World Population Awareness

Sustainable Solutions

Offshore Wind Farms See Promise in Platforms That Float

September 29, 2016, New York Times   By: Diane Cardwell

Almost all offshore wind farms currently use fixed platforms built into the seafloor. While they are increasingly common in Europe, they are just starting in the US, partly due to public opposition. The first such farm is set to begin operation by November near Rhode Island.

Enabling wind farms to float over fixed anchors would impact marine life less and add flexibility in where the platforms could be placed. Proponents say that floating platforms could help overcome some of the obstacles that offshore wind farms face. Developers might receive less opposition from on-shore people if they can locate the farms farther out at sea where they would not be visible from the land. Also their anchoring mechanisms have smaller, more flexible footprints than those of conventional wind turbines, and that could result in less environmental disturbance.

The Obama administration's latest offshore wind strategy paper identifies floating structures as important in fighting climate change. More than half of our offshore wind capacity - more than what the entire nation can now produce - is in deeper waters, said José Zayas, who directs the Wind Energy Technologies Office at the federal Department of Energy. He predicts that floating platforms may come to outnumber fixed-foundation installations.

Energy companies, researchers and government officials are planning floating farms adapted from deep-water oil and gas drilling rigs, which use tethers and anchors to moor platforms to the seabed. That could make deeper waters - like those off the Pacific Coast, around the Hawaiian Islands and in the Great Lakes - accessible for wind-energy development. Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas giant, is developing what could become the first commercial-scale floating wind farm, off the coast of Scotland, and Seattle-based Trident Winds is pursuing a federal lease to install about 100 turbines more than 30 miles out from Morro Bay on the central California coast.

Despite multimillion-dollar grants from the federal government, cost remains an obstacle. Ocean wind power cannot yet compete with large-scale solar or natural gas. Floating farms are more expensive to build than land-based ones, and for now, at least, they cost more than fixed offshore installations.

But design advances could drop costs lower than conventional systems. Fixed-foundation turbines require highly specialized equipment, vessels and installation procedures. Each must be customized to its location, said Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president for new energy solutions at Statoil. "With the floating concept, you can use the same turbine everywhere, so you can see the potential for mass production."

Various types of floating wind platforms are in the works, but two are closest to commercial availability. Statoil's design, known as Hywind, attaches the turbine to a steel buoy filled with water and rocks as ballast that extends over 300 feet below the surface. Principle Power's design uses a three-column system called WindFloat. The company planned a demonstration project based on a $47 million DOE grant, but it could not produce the power cheap enough to secure a power purchase agreement. However, Principle Power is pursuing projects elsewhere in the U.S, France, Portugal, Japan and other European and Asian markets, said Joao Metelo, the company's CEO.

University of Maine's researchers, working in partnership with private companies, have grants from the Energy Department totaling about $22.700,000. In May, if their Aqua Ventus demonstration prototype is deemed eligible, they will receive an added $39.900,000. Aqua Ventus is similar to the WindFloat but with modifications that could make it cheaper to produce. It floats because the concrete contains air. Project leader, Dr. Dagher, said that, if all goes well, his team could have two full-scale turbines pumping electricity into the Maine grid in 2019 and larger commercial farms starting construction in the Gulf of Maine by the mid 2020s. "The beauty of this," he said, is every 20 years - which is typically when the turbine reaches the end of its life - you can tow this back to shore, put a new turbine on and take it back.

But the project has stirred controversy on Monhegan Island, less than three miles from the planned site, where a year-round population of about 70 swells into the thousands over the summer, and its beauty has long made it an artists' haven. Supporters point to the potential for cheaper electricity and better internet service through an underwater cable connection from the wind farm to the island. (The local electric company has tried for years to build a reliable, independent system to bring renewable energy to the island.) But opponents fear that the turbines would disrupt the pristine views and lobster fishing operations. Some residents distrust the Aqua Ventus farm because it is a test project with a potentially short life and many uncertainties, and some have even talked of suing to stop it. doclink

Art says: This article does not explain how the electricity gets to the grid from miles out to sea. I expect that is a major cost factor.

But Can't Technical Advance Solve the Problems?

July 16, 2016, Damn the Matrix   By: Ted Trainer

The "limits to growth" analysis argues that the pursuit of affluent lifestyles and economic growth are behind alarming global problems such as environmental destruction, resource depletion, poverty, conflict and deteriorating cohesion and quality of life in even the richest countries. These levels cannot continue, let alone spread to all the world's people. We must shift to far lower levels of consumption in rich countries.

The counter argument is that the development of better technology will solve the problems, and enable us to go on living affluently in growth economies. Because technology does constantly achieve miraculous breakthroughs, this claim is regarded as plausible and publicity is frequently given to schemes that are claimed could be developed to solve this or that problem.

However there is a weighty case that technical advance will not be able to solve the major global problems we face.

The Simpler Way view says we must change to lifestyles and social systems which do not generate those problems. This could easily be done if we wanted to do it, and it would actually enable a much higher quality of life than most of us have now in consumer society.

But it would involve abandoning the quest for affluent lifestyles and limitless economic growth...so it is not at all likely that this path will be taken.

The 2007 IPCC Report said that if greenhouse gas emissions are to be kept to a "safe" level they must be cut by 50-80% by 2050, and more after that. This means that the average American or Australian would have to emit less than 5% of their present per capita emission rate. Some argue that all emissions should cease well before 2030.

By 2050 the amount of productive land on the planet per capita will be 0.8 ha (assuming we will stop damaging and losing land). The present amount required to give each Australian their lifestyle is 8 ha, 10 times over a sustainable amount, leaving no room for all the world's people ever rising to anywhere near our level.

Australians use about 280 GJ (gigajoules) of energy per capita each year. Are we heading for 500 GJ/person/year by 2050? If all the world's expected 9.7 billion people were to live as we live world energy supply would have to be around 4,500 EJ/year (EJ = 1B GJ)...which is 9 times the present world energy production and consumption.

Almost all resources are scarce and dwindling. Ore grades are falling, and there have been food and water riots. Fisheries and tropical forests are in serious decline. Yet only about one-fifth of the world's people are using most of these; what happens when the rest rise to our levels?

Humans are taking much of the planet's area, and 40% of the biological productivity of the lands. We are taking the habitats that other species need.

Of about 8 billion ha of productive land we have taken, 1.4 billion ha is for cropland, and about 3.5 billion ha for grazing. The number of big fish in the oceans is down to 10% of what it was. We are destroying around 15 million ha of tropical forest every year. And if all 9 billion people expected are going to live as we do now, resource demands would be about 10 times as great as they are now.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that we are now using up resources at a rate that it would take 1.5 planet earths to provide sustainably. If 9.7 billion are to live as we expect to in 2050 we will need more than 20 planet earths to harvest from.

If technology is going to solve our problems, when is it going to start?

If we Australians have 3% annual economic growth to 2050, and by then all 9.7 billion people will have come up to the "living standards" we will have by then, the total amount of economic production in the world each year will be about 20 times as great as it is now.

Most of the resources and ecosystems we draw on to provide consumer lifestyles are deteriorating. The WWF's Footprint index tells us that at present we would need 1.5 planet Earth's to provide the resources we use sustainably. How can we cope with a resource demand that is 20×1.5 = 30 times a currently sustainable level by 2050...and twice as much by 2073 given 3% annual growth?

Huge figures such as these define the magnitude of the problem for technical-fix believers.

We must cut resource use and impacts by a huge multiple...and keep it down there despite endless growth. Now ask the tech-fix believer what precisely he thinks will enable this.

Is it rational for someone to say, "I have a very serious lung disease, but I still smoke five packs of cigarettes a day, because technical advance could come up with a cure for my disease." If you are on a path that is clearly leading to disaster the sensible thing is to get off it.

Does it not make sense to change from the lifestyles and systems that are causing these problems, at least until we can see that we can solve the resulting problems?

Amory Lovins argues that technical advances could cut resource use per unit of GDP considerably, saying we could in effect have 4 times the output with the same impact. By 2050 we should cut ecological impact and resource use in half, but we also increase economic output by 20, then we'd need a factor 40 reduction, not a factor of 4...and resource demand would be twice as high in another 23 years if 3% growth continued.

In looking at the factors limiting technical advances, engineers and economists make the following distinctions.

"Technical potential." This is what the technology could achieve if fully applied with no regard to cost or other problems.

"Economic (or ecological) potential”. For instance it is technically possible for passenger flights to be faster than sound, but it is far too costly. Some estimate that it would be technically possible to harvest 1,400 million ha for biomass energy per year, but when ecologically sensitive regions are taken out some conclude that only be 250 million ha or less would be available for harvest.

Enthusiastic claims about a technical advance typically focus on the gains and not the costs which should be subtracted to give a net value. For instance the energy needed to keep buildings warm can be reduced markedly, but it costs a considerable amount of energy to do this, in the electricity needed to run the air-conditioning and heat pumps, and in the energy embodied in the insulation and triple glazing.

The Green Revolution doubled food yields, but only by introducing crops that required high energy inputs in the form of expensive fertilizers, seeds and irrigation. One result was that large numbers of very poor farmers went out of business because they couldn't afford the inputs.

Similarly, it is possible to solve some water supply problems by desalination, but only by increasing the energy and greenhouse problems.

What is socially/politically possible? It would be technically possible for many people in Sydney to get to work by public transport, but large numbers would not give up the convenience of their cars even if they saved money doing so. A beautiful, tiny, sufficient mud brick house could be built for less than $10,000 -- but most people would not want one.

The Jevons or "rebound” effect is the strong tendency for savings made possible by a technical advance to be spent on consuming more of the thing saved or something else. For instance if we found how to get twice the mileage per liter of petrol many would just drive a lot more, or spend the money saved on buying more of something else.

It should not be assumed that in general rapid, large or continuous technical gains are being routinely made in the relevant fields, especially in crucial areas such as energy efficiency. Ayres (2009) notes that for many decades there have been plateaus for the efficiency of production of electricity and fuels, electric motors, ammonia and iron and steel production. The efficiency of electrical devices in general has actually changed little in a century "...the energy efficiency of transportation probably peaked around 1960”. There is no increase in the overall energy efficiency of the US economy since 1960.

We tend not to hear about areas where technology is not solving problems, or appears to have been completely defeated.

The remarkable fall in the costs of PV panels is largely due to large subsidies, very cheap labor, and the general failure of the Chinese economy to pay ecological costs of production.

The significance of the new battery technology is clouded by the fact that costs would have to fall by perhaps two-thirds before they could be used for grid storage without greatly increasing the cost of power, and it is not likely that there is enough lithium to enable grid level storage of renewable energy.

Some claim that resource demand and ecological impact can be "decoupled” from economic growth in ways will enable the economy to keep growing and "living standards”, incomes and consumption to continue rising without increasing resource use or environmental damage.

The fact that the "energy intensity" (energy per unit of GDP) has declined within a country is often seen as evidence of decoupling, but this is misleading. The large amounts of energy (energy we benefit from) embodied in imports are not taken into account. Also, the same amount of energy produces more when we switch from coal to gas, for example. The gas is of a higher quality because it enables more work per unit. Gas is more easily transported, switched on and off, or converted from one function to another, etc.

In agriculture advance has been a matter of increased energy use. Over the last half century productivity measured in terms of yields per ha or per worker have risen dramatically, but these have been mostly due to even greater increases in the amount of energy being poured into agriculture, on the farm, in the production of machinery, in the transport, pesticide, fertilizer, irrigation, packaging and marketing sectors, and in getting the food from the supermarket to the front door, and then dealing with the waste food and packaging. Less than 2% of the US workforce is now on farms, but agriculture accounts for around 17% of all energy used.

There is undue optimism regarding what pure technical advance can achieve independently from increased energy inputs.

Energy itself is in serious decline, evident in data on EROI ratios. Several decades ago the expenditure of the energy in one barrel of oil could produce 30 barrels of oil, but now the ratio is around 18 and falling. The ratio of petroleum energy discovered to energy required has fallen from 1000/1 in 1919 to 5/1 in 2006. Murphy and others suspect that an industrialized society cannot be maintained on a general energy ratio under about 10.

So when we examine the issue of productivity growth we find little or no support for the general tech-fix faith. It is not the case that technical breakthroughs are constantly enabling significantly more to be produced per unit of inputs. The small improvements in productivity being made seem to be largely due to changes to more energy-intensive ways, and energy itself is exhibiting marked deterioration in productivity.

With minerals, the annual major deposit discovery rate fell from 13 to less than 1 between 1980 and 2008 , while discovery expenditure went from about $1.5 billion a year. to $7 billion a year. Recent petroleum figures are similar; in the last decade or so discovery expenditure more or less trebled but the discovery rate has not increased.

Over recent decades the proportion of rich nation GDP that is made up of "financial” services has risen considerably. The "production” of "financial services" that takes the form of key strokes that move electrons around, much of which is wild speculation: making computer driven micro-second switches in "investments”. These operations deliver massive increases in income to banks and managers, commissions, loans, interest, consultancy fees. These make a big contribution to GDP figures. In one recent year 40% of US corporate profits came from the finance sector. This domain should not be included in estimates of productivity because it misleadingly inflates the numerator in the output/labour ratio.

So when looking at industries that use material and ecological inputs -- the ones that are causing the pressure on resources and ecosystems -- is significant decoupling taking place? Kowalski (2011) reports that between 1960 and 2010 world cereal production increased 250%, but nitrogen fertilizer use in cereal production increased 750%.

The ecomodernists look forward to shifting a large fraction of agriculture off land into intensive systems such as high rise greenhouses and acquaculture, massive use of desalination for water supply, processing lower grade ores, dealing with greatly increased amounts of industrial waste (especially mining waste), and constructing urban infrastructures for billions to live in as they propose shifting people from the land to allow more of it to be returned to nature. If renewable energy sources cannot provide these quantities of energy, their proposals would have to involve very large numbers of fourth generation nuclear reactors.

If 9 billion people were to live on the per capita amount of energy Americans now average, the nuclear generating capacity needed would be around 450 times as great as at present.

The ecomodernist's problem is not just about producing far more metals, it is about producing far more as grades decline, it is not just about producing much more food, it is about producing much more despite the fact that problems to do with water availability, soils, the nitrogen cycle, acidification, and carbon loss are getting worse.

It is a mistake to think that the way to solve our problems is to develop better technology. That will not solve the problems, because they are far too big, and they are being generated by trying to live in ways that generate impossible resource demands.

The solution is to move away from affluent, high energy, centralised, industrialised, globalised etc., systems and standards. Above all it requires a shift from obsession with getting rich, consuming and acquiring property. It requires a willing acceptance of frugality and sufficiency, of being content with what is good enough.

Hundreds of years ago we knew how to produce not just good enough but beautiful food, houses, cathedrals, clothes, concerts, works of art, villages and communities, using little more than hand tools and crafts. Of course we should use modern technologies including computers (if we can keep the satellites up there) where these make sense.

Problems having to do with social breakdown, depression, stress, and falling quality of life will not be solved by better technology, because they derive from faulty social systems and values. Technical advances often make these problems worse, e.g., by increasing the individual's capacity to live independently of others and community, and by enabling machines to cause unemployment.

Massive globally integrated professional and corporate run systems involving centralized control and global regulatory systems will not have a place for billions of poor people. It will enable a few super-smart techies, financiers and CEOs to thrive, making inequality far more savage, and it will set impossible problems for democracy because there will be abundant opportunities for those in the center to secure their own interests. doclink

Karen Gaia says: This is a good article, but it would twice as good if it mentioned the solution of meeting womens' unmet need to for contraception.

Electric Vehicles Beat Gasoline Cars in Cradle-to-Grave Emissions Study

November 12, 2015, Los Angeles Times   By: Jerry Hirsch

A build-to-scrap analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that -- even when you consider power plant emissions - U.S. electric cars produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.

Rachael Nealer, a UCS scientist and the report's author, said: "Although a battery electric vehicle has no tailpipe emissions, the total global warming emissions ... depend on the sources of the electricity that charge the vehicle's batteries and on the efficiency of the vehicle." When it tallied all the greenhouse gas emissions from every aspect of auto manufacturing and operations, the UCS found that electric vehicles beat their gasoline counterparts in every U.S. region. In upstate New York, which is rich with renewable energy resources, electric cars generated pollution equaling a theoretical gas vehicle that gets 135 mpg. In California, to beat the electric car, a conventional car would need to do better than 87 miles per gallon. In states such as Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, where electricity comes largely from fossil fuels such as coal, electric cars offered the equivalent of a car getting 35 to 36 mpg.

The report relied on data produced by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Argonne National Laboratory and from auto manufacturers. It considered emissions from oil extraction, refining and transportation to gas stations. On the other hand, making lithium-ion battery packs also produces a lot of pollution. UCS based its modeling on the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S -- the two best-selling electric cars in the U.S. Each has a different greenhouse gas emissions profile. The bigger the battery, the more pollution results from its production. That's why the smaller Nissan -- which also has less than half the range of a Tesla -- offsets its excess manufacturing emissions in about 4,900 miles, or six months of driving. The Tesla offset comes within 19,000 miles, or 16 months of operation.

Nealer expects the emissions profile of electric cars to continue to improve over their gasoline counterparts as technology advances and electricity generation becomes cleaner. She considers electric vehicles essential to achieve the deep emissions reductions by 2050 needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. "It is really impressive how much cleaner electric cars have become in just the last three years," she said. doclink

How We Can Make the World a Better Place by 2030

TED Talks   By: Michael Green

Can we end hunger and poverty, halt climate change and achieve gender equality in the next 15 years? The governments of the world think we can. Meeting at the UN in September 2015, they agreed to a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030. Social progress expert Michael Green invites us to imagine how these goals and their vision for a better world can be achieved. doclink

As Drought Hits Maize, Tanzania Cooks Up a Sweet Potato Fix

September 8, 2015, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Kizito Makoye and Beatrice Rabachi

Many farmers in Tanzania have switched to growing sweet potato as a strategy to cope with drought and improve food security. In Uganda, 55,000 household now grow sweet potato and 237,000 are expected to by 2018.
. . . more doclink

Don't Eat Beef

July 15, 2008, Korea Times   By: Rick Ruffin

I have a solution to the candlelight rallies against U.S. beef imports. Why not simply stop eating meat?

Eating too much beef is bad. It's bad for your health, it's bad for the environment, it's bad for the world, so it's bad for everyone. (1)

The raising of cattle for beef production is one of the most energy intensive and energy inefficient enterprises known to man. According to one British charity, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people by growing soy, 24 people by growing wheat or 10 people by growing corn - but only two by raising cattle.

Let's remember that the amount of grain fed to U.S. cattle in one year alone will feed 1.4 billion people. In a world of limited resources, can we really afford to live in such a way?

In an era with looming water shortages, let's remember that in North America approximately 2,000 gallons of water goes into the production of one pound (454 grams) of beef.

In a world of dwindling biodiversity, let's consider that millions of acres of rainforest have been cut down in Brazil, Costa Rica and other nations in the name of supplying beef for the meat eaters of the world.

Things are so dire in Brazil, that President Luis Ignacio "Lula" Silva recently announced emergency measures to halt the destruction of the Amazon, the proverbial "lungs of the Earth."

In the last five months of 2007, more than 1,250 square miles of virgin forest were lost to livestock operations in Brazil alone.

As for health reasons, many people claim that Korean beef is healthier than American, but that is not necessarily true. Korean beef, while perhaps not known for mad cow disease, is saturated with antibiotics.

In fact, the Korean livestock industry pumps more antibiotics into their swine and cattle than any other country on Earth.

Beef, while high in Vitamin B and essential amino acids, is also high in cholesterol. If you eat a lot of beef, you end up susceptible to heart-bypass surgery.

Americans, who have traditionally consumed approximately eight ounces (about 240 grams) of beef every day, eat roughly twice the world average. We need beef, but we don't need that much. This is the point of this essay.

Not only does livestock production destroy virgin forests around the world - forest such as Malaysia's Teman Negara National Forest which has taken more than one million years to develop, but it also produces large quantities of greenhouse gases, notably methane, which is caused by cows passing gas and belching.

Methane production due to bovine flatulence is such a problem that New Zealand proposed a "fart tax" on its cattle to mitigate the effects of global warming.

According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production worldwide produces a fifth of all greenhouse gases. The process goes like this.

When a forest is burned down, CO2 gases are released. Then, cattle are brought in, and as I already mentioned, the cattle emit methane, which has 10 times the heat retention capabilities as CO2.

Finally, the vanished forest, which once served as an important "carbon sink," is forever gone. Carbon sinks, such as the Amazon and the boreal forests of North American and Russia, are invaluable in that they trap CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere.

Finally, livestock production takes up valuable space. An estimated 30 percent of the world's ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in the raising of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and what not. Would this area not be put to better use, such as harvesting grain?

It's hard to convince people in Korea to stop eating meat. They love their bulgogi and galbi, and for a country that traditionally wanted for red meat, it's understandable that Koreans should expect to eat beef, just like Americans do.

But this is the point. We don't have to stop eating beef entirely. We should simply ask ourselves. Do we need to eat beef everyday?

The writer, a graduate of University of Texas, Austin, now writes from Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The writer very rarely eats beef. He can be reached at rick_ruffin@yahoo.com. doclink

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development

April 14, 2015, New York Times   By: Eduardo Porter

Compared to the average annual consumption of electricity per citizen in Nepal (100 kilowatt-hours), Cambodia (160 kw-hr), and Bangladesh (260 kw-hr), a standard 20 ft3 refrigerator in an American home consumes 300 to 600 kw-hr in a year.

United States officials are concerned that numerous countries, including Nepal, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, have joined China's new infrastructure investment bank. The new institution may rival the existing fiscal organizations that are supported by the United States. However, many countries feel that their accesses to energy are curtailed due to the environmental priorities of the West. Developing nations seek assistance from established nations and the financial institutions to alleviate their conditions of living and expand the accessibility of energy infrastructure, but to no avail.

Average Electricity Consumption, 2011 ... Source: World Bank

Selected Countries Killowatt-hours per capita per year

United States 13,250; Japan 7,850; Germany 7,100; Albania 2,200; India 680; Bolivia 620; Mozambique 450; Ghana 340; Senegal 190; Yemen 190; Nigeria 150; Myanmar 110; Ethiopia 50; Haiti 30;

Although the United States depends on coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power as sources for 95% of their electricity, the U.S. government has strictly restricted the overseas financing of these sources. Ironically, the environmental policies of the West are augmenting the initial problem that they wished to solve. In order to make significant advances in sustainability and preservation of environment, financing low-carbon energy sources for impoverished societies is not enough; there is a need for a plethora of new energy.

There is a new point of view in the relationship between sustainability and the increasing needs of the population. According to the "Eco-Modernist Manifesto," economic development is required to preserve the environment. Rather than adopting "sustainable development" as in the past to promote a symbiotic relationship with nature, this new approach supplants such harmony with a stratagem to reduce humanity's effect on nature through more intensive use. This ideology states that to preserve the environment, the goal should be "intensifying many human activities - particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement - so that use less land and interfere less with the natural world." This idea is supported by historical records, as ¾ of all global deforestation was before the Industrial Revolution, whereas the land allocated for crops and animal feed per average person was reduced by half over the last fifty years.

The proposal is not without obstacles: the plan requires high energy demands, safer and cheaper nuclear reactors, and new methods of energy storage. However, this concentrated development would not only contribute to the efforts to preserve the environment; it will also allow poorer classes to migrate to cities to attain better education and opportunities. The subsequent acceleration in demographic transitions will reduce the rate of population growth. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

Nice idea, but the Green Revolution, which intensified farming, is petering out, leaving behind overused soil, excess nitrogen in soil and water, destruction of beneficial soil micro organisms, and salinization. While crop production is still growing, the rate of growth is slowing.

Energy intensification means going after energy sources that are more and more difficult to get, wrecking the environment and people's health in the meantime.

The only answer is to conserve, conserve, conserve. Learn to live happily on less. Eat less meat. Drive and fly less. Hang our clothes on a clothesline to dry.

Is it Too Late to Save the Planet?

January 24, 2015, Nation of Change   By: Thomas Magstadt

Astrophysicist Adam Frank said: "The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively 'harvest' energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process." Globally, we generate around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy every year and dump 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere and oceans, not to mention rivers, coal slurry impoundments ("sludge ponds"), aquifers, and underground "sequestration", all of which goes a very long way to explaining the overheating planet and acidifying oceans.

Everything from biodiversity to ocean chemistry is being degraded, entropy due to global population growth and human activity is a major cause. Climate change is happening; the signs are abundant, and too many voters are indifferent. What is needed is 1) a policy prescription for the government and 2) an action program for the rest of us.There is rarely any mention of conservation as a kind of categorical public-policy imperative.

Even though population is nearly 7.3 billion and rising, nobody wants to talk about population in part because they think most everything that can be done about that issue has already been or is being done.

Maybe our indifference will give way to our instinct for survival in time. Maybe we will come to understand that we have to conserve in order to survive, reorganize our cities and societies, depend less on long-distance transport and travel, and do more on a local level. We have to drive fewer cars fewer miles, build mass transit systems, and subsidize riders for being good citizens. We have to consume less and conserve more of everything -- from water and fossil fuel to wildlife and rain forests. We have to do a much better job of protecting the atmosphere, oceans, topsoil.

Our species has caused this problem and there will be a lot more of us either contributing to the problem or becoming the solution in the future. We have to learn to do more with less. A lot less. It probably won't happen any time soon on the scale that's needed, but it will happen sooner or later because it has to. Let's hope it won't be too late. doclink

The Greatest Threat of All: Human Instincts Overwhelm Reason

We live unsustainably because our drive to survive is more powerful than reason
January 19, 2015, Psychology Today   By: David Ropeik

The year 2014 was the hottest year on Earth since 1888, the first year such temperatures were recorded. December was the hottest for any year ever. Six of the months last year, in fact, hold that record. The last time a 'coldest month ever' was recorded, was 1916.

Planetary Boundaries is a survey of nine basic systems critical to life on Earth as we know it. An updated review finds that human activity has pushed past the boundary in four of those categories; climate change, loss of biosphere integrity (things like genetic diversity because of species loss), land-system change (soil and forestation loss, etc.) and altered biogeochemical cycles (how the biosphere uses and replaces the critical elements of phosphorus and nitrogen). The study can be found at http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-news/1-15-2015-planetary-boundaries-2.0---new-and-improved.html

Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries.

Most of us probably didn't notice any of those changes, which is the problem that has all but guaranteed the serious crash for Life on Earth as We Know It. Most of the seven billion humans on the planet took the resources necessary for safety and survival from the system, and put back into the system both their products and their wastes. Each us us satisfying our own needs but cumulatively taking from a system more resources than it has to offer, and putting back more waste than it can handle (air pollution in Beijing recently got so bad it was beyond the highest and most dangerous levels on the health scale designed to measure such things).

Even though we, and all current Life on Earth, face an unavoidable crash, we are compelled from the deepest level of our genes and survival instincts to taking more from the system than it can provide and put back in more waste than it can handle. Many species live unsustainably in their finite ecosystems and when their demands on the system outpace supply, move on. We are, however, the only animal where the system limits are the entire biosphere itself.

Many people pin their hopes on technological solutions to some of our challenges (cleaner power, advances in agriculture and food production, reduction in pollution and waste), less violence as more of us live closer together, and even the faith that human reason itself can, when the crises really start hitting the fan, figure out ways to stop doing the damage we're doing, undo the harm we've already done, or adapt to at least some of the harms we face.

If we get a little more realistic about just how much/little human reason can help us conquer our deepest animal instincts, and a little less naïve that we can 'live with restraint', we might sooner get to the task of preparing for what's to come rather than pretending we can head it off. It is probably in the best interest of Life on Earth As We Know It if humans accepted that there will be a steep price to pay for our unsustainable ways, that given what we've already done this price is unavoidable, and that pretending we can head this off and preparing as soon as possible is urgently needed if we're going to at least keep that cost as low as possible. doclink

A Darker View of the Age of Us - the Anthropocene

June 18, 2014, New York Times   By: Andrew C. Revkin

According to those best placed to make projections, a world 4 degrees C. warmer would be a very different kind of planet, one unsympathetic to most forms of life, including human life. Apart from climatic change, other manifestations of human impact in the Anthropocene, from interference in the nitrogen cycle to plastics in the oceans, only add to the grim outlook.

Psychologist Shelley Taylor claims humans can benefit from "benign fictions", unrealistic stories about the world that lead us to predict what we would prefer to see, rather than what is objectively most likely to happen. Yet these healthy illusions that can spur us on against the odds can become dangerous delusions when they continue to be held despite evidence from the outside world telling us we must change course.

Personally, when I think about those toiling, vulnerable masses who are going to suffer the worst consequences of a warming world, I find it offensive to hear a comfortable, white American say, "We are going to do OK."

Eco-pragmatists say that "Humans have solved these sorts of problems before" and "Technology will always provide a solution. It is not surprising that they attract support from conservatives who have doggedly resisted all measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, defended the interests of fossil fuel corporations, and in some cases worked hard to trash climate science. These are the same people now drawn to geoengineering, especially solar radiation management, as a substitute for reducing emissions.

Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.

In the end, grasping at delusions like "the good Anthropocene" is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can't turn malignant tumors into benign growths, and it can't turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. doclink

Karen Gaia says, the same case can be made for the impacts on our lives from resource depletion.

Tracking Earth's Limits in a World of Ecological Overshoot

October 21, 2013, Huffington Post

To support our lifestyle and regenerate the ecological resources we use, the U.S. would need an ecosystem 1.9 times larger than its actual landmass. Japan's residents consume the ecological resources of 7.1 Japans. Italy's residents consume the ecological resources of 4 Italys, and China the resources of 2.5 Chinas. These and scores of other "ecological debtor" nations deplete their own stocks of fish, trees, and other resources, and import some of the difference from other nations. But much of what they consume the Earth cannot replenish.

Since the 1970s humans have been consuming more renewable resources that Earth can sustain. According to our Global Footprint Network calculations, Earth's annual demand for renewable resources now exceeds what 1.5 Earths could produce sustainably, and before mid-century we will be using twice as many renewable resources as the Earth can replenish.

Wealthy nations also emit more than their share of carbon dioxide into the air and oceans and more than nature can restore to normal. Climate change is the most pressing impact of this excess activity, but there are others -- shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, higher commodity prices and civil unrest, to name a few. To achieve sustainability, we must make ecological limits central to decision making. As per-capita consumption rates grow at the same time the global population increases, we endanger the future of our planet and the quality of our lives.

Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to advance sustainability. In 1990 Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees developed Ecological Footprint, an accounting tool that tracks what nature can provide relative to what people demand. It quantifies every nation's ecological resource demand (Ecological Footprint) against its supply (biocapacity). This allows governments, investors, corporations and opinion leaders to better manage their ecological capital and develop policies that advance sustainable development within Earth's ecological capacity. The demand calculation includes the land and sea area a population uses to consume resources, the ecosystems that absorb waste emissions, and the space used for buildings and roads. The supply calculation tracks how much biologically productive area is available to provide such ecological services.

Global Footprint Network works to make resource accounting as commonplace as tracking GDP, employment, and debt. Like a balance sheet, our annual National Footprint Accounts quantify each nation's ecological footprint, documenting whether that nation is living within or exceeding its ecological budget. Global Footprint Network also produces Country Trends which graphs track patterns of resource demand and availability, a Human Development Initiative which strives to meet human needs while maintaining natural capital, a Competitiveness 2.0 Initiative with a goal to redirect billions of investment dollars toward more sustainable development, a Finance for Change Initiative which leverages the finance industry and capital markets to shift national government policies and investments in a more sustainable direction. The organization also runs the Earth Overshoot Day campaign to spark a global dialogue about how we can facilitate a one-planet future.

Eleven governments have accepted the Ecological Footprint (EF) as an official metric. The WWF International's biennial Living Planet Report highlights the EF of 150 nations, and The United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report 2013 combines EF with its Human Development Index (HDI) to measure well-being by nation. And the New Economics Foundation uses EF to form its Happy Planet Index calculation. Also, more than a million people per year use the individual Ecological Footprint calculator to measure their own nation's footprint. doclink

The State of the World: is it Too Late for Sustainability?

There is plenty of evidence of ecological strain and so far the response has mostly been denial or ignorance. But trouble is coming and we need to respond now.
April 28, 2013, Mail and Guardian

Five months ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers released a report that concluded it was too late to hold the future increase in global average temperatures to just two degrees Celsius. "It's time," the report announced, "to prepare for a warmer world".

At the same time, the World Bank released Turn Down the Heat, which set out why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided. Meanwhile we have seen in the press: the failure of the Rio+20 talks to result in positive action, "zombie" coral reefs, calls for higher birth rates, declining Arctic sea ice, an approaching "state shift" in the earth's biosphere.

In our newest annual report, State of the World 2013 we added an important section, "Open In Case of Emergency."

We should consider ways to upgrade the design of the environmental movement so that it doesn't just respond to immediate threats, such as air pollution and chemical run-off, but helps to cultivate a truly sustainable culture and ground the way we live and think more deeply in ecological reality.

We need to strengthen community roots and social capital, including intergroup networks to bridge different communities. This both inoculates against the worst impacts of disruption and helps with the rebuilding process if it comes to that. We need for the government to be more flexible and responsive to the governed. That requires participation, high skill levels, robust debate, and mutual respect - in other words, a deepened democracy.

The movement for a sustainable future may need to utilize non-violent civil disobedience, especially as things get desperate and governments turn to uncertain solutions such as giant space mirrors, carbon-capturing cement - as quick fixes for a disrupted climate.

There may be some comfort in the lessons learned from Cuba's decline. After the Soviet Union's collapse, Cuba suffered a period of harsh adjustment but has scavenged a culture with a small environmental footprint and remarkably high levels of non-material well-being, including infant mortality rates better than its neighbor to the north.

Science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson says the real question is not "is it too late?" but "how much will we save?" And that will depend on how quickly and boldly we act now. "We can see our present danger, and we can also see our future potential," Robinson explains. "This is not just a dream but a responsibility, a project. And things we can do now to start on this project are all around us, waiting to be taken up and lived." doclink

Karen Gaia says:

1) you can but an electronic copy of State of the World through Amazon for only $3.99 . See http://www.amazon.com/State-World-2013-Sustainability-ebook/dp/B00C4Y9AYM

2) I've been to Cuba and they indeed have developed a wonderful culture of music and art, as well as a decent health care system. I wouldn't mind living there except for the language barrier.

Environment and Development Challenges: the Imperative to Act

February 17, 2012, MAHB - Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere

This paper is a synthesis of the key messages from the individual papers written by the Blue Planet Laureates. It discusses the imperative of action now. The paper does not claim to comprehensively address all environment and development issues, but a sub-set that are deemed to be of particular importance.

We have a dream - a world without poverty - a world that is equitable - a world that respects human rights - a world with increased and improved ethical behavior regarding poverty and natural resources - a world that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, where the challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and social inequity have been successfully addressed. This is an achievable dream, but the current system is deeply flawed and our current pathway will not realise it.

Population size and growth and related consumption patterns are critical elements in the many environmental degradation and social problems we currently face. The population issue should be urgently addressed by education and empowerment of women, including in the work-force and in rights, ownership and inheritance; health care of children and the elderly; and making modern contraception accessible to all.

There is an urgent need to break the link between production and consumption on the one hand and environmental destruction on the other. ... Unsustainable growth is promoted by environmentally-damaging subsidies in areas such as energy, transportation and agriculture and should be eliminated; external environmental and social costs should be internalized; and the market and non-market values of ecosystem goods and services should be taken into account in decision-making.

Governments should recognise the serious limitations of GDP as a measure of economic activity and complement it with measures of the five forms of capital, built, financial, natural, human and social capital,

The world's current commitments to reduce emissions are consistent with at least a 3oC rise (50-50 chance) in temperature: a temperature not seen on the planet for around 3 million years, with serious risks of 5oC rise: a temperature not seen on the planet for around 30 million years

Effective change in governance demands action at many levels to establish transparent means for holding those in power to account. Governance failures also occur because decisions are being made in sectoral compartments, with environmental, social and economic dimensions addressed by separate, competing structures.

There is a need to scale-up the grass roots actions by bringing together a complementary top-down and bottom-up approach to addressing these issues.

Unfortunately, humanity's behavior remains utterly inappropriate for dealing with the potentially lethal fallout from a combination of increasingly rapid technological evolution matched with very slow ethical-social evolution. The human ability to do has vastly outstripped the ability to understand. As a result civilization is faced with a perfect storm of problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, the use of environmentally malign technologies, and gross inequalities.

Total food production has nearly trebled since 1960, per capita production has increased by 30%, and food prices and the percent of undernourished people have fallen, but the benefits have been uneven and more than one billion people still go to bed hungry each night. Furthermore, intensive and extensive food production has caused significant environmental degradation. Aside from the loss of much biodiversity through outright habitat destruction from land clearing, tillage and irrigation methods can lead to salinisation and erosion of soils; fertilizers, rice production and livestock contribute to greenhouse gas emissions; unwise use of pesticides adds to global toxification; and fertilizer runoff plays havoc with freshwater and nearshore saltwater habitats.

One of the key challenges facing the world is to increase agricultural productivity, while reducing its environmental footprint through sustainable intensification, given that the demand for food will likely double in the next 25-50 years, primarily in developing countries. Unfortunately, climate change is projected to significantly decrease agricultural productivity throughout much of the tropics and sub-tropics where hunger and poverty are endemic today.

doclink

Growth Has An Expiration Date

October 23, 2011

(watch the video at http://fora.tv/2011/10/26/Growth_Has_an_Expiration_Date to see a more accurate account and several educational graphs)

Presenter: Tom Murphy, Associate Professor of Physics, University of California San Diego

NPR's Ira Flatow guided a group of some of the world's best thinkers and doers at the Compass Summit situated overlooking the California coastline.

We could not have our marvelous technological society, better quality of life, great medical care if it weren't for surplus energy beyond the subsistence level. It's the surplus energy that's made more food available, that's created a population surge and more industry and economic growth.

Today we use energy at a total worldwide rate equivalent to12 terawatts (TW) of electricity. Historically that's grown 2-3% for year. Looking at the charts comparing, in logarithmic form, financial growth and energy growth history for the United States from 1650 to the present and you see how both energy and economics grew in parallel - the economy at 2.9% and energy at 2.3%. Economic growth went up with the rise of energy use. We can also make use of the fact that the rate of increase is quite constant. Today we use 12 TW and projecting that same growth rate - 2.3% - into 336 years from now we see that we will be using as much power as all the solar energy from the sun that hits all the continents, assuming we had a 100% coverage of all the land with 100% efficient solar panels.

Maybe we think we can make things better and find ways to put more solar panels in the sun, we could get up to 1400 years before we would be forced to level out our worldwide usage. Impossible to see how we would physically do it, but in 2500 years we would be using as much energy that is from all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

This would be the devastation of our financial affairs, so if you're stuck in the mindset of exponential growth you have to realize what the consequences are.

Supposing we were, in 1400 years, using as much energy as the sun through some fantastical device on earth, we still have the problem of dissipating the waste heat that will be generated. It's going get hot due to the laws of thermodynamics - starting with the global average temperature of fifty nine degrees Fahrenheit today, in 430 years it will be hot enough to boil the water on the surface of the planet; and we get the sun surface temperature in less than a thousand years.

The idea of using this much energy is absolutely nuts. The lesson is that we have to abandon growth.

Most economists and everybody we've met and everybody that they've met has experienced this assumption that the world is expected to grow. People think we can still bring up standards of living and we can have efficiency gains and technology innovations to keep marching along but those things cannot become the whole economy.

Let's just look at a snapshot of growth over the last century - the gross world product for this entire world and for the first half of the century grew at about a 2.9% rate, which was the same rate as energy growth - which is striking because that's the same rate at which energy growth occurred. But since 1915 we had economic growth faster than energy which may be taken as an evidence that we can grow without energy and in a way we can. This is considered something of a triumph, but that gap is partly due to increased energy efficiency, partly doing more with less, and any other part is growth in things that are less energy intensive, as in the service sector like clerical work, real estate, and the psychotherapy we have to have to cope with this crazy world.

Improvements in energy efficiency have mostly been made, future improvements will contribute only a tiny percent to savings of energy. We can maybe get a savings by a factor of 2%. If we want to keep the economy growing at 5% the gap between energy and economy will continue to widen, and so some increasing fraction of your economy has to be based on low energy activities such as in the service industry, which will have to grow and grow until it approaches a 100%. Food, manufacturing, transport would have to go.

So we need a model for a steady state economy. If we assume we can solve this problem, we're not working on it. Some argue that we cannot comprehend what will happen 200 years from now. If we do nothing, however, we face the strong possibility of losing so much more.

Let's say that we manage the transition to renewable resource and we can level at our energy - leveling out actually means that we have to live at about fifth of the US energy standard of living because the US has 5% world's population and uses 25% of the energy. But the world also has pollution, degredation, rainforests being chopped down, soil quality, ancient aquifers being pumped out - these are part of the story here. We need about a 10 time increase in throughput , or at least 5.

To give an example of our truly understanding the problem and taking responsibility of it: a child might really want a pony, and you say ok well let's start with a gerbil to see you can manage it - you have feed it, to clean its cage, and if you manage that you get kitten it's more work, clean the litter box. If you can manage that we get a puppy - that's more work - you have to walk it, and if you can manage that we upgrade to goat, now you have a paddock to take care which is more like being a farmer, and if you can do that you get the pony. But we're not even taking care of a gerbil. But we think we deserve a pony, deluding ourselves we continue to talk about pony, pony, pony. Do we deserve to be using the word sustainable because we haven't really understood what it means or what level we can expect to operate sustainably? It's an open question.

The fossil fuel joyride has clouded our judgment. We will start to see the decline in oil soon. We need an upfront energy investment to build a new energy infrastructure to build our way out of this problem. With our smarts and our technology that requires an upfront energy investment to build the infrastructure that's exactly what we're reading short time so we have to intentionally exacerbate to make the problem seem worse in order to start down that path and that's politically very difficult to do, to just put some numbers on.

We have to invest one energy unit per year in renewable energy to get 4 units of output. But there's no energy financing in nature. You can build a windmill on promised energy, but you must have the energy upfront while there is still energy to do it.

When you look at a project and wonder if it is sustainable, ask is this idea really sustainable, or is it based on continued growth, does this help secure merger will or is it just more promise up for a pony? doclink

Karen Gaia says: Some very good points in the article. But we also need to deal with population growth, which simply needs more funding (in billions of dollars, not trillions like war) for family planning, education, reproductive health.

See http://www.mforums.org/showthread.php?tid=104# to join a discussion on this article.

Grieve Appropriately

March 23, 2011, Richard Grossman MD

This is a difficult time for environmentalists. The carbon dioxide level is rising faster than ever, the human population is still growing, measures of environmental quality are deteriorating, and almost no one seems to care.

Politicians can't be expected help. People whose term in office is just a few years cannot be relied on to make rational decisions about the world our grandchildren will inherit.

Let us look to individuals and nonprofit organizations to assure the planet's future.

Realize that you are not responsible for the whole mess. There is only so much that one person can do.

Find groups of people with similar beliefs and concerns. An informal network of people all over the country share concerns about human population growth. With this network I know whom to call on for the answer to a particular question. Environmental concerns seem less terrifying when they are shared. Communicating about them helps to put worries in perspective. This group of population activists also helps chip the rough corners off some of my ideas.

We should also look at our successes. Yes, environmentalists have many successes to celebrate. In the population field we can be thankful that more and more people are realizing the importance of family planning programs.

Perhaps our biggest victory is voluntary use of modern contraception, which has slowed the growth of our population. In 2008, 188 million unintended pregnancies were avoided in the developing world alone. A consequence of this is that a quarter million maternal deaths were prevented and over a million deaths of newborn babies were averted. The CDC named family planning as one of the most important public health achievements in the 20th century!

It is normal to grieve for the deterioration of the natural world. Recognize your grief, share it with friends (and, if necessary, a professional) and do what you can to improve the world. Above all, get outside to enjoy the magnificent planet we live on. doclink

Why and How to Raise Chickens in the City

May 12, 2011, Grist Magazine

by Broke-Ass Grouch

Eggs are Nature's most perfect food with as many ways to fix them as your imagination can accommodate.

Chickens not only are productive earners, they're cheap to buy, feed, and raise. Each hen produces, on average, five eggs a week. Their excreta make perfect fertilizer for other food-growing operations.

You might want to check to see whether your city's municipal code allows for chicken-raising -- and what to do if it doesn't.

Don't get roosters. Hens, when they're alone, just lay eggs. Roosters are what give chicken-raising a noisy name. Roosters are not needed to produce eggs, they are only needed for producing chicks.

City-dwelling hens need 10 square feet of space per bird. Smaller square footage causes chickens to become antsy, aggressive, and less likely to lay productively and more likely to peck each other to death or gross injury. Furthermore, allocating 10 square feet per hen means less maintenance. Tightly packed hens means you'll have to clean out the coop poop as much as once a week; as opposed to once a month for 10 square feet.

Chickens can eat most any of your leftover vegetable or fruit scraps (except citrus). Adding vegetables makes extra nutritious eggs, with lots of omega-3.

When you have no money, it is more vital than ever to do whatever you must to keep some dignity about you. A little self-sufficiency does wonders for the whole mood and world-view of the family ecosystem. Children see that tough circumstances don't break you. doclink

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

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!

UN Secretary General Sees No Easy Solutions, Calls for More Efforts

May 30, 2000, UN Release

Marking today's celebration of World Environment Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan set four priorities to reverse the "deeply troubling trends" as "humans continue to plunder the global environment." A major public education effort for corporations and consumers is the first priority, with schools and civil society groups having a role to play. Environmental issues should be "better integrated into mainstream economic policy," using "green accounting." Governments must enforce environmental agreements that they create, cutting subsidies that sustain environmentally harmful activities and to devising incentives for markets to be more environment-friendly.

Annan also asked for more "sound" scientific information, to help in better policy-making In an Earth Times commentary, Anan writes that "Never in the history of mankind have we done so much, in so little time, to destroy the wonderful ecosystem that sustains us." Environmental issues, Annan says, are inextricably linked to peaceful coexistence, international cooperation and and economic development. doclink

U.S.: Change ... by Bill Denneen

Bill Denneen

Change is always difficult but our culture must change if it is to continue.

There is a movement that is coming from the people/citizens. It has been given a title of Green but I prefer Sustainable. Basically it is change from a high consumption rate to living within the capacity of our habitat. Resources are being depleted as corporations push us to buy, buy, buy.

When the price of gasoline went up American moved in the direction of using less gas. This worried the oil corporations so the price came down. In Europe where the price of gas is about $10. per gallon they walk, ride their bicycles, use bus and trains, have tiny vehicles----many not using any gasoline at all. Hummers SUVs & gas-guzzlers don't even exist in Europe----here they are no longer selling.

Hybrids can not be made fast enough as demand is so high.

The monster houses being built locally and priced at $750,000 and up are not selling. People want small, sustainable, affordable homes.

Bush's 700 billion "bailout" with taxpayer money is designed to continue the monster mansion industry.

Our culture must move in the direction of what many are already doing. I have attempted to become independent of outside energy sources. I live on one acre. The sun shines on this one acre on which I grow bushes & trees-------birds love it. These plants capture the sun's energy by photosynthesis. The plants that grow feed my goats or are burned in my insert fireplace to heat my home in winter. It requires a lot of chopping, cutting & hauling but the sun is providing the energy---not nuclear power (Diablo).

The sun shines on my solar-panels which heat my water. Of course, no sun, no hot water. In summer I have plenty of hot water for my hot tub. In winter or rainy days I have to supplement solar heat with natural gas to heat water for my hot-tub.

The sun activates my photo-voltaic (PV) panels which produces my electricity. There are essentially no P.V.'s or solar panels on any of the estimated 5,000 new houses in Nipomo ----why?

A clothesline dries my laundry-----not Diablo. If you don't dry your laundry in our abundant sun you are part of the over-consuming problem. I got rid of my lawn years ago as it requires a lot of water, pesticides and herbicides. I replaced it with native plants and friendly exotics which the birds love and feed my goats.

I attempt to eat from my one acre. My pork comes from homegrown pigs. Visitors often ask "How can you eat an animal you've named & raised?" It is easy & delicious. My pigs have a happy life with a straw bed, talked to daily and gets petted often. I avoid "factory raised meat" as the animals have a terrible life in small pens & crowded conditions. I do not buy factory raised meat.

I have goats which provides me with plenty of delicious fresh milk with no chemicals. My happy chickens live on the ground, scratch a lot & lay more nutritious eggs than caged, factory raised hens which go for soup after a laying cycle. My 40 hens and 3 roosters live a long life and enrich my farm ambiance so very much.

Children enjoy visiting & are welcome. The 3 roosters have names & personalities all their own. My garden & orchard do provide some food but production is variable. For example I get more blackberries than I could possibly eat for about three weeks in early summer & then "none".

Nipomo doesn't get much rain (13 inch average/year). We are depleting our water supply---over-draft. Water from my inside toilets go to a septic system whose leach lines water my plants. Lines from my shower, hot tub, sink and laundry all go to water plants. My outside toilet doesn't even use any water & fertilizes my trees. I enjoy listening to the birds & seeing the sun come up.

The large mansions that Bush's 700 billion bailout is attempting to continue is the wrong direction. Small sustainable homes, bicycles and consuming less is the future. The auto industry learned the hard way when the SUV's, Hummers & Cadillacs stopped selling. If there is to be a future-----sustainable living will have to be the emphasis. The bailout is an attempt of our leaders to keep us buying.

If there is to be a future for America we must change to sustainable living. Our current leadership is headed us in the wrong direction-----democracy CAN work----speak up !! For further reading go to Al Gore's article in the most recent Mother Jones magazine page 38. Some of his comments: "The survival of the United States as we know it is at risk", "...the future of human civilization is at stake", "Were borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet.", "We need to act now." doclink

Bringing Together Nations To Check Earth's Pulse

October 18, 2004, Washington Post

The NOAA is America's best bet for solving problems of poor air quality and an expanding global population. From assessing climate change to providing transportation-related weather forecasts, NOAA is an information center for U.S. and international officials and is bringing together 51 nations to establish a more sophisticated monitoring system for the land, sea and air. The proposed network of thousands of weather stations, buoys, ships and aircraft will take the globe's pulse and transmit the information 24 hours a day. It could transform the way farmers plant their crops and shippers plot their courses. By mid-February, the project's coalition will announce a 10-year plan to accomplish its mission. Activists are still awaiting more aggressive regulation from NOAA to protect deep-sea corals and reduce the incidental catch of fish and other species. doclink

Eco-Economy Indicators: Trends to Track

January 26, 2003, Earth Policy Institute

Population size is the universal denominator being the best single measure of the pressure on the environment. It combines the effects of population growth and individual consumption. ... Economic Growth - with consumption-driven economy, economic growth is the best single measure of the mounting pressure on the earth's environment. ... World Fish Catch measures the health of the oceanic ecosystem where demand is outrunning sustainable stocks. ... Forest Cover - the shrinkage of forests means that capacity to supply wood products is diminished, also the capacity for flood control, soil protection, and the purification of water. ... Carbon Emissions provide clues about the kind of world for future generations. ... Grain Production reflects population growth and its rise in consumption of grain-fed livestock products. ... Water Scarcity - data shows that aquifers are depleted and the water supply is reduced. ... Ice Melting is one of the visible effects of rising temperature; its melting raises sea level. ... Wind Electric Generating Capacity - the rate at which wind generating capacity is expanding compared with fossil fuels gives us a sense of how fast the eco-economy is unfolding.... Bicycle Production - sales measure our ability to reduce traffic congestion, lower air pollution, increase mobility, and provide exercise. ... Solar Cell Production - solar cells are years behind wind power, but sales in 2001 represent by far the largest annual sales to date. As it continues to fall, the cost will cross a critical threshold where production will begin to jump. doclink

Water and Population Dynamics

American Association for the Advancement of Science

-American Association for the
Advancement of Science

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Global Ecological Integrity and Sustainable development: Cornerstones of Public Health

World Health Organization

Humans, like other forms of life on Earth, are dependent upon the capability both of local ecosystems and of the global ecosphere for maintaining health. However, in relatively recent times, humans, particularly in industrialized countries, have developed an erroneous perception of being separate from nature's processes. Many different measurement techniques show that current global patterns of human activity - over-consumption, population growth and inappropriate use of technology - are unsustainable and are likely to have profound consequences for human health. Major changes in policies that govern society are to be sought if emerging trends in ecosystem degradation resulting from human activities are to be arrested. Rational changes in policy will require the availability of scientific information appropriate to measuring global changes. Mainstream economics continues to assume that consumption-based economic growth is the essence of development, persistently disregarding questions of fairness and equity, and displaying an uncritical technological optimism. The "technological fix" ideology reaffirms the unfortunate belief that "human survival is independent of nature". Human population health under such a model of development is placed at increasing risk as resources (i.e. Potential solutions lie in models that focus more on social, informational and service-based "development" than on "growth". The challenges for science and society are unprecedented. Vigorous public discourse, engaging all regions of the world and all sectors of society, is urgently needed. With public support, policy -makers would be enabled to acknowledge the problem and to implement corrective policies. doclink

Population Growth Sentencing Millions to Hydrological poverty

Worldwatch Institute

  At a time when drought in the United States, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan is in the news, it is easy to forget that far more serious water shortages are emerging as the demand for water in many countries simply outruns the supply. Water tables are now falling on every continent. Scores of countries face water shortages as water tables fall and wells go dry. Governments can no longer separate population policy from the supply of water. Most of the estimated 3 billion people to be added in the next 50 years will be born in countries already experiencing water shortages, lacking enough water to drink, satisfy hygienic needs, and to produce food. In the following water-short countries, population will grow in 50 years by large numbers: India will add 519 million (half again), China 211 million, Pakistan 200 million (now at 151 million), and Egypt, Iran, and Mexico, will increase by half again. China, India, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, and the U.S. overpump and deplete aquifers at 160 billion cubic meters annually. Since it takes it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain, this 160-billion-ton water deficit is equal to 160 million tons of grain or one half the U.S. grain harvest. 480 million of the world's 6 billion people are being fed with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water. 70% of the water consumed worldwide is used for irrigation, 20% by industry, and 10% for residential purposes. But agriculture almost always loses to industry. The 1,000 tons of water used in India to produce 1 ton of wheat worth perhaps $200 can also be used to expand industrial output by easily $10,000, or 50 times as much. In the American West, the sale of irrigation water rights by farmers to cities is an almost daily occurrence. Migration to cities means that residential use of water triples due to indoor plumbing. The average U.S. diet which includes meat requires 800 kilograms of grain per person a year, compared to 200 kilograms for people eating starchy diet in India and other countries. Four times the consumption of grain equates to 4 times as much water. Water short countries that have begun to industrialize are finding it is better to import grain than to grow it. If we decided abruptly to stabilize water tables everywhere by simply pumping less water, the world grain harvest would fall by some 160 million tons, or 8%. Recommendations are to eliminate the water subsidies that foster inefficiency, raise the price of water to reflect its cost, and shift to more water-efficient technologies. June 21, 2000 World Watch 

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Water: In Short Supply. This article cites statistics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health: 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will experience water shortages in the next 25 years. 31 countries already"> Water: in Short Supply.

This article cites statistics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health: 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will experience water shortages in the next 25 years. 31 countries already face shortages. The study said "it is important to act now" by slowing human population growth, conserving water and avoiding water pollution. Sydney Austrailia has a state-of-the-art water system that shows signs of Giardia and Cryptospondium. Even after a major upgrade of the system, the levels tested higher than before. 09/01/98 Britannica.Com Earth Island Journal

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Population And water

National Wildlife Federation

A National Wildlife Federation Fact Sheet.

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Water and Population Dynamics

American Association for the Advancement of Science

-American Association for the
Advancement of Science

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Agricultural & Water Solutions

Four Important Lessons From Cuba's Urban Food Survival Strategy

July 25, 2016, Worldwatch Institute   By: Aurel Keller

Before its collapse, the USSR bought Cuban sugar at subsidized prices. The end of that subsidy coincided with a global fall of sugar prices in the late 1980s, leaving Cuba with little export profit and a large food crisis. But since then Cuban agriculture has made a radical departure away from authoritarian state control, and largely to sustainable agriculture and urban farming, making Cuba a regional leader in sustainable agricultural research.

Although the Cuban state and the Ministry of Agriculture got through the initial crisis largely with austerity measures, they also changed policies. State-run farms became employee-owned co-ops, and small-farm distribution programs were greatly expanded. In 1992 Article 27 of the Cuban constitution made this new approach official state policy. For the last thirty years the small farmer organization, ANAP, has worked with farmers, teaching them better farming practices and promoting employee-owned cooperatives where farmers pool their resources. Working with university research projects, ANAP helped improve farming practices. This was successful to the point that farmers now produce 60% of Cuba's produce using just 25% of the farmland required in 2003.

A nationwide survey showed Cuba having 530,000 small farm plots and backyard gardens, 6,400 intensive gardens, and 4,000 high-yielding organopónicos in 2013. Cities like Havana were able to meet up to 70% of food needs from local urban farms and gardens. Although Cuba's successes relied partly on favorable climate and soil conditions, the country's scientific frameworks and practices are timeswidely applicable in other regions. For example, urban agriculture has been practiced in Havana since the 1800s, making it an ideal petri dish for development and innovation under Cuban programs.

A UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report details Cuba's organopónicos system for building healthy soils. It has substantially lower environmental and input costs than traditional industrial agriculture. Fuel costs, stemming primarily from the cost of transporting compost needed for soil building, were reduced by over 85%. A nationwide campaign encouraged people to use organopónicos to raise food for their own consumption. Campaign offices and support infrastructure in each district helped to provide technical and input support, producing compost, improved seeds, and other inputs. As of 2013, Havana district had 97 organopónicos farms, and the program is now being tested throughout the nation.

Within Cuba's practices and institutions lies a model for localized and small-scale urban agriculture. doclink

Cuba's Sustainable Agriculture at Risk in U.S. Thaw

March 25, 2016, The Conversation   By: Miguel Altieri

President Obama's trip to Cuba this week accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens.

But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead.

For the past 35 years I have studied agroecology in most countries in Central and South America. Agroecology is an approach to farming that developed in the late 1970s in Latin America as a reaction against the top-down, technology-intensive and environmentally destructive strategy that characterizes modern industrial agriculture. It encourages local production by small-scale farmers, using sustainable strategies and combining Western knowledge with traditional expertise.

Cuba took this approach out of necessity when its economic partner, the Soviet bloc, dissolved in the early 1990s. As a result, Cuban farming has become a leading example of ecological agriculture.

But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved.

The shift to peasant agroecology

For several decades after Cuba's 1959 revolution, socialist bloc countries accounted for nearly all of its foreign trade.

The government devoted 30 percent of agricultural land to sugarcane for export, while importing 57 percent of Cuba's food supply. Farmers relied on tractors, massive amounts of pesticide and fertilizer inputs, all supplied by Soviet bloc countries. By the 1980s agricultural pests were increasing, soil quality was degrading and yields of some key crops like rice had begun to decline.

When Cuban trade with the Soviet bloc ended in the early 1990s, food production collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

But then farmers started adopting agroecological techniques, with support from Cuban scientists.

Thousands of oxen replaced tractors that could not function due to lack of petroleum and spare parts. Farmers substituted green manures for chemical fertilizers and artisanally produced biopesticides for insecticides. At the same time, Cuban policymakers adopted a range of agrarian reform and decentralization policies that encouraged forms of production where groups of farmers grow and market their produce collectively.

As Cuba reoriented its agriculture to depend less on imported chemical inputs and imported equipment, food production rebounded. From 1996 though 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2 percent yearly during a period when production was stagnant across Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the mid-2000s, the Ministry of Agriculture dismantled all "inefficient state companies" and government-owned farms, endorsed the creation of 2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and allowed farming on some three million hectares of unused state lands.

Urban gardens, which first sprang up during the economic crisis of the early 1990s, have developed into an important food source.

Today Cuba has 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square meter, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70 percent or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

The risks of opening up

Now Cuba's agriculture system is under increasing pressure to deliver harvests for export and for Cuba's burgeoning tourist markets. Part of the production is shifting away from feeding local and regional markets, and increasingly focusing on feeding tourists and producing organic tropical products for export.

President Obama hopes to open the door for U.S. businesses to sell goods to Cuba. In Havana last Monday during Obama's visit, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed an agreement with his Cuban counterpart, Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, to promote sharing of ideas and research.

"U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba's need for healthy, safe, nutritious food," Vilsack said. The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, which was launched in 2014 to lobby for an end to the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo, includes more than 100 agricultural companies and trade groups. Analysts estimate that U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba could reach US$1.2 billion if remaining regulations are relaxed and trade barriers are lifted, a market that U.S. agribusiness wants to capture.

When agribusinesses invest in developing countries, they seek economies of scale. This encourages concentration of land in the hands of a few corporations and standardization of small-scale production systems. In turn, these changes force small farmers off of their lands and lead to the abandonment of local crops and traditional farming ways. The expansion of transgenic crops and agrofuels in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia since the 1990s are examples of this process.

If U.S. industrial agriculture expands into Cuba, there is a risk that it could destroy the complex social network of agroecological small farms that more than 300,000 campesinos have built up over the past several decades through farmer-to-farmer horizontal exchanges of knowledge.

This would reduce the diversity of crops that Cuba produces and harm local economies and food security. If large businesses displace small-scale farmers, agriculture will move toward export crops, increasing the ranks of unemployed. There is nothing wrong with small farmers capturing a share of export markets, as long as it does not mean neglecting their roles as local food producers. The Cuban government thus will have to protect campesinos by not importing food products that peasants produce.

Cuba still imports some of its food, including U.S. products such as poultry and soybean meal. Since agricultural sales to Cuba were legalized in 2000, U.S. agricultural exports have totaled about $5 billion. However, yearly sales have fallen from a high of $658 million in 2008 to $300 million in 2014.

U.S. companies would like to regain some of the market share that they have lost to the European Union and Brazil.

There is broad debate over how heavily Cuba relies on imports to feed its population: the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that imports make up 60 to 80 percent of Cubans' caloric intake, but other assessments are much lower.

In fact, Cuba has the potential to produce enough food with agroecological methods to feed its 11 million inhabitants. Cuba has about six million hectares of fairly level land and another million gently sloping hectares that can be used for cropping. More than half of this land remains uncultivated, and the productivity of both land and labor, as well as the efficiency of resource use, in the rest of this farm area are still low.

We have calculated that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

President Raul Castro has stated that while opening relations with the U.S. has some benefits,

We will not renounce our ideals of independence and social justice, or surrender even a single one of our principles, or concede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty. We have won this sovereign right with great sacrifices and at the cost of great risks. Cuba's small farmers control only 25 percent of the nation's agricultural land but produce over 65 percent of the country's food, contributing significantly to the island's sovereignity. Their agroecological achievements represent a true legacy of Cuba's revolution. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Cuba is a good example of a fairly sustainable country and a lifestyle humans could follow in order to be sustainable.

How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change

February 1, 2013, TED Talks   By: Allan Savory

"Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert," begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it's happening to about two-thirds of the world's grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes - and his work so far shows - that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert. doclink

Soil Solutions to Climate Problems

November 19, 2015, You Tube   By: Center for Food Safety

A powerful solution to the climate crisis can be found right beneath our feet-in the soil.

By harnessing the immense power of photosynthesis, we can convert atmospheric carbon, a problem, into soil carbon, a solution. Emerging science proves that shifting to regenerative forms of agriculture such as agroecology, agroforestry, cover-cropping, holistic grazing and permaculture will allow us to store excess carbon safely in the ground. doclink

"Save Water, Eat Plants!" Citizens' Action Campaign

September 13, 2015, TruthorDrought.com

Making the connection between animal-based diets & increasing water scarcity. doclink

Thinking Big on Climate Change Adaptation: Scaling Rainfed Agriculture Projects in India

August 24, 2015, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Moushumi Chaudhury, Shreyas Srivatsa and Lubaina Rangwala

About 40% of India's food demand is met by rainfed agriculture in regions where less than 40% of farmland is irrigated. But increased droughts and rising temperatures brought by a changing climate threaten food production and farming patterns. Solutions for Indian farmers include improving water and soil management, and planting drought-resistant crops, but millions of farmers have not adapted.

Small-scale adaptation projects in India's rainfed regions focus on impoverished villages and high levels of climate uncertainty and drought. A total of 42 villages were chosen for the pilot initiatives, and the pilot villages had an average of 95 households. Many show potential to expand to meet the adaptation challenge. Activities include crop, soil, livestock and pest management, as well as water conservation to help farmers cope with drought and climate uncertainty. Self-help groups were set up in villages to ensure community participation and ownership of the project at every stage. Getting the community to believe in these activities, help implement them and report on results is critical to bring this kind of adaptation project to scale. Engaging with communities ensures that their view of success is integrated into scaling adaptation activities.

A network was organized to promote and coordinate the sharing of knowledge on adaptation activities across organizations and geographies. This helps to transfer and expand adaptation activities from one village to the next, which is an important factor to enable scaling. The biggest challenge, however, has been to comprehensively monitor and evaluate adaptation progress to continuously demonstrate how the project benefits farmers as the project is implemented across the state. doclink

California's Drought: the Canary in the Coalmine?

June 30, 2015, OpenDemocracy   By: Maude Barlow

In April, Governor Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions in drought stricken California for the first time in history. Climate change was named as the culprit.

Drastically-reduced snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has lowered the amount of run-off that the state depends on for water renewal. But that is not the only variable.

For decades, there has been massive engineering of the state's water supplies through pipelines, canals and aqueducts in order to supply a small number of powerful farmers in California's Central Valley. Agriculture uses 80% of California's water, much of it to grow water-intensive crops for export. Alfalfa hay which is mostly exported to Japan, uses 15% of the state's water. Almonds -- 80% of the world's production -- use another 10%.

Because renewable supplies are meager, farmers now mercilessly mine groundwater to produce their crops. If this continues, groundwater will be depleted in many parts of the state.

California's new restrictions only apply to urban centers and not to the big agricultural producers who hold powerful political sway in the state. Some of these corporate agribusinesses, who own secure water rights, also hoard, buy and sell their water on the market.

Many fracking and bottled water operations throughout the state are also harming and depleting local water supplies.

In California, as in so many parts of the world, water is increasingly treated as a form of private property, and powerful forces resist any attempt by governments to limit their consumption and trading.

Most people are raised on the 'myth of abundance,' believing that we can never run out of water. Like most myths, this one is wrong. The United Nations now says that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40% at the global level.

Five hundred scientists have concluded that the collective abuse of water has already caused the planet to enter into a "new geologic age"-a "planetary transformation" akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Removing water from water-retentive landscapes affects the climate in dramatic and negative ways. Cutting down the Amazon rainforest has led to a perilous drop in rainfall, for example. For the first time in living memory, the once water-rich city of Sao Paulo in Brazil is experiencing severe drought.

Our legal and political establishments perpetuate, protect and legitimize the continued degradation of the earth by design, not by accident. Most laws to protect the environment and other species only regulate the amount of damage that can be inflicted by human activity.

But communities around the world are creating a new form of civil rights movement to assert their right to protect their local environment from harmful mining, fracking, pipeline and other invasive practices. In this process, "communities will become true stewards of their ecosystems, protecting and upholding these natural rights" as Shannon Biggs puts it, the founder of US-based group Movement Rights.

The solutions to water security in California and the wider world must be based on the same fundamental principles. Communities must be given more authority. Water plunder must stop. And governments have to stand up to the powerful industries and other private interests that are destroying water right across the globe.

Private industry should not be allowed to own or control water, and anyone found polluting water must be denied future access. Water is the common heritage of humanity and of future generations. It must never be bought, hoarded, sold or traded on the open market.

California is the 'canary in the coal mine.' There is no place on earth that can be safe, secure or healthy in a world that is running out of water.

To save water for people and the planet, we must all find a new relationship to water, consuming much less and taking care of all water everywhere as if it were the next glass we ourselves are going to drink. The world's water is a commons that must be more justly shared, that's true, but it must also be protected fiercely by everyone. doclink

Sustainable Living and Consumption

China is Encouraging Its Citizens to Eat Less Meat - and That Could Be a Big Win for the Climate

May 27, 2016, Washington Post   By: Chelsea Harvey

The Chinese government has released an updated set of dietary guidelines that reduce the lower daily value for meat and poultry from 50 grams to 40 grams. Altogether, the guidelines suggest limiting meat, poultry, fish and dairy consumption to 200 grams daily. The upper meat and poultry consumption remains unchanged at 75 grams per day.

However the average meat consumption in China is still higher than either the old or the new guidelines recommend, averaging over 300 grams per day and continuing to increase.

If such reductions were to actually occur, it could be a major win for the environment. Agriculture is one of the primary contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of methane and nitrous oxide - when forestry and other land use changes are factored in, the agriculture sector may account for as much as a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Farm emissions need to fall by a billion tons per year by the year 2030 if we're to meet our global climate goals under the Paris Agreement.

Meat and especially beef production -are one of the biggest culprits because they require huge amounts of land, water and food. Plus cattle are infamous for belching large quantities of methane into the atmosphere. And cattle raising, in particular, is known for being a major contributor to deforestation, which also drives up global carbon emissions.

Recently, the World Resources Institute released a report outlining the changes in land use and greenhouse gas emissions that would accompany a number of hypothetical global diet shifts. And researchers from the University of Oxford suggested that a more plant-based diet worldwide could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by anywhere from 29 to 70%. Lead author Marco Springmann of the University of Oxford, noted that reducing China's average red meat consumption by about 100 grams per day in the year 2050 could help avert 2.2 million deaths and cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by more than a billion metric tons.

Since average meat consumption has remained high, it appears that more efforts may be necessary to draw consumer attention to the recommendations.

Richard Waite, an associate in the World Resources Institute's food program and one of the authors on the recent WRI report, said "According to the China Health and Nutrition Survey, in 2011, per capita consumption of meat and dairy was nearly twice as high in urban areas as in rural areas." he said. "So the new guidelines might still mean that some people...would actually consume more meat and dairy than they do now."

The focus on China is important, given the country's large (and increasing) population and its current status as the world's leading contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. But in the U.S., average per capita meat consumption remains even higher.

"What our program tries to do is communicate the benefits of climate friendly behaviors,” Grager said. "In the interest of eating healthy or eating reduced meat, the idea is that this is healthy for you and it's healthy for the planet, so it's a win-win situation. I would say that any country where it's either a large population or that consumes a lot of meat, this would be a key message both for personal health and for climate change.” doclink

Protein Scorecard

April 15, 2016, World Resources Institute - WRI


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This Ingenious Machine Turns Feces Into Drinking Water

January 5, 2015, GatesNotes   By: Bill Gates

I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water.

Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren't properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically. If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy.

The project is called the Omniprocessor, and it was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle. I recently went to Janicki's headquarters to check out an Omniprocessor before the start of a pilot project in Senegal. The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean-or at a treatment facility that doesn't actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely.

The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity. If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry. doclink

The Happy Planet Index

December 11, 2014, Happy Planet Index

Did you know that Bangladesh scored higher than the U.S. on the Happy Planet Index?

Each of the three component measures - life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint - is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance. These scores are combined to an expanded six-colour traffic light for the overall HPI score, where, to achieve bright green - the best of the six colours, a country would have to perform well on all three individual components. The scores for the HPI and the component measures can be viewed in map or table-form. By clicking on any individual country in the map or table you can explore its results in more detail.
. . . more doclink

Consumption

The Circular Economy

A new relationship with our goods and materials would save resources and energy and create local jobs
March 23, 2016, Nature magazine   By: Walter R. Stahel

A large and growing population should plan to prevent avoidable resource depletion and generate as little waste and pollution as possible. The Circular Economy (CE) concept attempts to meet those objectives. Manufacturing is designed to produce quality products that get recycled, restored and regenerated in the circular system. Biological products are designed to safely reenter the biosphere. Two articles from the Journal Nature, summarized below, describe CE goals, plans and applications.

Walter R. Stahel explains how a new relationship with our goods and materials would save resources and energy and create local jobs.

As labor costs increased over the years, the number of repair shops and auto salvage yards declined in affluent nations, and many repair and salvage operations were sent to underdeveloped nations where labor costs are low. In our current economy, new things replace old things, and old things get discarded and often create disposal problems. Even with quality products, people have considered long-term use undesirable, rather than resourceful. Industrialized nations now burn through energy and resources by creating disposable products using automated production to reduce man hours and maximize worker productivity. This so-called "linear" or "throw-away" economic model has become our conventional means of production.

But current sustainability concerns over resource security, waste disposal, and greenhouse-gas emissions force us to view materials as assets to be preserved, rather than consumed. In the early 1970s, both unemployment and energy prices were rising. Geneviève Reday-Mulvey and the author proposed a solution to the European Commission at the Battelle Research Centre in Geneva. They noted that refurbishing existing buildings and products requires more labor and fewer resources than making new ones. CE is based on refinements of this concept. Products at the end of their service lives are converted back into resources for other products, closing loops in industrial ecosystems and minimizing waste. This changes the basis of economic logic: reuse what you can, recycle what cannot be reused, repair what is broken, and remanufacture what cannot be repaired. CE adds manpower to reduce energy consumption and create new jobs in the process. And CE is practical. A study of seven European nations found that shifting to CE production would reduce each nation's greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 70% and grow its workforce by about 4% - the ultimate low-carbon economy.

CE business models fall in two groups: those that turn old goods into recycled materials and those that foster reuse and extend service life through repair, remanufacture, upgrades and retrofits. Both save energy and give people jobs. CE creates wealth by making things last. But since this model reverses conventional practice, selling the concept meets substantial resistance. Only during the last ten years have we seen a sizeable shift toward CE projects. South Korea, China and the U.S. have started research programs to foster CE by boosting remanufacturing and reuse, and there are many more examples. But few researchers have taken note. As new methods are proving effective in industrial applications, they must become part of academic and vocational training. Businesses will need graduates with the economic and technical know-how to change business models. Scientists will need to scan the horizon for CE innovations, and governments and regulators will need to incentivize, promote and coordinate CE innovations.

The ultimate goal is to recycle back to the raw material level. We will need new technologies to de-polymerize, de-alloy, de-laminate, de-vulcanize and de-coat materials. This is already done for some metals. The Brussels-based company Umicore extracts gold and copper from electronic waste. The Swiss firm Batrec removes zinc and ferromanganese from batteries. These processes are energy-intensive and recover the metals only partly. We need improved technologies to close the recovery loop.

CE fits in well with a performance economy that focuses on solutions instead of products. For example, Michelin has since 2007 sold tire use 'by the mile' to operators of vehicle fleets. Michelin then benefits from maximum product longevity and reusability. It has developed mobile workshops to refurbish tires at clients' premises and aims to develop products with longer service lives.

Implementing CE will take concerted action on several fronts. Research and innovation are needed at all levels - social, technological and commercial. Economists and environmental and materials scientists need to assess the ecological impacts and costs and benefits of products. Designing products for reuse with modular systems and standardized components should become the norm.

Lessons from China

While China consumes more resources and produces more waste than any other nation, it also has planned the most advanced solutions, say John A. Mathews and Hao Tan.

As it works to achieve a more circular economy, China starts from a low baseline. It consumes world resources at record levels and uses about five times more materials to generate US$1 of GDP than the OECD countries. To produce 46% of global aluminum, 50% of steel and 60% of the world's cement in 2011, it consumed 25.2 billion tons of raw materials, more than the combined total of the 34 OECD nations, and in 2025 it is expected to produce almost one-quarter of the world's municipal solid waste. Such levels of consumption and waste will stress both the nation and the planet. What's more, with 30% of its imports being fuels and minerals, China grows increasingly dependent on exports form unstable parts of the world.

But for the past decade, China has led the world in promoting the recirculation of waste materials through setting targets and adopting policies, financial measures and legislation. Progress has been modest and the obstacles to transforming the economy have been formidable, but no other nation has set such ambitious objectives or is working harder to meet them.

Western nations have tried for decades to get companies to collaborate along a supply chain. Yokohama, Japan; in Ulsan, South Korea; and in Kwinana, Australia have set up small-scale projects to use waste products of one firm as the raw materials of another. The U.S. has hundreds of corporate recycling initiatives but only a handful of regional programs like San Francisco's Zero Waste scheme. China has the advantage that more than half of its manufacturing activities are conducted in easy-to-target industrial parks and export processing zones. For example, 4,000 manufacturing firms operate in the Suzhou New District near Shanghai. Printed circuit board manufacturers now recycle copper for reuse elsewhere in the park.

After observing German and Japanese recycling laws in the 1990s, China's State Council issued a policy paper noting the economic and environmental risks of the nation's heavy resource use in 2005 and called for CE methods of dealing with them. China's 11th Five-Year Plan (for 2006-10) devoted a chapter to CE, and the idea was further upgraded in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15). A fund was allocated to coordinate industrial park activities. Reusers received tax breaks and assistance financing the up-front costs. The nation's planning agency and bodies such as the Ministry of Environmental Protection worked to implement the strategy. In 2008, a CE 'promotion law' demanded that local and provincial governments join forces in their investment and development strategies. Targets were enacted for the coal, steel, electronics, chemical and petrochemical industries.

Objectives included raising resource productivity and reusing 72% of industrial solid waste by 2015. The plan laid included 10 major programs focusing on recycling industrial wastes, conversion of industrial parks, remanufacturing; 100 demonstration cities such as Suzhou and Guangzhou; and 1,000 demonstration enterprises or industrial parks nationwide. In 2012, the plan called for 50% of national industrial parks and 30% of provincial ones to complete CE transformation initiatives by 2015, with an aim of achieving close to zero discharge of pollutants. In 2013, the State Council released the world's first national strategy for achieving CE goals. Further targets for 2015 included increasing energy productivity by 18.5% relative to 2010, raising water productivity by 43%, and for the output of the recycling industry to reach 1.8 trillion yuan (US$276 billion) compared with 1 trillion yuan in 2010. Others include reusing at least 75% of coal mining refuse or 70% of pulverized fuel ash, a product of coal combustion, from electricity generation. The 13th Five Year Plan extended some of these targets.

By 2013, resource intensity and waste intensity had improved by 34.7% and 46.5%, respectively, a clear sign that resource consumption (of metal, water, energy and biomass) is decoupling from economic growth in relative terms. Pollution treatment rates increased by 74.6%, but the recycling and reuse of waste improved only 8.2%. An all-factors index showed a 37.6% improvement between 2005 and 2013. China's resource intensity fell from 4.3 kilograms of materials per unit GDP in 1990 to 2.5 kilograms in 2011. However, China's economic boom resulted in an overall fivefold resource consumption increase during those two decades, from 5.4 billion tons to 25.2 billion tons.

Recycled, regenerated and locally sourced raw materials usually helped increase profits. But some industries lend themselves to CE initiatives more than others. For example, recirculation of metal scrap is straightforward, but extracting metal from industrial sludge is more chemically demanding. China's move away from primary industries to secondary ones, such as solar-panel manufacturing, will reap CE benefits, and increasing reliance on home-regenerated materials rather than imports will increase the country's resource security.

China must still do much more. It needs a national goal and road map to achieve a level of resource intensity that is similar to that of OECD countries (currently around 0.5 kilograms per dollar of GDP). It needs better CE metrics. The circular-economy index of China's statistics bureau needs clarification on what it means and what it measures. And it must champion regional and provincial achievements, giving rewards to eco-industrial parks that perform best. For that it will need more accurate and timely measurements and reporting.

Mainstream economics perpetuates linear thinking with concepts such as GDP and the use of GDP growth as a sole performance measure for national economies. Performance measures such as circulation of resources need to be introduced into economists' models, to create an interest in the real flow of resources that underpins abstractions such as income and wealth. In our view, the only solution to the world's resource-security problem is to replace the linear economy with CE. China's strategies are a significant step forwards in bridging the global gap between economic and ecological sustainability. doclink

Eating Less Meat Essential to Curb Climate Change, Says Report

Global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transport but fear of a consumer backlash is preventing action, says Chatham House report
December 2, 2014, Guardian   By: Damian Carrington

An anallysis from the thinktank Chatham House reveals that the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. However, twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming, according to a survey from Ipsos MORI.

Rob Bailey, the report's lead author said "A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector."

Keeping meat eating to levels recommended by health authorities would not only lower emissions but also reduce heart disease and cancer.

The report shows that soaring meat demand in China and elsewhere could tip the world's climate into chaos. Emissions from livestock, largely from burping cows and sheep and their manure, currently make up almost 15% of global emissions. Beef and dairy alone make up 65% of all livestock emissions.

Meat consumption is expected to rise 75% by 2050, compared with 40% for cereals.

Two other studies show that agricultural emissions will take up the entire world's carbon budget by 2050, with livestock a major contributor. Every other sector -- energy, industry and transport -- would have to be zero carbon to keep within the budget. "Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2C."

The consumer survey in the report found a link between the awareness of climate change impacts and the willingness to change behavior. Acceptance that human activities cause climate change was significantly higher in China, India and Brazil than in the US, UK and Japan.

Brigitte Alarcon of WWF said: "We can cut a quarter of our climate emissions from the European food supply chain by eating more pulses, fruit and vegetables and by reducing our meat consumption. National governments should improve food education to encourage healthy eating habits and environmental sustainability as a first step."

In the UK a YouGov poll found 20% saying they have cut the amount of meat they eat over the last year, with only 5% say they are eating more.

Prof Keith Richards, at the University of Cambridge said: "This is not a radical vegetarian argument; it is an argument about eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets." doclink

Karen Gaia says: The minimum daily requirement for protein is about 50 grams. The average American consumes at least twice that. Vegans manage without eating meat and get all of their protein from plants. A good plan would be to get about 50 grams from animal protein and the rest from animal protein.

Bioregionalism

Redefining Socialism in Cuba

September 18, 2015, Counterpunch   By: Garry Leech

It sounds like Cuba is a good model of sustainability; we could follow its example

Havana, a major draw for foreign tourists, is home to 2.2 million Cubans. During the blockade, the country responded to the shortage of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers by becoming the world's leader in organic agriculture, now more than 80% of Cuba's agricultural production organic.

Cuba has one doctor for approximately every one hundred families, resulting in a ratio of physicians per 1,000 people , that is twice as high as in the United States. Cuba's emerging worker democracy through cooperatives occurs in agricultural production, as well as in the selling of products.

What Cuba is attempting to avoid are the gross inequalities that inevitably result from monopoly corporate capitalism where workers have no meaningful voice in their daily work lives.

Only 20% of the world's population live in the manner of people in the capitalist nations of North America and Europe.

For much more, go to: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/18/redefining-socialism-in-cuba doclink