges.

    Seismologists predict a one-in-three chance of a catastrophic earthquake in the next 50 years that would damage or destroy major portions of the levee system and revert the Delta to an inland salt sea. Federal experts warn that Sacramento is now the most flood-prone city in the nation, exceeding New Orleans.

    There is agreement that the Delta is unsustainable and unacceptable. Political gridlock has prevented California's leaders from fashioning a solution, and those problems have mushroomed into a crisis as government leaders have failed to act.

    Governor Schwarzenegger appointed a Delta Vision Task Force to develop an independent vision for the Delta. The seven-member group began its work last March, advised by expert scientists and a group of stakeholders reflecting every conceivable interest. The resulting Delta Vision, recommends state actions approved unanimously. but will not be universally popular. It speaks some harsh truths, notably, that each day brings California closer to a major disaster. Task Force members noted that "what the nation learned from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina is the terrible price of waiting."

    Protection of the Delta's ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California should be primary goals. Among recommendations sure to spark controversy: Repairing the Delta is likely to require reduced water diversions -- or changes in the pattern and timing of diversions; New, coordinated water conveyance and storage facilities are needed. Conservation and water system efficiency are the cornerstones of better water management; Urbanization must be halted, and the landscape should be dominated by agricultural, environmental and recreational uses. The locally-dominated governing structure must be changed, in favor of a single authority.

    The Task Force is embarking on fashioning a plan it has presented to California's political leaders. That promises to be equally daunting. But the future of the Delta, and those who depend on it, will require equally bold thinking and actions in 2008. doclink

    Gore Warns of Dangers of Sacrificing Science to Ideology

    November 03, 2006, Associated Press

    America is inviting problems when it disregards science and reason in favor of ideology and power, Gore told a Planned Parenthood gatherin. He suggested the country's leaders had ignored warnings from generals who said invading Iraq with too small of a force invited disaster, and warnings from meteorologists before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

    "I believe the climate crisis can only be solved by addressing the democracy crisis," he said. The event raised over $300,000 for Planned Parenthood.

    Gore asserted that the opposition Planned Parenthood encounters comes because its foes set aside science, reason and logic.

    Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life contends its positions are supported by science. It's a scientific fact that a unique human being begins life at conception, we believe life needs to be protected.

    Planned Parenthood operates 23 clinics in Minnesota and two in South Dakota that serve nearly 60,000 patients per year. doclink

    US Alabama: Population Growth Outstrips Fire Departments

    February 06, 2006,

    Fire departments are growing to provide services in Shelby County, where the population has nearly doubled since 1990. Pelham and Helena will spend more than $1 million to pay salaries and buy gear for two new fire stations. Calera has added a third station, but didn't get a federal grant to pay the $500,000 to hire 10 to 13 firefighters. Almost 7,800 new homes will have been built including 3,315 new single-family dwellings. Chief of the Shelby Fire Department, said fire departments are drained as the population expands. But almost all others outside Alabama's largest cities fall short of national standards that say a fire department will be within 1.5 miles of a built-up area and that 90% of the time the team responding within four minutes include four trained firefighters. Impact fees and developers can bring money for a station, but city revenues or outside grants, would have to pay for personnel and gear. The Chief of Columbiana's volunteer fire department said that we have 30 volunteers, and as long as we have no money, we'll stay that way. The North Shelby department has 26 full-time and 12 part-time staffers, a number not within the national staffing standard. Fire departments try to turn to options that won't add a burdensome cost. Wider use of mutual-aid agreements allows other cities to respond to emergencies near jurisdictional lines. doclink

    Infant Mortality on the Rise in Texas; in Travis County, Rate Increased by 33 Percent From 2000 to 2003

    November 12, 2005, Statesman

    Almost 2,500 Texas babies died before their first birthdays in 2003, a 17% increase since 2000. More than 377,000 were born in Texas in 2003; a mortality rate of 6.6 per 1,000 births, compared with 5.8 in 2000. An important factor is the mother's access to prenatal care. About 30% of babies born to black or Hispanic mothers receive little or no prenatal care. Research has shown that with more prenatal visits early on, mothers have better nutrition, can better monitor their babies' growth and can keep at bay some of the problems that happen during pregnancy. Causes include birth defects, prematurity, sudden infant death syndrome and accidents, but it's hard to know why infant mortality is becoming more common. Texas cut maternity coverage for some patients on Medicaid, but experts caution against linking such cuts to the rise in infant mortality. One factor is the increasing number of multiple births, which have become more common because of in-vitro fertilization. That means that more babies are born prematurely. The high incidence of infant mortality among African Americans follows nationwide trends. Too many African American babies are being born too soon and doctors aren't sure why. The Texas March of Dimes launched an initiative to increase awareness of premature births among African American women, who are twice as likely to deliver prematurely than white women. Premature birth is the leading cause. The report found more than one in five children, 1.3 million, live below the federal poverty level. The report shows improving conditions for Texas teenagers: The dropout rate declined by 46% from 2000 to 2004 and the birth rate declined by 10% from 2000 to 2003. The rate of violent deaths was down by 33% from 1990 to 2003. doclink

    U.S.: We Talk Up Women's Rights but Won't Ratify Equality Amendment?

    November 15, 2005, Herald-Tribune (US)

    72% of U.S. citizens believe the Equal Rights Amendment is a part of our Constitution; however, the required 38 states never ratified the ERA. The amendment was proposed in 1923, but it wasn't until 1943 that Congress provided "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification." On March 22, 1972, the proposed amendment was sent to all states for ratification. By 1982, 35 states had ratified the amendment but 38 is the number needed and we are three states short. Last May 6, concurrent resolutions supporting ratification of the ERA died in both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives. Because both resolutions died in committee, neither made it to the floor. But all is not lost we must become engaged and call, fax, write or e-mail our representatives and senators, and let them know we support the ERA being a part of our Constitution. doclink

    Women's Rights Fading in U.S.?

    August 26, 2005, Detroit Free Press

    In 1920, U.S. women won the right to vote but other rights are in peril. The right to birth control and abortion is under ceaseless attack by religious conservatives. Roe v. Wade has been chipped at by parental-notification and consent laws, 24-hour waiting periods and other requirements. Two-thirds of states deny abortion coverage to needy women. Abortion providers are found in only 13% of counties nationwide. Since 1993, antiabortion zealots have killed seven abortion physicians, clinic workers and volunteers as part of the campaign against abortion rights. Foes of abortion are targeting the right to contraception. Efforts to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter nationwide have stalled. A majority of states do not require insurance companies to cover contraception. As a senior legal adviser to President Ronald Reagan, Roberts once endorsed a controversial service for aborted fetuses as "an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy." The lack of women's status and value is clear from the Democratic capitulation on Roberts' nomination. Senators should be objecting to Roberts on the basis that his appointment would ensure only one female justice on a court of nine. The Canadian Supreme Court, has four women justices out of nine. Why should U.S. women, be so underrepresented on our nation's high court? doclink

    U.S.: 1 in 20

    August 17, 2005, Washington Post

    In the US, 1 out of every 1,000 people are HIV-positive. In the capital, it's closer to 1 in 20 - an estimate calculated using a formula based on national trends. If the District were a country, it would rank 11th in the world in between Mozambique (1 in 14) and Tanzania (1 in 23). Few statistics are available on the number of HIV cases in the District. The city's HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) does report AIDS cases, but it has not yet published information about HIV infections and how they were transmitted. HAA ought to have at least three years' worth of HIV data. Why not release it? Part of the problem is staffing shortages. New leadership should direct resources to existing clinics where same-day HIV tests should be offered; to public schools so youth can receive information on how to prevent the spread of the disease; and to treatment providers in need of assistance in navigating the complicated grant process. The District's failure to produce data as well as the mismanagement of programs put funding, and lives at risk. doclink

    U.S.: All for Want of a Few Veggies

    June 09, 2005, Portland Tribune

    A Bay Area-based group called SustainLane was set to rank Portland the No. 1 city in sustainability practices. But new information emerged, and San Francisco is 1st, and Portland is 2nd. Portland, San Francisco and other cities are achieving things that are incredible in environmental protection and renewable energy. Saltzman said that whether Portland is No. 1 or No. 2, he's glad to see other cities follow Portland's sustainability with economic development. SustainLane, a for-profit group that specializes in gathering information on sustainable practices, collected data from 20 public and private organizations for the survey. It ranked 25 cities in 12 of transportation, air quality, drinking water quality, food and agriculture, land use, zoning, planning, green building, energy, solid waste, city innovation and knowledge base. Berkeley took third place and Seattle fourth. Portland and San Francisco are in a class by themselves. SustainLane launched a Web site that targets Portland and other West Coast cities with resources and community discussions on things such as how to build a greenhouse and thoughts on owning a hybrid Toyota Prius. doclink

    Family Planning Losing, Anti-Abortion Gaining

    May 19, 2005, San Antonio Express-News (US)

    Almost $5 million will be cut from health services and given to groups that counsel women against abortion in Texas. Another $20 million will be diverted from family planning programs. The shift was criticized as shortsighted by family planning groups that said the $100 million their programs receive every two years is enough to serve only 25 percent of eligible women. Lawmakers hate abortion but are creating an environment where it will happen. Romberg criticized shifting $5 million to crisis pregnancy centers, while family planning programs offer contraceptive services as well as diagnose diabetes, cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. Proponents of the funding shift said crisis pregnancy centers could provide services for women who don't want an abortion. Those centers offer counseling for women who want to carry their baby to term. The budget move came before the Senate approved a measure requiring pregnant teenagers to obtain their parents' written consent to have an abortion. On the family planning side, the loss of $2.5 million a year will mean 3%, will not be able to receive those services. Federally qualified health centers offer family planning services, but shifting $20 million from current providers to those centers will put existing clinics in danger of closing down or cutting back their services. The centers draw down a high federal match to serve patients in medically underserved areas. doclink

    Requested Sterilization Often Not Performed

    March 31, 2005, Reuters Health

    Only about half the women who desire sterilization following delivery undergo the procedure. The findings are based on a study of 712 women who desired postpartum sterilization between March 2002 and November 2003. 327 of the women did not undergo the operation. In addition to young age and African American race, a sterilization request in the second trimester rather than in the first or third, and a vaginal delivery rather than a C-section, were also factors that predicted sterilization would not be performed. doclink

    U.S. Leads in Sexually Transmitted Disease Rate

    February 08, 2005, HealthDay News

    Early death and disability attributed to risky sexual behavior are three times higher in the U.S. than other developed nations. This precludes the AIDS in many African countries. American men die as a result of having a sexually transmitted disease, but more cases are reported in American women. A survey found that half of all deaths in the U.S. in 1990 were attributable to nine factors that included sexual behavior that accounted for 30,000 deaths. The new study doesn't provided a complete picture, given that STD's are associated with infertility, psychological trauma and stigma. Also factored in were premature deaths and "disability adjusted life years" (DALYs), indicating years cut short by premature death and loss of healthy living years as a result of disability. In 1998, sexual behavior accounted for about 20 million adverse health consequences, equivalent to more than 7,500 per 100,000 people and 29,782 deaths 1.3% of all deaths. Sixty-two% of "adverse health consequences" and 57% of "disability adjusted life years" were among women. Curable infections and their consequences accounted for more than half of these health problems. Viral infections mostly HIV accounted for almost all deaths among men and women. 66% more men than women died due to STD's but if HIVS were not considered, then 89% of deaths attributed to sexual behavior would have been among women. HIVS was the leading cause of death among men, while cervical cancer and HIV were the leading causes of death among women. Everybody is having sex in the world, but some places have a low HIV prevalence. Not everybody is getting tested for HIV. The consequences of "sexual behavior are totally preventable, if you have protected or safe sex, you are not going to have these. doclink

    Make Research on Black Infant Deaths a Top Priority; State and Federal Governments Must Cooperate to Find Causes and Remedies for High Mortality Rate

    December 21, 2004, Detroit News

    State and federal officials need to expedite programs to reduce the infant mortality rate among black families which is higher than whites, and studies are underway to determine why. For every 1,000 black children born in suburban Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, 19 will not survive their first year. The comparable figure for whites is 5. The problem is a complex knot of social and economic factors. In Pontiac, a quarter of the population is poor, while black families in Southfield have higher incomes. But African-American infants die at high rates in both cities. A federal grant and 10-year contracts totaling more than $100 million, are supporting infant mortality studies, but a lot is already known, thanks to previous work. Stresses during pregnancy including being poor, contribute to the problem, compounded with the pregnancy being unintended. Of 1,600 women who gave birth in 1996, 44% were unintended. Black infants die at high rates in Southfield, even though black there have incomes better than the regional average. Other factors including cultural differences and matters of assimilation. New studies should determine the precise causes and develop effective solutions. doclink

    More Women Opting Against Birth Control

    January 04, 2005, Washington Post

    Buried in the government's latest analysis of contraceptive use was that the number of women who had sex in the previous three months - but did not use birth control - rose from 5.2% in 1995 to 7.4% in 2002. That means 11% are at risk of unintended pregnancy. The increase is significant and that merits further study. Although unintended pregnancies can be welcome surprises, the danger from a public health and societal standpoint is that many of the women are financially or psychologically unprepared for parenthood. Half of all unintended pregnancies occur among the more than 95% of women who used contraception. That means the other half of unintended pregnancies came from the population not using birth control. The pill is the popular choice, followed by sterilization. Preliminary information found a slight increase in the birth rate in 2003, most notably in women older than 30. Because the number of uninsured has increased, these women might find the cost of contraceptives burdensome as since 2001, the number of uninsured Americans has risen by 4 million. It is unconscionable that women have a co-pay of $20 or $25 a month for contraceptives and men are getting off scot-free. Drug companies "have cut way back" on free samples. Many physicians put partial blame on federally funded abstinence-only education that prohibit discussion of contraceptives. Women don't want to use birth control because of the side effects and a lot of men refuse to use a condom. A growing number of women, especially teenagers, are using condoms with another form of contraception. This suggests they are concerned about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. doclink

    USA in a Fragile State of Health, Report Says Obesity, Infant Mortality Slow Progress Since 2000

    November 08, 2004, USA Today

    After 15 years of improvements, progress in health in the US has stalled. Obesity and infant mortality are the primary problems. An analysis of indicators reveals that healthy strides are slowing. Driven partly by smoking-reduction programs, the nation became 17% healthier since 1990, but since 2000, improvements leveled off, rising only 0.2% each year. The growth in obesity is up 97% since 1990 and threatens the nation's health. Nearly 23% of the population has a body mass index of 30 or higher, which is 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. But while the effect of excess weight is largely still to come, the infant mortality rate is a trauma being felt now. More than 75 infants die each day and are a sad reminder that the nation is not as healthy. The USA ranks 29th in the world in infant mortality directly related to mothers having access to both prenatal and pediatric care. But other maternal factors include obesity, smoking, infection and stress. The healthiest states and their percentage above the norm: Minnesota, 25%; New Hampshire, 23.9%; Vermont, 22.8%; Hawaii, 17.7%; and Utah, 17.6%. The least healthy and their percentage below the norm: Arkansas, -12.1%; South Carolina, -12.9%; Tennessee, -13.1%; Mississippi, -20.2%; and Louisiana, -21.3%. With rising rates of obesity and higher infant mortality rates, three problems are slowing health progress. *Percentage of people without health insurance. * Declining high school graduation rates. * Increased child poverty. doclink

    Coming Soon: The Vanishing Work Force

    August 29, 2004, Urban Institute

    Half the workers who maintain the grid at Duquesne electric utility will be eligible to retire by the end of the decade. Half the 6,500 nurses at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will hit 55 in the next seven years. At Westinghouse, which maintains nuclear power generators, the average age of engineers is the late 40's. A declining and aging population places at risk the stability of the work force and opportunities for economic progress. Older workers may have to stay on longer than planned. Pittsburgh has surplus workers, with an unemployment rate that jumped to 5.7% from 4.2% three years ago. Their power industry has shed 40% of jobs in the last 10 years. Yet more than 16% of Pittsburgh's population is over 65. By 2012, Pennsylvania could face a shortage of 125,000 workers. This is an example of a drama unfolding across the nation. Those from 16 to 54 will have grown by six million from 2002 to 2012 but the 55-and-over will have expanded by 18 million. By 2030, 55 and older will be 37% of the adult population, 15% today. 13% more people will retire from 2003 to 2008 than in the previous five years. Some companies are scrambling to secure tomorrow's work force. Duquesne Light set up a program to train new line workers. The University of Pittsburgh is trying to recruit new nurses and retain veterans. The restaurant industry is lobbying for easier immigration. Many companies are outsourcing jobs. To deal with the aging of America's labor force, workers will probably have to work longer. Alan Greenspan suggested that Social Security and Medicare benefits be curtailed to keep workers on the job longer. The aging of the work force has more to do with a decline in the production of young people. The fertility rate dropped from 3.5 children per woman in the mid-1950's to about 2 in the 1970's. Aging is not just an American issue. By the time America's median age reaches 40, half of all Italians will be over 52. The US has drawn new immigrants who accounted for 47% of the increase in the labor force from 1990 to 2000. Yet the poor countries are getting older, too - by 2050, Mexico's median age will rise to 42. The expansion of the labor force will be 0.6% a year over the first half of the 21st century, from 1.6% in the second half of the 20th. In 2000, there were five people aged 20 to 64 for each person 65 or older. By 2030, the ratio will be less than 3 to 1. An economist at the University of Pennsylvania contends that unemployment leaves a big pool of workers and the abundance of baby-boomer labor wasn't so great for workers. Hourly earnings in fell by more than 15% from the early 1970's to the mid-1990's. If labor markets tighten, wages will rise and productivity accelerate, sustaining economic growth. Higher wages may draw older people into the job market. A 1998 study found that the rise in the dependency ratio could shrink US living standards by 10% by 2050. Our older people are staying on longer because they can't afford to retire. Over the past 50 years, corporate and federal policies have encouraged workers to retire as early as possible. Pension plans had favored early retirement. In 1950, 87% of men 55 to 64 and 46% over 65 were working. By 2000, this had dropped, to 67% and 17%. Employers could make it easier for older workers to stay, through flexible schedules and phased retirement. The government should offer Medicare as primary insurance to the elderly employed and readjust rules to allow employers to offer older workers sliding scales of benefits for part-time or occasional work. Rising medical premiums are rough on employers, but make it harder for people to leave before Medicare kicks in at 65. According to the 2004 Retirement Confidence Survey, barely 36% of workers are confident that they will have enough money to take care of basic expenses during retirement and those who expect to retire before 65 has dropped to 37% from 495 a decade ago. We are living longer but people haven't saved enough to afford the lifestyle we want, so are staying longer in the work force. doclink

    Unfortunately, there is a price to be paid for baby-booms, unless they are managed correctly. Adding more people to take care of the boomers will only create the same problems later, only worse because resources can only be stretched so far.

    Administration Backs Off Clean Water Act

    December 17, 2003, Los Angeles Times

    EPA announced that the administration would not revise the 1972 Clean Water Act since many urged the administration to abandon it. The construction industry warned it would have a negative effect on builders. The EPA had announced they were proposing a rule that would redefine which streams, lakes and wetlands would be protected after a Supreme Court ruling limiting federal jurisdiction over isolated, nonnavigable, intrastate waterways and wetlands that were protected because migratory birds use them. The EPA received 133,000 comments most urging them not to go forward. State and federal officials estimated that up to 20 million acres of wetlands could have lost protection. In the majority of the cases, the courts have taken a narrow view of the ruling, finding that even some drainage ditches should be granted protection. Construction industry officials said that without a new rule the Corps would inconsistently apply the Supreme Court ruling. But the Supreme Court may have more to say as it has been asked to hear four cases on the subject. doclink

    Average Age of First Birth Reaches Record High of 25, CDC Report Says

    December 18, 2003, Reuters

    The average age at which a woman has her first child rose from 21.4 in 1970 to 25.1 in 2002. The teen birth rate declined 30% since 1992 to 43 births per 1,000 females. The birth rate among black teens decreased from 114.8 births per 1,000 females in 1991 to 66.6 per 1,000 in 2002, a drop of more than 40%. The drop in teen pregnancy is linked to public health awareness campaigns. There were mild concerns about the rise in the number of women giving birth to their first child in their 30s and 40s; being the highest in more than 30 years. Women who give birth after age 35 have a higher risk of birth defects and other complications. doclink

    Government Admits Role in Klamath Fish Die-off

    November 19, 2003, Oregonian, The

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admits that low river levels caused migrating salmon to succumb to disease in warm, stagnant water with depleted flows from the Upper Klamath Basin when the administration gave farmers a full allocation of water. This underscores the competing water demands of wildlife and agriculture. A biologist said it was the combination of a large salmon run, warm weather and low rainfall that turned deadly. Bush officials never doubted that more water might have aided fish. More water from the Trinity River in Northern California would also feed into the Klamath River if it were not diverted to California's Central Valley. The administration won permission to direct more water down the Trinity into the Klamath if needed to avert another die-off. Protections for fish in Upper Klamath Lake and River left little water for farms during the drought of 2001. Flows fell to low levels in September 2002, and were 41% below average since 1960. Flows from the Trinity River into the Klamath were near their historical norm. Warm water temperatures may have put the fish under extra stress together with slow-moving water created conditions for disease. Fish and Wildlife estimated the fish death toll at 34,056, 98% of which were salmon, of which 98% percent were chinook, and 1% coho. doclink

    Percentage of Childless U.S. Women Up Since 1976, Census Bureau Report Says

    October 24, 2003, San Jose Mercury News

    The percentage of U.S. women of childbearing age who have not had children has increased since 1976. 44% of women of 15 to 44 were childless in 2002. 18% of women 40 to 44 were childless, compared with 10% in 1976. Women 40 to 44 had 1.9 children in 2002, less than the 1976 average of 3.1. 71% of childless U.S. women 15 to 44 were in the labor force in 2002. 54.6% of women with children under age one were in the work force in 2002, down from 58.7% in 1998. Delaying childbearing can sometimes result in no childbearing. The decline may also be linked to increased access to contraceptives. Women in the work force are delaying childbearing, and some are no longer able to get pregnant when they decide to have children. 60% of all births in the year ending June 2002 were to non-Hispanic white women, 20% to Hispanic women, 15% to black women and 5% to Asian or Pacific Islander women. * 33% of all births in 2002 were to unmarried women, a percentage that is constant since 1998. 8% of all births were to women in "cohabiting unions." * 89% of births to teenagers were to unmarried teens, while 12% of women between ages 30 and 44 giving birth in 2002 were unmarried. doclink

    Proposal Plots to Drain Florida's Water Wealth

    August 24, 2003, St. Petersburg Times

    A proposal to create a statewide water commission with the power to drain water from rural counties and pipe it to metropolitan areas has drawn thumbs-down reactions from rural counties. The proposal came via a group of business leaders that advises the governor who approves their membership and the issues it studies. They named a Clearwater developer to head a task force to look at Florida's future water needs that includes developers, agricultural interests and newspaper publishers. They recommend Gov. Bush to make water as important as protecting the environment. The proposed commission, including seven members appointed by the governor, would identify water-rich areas and consider a statewide distribution system. Water belongs to the public in Florida and changing that could provide big profits for the private sector. Now, five water management districts regulate how much water is pumped and who pumps it. Utilities can charge to deliver it. The commission would oversee the water districts, settle distribution disputes and plan to meet future needs. The task force recommends encouraging private water development on state-owned land that could find favor with a governor determined to give private companies every opportunity to profit. Draining rural areas to support growth elsewhere is a no-win proposition for everyone but developers. doclink

    US Montana: Montana Teen Pregnancy Rate Drops More Than 30% Over Past 20 Years

    August 07, 2003, Billings Gazette

    Montana's teen pregnancy rate dropped 32.6% from 1981 to 2000, twice the national rate. The state's teen birth rate also dropped 26.4% and the teen abortion rate 44.3%. Teenagers are waiting longer to start sexual activity, having sex less frequently and using contraception more often. However, the declining rates are still among the highest in the developed world. State schools, community centers and public health programs should continue to offer sex education that emphasizes abstinence and also teaches teenagers about responsible decision making and contraception. doclink

    The Last Americans: Environmental Collapse and the End of Civilization

    June 2003, Harper's Magazine

    Sent: 14 Jun 2003 The last Americans: Environmental collapse and the end of civilization Harper's Magazine (June 2003) Latest Harper's Magazine (June 2003) has an excellent article by Jared Diamond, restating his familiar themes in a fresh venue. "The last Americans: Environmental collapse and the end of civilization". Have yourself a look! Intro paragraph below: "One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse... doclink

    US Wisconsin: Sturgeon Warning

    May 22, 2003, Grist Magazine

    There are more sturgeon in and around Lake Winnebago than anywhere on the planet. In the 1970s and '80s management and lake cleanup set the stage for a rebound of the Winnebago sturgeon. The success attracted potential poachers, and wardens couldn't adequately protect the species. In 1987, the state asked for volunteers, and the Sturgeon Guard was born. Volunteer guards are fed a meal at Fish Camp, issued a cell phone, and sent to spawning hot spots. During spawning season, the fish are oblivious to anything else. Lake Winnebago sturgeon spawn upstream in the Wolf and Embarass rivers, to locate rocky shoals suitable for mating. The males swim in small packs, the females arrive and release eggs; the males release sperm. Most eggs are scarfed up by turtles and fish. doclink

    US Colorado: High and Dry

    April 29, 2003, Grist Magazine

    Colorado is suffering a three-year drought. The average snowpack was half of normal, and streams the lowest in 100 years. The majority of the water comes from the Western Slope of the Rockies and the drought is responsible for development constraints, wildfires, declining tourism, and some of the state's $900 million deficit. Municiple officials say there is no way around building new reservoirs and diversion pipelines. Environmentalists claim this could cost billions and wreak havoc on rivers and forests; they claim the needs can met through reduced consumption. The state government believes that the long-term issue is storage, because they can't store all the water they are entitled to. Enough to supply 2 million families flow out of the state, much of the lost water leaves through the Colorado River and is used by Arizona and California. State officials and developers are backing the Colorado Aqueduct Return Project, that entails building a 200-mile long pipeline to pump Colorado River water to the Front Range to be recycled. The river would then carry a stream of used water to farms and towns on the Western Slope. The pipeline would cost at least $5 billion. To West Slope communities and environmentalists, the project is absurd. The legislature approved $500,000 for a study, but the project could be derailed due to its price and environmental impact. A state bond issue exists for water projects and cities can purchase existing rights from farmers for less money than any new development. The lack of provisions such as requiring that conservation measures be considered before any new development may encourage towns to build dams and reservoirs. Colorado's environmental organizations promote "Smart Storage" and "Smart Supply" instead of new development and say conservation goals can meet Front Range water needs over the next 40 years. But the legislature balked at conservation. Agriculture accounts for 85% of water use and bills to enable the sharing of agricultural water with thirsty cities are in the state legislature. doclink

    US New Jersey: Sprawl: Water Regulation to Face Legal Battle

    April 27, 2003, Star-Ledger

    Gov. James E. McGreevey announced a curb on development around 15 bodies of water, including nine reservoirs, but it will have to survive a court of law. Builders are challenging. Both sides agree that the stakes of the expected court battle are enormous. If builders lose, McGreevey could give teeth to the "smart-growth" map he unveiled in January. The new rule designated nine reservoirs and six streams as Category One (C1)water bodies and nothing can be discharged into them that worsens the water quality. This would make subdivisions, more difficult to build. The state will propose C1 status for 40 more bodies of water. If C1 becomes widespread it can wipe out all available land for development. Builders have been successful in court battles at thwarting the water quality regulations, including strict septic tank and wetlands rules. Land-use planning has been the province of the Department of Community Affairs which expects a challenge from builders. Builders could also challenge each designation. Barring some procedural mistake by the DEP, builders would have to show that the rule is "arbitrary and capricious" to have it overturned. doclink

    U.S.: Tougher Rules Unveiled for Diesel Emissions

    April 16, 2003, Washington Post

    Diesel-powered off-road machines will be subject to stricter EPA emissions standards, cutting emissions by 95%. The tougher rules are expected to prevent 9,600 premature deaths per year and save billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity. Refineries will have to cut the sulfur content to 500 ppm in 2007 and 15 ppm in 2010. Once the fuel standards are in place, the EPA will phase in tougher soot and nitrogen oxide standards for diesel engine manufacturers between 2008 and 2014. doclink

    North America: Jobs Move Offshore as Firms Continue to Economize

    April 14, 2003, New Haven Register

    In India, the amount of software and back-office services performed for companies outside India is expected to reach $54 billion by 2008. The Indian market for the same services is expected to reach just $15 billion. The software and technology services are a high foreign-exchange earner. That represents many new jobs in India and fewer in the United States. Offshore outsourcing save companies 25% to 50% A recent report by Foote Partners LLC in New Canaan said up to 45% of information-technology workers in the United States and Canada will be replaced by contractors, consultants, offshore technicians and part-time workers by 2005. doclink

    Denver Limits Lawn Watering for 1.2 Million Customers

    April 17, 2003, Associated Press

    Denver has restricted outdoor watering. The rules allow residents to water two hours twice a week. The Water Board has imposed surcharges on residents who use excess water. Commercial users and city parks must reduce water consumption to 70% of 2001 usage. Golf courses must cut consumption in half. Denver's reservoirs were at 44% capacity Wednesday. Levels could increase to 79% percent by July 1 with runoff from the snowpack, if spring precipitation is average. The estimate is 66% if this spring is dry. doclink

    Lyndon Johnson, 1965

    "Let us in all our lands -- including this land-face forthrightly the multiplying problems of our multiplying populations, and seek answers to this most profound challenge to the future of the world." doclink

    US Michigan: Growth: 400,000 New Homes Needed by 2030

    March 04, 2003, PRNewswire

    The population of southeast Michigan will reach 5.5 million by 2030, a growth rate of 1/2% per year, says the Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG). This will demand 400,000 additional residences in the seven county area in the next 30 years. This will strain the resources of available housing. Buildable land is 38% of total acreage. The demand is getting attention in Lansing. There is too much infrastructure for housing of one unit or fewer per acre, water, sewer and electricity costs increase with large lot zoning. Remodeling or rebuilding of older homes will be necessary to provide accessibility as the population ages. A regional government would alleviate difficulties in dealing with different set of requirements in different areas. The current population and the local government must plan for growth. doclink

    April 2003, Richard M. Nixon, 1969

    "In 1917 the total number of Americans passed 100 million, after three full centuries of steady growth. I believe that many of our present social problems may be related to the fact that we have had only fifty years in which to accommodate the second hundred million Americans . . ." doclink

    Ronald Reagan, 1974

    Our country and state have a special obligation to work toward the stabilization of our own population so as to credibly lead other parts of the world toward population stabilization. doclink

    U.S.: Immigrants in the United States 2002: A Snapshot of Americas Foreign-Born Population

    March 15, 2003, Center for Immigration Studies

    A record number of legal and illegal immigrants arrived in the U.S. this year. 33.1 million legal and illegal immigrants live in the U.S. 2 million more since the last census. This new report provides a detailed look at the nations immigrant (or foreign-born) population, including entrepreneurship, health insurance coverage, poverty, and welfare use for each state. doclink

    Wetlands Need Plenty of Help, Cash

    March 13, 2003, The Advocate Online (Baton Rouge Louisiana)

    Louisiana's coastline can only be restored to a maintainable level with $14 billion in federal aid. Wetlands devastation in the state can be traced back to decisions on control of the flooding of the Mississippi River and to aid oil and gas projects in the region said Karen Gautreaux, chair of the state's wetlands restoration panel and executive assistant to the Governor. The state benefited from those decisions, but cannot deal with the problems. The administration and Congress have to be made aware that Louisiana's coastal losses affect defense and the economy for the country. Backers hope to see federal funding get through Congress in 2004 with a commitment to spend that much over time. doclink

    Arizona Senate Passes Bill Requiring Medical Centers to Offer Emergency Contraception to Sexual Assault Survivors

    March 26, 2003, Manchester Union Leader

    Sent: 28 Mar 2003 Kaiser Weekly Reproductive Health Reports Arizona Senate Passes Bill Requiring Medical Centers To Offer Emergency Contraception to Sexual Assault Survivors Access this story and related links online: The Arizona Senate on Tuesday voted 16-14 to approve a bill (SB 1087) that would require medical centers to offer emergency contraception to sexual assault s... doclink

    US Pennsylvania: Snow Salt, Debris Could Harm Rivers

    February 20, 2003, Associated Press

    Snow salt, debris could harm rivers. Stone flies just beginning to emerge in Pennsylvanias rivers could be threatened by the salts used to melt snow along the states roadways. These organisms are part of the food chain in the streams. They break down leaves, provide organic matter, and part of the food chain for a lot of our game fish. With little space to pile snow, Philadelphia decided to dump it into the rivers as a last resort. doclink

    US New York: Highlands Area Needs More Protection

    February 20, 2003, New York Times*

    The York-New Jersey Highlands is worthy of protection from overdevelopment, but less than half is protected. Its population increased by 11% from 1990 to 2000, and 100,000 acres face development. The government has not said how much should be taken out of private hands for preservation, and who should pay for it. The Highlands Coalition proposed saving 180,000 acres in New York and New Jersey at a cost of $750 million. At the same time, Congress provided only $7 million to save 25,000 acres. Several Congressional representatives made it a requirement in budget appropriations that the secretaries of agriculture and the interior come up with recommendations about how to preserve the highlands. Those recommendations may be made public soon. There is an awareness of too much development, and there is now more talk in many quarters, about how to save the Highlands. doclink

    US Georgia: Schools Deluged by Residential Projects

    February 27, 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Atlanta Georgia reports a tidal wave of residential development that leaves no provision for neighborhood schools. When developments are planned, schools for some reason are left out and create a tough situation for the school system. The most recent example is the 1,250-home residential and commercial development in Holly Springs. School officials point to a rise in surrounding property values making it hard to buy land for a neighborhood school. The developer agreed to donate $920,000 but it's only enough to purchase portable units for the estimated 970 students. An elementary school costs $12 million. Holly Springs city manager said another elementary school would exacerbate the congestion. School officials plan to purchase 21 portable units. The current schools have been ruled out because of crowding. A septic field prevents any additional portables at one school. Students could attend schools miles away from their homes. Other developments include more than 400 new homes in Woodstock and a 1,200-home development in south Cherokee. Woodstock middle and high schools are over capacity and could become candidates for double sessions. This is a race with the growth. Once the economy improves, it will get worse. doclink

    U.S.: Alien species: A Slow Motion Explosion


    According to a report by the federal government, exotic weeds, pests and
    diseases cause more damage in the U.S. than forest fires, tornadoes,
    flooding, earthquakes and mudslides. 2,000 alien plant species have been
    introduced. Non-native animal species cause an annual $123 billion worth of
    damage to crops, range land and waterways. Weeds consume 4,600 acres of
    wildlife habitat on public lands a day. The main mode of transport is by
    ships: 40,000 gallons of foreign ballast water are dumped into U.S. harbors
    each minute doclink

    US California: Growth Imperils State's Food Output

    October 1997, Sacramento Bee

    3% of California's land in cultivation are lost annually to erosion, salinization, homes and industry (amounting to a 50% loss in 20 years). doclink

    Note: California produces a lot of food exported to the rest of the world.

    Water Pollution in the US

    1998, NEETF/Roper national survey

    3 out of 4 people do not know that the leading cause of water pollution is water running off from farm land, parking lots, city streets and lawns.


    US Massachusetts: On the Road to Cleaner Air: School Vehicles Retrofitted to Reduce Diesel Emissions

    February 16, 2003, The Boston Globe;

    Boston public school buses are having their mufflers replaced with new filtration systems that eliminate up to 90% of diesel emissions, in response to a February 2002 study that looked at children's exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses. The EPA has launched a push for the use of pollution control and low-sulfur diesel fuel and has dedicated $1.4 million won in an April settlement with Waste Management of Massachusetts. 100 Boston school buses are being outfitted with particulate filters. 200 buses at the Readville yard are running on ultra-low sulfur fuel. Together this will eliminate 540 pounds of diesel particulate matter, 2,480 pounds of hydrocarbons, and 17,380 tons of carbon monoxide in Boston each year. The work is being targeted to the most polluted areas of Boston. Nationally, 600,000 school buses carry 24 million children to school daily. Children annually spend 3 billion hours on school buses, but the majority run on diesel fuel. Diesel exhaust contains 40 pollutants, including particles of carbon toxic gases. People with existing heart or lung disease, asthma, or other respiratory problems are most sensitive, but children are susceptible because they breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults. Each retrofitting costs $9,000 and takes two days. doclink

    2000, Sierra Club Planet

  • More than 90% of America's native prairies have been lost to cultivation.
  • More than half of the wetlands have been drained or developed; the nation continues to lose more than 100,000 acres of wetlands per year.
  • One million acres of farmland a year are lost to development. doclink

  • US California: Move to Bigger Class Sizes to Get a Second Look

    November 13, 2002, Los Angeles Times

    The Los Angeles Board of Education will focus on reducing class sizes to an average of 37 students. The school board had voted to increase class sizes by two students in grades four through 12 to save $48 million. 42% middle and high school classes have 30 students or more. Many criticized the move and two dozen parents, teachers and students voiced support for smaller classes. Supt. Roy Romer defended the increase, as the only way to afford a 3% pay increase for teachers and to create 6,500 seats in the high schools and 11,500 in middle schools. A reduction of class size depends on the ability to hire teachers and build schools. The voters approved a $3.35-billion bond to pay for 80 new schools. Until completed many schools will have overcrowding. doclink

    U.S. Population Growth and the Environment

    November 07, 2002, Patrick Burns

    33.1 million immigrants live in the United States. This means 15.8 million more passenger cars and 825 million barrels of oil a year, equal to all of the recoverable oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in 4 years. The newcomers will consume 2.26 billion cubic feet of wood per year, over 75 million acres of forest. Immigration and births to immigrants will account for 67% of population growth between 2000 and 2050, and the population will grow by 125 million people over the next 50 years to over 570 million by 2050. If all immigration ended, the population would grow to over 326 million by 2050, and 377 million people by 2100. Even with no immigration, population growth does not stop in the next 100 years. The U.S. fertility rate of 2.1 is the highest in the industrialized world. In Canada the rate is now 1.5, because more women in Canada use the contraceptive pill than in the U.S. If the U.S. lowered the cost of the pill and improved access to contraception, U.S. fertility would decline. Women in Canada and the U.S. want the same number of children, and fertility rates were the same in 1975. If U.S. birth rates fell to Canadian levels, U.S. population growth would slow and eventually stop. U.S. residents are using less land per capita than 30 years ago as productivity and efficiency improve. We are growing more food per acre today and the "wildlife footprint" of the average American has got smaller. As productivity-per-acre has gone up, the U.S. has allowed marginal lands to return to forest or conservation. We are using less grazing land per capita than 20 years ago due to changes in the way we raise cattle. We are using less forest per capita than we did 20 years ago as modern mills waste less wood and forest managers acquire more expertise. U.S. oil consumption has declined from 31 barrels per person per year in 1978 to 25 barrels today. Population growth undermines conservation and land protection but progress is being made. We have more forest than 30 years ago, cleaner air and water, despite the addition of 100 million people. But every step we take in land conservation is eroded or negated by rapid domestic population growth. While we reduced per capita oil consumption by 25% between 1978 and 2000, the population grew by the same amount. While we see real gains in conservation we also see increased habitat loss. Increased forest fragmentation combined with intensive mowing of hayfields, has resulted in a decline in deep-forest nesting and grassland-nesting birds. Humans have benefited, birds have been the loser. How many Americans? Once you decide on a number or goal for the future, fertility and immigration are largely mathematical. doclink

    In a First, U.S. Puts Limits on California's Thirst - Commentary

    January 2003, Patrick Burns

    California's, population grew by more than 4.2 million between 1990 and 2000, 60% from direct immigration. The addition of 2,405,430 immigrants between 1990 and 2000 represents 58.5% of the growth but misses illegal immigrants. The primary consumer of water in California is agriculture and industry. Much agricultural water is wasted. Farmers pay about $70 for every acre-foot of water. Higher prices encourage investments in irrigation systems and a change in crop selection. It will cost $300 per acre-foot in Utah to deliver water to farmers and will produce crops worth about $30, but cost farmers $8. Farmers use more water than they would if market forces were allowed to guide the use of water. On a national level, we are using LESS water today than we did 20 years ago. While the population of the U.S. increased more than 16% between 1980 and 1995, water consumption declined 10%. Even a slight increase in the price of water or energy results in pressure to conserve water. The primary consumers are irrigation and industry, both have curtailed their water usage. Increased consumption is evident in the public supply and livestock. Population growth across the nation needs to be brought under control. population growth in the American West is a problem -- a huge problem. Arizona's population growth rate compares to Pakistan, Tanzania, and Honduras while Colorado's is similar to that of Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines.


    U.S. Women Waiting Longer to Have First Child

    December 11, 2002, Reuters Health

    U.S. women on average wait until 25 to have their first child. The average age at first delivery in 1970 was 21.4 years, compared to 24.9 years in 2000. The rise is attributed to the increase in the number of women attending college and in the labor force. The number of women who finished college in 2000 is three times higher than in 1970 and the number of women working outside of the home increased nearly 40%. A decline in teen births, delays in marriage, the use of birth control and an increase in women in their 30s and 40s having children have affected the average age at first delivery. This varied regionally, women in Arkansas and Mississippi giving birth for the first time at 22, in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey at 27. Minority women should be provided them with the same opportunities that other groups enjoy if we want them to postpone childbearing.


    U.S.: No Child Left Behind

    December 10, 2002, Population Resource Center

    More than 11 million children in the U.S. live in poverty, more than a third under the age of six. The welfare rolls have declined more than 50%, child poverty to about 16%. But indications are that the gains overshadow the distress of hundreds of thousands of families who are worse off. For example the requirement that mothers of small children work, with no increase in the support for childcare. doclink

    Court Blocks Offshore Oil Leases in Calif.; U.S. Appeals Judges Uphold State's Right to Prevent Drilling in Federal Waters

    December 03, 2002, The Washington Post

    A federal appeals court blocked an attempt to revive old oil leases off the California. The judges gave California broad power to prevent any new exploration or drilling in waters near the coastline. This has become a political issue in California, whose residents oppose more drilling. The leases were signed before the ban on oil drilling and are the last hope oil companies have to expand operations near Santa Barbara that has significant quantities of oil. Administration officials say they went to court because they do not believe California should have a role in deciding whether leases, which have expired several times, should be extended while political debate continues. The issue is that extending the life of these leases didn't have any effect on the coastline the oil industry, contends. Only a few new rigs would be necessary, operated to protect marine life and beaches. About two dozen oil rigs in place before the ban on drilling, operate off the California coast. For the past year, environmental groups have been waging a fierce campaign to nullify the old leases and guarantee that no more drilling occurs. An accident in 1969 spewed 3 million gallons of oil. doclink

    U.S.: Do We Need Growth?

    November 2002, In Growth We Trust - Edwin Stennett

    No matter how smart the growth or how good the planning, a rapid increase in population can overwhelm a community's best efforts.. Smart Growth strategies - redevelopment, in-fill, public transit, mixed use development, and green space - are not sufficient. Oregon, for example, is forced to grow urban growth boundaries to accomodate population growth.

    VANISHED OPEN SPACE = Population X per capita Developed Land. 63% of the 47% increase of the greater Washington (D.C.) area between 1982 and 1997 was due to population growth. Reducing per capita land use alone will not accomodate the increase of the 1.6 million people expected in the Washington area in the next 25 years.

    TRAFFIC CONGESTION = Population X per capita VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled). The Washington area Metrorail sees 650,000 Metrorail trips per day while the number of vehicle trips per day is 15.6 million - which will grow by 5.5 million over the next twenty years. Congested lane miles are projected to increase from 7.1% in 1998 to 10-12% in 2025.

    WATER DEMAND = Population X per capita Water Consumption. South Florida's Everglades is buckling under pressure from pollution and water diversions to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. According to a spokesperson for Everglades National Park, the stressed out system "could ecologically fail within the next 20 years."

    SEWAGE: Plant and animal-killing nitrogen discharged from municipal sewage treatment plants has declined with nitrogen reduction techonology (NRT), but population growth will soon reverse the NRT gains. In the Chesapeake Bay, "If no further actions are taken, we anticipate increased discharges after 2010 due to population growth."

    While the national population grows rapidly, curbing sprawl in one region pushes sprawl into other regions. The Census Bureau says we may reach 571 million by 2100. A stable U.S. population can be achieved through a modest reduction in U.S. fertility - by attaining fertility rates of other industrialized countries. (I.e. Norway-1.85 Spain-1.15). Even keeping current immigration levels!

    ECONOMIC GROWTH . Comparing 13 faster growing areas to 13 slower growing areas showed a big difference in the rate of job growth, but a negligible difference in the unemployment rate. The more jobs lured into an urban area, the more people will move in to fill them, increasing congestion, and decreasing quality of life for those that live there. Population growth increases total economic growth but not per capita economic growth. In a study of 15 western European countries with relatively low population growth, compared to the U.S., with high population growth, the per capita Gross Domestic Product was not shown to significantly correlate to population growth.

    Restraining the Growth Machine. Metropolitan area population growth can be slowed by ending subsidies that promote local population growth. Unfortunately the land speculators, developers, and real estate brokers profit from local growth are rich and powerful.

    .Restrain new business recruitment .Make development pay its way .Elect public officials whose campaign funding is not dominated by Growth Machine money

    Slowing National Population Growth: .Decrease the number of dropouts .Reduce poverty .Family planning services for low-income women .Educating and influencing attitudes of teens and young women doclink

    U.S.: Education: Move to Bigger Class Sizes to Get a Second Look

    November 2002, Los Angeles Times

    Having classroom sizes of up to 50 students, the Los Angeles Board of Education agreed to study class sizes and will focus on reducing them to 37 students. In March they voted to increase classes by two students as part of a $450-million budget cut. But many claim this harms the quality of education. Forty-two% of the district's middle and high school classes now have 30 students or more. Parents, teachers and students support smaller classes, but Supt. Roy Romer said this was the only way the district could afford a 3% pay increase for teachers. The larger classes created badly needed seats in the middle and high schools. Smaller classes depend upon the ability to hire more teachers and build schools. Until new schools are completed in 2005, many will be overcrowded. doclink

    U.S.: When Will the School Enrollment Bubble Burst?

    September 2002, New York Times*

    New Jersey's public school enrollment is soaring and with no increase in state aid, property tax bills are putting the problems in sharp relief. The state estimated the number of public school students at 1,367,431, a jump of more than 30,000 from the 2001-2 school year and up more than 300,000 from 1989. In July 1998, the Department of Education predicted enrollment would peak in the 2003-4 school years with 1,196,939 students and that by 2007, that number would drop to about 1.1 million. Those projections are not holding. It's going up 20,000 to 30,000 students a year. The biggest factor is immigration. Between 1990 and 2000, the state saw a net gain of 400,000 immigrants. Some districts have seen their numbers rise because of housing developments, a turnover of homes to families with children, and movement out of New York and Philadelphia. Most growth in the suburbs comes from people selling their homes to families with school-age children. High school enrollment should peak in 2007 or 2008 and then begin to level off or slightly decline. In 2001, $970 million in school bond issues was approved by voters for school projects. It leaves the burden to the local community. In Greenwich Township voters approved an addition on a school under construction. The district is attracting parents who work in the pharmaceutical and software industries as well as those commuting to Manhattan. It's a horrendous, overwhelming situation for the local taxpayer. Many districts have had to reduce the number of teachers, resulting in larger classes. When a district has a good reputation, people want to be there. There is also a need to upgrade facilities to keep up with technology. Districts going through enrollment increases find that the biggest battle is over money for buildings and teachers. We promise a free public education to all who show up at our door, but we've been given too short a time to be responsive. doclink

    Why Continuous Development? (LTE)

    November 14, 2002, Ralph Woodgate

    We are seeing a growing opposition to the steadily increasing development of every vacant open space in our county. Yet it appears impossible to do more than slow down the growth of houses, factories and stores.

    I sometimes feel that I must be rather stupid as I cannot agree with, or understand, the reasons usually given for this continuous development. It is certainly not the wishes of the majority of the residents.

    The facts as I see them are simple. ---

    a.. We are told that we need development in Putnam County to provide employment for our people and to help reduce the taxes. b.. For this reason we offer every inducement to companies to locate in our county. c.. We then need more people to work in the new factories, stores and other businesses. d.. We then have to provide more homes to house these families. e.. But almost every family has at least one child of school age and every new student in our schools increases the property taxes. f.. We also have to pay to rebuild roads and other facilities to serve the growing population. g.. Therefore we need more development in Putnam County to help reduce the taxes. In the 20 years that I have lived in Southeast there has been almost continuous development and still the taxes have increased around 300%, largely because of the increasing population of school students. So development increases our taxes, adds to our pollution, increases the traffic and takes away our natural open spaces. The residents pay for all of this via the loss of their rural environment and their taxes both present and future.

    The developers gain most and should reward the public for loosing much of their way of life. I propose that one third of the property involved in every development, or the equivalent, should be handed over to the people as public open spaces. doclink

    California's Central Valley

    November 11, 2002, National Public Radio

    The 400-mile-long Central Valley in California is a fertile pocket of land between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada that supplies one-quarter of the food America eats. Families looking for lower-cost housing are moving there and fields are making way for subdivisions. As the population of the valley's cities grows and agriculture shrinks, the valley's new urban centers are pushing for a share in the economic success of the coast. Farmers have been exempted from clean air and clean water standards but now, the state is going to bring them into compliance. Farmers spray a third of all pesticides sold in the nation. If they have to cut back, the prices of crops grown in the valley will be more expensive. When Central Valley big farms "go organic," it cuts down California water pollution, and provides a testbed for large-scale organic farming. Estimates claim that 50% to 90% of the valley's farm laborers are illegal immigrants whose lack of mobility impedes their assimilation. Workers are subject to sub-minimum wages and dangerous working conditions. Immigrants are forcing the state to come to terms with diversity. doclink

    US Colorado: A Clear-cut Drought Solution? Logging Urged to Boost Runoff, but Eco-Groups Object

    November 2002, Denver Post

    Colorado's population is growing fast and water conservation is a major issue. [Colorado's population growth rate is 2.3% a year -- equal to that of Ghana and El Salvador, and faster than that of the Philippines.] The latest proposal is for swathes of forests to be cut to boost water flow, although no one is talking about slowing population growth. It is claimed that enough water to supply a million families could be created by thinning trees on federal and state land. This has been studied but never as broadly as advocated. Managing forests to mitigate wildfire and increase water yields is said to hold promise. Environmentalists says it will increase flooding and degrade streams. Removing trees allows more snow to fall to the ground, where it runs off into streams and rivers during the spring. Some researchers complain that Colorado has too many trees that intercept snow which would otherwise melt every spring. But those studies show that removing tree cover produces extra water when it's not needed. "The link between logging for fire mitigation and logging for water is a false one," said environmental hydrologist Dan Luecke of Boulder. Most of the research on this has been done in Fraser, where water yield from the 714-acre Fool Creek watershed has been monitored for 60 years. Foresters removed 40 percent of the watershed's trees 1956, with a 40% increase in water flow. After four decades, half of the increase can still be measured. Flows increased most during wet years, and almost none during droughts which means the surplus water has to be stored, and the high-flow resulted in scouring of the stream channel. The only large-scale demonstration was on the Coon Creek watershed in southern Wyoming. Twenty-four% of the watershed was removed in the 1990s, producing a 17% increase in flow. It was calculated that 185,000 acre-feet of water a year could be created by cutting half the 1.1 million acres of forest in the North Platte watershed over 120 years. Clear-cutting would reduce the habitat of the threatened lynx and other species. Many scientists doubt that logging for water would be as successful in other parts of Colorado. In the 1970s, Richard Gaudagno discovered that deep snow collected in the spruce-fir stands, while the open ski runs were scoured almost bare by the winds - the opposite of what was found in the Fraser study. Removing trees causes erosion, which clogs streams with sediment and stifles habitat for fish and aquatic insects. Many environmentalists think economics will be the idea's undoing as it is too expensive to build roads and log on steep slopes. There has been no planning for the state's water future, and the population is growing fast. The supply is finite and will have to be used more efficiently. doclink

    [Trees gather water vapor in their branches and allow water to hop-scotch inland. Without trees, inland regions become arid.]

    U.S: Judge Delays Minnow Ruling

    September 09, 2002, Albuquerque Tribune

    Judge James Parker wants to review more information before making a decision on releasing Albuquerque-owned water to protect the Rio Grande silvery minnow. Some stretches of the Rio Grande are within days of running dry unless the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation releases city-owned water. Environmental groups want Parker to order the release of about 325,848 gallons of water. City officials argue that they can't spare this water, stored in northern New Mexico reservoirs. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez said he wasn't confident City Hall will win this water war. Parker's decision could define how much control City Hall has over San Juan-Chama river water that the city is counting on for its $198 million project to divert water for residents by 2005. Chavez said the city cannot offer more water for the minnow but without the water from northern New Mexico reservoirs, the minnow has little chance of surviving. Chavez turned down a request for 20,000 acre-feet of Albuquerque water for the minnow. Since 1996, the city has provided more than 200,000 acre feet of San Juan-Chama water to preserve the minnow's habitat, The city is opposed to the forced release of river water. Taxpayers have paid out about $45 million to buy the river water rights. doclink

    New Report Warns U.S., Canada Face Tough Environmental Choices

    August 2002, U.S. Newswire

    The USA and Canada's improvement to their environment has come at the expense of global effects. Each citizen consumes nine times more gasoline than any other person in the world. With 5% of the world's population, both countries account for 25.8% of emissions of carbon dioxide. The two countries have reduced by 71% the chemicals discharged into the Great Lakes. About 13% of their land area is set aside as protected areas. Over 70% of Canada's wetlands are protected. Sulphur dioxide emissions in the USA have declined 31% from 2000. Both countries reduced CFC consumption to nearly zero. However Canada and the U.S. face challenges before North America is on a sustainable development path. Soil and wetland losses outpace the gains, the region's aquifers are being depleted. Both countries need changes toward more fuel-efficient technologies, and to curb urban sprawl.


    2002 Spike in Air Pollution Reverses Downward Trend

    October 13, 2002, Los Angeles Times

    California experienced a downturn in air-quality improvement this year, with pollution in areas unaccustomed to smog. Urban communities had cleaner air, but inland areas got smoggier. No one knows if this is an aberration or the beginning of a trend. Population growth and sprawl may be eating up gains in pollution prevention but long-term indicators show that California is cleaner, due to strict regulations. doclink

    U.S.: Air Pollution Fatalities Now Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 3 to 1

    September 17, 2002, Earth Policy Institute

    U.S. air pollution deaths equal those from breast and prostate cancer. Air pollutants include carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates primarily from fossil fuels. When people inhale particulates and ozone at concentrations found in urban areas, their arteries become constricted, reducing blood flow to the heart. No "safe" level of pollution exists. Exposure to current levels of ozone and particulates affect death rates, hospitalizations and medical visits and take a toll on the economy. The costs of air pollution argue for raising taxes on fuels to encourage efficient use, a shift to clean energy sources, and the adoption of pollution controls. The solutions to urban air pollution are not difficult. Individuals can reduce car usage and use more fuel-efficient cars. Planning can redirect funding to mass transit options. Countries can shift electricity generation to wind and solar power and redefine safety to include decreasing air pollution. doclink

    U.S.: Coal Ash: a Big Unknown - Some Fear Toxic Threat in Power Plant Waste

    September 2002, Louisville Courier-Journal

    Coal-fired power plants produce more than 100 million tons of ash annually, 70% ends up in landfills. Environmental leaders question the extent to which toxic heavy metals in coal ash threaten groundwater. The regulations are inconsistent. Tests in Pines Indiana have shown that wells contain high boron levels that can damage the stomach, liver, kidneys and brain. Industry leaders say the fear of heavy metals is out of proportion. Critics suggest that coal ash must be treated with caution. The EPA said there were 11 cases of pollution from coal waste in the U.S., none in Kentucky or Indiana. Each state sets its own rules for disposal. Indiana granted "beneficial reuses" of ash exemption from environmental laws. In Kentucky, power plants must report how much ash goes to beneficial uses and identify them, but these regulations are loose and ash was dumped on rural land. It has been recommended that power plants declare their construction fill plans. The EPA wants the ash tested for toxicity, and its placement designed to minimize contact with water. The EPA came close to classifying ash for landfills as hazardous but the decision was reversed after industry lobbying. EPA officials intend to propose a national rule on ash disposal in 2004. Indiana approved the state's groundwater protection standards. The DNR will seek a per-ton charge to raise money for future environmental cleanups if they're needed. The standards also may force restrictions on ash ponds. The coal industry will likely fight any tax on ash disposal. doclink

    California Smart Growth Bill

    September 05, 2002

    AB 857, a bill that promotes infill development, more compact suburban growth, and protection of the most valuable natural and agricultural resources, is on the governor's desk. The bill would also encourage efficient development patterns in areas to the extent infill development is not possible and would ensure state consistency with priorities and a conflict (between state agenceies) resolution process. The building industry opposes the bill. The bill is needed to handle the projected 12 million increase in population in California for the next 20 years. Statutorily required land use priorities have not been update in 24 years, during which time California's population growth has grown 11 million. Citizens are already choking on air pollution, fed up with traffic and distressed about declining quality of life. doclink

    U.S.: Sprawl Adds to Drought

    August 29, 2002, Los Angeles Times

    A report says that sprawl is worsening water supply problems. Development in Atlanta produces around 133 billion gallons of polluted runoff that would otherwise be filtered through the soil to recharge aquifers, streams and lakes. The report claims to show the magnitude of the problem and urges the Geological Survey to embark on a thorough study. Drought experts said that development exacerbated water shortages, but the extent was impossible to quantify. 40% of the country is suffering drought, especially the East Coast and Southwest. In arid regions, where much water comes from snowmelt, covering the ground with roads and buildings, decreases the reabsorption of rainwater which is important because ground water can seep into depleted bodies of water. The report said the problem can be mitigated if new road building is curtailed and open spaces--such as farms and forests--are preserved. They also urge the adoption of techniques to facilitate the absorption of storm water. The construction industry called the report a blatant effort by environmental groups to increase regulations on development as modern developments use sophisticated strategies to avoid the perils of runoff. doclink

    U.S.: Oceans' Woes Growing Deeper

    September 2002, Seattle Times

    Since the last presidential commission's report in early 1969, pressures have increased on coastal areas that are home to half the nation's population. The new commission, half way through a three year plan says that about 40,000 acres of coastal wetlands that provide habitats for three-fourths of U.S. commercial fish catches are disappearing each year. 40% of U.S. fish stocks are depleted or overfished. Ballast water from ships is spreading invasive alien species. There is a need to consolidate federal and state policies. Fishers and corporations, face a patchwork of authorities and regulations. More than 140 federal laws are administered by 20 agencies, there has to be a national ocean-policy-coordinating body. Ocean pollution is increasing and coastal management is overwhelmed. Fish stocks continue to be depleted, and the advice of scientists ignored at the expense of fisheries. Not enough study has been given to the interaction between oceans and climate change. The independently financed Pew Oceans Commission, has been looking at a need to consider marine ecosystems and ocean life as a whole, rather than focusing just on fish. doclink

    California USA: New Water Law Makes Work for the Maytag Man

    September 12, 2002, Christian Science Monitor

    Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill requiring water efficiency in clothes washers. Water conservation in California and the West is serious. Neighboring states want a bigger share of the Colorado River water that California has taken for over a decade. That transfer could alter the variety of fruits and vegetables on US dinner tables. The state has overbuilt for the available water. Those in water-rich northern counties gripe at the cost of new washers, but officials say the cost will be made up in five years through lower water bills. They remind residents that savings are possible, as shown in the 1990s, when a drought led to conservation steps and Californians cut water by 20%,equivalent of not having to build another reservoir. Supporters say the washers' savings could supply 6,000 households for a year. The bill was pushed forward because of federal energy standards to save electricity and the time was ripe for designs to save water, too. The savings of energy and water would be about $48 per machine per year. doclink

    Differing Demography of United States, Western Europe

    August 24, 2002, The Economist;

    The United States is becoming younger, while Europe's population is aging. Between 1960 and 1985, the U.S. rate dropped to 1.8 births per woman. In the 1990s the rate rose to just below 2.1 births per woman - possibly because of "higher-than-average fertility" among immigrants and the U.S. "economic boom,". Europe's women average fewer than 1.4 births in their lifetime. doclink

    U.S.: California: White House Accepts Water Ruling: More Could Flow to Central Valley Farmers, Less to Fish and Wildlife

    August 27, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle

    The Bush administration has made a series of decisions that threaten the environment - more logging in national forests to wildfire hazard, pushed for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, supported weakening standards on arsenic in drinking water and resisted imposing a federal ban on oil drilling off the California coast. Now the administration supports a ruling by a federal court judge which may provide more water to Central Valley agriculture at the expense fish and wildlife in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Delta system. The 1992 Central Valley Water Project Improvement Act, which provides 800,000 acre-feet of water annually for bay/Delta fisheries, was challenged by the Westlands Water District, a 600,000-acre irrigation district in the western San Joaquin Valley, which said the rules for environmental water releases was unfair. doclink

    Cities, States, Regions

    US Colorado: Boulder Overpopulation Reduces Citizen Opportunities For Democracy

    February 13, 2011, Daily Camera - Albert Bartlett

    Recently the Boulder City Council acted to reduce speaking times from 3 minutes to 2 minutes for citizens wishing to address the Council at public meetings. This is a symptom of a deep illness, where overpopulation is the illness and the large number of people seeking to speak is the symptom. The Council's action is like prescribing aspirin for cancer.

    In 1950 Boulder had about 20,000 people and 9 members on the Council. In 2011 Boulder has five times as many people and there are still just 9 members on the Council. It is likely that today there are about 5 times as many people wanting to speak to Council on any given issue as there were 60 years ago. Thus, we have only one fifth of the democracy that we had 60 years ago.

    Today's crowded Council agendas and reduced speaking time per citizen are the direct consequence of actions of past Councils promoting population growth in Boulder, but news stories have failed to suggest this.

    Despite the fact that the Council has made sincere and earnest efforts to advance the cause of sustainability in Boulder, the new constructions of homes, apartments, condos and other buildings, all approved by the Council, resulted in increasing Boulder's population. In fact they have moved Boulder farther away from sustainability and will further reduce democracy in Boulder.

    The Council should be mindful of the First Law of Sustainability: "You cannot sustain population growth; you cannot sustain growth in the rates of consumption of resources." This Law cannot be repealed. doclink

    California Congresswoman Lois Capps on Birth Control

    December 2008, Bill Denneen / Lois Capps

    Letter to constituant from Congresswoman Lois Capps:

    Thank you for contacting me regarding your concern for the high cost of birth control. I appreciate hearing from you regarding this important issue.

    You will be pleased to know we are in complete agreement. I am a proud co-sponsor of the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act (H.R. 4054) which would allow drug companies to again offer college clinics and safety net healthcare providers a significantly discounted rate on birth control purchases. As you know, this reduced price allowed providers to offer low cost birth control to their patients who often cannot afford to pay full price for contraceptives.

    H.R. 4054 corrects a provision in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that went into effect this year that mistakenly prevented drug companies from continuing to offer discounted birth control.

    As a result, many college clinics can no longer afford to provide birth control to their students. For student health centers and other clinics that still offer birth control, the prices have increased astronomically from an average of $5 to nearly $50 per month. I am very concerned the increased costs have made it more difficult for many women to obtain safe and effective birth control.

    I firmly believe that students should NOT (edited) have to pay such a steep price for a bureaucratic oversight. Women who can't afford birth control should not be made to suffer the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. I hope this bill moves quickly through the legislative process so we restore access to safe, effective and affordable birth control for women across the country. doclink

    California's Status as Wildlife State Threatened by Growing Population

    March 31, 2008, Los Angeles Daily News

    California boasts more species than found nowhere else. This biodiversity is stressed by the state's enormous population and further threatened by continuing population growth.

    California's biological diversity arises from the varied landscapes and climates found on the geologically active western edge of the North American continent. California is also the state with the most imperiled wildlife.

    When overpopulation and biodiversity collide, biodiversity invariably suffers. More than 800 species in the state are now at risk. The major stresses impacting California's wildlife and habitats, include water management, invasive species, overgrazing, recreational pressures and climate change. Increasing housing, services, transportation, and other infrastructure place ever-greater demands on the state's land, water, and other natural resources.

    California's population will swell to 60 million by 2050.

    The spread of Homo sapiens is riding roughshod over hundreds of other life forms that have made California their home for eons.

    On the Central Coast, urbanized acreage expanded about 20%. Crowded and costly coastal areas have forced development inland, in areas once dominated by agriculture and large ranches.

    You don't have a conservation policy unless you have a population policy.

    Successive bipartisan commissions all recommended that the US needs to stabilize its population and control immigration or forfeit its environment, including landscape and wildlife.

    Even with conservation planning, growth and development will eliminate important habitats.

    If Californians allow the state's population to hit 60 million in 2050, a large number of endangered species will have vanished forever. doclink

    U.S.: Envisioning a Sustainable Chesapeake

    February 17, 2008, Annapolis Capital

    It's been most inspiring to see discussions begin to address the future of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.

    They prompt us to ask: "What does a sustainable Chesapeake really mean?"

    My vision is built upon a balanced, vibrant ecosystem teeming with fish, shellfish, underwater grasses and clear, healthy waters. But to be truly sustainable, the Chesapeake ecosystem needs to exist while also supporting the region's human population.

    Creating a sustainable Chesapeake will not be easy. But as we look around the state, we're seeing more and more positive steps being taken.

    Recently, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change made recommendations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving energy throughout the state. These actions will require that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25% within the next 12 years.

    An initiative was introduced that will seek to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among the 28,000 students graduating each year. It will also foster research and prepare the new "green" workforce.

    By changing our own actions, each of us has the ability to reduce our impact on the bay and the planet.

    As long as the region's population continues to grow, and we develop lands faster than needed to accommodate that growth, we make it more difficult to maintain the sustainability equation.

    We have struggled more than 20 years to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the bay and we are still far from where we need to be. Another 10, 20 or 30 years of pollution-fighting efforts will still not be enough. Bay restoration efforts will be needed in perpetuity.

    We need to manage for sustainability by remaining aware of what will cross our path in the future. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The way things are going, we will be forced to reduce our greenhouse gases because we have passed peak oil, meaning our consumption of oil will be reduced.

    US Florida;: An Economy Tied to Growth

    December 09, 2007, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

    How strong is Florida's economy?

    Despite the decline in home values, the rise in gas prices, the weak dollar, visitors are coming to Southwest Florida. Construction boomed from 2003 to 2006, and home prices in Florida rose 60%. Now there's a glut of unoccupied dwellings.

    It is anybody's guess when that industry will recover and help other sectors of an economy tied to population growth.

    Tourism has long been a mainstay of the state's economy. Why are people coming? At the top of the list is the weak dollar, which tends to draw Canadians and Europeans.

    Florida is transitioning from being a low-cost state to a higher-cost state, the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation Inc. said. The cost of living in Southwest Florida is comparable to the cost of living in Toronto. That explains why so many local residents are heading for points north.

    Florida's population increased by about 320,000 residents in 2006, down from the pace of 2004 and 2005. Most of the decrease was in domestic migration. Florida continued to attract residents from the Northeast and the Midwest, but Florida became a net exporter of residents to other Southern states."

    The state's population, increased by 2.1 million people between 2000 and 2006.

    Factors causing some people to leave include high housing costs, rising property tax bills, difficulty obtaining insurance, the threat of hurricanes and recent job losses caused by the downturn in the construction industry.

    Good progress has been made in the past three years to strengthen the state's economy. At stake are the State's most vital current and future interests and the livability and sustainability of its communities.

    Floridians value the environment. The business community and politicians must do the same.

    Florida must continue to develop a diversified economic base. Local business and political leaders should draw research and development companies or, in some other form, companies that can diversify the local and state economies. doclink

    Development of 50-Year State Water Plan Discussed

    July 20, 2007, Norman Transcript website

    The Oklahoma Legislature was motivated to update the state's 1995 water plan because of dwindling reservoirs and aquifers.

    The goal is to provide a safe and dependable water supply for all Oklahomans, while improving the economy and protecting the environment.

    The water plan is expected to consider population growth, future water needs, competing water interests, vulnerability to drought and flooding, environmental protection and economic development.

    Surface water is considered to be publicly owned and subject to appropriation by the OWRB for "beneficial use."

    Groundwater is considered private property that belongs to the overlying surface owner.

    Since 1973, water wells have increased tenfold. Laws were written to encourage Oklahoma to use water to thrive and grow.

    Public water supplies are the primary user of surface water or reservoirs, with irrigation for agricultural uses the biggest user of groundwater.

    All of Oklahoma's aquifers dropped several feet from 2001 to 2006, as a result of drought.

    The Arbuckle-Simpson and Blaine aquifers dropped more than 21 feet and almost 10 feet, respectively, during that period, but respond very quickly to drought or to rain. Oklahoma had a population of about 3.5 million in 2000. That's projected by to increase by 38% by 2060.

    Current Oklahoma law allows the OWRB to issue groundwater use permits based on an assumed 20-year lifetime for the aquifer, which is unsustainable. It was recommended to transfer water from the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma.

    Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said the state water plan has to emphasize conservation. Destructive competition will happen if there is not funding assistance.

    Norman environmental specialist Debbie Smith said she would like the state to require communities that receive financial assistance to develop a water conservation plan. Everybody knows that water conservation is the cheapest way to get more water.

    But if there is no sustainability, it's not going to work, There should be no ownership of water.

    Americans as a whole do not have any idea of the value of water. doclink

    Georgia Governor, Corps Differ Over Extent of Water Emergency

    October 2007,

    Georgia Gov. declared a water emergency in north Georgia on Saturday as its water resources dwindled to a dangerously low level. But an Army Corps of Engineers official denied there is a crisis.

    The Gov asked for President Bush's help in easing regulations that require the state to send water to Alabama and Florida and to declare 85 counties as federal disaster areas.

    He blasted rules governing the water supplies, noting that if the state got rains, it could not by law conserve those, but must release 3.2 billion gallons a day downstream.

    The Army Corps of Engineers said if there were nine months without rain, water supplies still would be adequate. The corps, releases 5,000 feet of water per second from the dam between Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River.

    The figure was based on a Florida hydroelectric power plant's needs, as well as concern for endangered species in the river. Georgia filed a motion to require the Army Corps of Engineers to restrict water flows from the lake and other Georgia reservoirs. The corps said it needs 120 days to review its water policies, according to Perdue.

    Rainfall is far below normal for this time of year.

    Lake Lanier levels have dropped to a historically low and is hurting businesses and scaring away tourists.

    A new biological review of endangered species needs will end in November to see if water requirements can be reduced. Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been wrangling over how to allocate water from the Chattahoochee watershed as metro Atlanta's population has doubled since 1980. Georgia has imposed a ban on outdoor water use by homeowners in the region. doclink

    US New York;: Proponents Tout Legislation on Sex Education; Healthy Teens Act Aims Funds at Public School Programs on Safe Sex

    March 27, 2007, Times Union (US)

    The Healthy Teens Act, a bill before the NY Legislature, would establish a fund for school districts that teach abstinence and explain how to use birth control.

    The federal government offers $13 million for abstinence-only programs but no money for teaching teenagers how to have safe sex. In New York, HIV education is mandatory, but sex education is not.

    There are scattered schools that do a reasonable job. New York could spend $10 to $20 million a year without wasting a nickel. Eligible programs would not be allowed to promote a religious view, although moral, ethical and religious beliefs could be discussed.

    The programs would teach that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but would not ignore the fact that teenagers have sex.

    The bill supports sex education about abstinence, but understands that you need to address the needs of teenagers who are not abstaining. Comprehensive sex education delays teenagers from becoming sexually active. Giving kids complete information about contraception, STDs, and pregnancy risk, helps them protect themselves.

    Federally funded abstinence programs don't do the job. For example, when talking about condoms, the abstinence programs are only allowed to talk about their failure rates.

    Teenagers need to know how to use birth control, and how to make responsible decisions. doclink