World Population Awareness

Sustainability, Resource Depletion

Population is not of concern if there are enough resources to go around. Important resources like water of suitable quality for growing crops, drinking, cooking, and cleanliness, fertile soil for growing food and trees, and fuel for warmth and cooking. Depletion of important resources leads to poverty, disease, malnutrion and often death. Impoverished people are usually forced to destroy their environment in order to survive. Sustainability is the practice of conservation that will allow people to have enough resources through their life and the lives of future generations. Sustainability is possible by conserving energy, materials, resources, by new technologies, and by ensuring that the number of births is low enough so that there is enough to go around.   Sustainability and Population Karen Gaia Pitts doclink

Carrying Capacity and Ecological Footprints

Breed Like Rabbits and Reverse Population Decline, Poles Urged

Health ministry releases video praising the healthy lifestyle and reproduction of rabbits to encourage couples to have more children
November 8, 2017, Guardian

The Polish government is encouraging citizens to go forth and multiply - like rabbits.

The health ministry of Poland has put out a short YouTube video praising rabbits for producing a lot of offspring.

It is the latest step by the conservative government in this mostly Catholic country of 38 million to reverse a shrinking population. European Union figures show that Poland's birth rate was 1.32 children per woman in 2015. Portugal had a lower fertility rate, and Spain and Greece were almost as low as Poland.

The video is no longer available on YouTube. doclink

Karen Gaia says: check out this map and you will see that Poland's Ecological footprint, per person, exceeds its per person Biocapacity. Enlarging the population would only make it worse.

Korea Footprint

September 3, 2016, Global Footprint Network

The Ecological Footprint shows how great is human demand for and the ecosystems' supply of natural resources and services such as food, wood, cotton for clothing, space for cities and roads, and carbon dioxide sequestration. This demand is met both domestically and by distant locations around the world.

On average, Korean residents have an Ecological Footprint eight times larger than what their country's ecosystems can provide (biocapacity).

Fisheries are the largest component of Korea's biocapacity.

Korea's carbon footprint makes up 73% of its Ecological Footprint, larger than the world average of 60%. Transitioning to renewable energy is one of the most powerful ways for Korea to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and Ecological Footprint.

Korea's top trade partners are running ecological deficits or have high and growing Ecological Footprints (United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia).

Food; personal transportation; and household energy (electricity, gas and other fuels) are the three top contributors to Korea's Ecological Footprint and are the areas where individuals, governments, and businesses can make the most difference.

Resource security is becoming increasingly important for the world, and for Korea. As one of the most innovative countries, Korea is well positioned to build a resource efficient economy that provides for a thriving society within the means of nature. WWF's One Planet Perspective suggests a way to such a sustainable future. doclink

Human Footprint Surprisingly Outpaced by Population and Economic Growth

August 23, 2016,

A newly released study, produced with help from eight universities, found some good news. Between 1993 and 2009, the global impact of human activities on the terrestrial environment is expanding more slowly than the rates of economic and/or population growth. While the population grew by 23% and the economy grew 153%, the global human footprint grew by only 9%. Lead author Dr. Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Columbia concluded that "We are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources."

The study results, published in the journal Nature Communications, are graphically portrayed by comprehensive, high-resolution maps that reveal a complex story of how humans are altering world habitats ( Policy makers and researchers can use the maps to identify places that should either be restored or protected.

The report adds, however, that while environmental impacts may not be keeping pace with the growth rate of the world economy, they are frighteningly extensive. Dr. James Watson, co-author of the study from the University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society, explains our current biodiversity crisis by saying: "Our maps show that three quarters of the planet is now significantly altered and 97% of the most species-rich places on Earth have been seriously altered. "

Co-author Dr. Eric W. Sanderson, WCS Senior Conservation Zoologist, and lead author of the original Human Footprint study in 2002 was encouraged to find that countries with "good governance structures and higher rates of urbanization" could actually grow economically while slightly shrinking their environmental impacts of land use and infrastructure. "Sustainable development is a widely espoused goal, and our data demonstrates clear messages of how the world can get there. Concentrate people in towns and cities so their housing and infrastructure needs are not spread across the wider landscape, and promote honest governments that are capable of managing environmental impacts doclink

Art says, "This is the best news I have read since I began editing for this website. People's lives can improve without destroying the terrestrial environment. I wonder if we could save the seas as well. And it's not clear that these findings cover greenhouse gas emissions."

Karen Gaia says: GDP is not an accurate representative of the economy. It includes, among other things, the money spent on disasters and money invested in recovery of expensive oil, even if those investments are not recovered because oil is cheap. Now that oil is harder to get, the costs of recovering that oil are eating into money spent on education, the arts, and discretionary spending by the middle class. Also government spending adds to GDP, even if the money originated from a loan, but debts are not subtracted from GDP.

Humans An Invasive Species Heading for a 'Crash,' Study Says

April 8, 2016, Common Dreams   By: Nika Knight

Are we more than what our planet can carry? The question has been posed and discussed and analysed for ages, and it can be viewed from many different aspects. A renowned researcher attempts to get a scientific answer in a recent Nature article.

The study has examined a huge number of archaeological sites of habitats during a very elaborate research procedure. The carbon dating method allows for a quite precise determination of the age of these remnants. A trajectory of human population numbers has been generated with some very interesting findings.

The study focuses on the evolution of population numbers on the continent of South America. A period of quick growth was followed by a plateau ranging for about 8000 years. This is assumed to have represented the natural capacity of the hunter/gatherer society.

Then, about 5,000 years ago, as more agricultural cultures prevailed, the number of people skyrocketed and is still very much on the increase. The usage of technology means that we have the ability to step outside of our natural means and expand the resources available to us. While this has allowed the human race to live in prosperity and material wealth, it is threatening the base and hurting the world's ecosystems, and the authors question whether we can possibly find a way to expand further without seriously hurting the planet.

The study was headed by professor Elizabeth Hadly of Stanford University. The article mentions co-authors Amy Goldberg and Alexis Mychajliw.

"Because humans respond as any other invasive species," Hadly said, "the implication is that we are headed for a crash before we stabilize our global population size." doclink

No Really, How Sustainable Are We?

May 16, 2013, Paul Chefurka website   By: Bodhi Paul Chefurka

Carrying Capacity

"Carrying capacity" is a well-known ecological term that has an obvious and fairly intuitive meaning: "The maximum population size of a species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment."

Unfortunately that definition becomes more nebulous and controversial the closer you look at it, especially when we are talking about the planetary carrying capacity for human beings. Ecologists will claim that our numbers have already well surpassed the planet's carrying capacity, while others (notably economists and politicians...) claim we are nowhere near it yet!

This confusion may arise because we tend to confuse two very different understandings of the phrase "carrying capacity". For this discussion I will call these the "subjective" view and the "objective" views of carrying capacity.

The subjective view is carrying capacity as seen by a member of the species in question. Rather than coming from a rational, analytical assessment of the overall situation, it is an experiential judgment. As such it tends to be limited to the population of one's own species, as well as having a short time horizon - the current situation counts a lot more than some future possibility. The main thing that matters in this view is how many of one's own species will be able to survive to reproduce. As long as that number continues to rise, we assume all is well - that we have not yet reached the carrying capacity of our environment.

From this subjective point of view humanity has not even reached, let alone surpassed the Earth's overall carrying capacity - after all, our population is still growing. It's tempting to ascribe this view mainly to neoclassical economists and politicians, but truthfully most of us tend to see things this way. In fact, all species, including humans, have this orientation, whether it is conscious or not.

Species tend to keep growing until outside factors such as disease, predators, food or other resource scarcity - or climate change - intervene. These factors define the "objective” carrying capacity of the environment. This objective view of carrying capacity is the view of an observer who adopts a position outside the species in question.It's the typical viewpoint of an ecologist looking at the reindeer on St. Matthew Island, or at the impact of humanity on other species and its own resource base.

This is the view that is usually assumed by ecologists when they use the naked phrase "carrying capacity”, and it is an assessment that can only be arrived at through analysis and deductive reasoning. It's the view I hold, and its implications for our future are anything but comforting.

When a species bumps up against the limits posed by the environment's objective carrying capacity,its population begins to decline. Humanity is now at the uncomfortable point when objective observers have detected our overshoot condition, but the population as a whole has not recognized it yet. As we push harder against the limits of the planet's objective carrying capacity, things are beginning to go wrong. More and more ordinary people are recognizing the problem as its symptoms become more obvious to casual onlookers.The problem is, of course, that we've already been above the planet's carrying capacity for quite a while.

One typical rejoinder to this line of argument is that humans have "expanded our carrying capacity” through technological innovation. "Look at the Green Revolution! Malthus was just plain wrong. There are no limits to human ingenuity!” When we say things like this, we are of course speaking from a subjective viewpoint. From this experiential, human-centric point of view, we have indeed made it possible for our environment to support ever more of us. This is the only view that matters at the biological, evolutionary level, so it is hardly surprising that most of our fellow species-members are content with it.

The problem with that view is that every objective indicator of overshoot is flashing red. From the climate change and ocean acidification that flows from our smokestacks and tailpipes, through the deforestation and desertification that accompany our expansion of human agriculture and living space, to the extinctions of non-human species happening in the natural world, the planet is urgently signaling an overload condition.

Humans have an underlying urge towards growth, an immense intellectual capacity for innovation, and a biological inability to step outside our chauvinistic, anthropocentric perspective. This combination has made it inevitable that we would land ourselves and the rest of the biosphere in the current insoluble global ecological predicament.


When a population surpasses its carrying capacity it enters a condition known as overshoot. Because the carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that an environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary. Populations always decline to (or below) the carrying capacity. How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers. Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers. For humans one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.). A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource. Like fossil fuels, for instance...

Population growth in the animal kingdom tends to follow a logistic curve. This is an S-shaped curve that starts off low when the species is first introduced to an ecosystem, at some later point rises very fast as the population becomes established, and then finally levels off as the population saturates its niche.

Humans have been pushing the envelope of our logistic curve for much of our history. Our population rose very slowly over the last couple of hundred thousand years, as we gradually developed the skills we needed in order to deal with our varied and changeable environment,particularly language, writing and arithmetic. As we developed and disseminated those skills our ability to modify our environment grew, and so did our growth rate.

If we had not discovered the stored energy stocks of fossil fuels, our logistic growth curve would probably have flattened out some time ago, and we would be well on our way to achieving a balance with the energy flows in the world around us, much like all other species do. Our numbers would have settled down to oscillate around a much lower level than today, similar to what they probably did with hunter-gatherer populations tens of thousands of years ago.

Unfortunately, our discovery of the energy potential of coal created what mathematicians and systems theorists call a "bifurcation point” or what is better known in some cases as a tipping point. This is a point at which a system diverges from one path onto another because of some influence on events. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that bifurcation points are generally irreversible. Once past such a point, the system can't go back to a point before it.

Given the impact that fossil fuels had on the development of world civilization, their discovery was clearly such a fork in the road. Rather than flattening out politely as other species' growth curves tend to do, ours kept on rising. And rising, and rising.

What is a sustainable population level?

Now we come to the heart of the matter. Okay, we all accept that the human race is in overshoot. But how deep into overshoot are we? What is the carrying capacity of our planet? The answers to these questions,after all, define a sustainable population.

Not surprisingly, the answers are quite hard to tease out. Various numbers have been put forward, each with its set of stated and unstated assumptions -not the least of which is the assumed standard of living (or consumption profile) of the average person. For those familiar with Ehrlich and Holdren's I=PAT equation, if "I” represents the environmental impact of a sustainable population, then for any population value "P” there is a corresponding value for "AT”, the level of Activity and Technology that can be sustained for that population level. In other words, the higher our standard of living climbs, the lower our population level must fall in order to be sustainable. This is discussed further in an earlier article on Thermodynamic Footprints.

To get some feel for the enormous range of uncertainty in sustainability estimates we'll look at six assessments, each of which leads to a very different outcome. We'll start with the most optimistic one, and work our way down the scale.

The Ecological Footprint Assessment

The concept of the Ecological Footprint was developed in 1992 by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste. As it is usually published, the value is an estimate of how many planet Earths it would take to support humanity with everyone following their current lifestyle.

It has a number of fairly glaring flaws that cause it to be hyper-optimistic. The "ecological footprint" is basically for renewable resources only. It includes a theoretical but underestimated factor for non-renewable resources. It does not take into account the unfolding effects of climate change, ocean acidification or biodiversity loss (i.e. species extinctions). It is intuitively clear that no number of "extra planets” would compensate for such degradation.

Still, the estimate as of the end of 2012 is that our overall ecological footprint is about "1.7 planets”. In other words, there is at least 1.7 times too much human activity for the long-term health of this single, lonely planet. To put it yet another way, we are 70% into overshoot.

It would probably be fair to say that by this accounting method the sustainable population would be (7 / 1.7) or about four billion people at our current average level of affluence. As you will see, other assessments make this estimate seem like a happy fantasy.

The Fossil Fuel Assessment

The main accelerator of human activity over the last 150 to 200 years has been our exploitation of the planet's stocks of fossil fuel. Before 1800 there was very little fossil fuel in general use, with most energy being derived from the flows represented by wood, wind, water, animal and human power. The following graph demonstrates the precipitous rise in fossil fuel use since then, and especially since 1950.

Graphic by Gail Tverberg

This information was the basis for my earlier Thermodynamic Footprint analysis. That article investigated the influence of technological energy (87% of which comes from fossil fuel stocks) on human planetary impact, in terms of how much it multiplies the effect of each "naked ape”. The following graph illustrates the multiplier at different points in history:

Fossil fuels have powered the increase in all aspects of civilization, including population growth. The "Green Revolution” in agriculture that was kicked off by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in the late 1940s was largely a fossil fuel phenomenon, relying on mechanization,powered irrigation and synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels. This enormous increase in food production supported a swift rise in population numbers, in a classic ecological feedback loop: more food (supply) => more people (demand) => more food => more people etc...

Over the core decades of the Green Revolution from 1950 to 1980 the world population almost doubled, from fewer than 2.5 billion to over 4.5 billion. The average population growth over those three decades was 2% per year. Compare that to 0.5% from 1800 to 1900; 1.00% from 1900 to 1950; and 1.5% from 1980 until now:

This analysis makes it tempting to conclude that a sustainable population might look similar to the situation in 1800, before the Green Revolution, and before the global adoption of fossil fuels: about 1 billion people living on about 5% of today's global average energy consumption, all of it derived from renewable energy flows.

It's tempting (largely because it seems vaguely achievable), but unfortunately that number may still be too high. Even in 1800 the signs of human overshoot were clear, if not well recognized: there was already widespread deforestation through Europe and the Middle East; and desertification had set into the previously lush agricultural zones of North Africa and the Middle East.

Not to mention that if we did start over with "just” one billion people, an annual growth rate of a mere 0.5% would put the population back over seven billion in just 400 years. Unless the growth rate can be kept down very close to zero, such a situation is decidedly unsustainable.

The Population Density Assessment

There is another way to approach the question. If we assume that the human species was sustainable at some point in the past, what point might we choose and what conditions contributed to our apparent sustainability at that time?

I use a very strict definition of sustainability. It reads something like this: "Sustainability is the ability of a species to survive in perpetuity without damaging the planetary ecosystem in the process." This principle applies only to a species' own actions, rather than uncontrollable external forces like Milankovitch cycles, asteroid impacts, plate tectonics, etc.

In order to find a population that I was fairly confident met my definition of sustainability, I had to look well back in history - in fact back into Paleolithic times. The sustainability conditions I chose were: a very low population density and very low energy use, with both maintained over multiple thousands of years. I also assumed the populace would each use about as much energy as a typical hunter-gatherer: about twice the daily amount of energy a person obtains from the food they eat.

There are about 150 million square kilometers, or 60 million square miles of land on Planet Earth. However, two thirds of that area is covered by snow, mountains or deserts, or has little or no topsoil. This leaves about 50 million square kilometers (20 million square miles) that is habitable by humans without high levels of technology.

A typical population density for a non-energy-assisted society of hunter-forager-gardeners is between 1 person per square mile and 1 person per square kilometer. Because humans living this way had settled the entire planet by the time agriculture was invented 10,000 years ago, this number pegs a reasonable upper boundary for a sustainable world population in the range of 20 to 50 million people.

I settled on the average of these two numbers, 35 million people. That was because it matches known hunter-forager population densities, and because those densities were maintained with virtually zero population growth (less than 0.01% per year)during the 67,000 years from the time of the Toba super-volcano eruption in 75,000 BC until 8,000 BC (Agriculture Day on Planet Earth).

If we were to spread our current population of 7 billion evenly over 50 million square kilometers, we would have an average density of 150 per square kilometer. Based just on that number, and without even considering our modern energy-driven activities, our current population is at least 250 times too big to be sustainable. To put it another way, we are now 25,000%into overshoot based on our raw population numbers alone.

As I said above, we also need to take the population's standard of living into account. Our use of technological energy gives each of us the average planetary impact of about 20 hunter-foragers. What would the sustainable population be if each person kept their current lifestyle, which is given as an average current Thermodynamic Footprint (TF) of 20?

We can find the sustainable world population number for any level of human activity by using the I = PAT equation mentioned above.

We decided above that the maximum hunter-forager population we could accept as sustainable would be 35 million people, each with a Thermodynamic Footprint of 1.
First, we set I (the allowable total impact for our sustainable population) to 35, representing those 35 million hunter-foragers.
Next, we set AT to be the TF representing the desired average lifestyle for our population. In this case that number is 20.
We can now solve the equation for P. Using simple algebra, we know that I = P x AT is equivalent to P = I / AT. Using that form of the equation we substitute in our values, and we find that P = 35 / 20. In this case P = 1.75.

This number tells us that if we want to keep the average level of per-capita consumption we enjoy in in today's world, we would enter an overshoot situation above a global population of about 1.75 million people. By this measure our current population of 7 billion is about 4,000 times too big and active for long-term sustainability. In other words, by this measure we are we are now 400,000% into overshoot.

Using the same technique we can calculate that achieving a sustainable population with an American lifestyle (TF = 78) would permit a world population of only 650,000 people - clearly not enough to sustain a modern global civilization.

For the sake of comparison, it is estimated that the historical world population just after the dawn of agriculture in 8,000 BC was about five million, and in Year 1 was about 200 million. We crossed the upper threshold of planetary sustainability in about 2000 BC, and have been in deepening overshoot for the last 4,000 years.

The Ecological Assessments

As a species, human beings share much in common with other large mammals. We breathe, eat, move around to find food and mates, socialize, reproduce and die like all other mammalian species. Our intellect and culture, those qualities that make us uniquely human, are recent additions to our essential primate nature, at least in evolutionary terms.

Consequently it makes sense to compare our species' performance to that of other, similar species - species that we know for sure are sustainable. I was fortunate to find the work of American marine biologist Dr. Charles W. Fowler, who has a deep interest in sustainability and the ecological conundrum posed by human beings. The following three assessments are drawn from Dr. Fowler's work.

First assessment

In 2003, Dr. Fowler and Larry Hobbs co-wrote a paper titled, "Is humanity sustainable?” that was published by the Royal Society. In it, they compared a variety of ecological measures across 31 species including humans. The measures included biomass consumption, energy consumption, CO2 production, geographical range size, and population size.

It should come as no great surprise that in most of the comparisons humans had far greater impact than other species, even to a 99% confidence level. When it came to population size, Fowler and Hobbs found that there are over two orders of magnitude more humans than one would expect based on a comparison to other species - 190 times more, in fact. Similarly, our CO2 emissions outdid other species by a factor of 215.

Based on this research, Dr. Fowler concluded that there are about 200 times too many humans on the planet. This brings up an estimate for a sustainable population of 35 million people.

This is the same as the upper bound established above by examining hunter-gatherer population densities. The similarity of the results is not too surprising, since the hunter-gatherers of 50,000 years ago were about as close to "naked apes” as humans have been in recent history.

Second assessment

In 2008, five years after the publication cited above, Dr. Fowler wrote another paper entitled "Maximizing biodiversity, information and sustainability." In this paper he examined the sustainability question from the point of view of maximizing biodiversity. In other words, what is the largest human population that would not reduce planetary biodiversity?

This is, of course, a very stringent test, and one that we probably failed early in our history by extirpating mega-fauna in the wake of our migrations across a number of continents.

In this paper, Dr. Fowler compared 96 different species, and again analyzed them in terms of population, CO2 emissions and consumption patterns.

This time, when the strict test of biodiversity retention was applied, the results were truly shocking, even to me. According to this measure, humans have overpopulated the Earth by almost 700 times. In order to preserve maximum biodiversity on Earth, the human population may be no more than 10 million people - each with the consumption of a Paleolithic hunter-forager.
Addendum: Third assessment

After this article was initially written, Dr. Fowler forwarded me a copy of an appendix to his 2009 book, "Systemic Management: Sustainable Human Interactions with Ecosystems and the Biosphere", published by Oxford University Press. In it he describes yet one more technique for comparing humans with other mammalian species, this time in terms of observed population densities, total population sizes and ranges.

After carefully comparing us to various species of both herbivores and carnivores of similar body size, he draws this devastating conclusion: the human population is about 1000 times larger than expected. This is in line with the second assessment above, though about 50% more pessimistic. It puts a sustainable human population at about 7 million.



As you can see, the estimates for a sustainable human population vary widely - by a factor of 500 from the highest to the lowest.

The Ecological Footprint doesn't really seem intended as a measure of sustainability. Its main value is to give people with no exposure to ecology some sense that we are indeed over-exploiting our planet. (It also has the psychological advantage of feeling achievable with just a little work.) As a measure of sustainability, it is not helpful.

As I said above, the number suggested by the Thermodynamic Footprint or Fossil Fuel analysis isn't very helpful either - even a population of one billion people without fossil fuels had already gone into overshoot.

That leaves us with four estimates: two at 35 million, one of 10 million, and one of 7 million.

The central number of 35 million people is confirmed by two analyses using different data and assumptions. My conclusion is that this is probably the absolutely largest human population that could be considered sustainable. The realistic but similarly unachievable number is probably more in line with the bottom two estimates, somewhere below 10 million.

I think the lowest two estimates (Fowler 2008, and Fowler 2009) are as unrealistically high as all the others in this case, primarily because human intelligence and problem-solving ability makes our destructive impact on biodiversity a foregone conclusion. After all, we drove other species to extinction 40,000 years ago, when our total population was estimated to be under 1 million.

So, what can we do with this information? It's obvious that we will not (and probably cannot) voluntarily reduce our population by 99.5% to 99.9%. Even an involuntary reduction of this magnitude would involve enormous suffering and a very uncertain outcome. It's close enough to zero that if Mother Nature blinked, we'd be gone.

In fact, the analysis suggests that Homo sapiens is an inherently unsustainable species. This outcome seems virtually guaranteed by our neocortex, by the very intelligence that has enabled our rise to unprecedented dominance over our planet's biosphere. Is intelligence an evolutionary blind alley? From the singular perspective of our own species, it quite probably is. If we are to find some greater meaning or deeper future for intelligence in the universe, we may be forced to look beyond ourselves and adopt a cosmic, rather than a human, perspective.


How do we get out of this jam?

How might we get from where we are today to a sustainable world population of 35 million or so? We should probably discard the notion of "managing" such a population decline. If we can't even get our population to simply stop growing, an outright reduction of over 99% is simply not in the cards. People seem virtually incapable of taking these kinds of decisions in large social groups. We can decide to stop reproducing, but only as individuals or (perhaps) small groups. Without the essential broad social support, such personal choices will make precious little difference to the final outcome. Politicians will by and large not even propose an idea like "managed population decline" - not if they want to gain or remain in power, at any rate. China's brave experiment with one-child families notwithstanding, any global population decline will be purely involuntary.


A world population decline would (will) be triggered and fed by our civilization's encounter with limits. These limits may show up in any area: accelerating climate change, weather extremes,shrinking food supplies, fresh water depletion, shrinking energy supplies,pandemic diseases, breakdowns in the social fabric due to excessive complexity,supply chain breakdowns, electrical grid failures, a breakdown of the international financial system, international hostilities - the list of candidates is endless, and their interactions are far too complex to predict.

In 2007, shortly after I grasped the concept and implications of Peak Oil, I wrote my first web article on population decline: Population: The Elephant in the Room. In it I sketched out the picture of a monolithic population collapse: a straight-line decline from today's seven billion people to just one billion by the end of this century.

As time has passed I've become less confident in this particular dystopian vision. It now seems to me that human beings may be just a bit tougher than that. We would fight like demons to stop the slide, though we would potentially do a lot more damage to the environment in the process. We would try with all our might to cling to civilization and rebuild our former glory. Different physical, environmental and social situations around the world would result in a great diversity in regional outcomes. To put it plainly, a simple "slide to oblivion" is not in the cards for any species that could recover from the giant Toba volcanic eruption in just 75,000 years.

Or Tumble?

Still, there are those physical limits I mentioned above. They are looming ever closer, and it seems a foregone conclusion that we will begin to encounter them for real within the next decade or two. In order to draw a slightly more realistic picture of what might happen at that point, I created the following thought experiment on involuntary population decline. It's based on the idea that our population will not simply crash, but will oscillate (tumble) down a series of stair-steps: first dropping as we puncture the limits to growth; then falling below them; then partially recovering; only to fall again; partially recover; fall; recover...

I started the scenario with a world population of 8 billion people in 2030. I assumed each full cycle of decline and partial recovery would take six generations, or 200 years. It would take three generations (100 years) to complete each decline and then three more in recovery, for a total cycle time of 200 years. I assumed each decline would take out 60% of the existing population over its hundred years, while each subsequent rise would add back only half of the lost population.

In ten full cycles - 2,000 years - we would be back to a sustainable population of about 40-50 million. The biggest drop would be in the first 100 years, from 2030 to 2130 when we would lose a net 53 million people per year. Even that is only a loss of 0.9% pa, compared to our net growth today of 1.1%, that's easily within the realm of the conceivable,and not necessarily catastrophic - at least to begin with.

As a scenario it seems a lot more likely than a single monolithic crash from here to under a billion people. Here's what it looks like:

It's important to remember that this scenario is not a prediction. It's an attempt to portray a potential path down the population hill that seems a bit more probable than a simple, "Crash! Everybody dies."

It's also important to remember that the decline will probably not happen anything like this, either. With climate change getting ready to push humanity down the stairs, and the strong possibility that the overall global temperature will rise by 5 or 6 degrees Celsius even before the end of that first decline cycle, our prospects do not look even this "good" from where I stand.

Rest assured, I'm not trying to present 35 million people as some kind of "population target". It's just part of my attempt to frame what we're doing to the planet, in terms of what some of us see as the planetary ecosphere's level of tolerance for our abuse.

The other potential implicit in this analysis is that if we did drop from 8 to under 1 billion, we could then enter a population free-fall. As a result, we might keep falling until we hit the bottom of Olduvai Gorge again. My numbers are an attempt to define how many people might stagger away from such a crash landing. Some people seem to believe that such an event could be manageable. I don't share that belief for a moment. These calculations are my way of getting that message out.

I figure if I'm going to draw a line in the sand, I'm going to do it on behalf of all life, not just our way of life.

What can we do?

To be absolutely clear, after ten years of investigating what I affectionately call "The Global Clusterfuck", I do not think it can be prevented, mitigated or managed in any way. If and when it happens, it will follow its own dynamic, and the force of events could easily make the Japanese and Andaman tsunamis seem like pleasant days at the beach.

The most effective preparations that we can make will all be done by individuals and small groups. It will be up to each of us to decide what our skills, resources and motivations call us to do. It will be different for each of us - even for people in the same neighborhood, let alone people on opposite sides of the world.

I've been saying for a couple of years that each of us will each do whatever we think is appropriate to the circumstances, in whatever part of the world we can influence. The outcome of our actions is ultimately unforeseeable, because it depends on how the efforts of all 7 billion of us converge, co-operate and compete. The end result will be quite different from place to place - climate change impacts will vary, resources vary, social structures vary, values and belief systems are different all over the world.The best we can do is to do our best.

Here is my advice:

Stay awake to what's happening around us.

Don't get hung up by other people's "shoulds and shouldn'ts".

Occasionally re-examine our personal values. If they aren't in alignment with what we think the world needs, change them.

Stop blaming people. Others are as much victims of the times as we are - even the CEOs and politicians.

Blame, anger and outrage is pointless. It wastes precious energy that we will need for more useful work.

Laugh a lot, at everything - including ourselves.

Hold all the world's various beliefs and "isms" lightly, including our own.

Forgive others. Forgive ourselves. For everything.

Love everything just as deeply as you can.

That's what I think might be helpful. If we get all that personal stuff right, then doing the physical stuff about food, water, housing,transportation, energy, politics and the rest of it will come easy - or at least a bit easier. And we will have a lot more fun doing it.

I wish you all the best of luck! doclink

How Many People Can Our Planet Support?

We do not know if today's population of seven billion is remotely sustainable, or what the limit is
March 14, 2016, BBC News   By: Vivien Cumming

Global population is as of now projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11 billion by the end of the century. These staggering levels of growth in humans leads to the question of whether the resources of our ecosystems are enough. British journalist Vivien Cummings analyzes how many people can live on Earth without depleting the planet.

The first half of the article pushes for the notion that consumption levels are the key, not population by itself. The Western World has for example a much higher emission of CO2 per capita than poorer nations. If countries with excessive population growth levels could be swayed to keep their "footprints" small, we could sustain a large number of people in the world. But experience and history shows that they will seek more material goods as they become more affluent. Especially people living in the cities will you see strong effects like pollution, emissions, smog and similar as they experience urban population growth.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology showed that household consumers are responsible for over 60% of earth's greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80% of the world's land, material and water use. Also wealthier countries have the greatest footprint per household.

The second part looks at various ideas to reduce the stated growth in population.

Will Steffen from the Australian National University suggests that, if fertility rates were further reduced, the world could be stabilized at a number around 9 billion and then slowly fall, but this is very hard to achieve.

Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide in Australia concluded in a 2014 study, that if two billion people died tomorrow - or if every government adopted controversial fertility policies such as China's one-child policy - there would still be as many if not more people on the planet by 2100 as there are today.

The UNFPA calculates that 350 million women in the poorest countries did not want their last child, but did not have the means to prevent the pregnancy. If these women's needs were met, it would have a significant impact on global population trends.

Creating a sustainable population is as much about boosting women's rights as it is about reducing consumption of resources.

Cummings points out the responsibility incurred on Western nations to change their consumption patterns; in face of growing population numbers we can't expect to keep on our way of life. doclink

Human Civilisation is 'Unsustainable' Unless We Begin Protecting Earth's Plant Life, Researchers Warn

July 14, 2015, Daily Mail   By: Mark Prigg

Unless we slow the destruction of Earth's declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to John Schramski, lead author of a study published by researchers at the University of Georgia's College of Engineering in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct and populations of the remaining species show a 25% average decline in abundance. Across all species of vertebrates, 16 to 33% are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. invertebrate animal life shows similar declines.

Large animals -- including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and others -- face the highest rate of decline.

'You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,' said the study's lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering. 'The sun's energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.'

After billions of years simple organisms evolved the ability to transform the sun's light into energy, eventually leading to an explosion of plant and animal life that bathed the planet with lush forests and extraordinarily diverse ecosystems.

2,000 years ago the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass. But that amount has been reduced by almost half, with over 10% destroyed in just the last century, hastened by the advent of large-scale mechanized farming and the need to feed a rapidly growing population. This stored energy is needed to maintain Earth's complex food webs and biogeochemical balances.

The study's calculations are grounded in the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, a branch of physics concerned with the relationship between heat and mechanical energy. Chemical energy is stored in plants, or biomass, which is used for food and fuel.

But these plants are being destroyed to make room for agriculture and expanding cities.

'As the planet becomes less hospitable and more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations, such as droughts, disease epidemics and social unrest,' Schramski said.

If biomass drops below sustainable thresholds, the population will decline drastically, and people will be forced to return to life as hunter-gatherers or simple horticulturalists.

Thermodynamic laws are 'absolute and incontrovertible; we have a limited amount of biomass energy available on the planet, and once it's exhausted, there is absolutely nothing to replace it.' doclink

Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Report 2015

Global Footprint Network

Virtually every country in the Mediterranean region consumes more ecological resources than local ecosystems can replenish. To cover the widening gap between supply and demand, the region is increasingly relying on global resources, which are also becoming increasingly limited. Nations in the region now need to factor in the resource constraints of their trade partners and recognize the risk it poses to their own economic prosperity.

The average Food Footprint of a Mediterranean resident is approximately 0.9 gha per person-with a range from 0.6 gha-thus higher than that of such countries as India (0.4 gha), China (0.5 gha), Costa Rica (0.6 gha) and Germany (0.8 gha).

On a scale of zero to one, the U.N. Development Programme defines 0.7 as the threshold for a high level of development (0.8 for very high development). Since 2000, most of the Mediterranean countries have moved beyond that threshold. Today only Morocco and Egypt have a HDI score less than 0.7, although their scores are also rising.

Residents of Cairo (about 16% of the country's population) demand about 85% of the overall country's biocapacity.

The demand for renewable resources in Athens exceeds the entire nation of Greece's supply of resources by 22%, although the city's population comprises about a third of the nation's population.

The food sector is the biggest driver of the Ecological Footprint in the Mediterranean region, at about 35% of its overall Ecological Footprint. Food is a substantial share (ranging between 20% for Slovenia and 70% for Morocco) of Mediterranean countries' overall resource requirements. Other significant drivers are transportation (≈28%) and housing (≈9%). This composition poses a specific challenge because food consumption can only be shifted (increased or decreased) to a small extent, given that food is one of the key basic human needs.

The reasons for the Mediterranean region's relatively high food Footprint include water scarcity, low agricultural productivity, growing dependence on imported food, and a transition away from the traditional environmentally friendly and healthy Mediterranean diet. Instead of consuming cereals, vegetables and oil typical of the Mediterranean diet-which have a low Footprint-countries are consuming more meat and dairy, which have higher Footprints. doclink

Running on Empty: Rex Weyler (#109)

October 22, 2015, Conversation Earth   By: Dave Gardner

In this newly released 2010 interview, Rex Weyler shares his observations of "what can happen as a civilization grows out of control." Technology, economics, consumption, population and politics are all in his cross-hairs. Weyler does express some hope for the future, as well, and outlines changes needed to bring human civilization back to living within ecological limits.

This is the ninth in our series of podcasts and radio programs. We post a new podcast episode every Thursday.

Click here to play this audio interview doclink

Time to Replace the GDP with a Measure That Accounts for Natural Resources

Nation needs new economic yardstick
October 1, 2015, Upstate Business Journal   By: Matthew Heun, Michael Carbajalas-hale, Becky Roseleus Haney

Instead of problems in the subprime housing market, as economists claim, the Great Recession was a resource depletion problem masquerading as a financial crisis.

The depleted resource was oil: demand increased and production flatlined. The average gas price spiked to more than $4 a gallon in 2008, and homeowners in suburbs across the country faced difficult spending choices. Many chose to put food on the table and gas in their tanks instead of paying their too-large mortgages.

The world's economic and environmental fates have become forever interconnected. Natural resources are not unlimited, We can clear-cut only so many forests, pump only so much oil out of the ground and drain only so much water out of aquifers before our behavior becomes unsustainable.

GDP - or gross domestic product - measures a nation's flow of income, but it's a flawed yardstick and leads to some perverse accounting. For example, GDP grew when agricultural runoff caused toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie last year due to spending on bottled water and the goods and services needed to repair the damage. This would suggest that polluting one of our Great Lakes benefits our economic health

When we become singularly focused on growing GDP, we're left with no incentive to sustainably manage our natural resources. We need to look to the future beyond short-term growth. What we use today is gone forever, making the problem worse and leaving it for our children to solve.

In the author's new book "Beyond GDP: National Accounting in the Age of Resource Depletion," we need to stop thinking of the economy as an "engine" that can stall, and start thinking of it as a metabolism or an organism that does not consume more energy than it acquires.

Using the metabolism metaphor, we ought to develop a new system of national accounting that includes raw materials flowing into the economy, burning of fossil fuels for energy and disposal of waste wherever possible.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis began a program called the Integrated Environmental-Economic System of Accounts. Congress expressly forbade the collection of such data in 1994.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and even emerging economies have moved ahead without the United States. Economic-environment accounts are now common outside U.S. borders.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis ought to seek authorization to restart its program. If we as a society can begin collecting relevant data, perhaps we can begin to use the analytical tools, metrics and knowledge to go beyond GDP and make wise choices for the future. Our deepest hope is to make a positive contribution in that direction. doclink

Basic Infrastructures Can No Longer Support Nigeria's Population

August 27, 2015, Daily Post (Nigeria)   By: Sylvester Ugwuanyi

In Nigeria, the chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, Eze Duruiheoma, warned that the country's economy was incapable of supporting the nation's population annual exponential growth rate of 3.2% in terms of provision of basic infrastructures, employment opportunities and sufficient food.

The current challenges such as militancy in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram, conflicts between farmers, and other security implications were manifestations of Nigeria's population, he said. "All these require proper understanding of the population dynamics in terms of fertility, mortality and migration." Also "worsening unemployment and ignorance reinforce poverty and they pose serious security challenges".

He said the youth population poses security challenges of unemployment, social vices and the breakdown of family values. Additional challenges are rural-urban migration, declining availability of arable land, and decay in social infrastructure. doclink

New Study: USA Demands Twice the Amount Its Ecosystems Can Provide

Global Footprint Network

According to a report by the Global Footprint Network, the population of the United States is using twice the renewable natural resources and services that can be regenerated within its borders.

Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware have the largest per-person Ecological Footprints while New York, Idaho, and Arkansas have the smallest. Alaska, Texas, and Michigan are the most resource-abundant states based on biocapacity, a measure of bioproductive land.

California, Texas, and Florida have the highest ecological deficits -- when demand for resources exceeds what nature can regenerate (biocapacity) within the state borders. An ecological deficit is possible because states can import goods, overuse their resources (for instance by overfishing and overharvesting forests), and emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than can be absorbed by their own forests.

"As both domestic and global pressures on nature's resources increase, it is more important than ever to manage them carefully in order to ensure the most resilient future for our country and its states," says Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and co-creator of the Ecological Footprint. "We strongly believe it is possible to live within the means of nature, without sacrificing human well-being. But doing so requires decision-makers to make strategic investments in infrastructure and our natural capital and set policies aimed at conserving our planet's resources." doclink

Limits to Growth was Right. New Research Shows We're Nearing Collapse

September 1, 2014, Guardian   By: Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander

In 1972 the book Limits to Growth, commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome, predicted the collapse of our civilization some time this century. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book's forecasts to be accurate, which, if things continue to follow the books track, we can expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world's economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

Industrialization, population, food, resource depletion, and pollution were tracked. If humanity followed the "business-as-usual" scenario, failing to take serious action on environmental and resource issues, the model predicted "overshoot and collapse" - in the economy, environment and population.

The book's central point is that "the earth is finite".

Recently Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Unesco, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook), as well as NASA, and the BP statistical review, and found that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth "business-as-usual" scenario.

Click on the headline above to see the graphs which show that, up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book's forecasts. The graphs show that resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.

To feed the continued growth in industrial output there must be ever-increasing use of resources. But resources become more expensive to obtain as they are used up. As more and more capital goes towards resource extraction, industrial output per capita starts to fall - in the book, from about 2015.

As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults.

Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil. If these resources soak up too much capital to extract, the fallout would be widespread.

The University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010. But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030. Things could change the future: wars could break out; so could genuine global environmental leadership. But it seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth can continue unchecked to 2100 without causing serious negative effects.

It may be too late to convince the world's politicians and wealthy elites to chart a different course. So to the rest of us, maybe it's time to think about how we protect ourselves as we head into an uncertain future. doclink

Earth Overshoot Day

August 19, 2014, Global Footprint Network

August 19th was Earth Overshoot Day. It is the approximate date that humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what the Earth can renew this year. In less than 8 months, we have demanded an amount of ecological resources and services equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2014.

Ecological deficit spending is made possible by depleting stocks of fish, trees and other resources, and accumulating waste such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. It would take more than 1.5 Earths to provide the biocapacity needed to support humanity's current Ecological Footprint.

It is possible to turn the tide. Global Footprint Network and its partners are supporting governments, financial institutions, and other organizations around the globe in making decisions aligned with ecological reality.

More. See how many Chinas it takes to support China. How many United States to support the United States, etc. doclink

Video: What is Ecological Overshoot?

September 20, 2013, Global Footprint Network


In a First, U.S. Puts Limits on California's Thirst - Commentary

Patrick Burns

California's, population grew by more than 4.2 million between 1990 and 2000, 60% from direct immigration. The addition of 2,405,430 immigrants between 1990 and 2000 represents 58.5% of the growth but misses illegal immigrants. The primary consumer of water in California is agriculture and industry. Much agricultural water is wasted. Farmers pay about $70 for every acre-foot of water. Higher prices encourage investments in irrigation systems and a change in crop selection. It will cost $300 per acre-foot in Utah to deliver water to farmers and will produce crops worth about $30, but cost farmers $8. Farmers use more water than they would if market forces were allowed to guide the use of water. On a national level, we are using LESS water today than we did 20 years ago. While the population of the U.S. increased more than 16% between 1980 and 1995, water consumption declined 10%. Even a slight increase in the price of water or energy results in pressure to conserve water. The primary consumers are irrigation and industry, both have curtailed their water usage. Increased consumption is evident in the public supply and livestock. Population growth across the nation needs to be brought under control. population growth in the American West is a problem -- a huge problem. Arizona's population growth rate compares to Pakistan, Tanzania, and Honduras while Colorado's is similar to that of Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines.


Dennis Meadows Collapse Inevitable 2015-2020 - Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge

June 4, 2014, Energy Skeptic

(start at about 16 minutes into the video)

Dennis Meadows spoke at the ASPO peak oil conference 2006 in Pisa Italy. Many of the scientists and speakers said Meadows was right about Limits to Growth in their presentations -- indeed, his model appeared to be ahead of schedule. Meadows hates to give dates, but when pressed, did say that although he thought 2030 the most likely time-frame for collapse back in 1972 based on various model projections, the exponential use of resources and population growth appeared to have moved the time-frame forward to around 2020. At the "Limits to Growth" conference in 2014 he said the time-frame appears to be 2015-2020.

Dennis Meadows is a co-author of The Limits to Growth. In 1972, the team of 66 scientists he assembled for the original Limits to Growth study concluded the most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.

Dmitry Orlov on Dennis Meadow's presentation at the Age Of Limits conference 2014: "Dennis had agreed to present at this conference reluctantly. He has retired from Club of Rome discussions, and has found more cheerful uses for his time. But he seemed happy with the outcome, saying that this is the first time he faced an audience that did not need convincing. Instead, he took the time to add some details that I think are crucially important, among them the fact that his WORLD3 model is only accurate until the peaks are reached. Once the peaks occur (between 2015 and 2020) all bets are off: past that point, the model's predictive ability is not to be relied on because the assumptions on which it relies will no longer be valid."

At the 2014 Age of Limits conference he also said that in 1972 we had reached about 85% of Earth's carrying capacity and today we are about 125%, and every month we delay in getting back within limits erodes Earth's further ability to tolerate us. "The reason we don't have a response to climate change," he said, "is not because we don't have better models. It's because people don't care about climate change." That may be our epitaph.

"In 1972 there were two possible options provided for going forward - overshoot or sustainable development. Despite myriad conferences and commissions on sustainable development since then, the world opted for overshoot. The two-leggeds hairless apes did what they always have done. They dominated and subdued Earth. Faced with unequivocable evidence of an approaching existential threat, they equivocated and then attempted to muddle through.

Global civilization will only be the first of many casualties of the climate the Mother Nature now has coming our way at a rate of change exceeding any comparable shift in the past 3 million years, save perhaps the meteors or supervolcanoes that scattered our ancestors into barely enough breeding pairs to be able to revive. This change will be longer lived and more profound than many of those phenomena. We have fundamentally altered the nitrogen, carbon and potassium cycles of the planet. It may never go back to an ecosystem in which bipedal mammals with bicameral brains were possible. Or, not for millions of years". doclink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Our Wells Recharged

October 3, 2012, Global Footprint Network

When millions of citizens from economically wealthy nations can still go to fully-stocked stores and have relatively high living standards, it is easy to justify business-as-usual policies.

However, with fish stocks collapsing and degradation of coral reefs due to overfishing and ocean warming; shortages and rapid price increases of commodities (like wheat and corn) due to water scarcity and extreme heat; deforestation; and literally drawing down our wells, overshoot's consequences are all-too-real.

Humanity has been living beyond its means like a community that draws down its well faster than it can recharge.

The Persian Gulf may be one of the hardest-hit regions in terms of fisheries decline due to climate change and acidification. The nations of the Mediterranean region nearly tripled their demand for ecological resources and services, and the region increased its ecological deficit by 230% in the past fifty years.

Awareness of our Ecological Footprint and the economic implications of resource constraints and climate-altering carbon emissions is being heightened.

In the 1960s Ecuador had four times as much biocapacity as it used. Now it is facing the onset of an ecological deficit. In 2009 Ecuador became the first nation to incorporate the Ecological Footprint into its national plan.

For traditional measures of economic wealth (such as GDP or credit worthiness) to be sufficient, they must take into account ecological wealth.

The trend is increasing medium- and long-term national risk because of exposure to resource constraints. Fortunately forward-looking governmental and financial leaders are investing in the stability of their own nations by adopting ecological accounting and moving towards its integration in decision-making-so we may keep our wells recharged. doclink

If the World's Population Lived Like ...., How Much Land Would it Take? - Infographic

August 8, 2012

How big a city would have to be to house the world's 7 billion people? That would depend on which real city it was modeled after. If we all lived like New Yorkers, for example, 7 billion people could fit into Texas. If we lived like Houstonians, though, we'd occupy much of the conterminous United States.

The infographic for this is shown here (follow the link in the headline to see it).

However, what's missing from this first infographic is the land that it takes to support such a city. Cities' land requirements far outstrip their immediate physical footprints. They include everything from farmland to transportation networks to forests and open space that recharge fresh water sources like rivers and aquifers. Just looking at a city's geographic extents ignores its more important ecological footprint. How much land would we really need if everyone lived like New Yorkers versus Houstonians?

While some cities track resource use, most don't. Of those that do, methodologies vary city to city, making comparisons nearly impossible. Plus, cities in most developed nations still use a shocking amount of resources, regardless of whether they are as dense as New York or as sprawling as Houston.

But what we can do is compare different countries and how many resources their people-and their lifestyles-use. Data from the National Footprint Account from the Global Footprint Network. Their methodology is based on peer-reviewed research by Mathias Wackernagel, the organization's founder. It's consistent and comprehensive. While each country's footprint is assembled from sub-footprints, ranging from cropland to carbon to urbanization to fishing grounds, the second infographic only used terrestrial sub-footprints.

Click on the link in the headline and scroll down past the first infographic to see this amazing and educational graphic showing eight countries and the amount of land each country's footprint takes up. All eight countries shown - Bangladesh, India, Uganda, China, Costa Rica, France, the U.S., and the United Arab Emirates - take up more land on the terrestial subfootprint than they occupy as countries. doclink

Karen Gaia asks: does anyone know the definition of a terrestial subfootprint?

Global Biodiversity Down 30 Percent in 40 Years

May 14, 2012, Live Science

The world's biodiversity is down 30% since the 1970s with tropical species taking the biggest hit. Humanity is outstripping the Earth's resources by 50% - essentially using the resources of one and a half Earths every year, according to the 2012 Living Planet Report, produced by conservation agency the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Colby Loucks of WWF, compared humanity to bad houseguests: "We're emptying the fridge, we're not really taking care of the lawn, we're not weeding the flower beds and we're certainly not taking out the garbage." doclink

Cut World Population and Redistribute Resources, Expert Urges; Nuclear Disaster Or Plague Likely Unless Population Shrinks and Natural Resources Are Reassigned to Poor, Says Prof Paul Ehrlich

April 26, 2012, Mail and Guardian

Paul Ehrlich, billed as the world's most renowned population analyst, says that, without a massive reduction in the number of humans and redistribution of natural resources, we will be faced with a nuclear disaster, the plague, or other disaster.

While the Royal Society in London said that physical numbers are as important as the amount of natural resources consumed, Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, says that the optimum population of Earth - enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone - is 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050.

With 1.5 to 2 billion you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just above being alive you might be able to support about 4 or 5 billion people in the long term. But we already have 7 billion. "So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage."

If we go on at the pace we are there's going to be various forms of disaster: a slow motion disaster like people getting more and more hungry, or "catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off."

Ehrlich was described as alarmist in the 1970s but claims most of his predictions have proved correct. "We have 1 billion people hungry now and we are going to add 2.5 billion. They are going to have to be fed on more marginal land, from water that is purified more or transported further, we're going to have disproportionate impacts on how we feed people from the population increase itself," he said.

He agreed with the Royal Society report that said human population and consumption should not be divided but multiplied together. You have to deal with them together. We have too much consumption among the rich and too little among the poor. That implies that terrible thing that we are going to have to do which is to somehow redistribute access to resources away the rich to the poor. doclink

Population Or Affluence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Population Explosion Scrutinised as Scientists Urge Politicians to Act

July 12, 2010, The Independent

The Royal Society in Britain has launched a two-year study into global population, establishing a group of leading experts to draw up a comprehensive set of recommendations on human population.

Sir John Sulston, who took a leading role in decoding the human genome, will lead the study. A failure to be open about the problems caused by the global population explosion would set back human development, he warned.

Naturalist Sir David Attenborough, the environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt, who co-founded Forum for the Future, the Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta and the president of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, Professor Demissie Habte are also in the group.

The announcement of the study comes on World Population Day, which will be marked by a meeting of science experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

They include Sir John Beddington, the Government's chief scientist, who has warned that population is one of several environmental issues that could produce a "perfect storm" of global events in the coming decades.

Today the planet's population is 6.8 billion. Although fertility rates in most countries are falling, the number of young people alive now who are destined to become parents in the future suggests that this figure could rise to 8.3 billion by 2030 and 9.2 billion by 2050 - equivalent to adding nearly two more Chinas or eight more Americas.

In 1800, there were only about a billion people. By 1900 the number had risen to 1.7 billion. Due to advances in medicine and public health, cheap fossil fuels and a technical revolution in food production, world population mushroomed to six billion by 2000.

Much of the coming increase in human numbers will be in the poorest developing countries. In sub- Saharan Africa the population is expected to rise by about 50% over the coming decades. Some of the poorest nations in Africa could see their populations triple.

Food and energy production will have to increase by 50% and water availability by 30% to meet the demand caused by the extra 1.5 billion people living on Earth in the next two decades.

Many countries have already significantly exceeded their capacity to be self-sustainable in providing their people with food, water and land without having to import resources. 77 out of the 130 countries studied are consuming more natural resources than they are producing and depend on other countries for the difference.

Britain is 17th in the league table of overpopulated nations, which are dominated by the high-consuming countries of the Middle East and Europe.

Britain would have to shrink to 15 million from 60 million to be sustainable.

Overpopulation is a much used and abuse word, but we believe the index helps to anchor it firmly in the realm of sustainability; of people living within the limits of the place they inhabit.

"Ecological footprint" is a measure of the demand placed on the biosphere by human activity, calculating the amount of biologically productive land and water area required to produce all the resources that an individual, population or activity consumes, and also to absorb the waste they generate, given prevailing technology and resource management. The "footprint" is measured in global hectares, or average world productivity, allowing one area or population to be compared with another. doclink

Immigration, Climate Change Collide


The Democrats' two most urgent policy priorities are - reducing CO2 emissions and immigration reform that includes amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants. Enactment of the latter may prove to be the key obstacle to achieving the former.

The economic and national security implications of open borders have been examined in depth. Less study, however, has been devoted to the possible environmental impact of immigration as millions of people from developing countries settle down in, or are encouraged to move to, the world's largest energy-consuming country.

This liberal conundrum is illustrated by the events in the Gulf of Mexico, since a demand for fuel sparked the recent chain of events.

Population growth is the primary cause of heavier traffic, urban sprawl, further depletion of natural resources and increased CO2 emissions.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population, more than 300 million Americans today, will grow to 400 million as early as 2030 and 420 million by 2050. Immigration [and births to immigrants] will account for 82% of population growth over the next four decades.

Studies show that recent immigrants' consumption patterns, including energy use, quickly resemble those of native-born Americans. On average, immigrants increase their emissions fourfold after coming to the United States.

U.S. immigrants produce an estimated 637 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That's 482 million tons more than they would have produced had they remained in their home countries. doclink

Karen Gaia says: since we cannot cannot count on reducing immigration, we must also focus on reducing births, in both the USA and in the countries of origin.

How Many People Can the Earth Support?

August 21, 1998, Ross McCluney

2 billion... Everyone at the current U.S. standard of living and with all the health, nutrition, personal dignity and freedom that most Americans currently enjoy

1/2 billion ... Everyone at the same affluence level as in 1, but with few restrictions on commerce, pollution, land use, personal behavior (within current law), etc. Basically a libertarian, laissez faire economy, with few or no environmental restrictions. This points out that there is a population price to pay for the current American way of Commerce.

4 billion ... Everyone at the same affluence as indicated in 1, but with many and onerous restrictions on freedoms relative to behaviors leading to environmental degradation. Including: Massive recycling. Driving restrictions. Restrictions on the transport of food Prohibitions against cutting of trees on one's property. Limitations on the burning of fossil fuels.

6 billion ... Only people in the U.S. and Europe at current U.S., France, Great Britain, German, and Scandinavian levels of affluence. Everyone else at the current prosperity level of Mexico

20? billion ... Everyone in the world at Mexico's current prosperity level

40? billion ... Everyone in the world at the current prosperity level of Northwest Africa

...Increasing population density is inextricably linked to loss of freedom and losses of choice. In the worst of the above scenarios, we can forget the Bill of Rights. doclink

What Limits Carrying Capacity - Oil orTopsoil?

Bruce Sundquist I once believed that energy was the key issue, but now I am totally convinced that soil resources are the crucial issue. The reasoning behind that conclusion is given below.

Those concerned about energy resources invariably point to the exponential growth in energy consumption, but they rarely ponder the reason why the growth is exponential, and therefore never foresee an end to exponential growth until energy supplies are totally depleted. The reason why energy consumption grows exponentially is because both population and technological advances are growing exponentially.

In recent years, the rate of discovery of energy resources has outpaced energy consumption, due largely to major technological advances in the science of finding new energy resources. Both the quality of new reserves and the amount of total reserves have thus not been falling.

Thus energy prices have fluctuated but have shown no clear trend. In an environment such as this, energy consumption is bound to grow exponentially. Such a process cannot continue, and eventually reserves and reserve-quality must decline. Then prices must rise. People with large cars will then buy small cars. People with small cars will ride the bus, bus riders will walk or bicycle, and countless other conservation measures will occur quite naturally--without any help from Audubon Society.

Growth will stop being exponential and later turn negative. Rising prices will make thin seams of coal profitable to mine and to convert to gas and liquid. Supply and demand will always remain in balance; the total system will probably always show a high degree of stability, though inequities in distribution will always be with us.

Exponential growth of energy consumption will be relegated to the history books where it will join countless other phenomena that have defined the course of human history, and that have shown exponential growth in their early stages. New processes such as information generation and flow will have their turn at exponential growth before they plateau and seek a steady state.

There is one exception to the picture outlined above--soil-based systems.

If one examines the global data on various soil related issues (croplands, forest lands, grazing lands, irrigated lands, fisheries) one is struck by the huge number of positive feedback phenomena (instabilities) that have historically never allowed a steady state to be reached, but instead have produced an endless series of collapses of soil-based systems. A few examples:

When irrigation production falls short of desire, people attempt to get along with less water per unit of output. The result is salination and less--not more--crop production. When timber production falls short of desire, people harvest trees at younger ages. The result is less productivity--not more. When livestock production falls short of desire, more grazing animals are put on the same pasture. The result is overgrazing, soil erosion, less grass and less--not more--cattle. When cropland production falls below demand, fallow periods are decreased, the result is massive wind erosion, chemical degradation of the soil, and less--not more--crop production. All of this idiocy has always been defended by the economists of the day using a process called discount economics.

Take the extra profits from not conserving soil and soil quality and put these profits in a bank. Then, by the time the earth is converted to a barren wasteland, you simply live off the interest-income from your bank account. Is this imbecilic? Before you decide, ask any forester whether he uses present-net-value analyses, and ask any agricultural expert whether soil-conservation makes economic sense.

Soil-based systems are clearly not stable, equilibrium-seeking systems. They have always been subject to massive positive-feedback processes.

The worse things get, the faster they get worse. This is why all those ancient civilizations (all agriculture-based) have collapsed rather than seeking a more soil-conservative mode of operation. I have seen nothing that would make me believe that discount economics will ever fall out of favor. Take a look at all the economic analyses of soil conservation that have appeared in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation over the past few decades. Virtually every such analysis will assure us that soil conservation is simply not worth the effort, and anyone expressing doubts about the discount economics involved is seen as a dunce, or worse. doclink

33 Years Later: the Limits to Growth

August 14, 2005, Business Standard

Dennis Meadows, the co-author of "The Limits to Growth", which the Club of Rome issued in 1972 to spark the sustainability debate, says the Club of Rome was right in saying what it did. And since we have done nothing to address the concerns raised in the 1972 report, we have less time than before to take corrective action.

The global population has grown from around 3.5 billion in 1972, to more than 6 billion today. Industrial production has gone from an index of about 180 in 1963 to more than 400. The index of world metals use has gone up more than 50%. The concentration of carbon dioxide has gone up increasing in 30 years by as much as in the previous 220. Mankind's "global ecological footprint" has gone from a sustainability level of about 90% of the earth's capacity, to 120%. We are beyond the sustainability point. We have not realised that we have crossed the sustainability limit because we are drawing down on nature's bank balance and that cannot go on indefinitely. We have already used up half that grace period. The challenge now is the population must stop growing, and we must change our consumption, because we cannot continue to make today's claims on the environment. India wants to get our income levels up from $600 per capita to at least $2,000, at which level there is no absolute poverty left. If you factor in what that will mean for energy and other non-renewable resources, it seems pretty obvious that what we have already seen in the markets for oil and iron ore are a foretaste of what is to come. Oil may already have reached the level of peak production, and what that means for the global economy is frightening. Does that mean that India and China should not aspire to what the developed economies have delivered by way of standards of living? It seems an unfair question when the west is unwilling to change its consumption habits. If neither happens, and even if some technological fixes can buy us some time, the message is straightforward. Things cannot go on as before. doclink

Food Production Increase 1960-1990 Not Sustainable

Bruce Sundquist website

The huge increase in food production that occurred during the period around 1960-1990 resulted from huge increases in chemical fertilizers, the Green Revolution, the expansion of large-scale irrigation, and the increase in cropland area. All of these have serious limits. You need to understand these limits and learn how close to these limits we are at this time. To do this, please examine my document on sustainability in my website for a detailed analysis. Click on the headline to see this document. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Bruce Sundquist has been very thorough in documenting the carrying capacity of this planet. For those who are serious about this concern, this website is worth looking over.

US California: Slumburbia

February 10, 2010, New York Times*


In Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy, California, among some of the world's most productive farmland, you can find streets of foreclosed home, looking like a 21st century ghost town, with rock-bottom discounts on empty starter mansions.

Here population nearly doubled in 10 years, and home prices tripled and urban planning circles hailed the boom as the new America at the far exurban fringe. But others saw it as the residential embodiment of the Edward Abbey line that "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

Now median home prices have fallen from $500,000 to $150,000, one in eight houses are in some stage of foreclosure and the crime rate has spiked well above the national average, and unemployment hovers around 1%.

Nationwide, foreclosure increase 119% from two years ago. Owners of 1 in 10 mortgages owe more than their houses are worth, and many just walk away. Without vested owners, vandalism runs rampant and the place becomes a slum. Only 11% of the people in this valley could afford the median home price.

Through immigration and high birth rates, the United States is expected to add another 100 million people by 2050. We've already added 105 million people since 1970; we have a net gain of one person every 13 seconds.

This housing boom was spurred by the state's broken tax system where cities were hampered by by property tax limitations and increased revenue by the easiest route: expanding urban boundaries. Developers plowed up walnut groves and vineyards to pay for services demanded by new school parents and park users.

A lesson can be learned from cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego, which have stable and recovering home markets, have fairly strict development codes, trying to hem in their excess sprawl. Developers said these cities would eventually price the middle class out, and start to empty, but this hasn't happened. Instead, the free-for-all cities like Las Vegas, the Phoenix metro area, South Florida, this valley - are the most troubled, the suburban slums. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Population growth feeds these 'booms'. Build it and they will come, say the developers, confident that growth is always the answer. They have no idea about carrying capacity. And most people still do not realize that economic hard times are related to carrying capacity.

U.S.: Hold Steady

June 9, 2009, Earth Island Journal

If we don't stabilize population growth, life as we know it is unlikely to continue. With so many of us burning fossil fuels, gobbling up renewable resources, and generating toxic trash, our life support ecosystems are threatened.

In the central North Pacific Ocean gyre, swirling plastic fragments now outweigh plankton 46 to one. CO2 in the atmosphere is higher today than anytime in the past 650,000 years. Nearly one in four mammals is threatened with extinction, and worse - one in three amphibians and a quarter of all conifers. In many parts of the world, including the High Plains of North America, human water use exceeds annual average water replenishment; by 2025 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity, according to the UN. Unsustainable farming practices cause the destruction and abandonment of almost 30 million acres of arable land each year.

The number of humans is still increasing by 1.18% per year, or 80 million annually, the equivalent of nearly two Sudans, or three and a half Taiwans. Even though China is only growing by 0.5% annually, it is still growing by eight million people each year. The US, with a 1% population grow rate, increases by more than 2.9 million people annually,

the equivalent of almost four new San Franciscos.

Many argue that a decrease in human numbers would lead to a fiscal catastrophe, seeing that, in the last 200 years,

unprecedented economic growth has been accompanied by an equally unprecedented increase in world population. During the 1800s and 1900s, up to half of world economic growth was likely due to population growth; Georgetown University environmental historian John McNeill explains: "A big part of economic growth to date consists of population growth.

More hands, more work, more things produced."

Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of economic success or failure, is the number of people multiplied by per capita income. Slow population growth, and economic growth will likely slow as well unless advances in productivity and spending increase at rates high enough to make up the difference. This perhaps explains why population policy is not a popular issue.

Instead We should be looking at per capita GDP, which corrects for population growth. While Japan's economy has been touted as 'bad', based on its national GDP it has actually enjoyed the biggest gain in average income among the big three rich economies. GDP is 'bad' only because its population is shrinking. Population decline may slow economic growth on a nationwide basis, "but it would not necessarily reduce per capita wealth or, indeed, per capita growth."

Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute, suggests "an orderly and relatively slow reduction in population, and not a chaotic plunge in our numbers as a result of war, disease, a breakdown in healthcare systems, or natural catastrophe." What is necessary is to match low death rates with low birthrates.

Daniel O'Neill of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy says: "t this point in history, having too many people, or too high a level of consumption, is much more likely to result in the end of economic progress, via ecological collapse, than having too few." The costs of economic growth in the U.S. began to exceed the benefits sometime in the late 1970s.

An economic "slowdown" that results from slowing and eliminating population growth is distinctly different from that caused by a credit crunch or the messy bursting of a speculative bubble. While it's true there will be fewer mouths to feed, there will also be fewer pairs of hands needing employment. In many poorer nations, having more children means increasing the supply of labor, and lowering wages.

Unfortunately,'GDP' does not differentiate between costs and benefits and we end up spending more money to fix the problems caused by population growth. The costs of mitigating the stress imposed by a ballooning population on roads, schools, parks, agricultural land, air and water quality, government services, and ecosystems add to the total pool of a country's economic transactions.

"Sure, population decline will slow down aggregate demand. On the other hand, it's going to increase the amount of resources per capita," Daly says.

While reducing population growth in an orderly fashion promises more economic good than ill, it will bring about social and economic challenges that even proponents of shrinking the population do not dismiss lightly. Of particular concern are the challenges associated with reducing the number of working age people relative to retirees.

If we have fewer people, we will be spared the problems caused by overpopulation, save on natural resources, and in the long run be more able to provide for the social security of our aging population. doclink

New York Times Population Debate

March 17, 2009, Bill Ryerson

The New York Times is publishing a series of articles on the impact immigrants are having on American institutions, with the first article focusing on educating new immigrants.

It appears The New York Times is attempting to separate the population issue from US immigration and make them into two unrelated issues.

Any discussion of immigration into the US already the world's third most populous nation, is incomplete without addressing its impact on domestic population growth and sustainability.

On average, over 1 million foreign born people are granted permanent residence status each year. By adding 133 million people, the US is set to add into its borders the equivalent of all the current citizens of Mexico and Canada combined by 2050. This will result in:

US population sky-rocketing by over 130 million people.

Demand for the ground-water, open-space and farm-land dramatically surging.

Wages for lower-skilled, less-educated Americans plummeting as excess service labor swamps the market.

Roads, schools, subways and grocery stores becoming even more crowded.

Representative democracy weakening as each elected official serves a drastically inflated constituency.

If Congress were to set immigration policy to allow for 300,000 people to be invited into the nation per year US population would be 80 million less than is it currently projected to be at mid-century. doclink

Karen Gaia says: just as every family should be able to set its size according to its social and economic limitations, so should a nation be able to limit its size by governing its borders. Up to now the US has been a rich nation, but the strain on its resources (and that on other countries it takes from) is beginning to show. Its footprint is far larger than the country's size itself.

Australia: Many in Denial Over Rising Population

December 19, 2009, Sydney Morning Heral

Population growth in Asia averages 1.1% a year. Australia should have a much lower growth rate, but our annual population growth had risen to 1.5%. According to Bureau of Statistics figures, it is now 1.7%. At this rate, our population will reach 42 million by 2051. This is far above any estimate of the population Australia could hope to feed.

This week's government white paper proposes a 5% cut in emissions, but assumes per capita cuts can outpace population growth. This is based on the assumption we are heading for 28 million people in Australia by 2051, rather than 42 million.

Some claim Australia is a big country, yet the geographer George Seddon has remarked Australia is "a small country with big distances". Our agricultural areas are not so large, or fertile, as population boosters pretend. The human as well as the natural environment deteriorates as population grows.

The reaction to any suggestion that population growth, and immigration, should be reduced was to accuse the critic of "racism". Yet most immigrants think immigration is too high.

Figures show that births each year in Australia are twice the number of deaths. Australia's safe carrying capacity in the long term may be as low as 8 to 12 million people.

In 1994, the Australian Academy of Science said that 23 million people should be our limit.

Over the years, Australians have been promised a series of points at which population growth would supposedly be capped: Bob Hawke spoke of 25 million, which might be the limit set by water resources. The minister for immigration, spoke of our population naturally peaking at some 23 million. Our current trajectory is to break 100 million by 2100.

Population increase suits governments wanting to please the business community now. There is still a way out and it is naive to think population growth can be slowed.

In the past two years, most politicians have ceased being in denial about climate change, greenhouse emissions, limits to water, and peak oil.

Our population growth is out of control. doclink

Australia: A Climate of Change at Lake Macquarie

December 26, 2008, Newcastle Herald

Lake Macquarie residents are becoming aware of climate change issues and the underlying causes. The council was "taking a lead role in planning for sea-level rise due to climate change" and had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There were signs of people changing their behaviour to help the environment.

People were buying smaller cars. 161,535 vehicles were registered in Lake Macquarie, a 2.25% increase on the previous year.

The rate of native vegetation clearing had been "substantially reduced" to 58 hectares.

But Lake Macquarie's population is expected to grow by 60,000 to 70,000 people in the next 25 years and will create demand for 36,500 new dwellings.

An expanding population means an increase in the consumption of resources. Residential electricity use in the city had decreased by 3.9% in 2007-08 compared with the previous year, but business electricity use had increased by 1.8%. doclink

US Wisconsin: A Shift to a New Ethics?

June 8, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin legislators embraced an ethics built on preserving and sustaining the earth's system of living things.

We thought we had the right to use all the resources of the earth to serve our human growth. We possessed the right to equality, free speech, to work for pay and so on. We believed we had the right to expand our material possessions, our property and the number of children we brought into the world.

Our ethics held that the earth's resources were infinite and our ability to grow and increase was also infinite. But now we see a shift. Environmental ethics moves us away from the human-centered ethics of limitlessness and realizes that, in fact, our planet is finite. This scarcity of the earth's resources limits the rights and privileges of its human inhabitants. Protecting the environment must come before the limitless rights and needs of the human population. When humans act to protect and renew the resources of the Earth, they act in the most morally and ethically responsible way possible. When they act for their own growth and expansion, they tend to deplete and destroy the environment. The victims of planetary degradation will be our species - or at least the major civilizations, which will collapse from the loss of clean water, air and fertile land.

The environment has veto power over a human-centered ethics of expansion, growth and consumption. Making the environmental principle the centerpiece of our cultural ethics will face resistance from the human rights-and-freedom ethics we have embraced for so long. We cannot expand and grow forever. And a scarce Earth will place limits on our freedom, rights and needs.

Our civic leaders must assess the benefits and costs to humans and to the environment when they consider expanding freeways, public transportation systems, building coal-burning power plants, putting wind turbines on farm land. The environmental principle must be considered first. doclink

Peak Population

August 12, 2008, Utne Reader

Liberals are less-than-fond of Big Oil's profit margins, so we point out the need for alternative energy. Then we frame it as an environmental problem. But it is also an economic, a social, and a foreign policy problem. Our energy crisis is being talked about by both presidential candidates. Which is a lot more time than they're giving to the population crisis.

Global population could increase to 12 billion by 2050. Most growth is in developing countries. The closest thing to population reform coming from the right is, "If the world's brown people would stop having so many babies, there'd be no crisis." On the left, if we ease poverty and increase education in developing countries, the global population will even itself out. The growing number of people inhabiting the Earth is everybody's problem. Based on solid evidence, there is a direct relationship between lower standards of living and larger family size. Yet there is no guarantee that addressing quality-of-living issues will solve the population problem.

We are faced with a crisis because we are using up more resources than the planet can produce. The most basic resources are growing scarce, food, potable water, wood. A population that keeps growing will eventually overwhelm the planet. As impoverished nations achieve prosperity, their consumption grows. A two-pronged solution is needed: reduced consumption and staved population growth.

Once again, the birth-to-death ratio in this country has reached replacement level. A child born in a first-world country uses more resources and emits more carbon than a child born in a developing country.

One of the obstacles to enacting international policies to curtail the population explosion is that, until recently, there is no consensus that the present global population is a problem. Many countries encourage family growth through tax incentives and other policies. Population control is met with vehement opposition. They are the human desire to live the way we wish, consequences be damned. The only way to counteract this desire is to make it less profitable to have children.

If food, healthcare, and education are provided, subsidizing procreation won't be necessary. This will increase the quality of life for families without punishing parents or promoting family growth.

We need to make birth control more widely available worldwide.

The association between the tyrannical and the humanitarian motivations of limiting population bolsters the need for transparent and public worldwide policies. We may still be allowed a weaning period. Energy costs will rise. The poor will bear the burden, But innovation will balloon, and the dividends of increased innovation will grow.

A lack of forethought in energy policy almost destroyed the planet, and still might. How much more difficult will it be, to make the argument that the choice to have a child is no longer a decision that can be made freely? doclink

Karen Gaia says: the author does not seem to understand the value of voluntary family planning. U.S. women voluntarily limited their family size to replacement level, from 4 to 2 children in 20 years. With reproductive health care, women's education and self esteem, and available contraception, it can easily be done.

Plan B Budget for Restoring the Earth - Part Three

April 17, 2007, Earth Policy Institute

To save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring natural support systems, eradicating poverty, and stabilizing population. We have the resources to do this and the US has the resources to lead this effort. Rich countries are so rich - and the poor so poor - that a few tenths of 1% of GNP from the rich ones over the coming decades could ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children. It is not possible to put a price tag on the changes needed to move our civilization onto a path that will sustain economic progress. We need to restructure the energy economy to renewable sources of energy. The funding to achieve universal primary education in the developing countries is estimated at $12 billion per year. Funding an adult literacy program based on volunteers will take $4 billion annually. Providing for basic health care in developing countries is estimated at $33 billion. The funding to provide reproductive health care and family planning services to all women in developing countries is less than $7 billion a year.

Providing the 9.5 billion condoms needed to control the spread of HIV in the developing world and Eastern Europe requires $2 billion for condoms and $1.7 billion for AIDS prevention education and condom distribution. School lunch programs to the 44 poorest countries is $6 billion. $4 billion per year would cover the cost of assistance to preschool children and pregnant women. The cost of reaching basic goals comes to $68 billion a year.

A poverty eradication effort that is not accompanied by an earth restoration effort is doomed to fail. Reforesting the earth will cost $6 billion annually. Protecting and restoring rangeland will require $9 billion, restoring fisheries will cost $13 billion, and stabilizing water tables will require $10 billion annually. Protecting biological diversity and conserving soil on cropland, account for over half of the earth restoration annual outlay, $93 billion of additional expenditures per year.

We can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy collapse, or we can move onto a path, that will sustain economic progress. It is hard to find the words to convey the gravity of our situation and the momentous nature of the decision we are about to make. No one can argue that we do not have the resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earth's natural resource base. Shifting one sixth of the world military budget to the budget would be more than adequate to move the world onto a path that would sustain progress.

This economic restructuring depends on tax restructuring, on getting the market to be ecologically honest. The benchmark of political leadership will be whether or not leaders succeed in restructuring the tax system. This is the key to stabilize climate and to make the transition to the post-petroleum world.

The challenge is to build a global society that is environmentally sustainable. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I respect the Earth Policy institute, but do not share their confidence that there will be enough food to go around after all the restoration and stabilization of water tables. What is to prevent the continuous draw upon the world's resources from again depleting them? And how can this restoration be accomplished while we still rely on fossil fuels which are depleting?

Global Inaction: We'd better get motivated now to confront climate change; our leaders are not going to do it for us

March 9, 2008, The Register-Guard

The global response to global warming has been inaction. And while a poll shows that 71% of Americans think warming is a problem, most of us continue with our lives as usual.

Why are we so passive in the face of such profound changes for the worse in our environment?

By the year 2100, those changes will include a sea level rise of 5 to 10 feet; a 30% drop in crop yields; hundreds of millions of climate refugees; erratic and more severe weather; frequent forest fires; potable water shortages; a roughly 30% rate of global species extinction, and a hostile world.

With a better understanding of our reluctance to act, we'll be motivated to undertake the changes required for sustainability.

Global warming's harm is in the future, and we tend to ignore future harm. Warming is in evidence today, but so far only amounts to one degree C. Now we must insure ourselves against the very high likelihood that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions will be massively disruptive.

We have to stop polluting. Dilution is not the solution, because it fails when the volume or toxicity of pollutants increase.

The huge volume of carbon dioxide is a pollutant, but it's ignored because it's invisible and odorless. Now, it is our single most serious problem.

Rising carbon dioxide correlates with rising temperature, and rising temperatures will cause a multitude of problems. The science has some uncertainty, but so does all science.

By the time we have precise knowledge of the rate and consequences of warming, it will be too late. If we wait, significant warming will be inevitable and irreversible.

So far, if drought reduces some food we want, we simply pay more to bring some in from elsewhere. But more than 1 billion people in the world live on $2 a day or less, and have no cushion against the ill effects of warming. Soon, even our wealth will prove inadequate. A 2003 Pentagon study predicted widespread chaos based on just one of the global warming consequences.

Our wealth temporarily insulates us from an urgent and chaotic reality.

We have to save ourselves we have no effective leaders.

We have no assurance that alternative, non-polluting energy sources can replace our current energy use, or even large parts of it. It seems unlikely that we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as needed.

No one knows how much non-emitting energy we can develop, because that depends mostly on new or improved technologies. But the reduction will change our lives, because we are highly dependent on cheap and plentiful fossil fuel energy.

At some point quite a while ago, growth became unsustainable. But our cultural worship of growth irrationally persisted. doclink

Did You Know?

June 14, 2008, Earth Policy Institute, Plan B 3.0

*The 8 warmest years have occurred in the last decade.

*For seven of the last eight years, the world has consumed more grain than it produced. One fifth of the U.S. grain is being turned into fuel ethanol.

*One third of reptile, amphibian, and fish species are threatened with extinction.

*Grain yields increased half as fast in the 1990s as in the 1960s.

*Life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa today is lower than in the late 1980s.

*Today's reserves of lead, tin, and copper could be depleted within the next 25 years if their extraction expands at current rates.

*Nearly half of the global military budget of $1.2 trillion is spent by the US.

*South Korea recycles 77% of its paper products.

*Conservation agriculture is practiced on more than 100 million hectares around the world

*Four years after London introduced a fee on motor vehicles entering the city center, car traffic had fallen by 36% while bicycle trips increased by 49%.

*The world produces 110 million bicycles a year, but an annual production of 49 million cars.

*Fish farming is the fastest growing source of animal protein worldwide, increasing 7% each year since 1995.

*World soybean production has quadrupled since 1977.

*Coal use in Germany has dropped 37% since 1990; in the UK it has fallen by 43%.

*Solar cell production is doubling every two years.

*Electricity used for lighting can be cut by 65% through switching to compact fluorescents.

Follow the link to more fascinating data and charts on global trends. doclink

Sustainability of the World's Outputs of Food, Wood and Freshwater for Human Consumption

May 8, 2008, Bruce Sundquist's webpage

This article discusses in great detail the sustainabilities of the world's outputs of food, wood and freshwater. It also considers that sustainability is mainly culture-dependent. The article divides the world into 3 sections, the developing world, the older portions of the developed world, and the newer portions of the developed world. These three regions view sustainability issues in far different ways and for far different reasons. It also ddiscusses in great detail the developments that are responsible for the rapid increase in global food production over the past 4-5 decades. It reviews the need for and the actual reductions in population growth and some of the modern contraceptive methods.
Anyone interested in any of these subjects should click on the headline link and read the full article. doclink

Return of the Population Timebomb

May 5, 2008, Guardian - comment by John Feeney

Only since 1800 has the human population shot into the billions. Now at nearly 6.7 billion, with 9 billion looming 40 years away, few environmentalists seem to care.

Our environmental impact is the product of population size and the average person's consumption.

Today's climate change, mass extinction, deforestation, collapsing fisheries and more is evidence our total consumption has gone too far. We are destroying our life-support system. To avert catastrophe, we need to reduce our numbers and per person consumption.

An common assertion: If everyone on Earth consumed less, we wouldn't have exceeded carrying capacity. It's a simple notion: reduce per person consumption and end our environmental problems. And it sidesteps population size and growth, a subject of much concern in the 1960s and 1970s but taboo today.

Why taboo? Pressure from social justice activists who insist in recent decades that any focus on numbers violates the right of women to manage their fertility.

Humane, successful population programmes in countries as varied as Thailand, Iran, and Mexico contradict that assumption.

Nevertheless, the criticism has cowed environmentalists and NGOs which once championed the population cause, influencing policy, pushing the subject off the agenda, or shifting the emphasis solely to "reproductive health" without the numbers.

Most environmentalists now suggest a reduction in individual consumption is all we need to solve our ecological problems.

Measuring consumption as the use of biologically productive land and sea, data shows a global maximum sustainable footprint, at today's population, of just under 1.8 global hectares per person. Currently, we're a bit over 2.2gha, overshooting Earth's limits by about 25%.

What if we converged on Mexico's level of per capita consumption? Resource use would plummet in developed countries while rising in many of the poorest. But it wouldn't get us to 1.8gha. At 2.6gha, Mexico's footprint is 32% too high. A drop to the level of Botswana or Uzbekistan would put us in the right range.

But that's not low enough. We'd next have to compensate for UN projections of 40% more humans by the middle of the century. That would mean shrinking the global footprint to under 1.3gha, roughly the level of Guatemala or Nigeria.

The GFN authors point out their data is conservative, underestimating problems such as aquifer depletion and our impacts on other species. In response, the Redefining Progress group publishes an alternative footprint measure which has humanity not at 25%, but at 39% overshoot. But that too, the authors concede, is an underestimate.

While in overshoot, moreover, we erode carrying capacity. There are limits to how much we can reduce per-person use of land, water, and other resources. A purposeful drop on the part of industrialised countries to consumption levels comparable to those of the poorest areas in the world is not only wholly unrealistic but, at today's population size, would not end our environmental woes. Our sheer numbers prevent it.

We have no alternative but to return our attention to population, the other factor in the equation. We must aim for population stabilisation followed by a decline in human numbers worldwide.

We have to provide easy access to family planning options while educating parents in the benefits of smaller families and family planning. We should educate and empower girls and women to give them options and help free them to make decisions concerning family size. And we should end government incentives for larger families. We must do these things internationally and vigorously, with a keen eye toward numbers, monitoring results and making adjustments accordingly.

The stakes are too high to waste time evading the issue. Doing so is intellectually dishonest and a setup for global tragedy. It's time environmentalists ended the silence on population. doclink

Ralph says: At last someone has the courage to say what should be on every politician's blotter tomorrow morning.

US California: More Mouths to Feed Means Less Land to Feed Them On

Leon Kolankiewicz - CAPS

Agricultural experts have warned that California's farmland is threatened by population growth. Farmers and ranchers have expressed the concern for decades.

Unfortunately, warnings have not slowed the pace at which croplands and soils are being eaten up by development. The state's farmlands are shrinking because the millions added to our population are competing with farmers for water and for the land that is best at producing food. California has long been America's leading agricultural state, generating over $30 billion a year in revenues. California cultivates more than 350 crops. The cash value of crops grown in the great Central Valley is probably unrivalled by any other comparably-sized area on earth. Unfortunately, the urbanization is accelerating. In California, productive farmlands are succumbing and are being split up into unproductive rural ranchettes or hobby farms.

Between 1990 and 2004, rapid population growth has been driving this trend.

More than 60% of the 538,000 acres developed in California was agricultural land. In the most important agricultural areas like the Central Valley, a higher portion, nearly three-quarters of the area, developed was farmland. By 2050, if the state's population projections come to pass, and if current trends continue, an additional 2.1 million acres would be urbanized. These are the lands that with the proper stewardship could produce food virtually in perpetuity. Like the non-renewable energy resources we have squandered in recent decades, this loss will come back to haunt us in a future.

Food prices are mounting globally with the addition of 70-80 million more mouths to feed every year, diversion of food crops into biofuels production, increasing consumption of meat (which uses far more land to grow the crops fed to livestock), and rising energy prices.

If California is to be part of the solution, unsustainable population growth must be checked. Since virtually all present and projected growth is from immigration and higher average immigrant fertility, these must be reduced.

If we don't, then one day California will struggle just to feed its own citizens, no less the nation and the world. doclink

The Hidden Holocaust -- Our Civilizational Crisis, Part 3

January 6, 2008, Online Journal

This global system is driven purely by profit, efficiency, growth, and monopoly. It is destructive of all life, nature, and even itself.

It is now generating multiple crises across the world that threaten to converge unless we take drastic action now.

These crises have four key themes: Climate catastrophe, peak oil, food scarcity, and economic instability.

The C02 emissions from the industries are the main engine of global warming. Scientists have found no evidence that solar energy is correlated with rising temperatures. According to the IPCC's first report, by 2100 the average global temperature could rise by 6.4C, leading to ecological alterations that would make life throughout most of the Earth impossible.

Another crisis emerging is the energy crisis, primarily oil. The basic rules for the discovery, estimation and production of petroleum reserves were laid down by Dr. M. King Hubbert who pointed out that as petroleum is a finite resource, its production must inevitably pass through three key stages. Production reaches a peak which cannot be surpassed which occurs at the point when 50% of total reserves are depleted.

Production declines at an increasing rate, until the resource is completely depleted.

Rising oil prices and reports of declining oil production corroborate the conclusion that the peak has occurred, or will do, within the start of the 21st century. The convergence of climate change and peak oil threaten to undermine global food security over the next few years. The effects of this are already being felt.

A study predicted that if global warming continues, drought that already threatens the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth before 2100, and extreme drought will affect a third of the planet. The world-scale drought would undermine the ability to grow food, have a safe sanitation system, and the availability of water, pushing millions of people over the precipice.

We are already pushing the limits on world food production. The Earth is running out of fertile land, and food production will soon be unable to keep up with population growth.

Every year in the US, more than 2 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion, salinization and water logging.

Without oil, modern agriculture dies, and so then will our ability to mass-produce food.

Economic meltdown, the gap between rich and poor nations doubled between 1960 and 1989.

Of the 4 billion people who live in developing countries, about 1.3 billion have no access to clean drinking water. A fifth of all children receive an insufficient intake of calories and proteins. Around 2 billion people suffer from anaemia, 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. The CEPR conducted a study of economic growth for 1980 to 2005. The results are shocking. The majority of the world's economies have been retarded. These 25 years have exhibited a decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades in growth, life expectancy, infant mortality and education.

The global economic system is inherently unstable, and tends toward the generation of periodic crises. It is vulnerable to collapse. In mid-2006, Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, warned that the world "has done little to prepare itself for what could well be the next crisis." A key trigger could be the housing market, the use of home loans to squeeze cash out of equity, permitting consumers to spend beyond their means.

This spending spree has to come to an end. If it comes to an end suddenly, then we have our recession. The US economy is close to the edge. We need a civilizational paradigm shift. A whole new vision of life itself to replace the dead, broken materialistic vision associated with the concurrent global imperial system. The good news is that the civilizational paradigm shift is not only happening its seeds have already been planted.

This system is now generating multiple crises across the world that over the next 20 years threaten to converge in an unprecedented and unimaginable way, unless we take drastic action now.

These crises can be categorized broadly into four key themes:

1. Climate Catastrophe

Industrial civilization derives all its energy from the burning of fossil fuels, pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The C02 emissions from the industries that drive our economies, our societies, that sustain our infrastructures, are the main engine of global warming in the last few decades. This doesn't mean that all climate change ever is due to human-induced C02. Scientists know that there are many other factors involved in climate change, such as solar activity, as well as periodic changes in the Earth's orbit. But they have overwhelmingly confirmed that these are not the primary factors currently driving global warming. The primary factor is C02 emissions induced by human activities.

The origins of climate change are no longer a matter of serious scientific debate. Early in 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported the findings of a three-year study projecting the rise in temperatures due to global warming, by 600 scientists from 40 countries, peer-reviewed by 600 more meteorologists. The report confirmed that human-induced global warming is "unequivocally" happening, and that the probability that climate change was due to human C02 emissions is over 90%.

The London Times reported on a study from Nature as follows:

"Scientists have examined various proxies of solar energy output over the past 1,000 years and have found no evidence that they are correlated with today's rising temperatures. Satellite observations over the past 30 years have also turned up nothing. 'The solar contribution to warming . . . is negligible,' the researchers wrote in the journal Nature."

At 6c : "Life on Earth ends with apocalyptic storms, flash floods, hydrogen sulphide gas and methane fireballs racing across the globe with the power of atomic bombs; only fungi survive."

Growing evidence suggests that the IPCC projections are extremely conservative, and that the climate crisis is rapidly growing out of control. According to Dr David Wasdell, a climate expert and an accredited reviewer of the IPCC report, the final report was watered down by Western government officials before release to make its findings appear less catastrophic. Dr Wasdell told the New Scientist (8 March 2007) that early drafts of the report prepared by scientists in April 2006 contained "many references to the potential for climate to change faster than expected because of 'positive feedbacks' in the climate system. Most of these references were absent from the final version."

The following IPCC report, however, distilling the research of 2,500 climate scientists, released in November 2007 only confirms that the original projection was too optimistic. To avoid heating the globe by the minimum possible, an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the world's spiraling growth in greenhouse gas emissions must end no later than 2015, and must start to drop quickly after that peak. By 2050, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85%, according to the estimates. But even this is already too late. "We may have already overshot that target," said David Karoly, one member of the core team that wrote the report. Current emissions already are nearing the limit required in 2015 to limit the warming to 2 degrees Celsius, he added in a media interview from Valencia.

But Western governments have known about this danger for years. At the June 2005 UK government conference on "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change" at the Met Office in Exeter, scientists reported an emerging consensus that global warming must remain "below an average increase of two degrees centigrade if catastrophe is to be avoided," which means ensuring that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stays below 400 parts per million. Beyond this level, dangerous and runaway climate change is likely to be irreversible.

About two weeks after the government conference warned of this minimum threshold, the Independent commissioned an investigation by Keith Shine, head of the meteorology department at the University of Reading. Using the latest available figures (for 2004), Professor Shine calculated that "the C02 equivalent concentration, largely unnoticed by the scientific and political communities, has now risen beyond this threshold." Accounting for the effects of methane and nitrous oxide, he found that the equivalent concentration of C02 is now 425ppm and fast rising, guaranteeing that the global mean temperature will rise by 2 degrees. Consequently, some of the worst predicted effects of global warming, such as the destruction of ecosystems and increased hunger and water shortages for billions of people in the South, may well be unavoidable.

When asked about the implications, Tom Burke, a former government environment adviser, told the Independent: "The passing of this threshold is of the most enormous significance. It means we have actually entered a new era -- the era of dangerous climate change. We have passed the point where we can be confident of staying below the 2 degree rise set as the threshold for danger. What this tells us is that we have already reached the point where our children can no longer count on a safe climate."

According to the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) the percentage of Earth's land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s, from about 10-15% to 30%, largely due to rising temperatures. Widespread drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa, and eastern Australia. Global warming is not only melting the Arctic, it is melting the glaciers that feed Asia's largest rivers -- the Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow. Because glaciers are a natural storage system, releasing water during hot arid periods, the shrinking ice sheets could aggravate water imbalances, causing flooding as the melting accelerates, followed by a reduction in river flows. This problem is only decades, possibly even years away, resulting in hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who have water, being short of it, most likely in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than 1 billion people in Asia could face water shortages, and by 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people. Some climate models show sub-saharan Africa drying out by 2050.

2. Peak oil

There is yet another crisis emerging, which is also linked to our addiction to burning fossil fuels. That is the energy crisis. Today, the most prominent energy source is, of course, conventional oil. Here in the UK, from where I'm now writing, 90% of our energy comes from conventional oil, gas and coal, but primarily oil. Without these energy supplies, civilized life in the UK would simply collapse. Transportation, agriculture, modern medicine, national defence, water distribution, and the production of even basic technologies would be impossible. This formula applies across the board, throughout western industrial civilization.

One of the most authoritative studies so far on peak oil and its timing was conducted by Dr. Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere, leading oil industry experts concluded in a report for the government that "the mid-point of ultimate conventional oil production would be reached by year 2000 and that decline would soon begin." They also projected that "production post-peak would halve about every 25 years, an exponential decline of 2.5 to 2.9% per annum."

This conclusion is based as it is on performance data from thousands of oil fields in 65 countries, including data on "virtually all discoveries, on production history by country, field, and company as well as key details of geology and geophysical surveys." A review of the research by senior industry geologists in Petroleum Review indicated, apart from minor disagreement over the scope of remaining reserves, "general acceptance of the substance of their arguments; that the bulk of remaining discovery will be in ever smaller fields within established provinces."

Rapidly rising oil prices and growing reports of declining oil production corroborate the conclusion that the peak has already occurred, or will do, well within the dawn of the 21st century. London's Petroleum Review published a study toward the end of 2004 concluding that in Indonesia, Gabon, and fifteen other oil-rich nations supplying about 30% of the world's daily crude, oil production is declining by 5% a year -- double the rate of decline a year prior to the report. Chris Skrebowski reported in early 2005 that production in conventional oil reserves are already declining at about 4-6% a year worldwide, including 18 large oil-producing countries, and 32 smaller ones. Denmark, Malaysia, Brunei, China, Mexico and India are due to peak in the next few years.

According to an official report published by British Petroleum late last year, we have about 30 years before we peak. This is supposed to be an 'optimistic' assessment. Apart from the fact that this is hardly good news, it is a clearly politicized claim from an oil industry fighting to sustain its credibility as the Oil Age nears its demise. Colin Campbell, himself a former senior BP geologist, argues that the data shows we have less than 4 years; and in the meantime, former US government energy adviser Matt Simmons argues that we have most likely peaked years ago, but won't know for sure until we start feeling the crunch within a few years.

3. Food scarcity

The convergence of these two global crises, climate change and peak oil, threaten to undermine global food security over the next few years. The effects of this are already being felt.

At the British Association's Festival of Science in Dublin in September 2005, US and UK scientists working at the Hadley Centre described how shifts in rain patterns and temperatures due to global warming could lead to a further 50 million people going hungry by conservative estimates. "If we accept that broadly 500 million people are at risk today, we expect that to increase by about 10 percent by the middle part of this century."

Then toward the end of 2006, a study by Met Office's Hadley Centre funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, predicted that if global warming continues, drought that already threatens the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth before 2100, and extreme drought making agriculture impossible will affect a third of the planet. The world-scale drought would undermine the ability to grow food, the ability to have a safe sanitation system, and the availability of water, pushing millions of people already struggling in conditions of dire deprivation over the precipice.

The grim truth is that we are already pushing the limits on world food production within the existing structure of modern corporate agriculture. According to new maps released in December 2005 by scientists at the Centre for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Navin Ramankutty, "Except for Latin America and Africa, all the places in the world where we could grow crops are already being cultivated. The remaining places are either too cold or too dry to grow crops." The maps thus show that the Earth is "rapidly running out of fertile land" and that "food production will soon be unable to keep up with global population growth."

World food prediction probably peaked shortly before the new millennium. Lester Brown, a former international agricultural policy advisor for the US government who went on to found the World Watch Institute and Earth Policy Institute, reports that since world grain consumption has exceeded production since 2000, such that 2003 saw a deficit of 105 million tones. On that basis, Brown predicts a global grain deficit within the next few years. In 2003 he noted that "World grain harvests have fallen for four consecutive years and world grain stocks are at the lowest level in 30 years." This is partly why world grain prices are steadily rising.

This is not centrally about population, but about modern intensive agricultural methods as practiced by the globalized corporate food industry, which are simply unsustainable. US structural geologist Dave Allen Pfeiffer points out that while it takes 500 years to replace 1 inch of topsoil, in soil made susceptible by modern agriculture, erosion is reducing productivity up to 65% each year. Former prairie lands, which constitute the bread basket of the United States, have lost one half of their topsoil after farming for about 100 years. This soil is eroding 30 times faster than the natural formation rate. Soil erosion and mineral depletion removes about $20 billion worth of plant nutrients from US agricultural soils every year. Every year in the US, more than 2 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion, salinization and water logging.

Already, populations in the South are suffering from the grim reality of these crises. Near the end of last year, The Guardian reported:

"Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products. Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago and rice is 20% more expensive, says the UN. Next week the FAO is expected to say that global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and that prices will remain high for years."

Peak food will be exacerbated beyond all proportion in the context of peak oil. Modern intensive agriculture that produces most of our food, is industrialized, mechanized. It needs oil. Without oil, modern agriculture dies, and so then will our ability to mass-produce food.

4. Economic meltdown

According to the United Nations Development Programme, the gap between rich and poor nations doubled between 1960 and 1989. The rewards of globalization are increasingly "spread unequally and inequitably -- concentrating power and wealth in a select group of people, nations and corporations, marginalizing the others."

Successive UN Human Development reports give us the broad contours of the manner in which this system inflicts protracted death-by-deprivation on the majority of the world's population. Of the 4 billion people who live in developing countries, almost a third -- about 1.3 billion people -- have no access to clean drinking water. A fifth of all children in the world receive an insufficient intake of calories and proteins. Around 2 billion people -- a third of the human race -- suffer from anaemia. 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. Thirty million people die of hunger every year, half of whom, UNICEF estimates, are children. Over 840 million suffer from chronic malnutrition, almost a sixth of the population. Three billion people -- that is half the world population -- are forced to survive on less than two dollars a day. Of the 6 billion people in the world, only 500 million live in comfort -- that is approximately one-twelfth of the world population. This leaves a massive 5.5 billion people living in need -- over five-sixth of the population.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC found, in a comprehensive study of economic growth and other indicators for the period between 1980 and 2005, that the vast majority of the world's economies have been systematically retarded, exhibiting an empirically incontrovertible decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades in growth, life expectancy, infant mortality and education.

But the global economic system is not merely inherently unjust and unequal but also inherently unstable, and tends toward the generation of periodic crises, and as events of the last few months have shown, it is increasingly vulnerable to collapse. Financial institutions, corporate investors and even mainstream economists have been aware of the dangers for several years before the recent crisis that erupted from the depths of fault lines in the housing market. In March 2006, an unprecedented IMF report Safeguarding Financial Stability criticized the twin strategies of deregulation and liberalization, the staple policies of the global economy, as "the potential for fragility, instability, systemic risk, and adverse economic consequences." Deregulation has caused "national financial systems become increasingly vulnerable to increased systemic risk and to a growing number of financial crises."

In mid-2006, Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, warned that the world "has done little to prepare itself for what could well be the next crisis." UC Berkeley economist professor Brad DeLong in March 2007 argued that a global economic recession was in motion, principally due to three factors:

"1) A Federal Reserve that finds itself with less inflation-fighting credibility than it thought it had; 2) upward pressure on inflation from rising energy and, perhaps, import prices; and 3) millions of middle-class homeowners who for too long have treated their houses as gigantic ATMs, using home equity loans and refinancing to generate extra spending money."

A key trigger could be the housing market -- the unprecedented use of home loans to squeeze cash out of equity, permitting middle-class consumers to spend well beyond their means. "Someday this spending spree has to come to an end. If it comes to an end suddenly, at a time when the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates a little too much, then we have our recession . . . Make no mistake about it: The US economy is close to the edge . . . What can be done to head off the danger? Unfortunately, very little. The bag of macroeconomic tricks is empty." [

In July 2006 Dr. David Martin, in a speech at the Arlington Institute, warned his listeners that a collapse of the global banking system could be imminent as of January 2008, and that it would start with the housing crisis.

The war forward . . . ?

What we need now is a civilizational paradigm shift. Not just a new economics, or new politics, or new social vision. We need a whole new vision of life itself to replace the dead, broken materialistic vision associated with the concurrent global imperial system. The good news is that the civilizational paradigm shift is not only happening now as I write -- its seeds have already been planted. doclink

The Nature of the New World

October 2, 2007, Earth Policy Institute

We are entering a new world where the collisions between our demands and the earth's capacity to satisfy them are becoming daily events. If we do not act quickly to reverse the trends, the seemingly isolated events will determine our future.

Resources that accumulated over eons of geological time are being consumed in a single human lifespan. We are violating deadlines that we do not recognize. These deadlines are not politically negotiable.

Nature has many thresholds that we discover only when it is too late. In our fast-forward world we learn that we have crossed them only after the fact, leaving little time to adjust. We know from earlier civilizations that the lead indicators of economic decline were environmental, not economic.

Our situation today is more challenging because we must deal with falling water tables, more frequent crop-withering heat waves, collapsing fisheries, expanding deserts, deteriorating rangelands, dying coral reefs, melting glaciers, rising seas, more-powerful storms, disappearing species, and, shrinking oil supplies. Although these destructive trends have been evident for some time, not one has been reversed at the global level.

The world is in what ecologists call an "overshoot-and-collapse" mode. Demand has exceeded the sustainable yield of natural systems at the local level countless times in the past. Now, for the first time, it is doing so at the global level. Humanity's collective demands first surpassed the earth's regenerative capacity around 1980. Demands in 1999 exceeded that capacity by 20%. The gap, growing by 1% or so a year, is now much wider. We are setting the stage for decline and collapse.

When agriculture began, humans, their livestock, and pets together accounted for less than 0.1% of the total. Today, this group accounts for 98% of the earth's total vertebrate biomass, leaving only 2% for the wild portion, including all the deer, wild beasts, elephants, birds, and so forth.

For example, as the environmental resources of Easter Island in the South Pacific deteriorated, its population declined from a peak of 20,000 several centuries ago to today's population of fewer than 4,000.

Even as the global population is climbing and the economy's environmental support systems are deteriorating, farmers will want to clear more and more of the remaining tropical forests to produce high-yielding biofuel crops. Countries heavily dependent on imported grain for food are beginning to worry that buyers for fuel distilleries may outbid them for supplies. As oil security deteriorates, so, too, will food security.

Now as the world turns to wind, solar cells, and geothermal energy, we are witnessing the localization of the world energy economy.

If recent environmental trends continue, the global economy eventually will come crashing down. At issue is whether national governments can stabilize population and restructure the economy before time runs out. doclink

U.K.: The Elephant in the Room

March 6, 2008,

We must change our basic way of living; it will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the laws of nature.

First, we must accept the idea that sustainable means for a long time.

The Government of the UK defines it as: 'Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.'

This means that the resources have to be renewable through natural processes and entirely recycled if they are not renewable. If the population exceeds the carrying capacity, the death rate will increase until the population numbers are stable. Using these criteria it is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable.

In the discussions taking place, population is a word we dare not speak. Population is the elephant in the room.

It is obvious that something has increased the world's carrying capacity in the last 150 years. That something is oil.

Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource and not sustainable. If oil is not sustainable, then the added carrying capacity the oil has provided is unsustainable. Carrying capacity has been added to the world in direct proportion to the use of oil, and if our oil supply declines, the carrying capacity of the world will automatically fall with it.

Our population today is at least five times what it was before oil came on the scene. Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet's finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. We are in fantasy land if we think that we can continue to support the number of people that we do now without the full input of oil and its related products.

We have become so dependent on those fuels, that there is no way we can sustain ourselves at this population density and level of technology without them. Population redistribution provides no long-term solution to environmental sustainability, total population numbers need to decrease worldwide.

Extremes of temperature and climate, combined with weather-related disruptions, would severely reduce the size of the country's population carrying capacity.

With population continuing to grow, urbanisation eating up farmland, and more of our remaining agricultural land likely to be used for energy crops, food production will be squeezed.

The systems that produce the world's food supply are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry. Almost every human endeavour from transportation, to manufacturing, to electricity to plastics, and especially food production is intertwined with oil and natural gas supplies. As each individual recycles more of his or her own waste, success is undermined by the constantly increasing numbers of people who create waste.

But how much land would be needed to provide all our electricity. It depends how much wind power can be constructed offshore. For wind power to supply all-electric homes at today's rates of consumption, for today's 60 million people, several counties would need to be covered with wind turbines.

The total amount of water used in UK is modest because agriculture can be carried on mostly without irrigation.

The UK Government attaches importance to lowering water use because of increasing water constraints: rivers reduced to a trickle for several months, reservoir levels dropping, water tables continuing to drop. The large increases in the UK population experienced during the last five years makes it even more important to try to push per person consumption downwards.

Half a million new homes are planned in the South East alone.

The UK is one of the most densely populated and built up countries in the EU and some English regions are already close to reaching the limits of their capacity to take further development without serious damage to the environment or quality of life.

Along with every measure for reducing per person use of water, we should address the problem of population.

All these problems are symptoms of the growth in the human population, currently surging through 6.6 billion people worldwide. The consequences are already clear without policies to reduce world population, efforts to save our environment cannot succeed.

The uncomfortable truth is that the impact on Earth's biosphere of a projected 9 billion people living at a desired higher standard of living in 2050 would be fatal for the planet in terms of greenhouse gas emissions alone.

Given the fact that our world's carrying capacity is supported by oil, and that the oil is about to start going away, it seems that a population decline is inevitable. Populations in serious overshoot always decline, though actually, it's a bit worse than that. The population may actually fall to a lower level than was sustainable before the overshoot.

We are getting obvious signals from our environment that all is not well. Because we are now a global species with a global civilization, continuing growth of our numbers depends on the continuing growth of our civilization. There must be a sufficient level of food, shelter, energy and medical care available. All these factors will be put at risk globally within the next two decades due to the loss of oil. Food production and distribution will be hampered or impossible, and local agriculture will prove very difficult in some places. Other countries like those at the bottom of the list of developing nations will simply be too poor to compete against the developed world for the resources needed for survival. Populations will fall as a result.

The facts remain: there aren't enough resources to bring the whole world up to the industrial level of the developed world and the developed world is unlikely to consent to their own voluntary impoverishment in favour of industrializing the less developed world, and attempting such an approach would increase rather than reduce global ecological devastation.

The human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself. Faith in technology as the ultimate solution can divert our attention. If the present growth in world population continues, the limits to growth will be reached within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.

As for man, there is little reason to think that he can, in the long run, escape the fate of other creatures. doclink

Humanity is Consuming Over 20 Per Cent More Natural Resources Each Year Than the Earth Can Produce

March 8, 2008, The News

The report in the WWF's (World Wide Fund for Nature) periodic update on the state of the world's ecosystems said humanity is now consuming over 20% more natural resources each year than the earth can produce. This leads to the destruction of ecological assets, on which the world's economy depends. The report shows that humanity's Ecological Footprint grew by 150% between 1961 and 2000.

During the same period, the report shows a 40% decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species population. Ten years after the UN Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased by 8% per person, while in the middle and low income countries, it shrank by 8% per person.

Consumption of fossil fuels increased by almost 700% between 1961 and 2001. But the planet is unable to absorb the resulting carbon-dioxide emissions that degrade the earth's ozone layer.

We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate.

The biggest culprit is the US. Although it has only 4.5% of the world's population, it consumes more than 29% of the world's annual output of renewable resources. The US has been urging developing countries to adopt sustainable development, but there is no sign of the US adopting such policies. With more than 120 million vehicles on its roads the US is also the biggest culprit when it comes to generating carbon-dioxide emissions.

The global community has set targets for sustainability and biodiversity conservation. At the 2004 meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, governments agreed to set targets for creating networks of protected areas. All 191 member states of the UN have signed up to support the MDGs, which not only address the root causes of environmental degradation but include a specific goal on environmental sustainability.

Some might argue that governments are wasting their time talking. The fact is that governments today are no further to achieving the MDGs than they were seven years ago.

Populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species fell on an average by 40% between 1970 and 2000. Destruction of natural habitats, pollution, overfishing and the introduction of non-native animals, often drive out indigenous species.

Trawlers and dredgers wreak destruction across the seabed, crushing entire ecosystems of corals, algae and crustaceans as they go. But will governments take heed? Or will they continue to look the other way? The forest species declined by about 15%, the marine species 35%, while the freshwater species dropped 55% over the 30-year period.

The earth has about 11.4 billion hectares of productive land and sea space, after all unproductive areas are discounted. Divided between the current estimated global population of 6.4 billion, this total equates to 1.78 hectares per person.

When the world's population was slightly less than 6 billion, the Ecological Footprint of the world's average consumer was 2.3 hectares, or 20% above the earth's capacity of 1.90 hectares per person versus 1.78 hectares per person today. In other words, humanity now exceeds the planet's capacity to sustain its consumption of renewable resources. doclink

Australia: The S Word is Sustainability

March 12, 2008, Sunshine Coast Daily

Rapid population growth means, the future of our society, our economy and our environment; the structure of our cities, their energy and water sources the imminent peaking of world oil supplies; our use of finite resources like gas and coal; and the way we dispose of those resources.

Today, global demands on natural systems exceed their sustainable yield by an estimated 25%. We are setting the stage for decline and collapse.

With some exceptions, policy makers have been guilty of allowing sustainability to be cast as a peculiarly environmental issue. Sustainability is the ultimate whole of government - indeed, whole of society - issue.

Sustainability must be the foundation upon which we build economic strength and natural resilience.

It must be central to our planning, thinking and acting as we seek to live in harmony with the planet.

Global warming is a symptom of the problem of living unsustainably. Consuming fossil fuels without considering the waste is a sustainability issue.

The rate of increase in greenhouse concentrations is unprecedented in the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age. Human induced global catastrophe as it should be known, might be the clarion call that heralds another threat caused by our careless consumption of fossil fuels.

A growing group of voices predict that between 2006 and 2020 the world will pass a point after which we will never have as much oil at our disposal as we did the day before.

November 2006 is the possible peak of production, with the world's daily average in that month of 85.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) of oil and condensates not having been exceeded in the 14 months since.

Crude has been consistently trading between US$100 and US$102 a barrel and we now stand on the threshold of an upswing in global oil prices that will have a significant impact on the economy of the world and for which we are seriously unprepared.

What both peak oil and climate change will impose upon us is a requirement to use less energy. We will need to live closer to work, schools and shops and public transport.

We have the capacity with existing technology and intellect to adopt more sustainable policies and practices to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control through greater use of renewable energy sources and to reduce our reliance on oil.

The challenge is to build a new economy, one that is powered largely by renewable sources of energy, that has a highly diversified transport system, and that reuses and recycles everything. And to do it with unprecedented speed.

In an energy-constrained world dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it's time we spoke of population.

The rampaging monster is over-population. In its presence, sustainability is a fragile theoretical thing.

People are ready to grasp the argument that the unsustainable growth in population numbers is degrading our planet. Population maldistribution increases the stress on available resources and heightens the need for more stringent sustainable living practices, such as water restrictions.

Developed countries have the double whammy of increasing populations and rampant consumerism.

It's one thing to provide the necessities of life quite another to provide the trimmings demanded by affluence.

In the 21st century, the human race must confront the reality that in the closed system that is planet earth, there are limits to growth.

No matter how clever we are, there is no escaping the physical limits of the world's resources.

What we need above all is smart growth. .. Growth that is low carbon. .. Growth that is low pollution. .. Growth that is resource neutral.

We need growth that adds to the natural capital, instead of destroying it. doclink

Could Resources Become a Limit to Global Growth?

March 24, 2008, Wall Street Journal

Surging food and energy prices are new reasons to re-think the relationship between resources and growth. There is a real wolf nearby, in the form of resource degradation and rapidly growing population.

When oil prices rose in the 1970s, this created incentives to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, for most of the 1980s and 1990s, energy and food became more abundant. Technological progress stayed ahead of population growth and resource depletion. However, economic incentives cannot keep the wolf at bay indefinitely.

Resource prices have surpassed record levels and per-capita food availability has started to decline. Despite demographic transition to low fertility in East Asia, Europe, and North America, current population growth rates would still triple world population to over 20 billion in about 90 years. The question is whether population growth will fall due to declines in fertility or whether epidemics, malnutrition, and violent conflict will carry out the adjustment, aided by global warming.

Residents of China and India are unlikely to buy many SUVs, and economic incentives will push them in more environmentally friendly directions. If China were the model, I would be optimistic about the future. Fertility there has declined to about replacement level. China is poised to move where people demand better environmental quality as incomes rise.

The dismal picture is in Africa. Per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa fell between 1980 and 2005, despite improvements in technology made available in that period. Population growth remains very high and infectious disease, malnutrition, and violent conflict have become more entrenched and could spill over into other regions. Water provides an important example of resource scarcity. If the people of Los Angeles faced higher water prices, we would see households switch away from green grass.

A second set of issues concerns population growth in poor nations. Population growth helps to create new markets. Unfortunately, population growth in the developing world is unlikely to trigger such an innovation.

Market-based prices cannot do everything, largely because of non-priced third party effects. An electric utility using coal to produce electricity contributes to global warming and other pollution problems. This effect is not priced.

Decisions to have large numbers of children may also impose negative externalities on others. Some would like to limit growth in order to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases. But they are vague about the details. Which people should not be born? Whose income should decline in order to achieve their noble goal?

California is likely to implement a cap and trade program which will effectively create a new market in the "right to pollute." Effective regulation has helped to offset the quantity of economic activity. But in general, I wonder whether government is up to the task of limiting the costs of growth on a global scale.

Major resources such as forests and agricultural land are under threat, as are the air and water. Possibly the biggest threat is a catastrophic rise in sea level caused by global warming.

Fertility reduction is the biggest challenge. Chinese-style state-imposed fertility control will not be acceptable elsewhere, but female education and female control over reproductive decisions are very positive forces.

If natural resources grow scarce, we will adjust and in the long run, new substitutes will be introduced. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Instead of a population of 20 billion in 90 years, the U.N. predicts a leveling-off of 9-11 billion in 50 years. As for sufficient, timely substitutes for natural resources, that takes a lot of faith. Take water or soil for example.

Niger: Population Explosion Threatens Development Gains

December 11, 2007, UN Integrated Regional Information Network

If Nigeriens remain uninformed about family planning and keep reproducing at the current rate the population will more than quadruple by 2050, imposing unmanageable demands on the economy, social services and the environment. The current rate of population growth is 3.3% every year. If that growth continues, there will be 56 million people in Niger by 2050, compared to 13.5 million today. In 1960, it was just 1.7 million.

The average number of children per mother is 7.1. Women said they would like nine and men said 12, but some families said 40 or 50 children. It a society that encourages procreation.

Just 5% of Nigeriens use family planning and contraception. People aren't informed about the negative consequences of having so many children.

The 85% of Nigeriens who rely on rain-fed, subsistence agriculture to feed themselves are going to be hardest hit as millions more people compete for the same amount of farmland to grow food.

The Sahel has recently been identified as one of the regions most likely to be adversely affected by climate change.

The increase in the population will continue to accentuate the cereal production and wood-for-fuel deficits which started in the 1980s. Niger's population will quickly overtake the government's ability to provide health, education, jobs and even water points, tasks that it is already failing at today.

94% of Nigeriens live on 35% of the land. The most populated areas are along the southern border with Burkina Faso and Mali.

The Maradi region holds 20% of the population, 2,235,748 people, living on 3.3% of the country's land.

Niger's desert and mountain north accounts for 53% of Niger's territory but only 3 percent of the population, 321,639 people.

Niger plans this year to curb population growth which the INS says would reduce the population in 2050 to 33.3 million, still almost three times its current level.

The government wants the number practising family planning to increase from to 15% or 20% by 2015. The INS says 20% of women claim to want it.

The plan calls for information campaigns to educate religious leaders and women about the availability and importance of family planning.

Currently, every second girl is married and likely to be procreating before the age of 15. Raising the marriage age to 18 would take up to four years off a woman's reproductive life.

By 2015 population growth should have slowed to 2.5% and the average number of children per woman should be five.

Diadi Boureima, deputy representative of the UN Fund for Population Affairs (UNFPA) in Niger, said the task was a critical one.

If the demographics continue, Niger cannot develop. All the resources the country has will be going into social services and nothing will be left for investing in the economy. The government is acting accordingly. doclink

U.S.: Overpopulation Issue Overlooked by Presidential Candidates

The Capital Times

During the process to elect our next president, none of the candidates, or any of the media, is going to bring up what the late Gaylord Nelson, the former Wisconsin senator and governor and the father of Earth Day, felt was the most urgent issue that humanity faces: overpopulation.

The candidates have talked about global warming, directly related to overpopulation, and while they've talked about the impacts of current U.S. immigration policy, none of them has mentioned that immigration is the chief reason the United States has added 100 million people since the first Earth Day in 1970.

None has suggested that runaway population growth, both globally and in this country, is perhaps something we should all be concerned about.

The right won't touch it because it means confronting birth control and family planning, which most conservatives and religious groups strongly oppose.

The left won't touch it because if you talk about controlling the U.S. population, it means you must talk about the fact that 10.3 million immigrants have arrived since 2000, the highest seven-year period of immigration in U.S. history. Then you'll be lumped with all the racists who are anti-immigration.

Gaylord Nelson, who favored tightening immigration quotas, got away with it because he was Gaylord Nelson.

"No one could accuse a man like my father, who had such a distinguished record on civil rights, justice and fairness, of being a part of those who are using immigration in a racially motivated way," Tia Nelson said.

Unchecked growth, as Gaylord Nelson liked to point out, creates tremendous strains on our natural resources and our infrastructure. It boosts the need for more schools, more hospitals, more police stations, more roads, more prisons. "In other words, more of everything," he would say.

Some environmentalists, the few willing to address the issue, say that Americans need to understand that uncontrolled growth is harmful to our quality of life, regardless of the cause.

Don Waller, a well-known UW-Madison botanist, says that population growth should receive more attention, "I can't think of a more important issue for our generation, nor one that is being more systematically ignored.

Waller says, "we should celebrate our diversity and the fact that we've harbored generations of refugees and immigrants. But we shouldn't let this cloud the fact that environmental conditions generally, and wild natural conditions in particular, are disappearing from our nation and planet."

More people means less space for nature, and ultimately, that impoverishes us all." doclink

Can We Talk... About Population Numbers?

February 8, 2008, - by Brenda Walker

Population growth ought to be easier to discuss rationally. But it is even more taboo than immigration. America counted resident #300 million in 2006 after reaching 200 million in 1967 and 100 million in 1915. You would think some journalist somewhere might ask a Presidential candidate what he or she thought about the change. Population growth is altering traditional America more than any other factor. And it's caused by government policy. Without immigration, Americans have now stabilized their population. Immigration has been discussed a little in the Presidential debates, even but much of the damage is caused just as much by the legal influx.

Only 2% of Americans surveyed want more legal immigrants. Citizens want immigration to be legal, controlled and reduced.

There is the financial cost for more of everything, from school buildings and teacher salaries to highways and public transit. There are now so many residents of the USA that nature is no longer sufficient to supply our needs in some basic ways.

Orange County opened its $490 million toilet-to-tap water treatment plant. The county's exploding population along with availability convinced water managers to go expensively high-tech to assure supply for the area.

As a state water official remarked, even above average rainfall "used to be good when you had 20 million people, but now we have more than 35 million people in the state." At what number of inhabitants will America be considered full and immigration can be ended? We long ago exceeded sustainability.

Today, media outlets that discuss immigration don't make the common-sense connections between skyrocketing domestic growth and increased pressure on limited resources. One example: the drought in the Southeast. Georgia's population has doubled from 4 million in 1960 to 8 million today. Atlanta has been America's fastest-growing metropolitan area since 2000, with a gain of nearly 900,000 residents. But the Brain Trust in city hall and the state capital apparently didn't bother to map a water supply for the additional people. Governor Sonny Purdue held a prayer service to invoke a higher source for rain.

Americans need to know that immigration numbers are acquiring their own momentum. If the growth rate of 1990-2000 is continued out in time, the next hundreds of millions begin to click over more and more rapidly. The 400 million mark occurs in the late 2020s.

Inarguably, the quality of life is degraded for all citizens when this immigration-driven population growth takes the place of a healthy economy.

America is fullby any measure. It doesn't need any more immigrants. doclink

Kaaren Gaia says: I would prefer to say that America doesn't need any more people. We must concentrate on unwanted births as well as find ways to reduce immigration. I notice that Ms. Walker, the author, does not say "America doesn't need any more births."

U.S.: Envisioning a Sustainable Chesapeake

February 17, 2008, Annapolis Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Unable to Sustain Population, Says Study

February 18, 2008, Telegraph

The UK is over-populated and could support only 17 million people if it had to provide for the current 60 million from its own resources. If global population growth continues the world could be at war over resources in less than 50 years and calls on governments to advocate smaller families and increased use of contraception.

Government targets to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 will have little impact on the UK's sustainability because of the rate of population growth.

The number of people living in the UK is expected to hit 65 million within 10 years, and top 70 million by 2031.

Even if Britain was carbon neutral, it could only sustainably support 40 million people. To live sustainably, British people would have to lead simpler lives, similar to people in China, Paraguay, Algeria and Botswana.

The world was living within its ecological means until the 1980s when populations began to grow rapidly.

By 2050, it will be using up the equivalent of nearly two Earths each year and the UK's overpopulation threatens the environment and people's quality of life.

We need a national population policy. doclink

Is the Planet Full Yet?

November 26, 2007, The Argus website

Of the top 50 things to save the planet, to have fewer people is only Number 18. The current population of 6.6 billion people is predicted to rocket to 9.7 billion in the next 40 years. Yet there is a conspicuous silence about the topic of sustainable family planning.

Population growth is one of the factors which determines our impact on the Earth's ecosystem and therefore we should talk frankly about it. Population growth could wipe out any gains we make reducing the amount we consume. It has to be a part of the discussion and not ignored as some form of sacred taboo.

Friends of the Earth do not campaign on the matter of population, claiming the big issue is resource use. But Green Party Caroline Lucas MEP disagrees. "There's a direct relation between the emissions we produce and how many of us there are."

The idea of controlling the population may be distasteful but on a planet with finite resources and an exponentially growing number of people something, has to give. At present we are not able to feed the world's population adequately, yet we produce enough food to do so. That is a failure of our current structures. With the world's population set to rise significantly over the next century, if we can't cope now, how are we going to cope then?

By encouraging high levels of immigration we are fuelling the problem because when people come here they are, going to start living our unsustainable lifestyle, too."

The South East Plan proposes a further 11,000 homes should be built in Brighton and Hove by 2026, the result is likely to be severe pressure on our natural resources, such as water. Can a city hemmed in by the sea and South Downs accommodate any more without compromising quality of life and the future of the South Downs National Park?

According to the UN, there are 78 million people added to the world every year, yet there are 200 million women who want to control their fertility but have no safe and effective access to contraceptive services.

We need a major investment in family planning so women can choose their family size.

In the Sixties and Seventies, population was a key issue for all the major campaign groups. Oxfam published a paper entitled World Population: The Biggest Problem Of All. But in 2007, to call for such frank discussion runs too great a risk of upsetting the other values environmentalists identify with: human rights, gender equality, race, immigration and, above all, individual choice.

We've got to stop being paralysed by the sensitivities the population question naturally taps into and recognise there are actually valid ways to address it which could bring great benefits.

The decisions we make relating to family issues, must be left up to individuals, but devoting resources to reproductive health and family planning services brings genuine win-wins in terms of community development and women's rights, as well as smaller populations.

Scratch the surface of any environmental problem and it reveals population growth, and the way we live our lives, as the root cause. The need for a population policy has never been more urgent. While governments see big populations as an indicator of economic strength, the population problem will lead to environmental catastrophe. doclink

U.S.: Honey, We Shrunk the Planet

October 19, 2007, Huffington Post

The physical Earth is increasingly becoming what the human species makes of it.

Environmental disasters are almost always human disasters. Satellite pictures of Burma over the past three years have recorded the extermination of over 3,000 villages displacing half a million people. The main culprit is the hunger for oil and gas, backed by the murderous local military junta.

The bottom line, is we're living beyond our means. Nearly two thirds of the services provided by nature are in decline worldwide. We can't count on the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations.

Change is not linear, and sudden shifts sometimes remake the world in the blink of an eye. We know we're approaching mysterious thresholds that mark the tipping points of ecological regime change, and we may have already crossed some. The closer we get to each threshold, the less it takes to push the system over the edge. Resilience does not mean just bouncing back to business-as-usual. It means assuring the very ability to get back.

Taking care of nature means taking care of people, and taking care of people means taking care of nature.

Think decentralized power grids, more localized food systems, and the Internet.

The heart of resilience is diversity. Damaged ecosystems rebound to health when they have sufficient diversity.

Resilience resides in enduring relationships and networks that hold cultural memory the same way seeds regenerate a forest after a fire. Empower local communities to solve their own problems.

The Dutch mobilized around total environmental quality recovery in 25 years. But the process kicked in only after business took the lead. They had a surprising proposal: Have government set the standards, and let business figure out how to achieve them. Together they developed a twenty-five-year plan, as well as annual plans that report on progress and challenges. If business fails to meet the specific voluntary goals, government will intervene with mandatory controls. To guarantee transparency and accountability, the government funded environmental NGOs as watchdogs to transmit their findings to the media and the public.

We have a golden opportunity to regenerate our waning economy and correct environmental degradation and rampant social injustices. Our declining public health and educational systems rank among the lowest in developed countries. The reinvention of a green economy can begin to solve our economic and social ills simultaneously. We can create abundant jobs, prosperity, equity and hope. Our new declaration of independence is from fossil fuels and imperial entanglements. In the absence of federal leadership, large numbers of cities and states are banding together to lead these kinds of changes. Political boundaries are also morphing. A historic convergence of the environmental and social justice movements is crystallizing in the shared recognition that taking care of nature means taking care of people, and taking care of people means taking care of nature. Meanwhile, there are mounting numbers of conservatives, stepping up under the banner of conserving the Earth for their grandchildren.

We need to reclaim our government from the corporate shadow government. It will keep trying to hijack systemic changes that threaten its short-term profits, vested interests and power. We need the separation of corporations and the state.

A successful U.S. Green Plan depends on our doing all this--together, with respect, justice and dignity for all people and the circle of life. doclink

City Planning Will Determine Pace of Global Warming: UN-Habitat Chief

October 31, 2007, Media Newswire

The way in which the world's growing cities were planned and managed would largely determine the pace of global warming. The urbanization of poverty was now the biggest development challenge. With half the world's population residing in cities, and one billion slum dwellers living in life-threatening conditions, 2007 marked a turning point in history. Cities were responsible for 75% of energy consumption and 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The opportunity to reduce the vulnerability of cities to the effects of climate change should be a priority alongside improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable populations. Policymakers, planners, must place cities and urban issues at the forefront of sustainable development.

Several speakers indicated that climate change had devastated the lives of millions and natural disasters had set back development efforts. There was need for the international community to support developing countries by providing them with the tools to cope with global warming effects and also to bolster their economies to build a sustainable future.

The Kyoto Protocol must be carried out to the needs of developing countries. Just as important was disaster preparedness and response. The 2004 Asian tsunami had proved that early warning systems were vital and in order to boost those efforts, Thailand had contributed $10 million to the Fund for Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-east Asia.

Thailand had taken steps towards sustainability, and the philosophy of a "sufficiency economy" had been integrated into its policies. That had already promoted sustainable agricultural practices to ensure food security for farmers, persuade locals to conserve forests, and promote sustainable energy development.

Ethiopia's delegate said a more concerted effort was needed in Africa to push developing countries towards sustainable development and to avert climate-change crises. Too many obstacles stood in the way of sustainability, including conflict, insufficient investment, limited market access opportunities, supply- side constraints and unsustainable debt burdens. Ecuador's representative pointed to the Hyogo Framework for Action and the work of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as tools that could translate words into action. Japan's representative stressed the importance of concerted action in support of vulnerable countries, particularly small island developing States and least developed countries. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Thailand has a good chance at sustainability because it did something about it's population growth many years ago. Africa has a long way to go before catching up with Thailand.

World Atlas of Sustainable Development- Feed Your Head

December 6, 2007,

So far, we have only one usable planet. The "science dudes" are trying to discover if there are any planets out there that are suitable for humans to live on. This has not produced results. In our solar system everything appears to be too hot, too cold, or have no atmosphere. This leaves us to face the fact that the 6.5 billion humans on this rocky sphere are dependent on the natural resources that exist on our planet. Unfortunately, we are using those resources in an unsustainable way right now. Within 100 years, we will have to feed, clothe, and provide electricity and transportation and water to, around 10 billion humans.

* The worldwide catch of fish is now 6 times what it was 50 years ago. Catches are beginning to decline as fish populations sink.

* 850 million humans go hungry; 220 million are children.

* 1 in 5 humans have no access to clean drinking water.

* By 2050, 85% of all humans will live in developing countries.

* One third of the world's visible land is affected by desertification, the degradation of productive but fragile lands which have insufficient rainfall and has been damaged by unsustainable development.

* During the next 100 years that global temperature averages will rise from 2 to 6 degrees C, resulting in coastal flooding and an increase in droughts. We are using resources 30% faster than the ability of those resources to renew themselves. Many people whose knowledge of the environmental challenges seems to date from 1960. doclink

Homo Rap/ens and Mass Extinction: An Era of Solitude?

July 22, 2002, John Gray - Professor London School of Economics.

We are on the brink of a great extinction, species are vanishing faster than they did before the arrival of humans. As humans exploit the last vestiges of wilderness, they destroy the habitat of tens of thousands of species of plants, insects and animals. The lush natural world is being rapidly transformed into a prosthetic environment. Given the magnitude of this change, one would expect it Yet there is evidence that human activity is altering the balance of the global climate. The long-term effects of global warming cannot be known with any certainty. But the greenhouse effect could wipe out densely populated coastal countries within the present century, while dislocating food production in the world. The result could be a disaster for billions of people. The world's rainforests are part of the earth's self-regulatory system.

Humankind cannot destroy its planetary host. The earth is stronger than humans will ever be. The advance of Homo rapiens has always gone with the destruction of other species and ecological devastation. Of the remaining outcomes, the second, in which over-numerous humans colonise the earth at the cost of weak-ening the biosphere, corresponds most closely to this bleak vision.

The increase in human population is unprecedented and unsustainable. More than likely, it will be cut short by the classical Malthusian forces, this may be a discomforting prospect; but it dispels the nightmare of an age of solitude. doclink

Sustainable Development is Need of the Time

December 8, 2007, The Daily Star

The idea of sustainable development grew from environmental movements in earlier decades and was defined in 1987 as: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

When you think of the world as a system, you understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

You start to realise that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today.

We understand that quality of life is a system, too. What if you are poor and don't have access to education? It's good to have a secure income, but what if the air in your part of the world is unclean? And it's good to have freedom of religious expression, but what if you can't feed your family?

The concept of sustainable development helps us understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious, and we can't address them in the same way we created them.

Sustainable development highlights sustainability as the idea of environmental, economic and social progress and equity, all within the limits of the world's natural resources.

Sustainable development calls for improving the quality of life for all of the world's people without increasing the use of our natural resources beyond the Earth's carrying capacity. The efforts to build a truly sustainable way of life require the integration of action in three key areas:

Interlinked, global economic systems demand an integrated approach to foster responsible long-term growth while ensuring that no nation or community is left behind.

To conserve our environment and natural resources for future generations, economically viable solutions must be developed to reduce resource consumption, stop pollution and conserve natural habitats.

Throughout the world, people require jobs, food, education, energy, health care, water, and sanitation. The world community must ensure that the cultural and social diversity, and the rights of workers, are respected, and that all members of society are empowered to play a role in determining their futures.

The record on sustainability so far appears to have been quite poor. Sustainable development is an urgent issue, though political will has been slow-paced. There are 1.3 billion without access to clean water. About half of humanity lack access to adequate sanitation and living on less than 2 dollars a day.

In practicing sustainable development over the long-term one will:

-- Not diminish the quality of the present environment.

-- Not reduce the availability of renewable resources.

-- Take into consideration the value of non-renewable resources to future generations.

-- Not compromise the ability of other species or future generations to meet their needs. doclink

Wake Up About Overpopulation

November 13, 2007, College of New Jersey Signal

Any individual will encounter terms such as carrying capacity, limiting factors and exponential growth. Yet few implement the concept of sustainability.

Until people question the existence, of the global environmental crisis, the population stabilization and reduction initiative will remain little more than a lobby largely ignored by politicians.

The US has been unable to serve as an example. Any way of life that is unlike our own, is a threat and must promptly be democratized, modernized and westernized.

The symptoms of a society that is straining under its own weight are all there, yet we've successfully managed to evade the issue by misdiagnosing, and offering temporary solutions to the problem. While the United States birth rate has decreased, our lenient immigration policies continue to increase our population. Experts predict that the United States population, if left unchecked, is expected to double in 70 years to a total of 540 million people.

We must begin our public discourse when consensus is met; sacrifices will have to be made, for democracy can only deal with the ever-changing present while relegating responsibility for the future to the few who care to take it upon themselves.

An average U.S. citizen consumes 50 times more goods and services than a Chinese citizen and approximately twice as many as a Western European.

Only recently, during spikes in gas prices, has the engineers' task turned to designing automobiles and engines which reduce consumption and emissions. Our challenge is to stir the minds and hearts of our fellow Americans so that they may awaken to this reality, directing this change for the better before it is snatched from us. doclink

What all Presidential Candidates Refuse to Talk About

Frosty Woolbridge

What factor facing the United States stands immune from public, political and religious discussion? The runaway overpopulation as we add three million people to the USA annually!

Our leaders, citizens and religious elite continue on a path of population growth without responsibility, without limits and without end.

Consumption of critical resources is breaking records, and undermining life on the planet. The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change. This summer, the European Union had environmental devastation including fires in Greece and the Canary Islands, floods in England and heat waves across the Continent.

Humanity degrades every ecosystem beyond its capacity to sustain life. Fossil fuel usage in 2005 produced 7.6 billion tons of carbon emissions. Meat production hit a record 276 million tons in 2006 and is one of the factors driving soybean demand. Expansion of soybean plantations could displace 22 million hectares of forest and savanna in the next 20 years. The rise in seafood consumption comes as many fish species become scarcer.

The warming climate is accelerating habitat loss, altering the timing of animal migrations and plant flowerings, and shifting some species towards the poles and to higher altitudes. Climate change is altering fish migration routes, pushing up sea levels, intensifying coastal erosion, raising ocean acidity, and interfering with currents that move vital nutrients upward from the deep sea. The only hope is for the U.S. to begin reducing its emissions. The U.S. expects to add 30 million people from immigration by 2017. Everything we're doing proves to be pointless unless we deal with population stability.

We should be promoting the balancing of our population to fit our carrying capacity, whereby we define how many people can live in each state with enough water, land and food. Promote an International Population and Family Planning Policy to help overloaded nations move toward stable populations. This would prevent immigration toward viable countries.

Bangladesh has 144 million people in a landmass less than the size of Iowa. They expect to double to 290 million people in 35 years. No wonder they flee their countries by the millions. Once we add 100 million people to the USA, nothing will save us from our consequences. This crisis proves the number one issue in the 21st century, but our leaders deny, hide from, pretend and run away from it like the plague. If we don't deal with it; it will deal with us - rather brutally. doclink

New Sustainability Measure Shows Utahns Have a Big Eco-footprint

June 28, 2007, The Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Population and Environment Coalition calculated that it takes about 9.9 global hectares to support each Utahn, while Utah lands provide 8.9 global hectares.

"It's important to start this discussion about choices for our future," said one of the researchers.

"We hope this will be a community discussion and that Utah will take a leadership role. The average Utahn's share of that consumption has grown along with the state's population. In 1990, the population was 1.7 million and the state's overall footprint was 15.2 million global hectares, compared with 23.8 in 2003, when the population had reached 2.4 million.

The population growth put such a great demand on resources that now we consume more than the land can supply on a sustainable basis. The state now has a deficit of about 2.4 million hectares.

Americans are resource hogs compared to the rest of the world. It would take five earths to sustain everyone if people worldwide had the same eco-footprint as Utahns. doclink

Green Family Values: Sex and the Environment-World Population Day

July 11, 2007, Green Options blog

World Population Day was established by the UN in 1989 when the Earth's population reached five billion. Almost 20 years later, we have reached over 6.6 billion with approximately 77 million people added each year. When will we not be able to support our population or have we reached this point?

As the century begins, natural resources are under increasing pressure, water shortages, soil exhaustion, loss of forests, air and water pollution, and degradation of coastlines afflict many areas. Developed economies consume resources faster than they can regenerate. Developing countries with rapid population growth face the need to improve living standards. As we exploit nature to meet present needs, are we destroying resources for the future?

There are so many issues involving global population growth. We may not feel the effects in the US yet, but if we look to developing countries and the natural resources available, it is easy to become alarmed. If we want a livable future, we must increase our sustainabilty, as well as stabilize the human population. We must slow this growth to enable us to address sustainability and preserve a high standard of living for all people. Voluntary family planning should be supported, including eliminating the Global Gag Rule. Even though the US population grows mostly due to immigration, there are families in this country with eight or nine children. However, 99% of population growth does occurs in developing countries. Family planning education that targets both men and women, as well as aid should be a priority as we look to stabilize population growth. doclink

Karen Gaia says: with the human population at 6.6 billion, it will be impossible to attain a high standard of living for all people. Let us settle for a standard of living more like that of Cuba, which is the most sustainable counry in the world. Cuba has free health care, free education, adequately feeds its people, and even sends doctors and nurses to help people in developing countries.

When is Hawaii's 'Carrying Capacity' Maxed Out?

June 25, 2007, Hawaii Reporter

It would seem logical to determine what is the carrying capacity of our Hawaiian islands. There are water conservation advisories on a regular basis. Our sewer system is in need of constant repair. Flooding is common. Road rage is rampant. All boats have a finite carrying capacity. I submit so do islands and what is the carrying capacity of Hawaii?

The criterion for determining whether a region is overpopulated is not land area, but carrying capacity.

That refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations.

The carrying capacity is not fixed. It can be altered by improved technology, but mostly it is changed for the worse by population increase.

As the environment is degraded, carrying capacity shrinks, leaving the environment unable to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area.

The average "ecological footprint" on the mainland is about 12 acres, an area far greater than that taken up by one's residence and place of school or work and the Hawaiian footprint is larger. doclink

U.S.: Technology Can Help Sustain Desert Living

June 9, 2007, Arizona Republic

The decade long drought in Arizona may turn into a 1930s-style Dust Bowl. Night-time temperatures may keep on rising. Freeway construction may never relieve the traffic.

More frequent hurricanes traumatize the Gulf Coast. Climbing gas prices threaten our nation's mobility. Conversion of corn into ethanol causes the cost of foodstuffs to skyrocket. New diseases like bird flu spread across the globe. The sustainability of our lifestyle suddenly seems at risk. Societies are confronted by limits that they did not worry about before.

In the spirit of optimism, Arizona organizations are working together to understand the challenges of sustainability and possible remedies.

The Global Institute of Sustainability, or GIOS, researches rapid urbanization, which uses Greater Phoenix as its main laboratory.

ASU receives millions of federal, state and industry dollars to study how cities grow. Among the major questions being addressed are:

How does the expansion of metro Phoenix affect the Sonoran Desert ecosystem? How do commercial and government managers make decisions about water allocation? How can changes in construction materials reduce the urban heat island effect? How might information-sharing technology allow the police departments to more quickly identify criminals? How can "green" energy technologies reduce a city's reliance on vulnerable, distant fuel sources? Where does the Valley's air pollution come from?

These questions may seem diverse, but can be solved only through an interdisciplinary approach. Their solutions offer new business opportunities by creating "sustainable technologies." doclink

Natural Resource Depletion Costs Ghana $520 Million Annually

June 20, 2007, Statesman

Research reveals that the degradation of agricultural soils, forests and Savannah woodlands, coastal fisheries, wildlife resources, and Lake Volta's environment are estimated to cost Ghana at least $520 million annually.

The majority of the estimated costs of environmental degradation comes from forests, to represent 5% of GDP.

Ghana's natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. More than 50% of the original forest has been converted to agricultural land by slash- and-burn. Despite cocoa land expansion, productivity has declined because of soil erosion.

Fish, timber, and non- timber forest product stocks are decreasing. As a result, coastal towns have begun to experience severe water shortages. Hydropower is dropping, and bilharzia has spread around the Volta Lake region.

Wildlife populations and biodiversity are in serous decline and many species face extinction. These depletions might lower Ghana's GDP growth in the near future.

Poor forest management and soil degradation result in huge economic losses. The degradation of Lake Volta increases the costs and reduces the quality of both water and power.

The prospects for economic development and poverty reduction in Ghana are dependent on natural resources.

Rural households rely on natural resources for their livelihoods, fisheries, and wildlife provide protein in Ghanaian diets. Urban economic activities depend on reliable hydroelectric power.

About half of Ghana's GDP derived from agriculture and livestock, forestry and wood processing and were related to the natural resources.

Ghana's natural resources are over exploited and continue to decline. Inappropriate crop production, mining and the wood industry are adversely affecting forests and savannah. Ongoing soil erosion and a decline in fertility undermine food and agricultural production.

A stronger policy dialogue must etablish a framework to provide sustainable management practices for Ghana's natural resources.

The government must improve local community involvement in natural resource and environmental management.

Also stimulate investments in wildlife, farming, ecotourism, tree plantations, and sustainable land management. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Another article that misses the link to overpopulation. Again, here is the unwritten assumption that women want to have a lot of children and risk dying in childbirth. Ralph says: Why not reduce the population? Oh!! Sorry, must not talk about that.

Toward a Green Economy

May 31, 2007, IPS News

The 2005 Millennium Assessment (MA) found that 83% of the planet's natural systems are in serious decline. Adding to this are the pressures of population growth and increasing consumption.

Global population is expected to soar 9 billion by 2050. Even though we crossed the point of sustainable use of natural resources in the mid-1980s, many of the 2.4 billion people living in China and India are striving to approach the materialistic lifestyle of the average North American.

Humanity needs a new approach to managing the assets upon which we all depend. Farming and forestry is about maximizing production, but has to start maximizing the ecological goods and service those ecosystems offer. Funds to pay for such services should come from taxes on polluters, including a carbon tax, cap and trade. In Ecuador, a Water Conservation Fund (FONAG) collects user fees from those who benefit from the water in the Condor Bioreserves and uses these funds to support watershed management projects. In Brazil, states allocate some revenues help support protected areas for forests and other resources. With deforestation threatening the Panama Canal, insurance and shipping companies are helping finance a major reforestation effort.

There is a vital need to create new institutions to protect natural capital at the local level.

On a larger scale Biomes are ecosystems with similar climate, soils, plants, and animals. The MA identifies 15 biomes and a stewardship council for each would maximize ecosystem protection and human welfare within a biome.

There is also a need to create a Commission that would communicate the fact that healthy ecosystem services are fundamental to reducing poverty and achieving economic development. A new forum has been recommended by the U.N. that would include heads of state from countries at different levels of economic development and cultures and deal with environmental and social as well as economic issues.

There are likely one to two million grassroots organizations around the world working toward ecological sustainability. It's unknown if people will rise to this enormous challenge. Voting and choosing environmentally-friendly products is not nearly enough. Only collective action will produce the substantial changes that are needed. doclink

The Next Added 100 Million Americans, Part 28

April 6, 2007,

In the days of sailing ships, sailors used to leave goats on islands to ensure fresh meat on return trips. But the animals bred faster than the sailors could eat them, and goats ate the vegetation and starved. They also screwed up the environment so that native species couldn't survive. A report blames humans for increased temperatures, melting glaciers and rising seas, they burn fossil fuels at 82 million barrels daily which does no include millions of tons of coal, natural gas and wood being burned every day by 6.6 billion humans.

We've had virtually free energy in the form of fossil fuels. Climate change is a sign that we are exceeding the number of people Earth can sustain. Some, however, point to increased agricultural production and medical advances that fend off disease.

Earth's carrying capacity is thought to be four to five billion people. We have 6.6 billion today and grow by 240,000 every 24 hours. Half of the world's population has little access to medicine, electricity, safe water and reliable food supplies.

You might have 50 billion, but the quality of life might not be pleasing. The US possesses resources to sustain less than half of its current population of 300 million. Americans who make up 5% of the world's population, use 25% of its resources and cast a large footprint.

If all 6 billion people were to share the world's resources equally, Americans would have to reduce consumption by 80% for each of us. Carrying capacity and footprint are tied to the global economy, which has quadrupled since the world's population doubled.

That leads to a fear that slowing population growth might not ultimately curb greenhouse gas production if more people achieve Western lifestyles. China is opening an average of one coal-fired power plant a week to meet electricity demand. Everyone in China wants their own apartment and their own car. People ask how many people the Earth can sustain. That depends on whether you want to live like an Indian or an American.

Farmers worldwide grow about two billion tons of grain a year. Each American consumes 1,760 pounds annually, mainly because of the grains used to feed farm animals. If everyone on the planet consumed that much grain, earth would support about 2.5 billion people. But in India, people consume about 440 pounds each. If everyone else in the world did likewise, the world's grain would support about 10 billion people.

Growing one ton of grain requires 1,000 tons of water which is short in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As water flows from agriculture to support growing urban populations, more grain must be imported.

Soybeans are increasingly in demand for biodiesel. And ethanol production now vies with food for corn. By 2008, half of the U.S. corn crop will go to ethanol.

70% of all corn comes from the U.S. If we grow fuel plants that would require setting aside lots of land to produce ethanol. We don't have enough land worldwide to meet those demands. Humans are drawing on capital rather than interest, and once that is exhausted, they will find Mother Nature reluctant to make a loan.

We must take action and prevent a horrible overpopulation future for our children by taking action today. We can bring about population stabilization gracefully or nature will do it brutally. doclink

Massive Diversion of U.S. Grain to Fuel Cars

March 21, 2007, Earth Policy News

Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising. The use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol is creating consequences throughout the global food chain.

In Mexico, the price of tortillas is up by 60% percent. Angry Mexicans have forced the government to institute price controls on tortillas.

Food prices are also rising in China, India, and the US, 40% of the world's people. Vast quantities of corn are consumed indirectly in meat, milk, and eggs in both China and the US.

In China, pork prices were up 20% above a year earlier, eggs were up 16%. In India, the food price index in 2007 was 10% higher than a year earlier. The price of wheat has jumped 11%.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the wholesale price of chicken in 2007 will be 10% higher than in 2006, the price of eggs will be up 21%, and milk 14%, and this is only the beginning.

As more and more fuel ethanol distilleries are built, world grain prices are starting to move up toward their oil-equivalent value. In this new economy, if the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will move it into the energy economy. Some 16 of the 2006 U.S. harvest was used to produce ethanol. With 80 or so ethanol distilleries under construction, nearly a third of the 2008 grain harvest will be going to ethanol.

Since the United States is the leading exporter of grain, what happens to the U.S. grain crop affects the entire world. The world's breadbasket is fast becoming the U.S. fuel tank.

The UN lists 34 countries as needing emergency food assistance. Food aid programs have fixed budgets.

Protests in response to rising food prices could lead to political instability that would add to the list of failed and failing states. President Bush set a production goal for 2017 of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels. Given the difficulties in producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost and the mounting public opposition to liquefied coal, most of the fuel to meet this goal might have to come from grain. This could leave little grain to meet U.S. needs, much less those of the countries that import grain.

The risk is that millions of those on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder will start falling off as higher food prices drop their consumption below the survival level.

In 2007, 18,000 children are dying every day from hunger and malnutrition. There are alternatives. A rise in fuel efficiency standards of 20% over the next decade would save as much oil as converting the entire U.S. grain harvest into ethanol.

One option is plug-in hybrids. Adding a second storage battery to a gas-electric hybrid car along with a plug-in capacity allows most short-distance driving to be done with electricity. If this was accompanied by thousands of wind farms that could feed cheap electricity into the grid, then cars could run largely on electricity for the equivalent cost of $1 per gallon gasoline.

Toyota, Nissan, and GM, have announced plans to bring plug-in hybrid cars to market. It is time to decide whether to continue with subsidizing more grain-based distilleries or to encourage a shift to more fuel-efficient cars. The choice is between a future of rising world food prices, spreading hunger, and growing political instability, or one of stable food prices, sharply reduced dependence on oil, and much lower carbon emissions. doclink

Karen Gaia says: No mention of there being too many people and too many people with large appetites for energy. Time to conserve energy. Move closer to your work and shopping. Move where you can walk or bicycle to whereever you need to go. Go from a multi-car family to a one car family and save money on gas, car insurance, and the car itself. And let's get away from globalization and back to bioregionlism. Take the farms away from the corporations and let the local people go back to farming. And give women access to ways to keep their family size small.

Too Many People, Not Enough Earth

February 13, 2007, The Columbus Dispatch

In the days of sailing ships, sailors used to leave goats on islands for fresh meat on return trips. The animals bred fast, ate all the vegetation and began to starve. They also screwed up the environment so that native species couldn't survive. The lesson of the goats applies to humans and point out how our "island" has suffered.

There is pollution, falling water tables, climate change and extinction of wild plants and animals. We've created this problem because we've had virtually free energy in the form of fossil fuels.

Climate change is a sign that we are exceeding the number of people Earth can sustain.

Every year, at least 91 million humans are born in excess of those who die. Earth's carrying capacity is thought to be somewhere in the range of 4 billion to 5 billion people.

There are 6.5 billion of us. No one is sure what the magic number is. You might have 50 billion, but the quality of life might not be pleasing.

If the 1.3 million residents of Franklin County had to live on the resources the county could provide, only about 100,000 would live here.

We happily import the vast majority of our needs.

The US has the resources to sustain less than half of its current population of 300 million. Americans, who make up 5% of the world's population, use 25% of its resources.

If all 6 billion people were to share the world's resources equally, Americans would have to reduce consumption by 80% for each of us. Carrying capacity is tied to the global economy, which has quadrupled since the world's population doubled.

That leads to a fear that slowing population growth might not curb greenhouse gas production if more people achieve Western lifestyles. People ask how many people the Earth can sustain. It depends on whether you want to live like an Indian or an American.

For example, farmers worldwide grow about 2 billion tons of grain every year. Each American consumes an average of 1,760 pounds annually, mainly because of the grains used to feed farm animals. If everyone on the planet consumed that much grain, Brown said, Earth would support about 2.5 billion people.

In India, people consume about 440 pounds each. If everyone else in the world did likewise, the world's grain would support about 10 billion people.

Growing 1 ton of grain requires 1,000 tons of water.

There are water shortages in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As water is diverted from agriculture to support growing urban populations.

Soybeans are in demand for biodiesel and ethanol production vies with food for corn. By 2008, half of the U.S. corn crop may go to ethanol.

70% of all corn imports in the world come from the U.S. This competition for energy and food will change the landscape.

We don't have enough land worldwide to meet those demands for food, fuel and materials that already consumes more trees and crops than are being grown worldwide.

Humans are drawing on capital rather than interest, and once that is exhausted, they will find Mother Nature reluctant to make a loan. doclink

Resource Depletion

The Rumbling of Distant Thunder

May 30, 2012, Archdruid Report

The recent Age of Limits - - peak oil event, was a bit unusual: it started the recognition that the decline and fall of industrial civilization is the defining fact of our time.

This conversation began some fifteen years ago, at the very dawn of today's peak oil movement. Most participants in those discussions grasped that the industrial world would either rise to the challenge of peak oil and undergo the wrenching process of shortage and reallocation that a successful downshift of energy consumption would demand, or plow face first into the brick wall of resource limits and crash to ruin.

Unfortunately, at most peak oil events, there will be panels and lectures pointing out the reasons why our civilization's attempt to extract limitless resources out of a finite planet won't work; or talking about how to make buckets of money profiteering off the inevitable failure of that attempt; or bickering about who's to blame for the inevitable failure of that attempt; or claims that the inevitable failure of that attempt isn't inevitable at all so long as we all have faith in whatever the fashionable alternative energy du jour happens to be.

But at the The Age of Limits event you get a serious discussion about what can be expected to happen on the downside of Hubbert's curve, and how individuals, families and communities might be able to respond to that. It helped that we let go of the idea that middle class privilege could continue to cling to their comfortable lifestyles, and talked about how those lifestyles are going to go away and what might be done to deal constructively with their departure.

But there are rumblings elsewhere. Conservative farm families observing the bizarre spring weather this year becoming nervous and suddenly not talking any more about how global warming was a myth; people are more attuned to personal sustainability, and some of them are asking for gardening tips. Quite a few attendees mentioned their sense that more and more people seem to be aware, however vaguely, that the troubles of the present time cut deeper and offer fewer options than those of years and decades past.

The message that's rumbling like distant thunder through the crawlspaces of the American imagination is that something has gone very wrong. doclink

Farming, Deforestation and Over Population is Trashing the Earth, Global Survey Warns

Unless something changes as many as 700 million people could lose their home, a group of global scientists have warned.
March 27, 2018,

In March 2018, the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released the results of the first comprehensive assessment of land heath. It is predicted that if no corrective actions are taken, as few as 50 million people and as many as 700 million will lose their homes due to land degradation by 2050. And, currently land decay has accounted for adversely affecting some 3.2 billion people.

According to the IPBES, the condition of land on Earth is "critical." Unsustainable farming, mining, pollution, and city expansion are to blame for the dire state of land health today. Large amounts of forest, grassland, and wetlands (87%) have been lost, and a third of the Earth's surface is now covered by crops and grazing lands. This drastic change in the land surface will have serious consequences in the future.

The analysis predicts that by 2050 land degradation and climate change will reduce crop yields by 10% globally and up to half in some places. In 2010 land degradation accounted for a 10% loss in global economic output. The impact of such a loss can have serious implications, as every 5% loss of gross domestic product is associated with a 12% increase in the probability of violent conflict. Dry areas are already seeing violence rise an estimated 45%.

"Land degradation, loss of productivity of those soils and those vegetations will force people to move. It will be no longer viable to live on those lands," IPBES chairman Robert Watson said. The lowest number of 50 million migrants is a best-case scenario. It assumes "we've really tried hard to have sustainable agricultural practices, sustainable forestry, we've tried to minimise climate change,” he said.

Less than 25% of land has been spared from substantial impacts of human activity due to it's inhospitable nature. However global warming is making many of these areas liveable thereby exposed to the impact of humans.

Land degradation and climate change contribute to each other, according to the IPBES report. Deforestation contributes about 10% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, land decay (by releasing carbon in the soil) was responsible for global emission of up to 4.4 billion tons per year between 2000 and 2009, and, without further action, by 2050 the projected losses of carbon from soils is estimated to be 36 gigatons (equal to about 20 years of global transport emissions).

Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification called the assessment "a wake-up call,” and it "shows the alarming scale of transformation that humankind has imposed on the land.” doclink

Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People?

Humanity has 30 years to find out.
January 22, 2018, Atlantic Monthly   By: Charles C. Mann

In 1970 about one out of every four people was undernourished. Today the proportion has fallen to roughly one out of 10. In those four-plus decades, the global average life span has risen by more than 11 years. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa have lifted themselves from destitution into something like the middle class. But millions upon millions are not prosperous. No one knows whether the rise can continue, or whether our current affluence can be sustained.

The world is expected to rise from about 7.6 billion inhabitants today to 10 billion by about 2050. Then population is expected to begin to level off. On average, each couple will have just enough children to replace themselves. In the meantime, economists say, the world's development should continue, however unevenly. The implication is that a sizable percentage of the world's 10 billion people will be middle-class.

By 2050 we will have ten billion mouths and three billion more middle-class appetites. How can we provide for everyone without making the planet uninhabitable?

In search of the answer we look at the contrasting viewpoints of two individuals largely responsible for the creation of the basic intellectual blueprints that institutions around the world use today for understanding our environmental dilemmas.

William Vogt, born in 1902, laid out the basic ideas for the modern environmental movement. He believed that, unless humankind drastically reduces consumption and limits population, it will ravage global ecosystems. Affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem. If we continue taking more than the Earth can give, he said, the unavoidable result will be devastation on a global scale.

Borlaug, born 12 years after Vogt, believed that science and technology, properly applied, will let us produce a way out of our predicament. He was the best-known figure in the research that in the 1960s created the Green Revolution, the combination of high-yielding crop varieties and agronomic techniques that increased grain harvests around the world, helping to avert tens of millions of deaths from hunger. Only by getting richer and more knowledgeable can humankind create the science that will resolve our environmental dilemmas, he claimed.

Borlaug's solution was to find a way to increase per-acre yields. Vogt's solution was to use ecological knowledge to get smaller. He recommended that we "eat lower on the food chain," to lighten the burden on Earth's ecosystems. Vogt's predecessor, Robert Malthus, predicted that societies would inevitably run out of food because they would always have too many children. Vogt said that we may be able to grow enough food, but at the cost of wrecking the world's ecosystems.

Followers of Borlaug view Vogt's emphasis on cutting back as intellectually dishonest, indifferent to the poor, even racist. Following Vogt, they say, is a path toward regression, narrowness, poverty, and hunger -- toward a world where billions live in misery despite the scientific knowledge that could free them. Followers of Vogt sneer that the Borlaug's faith in human resourcefulness is unthinking, ignorant, even driven by greed (because refusing to push beyond ecological limits will cut into corporate profits). High-intensity, industrial farming may pay off in the short run, but in the long run will make the day of ecological reckoning hit harder. The ruination of soil and water by heedless overuse will lead to environmental collapse, which will in turn create worldwide social convulsion.

In 1948 Vogt published Road to Survival, the first modern we're-all-going-to-hell book. He introduced concepts such as carrying capacity -- also known as "ecological limits," or "planetary boundaries" -- which posits that every ecosystem has a limit to what it can produce. As human numbers increase, our demands for food will exceed the Earth's carrying capacity. The results will be catastrophic: erosion, desertification, soil exhaustion, species extinction, and water contamination that will, sooner or later, lead to massive famines. His ideas were embraced by writers like Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring) and Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb).

In the mid-'50s Borlaug created a wheat that produced 10 times as much grain than before, beginning what was call 'The Green Revolution.' In Asia, before Borlaug's new, high-yielding rice varieties were introduced in the 1960s, at least half of Asia lived in hunger and want; farm yields in many places were stagnant or falling. The new high-yielding rice varieties nearly tripled rice harvests. Even though the continent's population has soared, Asian men, women, and children consume an average of 30% more calories than when the high yield rice was introduced.

However, as Vogt had predicted, the enormous jump in productivity led to enormous environmental damage: drained aquifers, fertilizer runoff, aquatic dead zones, and degraded and waterlogged soils. Worse in a human sense, the rapid increase in productivity made rural land more valuable. Suddenly it was worth stealing -- and rural elites in many places did just that, throwing poor farmers off their land.

Also the Green Revolution would merely postpone the hunger crisis; it was a one-time lucky break, rather than a permanent solution. And our rising numbers and wealth mean that our harvests will have to jump again -- a second Green Revolution would be needed.

Even though the global population in 2050 will be just 25% higher than it is now, farmers will have to boost food output by 50% to 100%, due to increased affluence (eating animal products). Growing feed for animals requires much more land, water, and energy than producing food simply by growing and eating plants.

Farmers can't plant much more land, because almost every accessible acre of arable soil is already in use. Nor can the use of fertilizer be increased; it is already being overused everywhere except some parts of Africa, and the runoff is polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Irrigation, too, cannot be greatly expanded-most land that can be irrigated already is.

Part of the Green Revolution's success was due to the discovery of a method to produce fertilizer from nitrogen. A little more than 1% of the world's industrial energy is devoted to it. "That 1 percent," the futurist Ramez Naam has noted, "roughly doubles the amount of food the world can grow." The environmental scientist Vaclav Smil has estimated that nitrogen fertilizer from the Haber-Bosch process accounts for "the prevailing diets of nearly 45% of the world's population."

But this innovation also damaged the environment. The 40% of the fertilizer applied in the past 60 years that was not absorbed by plants was washed away into rivers or seeped into the air in the form of nitrous oxides. In the water it boosted the growth of algae, weeds, and other aquatic organisms. When these die, they fall to the floor of the river, lake, or ocean, where microbes consume their remains. The respiration of these microbes drains oxygen from the lower depths, killing off most other life. Nitrogen draining off farms along the Mississippi end up in the Gulf of Mexico every summer, creating an oxygen desert. In 2016 the dead zone covered almost 7,000 square miles. Another dead zone of 23,000 square miles was mapped in the Bay of Bengal, off the east coast of India in 2017.

Nitrous oxide from fertilizers is a major cause of pollution. High in the stratosphere, it combines with and neutralizes the planet's ozone, which guards life on the surface by blocking cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.

A landmark 2011 study from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that up to a third of the world's cropland is degraded.

Our story now goes back to the 1940s. Albert Howard and his wife, Gabrielle, bred new varieties of wheat and tobacco in India, developed novel types of plows, and testing the results of providing oxen with a superhealthy diet. By 1943, they were convinced that soil was not simply a base for chemical additives. It was an intricate living system that required a wildly complex mix of nutrients in plant and animal waste: harvest leftovers, manure. Their idea of returning to the soil of all available vegetable, animal, and human wastes became the founding document of the organic movement.

After 1943 scientists discovered that plants need nitrogen chiefly to make a protein called rubisco, an enzyme needed to make roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. Rubisco is an enzyme that takes carbon dioxide from the air, and uses it in the process of photosynthesis.

Rubisco is an inept, inefficient enzyme, so plants make a lot of it to do the job. This requires a lot of nitrogen to do so. However, nature has produced a work-around: C4 photosynthesis. C4 is a four-carbon molecule that turbocharges plant growth. This involves a special adaptation of leaf anatomy.

When carbon dioxide comes into a C4 leaf, it is initially grabbed not by rubisco but by a different enzyme that uses it to form a compound that is then pumped into special, rubisco-filled cells deep in the leaf. These cells have almost no oxygen, so rubisco can't bumblingly grab the wrong molecule. The end result is exactly the same sugars, starches, and cellulose that ordinary photosynthesis produces, except much faster. C4 plants need less water and fertilizer than ordinary plants, because they don't waste water on rubisco's mistakes.

C4 photosynthesis has been found in more than 60 plants. Corn, tumbleweed, crabgrass, sugarcane, and Bermuda grass -- all of these very different plants evolved C4 photosynthesis.

Scientists from around the world are trying to convert rice into a C4 plant-- one that would grow faster, require less water and fertilizer, and produce more grain. Rice is the world's most important foodstuff, the staple crop for more than half the global population. An estimated 40% increase rice production is needed to satisfy increasing population numbers and increasing affluence. Meanwhile, the land available to plant rice is shrinking as cities expand into the countryside, thirsty people drain rivers, farmers switch to more-profitable crops, and climate change creates deserts from farmland.

The C4 Rice Consortium is a genetic-engineering project funded largely by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This genetic engineering is NOT like Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean, which contains a snippet of DNA from a bacterium that was found in a Louisiana waste pond. That snippet makes the plant assemble a chemical compound in its leaves and stems that blocks the effects of Roundup, Monsanto's widely used herbicide. The foreign gene lets farmers spray Roundup on their soy fields, killing weeds but leaving the crop unharmed.

The C4 Rice Consortium scientists are trying to refashion photosynthesis, one of the most fundamental processes of life. Because C4 has evolved in so many different species, scientists believe that most plants must have precursor C4 genes. The hope is that rice is one of these, and that the consortium can identify and awaken its dormant C4 genes-following a path evolution has taken many times before. No company will profit from the result; the International Rice Research Institute, where much of the research takes place, will give away seeds for the modified grain, as it did with Green Revolution rice.

In addition to C4 rice, other projects are attempting self-fertilizing maize, wheat that can grow in salt water, and enhanced soil-microbial ecosystems.

All attempts to compare organic farming with new technology has shown that organic farms yield fewer calories per acre than techonology-enhanced farms -- sometimes by a little, sometimes by quite a lot.

But evaluating farm systems wholly in terms of calories per acre is folly. It doesn't include the sort of costs identified by Vogt: fertilizer runoff, watershed degradation, soil erosion and compaction, and pesticide and antibiotic overuse. It doesn't account for the destruction of rural communities. It doesn't consider whether the food is tasty and nutritious.

Organic farmers have their own innovations: planting perennials that come back summer after summer, for as long as a decade. Perennial grasses build up root systems that reach deep into the ground, they hold on to soil better and are less dependent on surface rainwater and nutrients than annual grasses. Many of them are also more disease-resistant. Perennials emerge from the soil earlier in the spring and keep photosynthesizing longer in the fall, they have a longer growing season. They produce food year after year with much less plowing-caused erosion. They could be just as productive as Green Revolution-style grain, but without ruining land, sucking up scarce water, or requiring heavy doses of polluting, energy-intensive fertilizer.

A perennial cousin to bread wheat, wheatgrass was introduced to the Western Hemisphere from Asia in the 1930s as fodder for farm animals. This wheatgrass has been crossbred among the best performers in an attempt to make a commercially viable perennial. The Land Institute, a nonprofit agricultural-research center dedicated to replacing conventional agriculture with processes akin to those that occur in natural ecosystems has been developing wheatgrass since 2002. Its new variety of intermediate wheatgrass is named Kernza. The Land Institute hopes to have field-ready, bread-worthy wheatgrass with kernels that are twice their current size (if still half the size of wheat's) in the 2020s, though nothing is guaranteed.

Other attempts to feed people are being made: creating a hybrid of bread wheat and wheatgrass; focus on tubers and trees, both of which are generally more productive than cereals. The point is to have multiple ways to meet tomorrow's needs.

And then there is to consider the kind of society tied to each of these two ideologies: The Borlaugians (followers of Borlaug) ideal for society is that the drudgery of agriculture should be eased and reduced as much as possible to maximize individual liberty. National governments (except for China) have directed labor away from agriculture. The goal was to consolidate and mechanize farms, which would increase harvests and reduce costs, especially for labor. Farmworkers, no longer needed, would move to the cities, where they could get better-paying jobs in factories. Both the remaining farm owners and the factory workers would earn more, the former by growing more and better crops, the latter by obtaining better-paying jobs in industry. The nation as a whole would benefit: increased exports from industry and agriculture, cheaper food in the cities, a plentiful labor supply.

There were downsides: Cities in developing nations acquired entire slums full of displaced families. And in many areas, including most of the developed world, the countryside was emptied -- exactly what Borlaugians intended, as part of the goal of freeing agriculture workers to pursue their dreams.

To Vogtians, agriculture is about maintaining a set of communities, ecological and human, that have cradled life since the first agricultural revolution, 10,000-plus years ago. It can be drudgery, but it is also work that reinforces the human connection to the Earth. doclink

Karen Gaia says: more food means more people survive, and affluent lives means people live longer, both of these add to population growth.

Limits to growth will force families or society to make the unhappy choice between shorter life spans, one child families and poverty.

China before industrialism and Cuba are two examples of agriculturally-organized societies that we might look to. Cuba was, at one time, called the most sustainable country in the world.

Will the World Economy Continue to "Roll Along" in 2018?

January 9, 2018, Our Finite World   By: Gail Tverberg

Today we have an oil glut, produced at a very high cost. However, there is also a huge disparity of wealth.

Most consumers cannot really afford high-priced oil products. If consumers could not afford $100+ prices back in 2013, how would it be possible for oil prices to rise to something like $97 per barrel by the end of 2018?

We cannot expect oil prices to rise to the level they did in July 2008, without recession causing oil prices to crash back down.

But low-priced oil products are bad for producers (because they produced it at such high cost).

Equity markets rallied amidst a volatility void in the lead-up to the Great Recession. Markets would make new all-time highs in late 2007 before collapsing in 2008, marking the worst annual returns (-37%) since the infamous 1937 correction.

The S&P 500 rose in 22 of 23 months between April 1935 and February 1937, in response to government spending aimed at jumpstarting the economy. By late 1937, the economy was again back in recession.

After having trillions of dollars spent on them, wind and solar make up only a tiny (1%) share of world energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency. Wind and solar are great disappointments, when total costs, including the cost of mitigating intermittency on the grid, are considered. They do not appear to be solutions on any major scale.

The world economy badly needs rising energy consumption per capita. Plans to raise interest rates and sell QE securities, when the economy is already "at the edge," are playing with fire. If we are to keep the world economy operating, large quantities of additional energy supplies need to be found at very low cost. It is hard to be optimistic about this happening. High-cost energy supplies are worthless when it comes to operating the economy because they are unaffordable. doclink

Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss

August 10, 2017, NoApp4That

An extremely long article, but I strongly recommend that you read it and everything on this website.

The summary below the video covers only the high points

Technology has grown with us, side by side, since the dawn of human society. Each time that we've turned to technology to solve a problem or make us more comfortable, we've been granted a solution.

Technology wakes us in the morning; grows our food and cooks our meals; transports us to and from work or school; entertains us; informs us of world events; enables us to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers; lights, heats, and cools our homes and offices; and treats our injuries and illnesses. So, naturally, we are led to believe that new technologies will solve the most severe global challenges humans have ever faced-in particular, the three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss.

In many respects these very problems are side effects of past technological development. Climate change is a side effect of burning fossil fuels-sources of energy that power virtually all aspects of the modern human world, including transportation, manufacturing, and food systems. Rapid population growth has occurred due to improvements in sanitation, medical care, and agriculture. We're losing biodiversity because of deforestation (helped by industrial forestry equipment), overfishing (helped by modern industrial fishing equipment), and environmental pollution (often from the agricultural chemicals that grow food for 7.5 billion humans). All of these issues are related and compound one another.

Unfortunately technology isn't saving us from climate change, over­popula­tion, or collapsing biodiversity. While solutions have been proposed, some of which are technically viable, our problems are actually getting worse rather than going away, despite the existence of these "solutions." Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are rising. World population is growing more, in net numbers annually (85 million), than the entire populations of most countries. And more species are disappearing every year.

We could invest more in solar and wind power. We could develop manufacturing processes that save energy and don't use toxic chemicals that end up putting children and wildlife at risk. We could produce artificial, lab-grown meat so that we don't have to use a third of the planet's arable land for livestock production to feed a growing population.

However, the real problem isn't just that we aren't investing enough money or effort in technological solutions. It's that we are asking technology to solve problems that demand human moral intervention-ones that require ethical decisions, behavior change, negotiation, and sacrifice.

Averting catastrophic climate change will require us to radically redesign our economy -- but how, and to whose advantage? The only humanely acceptable solutions to overpopulation will require a shift in our attitudes toward reproduction and women's rights, and the political will to provide universal access to family planning. And maintaining the world's biodiversity will require preserving habitat-and that means changing land use policies and ownership rights, thus reining in the profit motive.

If we do make collective moral choices that lead to the successful resolution of each of these dilemmas, we may find that the results are mutually supportive. Reducing population would likely make it far easier to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Maintaining biodiversity (particularly in forests and soils) could help stabilize the climate, while protecting the climate would help preserve biodiversity.

Machines won't make the key choices for us. We need to rethink what we delegate to machines, and what we take responsibility for directly as moral beings.

The moral questions that humanity is confronting now are neither abstruse nor academic; they are plain, simple, and urgent. They concern every one of us, and they will surely impact our children and grandchildren. If we put off acknowledging and addressing these questions, we will in effect have made a moral choice -- but one whose consequences will be very difficult for any of us to live with.

Humanity has always faced challenges imposed by the limits of our ecosystems: our population has grown in good times, and fallen during famines and plagues. There are far more of us now, and each of us has (on average) a far greater impact on the environment. Further, our population continues to grow quickly -- and especially in the poorest of countries. Climate change is by far the worst pollution issue in human history, already impacting the entire planet and threatening the viability of future generations. And other species are going extinct at least a thousand times the "background" or normal rate, with two thirds of assessed plant species currently threatened with extinction, a fifth of all mammals, and a third of amphibians.

The scale of human numbers and environmental impacts rose quickly in the nineteenth century. The main driver was cheap, concentrated sources of energy in the forms of coal, oil, and natural gas-fossil fuels. These were a one-time-only gift from nature, and they changed everything.

We used technology to grow more food, extract more raw materials, manufacture more products, transport ourselves and our goods faster and over further distances, defeat diseases with modern medicine, entertain ourselves, and protect ourselves with advanced weaponry. Fossil fuels increased our power over the world around us, and the power of some of us over others.

Unfortunately, extracting, transporting, and burning these fuels polluted air and water, and caused a subtle but gradually accelerating change in the chemistry of the world's atmosphere and oceans. Secondly, fossil fuels are finite, nonrenewable, and depleting resources that we exploit using the low-hanging fruit principle. That means that as we extract and burn them, each new increment entails higher monetary and energy costs, as well as greater environmental risk.

The side effects of all this is depletion of topsoil, the fouling of air and water, and the increasing lethality of warfare. But there are three of these side effects that, if left unchecked, will make everything else irrelevant: climate change, overpopulation, and loss of biodiversity.

At the dawn of the industrial age -- starting in 1750 -- the carbon dioxide content of the global atmosphere was 280 parts per million. In 2015 it averaged 400.83 ppm, and it continues to rise quickly.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the overall temperature of Earth's surface to rise. It has increased by over one degree Celsius so far; it is projected to rise as much as five degrees more by the end of this century.

Even slight changes in global temperatures can create a ripple effect in sea levels, weather patterns, and the viability of species that have evolved to survive in particular conditions.

Climate change extremes vary from one location to another. The people hit hardest are often those who are most vulnerable and least responsible. The American southwest will likely be afflicted by longer and more severe droughts. At the same time, a hotter atmosphere holds more water, leading to far more severe storms and floods elsewhere. Melting glaciers are causing sea levels to rise, leading to storm surges that can inundate coastal cities, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk. And global agriculture may be seriously impacted, undermining efforts to produce more food to feed a growing population.

The global human population has gone from one billion at the start of the nineteenth century, to 7.5 billion today. Our current rate of growth is 1.1% per year. This will double the population in about 70 years. If our numbers were to continue growing at one percent annually, our population would increase to over 157 trillion during the next thousand years. Of course, that's physically impossible on planet Earth. One way or another, human population growth will end at some point; but when, and under what circumstances?

The equivalent to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Mexico City combined, are added to the planet each year. This amounts to another billion people approximately every 12 years.

A world population of 11 billion is expected by 2100, according to the U.N. -- and most of the growth will occur in nations that are already severely challenged to provide for their current populations and to protect their natural environment.

Rapid population growth creates political instability, contributes to deforestation and other environmental problems, and impairs our efforts to tackle climate change. It also complicates efforts to achieve greater economic equality: the larger our human population, the greater the reduction in living standards of those in wealthier nations that would be required in order to achieve global economic equality.

However, the diminished economic prospects of the American working class have much to do with growing multitudes overseas who can do the same jobs for a fraction of the cost.

Humans and their animals now make up about 97% of all land mammal biomass. The rest of the mammals have to compete with deforestation and other land-use impacts.

Our use of agricultural chemicals has led to the disappearance from farm soils of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other tiny organisms that provide natural fertility. As these microscopic soil communities are destroyed, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Even in the human gut, microscopic biodiversity is on the decline, leaving us more prone to immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and other diseases.

Today's children are set to inherit a world in which many of the animals that filled the lives, dreams, and imaginations of our ancestors, that provided the metaphors at the root of every human language, will be remembered only in picture books.

Natural systems replenish oxygen in the planetary atmosphere, capture and sequester carbon in soils and forests, pollinate food crops, filter freshwater, buffer storm surges, and break down and recycle wastes. As we lose biodiversity, we also lose these ecosystem services -- which, if we had to perform them ourselves, would cost us over $125 trillion annually, according to some estimates.

In addition to climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss we face the depletion of topsoil, minerals, and fossil fuels. This could have catastrophic impacts for future generations.

Most people and policy makers believe that technologies and markets will eventually provide solutions to these problems outlined above, and that these solutions will require few or no basic changes to our economic system or to the daily lives of most wealthy or middle-class citizens.

The long list of proposed technological solutions include alternative energy (nuclear power, solar and wind energy), energy storage (batteries, flywheels, pumped hydro, compressed air and hydrogen), and electric vehicle, electric self-driving vehicles and Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS)

But nuclear plants are slow and costly to build, and there are widespread concerns about radiation risk in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Hydro, geothermal, wave, and tidal power are incapable of being scaled up to provide as much energy as society will need. And the rate of transition to renewable energy would have to accelerate to roughly ten times the current rate to achieve a fully renewable energy system in time to avert a climate crisis. Also, it's still unclear whether or at what scale a renewable energy system could be fully self-sustaining (i.e., powering all of its own inputs, such as mining and materials transformation) for decades and centuries to come.

Only 18% of our current final energy is consumed as electricity; much of the rest is used in the form of liquid fuels derived from oil. Most of those liquid fuels are consumed in the transportation sector-in automobiles, trucks, ships, and airplanes. Electric and electric self-driving cars trucks and and Transportation-as-a-Service are green alternatives that may substantially reduce the use of those liquid fuels. But in 2016, over 88 million new light vehicles were built; 99.1% of them had internal combustion engines.

It's undeniable that a rapid shift away from private ownership of gas-guzzling cars would reduce world oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. What's not clear is whether that shift can be driven rapidly enough by market forces alone so as to make a significant difference with regard to climate change

The only way to minimize these problems is to dramatically reduce overall energy usage throughout society-a project that will require not just innovation, but also commitment and sacrifice.

Additonal items on the list of proposed technological solutions are carbon capture and storage (CCS), planting trees, carbon farming (perhaps sequestering an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon -- to 11 to 34% of current emissions from fossil fuels combustion), surface-based geo-engineering, fertilizing the oceans with powdered iron.

Official climate models in which the global surface temperature remains below 2°C assume high levels of carbon capture and storage. The scientists who construct these models have concluded that there is no other realistic way to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently, and fast enough, while maintaining economic growth. In effect, the only reason policy makers are seriously discussing extreme technologies like CCS and geo-engineering is that the project of shifting to alternative energy sources while maintaining economic growth is so daunting.

Capturing and storing the carbon from coal combustion is estimated to consume 12% to 35% of the power produced, depending on the approach taken. That translates to not only higher prices for coal-generated electricity but also the need for more power plants to serve the same customer base. New technologies designed to make carbon capture more efficient aren't commercial at this point, and their full costs are unknown.

Capturing and burying just 38% of the carbon released from current U.S. coal combustion would entail pipelines, compressors and pumps on a scale equivalent to the size of the nation's oil industry. It is costly and inefficient. A new generation of power plants would do the job much better -- but that means replacing 511 coal-fired current-generation plants, representing over 300 gigawatts of capacity.

Cooling technologies include growing high-albedo crops, spraying fine seawater to whiten clouds and thus increase cloud reflectivity, releasing stratospheric sulfate aerosols, or other reflective substances, and satellite-based mirrors or orbiting dust clouds.

Population growth and the negative agricultural impacts of climate change will require us to grow more food under conditions that are likely to be drier and/or less stable. Technologies that aim to increase crop production are gene splicing and bringing some animals and plants back from extinction.

Another proposed method of CCS is BECCS, which entails growing enormous amounts of biomass, burning it, then capturing the carbon and burying it. BECCS entails the same cost for pipelines, compressors, and pumps, but also requires vast tracts of farmland. By one calculation, an area the size of India would have to be planted in fast-growing crops destined to be combusted in order to offset less than a third of our current carbon dioxide emissions. Setting aside so much arable land for CCS seems highly unrealistic given that more land will also be needed to grow crops to feed a larger human population.

The prospects for carbon farming -- using soil-building agricultural techniques to capture atmospheric carbon and sequester it -- are more favorable. This would yield safer and more nutritious food, protect biodiversity, and pump less pollution into the environment. However, recent research questions the potential of soils to take up carbon. Also, carbon farming is set of techniques that will require significant changes to industrial agriculture. It is not likely to take off without initiative, investment, effort, and sacrifice, supported by political will manifesting through regulations and subsidies.

Managing solar radiation with space mirrors or white roofing material wouldn't remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and therefore wouldn't reduce other effects from these gases, principally ocean acidification. Seeding the atmosphere or oceans with sulfur or other chemicals might have serious unintended consequences, such as significant changes to the hydrological cycle or ozone depletion. Such effects might be cumulative or chaotic in nature, and hard to predict with existing models. And, unless geo-engineering efforts were kept continually operating, climate change impacts being held at bay would immediately reassert themselves.

So far, gene-splicing technologies have mostly been used to make crops immune to proprietary herbicides, with a resulting increase in herbicide usage and little change in crop productivity. Is it worth spraying our fields with even more glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has found to be a "probable" carcinogen that's also associated with collapsing populations of monarch butterflies?

Big claims are being made for new gene-splicing technologies such as CRISPR, which could open the door to different kinds of potential food production improvements. But who would benefit from whatever "improvements" are actually achieved? Farmers? Consumers? Or giant agribusinesses?

Some of the agricultural applications of CRISPR being researched include ones that would alter the biology of insects and weeds, which could spread their edited genes rapidly through wild populations, possibly reshaping entire plant or animal communities in just a few years. The prospects for side effects, such as upsetting food webs and facilitating invasions by other species, are as obvious as they are serious.

Reviving long-gone animals like the mammoth or the passenger pigeon will be a meaningless exercise if these species have no habitat.

So far technology has not solved our biggest problems: atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing, climate impacts are worsening; population growth is plateauing, instead of declining, rapid population growth is contributing to political instability in a growing number of poor nations, and the rate at which plant and animal species are disappearing is increasing rather than diminishing.

The most promising solutions with the fewest likely negative side effects are changes in human behavior and in systems.

Throughout the world, successful programs for biodiversity protection have centered on limiting deforestation, restricting fishing, and paying poor landowners to protect wilderness areas. Biologist Edward O. Wilson's vison of setting aside half the Earth's land and seas for biodiversity recovery is both necessary and feasible, according to one expert.

We lack insufficient investment capacity to bring about technological solutions. Most nations can't even afford to maintain much of the infrastructure they already have in place, much less do they have the means to deploy most of the above solutions at the scale needed in order to deal with our three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss. Especially given the enormous existing levels of government debt throughout the world. Many shifts in energy usage technology that will be needed to support the transition to all-renewable energy will require households to invest in new machines (electric cars, electric heat pumps to replace furnaces, electric induction cooking stoves to replace gas stoves, solar hot water systems), but most households are likewise drowning in debt.

In addition, the rapid, unprecedented technological transformation that roiled the twentieth century depended upon conditions that cannot be expected to continue. These included the rising availability of cheap energy, plentiful raw materials, fast-growing economies, and the capacity to generate enormous amounts of investment capital. In the future we can expect constrained amounts of available energy, depleting raw materials, stagnant economies, and mountains of debt.

The global economy is generally slowing, a phenomenon called "secular stagnation.” A few economists have explicitly tied this slowing of growth to the well-known phenomenon of diminishing returns, where ach new increment of economic growth produces higher levels of environmental and social costs (i.e., externalities), which can begin to exceed benefits delivered.

Many, if not all, technologies discussed above will have their own negative consequences that, in a few cases, may be as serious as the problems they're intended to solve. Even solar and wind power, whose climate impacts are far lower than those of the fossil fuels they may replace, imply environmental risks and costs, including resource depletion and pollution associated with raw materials extraction and the manufacturing, transport, and installation of panels and turbines.

Inequality, like the other problems we've been discussing, is worsening: while absolute poverty has been reduced worldwide in recent decades, wealth is concentrated in fewer hands today than ever before. Further, as social problems tied to economic inequality proliferate and deepen, they tend to absorb our attention to the point that we lose sight of the ecological conditions that contribute to them-such as climate change and overpopulation. In other words, it is a very serious problem -- as serious in its own way as the three-make-or-break global dilemmas mentioned above.

Policy makers seem to be trying to do four things at once in order to keep social and ecological chaos at bay: (1) reduce economic inequality, (2) accommodate a growing global population, and (3) reduce human impacts on the environment (notably climate change and biodiversity loss), all while (4) growing their economies. Yet from a practical standpoint, the second aim is at odds with the first and the third: a growing population tends to increase (not reduce) environmental impacts, and it also makes programs designed to reduce economic inequality more difficult to fund, because a constantly increasing number of people must be served by those programs. Meanwhile, a larger economy is overwhelmingly likely to have a larger throughput of energy and materials, putting (4) at odds with (3).

Policy makers tend to assume that the technology-related trends mentioned above somehow can eventually make inequality, and the contradictions just mentioned, disappear.

Since the administration of John F. Kennedy, economists have delighted in equating economic growth to "a rising tide that lifts all boats.” That's an encouraging metaphor, but the trouble is that the tide tends to lift the yachts while swamping the canoes. And how helpful is a rising tide if it threatens to undermine the life-supporting capacity of planetary systems?

Demographic transition is a shift, observed over the past century in many countries, from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates (and slower net population growth) as those countries became more industrialized and urbanized -- i.e., as they adopted more sophisticated technology. With indus­trialization and economic growth, the problem of rapid population growth appears to solve itself.

Although addressing the inequality problem could help solve our population dilemma, it also could unintentionally increase overall consumption levels. When currently poor people become wealthier, they tend to spend most of their income gains on consumption, whereas wealthy people tend to withhold more of their income for savings and investments.

The proposed solution is to decouple GDP growth from energy usage and resource consumption -- to do more with less. Decoupling is suggested as the main key to banishing the contradiction inherent in trying to resolve inequality, population growth, and rising environmental impacts. Unfortunately, it turns out that decoupling has been oversold. A recent paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that even the relative decoupling that most economists believe industrial nations have already achieved is actually the result of false accounting.

Without decoupling, the contradiction between reducing inequality on one hand, and resolving our environmental problems on the other, remains firmly in place. Worse still, it turns out that "demographic transition” is really just a theoretical construct that doesn't fit the data evenly and doesn't necessarily have much predictive value.

Before fossil fuels, and before the technological revolution they fueled, we were forced to confront and adapt to limits. We codified lessons about limits in a set of virtues (sufficiency, modesty, thrift, generosity, and self-control), and vices (greed, selfishness, envy, and gluttony) that were held similarly by people everywhere, in very different and distant societies. Lately we have come to believe that technology makes these virtues and vices at least partly obsolete. We are encouraged to want more, consume more, and waste more because the economy demands it. But doing so doesn't make us better people; it usually does just the opposite. By abandoning those old virtues and ignoring those vices, we merely become more dangerous to ourselves, one another, and our environment.

Personal Actions

  • Climate Stability: Ditch the screen and reconnect with the people in your life. Take the pledge to unplug.
  • Right-sized Population: Talk with friends and loved ones about family size. Read this article or Bill McKibben's book Maybe One for ideas on how to start a conversation.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Turn your yard, balcony container garden, schoolyard, or work landscape into Certified Wildlife Habitat.
  • All Three Goals: Learn how to build resilience in your own community. Take the Think Resilience online course.

  • Community Actions

  • Climate Stability: Host a Turn21 event. It's time we grew up and treated the planet and each other with respect.
  • Right-sized Population: Support your local Planned Parenthood Health Center or step up to become a Planned Parenthood Defender.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Take part in some citizen science, and help track wild bird populations. Participate in the Christmas Bird Count.
  • All Three Goals: Shift the way your friends and colleagues think about the issues we face. Organize a discussion group for the Think Resilience course.

  • National / Global Actions

  • Climate Stability: Support Barefoot College and/or Solar Aid, who meet people's needs while reducing emissions.
  • Right-sized Population: Support the Population Media Center and change lives by changing the story.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Volunteer with the Land Trust Alliance to protect and conserve natural habitats.
  • All Three Goals: Share this manifesto with 10 people. Include your local, state, or national representatives.
  • doclink

    Karen Gaia says: 1) The main driver to population growth was extending the live span of people through sanitation and modern medicine.

    2) Family planning is the one solution where the benefits far outweigh the cost, economically, and where families can realize the benefits in just a few short years. Family planning helps get families out of poverty, thus lessening inequality of wealth.

    3) Of the three challenges, the easiest behavior change to make is having less children because 40-50% of pregnancies are unintended, family planning is cost-effective, and families appreciate the benefits of family planning, like being able to feed their children and to send them to school.

    4) Very little moral imperative is needed in the case of family planning because almost all families already have the morality that compels them to protect their children's health and well-being.

    Breaching Environmental Boundaries: UN Report on Resource Limits

    October 21, 2016, Greenpeace   By: Rex Weyler

    The recent 'Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity' report, produced by the UN International Resource Panel (IRP), shows that consumption of Earth's primary resources has tripled in the last 40 years, driven by population growth (increasing at about 1.1% per year), economic growth (averaging about 3% per year over the same period) and consumption per person.

    While economic growth has helped lift some from poverty and created more middle-class consumers, while enriching the wealthiest nations, advances in human well-being have been achieved through consumption patterns that are "not sustainable" and that will "ultimately deplete the resources -- causing shortages conflict".

    In 1970 the human population of 3.7 billion used 22 billion tons of primary materials per year. In 2010, with a population of 6.7 billion, humans used 70 billion tons. Today we require about 86 billion tons and by 2050 we will require annually some 180 billion tons of raw materials, which Earth's ecosystems may not be able to provide.

    As technology has advanced, fossil fuel consumption has grown annually by 2.9%, metal ores by 3.5%, and non-metalic minerals by 5.3%. Since 2000, even as economic growth and population growth slowed, material demand accelerated, including non-essential consumption among the rich. And we now spend increasing amounts of energy to extract lower grade resources, reducing productivity.

    Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, co-chair of the report said, "We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty. This deeply complex problem ... calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction."

    Meanwhile, large economic gaps remain between rich and poor. To achieve economic justice and UN development goals, low income nations will require increasing quantities of materials.

    The average citizen in Africa consumes about three tons of material resources each year, including infrastructure. In Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, it is about 3-times as much, and in Europe and North America, it is 7-10-times the average African. The super-rich consume much more, in the range of 100-times the average African citizen. The US, with less than 5% of world population, consumes about 30% of global materials.

    To meet both social justice and ecological goals, we should examine the gap between the extravagant consumption of the wealthy and the subsistence consumption of the rest of the world.

    In 2008, the Global Footprint Network prepared a chart that shows how nations measure up to the UN Human Development Index and the Global Footprint Index. The average person in the US uses about five times their fair share of Earth's resources. The average person in Sierra Leone uses about half of a fair share. Several Asian and South American nations come close to achieving both - meeting UN Human Development goals with a fair per-capita share of resources - but the only nation that does achieve both goals is Cuba.

    A vast proportion of consumption in rich nations is wasteful; products are designed to be wasteful and grow obsolete. According to industrial ecologist Robert Ayres, 99% of human-produced goods are consumed or become waste within six months.

    The imperative of industrial economy is growth, but the ecological data tells us to slow down. This challenge is avoided by the UN Resource Panel which proposes twin strategies of "efficiency" and "decoupling" to allow global economic growth to continue.

    In 1865, William Jevons showed that technological efficiencies did not reduce coal consumption but increased consumption. This is called the "Jevons paradox".

    Energy efficient automobiles increased leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl. Research by William Rees showed that, as modern heating systems improved efficiency by 10-30%, living and working space per person increased on the scale of 100-300%. According to a 1994 study by Mario Giampietro, the so-called "Green Revolution", increasing food production with hydrocarbons and fertilizers, led to increased population growth, degraded land, a trail of toxins and more starving people.

    The UN panel's decoupling theory proposes: "to decouple economic growth and human well-being from ever-increasing consumption of natural resources", the panel claims, "many countries have initiated policies to facilitate decoupling," but cannot offer any evidence of success.

    The global economy now needs more materials per unit of GDP than required 20 years ago. Meanwhile, lower net energy, higher energy costs for resources and growing environmental destruction per unit of economic activity undermine the hypothesis of decoupling. The UN projects that annual resource extraction will increase to 180 billion tons by 2050.

    The IPCC proposes "mitigation technologies" such as carbon capture, even though these technologies have not even slowed the growth of carbon emissions. Germany, the world leader in solar installations, has seen no drop in emissions since 2009, while coal and LNG plants remain open. Tim Jackson, of the UK Sustainable Development Commission said, "They bombard us with adverts, cajoling us to insulate our homes, turn down our thermostats, drive a little less," but "The one piece of advice you will not see on a government list is 'buy less stuff!'"

    "Civilization has a metabolism, about 7.1 milliwatts per dollar of GDP," says ecologist Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota. "80% of nitrogen in our bodies and 50% of the protein comes indirectly from natural gas." ... "Additional economic growth and development will require some combination of (a) increased energy supply, (b) decreased per capita energy use, and (c) decreased human population."

    During the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, global material use actually slowed. Historically, economic recessions provide the only examples of reduced consumption - and here we may recognize the genuine solutions to resource consumption: allow and encourage wealthy economies to stabilize and contract.

    Humanity needs a new economic model that does not require the delusion of endless growth in a finite global habitat. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we need to do both: consume less, and tackle population growth by reducing the tremendous number of unintended pregnancies.

    Human Consumption of Earth's Natural Resources Has Tripled in 40 Years

    July 25, 2016, EcoWatch   By: Alex Kirby

    A new report by the International Resource Panel (IRP), part of the UN Environment Programme, says that the amount of the planet's natural resources extracted for human use has tripled in 40 years: from 22 billion tons in 1970 to 70 billon tons in 2010.

    The cause is rising consumption driven by a growing middle class.

    Included under 'natural resources' are fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metallic minerals.

    The increase in the use of natural resources will eventually deplete their availability, leading to serious shortages of critical materials and risking conflict. The increase will also cause the acidification of the world's waters, the eutrophication of its soils and waters, worsen soil erosion and lead to greater amounts of waste and pollution.

    And the large amounts of energy involved in extraction, use, transport and disposal will boost climate change.

    IRP's co-chair, Alicia Bárcena Ibarra warned: "We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty. This deeply complex problem, one of humanity's biggest tests yet, calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction."

    The information in the new report supports the monitoring of the progress countries are making towards achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. It also shows the uneven way in which the materials exploited are shared.

    The richest countries consume on average 10 times as much of the available resources as the poorest and twice as much as the world average.

    The report also ranks countries by the size of their per capita material footprints -- the amount of material required in a country, an indicator that sheds light on its true impact on the global natural resource base. It is also a good way to judge a country's material standard of living.

    Europe and North America, which had annual per capita material footprints of 20 and 25 tons in 2010, are at the top of the table. China's footprint was 14 tons and Brazil's 13. The annual per-capita material footprint for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and West Asia was 9-10 tons, and Africa's was below 3 tons.

    Global material use has rapidly accelerated since 2000, the report says, as emerging economies such as China undergo industrial and urban transformation that requires unprecedented amounts of iron, steel, cement, energy and building materials.

    There has been little improvement in global material efficiency since 1990. The global economy now needs more material per unit of GDP than it did at the turn of the century because production has moved from material-efficient economies such as Japan, South Korea and Europe to far less materially-efficient countries such as China, India and some in south-east Asia.

    It is "imperative for modern environmental policy and essential for the prosperity of human society and a healthy natural environment to uncouple the increasing material use from economic growth".

    The IRP also recommends putting a price on primary materials at extraction to reflect the social and environmental costs of resource extraction and use, while reducing consumption. The extra funds generated, it says, could then be invested in R&D in resource-intensive sectors of the economy. doclink

    As Populations Swell and Water Becomes Scarce, Food Prices Could Double

    May 20, 2016, Reuters   By: Lin Taylor

    Martin Halle, policy analyst at Global Footprint Network (GFN) said: "A few things are very clear: the demand for food is going up tremendously because of population growth." .. "[Food production] is becoming more unstable because climate change is affecting production, in the context of growing land and water scarcity. There's very little leeway between supply and demand."

    In the past, countries were able to meet those demands by growing more food on more land. But this has come at a cost, Halle said, since the planet is now running out of water and arable land.

    The last severe food crisis was in 2007 and 2008, when extreme weather events hit major grain producing regions the year earlier, causing spikes in the demand and cost of food.

    The higher prices led to social and political unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and South East and South Asia.

    Demand for food with a higher environmental impact, such as meat, has surged as emerging countries like China and India grow in size and in wealth.

    Most of the same countries at risk in the last crises, namely Morocco, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Indonesia, are again at risk if food prices were to increase in the next few years.

    The report was produced by GFN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    More frequent and more frequent drought in places like southern Africa is taking a heavy toll on rural lives and economies. Maize prices in South Africa, the continent's top producer of the crop, reached near record highs late 2015, due to recurring heat waves and poor rains in growing areas.

    The study found that if the cost of food doubled, household spending would increase by more than 10% in 37 countries. Benin, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana - would be the worst affected, while China and India would lose $161 billion and $49 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).

    While higher income countries, like the United States, could benefit from food price hikes, Mulder of UNEP said, their high demand for meat-based products is contributing to the problem. doclink

    Karen Gaia said: Between 2000 and 2011, consumption of world grain exceeded production in 8 of those 12 years, according to the USDA.

    Fertility Decline Spurs Per Capita Consumption Increase

    April 25, 2016, Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment   By: Robert Engelman

    Contrary to common misconception that fertility decline and aging of the population tend to lower economic growth, a paper by Lee and Mason finds that the use of family planning may contribute indirectly to higher per capita consumption, but the consumption of the total population does not rise proportionally.

    In addition, when fertility rates fall, parents and societies then invest in the human capital - chiefly education and health, instead of more consumption of resources - of each child in smaller generations.

    The authors stress that they are not declaring that lower fertility directly causes increased per capita consumption, only that it is strongly associated with it in their model.

    Applying a demographic-economic model that integrates data from the experience of 19 rich and poor economies between 1994 and 2004, the authors conclude that rising investment in human capital as fertility declines diverts money from current consumption. Yet any reduction in economic growth is overcompensated by the higher per capita consumption that this investment in children eventually yields.

    At the center of the FPESA conceptual framework is a dotted box representing the possibility that, by reducing fertility, the use of family planning might actually encourage higher per capita consumption of natural resources. Although this paper makes no mention of either family planning or the environment, it does address this important possibility-and finds it to be more likely than not.

    The authors' treat consumption in purely economic terms, rather than as the energy or materials consumption that would interest environmental researchers. However, they have found that, when fertility falls, per capita consumption increases, but the consumption of the total population does not rise proportionally. Parents and societies continue to divert money toward human capital investment that might otherwise have been spent in current consumption of goods (e.g., housing, clothing, entertainment, etc.). The model leaves unanswered whether fertility decline tends to shrink or boost a population's net consumption over time, compared to what these would have been without fertility decline.

    There is some question of the veracity of model used. Nonetheless, the parameters and data used are based on actual demographic and economic experience in such countries as the United States, Japan, India, Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines.

    The Lee and Mason paper does not undermine the demographic pathway from family planning to environmental sustainability in the FPESA conceptual framework. Neither these papers, nor any others we have assessed, offer evidence that fertility decline raises net consumption levels economically or environmentally. doclink

    The World Economic Order is Collapsing and This Time There Seems No Way Out

    The refugee crisis is paralleled by the savage fallout from a global financial system running out of control
    October 10, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Will Hutton

    Over the last 70 years there has been nothing like the millions of refugees fleeing from Middle Eastern conflict, voting with their feet, despairing of their futures. The catalyst: failing states and the grip of Islamic fundamentalism, shows no sign of disappearing.

    In the economic order there is another collapse that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies such as Brazil and China. Banks have lent trillions that will never be repaid. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

    The IMF warned last week of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. An international co-ordinated response is needed, but the anti-state philosophies of the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention unlikely.

    The world financial system that has gone rogue. Global banks make profits from doing business with each other, creating money out of nothing. Creating credit depends on the truth that not all depositors will want their money back simultaneously.

    In the past, lending was carefully regulated by national central banks, but with a global banking system, central banks are less able to monitor and control what is going on. Cash generated out of nothing can be lent in countries where the economic prospects look superficially good. Property prices rise. Companies and households grow overconfident about their prospects and borrow freely. Economies surge well above their trend growth rates and all seems well until something - a collapse in property or commodity prices - unravels the whole process. Bust banks and governments are left picking up the pieces.

    The Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane delineates the crisis into three parts. The first took place in Britain and the US during 2007-08. Throughout the previous decade high inflows of globally generated credit had created false booms, after which overconfident banks found that they had lent too much. Collateral behind derivatives was worthless. Britain's banking system lost money and was going bust, to rescued by £1 trillion of liquidity and special injections of public capital.

    The second part took place in in Europe during 2011-12. Lending had been made on the incorrect assumption that all eurozone countries were equal, and when it became obvious that they were not, money flooded out and the only thing holding the line was extraordinary printing of money by the European Central Bank and tough belt-tightening measures in overborrowed countries such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

    In the third part, emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all rode high on sky-high commodity prices and wild lending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. Only a few of the many loans the China banks made can ever be repaid. China's real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have plunged. The EMEs do not have a Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to rescue them.

    Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP.

    Needed is a bigger, reinvigorated IMF that can rescue the EMEs and properly supervision of global finance. It needs western governments to launch massive economic stimuli, centred on infrastructure spending. It needs new smart monetary policies that allow negative interest rates.

    None of that is in prospect, vetoed by an ideological right and not properly championed by the left. If there is no will to deal, collectively, with the refugee crisis, there is even less to reorder the global economy. We may muddle through, but don't bet on it. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: What hope do we have of a benevolent IMF? Our own Federal Reserve has given to the rich and left 90% of our population struggling. The IMF does not, and cannot be counted on to, take into account resource depletion and the vast inequities of resources that led to conflict in the first place. Resource depletion is the primary reason conflict is increasing and world economy is crashing in the first place. Debt and lending were only a incorrectly perceived way to put off the limitations of a finite planet. The entire exercise only succeeded in leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer. Now the rich will squander the remainder of world's resources in a war to wrestle resources from each other.

    We're Treating Soil Like Dirt. It's a Fatal Mistake, as Our Lives Depend on it

    War, pestilence, even climate change, are trifles by comparison. Destroy the soil and we all starve
    March 25, 2015, Guardian   By: George Monbiot

    Since healthy topsoil is vital to the needs of growing plants, it is also vital to our wellbeing. Yet we treat it like, well, dirt. A paper in the journal Anthropocene claims that farming activities over the past century have led to a sixtyfold increase in soil erosion. In many places, after wrecking the soil, growers move on, trashing precious habitats as they go. The problem is most acute in regions where tropical downpours quickly wash away exposed top soil. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, if soil depletion continues at current rates, the world on average has just 60 more years of productive farming.

    To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates that we will need 6m hectares (14.8m acres) of new farmland per year. But since we are losing 12m hectares to soil degradation per year, millions of additional hectares of forests and prairielands will be needed for farming. Soil depletion has toppled civilizations. When war or pestilence kills large numbers of people, the population usually recovers. But lose the soil and the people usually abandon the area.

    Some owners, especially absentee landlords, let contractors destroy their fields in return for quick profits. Even farmers who do what they can to preserve their soil are hampered by an economic and political system that could scarcely be better designed to frustrate them. The UK's latest deregulation bill will force those charged with protecting the land to "have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth," including short-term growth that comes at the expense of soil protection. Just one UK college still offers a degree in soil science. All the rest have been closed down. What's more, the UK's new soil standards, though marginally better than those they replaced, are wholly unmatched to the scale of the problem. The only penalty for soil abuse is a partial withholding of public subsidies. Yet the National Farmers' Union opposes even that.

    With globalization people depend less on the vagaries of local production. But globalization spreads the same destructive farming practices to all corners of the Earth, ensuring that local disasters are reproduced everywhere.

    People have become highly insulated from farming concerns, and reporters consider the soil abuse issue so marginal that they rarely, if ever, mention it. It's not as if we have no solutions; we have dozens of studies to draw upon. For example, in several parts of the world, farmers have been achieving extraordinary results with zero-tillage (also known as conservation agriculture). Another study found that small hand-cultivated patches in towns and cities contain a third more organic carbon and 25% more nitrogen than agricultural soil and they produce between four and 11 times more food per hectare. A third example calls for working with complex natural systems rather than changing or replacing them, allowing for remarkable fruit and vegetable yields in such seemingly unfarmable places as high in the Alps or in the salty Jordanian desert. doclink

    Robust Economic Growth Takes Huge Toll on Planet's Biocapacity

    March 18, 2015, GrowthBiasedBusted website   By: Dave Gardner

    Global Footprint Network (GFN) offers a measure for natural resource accounting. The Ecological Footprint is a measure of people's demand on nature. According to GFN president, Mathis Wackernagel, "Living within nature's budget is vital for each and every nation's economic strength and the well-being of its citizens." GFN now makes its country-by-country data available to researchers, NGOs and journalists for use in news stories and presentations. Measuring and monitoring this type of data, and then taking appropriate action, are key to achieving sustainability.

    Using GFN's Ecological Footprint indicator for a world overview, since humanity currently consumes 54% more biocapacity than what our planet can renew in one year, our ecological overshoot is now 54% above the planet's biocapacity. By contrast, in 1961, the first year for which consistent data sets are available, our planet consumed 30% percent less biocapacity than what humanity used.

    "...the Ecological Footprints of China and India, the world's two most populous comprise about one quarter of the Ecological Footprint of the entire world." With the world's largest population and annual economic growth rates above 7% for over 20 years, "China has been the world's largest contributor to annual growth in the demand for ecological resources and services during the last five years for which data is available. China's Ecological Footprint climbed 3.6% in 2010 and 5.2% in 2011."

    Meanwhile, the rest of the world, with more modest economic growth, has begun climbing again after experiencing a 2.1% decline in 2009 during the recession.... "The world's Ecological Footprint increased nearly 4% in 2010 and nearly 1.7% in 2011 (the latest year data is available)."

    U.S. consumption habits provide damning evidence of the link between economic growth and ecological destruction. "I found it fascinating that the U.S. per capita footprint during the recession fell back to our 1961 level (really?). That is truly astonishing." But since the U.S. population has nearly doubled since then, we still consume an enormous amount of the planet's biocapacity. India and China haven't quite achieved fully industrialized status, but their massive populations of are enough to make them consumption bigfoots. Still, on a per person basis, our "Ecological Footprint is more than seven times higher than that of India and nearly three times that of China." doclink

    Renewable Resources Reach Their Limits

    Humanity should use planetary resources with care
    January 14, 2015, Hemholtz Centre for Environmental Research   By: Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt

    Research from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Yale University and Michigan State University demonstrates that several key resources have recently passed, at around the same time, their "peak-rate year" -- the maximum increase year. It seems that as substitution becomes arduous, global society's expanding needs will be harder to fill.

    The research analyzed the production and extraction rates of 27 global renewable and non-renewable resources, including 20 renewable resources, such as maize, rice, wheat or soya -- which represent around 45% of the global calorie intake according to FAO -- as well as animal products, such as fish, meat, milk and egg.

    The term peak was popularized in the discussion about peak oil initiated in the mid-1970s. Though oil production has actually continued to expand beyond its predicted peak, "for many resources, but not oil, we indeed observed a peak pattern", noted one of the researchers landscape ecologist Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt.

    20 resources had a peak-year and for 16 of those 20 resources, the peak-year lay between 1988 and 2008. "The key commodities that a person needs for food and must harvest are limited", summarizes Dr. Seppelt, Head of the Landscape Ecology Department at the UFZ. The maximum global growth rate in crop yields for soya beans was in 2009, for milk it was 2004, for eggs it was 1993 and for the fish caught it was 1988. Data from other studies show that the crop yield per area with maize, wheat, soya and rice on more than a quarter of the farming area around the world is stagnating or decreasing according.

    Many of the peak-years occur at about the same time because of the rising population and change in diet in regions such as India and China increased the demand for renewable resources increased in order to produce as much food as possible. The highest rate of increase in the cultivation of arable land was found to be in the 1950s; the peak for human-made irrigation areas then followed in the 1970s, and the peak for nitrogen fertilizers was subsequently in the 1980s, as "the land available for agriculture was used more intensively for growing food", concludes Dr. Klotz, Head of the Department of Community Ecology.

    "Experts see opportunities for further increases in agricultural yield of about one to two percent per year due to better breeding techniques and genetically modified organisms", states Dr. Seppelt. But then it will be tight: "The global community needs to accept that renewable raw materials are also reaching their yield limits worldwide".

    As the foundation of humanity's current standard of living is eroding, it becomes essential to take action by using fertilizer and water more efficiently. "At the individual level, we can start by preferring a vegetarian diet, or eating chicken instead of beef", said Dr. Seppelt. doclink

    Global Overpopulation Would 'Withstand War, Disasters and Disease'

    National Academy of Sciences says even brutal world conflict or lethal pandemic would leave unsustainable human numbers
    October 28, 2014, Guardian   By: Mark Tran

    The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain, according to a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-led by Prof Barry Brook and Prof Corey Bradshaw, both from the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

    The report recommends not reducing population but instead cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling to insure a better chance of achieving effective sustainability gains in the next 85 years.

    Based on demographic data from the World Health Organisation and the US Census Bureau, the researchers used a model that analysed different population reduction scenarios. Under current conditions of fertility, mortality and mother's average age at first childbirth, they estimated that global population would grow from 7 billion in 2013 to 10.4 billion in 2100.

    Climate change, war, reduced mortality and fertility, and increased maternal age altered this prediction only slightly. A devastating global pandemic that killed 2 billion people was only projected to reduce population size to 8.4 billion, while 6 billion deaths brought it down to 5.1 billion.

    "Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14% of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today." ... "This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment," said Prof Bradshaw.

    "Even a worldwide one-child policy like China's, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100," Bradshaw added.

    Brook warned that the slow momentum of the global human population ruled out any demographic quick fixes to our sustainability problems. "Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term," he said. "Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not."

    "It will take centuries, and the long-term target remains unclear," said the report. "However, some reduction could be achieved by mid-century and lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed. More immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We must do both: voluntary family planning and consume less. There is a big difference between 5 billion and 10 billion people. The author seems unaware that meeting the unmet need for contraception by more affordable, accessible and effective contraception, combined with better education about contraception, and more girls going to school and behavior modeling via educational soaps, will go a long way towards lowering fertility - much faster than China's policy did.

    Thoughts on Carrrying Capacity and Sustainability

    October 3, 2014, Paul Chefurka website

    The Earth's "natural" carrying capacity for terrestrial vertebrate life is probably in the neighbourhood of 200 million tonnes. This represents the carrying capacity based on solar input only, with no assistance from human technology or fossil fuels. The estimate is derived from Vaclav Smil's biomass estimate for 1900 shown on the graph, which has been reduced by about 30% to account for technology and coal use by that time. The assumption is that by 10,000 BCE this biomass of 200 MT was fully utilizing the available solar flux.

    One crucial question is what proportion of this 200 MT of biomass could be devoted to humans and their domesticated animals without excessively damaging the rest of the biosphere? This is hard to answer without a controlled experiment of course, but here's one approach.

    I begin with the human population in Year 1 AD of about 250 million as a baseline. At 50 kg/person that number represents about 12.5 MT of human biomass. Domesticated animal biomass in 1900 was about three times that of humans, so that would give us an additional 37.5 MT of domesticated animals, for a total human-related biomass of 50 MT. This number represents one quarter of the estimated natural carrying capacity of the planet. That degree of appropriation is probably not completely sustainable, but would likely be OK for a few thousand years, provided there was no further human expansion beyond that number.

    Because I presume that any use of technology promotes overshoot, this 250 million number also represents a human population without any significant technology beyond what was available when Christ was born.

    Under this set of assumptions the planet may be overpopulated by almost 30 times.

    Keep in mind that this scenario says precisely nothing about what's likely to happen in our present circumstances. In fact, the idea of voluntarily reducing our population by 97% might as well come from a different universe, it's so utterly unachievable in this one. This line of argument simply represents a way of viewing the current situation through a more ecologically holistic lens.

    One additional idea to consider is that the period for which a particular population's activity level will be sustainable is variable. The lower the collective activity level (in other words, the lower its impact on its environment) the longer the probable period of sustainability becomes.

    One way I measure human impact is through what I call our "Thermodynamic Footprint". According to this measure, modern humans have an average of 20 times the per capita impact on their environment as a hunter-gatherer. Europeans have an impact 40 times as high, while the average American impact is 80 to 100 times as high. This implies that to achieve the same period of sustainability as the 250 million humans I described above, the world could support six million average Europeans, or 2.5 million Americans.

    Any increase in either population or activity levels (i.e. per-capita energy use) shortens the period of sustainability. Humans currently have an environmental impact almost 600 times as high as the baseline I proposed above - our population is 29 times higher, and our per-capita impact is 20 times higher. As a result, our period of sustainability will not be a few thousand years, but something more on the order of a small handful of decades. If we begin the countdown from the onset of heavy global industrialization around 1900, we have already burned through 11 of those "sustainable" decades.

    Unfortunately, the more we look at our predicament, the more it becomes clear that no matter how we slice it or dice it, the human presence on the planet cannot be considered even remotely sustainable for much longer. And that implies that a correction in our numbers and activity levels is inevitable. The longer we proceed down the current road of technological, energetic and numerical expansion, the closer we come to that correction. doclink

    Overpopulation and the 10 Billion Person Question

    With the world's population set to hit at least 10 billion by the end of this century, famine, poverty and climate change will become even more pressing concerns. Sustainability expert Bruce Edgerton says that it's not all doom and gloom, however, and outlines a plan for avoiding overpopulation
    September 8, 2014, ABC   By: Bruce Edgerton

    The authors father is a typical Malthusian, fearing for the planet, infested as it will be by 10 billion people by the end of this century. 'We will need a war to wipe them out, or famine, or both,' he says.

    These Malthusians claim we need to start by eating less beef and dairy and stop doing things that have an enormous environmental footprint compared to the simpler substitutes. Population has grown exponentially, and by and large, crop production has grown linearly, they say. And Earth's carrying capacity is limited and we are pushing its boundaries.

    The author claims that his fathers population fears require a genocidal solution, but the good news is that these visions need not eventuate because it is well within the capacity of humanity to feed the world.

    Tragically, while we have the necessary technology and wealth, the vision and compassion is sorely lacking.

    We need to ensure that the global population plateaus. In 2011, the UN's population division suggested global population could peak at seven to eight billion by the middle of the century, or, using the mid-range projection, plateaus by end of the century at around 10 billion people. However, if the growth rate stays the same, the global population surging past 15 billion in 2100.

    These are vastly different outcomes for the world my grandchildren will inherit.

    The author claims that wealth eventually stops procreation in its tracks, a fact demonstrated by countries as diverse as Italy and Japan. But we need to speed this up by addressing education for all girls, right now.

    We also need to follow this up with free contraception. This will contain the global population within 10 billion or less in a couple of decades.

    Of course, this course will result in more wealthy people who eat more, consuming food with a larger environmental footprint, such as meat and dairy. So we will face an enormous challenge to feed this world.

    Today, the poor are starving because they can't afford to pay, not because we don't have the capacity to feed them. So we are going to have to employ a great deal more capacity to feed 10 billion people, with a middle class of perhaps six billion.

    Unfortunately yields are likely to fall with climate change. The US averages around 10 tonnes per hectare per year of corn across the Midwest. This is likely to improve with climate change.

    So at present there is plenty of grain. The EU still pays farmers not to grow crops, while the US diverts its massive crop surpluses into biofuel production. However, by 2100 demand will comfortably outstrip supply. Thankfully, we are ready to deploy the next big step in agricultural production-microalgae.

    While it is difficult and expensive to turn this microalgae biomass into fuel, it is relatively easy to turn it into food. Carp, pigs and chickens are among the creatures that will feed on this food. "I understand that silver carp tastes divine, and the feed conversion rates for these creatures is less than two to one, with minimal greenhouse gas emissions".

    The manure and effluent by-products of intensive animal production and aquaculture are ideal for anaerobic digestion. This process converts much of the organic matter into methane and liberates the nutrients into the liquid phase. The methane can be burnt to generate heat and power. The nutrients can be shandied for fertigation into intensive horticulture. If the horticulture is undertaken in glasshouses then the 'waste heat' and CO2 rich exhaust gases can be used to further increase yields.

    So there you have it.

    Grow microalgae in the dry arid regions of the world where there is either sea water or non-potable water available for aquaculture ponds. Solar dry the biomass for transport to the peri-urban fringe. Formulate the microalgae with agricultural bio-products, vitamins and amino acids as required. Grow pigs, chickens and fish.

    Anaerobically digest the manures on site and fertigate the effluent into glass houses. Hey presto-10 billion people fed generously, with a system that is highly adaptable to future changes in the climate.

    If we can't fix global poverty we will be pounding past 15 billion people. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: OK, so his father had a genocidal solution. There are plenty of us that have a solution that is not genocidal. Meeting the unmet need for contraception is the best answer, followed by the education of girls. However, making people wealthy is not the answer. We all need to stop following the Western Dream and living a simpler life, especially if we reach 10 billion.

    The Cure for Global Warming Lies in the Karoo

    August 16, 2014, Cure for Global Warming Lies in the Karoo website   By: J. H. Reynolds

    The buzzword of the day is Global Warming. Most people are concerned and remedies and cures vary as wide as the earth itself. 99% of the cures have one thing in common though. They all attempt to address the symptoms rather than the cause of the problem.

    If the world really wants to combat global warming they might learn from the experience of the inhabitants of the semi desert Great Karoo in South Africa. What is happening on a global scale in the world almost exactly matches the scenario people in the Great Karoo faced some fifty and more years ago.

    Before human intervention large herds of game traversed the Great Karoo unrestrained. They trekked after available grazing, over many thousands of square kilometers. Although very sparse, edible vegetation emerged after isolated thundershowers, got grazed (utilized) and when herds moved on plants got time to revitalize and repopulate as nature intended.

    Modern man had no influence in these vast spaces and the few Bushmen who also roamed the plains fitted in with nature. When the region became inhabited by westerners in numbers the vast herds of game were hunted down and eventually replaced by livestock that had to be controlled by fences and thus diehards who braved the harsh land established farming enterprises.

    Farmsteads and towns emerged and with the addition of roads, rail and other means of communication the land became hospitable and the population increased as in the rest of the world. Pressure on land increased and unintentional over exploitation was the result. Even though being a very harsh semi desert environment, it is extremely vulnerable and soon overpopulation symptoms manifested, vegetation degeneration, good edible plants being replaced by thorny and sometimes poisonous plants, lots of bare patches in vegetation leading to soil erosion by wind and water.

    Poor plant coverage led to less detainment of the little rain there was, resulting in more frequent droughts, dust storms, habitat depletion, and a general downward spiral of everything dependent on nature. In other words, nature fought back.

    And exactly as with global warming today, the inhabitants addressed the symptoms instead of the cause. A sympathetic government gave subsidies to combat soil erosion spending thousands on building dams and erosion schemes to curb uncontained water runoff, ploughing bare patches to introduce new plant populations, and even trucking in extra food to sustain the inflated stock herds. Fortunately the very people who caused the problem over several generations eventually had the wisdom to address the problem instead of the symptoms. A scientific formula was developed to calculate the so-called carrying capacity of almost the entire region resulting in large reductions in stock numbers utilizing available vegetation in symbioses with nature as well as a significant reduction in inhabited farms.

    Many hundreds of abandoned farmhouses are proof of this. In small rural towns large school buildings and churches bares testimony to times when too many people tried to forge a living off land obviously not capable of sustaining the numbers.

    It must be added that in addition to nature that rebelled against the exploitation, financial reality named capitalism, also played its part in thinning population numbers in that no artificial economic activity of too many people were sustainable. Unfortunately an ignorant government today again ignores the realities of nature and forces great numbers of people on land not capable of sustaining them.

    The lesson to be learned from the 'timid' people cultivating the semi desert region of the Karoo is that the leaders and the scientists of the world can try to address global warming (the symptom) as much as they like, unless the real problem of overpopulation of the planet is addressed any 'green solution' will only delay the inevitable.

    Also learn from these people that the 'evil' capitalistic system may be the only way to really make an impact on the problem. For this to happen people must accept that the rich of the world will have to buy the only commodity the poor of the world has to sell, namely the excessive multiplication of people numbers. Even though the rich of the world has a far greater ecological footprint than poor nations, the fact remains: If we could half the amount of inhabitants on earth and keep it there, global warming would cease to be a threat. In addition this would go a long way to alleviate poverty in the world. If only the "leaders of the world" would really "lead" the world. doclink

    Canada: Ecological Footprint Instrumental in Supreme Court's Ruling

    July 18, 2014, Global Footprint Network

    In a first for the Ecological Footprint and a native group in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada supported the Tsilhqot'in Nation's title over 1,900 square kilometers in British Columbia as part of a landmark decision announced in June.

    The historic ruling came about a decade after Tsilhqot'in Nation's lawyers called Global Footprint Network to provide an expert study for the case, which centered on clear-cut logging permits granted by the British Columbia government without consulting the native community living on the affected land.

    Global Footprint Network's research findings converged to the conclusion that the claimed area had the capacity to support between 100 and 1,000 people - in other words, that this entire area was needed to meet the needs of the smallish nation - given their traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle. Their Footprint was both wide and light, meaning that it required a wide area given the small volume of natural resources harvested per hectare

    At the end of the day, First Nations currently fighting legal battles against various major projects that risk to encroach on their lands and disrupt their natural ecosystems (see Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and the Kinder-Morgan proposal) are standing on stronger legal grounds than ever before in their history. The B.C. and federal government are currently negotiating some 100 land claims by native groups across Canada.

    More ... doclink

    Scientists Vindicate 'Limits to Growth' - Urge Investment in 'Circular Economy'

    Early warning of civilisational collapse by early to mid 21st century startlingly prescient - but opportunity for transition open
    June 4, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: Nafeez Ahmed

    A new landmark scientific report by the Club of Rome, drawing on the work of the world's leading mineral experts, forecasts that industrial civilization's extraction of critical minerals and fossil fuel resources is reaching the limits of economic feasibility, and could lead to a collapse of key infrastructures unless new ways to manage resources are implemented.

    Its latest report conducts a comprehensive overview of the history and evolution of mining, then applies an EROEI (Energy Returned Over Energy Invested) analysis to mineral extraction, and argues that the increasing costs of extraction due to pollution, waste, and depletion of low-cost sources will eventually make the present structure of industrial civilization unsustainable.

    It tells how fracking can rise production "rapidly to a peak, but it then declines rapidly, too, often by 80% to 95% over the first three years." ... "Several thousand wells" are needed for a single shale play to provide "a return on investment."

    The average EROEI to run "industrial society as we know it" is about 8 to 10. Shale oil and gas, tar sands, and coal seam gas are all "at, or below, that level if their full costs are accounted for... Thus fracking, in energy terms, will not provide a source on which to develop sustainable global society."

    World coal production will peak by 2050 at the latest, and could peak as early as 2020. US coal production has already peaked, and future production will be determined largely by China. But rising domestic demand from the latter, and from India, could generate higher prices and shortages in the near future: "Therefore, there is definitely no scope for substituting for oil and gas with coal."

    Current uranium production from mines is already insufficient to fuel existing nuclear reactors, a gap being filled by recovery of uranium military stockpiles and old nuclear warheads. While the production gap could be closed at current levels of demand, a worldwide expansion of nuclear power would be unsustainable due to "gigantic investments" needed.

    Nickel and zinc, which are used to combat iron and steel corrosion and for electricity storage in batteries, also could face production peaks in just "a few decades" - though metals specialist Philippe Bihoux claimes nickel might be extended some 80 years.

    Phosphorous is a mineral which is critical to fertilize soil and sustain agriculture. While phosphorous reserves are not running out, physical, energy and economic factors mean only a small percentage of it can be mined. Crop yield on 40% of the world's arable land is already limited by economical phosphorus availability.

    "Prices have gone up by a factor 3-5 and have remained at this level for the past 5-6 years. They are not going to go down again, because they are caused by irreversible increases in production costs. These prices are already causing the decline of the less efficient economies (Italy, Greece, Spain, etc.). We are not at the inversion point yet, but close - less than a decade?" doclink

    Global Population & Global Resources Rapidly Moving in Opposing Directions

    May 15, 2014, Independent Report

    Absent adequate crude oil and oil-based fertilizers, this population boom cannot continue, and billions of additional humans will require vastly greater quantities of resources, many of which are non-renewable and therefore unsustainable.

    The global population skyrocketed with the discovery of crude oil and then quadrupled in the 20th Century. This was made possible by vaccinations, improvements in medicine and sanitation, and increased food production. Although the UN projects a steadily declining population growth in the future, the global population is still expected to reach somewhere between 8.3 and 10.9 billion by 2050.

    The world will require 50% more energy, food and water by 2030 says the UK government's chief scientific advisor, Professor John Beddington, and the world will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed and expected 3.8 billion additional people. according to a 2009 FAO report.

    Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048, according to WWF. . Our water aquifers are emptying at an alarming rate. For example, the Ogallala Aquifier, which covers 30% of the United States' irrigation needs, could be mostly depleted by 2060 if current trends continue.

    18 countries representing half the world's people are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year, analyst Lester Brown warns us.

    Yet in the U.S. nearly half of all the water used is for raising animals for food.

    It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, compared to 25 gallons for one pound of wheat.

    Due to erosion, arable land is being lost at the alarming rate of over 38,610 square miles (24.7 million acres) per year.

    The report lists five risk factors for societal collapse: population, climate, water, agriculture and energy. The convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' during the lifetimes of many of us presently living.

    The world must immediately focus its efforts on conservation and efficiency, with a particular emphasis on renewability. And, of course, there's also family planning.

    The time is now. This won't wait. doclink

    As the World's Population Grows, Are We Borrowing From Mankind's Future?

    May 2, 2014, Boston Globe   By: Doug Struck

    Our population is rising by a million people every 4½ days, says noted author Alan Weisman. Our population reached 2 billion by 1930, is now at about 7.3 billion, and expected to rise to 10 billion by 2050.

    Our numbers are fouling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, poisoning the land with chemicals, turning our seas into acid and emptying them of fish, sucking up water and other resources far faster than they can be replenished.

    People don't want to talk about this. "It's very explosive, very sensitive," said Weisman. "The idea of not reproducing feels somehow unnatural," he noted.

    Talking about reducing population leads to the question of who is not supposed to have babies, and that quickly gets into electrified topics of class, culture, affluence, and racism, noted Roger-Mark De Souza, a population expert with the Wilson Center.

    "There is a history around population issues that is associated with eugenics, with population control programs, with forced sterilization," he noted. "It brings up questions of abortion, of immigration, of youth sexuality. A lot of environmental organizations say, Why should conservation organizations deal with this? It's too far from our mission. You have to be very careful."

    Caroline Crosbie, of Pathfinder International, a reproductive rights group, said the aversion to advocacy of birth control is easing. Most developing countries are progressing, but "the US is going in the reverse direction," she said.

    And many religions are recognizing the reality of the need for reproductive limits, said Crosbie.

    How many people are enough people for the earth? The answer is a simple matter of calculating the finite resources of earth and determining if we will run out. Of course we will run out, but determining when we will run out is not so simple. When Paul and Anne Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" was published in 1968, society was alarmed by their prediction of massive starvation in the 1970s because, they said, the planet could not possibly support too many more than the 3.5 billion people who lived when the book was published. But then the "green revolution" greatly accelerated agricultural production on the back of fossil fuel-based fertilizers.

    Some say that the green revolution will run out and others say something new, like GMOs will save us, but most estimates say we already have far exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth, and we are borrowing from mankind's future. But how much are we borrowing, and how soon will that debt come due? "The correct number," Weisman noted, "is not one anybody can know for sure." doclink

    Economists' Growth Insanity

    April 29, 2014, MAHB - Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere   By: Paul R. Ehrlich

    People that want to keep growing the GDP do not seem to understand that continued growth will destroy our civilization.

    Even most smart economists, like Paul Krugman, for example, cannot get over the notion that growth is necessary to solve human problems. Krugman recently was seen on TV talking about how to get growth without bubbles, suggesting that Japan's growth had slowed partly because of its demographic situation.

    If economists could (or would) take into account the ongoing depreciation of the planet's natural capital, it is likely that economic growth has already halted, along with (as economists ironically have demonstrated) the growth of human satisfaction.

    The critical economic question today is simply: "is there a humane, equitable, and well-being-providing substitute for physical growth and, if so, how can we transition to it?

    Economics may be the discipline that has the most to contribute to avoiding a collapse of civilization. It's a great pity that most economists are growthmaniacs -- very much part of the problem rather than the solution. doclink

    New Release: National Footprint Accounts 2014

    April 1, 2014, Global Footprint Network

    Newly published Global Footprint Network data show that high-income countries' average demands on nature dropped sharply at the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. In 2010 the per person Footprint started to grow again only in a few high-income countries as governments began spending billions of dollars to stimulate their economies.

    Globally, humanity's per person Ecological Footprint decreased 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, due mostly to a decline in demand for fossil fuel and hence a decreasing carbon Footprint. Low-income countries, typically characterized by less elasticity in their standard of living, contributed little to the decrease in humanity's per person Footprint.

    "... We have plenty of opportunities for operating within nature's budget through smart policies and investments that generate lasting human well-being."

    Follow the link in the headline to see all the informative charts. doclink

    NASA-Funded Study: Industrial Civilisation Headed for Irreversible Collapse?

    Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system
    March 14, 2014, Guardian   By: Nafeez Ahmed

    Unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution could contribute to a collapse in global industrial civilization, according to a new study, partly-sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Compelling historical data shows that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilizational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

    By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

    The independent research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

    These factors can lead to collapse on the convergence of "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites and Commoners" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

    Arguments supporting technological fixes have been proposed, but "Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

    Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

    In one scenario explored by the model, civilization appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

    In another scenario focusing on the role of continued resource exploitation, finds that, "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

    In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."

    Motesharrei and his colleagues point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilization.

    "Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

    The study offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

    A number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. doclink

    World's Top Problem is Overpopulation, Not Climate

    October 4, 2013, Marketwatch   By: Paul B. Farrell

    Note: here is another older article well worth repeating.

    Robert Laughlin says: "Humans have already triggered the sixth great period of species extinction ... "We face self-destruction, and we can't blame it on the great American conspiracy of climate-science deniers, Big Oil, the Koch Bros, the Chamber of Commerce and Congress" because we are the cause. We keep buying cars, jet rides, and large homes to heat and cool. We keep buying and investing in fossil fuels, and we keep making more babies, forever in denial of the unsustainability of perpetual economic growth on a planet of rapidly diminishing resources.

    Humans are the new dinosaurs. We have scheduled our own extinction.

    The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with nearly 2,000 elite scientists has updated us with technical reports every five or six years since 1988. But they're looking at the wrong problems. As problem solvers, the U.N.'s climate scientists aren't much different than ExxonMobil's CEO Rex Tillerson. He admits climate change is real, but he believes it's just an "engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution." He has faith that humans will "adapt to a sea-level rise." After all, humans "have spent our entire existence adapting. We'll adapt."

    Earth's real problem is too many babies ... but we won't admit it

    The problem is not climate science deniers. We are in denial about our biggest problem ... population growth. We produce 75 million new babies per year, yet our leaders, investors, billionaires, and the 99% are closet deniers. Even scientists are science deniers. U.N. scientists know (or should know) that overpopulation is the real problem. But if they do, they avoid mentioning it - looking instead for solutions to reducing the impact of global warming. It is not the dependent variables in their climate-change equation, but population growth that drives the problem.

    * Scientific American says global population growth is "the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment."

    * In "The Last Taboo," Mother Jones columnist Julia Whitty said: "What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population." This hot-button issue ignites powerful reactions. So politicians won't touch it. Nor will U.N.'s world leaders. Even if it's killing us."

    * Five years ago billionaire philanthropists met secretly in Manhattan: Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others. Each took 15 minutes to present their favorite cause. Asked what was the "umbrella cause?" Answer: Overpopulation, said the billionaires.

    * Jeremy Grantham's investment firm manages about $110 billion in assets. He says ," We don't need more Big Ag, we need fewer small mouths to feed.

    Perhaps we fear that the world's biggest problem has no solution!

    Bill Gates wants to cap global population at 8.3 billion. Columbia University's Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. To stop adding more is tough enough. But how do we eliminate more than two billion from today's seven billion? Even worse, it seems that few people are concerned and working on the problem. The topic is taboo, so few even mention it. Not U.N. leaders, scientists or billionaires. All are in denial - a conspiracy of silence that is killing us. Should we assume that wars, pandemics, or starvation will solve the problem and spare us from the sixth great species extinction - Earth's biggest problem, the one almost no one talks about?

    Meanwhile, marketing studies show how humans live in denial by telling ourselves we're recyclers who support green technologies. Yet we keep stocking up on carbon polluting products because our economy is built on them.

    Is it already too late? Can we stop our own extinction cycle?

    "One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse," warns Jared Diamond, environmental anthropologist and author of the classic "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." Diamond detailed the scenario that keeps repeating in history. A society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power." doclink

    Is Sustainability Still Possible?

    May 27, 2013, World Watch Institute

    Every day, we are presented with a range of "sustainable" products and activities-from "green" cleaning supplies to carbon offsets. But with so much labeled as sustainable, the term has become essentially sustainababble, at best indicating a practice or product slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative. Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?

    In Worldwatch Institute's newest project, scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders tackle these questions, attempting to restore meaning to sustainability as more than just a marketing tool. Within this website, you'll find State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? -- --, which explores these questions in depth in over 30 articles. As well, you'll find additional essays, videos, presentation materials, news updates, and additional translations of the report. doclink

    "Home" - a Truely Beautiful Movie about our Planet

    May 27, 2013, You Tube   By: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate.

    The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

    For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film.

    HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

    Follow the link in the headline to watch it. 1 hr 30 min. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: a pity that it does not offer family planning as a solution.

    Surprises Ahead? Population-Environment Dynamics and Tipping Points

    May 21, 2013, Newsecuritybeat   By: Laurie Mazur

    The Sahara Desert, a vast, nearly lifeless expanse of sand and rock was once a fertile grassland and bands of human hunters chased aurochs and antelope, but a wobble in Earth's orbit catalyzed ecosystem changes that caused the Sahara to go from green to brown in a matter of centuries or even decades.

    A series of small modifications can push a system to a "tipping point," where it flips, quite suddenly, from one state to another. And many believe that human population dynamics are an increasingly important variable in environmental change, at local, regional, and global scales.

    Volcanic eruptions, solar flares, and the clash of continents have changed the Earth, but, since the beginning of the last century, our numbers have quadrupled, reaching seven billion in 2011, resource consumption has skyrocketed, and more people are living in environmentally fragile regions, such as coastal areas, making humans responsible for the more recent changes.

    More than 80% of the Earth's land is under direct human control; humans use a fifth of the planet's biomass; humans emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases which are warming the planet and acidifying the oceans. Because of all of this disruption, we are now in the midst of the biggest wave of extinctions since the end of the dinosaurs.

    Environmentalists learned that environmental impact (I) is the sum of population size (P) times per capita affluence level (A) times the impact of technologies (T). Otherwise known as IPAT. But John Harte in A Pivotal Moment tells us that non-linear effects, including thresholds and feedbacks, can amplify the environmental impact of human numbers. For example, a species may depend on a certain amount of intact habitat to survive. As human settlements encroach, a threshold is eventually crossed, and the species will, sometimes quite suddenly (within a generation or two), collapse.

    A classic example is the loss of "albedo": on a warming planet, there is less ice and snow to reflect heat back to space, so more sunlight is absorbed by the Earth's surface, which intensifies warming. Another example: warming accelerates the decomposition of organic matter in cultivated soil. That decomposition, in turn, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which speeds even more warming. Because more people generally means more cultivated land, population growth affects the intensity of this feedback effect.

    In 2009, Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, and his team of scientists, identified 10 biophysical boundaries that must not be transgressed if we wish to preserve a habitable planet. Three of the boundaries - for climate change, biodiversity loss, and global nitrogen - have already been crossed.

    In 2012, University of California, Berkeley, paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky and colleagues warned there may be "a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products, and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations."

    The Mato Grosso region of the Amazon rainforest may soon be "on a one-way route to becoming a dry and relatively barren savannah," according to the New Scientist. And record-breaking declines in the extent and volume of sea ice signal that an ice-free summer Arctic may be near.

    Tufts University economists Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton found that "global warming is now causing unprecedentedly rapid changes in the climate conditions that affect agriculture - much faster than crops can evolve on their own, and probably too fast for the traditional processes of trial-and-error adaptation by farmers. ...Within a few decades, business as usual climate change would reach levels at which adaptation is no longer possible." This at a time when global food production must increase by 70% to keep pace with demand.

    Authors of the tipping-point studies call for a range of interventions: limiting climate change, low-carbon approaches to development, better ecosystem management, and measures to voluntarily slow population growth where it is still rapid, such as encouraging girls' education and universal access to family planning and reproductive health.

    While our capacity to predict the future remains imperfect, we should consider ourselves warned. doclink

    Humanity is Still on the Way to Destroying Itself

    December 7, 2012, Spiegel Online International   By: Dennis Meadows

    In 1972, environmental guru Dennis Meadows in his "The Limits to Growth" predicted that the world was heading toward an economic collapse. The core message of the book remains valid today: Humanity is ruthlessly exploiting global resources and is on the way to destroying itself.

    We have developed industries and policies that were at one time appropriate but now start to reduce human welfare. The political and financial power of the oil and car industry, for example, is so great and they can and likely will, prevent proactive change. Instead we are going to have to evolve through crisis.

    While the predictions of exponential growth of the world's population, and widespread environmental destruction have come true, the prediction of economic growth ultimately ceasing and collapsing hasn't occurred so far; but that doesn't mean it won't take place in the future. We have the choice of seeing the necessity of change ahead of time and making the change, or of not making the change until we are finally forced to do it anyway.

    It doesn't look like private companies are reacting to dwindling resources with innovation in an effort to maintain profitability. Our history with fishing shows that we are destroying the oceans' ecosystems, for example. And we're using our atmosphere as a free industrial waste dump. Nobody has an incentive to protect them.

    There are universal problems, and there are global problems. Universal problems can be solved by small groups of people because they don't have to wait for others. You can clean up the air in Hanover without having to wait for Beijing or Mexico City to do the same. Global problems, however, cannot be solved in a single place. There's no way Hanover can solve climate change or stop the spread of nuclear weapons. On the global problems, we will make no progress.

    While environmentalist Paul Gilding argues in his book "The Great Disruption" that humanity will mobilize to fight a crisis that they see coming as they would during times of war, we may get stalled out by long delays, such as in climate change. Even if we were to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero today, warming would still continue for centuries. The same is true for soil, which we are destroying globally. Recovery can take centuries.

    While technological innovation has served to reduce the impact of some long-term problems - for example, modern medicine has increased life expectancy and reduced infant mortality rates and new technologies have dramatically increased harvests and computers and the Internet have brought the world closer together and improved access to education - these achievements were the results of decades of hard work, and someone has to pay for these programs. Big sources of money such as the military and corporations, are not motivated to solve global problems,. Drug companies in the U.S. spend more money on hair-loss prevention than on preventing HIV infections since the former makes greater profits.

    Even if we discovered a major new energy source, it would take decades for it to make an impact.

    While there seems to be plenty of oil available, the oil reserves we are talking about are scarce and very expensive to exploit. And they, too, will be depleted one day.

    Collapse will look different in different places. Some countries are already collapsing, and some people won't even notice. There are almost a billion people who are starving to death these days, and people here basically aren't noticing.

    The difference between a decline and a collapse is speed. The rich can buy their way out of a lot of things. The end of fossil energy, for example, will be gradual. But climate change will come to the industrial countries no matter what. And the geological record clearly shows that the global temperature doesn't increase in a linear way. It jumps. If that happens, a collapse will occur.

    Societies rise and fall. They have been doing so for 300,000 years. doclink

    Rapid Urban Expansion Threatens Biodiversity

    October 26, 2012

    Researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, or 1.2 million square kilometers - or 20,000 American football fields per day. A brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities globally before a boom in infrastructure construction transforms urban land cover. The study was in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The urban growth will include the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities, and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally. An estimated $25 - $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide by 2030, with $100 billion a year in China alone. This large investment will make reversal impossible and have lasting impacts on biodiversity.

    Karen Seto, lead author of the study and associate professor in the urban environment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies said: "We have a huge opportunity to shape how cities develop and their environmental impacts."

    Nearly half of the increase in urban expansion is forecasted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55% of the regional total. In China, urban expansion is expected to create a 1,100-mile coastal urban corridor from Hangzhou to Shenyang. In India, urban expansion will be clustered around seven state capital cities, with large areas of low-probability growth forecasted for the Himalaya region where many small villages and towns currently exist.

    Africa's urban land cover will grow 590% from 2000 to 2030, concentrating in: the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    In North America, 78% of the total population is already in urban areas, but urban land cover will still nearly double by 96,000 square miles by 2030.

    48 of the 221 countries will experience only negligible amounts of urban expansion.

    "We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations."

    Urban expansion will encroach on or destroy habitats for 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species and 25 bird species. The researchers estimate the aboveground, biomass carbon losses associated with land-clearing from new urban areas in the pan-tropics to be 5% of the tropical deforestation and land-use-change emissions.

    "Urbanization is often considered a local issue, however our analysis shows that the direct impacts of future urban expansion on global biodiversity hotspots and carbon pools are significant," said Seto. "The world will experience an unprecedented era of urban expansion and city-building over the next few decades. The associated environmental and social challenges will be enormous, but so are the opportunities." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: no mention of the impact on agricultural lands.

    What Environmental Reporting Leaves Out

    October 4, 2012, Truthdig   By: Alexander Reed Kelly

    Chaos theory says the particulars of the breakdown of the earth's ecosystems are unpredictable. No wonder scientists were "surprised" to find that the size of individual fish in the world's oceans is likely to shrink by as much as one quarter in the coming decades.

    Chaos theory asserts that - as an increasing number of essential parts of a complex system break down - such as a stock market, climate or mechanical engine - the overall system is destabilized, and its exact behavior becomes impossible to predict. This event precedes what's known as "runaway," which occurs when a critical number of those parts stop working and irreversible "tipping points" have been passed.

    Applied to the ecosystems in the earth's oceans, the number of variables that bear upon that species - temperature, salt levels and the state of species nearby or across the world, for example - becomes too great to be included in any predictive model. The relationships between parts within the system become so complex and the changes occur so rapidly that scientists cannot keep up. By the time they identify a problem and propose a solution, their work becomes obsolete, their discoveries made irrelevant. This fact can make it difficult to trust their predictions.

    Scientists don't want to be seen as alarmist, so most will err on the conservative side of the estimates that result from their work.

    "We were surprised as we did not think the effects would be so strong and so widespread," project leader professor William Cheung of the University of British Columbia said.

    Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, who was not among the study's authors, said "Additional impacts of climate change such as the acidification of the ocean and reduction of nutrients in surface waters could decrease fish stocks even further."

    1 billion people currently count fish as their primary source of animal protein, Roberts pointed out. With 9 billion people expected by 2050, that number will assuredly rise, as will the importance of our understanding of how ecological systems deteriorate.

    Predictive models can remain meaningful in the short term, but over time, the growing number of variables that play a role in determining the fate of any plant or animal becomes virtually impossible to make sense of. In their efforts to understand the unraveling, scientists can only scramble to bring their models up to date as their subjects approach levels of complexity that lie beyond the power of any human to comprehend.

    Aside from the unsettling fact that the systems that support human and other life are disintegrating at an increasing rate, no one can say for sure exactly what the world we're rushing into will look like. doclink

    August 22 is Earth Overshoot Day

    August 22, 2012, Global Footprint Network

    Today marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature's budget for the year. After only eight months, we are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    Earth Overshoot Day helps conceptualize the gap between what nature can regenerate, and how much is required to support human activities. Global Footprint Network tracks humanity's demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services. We have used up the renewable natural resources and CO2 sequestration that the planet can sustainably provide this year.

    In the past year, the world has seen the European debt predicament, extreme weather events to grain shortages, groundwater depletion and overfishing - affecting many among a world population that has surpassed the 7 billion mark. Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network said: "Nations around the world, and particularly in the south of Europe, have started to painfully experience what it means to spend more money than what they earn," ... "The resource pressure is similar to such financial overspending, and can become devastating. As resource deficits get larger, and resource prices remain high, the costs to nations become unbearable."

    Humanity has - until recent times - used nature's services - to build cities and roads, provide food and create products at a rate that was well within Earth's budget. But in the 1970s, we crossed a critical threshold. Human demand began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce, and we went into ecological overshoot.

    Humanity is now using 1.5 Earth's worth of ecological resources and services and - unless we lessen our impact, we will be using two planets-worth well before mid-century.

    We are draw down more and more principal at the same time our level of consumption, or "spending," grows. The social and economic costs could be staggering.

    "From soaring fossil fuel prices to crippling national debts partly due to rising natural resource prices, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means," Dr. Wackernagel said.

    Earth Overshoot Day is observed today with events to raise awareness : students of Network Siena Sostenibilità at the University of Siena, Italy, are planting trees and providing recommendations for sustainable actions. The Club of Rome in Italy, WWF Cymru in Wales, Greenpeace Germany and Plattform Footprint in Austria, Klimahaus Bremerhaven in Germany are all planning activities. doclink

    Debt Boils Over

    June 19, 2012, Global Footprint Network

    One of the hidden drivers behind Europe's financial turmoil is the dramatic increase in resource prices over the last 10 years. Historically, cheap resources have helped fuel economic growth, but the situation has now changed.

    When costs increase, to maintain the same level of consumption, debt levels also increase. Now the ability of many countries to service this debt is being called into question.

    Between 2001 and 2011, the price of commodities increased by nearly three times in nominal U.S. dollar terms, reversing more than two decades of stable or falling prices. The supply of ecosystem products (such as food and fibre) and more easily exploitable fossil fuel and hydro energy no longer matches the growing demand.

    An increasing number of countries are running biocapacity deficits, consuming more resources and emitting more waste than their own ecosystems can regenerate or absorb. To make up their deficits, countries must either deplete their own stocks or become net-importers of ecological services.

    While trade can help a country's cover its resource deficit, not all countries can become net importers of ecological services and resources. Instead, the growing global competition for limited resources, coupled with rising global demand, will likely tighten the market for both biological and fossil resources even further.

    These burdens on performance are occurring at a time of global economic and financial turbulence and, indeed, may be a factor exacerbating the turmoil. In many countries, rising costs and sluggish economic performance might lead to heightened government deficits and growing sovereign debt.

    Advanced assessment tools are needed to help establish whether investments are producing or eroding net present value. The consequences of natural resource deficits in terms of financial instability can be severe at a time when global financial markets are intolerant of imbalances in public finances. doclink

    Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat Than Climate Change

    March 25, 2012, 321energy

    James Stafford of interviews energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California, who runs the popular energy blog Do the Math which takes an astrophysicist's-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

    Tom Murphy had previously indicated that no renewable energy source can replace fossil fuels on its own. However solar power is still cheap at 2-3 times the cost of fossil fuel energy, abundance is unquestionable, and manufacturing is not inordinately caustic. Murphy himself has panels on his roof which feed batteries. Wind and next-generation nuclear also deserve mention as potential large-scale sources. Yet none of these help directly with the liquid fuels shortage.

    While Bill Gates has stated that innovation in energy can take 50-60 years to take effect, Murphy applauds any effort that takes our energy challenge seriously, and generates ideas. If nothing else, it raises awareness about our predicament. But there is the problem with the tendency in our technofix culture to think we have "loads of viable solutions in the hopper. Many of the ideas are just batty."

    Murphy is particularly interested in the promising development of an artificial photosynthesis technology which would provide a liquid fuel that can support personal and commercial transportation on land, sea, and air with minimal changes to infrastructure. But these may rely on the appropriate catalysts which just might not be found.

    Climate change: Murphy thinks that resource depletion trumps climate change, because he thinks that resource depletion has the potential to effect far more people on a far shorter timescale with far greater certainty. Since our economic model is based on growth, we are on a collision course with nature. When that growth cannot continue, the ramifications can be sudden and severe. "So my focus is more on averting the chaos of economic/resource/agriculture/distribution collapse, which stands to wipe out much of what we have accomplished in the fossil fuel age," he said. "To the extent that climate change and resource limits are both served by a deliberate and aggressive transition away from fossil fuels, I see a natural alliance."

    Shale gas: Murphy says that the sentiment that "our problems are solved" is based on a very short history of tapping low-hanging shale-gas fruit. While shale gas will contribute to our net energy demands in an unanticipated way, anticipating large amounts is risky; natural gas is not a direct answer to a liquid fuels shortage; the associated exuberance can stifle the imperative that we have an all-hands-on-deck response to the looming challenges.

    Biofuels: Murphy says that the scale of our fossil fuel use prohibits replacement by biofuels at a substantial level. The energy return on energy invested (EROEI) is low. Harvests have to depend on increasingly erratic weather. Algae is the most promising because it can be grown and moved about as a liquid medium in sealed tubes, but algae has problems with bio-sludge, the algae contracting disease, and the fact that we have not yet found/created a viable hydrocarbon-excreting algae.

    Nuclear: Murphy does not see Fukushima as a reason to abandon nuclear. While it has its problems, it is one of the few things we know how to do that can scale. Conventional nuclear faces limited resources, but thorium is promising. However, nuclear development will take time, which is not much help in a near-term crisis. Also, nuclear is yet another technique to create electricity. We need liquid fuels.

    Keystone XL Pipeline: Murphy says that Canada produces about 5% of U.S. demand. Even if this were increased by current ambitious plans, it would only amount to half of our current oil imports. But "how much oil will Canada sell to the U.S.? How much will China pay for it? How much will Canada decide to keep for themselves? It's not a crystal clear win."

    Technology will fix it: Murphy says "I worry about the strength and pervasiveness of faith in science and technology to fix our problems." ... We should acknowledge that once our inheritance is spent, we may not live like the kings we want to be." "Most physicists I meet in departments around the country are not aware of peak oil and associated challenges. Hardly anyone I meet is working on the problem. No one (i.e., funding) has told us this is a real problem that deserves our full attention." ... "Most ideas on the table provide electricity, which does not address our most critical need." ... "But let's also prepare a plan B that may be less about techno-fixes and more about behaviors and attitudes."

    Batteries: Murphy says "Making large-scale storage more practical resolves the single-biggest technical barrier to widespread solar and wind deployment." He is sceptical about giant grids and more attracted to resilient local solutions. "On a moderately ambitious scale, a continental grid will reduce the need for storage, but it will not eliminate it. We still benefit from super-sized batteries."

    Improving efficiency: "Efforts to improve efficiencies of the big stuff like power plants have been continuous. And we have seen improvements at the level of 1% per year." .. " I think incremental efficiency improvement does not have nearly enough bite to 'solve' our problem." ... "I have found behavioural modification to be far more effective, achieving factors of 2, 3, 5, etc. in short order without grossly changing lifestyles."

    Space-based solar plants: "Why make solar power even more expensive with exorbitant launch costs (which only increases as energy costs increase), placing the equipment in an unserviceable, hostile space environment (cosmic rays, debris) while only gaining a factor of five in night/weather avoidance?"

    Smart grids: "I'd sooner have smart people than a smart grid, deciding that it's in our collective interest to scale back energy use at a personal level." "They may be irked that they lose control over when the laundry decides to start - possibly resulting in clothes smelling of mildew, or that they are not present to fold clothes at 2 AM when the dryer is finished. Loss of control may not play well."

    Cold Fusion: "This appears to be outside the domain of known physics."

    Rock phospate fertilizer and resulting food shortages: Murphy says: "How about this solution: one billion people on Earth would obviate many of our problems. Any takers? Any acceptable path to this state? The original question does remind us that our problems are numerous. It is no surprise that the phenomenal surge in population and living standards/expectations in the last few hundred years - both a direct consequence of exploiting our fossil fuel inheritance - should be exposing fault lines every which way. Aquifers, soil, forests, fisheries, coral, ice pack, and species counts are in decline. The very simple answer staring us in the face, yet somehow unthinkable, is to consume far fewer resources and aim to reduce population. Hopefully we can do this in a more controlled way than nature may enforce if we ignore the myriad warnings. This 'solution' will no doubt offend many, but just because we want to continue growth does not mean we can. We need to take control of our destiny, and that starts with us as individuals. Decide to reduce; mentally abandon the growth paradigm."

    Investment in green technologies: "Plenty of people are waiting to cash in on green energy, and investment begins to flourish when energy prices soar. But as soon as high energy prices trigger recession, demand flags, prices crash, and the volatility wipes out many green efforts. A year or two of high prices is simply not long enough for a transformation, which takes decades to accomplish." "Those high prices hurt large segments of the (conventional) economy and self-generate volatility. In principle, governments could "artificially" keep energy prices high enough to maintain the impetus for developing alternatives, pumping the revenue into a national alternative energy infrastructure." But the public wouldn't like it. We need "education about the challenges we face - including a sober confrontation of the fact that failure is a likely result of our not bucking up to the challenge."

    Peak oil: "The simple observation that a peak in global discovery in the 1960's must be followed by a peak in production some decades later is unassailable." "I would not at all be surprised if a decline makes itself clear by the end of this decade." But "volatility, deliberate withholding, recession, unemployment, wars, etc. can stir in enough complexity to hide the physical truth from us for years." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: A. I said this two articles down, but it bears repeating here: If we don't use our fossil fuels now to create the infrastructure for a clean energy supply in the future, we won't have enough energy to do it later, because we also have to use our fossil fuels for our food supply and if we continue to be careless, we will use up our fossil fuels for driving around in SUVs. flying around the world, and fighting wars. B. What has been happening to Fukushima recently has me thinking that conventional nuclear is no longer an acceptable option: "Fuel Pool 35 Miles from Major American City - which Is Highly Vulnerable to Earthquakes - Contains More Radioactive Cesium than Released By Fukushima, Chernobyl and All Nuclear Bomb Tests Combined. Radioactive Fuel Fires: Not Just a Japanese Problem"

    On the Use and Misuse of the Concept of Sustainability

    March 3, 2012, Population Media Center

    by Ed Barry and William Rees at the 8th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability.

    The current scale of human economic activity on Earth is already excessive; the human enterprise is in a state of unsustainable 'overshoot.' By this we mean that the consumption and dissipation of energy and material resources exceed the regenerative and assimilative capacity of supportive ecosystems.

    Overshoot is seen in of the degradation of resource ecosystems such as marine fisheries and tropical rain forests and the depletion of non-renewable resources such as oil and minerals and in the gross pollution of major ecosystems and the global commons such as ocean anoxic zones and the accumulation of atmospheric green-house gases. Other ways of looking at overshoot involves 1. comparing GDP with evaluation of natural capital stocks and pollution damage costs or 2. ecological footprint analysis, which compares human demand for bio-capacity (ecosystem services) with sustainably available supply. The aggregate human eco-footprint is already approximately 50% larger than the available bio-capacity while demand is increasing and supply is in decline.

    We must eliminate overshoot as a prerequisite to preserving social justice, creating intergenerational equity and securing a future for global civilization. All nations must integrate assessments of their renewable, replenishable and non-renewable 'resources' into their systems of national accounts for policy and management purposes. Resource Sustainability Evaluation and Reporting (SER) must be adopted by national governments and supported by international institutions. We must maintain sufficient supplies of natural capital per capita to ensure an adequate flow of 'natural income' (consumption) and life-support services indefinitely into the future.

    If populations are increasing, either natural capital stocks must also increase or average quality of life will decline. All sustainability assessment and corrective policies must include population numbers and growth, our socially-constructed consumer life-styles, and gross social inequity. For example, empowering women and expanding access to family planning services, essential to preventing unwanted pregnancies and achieving sustainability, must be part of the global sustainable development dialogs and solution.

    Technological optimism and techno-fixes do not provide viable solutions to the challenge of global resource overshoot. History has shown us that technological gains stimulate economic growth and enable further exploitation of resources rather than induce conservation. "Technology advancement" fools us into thinking humanity can deploy to continue economic growth, and thus improve overall global prosperity.

    "Sustainable economic growth" is an oxymoron. Rising incomes have stimulated rising material consumption despite (or because of) technological advances, which only exacerbates the situation.

    "Sustainable development" can be sustainable if development is not equated with growth. 'Development' means 'getting better' whereas growth means 'getting bigger'. You can have development without growth but not growth without development. Indicators of development include improving opportunities for personal development, falling unemployment rates, decreasing poverty, greater income security, a narrowing income gap (greater social equity), falling rates of alcohol and drug addiction, improving mental health indicators, etc. Looking at these indicators, the considerable GDP growth of the past few decades in the US, Canada and other rich countries has been offset by regressive de-development.

    The term "Sustainable city;" is meaningless as currently employed. Even an ideal city -with minimal auto use, exemplary public transit, renewable energy supplies and simple life-styles - will eventually succumb to climate change, rising prices, resource scarcity, civil unrest and geopolitical instability.

    Unsustainability is a collective problem demanding collective solutions and therefore an unprecedented level of international cooperation in the implementation of difficult policy choices for sustainability.

    The mantra "Sustainable growth in businesses, jobs, and the economy;" ignores the reality that resource goods and services are required for all human societal and economic activity, and that the Earth's capacity to supply these resources is finite.

    The human enterprise is a growing sub-system of a non-growing finite ecosphere. Any diversion of energy and material resources to maintain and grow more humans and their 'furniture' is irreversibly unavailable to non-human species (what we get, they don't).

    "Shifting to a knowledge-based or service-based economy will reduce environmental impacts" is patently untrue. 'Knowledge-based economy' means an economy driven by high-end services such as engineering, information technology, financial services, etc. But high-end service jobs pay much higher incomes than employment in the low-end material economy, enabling participants to have bigger houses, cars, flat-screen TVs and generally consume more, with a much larger per capita ecological footprint than workers in the basic economy.

    In addition, shifting to a knowledge/service-based economy is invariably accompanied by the migration of manufacturing to low-wage developing countries that generally have lower environmental standards and which will then sell much of their manufacturing output to wealthier consumer societies, increasing the total volume of consumption. doclink

    Food for 9 Billion: Turning the Population Tide in the Philippines

    January 23, 2012, Center for Investigative Reporting

    This story also appeared on PBS NEWSHOUR. A related story can be found on American Public Media's Marketplace.

    Fishing villages near the Danajon Double Barrier Reef off of Bohol Island in the southern Philippines are embracing birth control for the first time, not just as a means to plan their families but as a path to long-term food security, ensuring that future generations enjoy the same abundance of fish. The area is one of the richest marine biodiversity hot spots in the world. More than a million people depend on these fishing grounds for their main source of protein and livelihoods. As the population of this area has nearly tripled in the last three decades, the effect on the reef has been devastating.

    Illegal fishing has become rampant. Many use dynamite or cyanide, indiscriminately killing everything within their reach.

    The shift to smaller families in the rural fishing village Humayhumay is already paying dividends. Fishermen have created a marine preserve to help revive fish stocks. With smaller families, thinking about future generations is a luxury fishermen can afford.

    Every year the Philippines, now with 100 million people, adds about 2 million more mouths to feed and isn't expected to stabilize its population until 2080, at 200 million. The country is already beyond its carrying capacity.

    Jason Bostero: Family planning is helpful because if you control the number of your children, you don't need as many fish to support your family. If you have many children, it's difficult to support them." .. "My income is just right to feed us three times a day. It's really, really different when you have a small family."

    Crisna Bostero: "In my case, we were really hard up before. Sometimes, we would only eat once a day because we were so poor. We couldn't go to school. I did not finish my school because there were just so many of us."

    A community-based family planning programs has made birth control options like the pill accessible and affordable - at about 70 cents a month. Distributors are able to sell pills and condoms anytime. They are as easy as buying soft drinks or matches.

    PATH Foundation Philippines, a group funded mostly through USAID, has made this possible, placing its emphasis on local partners and bringing access to the people. In just six years since the program was first established here, family sizes have dropped from as many as 12 children to a maximum of about four today.

    The program shows how closely tied family planning is with environmental conservation and putting food on the table.

    Jason and Crisna Bostero, both practicing Catholics, don't see a conflict between their religious beliefs and family planning. For them, it's about something much more immediate, like what kind of future they're going to pass on to their two children. " I don't want them to be like us, just to fish the sea, just to farm the land. This is not an easy way to earn a living."

    Outside of Humayhumay, where birth control remains largely out of reach, the struggle to put food on the table from one day to the next dominates life. People have to collect government assistance checks for food.

    Countries like Thailand and Indonesia have largely avoided this scene, thanks to state-sponsored family planning programs. But Congressman Walden Bello says in the Philippines, any efforts to do the same have faced stiff resistance.

    The country is 80% Catholic and the Catholic church leadership opposes any form of artificial contraception and has rallied for a decade against a reproductive health bill in Congress that would guarantee universal access to birth control. Recently, it even threatened the president with excommunication for supporting the bill.

    Filipino Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz says "if you have more mouths to feed, then produce more food to eat! Not the other way around."

    But trying to produce more food tests the limits of ecosystems, both on land and sea. Today, the Philippines imports more rice than any other nation on the planet. And according to the World Bank, every major species of fish here shows signs of severe overfishing.

    Technological advances to boost the food supply have not kept pace with the Philippine's surging population growth.

    More than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Instititute.

    The future of the people in the Philippines could easily be overwhelmed by outside forces, in a world that's projected to have 9 billion mouths to feed by the middle of the century. doclink

    We're Beyond Earth's Carrying Capacity Now. Will Accelerating Climate Change Turn the Population Boom Into a Bust?

    November 15, 2011, Think Progress   By: Robert Engelman

    "Continuing world population growth through mid-century seems nearly certain," University of California, Berkeley, demographer Ronald Lee noted recently in Science. "But nearly all population forecasts... implicitly assume that population growth will occur in a neutral zone without negative economic or environmental feedback. [Whether this occurs] will depend in part on the success of policy measures to reduce the environmental impact of economic and demographic growth."

    Demographic projections of roughly 9 billion people in 2050 and a stable 10 billion at the century's end don't mesh with the fact that the world is heading toward a warmer and harsher climate, less dependable water and energy supplies, less intact ecosystems with fewer species, more acidic oceans, and less naturally productive soils.

    Scientist David Pimentel of Cornell University and financial advisor and philanthropist Jeremy Grantham suggest that humanity long ago overshot a truly sustainable world population, implying that apocalyptic horsemen old and new could cause widespread death as the environment unravels.

    We are currently adding about 216,000 people per day. But the United Nations "medium variant" population projection, the gold standard for expert expectation of the demographic future, takes a long leap of faith: It assumes no demographic influence from the coming environmental changes that could leave us living on what NASA climatologist James Hansen has dubbed "a different planet."

    According to the 2007 assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change temperatures could rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Sea levels could rise from two to six feet higher than today's -- vertically, meaning that seawater could move hundreds of feet inland over currently inhabited coastal land. There would be greater extremes of both severe droughts and intense storms. Shifting patterns of infectious disease as new landscapes open for pathogen survival and spread. Disruptions of global ecosystems as rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns buffet and scatter animal and plant species. The eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers, upsetting supplies of fresh water on which 1.3 billion South Asians and Chinese depend for food production.

    Since 1900, countries home to nearly half the world's people have moved into conditions of chronic water stress or scarcity based on falling per-capita supply of renewable fresh water. Levels of aquifers and even many lakes around the world are falling as a result. In just 14 years, most of North Africa and the Middle East, plus Pakistan, South Africa and large parts of China and India, will be driven by water scarcity to increasing dependence on food imports "even at high levels of irrigation efficiency," according to the International Water Management Institute.

    The world's net land under cultivation has scarcely expanded since 1960, with millions of acres of farmland gobbled by urban development while roughly equal amounts of less fertile land come under the plow. The amount of cropland per capita has been cut in half by the doubling of humanity, while constant production saps nutrients that are critical to human health, and the soil erodes from rough weather and less-than-perfect human care. Fertilizer prices are rising as are prices of other non-renewable resources needed to grow food, such as oil, natural gas, and key minerals, including phosphorus, essential to all life.

    We can recycle phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and other essential minerals and nutrients, but the number of people that even the most efficient recycling could support may be much less than today's world population. Canadian geographer Vaclav Smil calculated that were it not for the industrial fixation of nitrogen, the world's population would probably not have exceeded 4 billion people. The hard accounting of the nutrients needed in today's 7 billion human bodies, let alone tomorrow's projected 10 billion, belies the hope that a climate-neutral agriculture system could feed us all.

    Roughly one out of every two or three forkfuls of food relies on natural pollination, yet many of the world's pollinators are in trouble. Bats and countless other pest-eaters are falling prey to environmental insults and the loss of plant and animal biodiversity generally makes humanity ever-more dependent on a handful of key crop species and chemical inputs that make food production less, rather than more, resilient.

    As population growth sends human beings into once isolated ecosystems, new disease vectors find people who can then can carry it anywhere on the planet within hours. As the world's climate warms, the areas affected diseases will likely shift in unpredictable ways, with malarial and dengue-carrying mosquitoes moving into temporal zones while warming waters contribute to cholera outbreaks in areas once immune.

    In the past few years, agronomists have lost some of their earlier confidence that food production, even with genetically modified crops, will keep pace with rising global populations in a changing climate. Already, weather-related disasters, from blistering heat waves to flooded farm fields, have contributed to widening gaps between food production and global consumption. The resulting price increases -- stoked also by biofuels production encouraged in part to slow climate change -- have led to food riots that cost lives and helped topple governments from the Middle East to Haiti.

    Slashing per-capita energy and resource consumption would certainly help. A sustainable population size, it's worth adding, will be easier to maintain if societies also assure women the autonomy and contraceptive means they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. For anyone paying attention to the science of climate change and the realities of a rapidly changing global environment, however, it seems foolish to treat projections of 10 billion people at the end of this century as respectfully as a prediction of a solar eclipse or the appearance of a well-studied comet. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We could also eat less meat, but that savings would be wiped out by the time another two billion people are added.

    September 27, 2011 - Earth Overshoot Day

    September 27, 2011

    September 27 is Earth Overshoot Day for 2011. This means humanity is surpassing nature's budget for the year, and is now operating in overdraft, according to Global Footprint Network calculations.

    Earth Overshoot Day helps conceptualize the degree to which we are over-budget in our use of nature. In approximately nine months, we are demanding a level of ecological services - from producing food and raw materials to filtering our carbon dioxide emissions-equivalent to what the planet can provide for all of 2011. From an ecological standpoint, we have effectively spent our annual salary, with a quarter of the year still to go.

    "From soaring food prices to the crippling effects of climate change, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means," said Global Footprint Network President Dr. Mathis Wackernagel. "If we are to maintain stable societies and good lives, we can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require."

    The UN projects the human population to reach 7 billion in late October. How will we be able to meet the needs of a growing population? How will we support the increased consumption as millions in emerging economies join the swelling ranks of the middle class? How will we provide for the 2 billion alive today that lack access to enough resources to meet basic needs?

    We are now using between 1.2 and 1.5 planets worth of resources that can be sustainably supported. Before mid-century we will need the capacity of two Earths to keep up with our level of demand.

    We must find new models of progress and prosperity that limit demand on ecological assets. Instead of liquidating the resources we have left for fast cash, we must maintain the resources we have left as an ongoing source of wealth.

    Last year Global Footprint Network's ecological footprint and biocapacity calculations placed Earth Overshoot Day a few weeks earlier in the year than this year's estimates do. Does this mean we have reduced global overshoot? Unfortunately, is no. The difference is due to the constantly improvements in the calculations and data sets that are the basis for determining Earth Overshoot Day, cause the Day to shift from year.

    Our new assumptions (which we are still testing), will probably show overshoot continuing to grow slightly year over year. Earth Overshoot Day is not 100 percent accurate, but meant as an estimate rather than as an exact date.

    The when is less important than the what: a mounting ecological debt, and the interest we are paying on that debt -food shortages, plummeting wildlife populations, disappearing forests, degraded land productivity and the build-up of CO2 in our atmosphere and ocean, with devastating human and monetary costs.

    In spite of the global recession, resource trends indicate that since October 2008, humanity's resource demand has been on the rise, although more slowly than in the first eight years of the millennium.

    The success of our efforts to improve the economy depends on a reliable resource supply.

    "As resource constraints tighten even more, it's going to feel like trying to run upward on a down escalator," Dr. Wackernagel said. ... "Long-term recovery will only succeed, and can only be maintained, if it occurs along with systematic reductions to our dependence on resources."

    Resources must now be prudently spend and carefully managed as financial reserves.

    "What is Overshoot?" Watch this video doclink

    Expanding Deserts, Falling Water Tables, and Toxic Pollutants are Driving People from Their Homes

    September 27, 2011, Earth Policy Institute - World on the Edge by Lester R. Brown

    The Sahara desert is expanding in every direction, squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast; moving into Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, where farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land. The desert is invading the Sahelian region of Africa -- the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa.

    A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.

    In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts or a lack of water number in the thousands. In Brazil, some 250,000 square miles of land are affected by desertification, much of it concentrated in the country's northeast. In Mexico, many of the migrants who leave rural communities in arid and semiarid regions of the country each year are doing so because of desertification. Some of these environmental refugees end up in Mexican cities, others cross the northern border into the United States. U.S. analysts estimate that Mexico is forced to abandon 400 square miles of farmland to desertification each year.

    In China, desert expansion has accelerated in each successive decade since 1950, with some 24,000 villages in northern and western China have been abandoned either entirely or partly, possibly resulting in tens of millions people migrating.

    Since most of the 2.3 billion people that will be added to the world by 2050 will be born in countries where water tables are falling, water refugees are likely to become commonplace. Villages in northwestern India are being abandoned as aquifers are depleted and people can no longer find water. Eventually whole cities might have to be relocated, such as Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, home to 2 million people, and Quetta, in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, with 1 million.

    Syria and Iraq have been overpumping their aquifers, and irrigation wells are going dry, forcing the abandonment of 160 villages In Syria, and uprooting more than 100,000 people in northern Iraq.

    People who are trying to escape toxic waste or dangerous radiation levels are another category of environmental refugee. In the late 1970s, Love Canal in upstate New York was partially built on top of a toxic waste disposal site, resulting in a total of 950 families having to be permanently relocated. In the 1980s, the federal government arranged for the permanent evacuation and relocation of all 2,000 residents of Times Beach, Missouri, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered dioxin levels well above the public health standards.

    China has more than 450 "cancer villages" and China's Ministry of Health statistics show that cancer is now the country's leading cause of death, and with little pollution control, whole communities near chemical factories are suffering from unprecedented rates of cancer. Young people are leaving for the city in droves, for jobs and possibly for better health. Yet many others are too sick or too poor to leave.

    The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion is another example. It spewed massive amounts of radioactive material were spewed into the atmosphere, showering communities in the region with heavy doses of radiation, requiring the resettlement of 350,400 people. In March 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

    In general, environmental refugees are migrating from poor countries to rich ones, from Africa, Asia, and Latin America to North America and Europe. Some of the largest flows will be across national borders and they are likely to be illegal. The United States, Europe, and India are taking measures to prevent migration across their borders.

    Maybe it is time for governments to consider whether it might not be cheaper and far less painful in human terms to treat the causes of migration rather than merely respond to it. This means working with developing countries to restore their economy's natural support systems -- the soils, the water tables, the grasslands, the forests -- and it means accelerating the shift to smaller families to help people break out of poverty. doclink

    Reality Vs. Wishful Thinking

    September 5, 2011, Population Media

    Chris Clugston developed an analytical tool - "Societal Overextension Analysis" - that measured overshoot in a way that ecological footprint analysis did not, rendering it almost obsolete. In his analysis he has inventoried 89 metals and minerals that are critical to the operation of any industrial economy, and found that 69 of them are scarce and are getting scarcer. The Green Apostles of False Hope can imagine that substitutes will be found for one or two or even a dozen of them---but not most of them, and any one shortage can bring the industrial edifice down.

    Industrialism is unsustainable; it doesn't matter if it is under capitalism or socialism. Are we going to build factories out of straw? And if they do that, then their next task is to demonstrate that any civilization is sustainable, given that agriculture itself is unsustainable.

    Chris is not arguing that we should return to a pre-industrial society, but has found that "it's physically impossible going forward." What "we" want is irrelevant, because Mother Nature could not care less about our wants or needs. The fact is, we will not have affordably accessible natural non renewable resources available to enable that preferred lifestyle.

    This civilization is going down. Deal with it. We are hooked to a resource utilization mix that can't indefinitely deliver the goods. Some will promise deliverance by tech fixes, but as Chris points out, you can't replenish an aquifer by fixing the pump - a more technically efficient extraction process will not offset the growing demand for the non-renewable resource that is in short supply.

    We are conditioned to demand a happy ending. Even Al Gore needed to tack on a Hollywood ending to his documentary. The belief that "every problem has a solution" is, as he puts it, "part of our cultural DNA". The American "can do" spirit finds a voice even in people like Paul Ehrlich, who recently told Alex Smith that if America could transform its economy from building cars to building tanks and planes in just four years to win the Second World War, a similar transformation to a sustainable economy should also be possible. The problem is, these "solutions" worked during the epoch of "continuously more and more", they will fail in the coming epoch of "continually less and less."

    Some of us say "If we live smaller and live simply, we can continue Business As Usual. in fact, we will enjoy more community and more intimacy." Others say, "If we share the wealth, all will be well". Or "If we can design a new banking system and a steady state economy, we can enjoy a new prosperity". Or "If we can secure our borders, we can reclaim American jobs for Americans". But the fact is that whatever we do to reduce, conserve, recycle and share, our current resource utilization behaviour is unsustainable. Ecological Footprint Analysis doesn't give us a comprehensive measure of overshoot because it fails to make the critical distinction between RNR-based (renewable natural resources) and NNR-based (nonrenewable natural resources) societies as Clugston does. The diminution of affordably accessible NNRs are the limiting factor. Environmentalists habitually accuse their critics of denial, but one might ask what kind of denial is it that raises the alarm bell at climate change but is seemingly oblivious to impending resource scarcities which will surely kill billions by privation and conflict long before rising temperatures and sea levels do their worst?

    My goal? To promote the least painful transition. Rapid but managed de-growth. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Certainly a lot of doom and gloom but still very much worth looking into. See for a more comprehensive analysis. If someone wants to summarize it, I would be glad to publish it; just send to karen4329 at

    A 'No-Growth' Boom Will Follow 2012 Global Crash

    August 23, 2011, Market Watch

    A systemic collapse of the global economy is coming - markets and capitalism - a collapse that may well eliminate billions of people from the planet. Only then, after that, a path to reform, recovery, a new boom. Investors should plan ahead for it.

    The facts about the coming catastrophe are so obvious. Our planet's natural resources can reasonably support about 5 billion people but we have 7 billion today - 2 billion too many. We're consuming commodities and natural resources at a rate of 1.5 Earths, according to estimates by the Global Footprint Network of scientists and economists. Around 2050 we'll be 10 billion, according to the UN demographers. That's two times the 5 billion the Earth can reasonably support. Those 10 billion people will demand lifestyle improvements. That increases their consumption of scarce resources by 300% per person. Bottom line: 10 billion people will be consuming the equivalent of six Earths.

    Thomas Friedman, author of "Hot, Flat, Crowded," writes: when we look back at "when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all ...: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we'd crossed some growth/climate/natural-resource/population redlines all at once?"

    Paul Gilding, the author of a new book called "The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World," wrote "The only answer can be denial," ... "When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required."

    Today his message is: "It's time to stop worrying about climate change. Instead we need to brace for impact." "If you grow an economy or any system up against its limits, it then stops growing and either changes form or breaks down ... As our system hits its limits, the following pressures will combine, in varied and unpredictable ways, to trigger a system breakdown and a major economic crisis (or series of smaller crises) that will see us slide into a sustained economic downturn and a global emergency lasting decades."

    Gilding predicts 1. Shocks. " series of ecological, social and economic shocks driven by climate change, particularly melting polar regions, extreme weather events...changes to agricultural output...severe economic stresses...a sense of global crisis." 2. Food. "Increasing demand and lower agricultural output driven by climate change ...sustained increases in food prices...economic and geopolitical instability and tension...developing countries blaming the West for causing climate change." 3. Water. " deeply degraded global ecosystem will further reduce the capacity of key ecosystem services, water, fisheries and agricultural land ... impact food and water supply ... political stability ... global security."

    4. Energy. "Rapid increases in oil prices as peak oil is breached. ...enormous, system-wide economic and political pressure...great conflict." 5. Surprises. "For example, a serious global terrorist attack wiping out a major city...or a pandemic shutting down global travel...shocks upon shocks upon shocks." 6. Driven by panic, fear and uncertainty, waking up to long-term implications, perhaps driven by a series of major corporate collapses or national economic crises, resulting in re-price of risk leading to a dramatic drop in global share markets and a tightening of capital supply. Markets and economies will crash.

    Gilding believes that mankind will follow this "Great Disruption" with a period of great cooperation where all nations of the world will come together to save the planet. Gilding does not say how this great disruption will stop population from growing to 10 billion or how the crash will scale Earth's existing population of 7 billion back to a sustainable 5 billion. Yet, that must happen to make the "new equation" work. New global wars, pandemics, famines, starvation and other cataclysmic events, may all happen during the crash.

    Gilding and Jorgen Randers of Norway developed "One Degree War Plan" to "keep global warming below plus-one degree Centigrade over pre-industrial levels." These policies may not work today but after the coming crash, after a great realignment of the economic, political and environmental systems of the world, these are seen as essential policies for a new sustained global economy.

    You can also see these as investment opportunities for entrepreneurs and financiers and forward-thinkers who are planning ahead for when the world community downsizes to create a new, sustainable lifestyle.

    1. Cut deforestation and other logging by 50%. 2. Close 1,000 dirty coal power plants within 5 years. 3. Ration electricity, and rapidly drive new efficiency. 4. Retrofit 1,000 coal power plants with Carbon Capture Storage. 5. Erect a wind turbine or solar plant in every town. 6. Create huge wind and solar farms in suitable deserts. 7. Let no waste go to waste; recycle and reuse by-products. 8. Ration use of dirty cars to cut transport emissions by 50%. 9. Prepare for biofuels power stations using CCS technology.

    10. Strand half of the world's aircraft. 11. Capture or burn methane from agriculture and landfills. 12. Move society away from diets of climate-unfriendly protein. 13. New methods of farming to reduce gas emissions, maximize soil carbon. 14. Launch a government- and community-led shop-less-live-more campaign. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: cutting deforestation and coal production may be unreasonable considering people will need some way to heat their homes. Wind turbines do not work just anywhere. Current biofuels use land badly needed for agriculture. Alternative biofuels must be found. CCS has not yet been proven. Burning methane would be far worse than burning carbon. People will be shopping less because they will have less money. Preparing now will be far better than making drastic adjustments later.

    Food and Water Bubbles: World One Poor Harvest Away From Chaos

    February 15, 2011, Earth Policy Institute - Lester Brown

    Today there are three sources of growing demand for food: population growth; rising affluence and the associated jump in meat, milk, and egg consumption; and the use of grain to produce fuel for cars. In early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had reached an all-time high in December, exceeding the previous record set during the 2007-08 price surge.

    Even more alarming, on February 3rd, the FAO announced that the December record had been broken in January as prices climbed an additional 3%. Will this rise in food prices continue in the months ahead? In all likelihood we will see further rises that will take the world into uncharted territory in the relationship between food prices and political stability.

    Everything now depends on this year's harvest. Lowering food prices to a more comfortable level will require a bumper grain harvest, one much larger than the record harvest of 2008 that combined with the economic recession to end the 2007-08 grain price climb.

    If the world has a poor harvest this year, food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread and governments will fall. The world is now one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets. Over the longer term, expanding food production rapidly is becoming more difficult as food bubbles based on the overpumping of underground water burst, shrinking grain harvests in many countries. Meanwhile, increasing climate volatility, including more frequent, more extreme weather events, will make the expansion of production more erratic.

    Some 18 countries have inflated their food production in recent decades by overpumping aquifers to irrigate their crops. Among these are China, India, and the United States, the big three grain producers. When water-based food bubbles burst in some countries, they will dramatically reduce production. In others, they may only slow production growth. In Saudi Arabia, which was wheat self-sufficient for more than 20 years, the wheat harvest is collapsing and will likely disappear entirely within a year or so as the country's fossil (nonreplenishable) aquifer, is depleted.

    In Syria and Iraq, grain harvests are slowly shrinking as irrigation wells dry up. Yemen is a hydrological basket case, where water tables are falling throughout the country and wells are going dry. These bursting food bubbles make the Arab Middle East the first geographic region where aquifer depletion is shrinking the grain harvest.

    While these Middle East declines are dramatic, the largest water-based food bubbles are in India and China. A World Bank study indicates that 175 million people in India are being fed with grain produced by overpumping. In China, overpumping is feeding 130 million people. Spreading water shortages in both of these population giants are making it more difficult to expand their food supplies.

    Beyond irrigation wells going dry, farmers must contend with climate change. Crop ecologists have a rule of thumb that for each 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature during the growing season, grain yields drop 10%. Thus it was no surprise that searing temperatures in western Russia last summer shrank the grain harvest by 40%.

    On the demand side of the food equation, there are now three sources of growth. First is population growth. There will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there last night, many of them with empty plates. Second is rising affluence. Some three billion people are now trying to move up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive meat, milk, and eggs. And third, massive amounts of grain are being converted into oil, i.e. ethanol, to fuel cars. Roughly 120 million tons of the 400-million-ton 2010 U.S. grain harvest are going to ethanol distilleries.

    Encouragingly, President Sarkozy of France vowed to use his term as president of the G-20 in 2011 to stabilize world food prices. Thus far the talk has been about such measures as regulating export restrictions and speculation, but if the G-20 ends up treating the symptoms and not the causes of rising food prices, the effort will be of little avail.

    What is needed now is a worldwide effort to raise water productivity, similar to the one launched by the international community a half century ago to raise cropland productivity. This earlier effort tripled the world grain yield per acre between 1950 and 2010.

    On the climate front, the goal of cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2050 - the widely accepted goal by governments - is not sufficient. The challenge now is to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020 with a World War II-type mobilization to raise energy efficiency and to shift from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and geothermal energy. On the demand side, we need to accelerate the shift to smaller families.

    There are 215 million women in the world who want to plan their families, but who lack access to family planning services. They and their families represent over a billion of the world's poorest people. While filling the family planning gap, we need to simultaneously launch an all-out effort to eradicate poverty.

    Once under way, these two trends reinforce each other. And in an increasingly hungry world, converting grain into fuel for cars is not the way to go. It is time to remove subsidies for converting grain and other crops into automotive fuel. If President Sarkozy can get the G-20 to focus on the causes of rising food prices, and not just the symptoms, then food prices can be stabilized at a more comfortable level.

    Feel free to pass this information along to friends, family members, and colleagues! doclink

    Karen Gaia says: A wonderful but alarming article - please share with your circle of acquaintances. The author does not mention peak oil which could be yet another crater in the road to sustainability.

    Peak Soil: It's Like Peak Oil, Only Worse

    May 13, 2010, Resilience   By: Matthew Wild

    Oil, natural gas, coal and uranium -- essential to our lives and economies -- are depleting, but, even if we switched to renewable energy tomorrow, we would still not be out of the mess that we're in. We're experiencing problems with our living environment - climate, soil and water - that are more than just energy issues.

    Hubbert's model used to determine peak oil can be applied to any finite resource we extract from the Earth. The payback of our blindness to resource depletion and our failure to conserve is that depletion of many resources will likely happen all together. We will probably find ourselves dealing with a widespread hydrocarbons collapse right when we have to face a greatly reduced global capacity to grow crops and find people enough water to drink.

    Peak Soil

    The world is losing soil 10 to 20 times faster than it is replenishing it. In the meantime population is expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050, according to UN projections. Northern China, sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Australia are already losing large tracts of arable land. Heaping on chemical fertilizers is a misguided solution.

    A 2008 New York Times article told how soil takes tens of thousands of years to make 6 inches of topsoil useful for growing crops.

    "Deficiency of plant nutrients in the soil is the most significant biophysical factor limiting crop production across very large areas in the tropics." according to the UN's Global Environment outlook, published 2007.

    Peak Water

    Much of the world's drinking water lies in underground aquifers and in lakes, which behaves like a finite resource by being depleted, or capable of 'peaking'. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under conditions of water stress - the threshold for meeting the water requirements for agriculture, industry, domestic purposes, energy and the environment (UN Water 2007). Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease. With climate change, many parts of the world are becoming drier.

    Himalayan glaciers are the principal dry-season water sources of Asia's biggest rivers - Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Yellow . A recent UN report reported that, if temperatures continue to rise "there will be no snow and ice in the Himalayas in 50 years." Thousands of glaciers in the Himalayas are the source of water for nine major Asian rivers whose basins are home to 1.3 billion people from Pakistan to Myanmar, including parts of India and China.

    Peak phosphorus

    The paper Peak Phosphorus, by Patrick Déry and Bart Anderson, estimates that we will "run out" of phosphorus 50 to 130 years from now. This means that phosphorus will peak first, then run out. When it peaks, the resource becomes more difficult to extract and more expensive.

    Phosphorus is essential for plant life. It is removed from the soil by plants, and, in the case of agriculture, returned through fertilizers - along with nitrogen and potassium. Most of the world's agricultural land does not have enough phosphate, so phosphate rocks are mined to produce the fertilizer.

    Between 2003 and 2008, phosphate fertilizer prices rose approximately 350%, resulting in rising food prices which was one of the causes of riots in more than 40 countries. The 2008 food riots were only stopped by government promises of food subsidies -- a viable strategy only as long as governments can afford the ever-increasing costs of food support.

    Phosphorous is not destroyed when it's used and so could be recovered and recycled. It can be recaptured if soil erosion measures were taken, and precise ways to apply fertilizer were found. If we fail to use the limited phosphorous that remains in a sustainable way, millions will starve.

    A decline in phosphorous output has the potential to cause more death, especially in developing countries, than that of oil.

    These issues just don't apply to the poorest of the poor in the developing nations - they are like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. When post-peak oil prices cause the already weakened Western economies to slump into terminal recession/depression, we too will find ourselves living marginal lives. Then it may well be our turn.

    The global population is rising exponentially while soil is becoming poorer throughout most of the world, and access to clean water more scarce. A decline in phosphorous by itself could pose a "Malthusian trap of widespread famine on a scale that we have not yet experienced."

    In addition, we are facing the very real prospect of global climate change. Parts of the world are becoming drier, and some more prone to flooding.

    When you put all this together, it begins to look like a perfect storm. doclink

    The Real Perils of Human Population Growth

    April 29, 2010, Secular Humanism

    The impacts of the growing world population on land, water, energy, and biota resources are real and indeed overwhelming.

    Clear scientific evidence suggests worldwide problems of food availability already have emerged. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 60% of the world population now is malnourished-the largest number reported in history. Further, many serious diseases, like malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis are increasing, not only because of worldwide malnutrition but also because the increasing density and movement of human populations facilitate the spread of diseases.

    More humans than ever before cover the earth with their urbanization, highways, and other activities. This imperils the availability of food resources. Globally, an average of only 0.22 hectares of cropland per capita is now available for crop production. In contrast, 0.5 hectares per capita is available to support the diverse food systems of the United States and Europe. At present, cropland in the United States now occupies 17% of the total land area, but relatively little additional cropland is available to support the future expansion of U.S. agriculture.

    Each year more than 10 million hectares of valuable cropland are degraded and lost because of soil erosion. In addition, an added 10 million hectares are being destroyed by salinization resulting from improper irrigation. Combined, world soil erosion and salinization account for the major losses in productive cropland.

    Per-capita fertilizer use is declining, and all these changes are suppressing food-crop production, especially in developing countries. The recent doubling of fertilizer prices had major impacts on farmers, especially struggling farmers in developing countries.

    Disturbing reports from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicate per-capita availability of basic cereal grains has been decreasing for the past twenty-four years. Per-capita grain production has continued a slow decline since 1984, as harvests have to be divided among an increasing number of people.

    Adequate quantities of freshwater, which support the very survival of every human, plant, and animal on Earth, are not available in many regions of the world. Indeed, more than 70% of all available freshwater is used in world agriculture. This confirms the importance of water and the role of irrigation in world food production.

    Water is being removed in some aquifers in the Western United States ten times faster than the recharge rate.

    Americans are 96% dependent on fossil energy. Nearly 20% of all the fossil energy used in the United States is devoted to supplying food. To produce one hectare of corn or rice currently requires approximately 1,000 liters of oil equivalents. In developing countries, expensive fossil energy has been replaced by human and animal power in order to provide the needed energy for crop production. About 1,200 hours of human manual labor are required to produce a hectare of grain.

    An average American consumes about 9,500 liters of gasoline energy-equivalents each year. Because of this high fossil-energy use and inadequate domestic energy sources, the United States now imports nearly 70% of its oil at an annual cost of $700 billion.

    The world supply of oil has peaked, and the remaining oil will now decline as use continues. Reliable projections are that by 2040 the world supply of oil will be more than 60% depleted. As oil resources diminish worldwide, costs increase.

    In the United States, supplies of natural gas and coal are expected to last fifty to one hundred years, depending on how fast they are substituted for oil and how fast the U.S. population grows. However, the processing of coal into oil and gas will contribute to air pollution unless technology is developed to help overcome these serious consequences.

    Currently, the U.S. population uses about 100 quads of energy each year. (equivalent to 1015 BTUs.) This rate of consumption will continue to increase as the population continues to grow and further diminish fossil energy reserves. Renewable energy sources must be investigated and priority given to their development and use. The most reliable of the potential renewable sources are wind power, photovoltaics, solar, thermal, and biomass energy. Even if all of these solar-based technologies become fully operational, they are projected to provide only about half of the current U.S. consumption of fossil energy -or nearly 50 quads.

    These renewable energy sources would occupy another 17% of additional land area. Some of this required land would compete with vital cropland, pasture, and forest land. Nuclear energy will probably have to be developed further in the world. At present, France has one of the better models for the relatively safe use of nuclear energy.

    Optimists suggest ethanol produced from corn grain and cellulosic biomass, like grasses, could replace much of the oil used in United States. But consider that when 20% of the U.S. corn crop was converted into 6 billion gallons of ethanol in 2007, it replaced only 1% of U.S. oil consumption.

    Using food crops to produce biofuels also causes major nutritional and economic concerns. Biofuel production is increasing human starvation worldwide. Therefore, growing crops for fuel squanders land, water, and energy resources vital for the production of food for people.

    Unfortunately, the environmental impacts of corn ethanol include severe soil erosion of valuable cropland, the consumption of large amounts of water, plus the heavy use of costly nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides that pollute soils and waterways. Large quantities of carbon dioxide are produced and released into the atmosphere because of the significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy that are needed in ethanol production.

    Cellulosic biomass is touted as the replacement for corn in making ethanol. Unfortunately, cellulosic biomass contains less than one-third the amount of starches and sugars found in corn and requires major fossil-energy inputs.

    Over many decades, the use of chemicals throughout the world has expanded, impacting the survival of animals, plants, and microbes while also presenting serious constraints to ensuring sustainability.

    Air pollutio, is predicted to have negative impacts on the environment. Some problems and damages associated with global warming are already apparent.

    Recent studies of environmental refugees reveal their numbers are increasing. These movements of human populations contribute to major changes in population distribution and global insecurity. Understandably, these refugees are fleeing income disparity as well as shortages of diverse essential resources they need for survival. This pattern will increase over time as the world population increases. According to the United Nations, the rapid growth in the world population serves as a potential breeding ground for terrorists and threatens global peace and security.

    Even if a worldwide policy of two children per couple (instead of the current 2.8 children) were agreed on tomorrow, the world population will continue to expand for about seventy years before stabilizing at about 13 billion people. Note that 40% of the world population is under the age of twenty.

    To be able to ensure a reasonable standard of living, Americans will have to reduce their population and their consumption of goods and energy by one-half. When the United States runs out of oil, natural gas, and coal, it will have to rely only on renewable energy. Such renewable energy sources will be able to provide only about half of the oil equivalents now used per capita each year-slightly more than 5,000 liters of oil equivalents instead of the current 9,500 liters per capita. But as the population continues to grow and resources decline, several problems will increase.

    Clearly, the current energy-population imbalance will impose drastic changes in energy, land, and water use and result in major changes in the American lifestyle. Achieving energy conservation and efficiency of all energy sources is paramount. Other major changes should include: smaller automobile size with double the gasoline efficiency; significant reductions in living space; reduction in heating, cooling, and light-energy usage; improvement in the movement of goods by energy-efficient methods; and heightened consumption of locally produced goods.

    To halt the escalating imbalance between expanding population numbers and the earth's essential natural resources, humans must control their numbers. At the same time, they must make efforts to conserve cropland, freshwater, energy, biodiversity, and the other life-supporting environmental resources. People in developed countries could contribute by reducing their high consumption of all natural resources, especially fossil fuels.

    Continued rapid population growth damages the lives of all individuals and their offspring. Personal well-being, based on health as well as personal freedoms, is directly related to population numbers. If humans do not control their numbers, nature will. doclink

    On American Sustainability - Anatomy of Societal Collapse (summary)

    May 13, 2009, Oil Drum

    Editor's note: This article was published more than two years ago, but it is a 'must-read'. I am only hitting the highlights; please read the entire article at to get the whole story

    Societal overextension occurs when a society's lifestyle paradigm, its "way of life", is enabled by the persistent overexploitation of ecological resources and economic resources.

    Ecological resource over-exploitation occurs when a society:

    • Persistently utilizes renewable natural resources that are critical to its existence-such as water, croplands, grazing lands, wildlife, and forests-at levels exceeding those at which Nature can replenish them;

    • Persistently utilizes nonrenewable natural resources that are critical to its existence-such as oil, natural gas, coal, minerals, and metals-which Nature does not replenish; and/or

    • Persistently degrades atmospheric, aquatic, and terrestrial natural habitats that are critical to its existence, at levels exceeding those at which Nature can regenerate them.

    Economic resources such as income, savings, and debt provide the "purchasing power" that enables people to procure natural resources and the manmade goods and services derived from those natural resources. Economic resource overexploitation occurs when a society:

    • Persistently depletes its previously accumulated economic asset (wealth) reserves;

    • Persistently incurs intergenerational debt, which it has neither the capacity nor the intention to repay; and/or

    • Persistently underfunds investments critical to its future wellbeing.

    An overextended society is unsustainable, and will inevitably collapse.

    Should we Americans choose to maintain our current population level of 302 million people, our sustainable average living standard (per capita consumption level) would be approximately 3.2% of its current level - essentially that of North Korea and Cambodia today.

    If we choose instead to maintain our current average living standard, America could support an sustainable population of only 9.7 million people. doclink

    Malaysia: Creating Sustainability

    November 29, 2008, The Sun Daily

    Sustainability encompasses equity, economic and environmental concerns. The concept of sustainable cities juxtaposes this against the backdrop of rapidly increasing urban populations. Urban governance pioneer Datuk Anwar Fazal identified five characteristics of a sustainable city - it is ecologically sustainable, socially just, economically productive, culturally vibrant and politically participatory. Kuala Lumpur's urban landscape has taken on the quality of life and on the ecosystem that supports this. The management of water, air, waste, traffic, rivers, hills, parks, green areas, etc. is simply not on par with world standards.

    The definition of ecological resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedback. Social processes together shape the ecosystems".

    This will affect the way in which we move, live, work, interact and relax. Cities can no longer renege on their ecological footprint and hope that the hinterlands will provide the green that is desperately needed. They will need to comply with environmental standards. Bangkok'response to global warming contained planting trees, retro-fitting buildings with more energy-efficient lighting and cooling systems, promoting carpools, renewable energy and mass transit systems, and preventing vehicles without passengers from entering traffic congested areas.

    Officials lobbied oil companies to produce cleaner fuel, used higher taxes to phase out the two-stroke motorcycles and converted taxis to run on clean-burning liquefied petroleum gas. Bangkok's air, on average, now falls within the limit set by the US EPA. Singapore and Japan have the cleanest air quality.

    Japanese local govts support sustainable practices - in the amount of waste they recycle, the way they separate waste and the way they work together for the environment. Local governments incorporate citizen participation into planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This definition of sustainability sidesteps the real problem: when practices such as overconsumption, over-pollution, and overpopulation reduce natural resources and their quality faster than they can be renewed. Unfortunately, this modern bastardization of the meaning of 'sustainability' is confusing the real issue.

    Scientists Outline Challenges and Pathways to Earth Sustainability

    October 15, 2008, Entertainment and Show Biz

    The "Declaration of Barcelona 2008: Challenges and Pathways to Earth Sustainability", claims measures to mitigate the global change and advance a sustainable development.

    The coming three decades will determine whether the population comes into balance with the capacity of the biosphere to support it, or whether catastrophic changes in the environment will lead to the end of the improvement of well being. Declining trends in environmental conditions either continue unchanged or are accelerating beyond our worst projections. The deterioration of the environment continues despite international efforts. Global action to reverse the trends is inadequate, but it is not too late. No action is too small too large or too soon to begin.

    The following actions are urged: Immediate transition to non-carbon emitting energy systems, accounting for changes in natural capital, address global environmental change, empowering developing countries to play a larger role in global solutions, and, transition to non-carbon emitting energy systems. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, has exceeded the levels that can be considered safe. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We still need to address overpopulation and voluntary family planning.

    New Zealand: Protecting Our Ocean Resources

    June 26, 2008,

    From New Zealand's State of the Environment Report, Environment 07 - Environmental indicators are a valuable tool as part of our work towards carbon neutrality and a sustainable New Zealand. Environment 07 measures the impact of transport, energy, waste, and our consumption on the environment. New Zealand research, based on a survey of 1000 people, found that the most popular sustainable actions New Zealanders are taking included recycling 92% and composting 54%. The least popular actions were transport and water use.

    The government is advancing new proposals including: The creation of a waste levy to to encourage recycling; regulation including recognition of existing industry sponsored schemes; funding public recycling stations under the brand name "Love New Zealand".

    The provisions for product stewardship aim to get businesses to create their own solutions to protect the environment. The public sector programme is aimed at government agencies sharing their knowledge and experience. Antarctica New Zealand reported a 24% reduction in water consumption at Scott Base and Inland Revenue reported savings of $100,000 per annum through their energy monitoring programme. The Ministry of research, Science and Technology reported a 79% reduction in their waste sent to landfill.

    The Carbon Neutral Public Service programme is designed to be useful for the private and non government sectors seeking to reduce their carbon footprints.

    It was a huge achievement to have calculated the carbon footprint of the core public service, equivalent to 159,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006/07.

    Six agencies have a target of carbon neutrality by 2012 and are doing well. The government is developing an online database to provide guidance on the eco-labels and eco-standards that are in use in New Zealand.

    An important part of sustainability includes managing our water resource.

    The proportion of the population receiving drinking water that complies with guidelines has increased significantly, and pollution from point source discharges has decreased due to improved management.

    The National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water has just come into force, and will contribute to keeping pollution out of our water supplies, rather than just relying on treatment at a later stage.

    In the Exclusive Economic Zone, the EEZ, will encourage investment in sustainable offshore activities. doclink

    Australia: Lighten the Load on the Planet

    April 18, 2008, The Australian

    The environment is the top topic for one in three Australians and represent the most challenging streams of discussion at this weekend's 2020 Summit. Of the nearly 10,000 submissions more than 1300 touch on the topics covered by the sustainability stream.

    Many of the background notes focus on cities and urban design. Growth in single person households is increasing demand for power and water. The suburbs keep expanding new demands for fuel and new exhaust emissions. The triumph of the McMansions are raising our cities' energy demands.

    Discussion of cities and talk about population go hand in hand. Our population has grown at 1.3% a year during the past 10 years, with Queensland and Western Australia growing much more rapidly.

    Climate and water appear to be the core sustainability issues for 2020. The environment is viewed as the most important issue facing Australia now and in five years.

    Australians believe the environment, the economy and then water are the three most important issues facing the country.

    Drought and the water restrictions apply to almost 80% of Australian homes and have changed our attitudes to sustainability.

    Rainfall has decreased around all big population centres. Sixteen of the past 18 years in Australia have been warmer than the long-term average.

    Australians produce more carbon per capita than other Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with the exception of the US and Luxembourg. The Government's top adviser on climate change has warned of the price impact of an emissions trading scheme. What is required to increase clean energy production, increase energy efficiency and better manage demand? How do we encourage households to be involved in reducing emissions and waste? doclink

    Ecological Footprints

    November 9, 2007, Living on the Earth

    From an interview with Mathis Wackernagel, the executive director of Global Footprint Network: There's a new definition of sustainable development, as one of the most specific policy concepts around. It has two parts; one is development, the other one is the sustainable. Development can be measured with the UN human development index, which summarizes three key components. One is to have long lives. The other is to have access to education and literacy. And the third one is to have access to some minimum income. However, we have to provide this development within the means of one planet. And that's what we can measure with the ecological footprint.

    Among all the 90 countries we looked at, we only found one country that meets both minimum criteria, they are providing long lives and high education and minimum income without using more than what is available globally worldwide per person. And this country is Cuba.

    Cuba would like to have a larger footprint; it would like to have access to more resources. They were forced to be resource efficient because of the trade embargo so their footprint has shrunk a little bit since the Soviet Union collapsed back in the early 90s. They have been able to maintain high human development in terms of increasing longevity and high access to educational success.

    Wackernagel said if everybody lived like him, it would take about five planets.

    Many of the Caribbean nations and Latin American nations are pretty close to the sustainability quotient, which is defined by low footprint and high human development.

    The US has one of the largest footprints per person worldwide. Wackernagel said will we be able to provide well-being within the means of one Planet Earth, or not? If not, we'll be seeing more and more collapses around the world. We have seen them in, Haiti, with severe resource constraints and extreme social misery. What we saw in Rwanda and Darfur is a manifestation of the resource crunch leading to tragic human breakdowns. However, there's another path which the World Wildlife Fund calls 'one planet living.' And the idea is: how can we live well within one planet?

    The big decisions that we make in our lives, how many offspring we have, what kind of housing we buy, determine resource consumption for the next decades to come. building infrastructure right and making sure we have resource-efficient, cities is the key to the future. doclink

    Resource Wars

    January 8, 2007, Monthly Review

    This essay is from the conference of the Union for Radical Political Economics and presents one view of the relation between war and natural resources. It begins with colonial conquest and continues to between 1965 and 1999 when there were seventy-three civil wars, almost all driven by greed to control resources of oil, diamonds, copper, cacao, coca, and even bananas. At the start of the twentieth century war casualties were 90% soldiers. Today, resource wars with their devastating impacts on civilians have become the norm.

    The article then investigates each country in detail. Wherever there are resources to be plundered we find foreign companies ready to cooperate; including the World Bank.

    By controlling the world's energy, the US is able to deny the lifeblood of any society and coerce the world more effectively. The Carter Doctrine claims: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

    Climate change will bring on new and even greater resource wars.

    The relationship of demand and supply of oil is complicated. The most effective resistance to this imperialist pattern now is coming from Latin America where Hugo Chávez has been repeatedly elected because he has stood up to the United States.

    Today one in four people on the planet do not have access to safe drinking water; 12% of the world's population consumes 86 percent of available fresh water. With global consumption of fresh water doubling in the next twenty years, there are all sorts of water war scenarios. Already five million people die a year from diseases related to contaminated water. China's rapid industrialization has been accompanied by water contamination affecting 300 million people - nearly a third of the population. If present trends continue two out of three people on the planet will live in countries considered to be "water stressed." In Palestine, Israel's commandeering of scarce water is a major issue and on many other borders water conflicts are major occurrences.

    The resource war against the environment will be better avoided when we stop counting consumption of nature as income, as a free good, while we deplete our natural capital. doclink

    Java Island Disaster-Prone, Environment Official Says

    January 23, 2006, Antara News

    The condition of Java is under danger status - flood or landslide problems have threatened the island but its environmental sustainability has also declined. Population pressure is heavy due to a limited transmigration and population growth and has created high land demand. Land destruction seems to run faster that reforestation. Ideally forest coverage was around 30% in every river basin area, but vegetation coverage has declined to much less than 30%. The government will focus on disaster-prone regions and prepare a long-term strategy. Flood and landslide disasters have been dealt with by the local governments. doclink

    Can Our Planet Support the Rise of China and India?

    January 14, 2006, Taipei Times

    Two of Washington's environmental think tanks warn that the economic boom in China and India could present one of the world's gravest threats to the environment. The two countries have 2.5 billion people, or nearly 40% of the world's population. China eats up one-third of the world's rice, over one-quarter of the world's steel and nearly half of its cement. The Earth cannot supply these countries' rising demands for energy, food, and raw materials. The use of oil has doubled in India since 1992, while China has becoming the world's second largest importer in 2004. Prices worldwide have soared as India and China scooped up shares in oil companies. The US is still the greatest burner of oil, using 25% of global annual supplies and producing 25% of carbon. The average US citizen requires about 9.7 hectares to provide resources and space for waste, 205% of what the country can provide. That figure is only 1.6 hectares for the average Chinese, or 201% of the country's capacity, and 0.8 hectares for the average Indian, or 210% of the country's capacity. Both India and China have programs to use renewable energies. India now aims to raise its share of renewable energies to 20% to 25%. China and India are signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, but as developing nations they are exempted from cutting their emissions. China has taken voluntary measures which have had a very positive impact. doclink

    Annual Report Released of the State of the World

    January 13, 2006, The Worldwatch Institute

    The prospect of China and India becoming the next economic powers of the world raises concerns among environmentalists. The Worldwatch Institute says demands on the environment and natural resources, for an increasing population, and pollution must be addressed. The next few decades will be crucial for the development of our planet. Without new models of development, a reduced dependence on oil and more attention to the preservation of natural resources, many people will suffer. China and India, and their 2.5 billion people, are the keys to a sustainable future. The emergence of these two countries with 40% of the world population moving into a resource intensive, high consumption economy, presents huge challenges. China and India have some promising developments in renewable energy resources, but they show signs of Western-style development in areas such as the use of electric power and automobiles. The U.S. uses ten times more oil per person than China and 20 times as many resources as India. Although the individual demands in China are minimal, the total demands of 1.3 billion people are substantial. The choices countries like China and India make in the next few years, will be decisive. But the president of Competitive Enterprise Institute says the report is another negative story to frighten people and maintain the political control of the rich countries and argues against the global warming, the limitation of resources and the attempts for population control. doclink

    Problems Aplenty in a World of Plenty

    May 14, 2005, InterPress Service

    Humans are devouring more resources and the worldwide pursuit of prosperity is stoking environmental and security problems. Increased consumption reflects economic growth in 2004, but costs of economic growth go largely unnoticed. Pollution is rising, ecosystems are degraded, and many of the poor shut out from the gains of economic growth. Chinese demand for oil surged by 11% to 6.6 million barrels a day, fuelling the increase in oil consumption. Chinese demand has driven up steel production by one-third in the last five years. China's economy has grown by 9% in 2004, but these gains have led to environmental problems that pose threats to the planet. Air pollution is estimated to cause 590,000 deaths per year in China and the economic growth has led to a jump in its emissions of greenhouse gases that scientists blame for global warming. China emits 47% more carbon dioxide than in 1990. The country now ranks second in emissions and these are projected to keep increasing. Wealthy nations remain a major threat to the environment. The US is home to 5% of the world's population but more than 25% of greenhouse gases. It consumes 20 million barrels of oil every day. More than half of the world's 6.3 billion people live on less than two dollars per day and more than one billion lack safe water, proper nutrition, basic health care, and services needed to survive. World production of grains, meat, and fish rose in 2004 but the number of hungry people also rose for the first time since the 1970s. Despite economic growth, a record number of people were looking for a job in 2003, a cause of instability across the developing world. In the Middle East, 58% percent of the population is under 25, 25% of young people of working age are unemployed. Many nations have responded by increasing defence spending that worldwide rose to $932 billion in 2003. By contrast, the world's donor countries spent $68 billion in 2003 on development aid. doclink

    Experts Say That Attention to Ecosystem Services is Needed to Achieve Global Development Goals

    March 30, 2005, Push News Journal

    Approximately 60% of the ecosystem that supports life on Earth - such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests - are being used unsustainably. The harmful consequences could grow worse in the next 50 years. Any progress in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services continue to be degraded. The ongoing degradation of ecosystem services is a road block to the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by the world leaders at the United Nations in 2000. Experts warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of changes that will affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, changes in water quality, "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate. doclink

    Nations Ranked as Protectors of the Environment

    January 24, 2005, New York Times*

    Countries from Northern and Central Europe and South America dominated the top spots in the 2005 index which ranks nations on maintaining or improving air and water quality, maximizing biodiversity and cooperating on environmental problems. Finland, Norway and Uruguay held the top three spots. The U.S. ranked 45th. The lowest-ranking country was North Korea. Near the bottom were Haiti, Taiwan, Iraq and Kuwait. The report is based on 75 measures, including the rate at which children die from respiratory diseases, fertility rates, water quality, overfishing, emission of heat-trapping gases and the export of sodium dioxide, a component of acid rain. It offers a step toward a more vigorous approach to environmental decision making. The report cited a correlation between high-ranking countries and countries with effective governments. The report's flaws stem from inadequate data and the ranking is approximate. At 33, Russia's ranking is a consequence of the country's vast size. It has vast, untrammeled resources and more clean water than anywhere in the world. This report analyzed seven clusters of similar countries with the U.S. slightly below the halfway point among 24 members of the Organization of American States. Another cluster ranked countries whose land is more than 50% desert. Israel ranked second, after Namibia, and the best-performing Arab countries were Oman and Jordan. But some nations with considerable oil wealth, like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, ranked in the bottom third. South Korea moved up 13 spots between 2002 and the new report, but was only 122 in the overall index, and 14th out of 21 high-density countries in which more than half the land has a population density greater than 100 people per square kilometer. doclink

    The Earth's Life-support System is in Peril - a Global Crisis

    January 20, 2004, Herald (Scotland)

    Our planet is changing and many environmental indicators have moved outside their range of the past half-million years. If we cannot develop policies to cope with this, the consequences may be huge. We have made progress. Life expectancy and standards of living have increased for many, but the population has grown to six billion, and continues to grow. The global economy has increased 15-fold since 1950 and this progress has begun to affect the planet and how it functions. For example, the increase in CO2 is 100 PPM and growing.

    During the 1990's, the average area of tropical forest cleared each year was equivalent to half the area of England. The impacts of global change are complex, as they combine with regional environmental stresses. Coral reefs, which were under stress from fishing, tourism and pollutants, are now under pressure from carbonate chemistry in ocean surface waters from the increase in CO2. The wildfires that hit the world last year were a result of land management, ignition sources and extreme local weather probably linked to climate change.

    Poor access to fresh water is expected to nearly double with population growth. Biodiversity losses, will be exacerbated by climate change. Beyond 2050, regional climate change, could have huge consequences.

    The Earth has entered the Anthropocene Era in which humans are a dominating environmental force. Global environmental change challenges the political decision-making process and will have to be based on risks that events will happen, or scenarios will unfold. Global environmental change is often gradual until critical thresholds are passed.

    Some rapid changes such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet would be irreversible in any meaningful timescale, while other changes may be unstoppable. We know that there are risks of rapid and irreversible changes to which it would be difficult to adapt. Incremental change will not prevent climate change, water depletion, deforestation or biodiversity loss. Breakthroughs in technologies and resource management that will affect economic sectors and lifestyles are required. International frameworks are essential for addressing global change. Never before has a multilateral system been more necessary. Will we accept the challenge or wait until a catastrophic, irreversible change is upon us? doclink

    No mention of the success that voluntary family planning has been, and how meeting the unmet need for contraception and reducing maternal and infant mortality is vitally important for reducing population growth fast enough.

    Forum: WHO and Population Growth

    December 21, 2003, Daniel Quinn Q & A

    The WHO estimates the population to rise to 12 billion people and then stabilize in 2050-60. WHO says this proves that family planning works and all talk about collapse is just cultism - there is no cause for alarm. The WHO projection would make sense if the REST of the earth's living community remained stable. Unfortunately in order to sustain a human population of 6 billion we are losing 70,000 species a year. We are in a period of mass extinction for which the human population is responsible. A human population of 6 billion is not sustainable; the living community cannot indefinitely sustain a loss of 70,000 species a year. As our population grows, the number of extinctions will increase. Our population might become stable at 12 billion but that does not mean the REST of the living community would be stable. And our survival depends on its survival. Some experts still have the ridiculous idea that humanity is separate from the rest of the living community. doclink

    Global Economy Consuming More Than Earth Can Yield, Expert Warns

    September 5, 2003, Agence France Presse

    The global economy is using natural resources faster than they can be renewed, says Lester Brown of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute. We are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than the earth can absorb it. Our economy is based on cutting trees faster than they can grow, overpumping aquifers, and draining rivers. Soil erosion in our croplands exceeds new soil formation. We are taking fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce. We are creating an economy whose output is inflated by drawing down the earth's natural capital. The challenge is to deflate the global economic bubble before it bursts when it will affect the entire world. To avoid this, action must be taken to reduce water consumption to a sustainable level and address population stability, particularly in developing countries, as well as stabilizing emissions. Avoiding the effects of higher temperatures on crop yields means quickly stabilizing climate by cutting global carbon emissions in half by 2015. doclink

    Does the World Have the Will to Feed the Hungry?

    August 11, 2000, Agence France Presse

    Despite the fact that the global population is growing fast and is expected
    to top eight billion by 2030 and 9 billion by 2050, the United Nations Food
    and Agriculture organization (FAO) says the world has the resources and the
    know-how to feed everyone, but half a billion people will go hungry and many
    millions will starve to death due to war, politics and economics, more than
    climate change, natural disasters or plagues. FAO reports that the numbers
    of undernourished people in developing countries has declined from 960
    million (or 37% of the global population) to 790 million (18%) in 1996. FAO
    says that cereal production is growing faster globally than the world
    population. The world can produce enough food for each person to have a
    quota of 2,720 kilocalories per capita per day, although in sub-Saharan
    Africa, the average is only 90 calories above the agreed critical threshold
    of 2,100. The French relief organization Action Against Hunger (ACF) says
    "Famine is no longer a result of natural disaster. The map of great famines
    exactly matches that of wars." Conflicts over land or resources such as
    diamonds, oil and water are likely to continue preventing the even spread of
    food supplies. "In the Vanni region of Sri Lanka, the population is on the
    brink of starvation, because the government has banned the use of fertilizer
    for the reason that it could be used by the Tamil Tiger rebels to make
    bombs. In Iraq, because President Saddam Hussein has not complied with
    western demands, 1.4 million Iraqis have died including 500,000 children,
    the UN estimates. Unknown numbers of Chinese peasants go hungry and Cubans
    and North Koreans are on rations of 500 calories a day due to the political
    isolation of their governments. In addition, the strain on fresh water
    reserves is expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years, and age-old
    tension between dry countries is likely to be exacerbated. Even if food
    needs are met, there is growing concern that the environment will continue
    to deteriorate as a result of pollution, erosion and deforestation, making
    land, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, increasingly unproductive.
    Technical advances such as genetically modified foods and increasingly
    efficient farming methods make the outlook for industrial food production
    hopeful. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Not all would agree with FAO's optimism and many wonder what the world will do for fertilizer when petroleum becomes less accessible, and what will happen when overpumped aquifers can no longer support crops.

    Impacts for the New Millenium

    January 22, 1999, Worldwatch Institute

    World energy needs are projected to double in the next several decades, but no credible geologist foresees a doubling of world oil production, which is projected to peak within the next few decades.

    * While protein demands are projected to also double in the century ahead, no respected marine biologist expects the oceanic fish catch, which has plateaued over the last decade, to double. The world's oceans are being pushed beyond the breaking point, due to a lethal combination of pollution and over-exploitation. Eleven of the 15 most important oceanic fisheries and 70 percent of the major fish species are now fully or over-exploited, according to experts. And more than half the world's coral reefs are now sick or dying.

    * Growing stress can also be seen in the world's woodlands, where the clearing of tropical forests has contributed recently to unprecedented fires across large areas of Southeast Asia, the Amazon, and Central America. In Indonesia alone, 1,100 airline flights were canceled, and billions of dollars of income were lost.

    * Environmental deterioration is taking a growing toll on a wide range of living organisms. Of the 242,000 plant species surveyed by the World Conservation Union in 1997, some 33,000, or 14 percent, are threatened with extinction-mainly as a result of massive land clearing for housing, roads, and industries. This mass extinction is projected to disrupt nature's ability to provide essential ecosystem services, ranging from pollination to flood control.

    * The atmosphere is also under assault. The billions of tons of carbon that have been released since the Industrial Revolution have pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to their highest level in 160,000 years-a level that continues to rise each year. As scientists predicted, temperatures are rising along with the concentration of carbon dioxide. The latest jump in 1998 left the global temperature at its highest level since record-keeping began in the mid-19th century. Higher temperatures are projected to threaten food supplies in the next century, while more severe storms cause economic damage, and rising seas inundate coastal cities. doclink

    Irrigation of farmland, as it has been practiced throughout history and up to the present time, cannot be sustained. i.e. - The lands become poisoned with salts.

    Hydroelectric power generated from reservoirs created by construction of large dams, cannot be sustained.
    i.e. -The reservoirs fill with silt. doclink

    Happiness, Life, Or Wealth?

    Ralph Woodgate, Brewster NY

    The article by Bjorn Lomborg and Oliver Rubin in the Nov/Dec 2002 issue of Foreign Policy Magazine takes a simplistic, one-sided view of a complex situation and from this the authors attempt to define its eventual outcome. In doing so they are careful to omit any evidence that does not agree with their assumptions.

    For example the comment that "Vital minerals ---- should have been exhausted now. But they aren't." A search of the Internet pages will quickly show that this is not the case, for example there is concern that lack of certain metals may limit fuel cell production. Some metals are likely to be depleted by the middle of this century. The comment "Yet food prices have never been lower" is not evidence that there is enough food in the world. A recent report states that 800 million people are undernourished or starving. Would the world's food prices have been lower if all of these people had been fed? Development and changing weather patterns are reducing permanently the amount of arable land and a growing population is demanding more food. Then there is the comment that "Few (of the world's) resources have turned out to be essential". Water is essential and the supply for both domestic and agricultural purposes is becoming critical in many countries, including our own. Some states are looking to de-salination as the solution, but this and pumping water over long distances demands more electrical power. With our growing population there is an increasing problem of pollution of our drinking water sources and water treatment is an option that also demands an increase in the amount of power available. Much of that power is generated from oil and natural gas. New reserves will continue to be discovered but a recent detailed report states that we now find one barrel of oil for every four we consume and new gas findings will peak in 2020. So here is another resource that is essential and for which we have no clear alternative. In spite of the efforts of technology we have no alternatives for oil and gas. The wind generators being installed are only estimated to produce a small proportion of our present and ever growing power needs. As the authors suggest, technology will change the picture, but can only help us to use our limited resources as efficiently as possible. Technology cannot replace limited resources. We could, if necessary, live without personal transport, but we cannot live without food and water, and our lifestyle will totally change without available power.

    Nowhere in the entire article is there any attempt to consider the ultimate way of life of the peoples of the earth, for example the phrase "For starters, global warming does not have remotely the same impact on wealth as would a theoretical exhaustion of essential world resources." Are we then linking the well being of our people only to wealth?

    Towards the end there is the comment that "had the emission of carbon dioxide posed a real threat to future growth, the global community would be capable of significantly limiting carbon dioxide emissions with the technology at hand." Have the authors failed to notice the many very costly efforts being made to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide, yet there is still a need for even further reduction. Finally there is the comment that "corruption, barriers to trade and war are the real threats to growth and prosperity". This suggests that growth and prosperity go hand in hand and if we continue to grow and prosper then in some strange but undetermined manner everything else will take care of itself. We will all be fed, the oil will flow and we will all have water in plenty no matter how much our population grows. This is so obviously impossible that perhaps the authors prefer not to look at hard facts. On the other hand they may believe that the birthrate will in some undetermined manner automatically fall. But according to their paper that would then be "too low to sustain a vibrant workforce", which would threaten "growth and prosperity".

    We must determine what lifestyle we want for the foreseeable future and only then can we determine the population level that we can support in that manner. We can then begin to plan the future for our world. Of course it will be difficult, it will take years to reach our goals and there will be many changes en route, but we will have some objectives to measure our performance. It is sad to see so many half truths and distortions of facts on such an important subject. doclink

    How May People Can the World Support? It Depends...

    Huffington Post

    by Carl Safina

    If people are using the world's forests, fishes, soils, freshwater and other resources something like 25% faster than the world can replace them, it means, basically, that the world would already be broke if we weren't taking so heavily from the future.

    In his 1848 essay "The Art of Living," John Stuart Mill said: "There is room in the world, no doubt... for a great increase in population... I confess I see very little reason for desiring it."

    "If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which... the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or happier population, I sincerely hope... they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it."

    Growing at just one percent annually, a population doubles in just 70 years. During the 20th century, world population quadrupled; it's now approaching 7 billion. By 2050, we'll add to that more than the total human population of 1950.

    If everyone gets 800 kilograms of grains annually, like Americans, then the world can carry 2.5 billion people. We passed that number in 1950. The world could support 10 billion people living like Indians. But most Indians want to live more like Americans.

    We need wood to build our homes, meaning the forests of Indonesia, Burma, the Russian far-east, and Papua New Guinea will be largely gone by around 2025, and with them their birds, bugs, and Orangutans.

    To have as many cars per person as the U.S., China will need 30% more cars than exist worldwide today. Driving them would burn 98 million barrels of oil a day, but the world only produces 85 million barrels.

    We need a new, non-burning energy economy, a way of reducing population, and a way of replacing the delusion of infinite growth.

    Four billion people live on less than $2 per day. Nearly a billion people get less than 80% of the UN-recommended caloric intake; they are, technically, starving. Undernourished women annually bear 20 million underweight infants, and more than half of Indian newborns would be in intensive care if born in California.

    One-quarter of the world's people consume more than three-quarters of the world's goods. That's not fair. But to give everyone an American level of material living, we'd need two and a half Earths. That's not possible.

    Because forests, oceans, croplands, and water supplies are all being depleted by the number of people we have now, a grim logic appears irrefutable: As we add people, either everyone will get poorer on average, or the poor will get much poorer. Or the population will be adjusted in the usual way: with shortages, bullets, and bombs. doclink

    Population: the Last Taboo

    Mother Jones magazine - May/June 2010 Issue

    Note: this very long article is well worth reading. To do it justice, follow the link in the headline for the entire article. Otherwise read the following shortened version. Please also read my comments below. Karen Gaia

    Calcutta (Kolkata) is home to about 5 million people, at a population density of 70,000 per square mile - 2.5 times more crowded than New York City. Another 9 million live in the urban agglomeration, bringing the population of greater Kolkata to 14 million.

    Survival in the 21st century lies in the depth of the snowpack in the Himalayas, the sustainable tonnage of fish caught in the Bay of Bengal, in the inches of topsoil remaining on the Indian plains, and in the parts per million of coal smoke in the air. The root cause of India's dwindling resources and escalating pollution is the same: the continued exponential growth of humankind.

    Around 1965 the people of the Earth collectively taxed only 70% of the Earth's biocapacity each year. We first overdrew our accounts in 1983, when our population of nearly 4.7 billion began to consume natural resources faster than they could be replenished. Last year, 6.8 billion of us consumed the renewable resources of 1.4 Earths.

    The United Nations projects that world population will stabilize at 9.1 billion in 2050. This prediction assumes a decline from the current average global fertility rate of 2.56 children per woman to 2.02 children per woman in the years between 2045 and 2050.

    But if mothers average half a child more in 2045, the world population will peak at 10.5 billion five years later. Half a child less, and it stabilizes at 8 billion. The difference in those projections-2.5 billion-is the total number of people alive on Earth in 1950.

    The only known solution to ecological overshoot is to decelerate our population growth faster than it's decelerating now and eventually reverse it - at the same time we slow and eventually reverse the rate at which we consume the planet's resources. Success in these twin endeavors will crack our most pressing global issues: climate change, food scarcity, water supplies, immigration, health care, biodiversity loss, even war.

    On one front, we've already made unprecedented strides, reducing global fertility from an average 4.92 children per woman in 1950 to 2.56 today - an accomplishment of trial and sometimes brutally coercive error, but also a result of one woman at a time making her individual choices. The speed of this childbearing revolution, swimming hard against biological programming, rates as perhaps our greatest collective feat to date.

    But it's still not fast enough. Faced with a world that can support either a lot of us consuming a lot less or far fewer of us consuming more, we're deadlocked. On the divisive question of the ideal size of the human family, we're united in a pact of silence.

    In India, where the dynamics of overpopulation and overconsumption are most acute, where the lifelines between water, food, fuel, and 1.17 billion people - 17% of humanity subsisting on less than 2.5% of the globe's land - are already stretched dangerously thin.

    Fears from the past-of racism, eugenics, colonialism, forced sterilization, forced family planning, plus the fears from some of contraception, abortion, and sex are reasons we don't talk about overpopulation. We don't really talk about overconsumption because of ignorance about the economics of overpopulation and the true ecological limits of Earth.

    In 1798 in an Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus, a political economist, argued that humans were destined to grow geometrically, while food production could increase only arithmetically, guaranteeing that famine would cinch the growth of humankind within the scarce purse of resources.

    Malthus opposed government assistance to the poor on the grounds that it enabled more people to reproduce without the means to support themselves. He suggested a solution to the growing numbers of impoverished people he considered poor specimens, a eugenics-like answer popular in his time, based on animal husbandry and designed to "upgrade" the human race. In addition, Reverend Malthus believed families needed to limit their numbers of children, yet he opposed contraception. Only abstinence was acceptable.

    Long before Malthus, humans sought to accommodate promiscuous intercourse without the entanglements of pregnancy. Even prior to the European discovery of rubber in the New World, men wore condoms: of oiled silk paper; fine leather or tortoiseshell.

    India today prides itself on being the world's largest democracy. But it's also the hungriest, only recently and barely liberated from "the most dreadful famines" Malthus wrote of. One of every two underfed people on Earth lives here. 40% of Indian children under the age of five are underweight and stunted. India's underfed are increasing. In the state of Bihar, 9 of 10 rural children are anemic, a telltale marker of hunger and malnutrition.

    In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich predicted that India could not possibly attain food self- sufficiency. Instead, American agronomist Norman Borlaug's "Green Revolution" brought dwarf wheat strains and chemical fertilizers to increase India's crop yields 168% within a decade, defusing defused the population 'bomb; and earning Ehrlich the dismissive title of Malthusian. Ever since, the subject has been largely taboo.

    David Brower, the former executive director, of the Sierra, originally suggested Ehrlich write The Population Bomb. The Sierra Club had long supported population stabilization. But in the 1990s, anti-immigration activists spurred by John Tanton-who controls an array of English-only, zero- immigration, and nativist groups-stealthily twice attempted to take over the board. Perhaps naively, some Sierra Club stalwarts concerned with population joined their cause. The battle lasted for a decade, culminating when Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center ran for Sierra's board in an effort to expose Tanton's true agenda-and the fact that one of his groups had accepted money from white supremacists. [Karen Gaia: This is not the whole story - see note below].

    Ehrlich's NGO Zero Population Growth then parted ways with Tanton (a past president), renamed itself the Population Connection, and embraced an end-poverty-to-curb-population approach. Ehrlich and his wife Anne, a conservation biologist, also left the board of Tanton's Federation for American Immigration Reform. Yet the scars between environmentalists and the development community are only beginning to heal. "When you talk about population," says Larry Fahn, Sierra Club president during some of the bitterest infighting, "the immigration people come out of the woodwork with their hate mongering. It's unfortunate that the subject brings out a racist agenda."

    Abortion is an even more toxic issue. "Many conservation and nongovernmental organizations that run on member support, even the big ones, shy away from the population issue, because it puts their funding at risk. Even if you're talking about population as a sustainability issue, there's often an automatic assumption you'll be talking about abortion."

    Despite the silence, the problem of overpopulation has not gone away. The miracle of the Green Revolution disguised four ominous truths about Earth's limits:

    1. Chemical fertilizers of nitrogen and phosphorus are destined to run out, along with the natural resources used to produce them;

    2. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that grew the food that enabled our enormous population growth in the 20th century bore expensive downstream costs in the form of polluted land, water, and air that now threaten life

    3. Increasing fertilizer use has become necessary to keep crop yields stable, oversaturating the soils with nitrogen, and yields are starting to fall despite this;

    4. Topsoil is being to the wind via mechanized agriculture, runoff and erosion.

    Geomorphologist David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations calculates that human activities are eroding topsoil 10 times faster than it can be replenished. "Just when we need more soil to feed the 10 billion people of the future," he says, "we'll actually have less - only a quarter of an acre of cropland per person in 2050, versus the half-acre we use today on the most efficient farms." ... "We could, with crippling environmental costs, raze the Amazonian rainforests and reap 5 to 10 years of crops before the tropical soils failed. But the fertile prairies of the Midwest, northern China, and northern Europe are already plowed to capacity and shrinking."

    Nearly a quarter of India's lands, more than 314,000 square miles, are desert or in the process of becoming desert, according to a recent Indian government report. Desertification will double India's current water usage by 2030, as more water is rerouted to irrigate an increasingly drier landscape to grow rice, wheat, and sugar for an increasing population, including the growing demands of a growing middle class. Severe deficits in water - and, by default, food - are forecast in India by 2030.

    With the combined factors of peak oil, peak topsoil with global warming, a 20 to 30% decline in crop yields in the next 80 years is predicted by the peer-reviewed journal Science.

    The process of photosynthesis itself declines precipitously as temperatures rise above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, making it increasingly difficult to maintain - let alone increase - crop yields. (The European heat wave of 2003 that killed up to 50,000 people also slashed crop harvests by as much as 36%.) Rising temperatures will put nearly all of India's crops at risk in the near future.

    India's "atmospheric brown cloud"-the smog that fouls the subcontinent between monsoons-could undermine crop yields by up to 40%. Not only is there more smog in Asia, but Asian crops appear more sensitive to smog than crops in North America or Europe, even crops of the same variety. No one knows why.

    The UN calculates that 36 million die of hunger and malnutrition every year-a person every second, mostly women and children. History may yet remember Paul Ehrlich as the premature prophet, not the false one, his predictions off by decades rather than degree.

    I'm struck by how some of us are literally siphoning the flesh and blood from the rest of us, segregating ourselves into beings so calorically and structurally different that paleontologists of the distant future might well classify our fossilized skeletons as separate species.

    At the time agriculture was invented,Homo Sapiens had super-prolific birth rates, but short life expectancies averaging a mere 10 years, breeding and dying in boom cycles busted by famines, natural disasters, diseases, and violence. Around 500 AD, we suffered centuries of bust, ravaged by the Black Death and its piggybacking disasters sweeping west from Asia-the last check on our growth. Since then, nothing has reversed our growth.

    Two hundred million women have no access whatsoever to contraception, contributing to the one in four unplanned births worldwide and the 50 million pregnancies aborted each year, half of them performed clandestinely, killing 68,000 women in the process.John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health at University College, London says it is not true that that poor rural couples actively plan to have large families because of high child mortality or to provide for their care in old age. They have large families simply because they, like most of us, have sex many, many times in their lifetimes and they do not have adequate contraception.

    139 million new people are added every year: more than an entire Japan, nearly an entire Russia, minus the homelands and the resources to go along with them. Countered against the 56 million deaths annually, our world gains 83 million extra people every year, the equivalent of another Iran.

    Eventually, most of these 83 million new people added every year will have kids, too.

    Statistician Paul Murtaugh of Oregon State University decided to investigate the environmental price tag of a baby. "An American child born today adds an average 10,407 tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of her mother. That's almost six times more CO2 than the mother's own lifetime emissions. Furthermore, the ecological costs of that child and her children far outweigh even the combined energy-saving choices from all a mother's other good decisions, like buying a fuel- efficient car, recycling, using energy-saving appliances and lightbulbs. The carbon legacy of one American child and her offspring is 20 times greater than all those other sustainable maternal choices combined."

    Due to India's drastically lower levels of consumption combined with shorter lifespans (63.8 years on average for India, versus 80.2 years for the US), an American child has 55 times the carbon legacy of a child born to a family in India. While India is conservatively predicted to grow by 400 million people by 2050, the US is projected to grow by 86 million. But take those additional Americans and factor in their 55-times-higher carbon legacy (at current national consumption rates), and they will equal the legacy of 4.7 billion Indians.

    "The irony," says Ramdas of the Global Fund for Women, "is that just as some Americans are starting to learn to live more like traditional Indians-becoming vegetarian, buying locally, eating organic-aspiring middle-class Indians are trying to live more like overconsuming Americans. The question really is, which kind of people do we want less of?"

    Stage Two of population growth: In the late 18th century in Britain, the onset of urbanization and industrialization brought about the first population explosion, as birth rates leveled but death rates plunged dramatically. This was spawned (ironically, despite Malthus' fears) by more and better food: the superior nutrition of corn and potatoes imported from the Americas, and an agricultural revolution brought on by scientific advances in farming. Stage two was also triggered by a revolution in our understanding of disease, which led to better handling of water, sewage, food, and ourselves. The primary driver behind this new science of hygiene was increased literacy among women, who wrote and read health-education pamphlets, and who managed the daily cleanliness of families and hospitals.

    The ripple of change that comes from empowering women - what some call the 'the girl effect'- is uniting the once-divided conservation and human rights communities.

    Stage three is when fertility rates drop closer to death rates. India today is navigating stage three, which includes a contraceptive revolution, different in every time and place: in Europe 200 years ago, a revolution of coitus interruptus and condoms; in India today, birth control pills and, often, sterilization after the first son is born. This pivotal phase coincides with profound cultural changes, as women end their isolation in the home to enter the workplace and network with other women. Wage-earning women claim more responsibility for childbearing and child-rearing decisions, leading to a revolution in children's lives, as the decision is made to pay for schooling-a costly choice necessitating smaller families. This choice is strongly influenced by female literacy, since women who can read even slightly are more likely to send their daughters to school.

    In India today, 75% of men are literate, compared to only 54% of women-one of the most lopsided ratios among newly industrialized nations. The statistic corresponds directly to fertility. In the state of Bihar, next door to West Bengal, where literacy falls below the national average-to 60% for males and 33% for females-the total fertility rate swings up to four children per woman. Conversely, the southern Indian state of Kerala, which boasts 94% male literacy and 88% female literacy, has reached a below-replacement-rate fertility that resembles the industrialized world's, at only 1.9 children per woman.

    Of the more than 1 in 10 people who can't read or write today, two-thirds are female. Locate them, and you'll find an uncannily accurate roadmap of societal strife-of civil wars, foreign wars, the wars against reason embedded in religiosity, the wars against equality ingrained in patriarchal and caste systems.

    When women are educated, they tend to marry later in life, to have children later in life, and to have fewer children. In effect, you have a form of population control that's peaceful, voluntary, and efficient. Plus, educated women do better in business, raising economic growth rates, and lowering societal conflict.

    In 2003, the predominantly Catholic Philippines bowed to church demands to support only "natural family planning" - otherwise known as the rhythm method, and grimly referred to as Vatican roulette. The Filipino government no longer provides contraceptives for poor Filipinas, and government clinics no longer distribute donated contraceptives, including the wealth of modern birth control once provided by the US Agency for International Development.

    Today more than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unplanned-10% more than a decade ago. In a first-of-its kind study in the Philippines, the Guttmacher Institute calculates that easy access to contraception would reduce those births by 800,000 and abortions by half a million a year. Furthermore, it would deliver a net savings to the government on the order of $16.5 million a year in reduced health costs from unwanted pregnancies, including the brutal medical consequences of illegal back-alley abortions.

    Iran's fertility rate: 7 in 1980; 1.7 today. From a high of 7.7 in 1966, total fertility fell to 6 during the Shah's reign, spiked to 7 during the Islamic Revolution (when marriage became legal for 12-year-old boys and 9-year-old girls), then plummeted 50% between 1988 and 1996, continuing down to 1.7 today. That plunge, known as the "Iranian miracle," was one of the most rapid fertility declines ever recorded. Women of all childbearing ages in urban and rural parts of the country simply began to have smaller families practically overnight. The feat was engineered through a mobilization between government and media: Information was broadcast nationwide about the value of small families, followed up with education about birth control, implemented with free contraceptives.

    Progressive social measures further primed Iran: increasing public education for girls (today more than 60% of Iranian university students are women); a new health care system; access to electricity, safe water, transportation, and communication. Similar fertility reversals have occurred in Costa Rica, Cuba, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, and Morocco-as quickly as in China but minus the brutal one-child policy.

    The United States has been less helpful lately, beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1984, the "global gag rule," also known as the Mexico City Policy, prohibited US funding of any foreign family planning organizations providing abortions. The gag rule barred the discussion of abortion or any critique of unsafe abortions, even if these medical services were implemented with the group's own money (a ruling that would have been unconstitutional in the US). Bill Clinton rescinded the policy in 1993, but George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001, and before Barack Obama could rescind it again, the flow of aid to developing countries slowed or even stopped, eviscerating health care and severely undermining family planning efforts in at least 26 developing nations, primarily in Africa.

    Joanna Nerquaye-Tetteh, of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, testified before Congress in 2004 on the policy's effects in her country. "The gag rule completely disrupted decades of investment in building up health care services," she said. "We couldn't provide contraceptives and services to nearly 40,000 women who had formerly used our services. We saw within a year a rise in sexually transmitted infections and more women coming to our clinics for post-abortion care as a result of unsafe abortions."

    As a result of the global gag rule, the UN estimates that at its height in 2005, the unmet demand for contraceptives and family planning drove up fertility rates between 15% and 35% in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Arab states, Asia, and Africa-a whole generation of unplanned Bush babies.

    In Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen ("villages") Bank in 1983. His revolutionary model was to loan to the unloanable poor-notably women-who lacked collateral, enabling them to develop their own businesses and free themselves from poverty. This radical innovation won Yunus the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Empirical studies now support his intuition of 27 years ago: Women make better loan recipients than men if your aim is to increase family well-being. Compared to men's loans, women's loans double family income and increase child survival twentyfold.

    The best 21st-century contraceptive is a Yunusian device, a microloan. The paradox embedded in our future is that the fastest way to slow our population growth is to reduce poverty, yet the fastest way to run out of resources is to increase wealth.

    The business of microloans is growing exponentially. Between March 2008 and March 2009, 22.6 million people in India received them, 60% more than a year earlier, despite the worst global recession since the Great Depression. This innovative approach to development is rewriting the demographics of poverty.

    Rajendra Pachauri, cowinner of a Nobel Prize for his chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warns that India's growing population can't afford increased consumption levels. "We can't support lifestyles even remotely like those in Europe and North America," he says. "We need policy initiatives to assure this doesn't happen. But the movement has to take place in both hemispheres. Awareness has to be raised in both the East and the West to deglamorize unsurvivable consumerism."

    As of 2005, women in 18 of the 24 wealthiest nations were having more babies than in previous years. Nobody knows why. These 18 are the US, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Israel, Italy, Sweden, France, Iceland, the UK, New Zealand, Greece, and Ireland. The exceptions are: Japan, Canada, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, and South Korea. This fifth stage is upending a key tenet of social science: that increasing wealth, education, and gender equality invariably and irreversibly trigger a decline in fertility and a smaller population. This small but important fertility increase is good news for those who worry about Social Security deficits, but bad news for those who worry about societal security on a planet with finite resources.

    What portion of the increase is due to the cultural norms of new immigrants? Or to abstinence education? The only known correlates are the highest levels of economic and social development. Perhaps the core question is, how much has our silence around population growth contributed to the emergence of this fifth demographic stage? Even in rich nations, most families calculate the costs of each child in their household budget-in the size of their house, the need for quality child care, and college costs. So would these same families make different decisions if they were calculating the costs of each child in their (equally limited) planetary budget-in the costs of clean air, water, and adequate food for all?

    The paradox embedded in our future is that the fastest way to slow our population growth is to reduce poverty, yet the fastest way to run out of resources is to increase wealth. The trial ahead is to strike the delicate compromise: between fewer people, and more people with fewer needs...all within a new economy geared toward sustainability. Perhaps this is the sixth stage in our demographic maturity: the transition from 20th-century family planning to 21st-century civilizational planning. doclink

    This is a wonderful article that I highly recommend. It talks about some reasons why the subject is taboo. However, the section on the Sierra Club and its fight with 'anti-immigration' activists displays lack of understanding on the author's part. First of all, the controversial elections took part in the early 2000's, not early 1990s. Second, to call them anti-immigration, or worse yet, anti-immigrant, is highly inaccurate. I was very involved with Sierra Club population program starting in 1998, when the Club was having problems with some very insensitive immigration reductionists (or restrictionists, another acceptable term). Up until 1996, the Sierra Club supported a reduction in population growth of the U.S. regardless of whether it was from births or immigration. SUSPS was formed in 1996 after the Sierra Club reversed its 30-year comprehensive population policy which addressed both the impacts of fertility and mass migration on U.S. population growth. SUSPS felt that the large co

    There Really is Only One Kind of Sustainability

    Without clean air, productive soils, replenished aquifers---without biodiversity services---any economy will collapse. And once the environment is trashed, try milking your "robust" economy for tax revenues to buy another one. Yet that is what corporate and government green wash implies.

    This reasoning is equivalent to saying that while it is desirable that I have a triple bypass operation, I must postpone the operation until I can afford it by continuing to work overtime at my strenuous job.

    Our economy and our culture are completely dependent on the health of the environment. It is much easier to define what constitutes unsustainable or an irreversible change in the system. Sustainability doesn't come in different brands.

    Contemporary culture as we know it cannot survive an ecological meltdown. The nation itself would not endure. doclink

    New Index Highlights Most Overpopulated Countries

    Optimum Population Trust

    The most overpopulated state is Singapore, followed by Israel and Kuwait, according The Overpopulation Index, published today by the Optimum Population Trust, ranking countries by their degree of overpopulation.

    In the Index, 130 countries are ranked according to the sustainability of their populations - the extent to which they are living within their environmental means. 77 of them are considered overpopulated - they are consuming more resources than they are producing and are dependent on other countries, and ultimately the Earth as a whole, to make good the difference.

    The Middle East and Europe are the most overpopulated regions. China and India, despite having the highest populations, rank lower, at 29th and 33rd respectively. The world as a whole, meanwhile, is overpopulated by two billion - the difference between its actual population and the number it can support sustainably, given current lifestyles and technologies.

    The Index is calculated using ecological footprinting, which measures the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the resources and absorb the waste of a given population and expresses this in global hectares - hectares with world-average biological productivity. The Ecological Footprint Atlas, using figures from 2006, was used for this Index.

    As an example, a UK citizen has a per capita ecological footprint of 6.12 global hectares but because of the size of the population, their "share" of national biocapacity is less, at only 1.58 global hectares. Thus the U.K. has a self-sufficiency rating of 25.8% - the proportion of its footprint it derives from its own resources - and a corresponding dependency rating of 74.2%. If it had to rely on its own biocapacity, the UK could sustain only a quarter of its population - around 15 million - and at current consumption levels is "overpopulated" by more than 45 million.

    Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, is notable by its relative absence from the index. The population of Africa as a whole is currently living within its limits, with a self-sufficiency rating of 107%.

    "Overpopulation" is questionable word, but we believe the index helps to anchor it firmly in the realm of sustainability - of people living within the limits of the place they inhabit. The index also clarifies what we really mean by sustainability and how important human numbers are to the concept.

    The index only covers countries where footprint exceeds biocapacity. Here is a list of countries which currently have a self-sufficiency rating of 100% or more"

    Somalia (105.2%), Cambodia (105.5%), Africa (106.3%), Panama (107.1%), Senegal (109.4%), Gambia (109.4%), Botswana (110.1%), Lithuania (110.2%), Venezuela- Bolivarian Republic of (113.7%), Niger (114.2%), Kyrgyzstan (118.1%), Ecuador (121.2%), Sudan (126.4%), Sierra Leone (129.4%), Chile (132.1%), Lao People's Democratic Republic (132.9%), Mali (136.8%), Estonia (140.1%), Russian Federation (142.5%), Nicaragua (145.3%), Norway (145.4%), Latvia (157.3%), New Zealand (159.0%), Myanmar (160.7%), Côte d'Ivoire (174.8%), Cameroon (185.1%), Solomon Islands (185.3%), Chad (192.3%), Guinea (200.6%), Mauritania (203.0%), Colombia (206.5%), Papua New Guinea (219.1%), Oceania (220.9%), Latin America and the Caribbean (222.8%), Liberia (224.8%), Eritrea (225.9%), Peru (226.9%), Argentina (234.9%), Finland (235.7%), Zambia (244.6%), Madagascar (270.9%), Namibia (290.4%), Canada (296.6%), Paraguay (321.8%), Guinea-Bissau (335.4%), Angola (355.1%), Congo- Democratic Republic of (361.6%), Central African Republic (585.7%), Bolivia (803.9%), Congo (1372.7%) doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I think the numbers may have changed a lot in the four years since 2006, now that China and other more affluent countries are making crop land grabs in poorer countries like Sudan and Ethiopia.

    Finland Tops Environmental Scorecard at World Economic Forum in Davos


    The latest Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) ranks Norway, Uruguay, Sweden and Iceland two to five respectively, their success attributed to natural resources, low population density, and management of environment. The ESI ranks countries on environmental sustainability, pollution levels, environmental management, protection of the global commons, and capacity to improve its environmental performance. The U.S., which is placed 45th behind the Netherlands and ahead of the U.K., reflects top performance on water quality and environmental protection. But the U.S. was ranked bottom on waste and greenhouse gas. The lowest ranked countries are North Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - all face challenges, and have poorly managed policies. Belgium is as wealthy as Sweden, but it lags with regard to pollution control and natural resource management. Political debate, a free press, lack of corruption, rule of law are correlated with environmental success. Finland is the equal of the U.S. in competitiveness but scores higher on sustainability and outperforms the U.S. from air pollution to global-scale environmental efforts. Developed countries face pollution stresses and consumption-related issues. Developing countries face resource depletion and a lack pollution control. The ESI hones in on human vulnerability to environmental stress, the functioning of ecosystems, and global stewardship and will promote a deeper international understanding of environmental management. doclink

    What is True Sustainability?

    Two modern day thinkers, the economist Herman Daly and Swedish Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, have given sustainability much thought, offering us clear definitions to help us along our journey towards this goal.

    Herman Daly has suggested three simple rules to help define sustainability:

    1. For a renewable resource -- soil, water, forest, fish -- the sustainable rate of use can be no greater than the rate of regeneration of its source. (Thus, for example, fish are harvested unsustainably when they are caught at a rate greater than the rate of growth of the remaining fish population.)

    2. For a nonrenewable resource -- fossil fuel, high-grade mineral ores, fossil groundwater -- the sustainable rate of use can be no greater than the rate at which a renewable resource, used sustainably, can be substituted for it. (For example, an oil deposit would be used sustainably if part of the profits from it were systematically invested in wind farms, photovoltaic arrays, and tree planting, so that when the oil is gone, an equivalent stream of renewable energy is still available.)

    3. For a pollutant, the sustainable rate of emission can be no greater than the rate at which the pollutant can be recycled, absorbed, or rendered harmless in the environment. (For example, sewage can be put into a stream or lake or underground aquifer sustainably no faster than bacteria and other organisms can absorb its nutrients without themselves overwhelming and destabilizing the aquatic ecosystem.)

    Another way of looking at sustainability comes from Swedish Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, who looked to fellow scientists for a consensus on a sustainability definition and guidelines that became known as, "The Natural Step." Robèrt recognized that our world is essentially a closed system, meaning that outside of the sun's energy streaming to Earth, there are no new materials and resources to be found on this planet other than what was here to begin with.

    1. Stored deposits: In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to increasing concentrations of potentially toxic materials that have been "liberated" from where they were stored as deposits inside the Earth's crust. Mankind has been refining natural substances, such as mercury, lead, and radioactive materials, in unnatural concentrations. These substances that were previously bound into stable, durable matrices, such as bedrock or coal, are now accumulating in the biosphere, where they are metabolized into living organisms at ever increasing concentrations. Nothing disappears from our world, and everything that is not bound into a solid, stable matrix eventually disperses into the ecosystem.

    2. Synthetic compounds and other unnatural material byproducts of society: In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to increasing concentrations of unnatural synthetic compounds. If this condition is not met, eventually the concentrations of these substances will reach concentration levels where irreversible changes begin to occur, with potentially dire consequences. The solution is to proactively substitute more common compounds, or ones that break down easily, for certain persistent and unnatural compounds, and for society to use substances efficiently. Remember that even using less of a toxic compound (improved efficiency) will still add up over time to too much of a bad thing, if this compound decomposes slower than the rate at which it is inserted into the biosphere.

    3. Physical degradation of ecosystems and natural resources: We must draw our resources from well-managed ecosystems. Our health and prosperity depend on the capacity of nature to restructure our wastes into new resources. Human activities need to work in harmony with the cyclic principles of nature.

    4. Human needs: Unless basic human socioeconomic needs are met worldwide through fair and efficient use of resources, it will be difficult to coordinate efforts and cooperation to meet conditions one, two, and three on a global scale. In a sustainable society, human needs are met worldwide.

    These four conditions provide us with a definition to help us determine whether a society is sustainable or not. Robèrt's sustainability conversations expanded beyond his circle of friends and the scientific community to public television, Swedish media stars, leading politicians, and even to the King of Sweden. Robèrt's ideas have had a profound effect on many businesses, including IKEA, McDonald's, Electrolux, and many others.

    From looking at both Robèrt's and Daly's definition of sustainability, we see that few things in our modern world are actually built, processed, or manufactured sustainably, including what is generally referred to as "sustainable building", and that we have a long ways to go towards actually making our modern word sustainable.

    Building a sustainable world will not be easy, but it is doable!

    Green tip for the day: Fix it instead of throwing "it" away! When an item is manufactured, far greater inputs in the form of energy and raw materials go into making most items than meets the eye, and far more waste is generated in manufacturing and refining these raw materials than the item that sits in front of you. For example, according to a UN University study, 1.8 tons of raw materials are used to manufacture the average PC, and most of these materials are dumped somewhere as waste. So, when you repair an item rather than throwing it "away," you are reducing your consumption and ecological footprint on the planet. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: with overpopulation (which means a population that is not sustainable), we may be past the point of true sustainability, but we can still ride through the terrific storm ahead in better shape by becoming as sustainabile as possible.


    Humans Face 'Mass Extinction' If Action Isn't Taken in the Next 20 Years

    Human overpopulation and over-consumption by the wealthiest in society are driving factors behind the destruction of species which is having a negative impact on ecosystems
    July 11, 2017, Mirror Online   By: Ryan Hooper

    If over-consumption by well-off people and human overpopulation are not sufficiently addressed within the next 20 years, the human race and wildlife species face the possibility of mass extinction, warns a report by scientists at both Stanford and Mexico City universities.

    This grim warning, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, states that the hidden rate of species population decreases indicates that "Earth's sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume".

    The rate of vertebrate extinction over the last century was two species a year, while over the last two million years last, the rate was two species every 100 years. This estimate as deemed as 'likely be conservative', since several species of mammal were now endangered despite being at "relatively safe" levels at the turn of the millennium.

    "As much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations, the report said. For example, the African lion has seen a 43% drop since 1993.

    "We emphasise that the sixth mass extinction is already here " ... "All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life."

    Loss of animals from the planet would "promote cascading catastrophic effects on ecosystems". ... "The resulting biological annihilation obviously will also have serious ecological, economic, and social consequences".

    27,600 mammals, reptiles and amphibians were analyzed.

    The report added: "The strong focus among scientists on species extinctions, however, conveys a common impression that Earth's biota (animal and plant life) is not dramatically threatened, or is just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss that need not generate deep concern now.

    The report also said "there might be sufficient time to address the decay of biodiversity later, or to develop technologies for 'de-extinction'." doclink

    In a separate article, titled: "Era of 'Biological Annihilation' is Underway, Scientists Warn, published in the New York Times, this study is reported, and, from that article, here is additional information:

    Paul R. Ehrlich, Gerardo Ceballos, and Rodolfo Dirzo are co-autors of the report.

    They used the same method as the one used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    They found that about 30% of all land vertebrates - mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians - are experiencing declines and local population losses. In most parts of the world, mammal populations are losing 70% of their members because of habitat loss.

    Cheetahs have declined to around 7,000 members; Borneo and Sumatran orangutans have declined to fewer than 5,000.

    Conservatively, scientists estimate that 200 species have gone extinct in the past 100 years.

    Tropical regions, which have the greatest biodiversity, are experiencing the greatest loss in numbers, and temperate regions are seeing higher proportions of population loss.

    The Earth's previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena.

    Dr. Ehrlich, who rose to prominence in the 1960s after he wrote "The Population Bomb," a book that predicted the imminent collapse of humanity because of overpopulation, said he saw a similar phenomenon in the animal world as a result of human activity.

    Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Ceballos said that habitat destruction - deforestation for agriculture, for example - and pollution were the primary culprits, but that climate change exacerbates both problems. Accelerating deforestation and rising carbon pollution are likely to make climate change worse, which could have disastrous consequences for the ability of many species to survive on earth.

    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 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.

    Unchecked Consumerism Causing Record-breaking Resource Use, Study Says

    September 16, 2015, Yale Environment 360

    Meat production has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years, leading to large-scale pressure on water, feeds, and grazing land.

    Aquaculture production has increased roughly 10 fold since 1984, and today farmed fish account for nearly half of all fish eaten.

    In the United States, only 9% of plastic was recycled in 2012.

    The world's coal supply is getting "dirtier," the report says, as increasing market pressure leads to more consumption of coal with lower energy content. The average heat content of coal produced in the U.S. dropped from 29 megajoules per kilogram in 2005 to roughly 23 megajoules in 2012 doclink

    As Global Consumption Skyrockets, 'Full Footprint' Felt by Millions

    'Our consumption choices affect more than ourselves'they affect the environment and the lives and livelihoods of millions.'
    September 15, 2015, Common Dreams   By: Deirdre Fulton

    Global consumption is higher than ever in Earth's history, driving inequality and climate change, reports analysis in Worldwatch Institute's recent Vital Signs report. "From coal to cars to coffee, consumption levels are breaking records."

    Consumers are often unaware of the size of the footprint of some of the products they buy, such as the water needed to make a t-shirt or a steak, "the pesticide exposure of cotton farmers, or the local devastation caused by timber companies cutting down forests to produce paper," said Michael Renner of Vital Signs.

    "Our consumption choices affect more than ourselves -- they affect the environment and the lives and livelihoods of millions," said Worldwatch Institute's Gaelle Gourmelon.

    Global meat production has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years, impacting greatly on world supplies of water, feed grains, antibiotics, and grazing land.

    Gourmelon said that "Beef production also uses three-fifths of global farmland despite its yield of less than 5 percent of the world's protein and less than 2 percent of its calories."

    While Western Europeans and North Americans use 100 kilograms of plastic per person each year, and in the U.S. only 9% of plastic was recycled in 2012.

    Click here to see the the Worldwatch Institute's infographic, which illustrates more staggering statistics. doclink

    Can the World Feed China?

    February 25, 2014, Earth Policy Institute   By: Leter R. Brown

    China is expected to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013-14 trade year, according to the latest USDA projections. Only eight years ago China had a grain surplus and was exporting 10 million tons.

    With population growth slowing, the rise in grain use in China largely the result of the country's huge population moving up the food chain and consuming more grain-based meat, milk, and eggs.

    In 2013, the world consumed an estimated 107 million tons of pork-half of which was eaten in China. China's 1.4 billion people now consume six times as much pork as the United States does.

    China's grain yield is already among the highest in the world, so the potential for China to increase production within its own borders is limited. In addition, aquifers in China are being depleted - by over 10 feet per year in some areas. Meanwhile, water supplies are being diverted to nonfarm uses and cropland is being lost to urban and industrial construction.

    About 2 billion people in other countries are also moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products.

    The world is transitioning from an era of abundance to one dominated by scarcity. China's turn to the outside world for massive quantities of grain is forcing us to recognize that we are in trouble on the food front.

    Can we reverse the trends that are tightening food supplies, or is the world moving toward a future of rising food prices and political unrest? doclink

    5 Things You Wouldn't Do on a Spaceship and Spaceship Earth Passenger Safety Briefing

    April 15, 2014, Growth Busters

    Here are a few things you wouldn't do on a spaceship:

    1. Disassemble it in order to create jobs and have a robust economy

    2. Pack it with more people than it can sustainably support

    3. Consume more food or water than its stores can supply for the duration of the voyage

    4. Smoke, fart, urinate or defecate beyond the processing ability of its systems

    5. Pay attention to its maintenance just one day a year

    "Spaceship Earth" was coined by Buckminster Fuller to describe our planet. We are living on what he likened to a very large spaceship. It is finite. It's floating in space. And we must depend on it for everything we need to live. If we foul it up or run out of something we can't run next door or call for take-out.

    We haven't been taking good enough care of our spaceship; it's clear from the news and the scientific reports. It's time we get our act together to avoid a crash. Fasten your seatbelt, watch the passenger safety briefing, share it widely, and then get busy taking good care of her! doclink

    'Collapse' of Modern Civilization a Real Possibility: NASA Study

    'Ecological strain' and 'economic stratification' could bring global downfall, researchers warn
    March 15, 2014, Common Dreams   By: Sarah Lazare

    Note: The original study can be found at

    Also note: NASA officials released this statement on March 20: "A soon-to-be published research paper, 'Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies' by University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota's Jorge Rivas, was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity. As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions."

    "Ecological strain" and "economic stratification" could lead to the global fall of modern civilization within decades, researchers warn in a disturbing new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    "By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy," explains Nafeez Ahmed writing for The Guardian.

    Note: apparently Ahmed did not consult with NASA on his article.

    Follow the link in the headline to read the complete article. doclink

    Paul Chefurka says: The "NASA" study regarding collapse that's making such a stir right now identifies two primary factors leading to social collapse: ecological strain and economic stratification, or over-consumption and deep social hierarchies. IMO both over-consumption and stratification have a common root cause

    The root cause is high levels of available energy flow through the society.

    High energy flows enable over-consumption by making resources of all kinds more accessible.

    They also force the society to adopt greater degrees of stratification, because all self-organization (including that of social and economic systems) is driven by energy flow. Deeper hierarchies make it easier to manage high levels of energy flow, so they tend to appear naturally wherever there is a lot of energy to be managed

    This effect underlies the structural difference between a forager tribe (low energy, low levels of resource use producing little ecological strain, very little hierarchy) and a moder

    Take Extinction Off Your Plate

    March 19, 2014, Center for Biological Diversity

    From habitat destruction and massive greenhouse gas emissions to wasted water and fouled skies, our nation's voracious appetite for meat is causing great harm to our planet and its wildlife.

    We surveyed our supporters earlier this year to find out what you thought about the effect of meat production and consumption on the environment. Overwhelmingly we heard that groups like the Center for Biological Diversity should be doing more to address the harms of meat production and help change the American diet. We listened, and today we're launching the Earth-friendly Diet campaign.

    Join the movement by taking a pledge to eat less meat for the planet.

    Cutting just one-third of the meat from your diet can save as much as 340,667 gallons of water, more than 4,000 square feet of land and the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 2,700 fewer miles a year. By pledging to reduce your meat consumption by one-third or more, you'll have a huge impact on the environment and the hundreds of species threatened by livestock and Big Agriculture.

    The Center's new Earth-friendly Diet campaign provides facts about the effects of meat production on the planet, as well as helpful resources to help you take extinction off your plate. Every meat-free meal makes a difference, and we need you on board. Please take the pledge today, then share it on Facebook with your friends. (Click on the link in the headine to take the pledge). doclink

    US Per Capita Consumption the Highest by Far

    The United States, with only 4.7% of the world's population, consumes 25% of the world's resources and generates 25% to 30% of the world's waste. Compared to an average citizen of the country of India, a typical person in the United States uses:

    50 times more steel
    56 times more energy
    170 times more synthetic rubber and newsprint
    250 times more motor fuel
    300 times more plastic doclink

    Population and Consumption: History and Scope of the Consumption Issue

    President's Council on Sustainable Development

    Approximately 20% of the world's population in the late 1980s lived in industrialized countries. These countries consumed 85% of the aluminum and synthetic chemicals used in the world; 80% of paper, iron, and steel; 75% of timber and energy; 60% of meat, fertilizer, and cement; half the world's fish and grain; and 40% of the fresh water. Varying by commodity, this scale of consumption ranges from three to 19 times the consumption levels of developing countries. Industrialized countries also generate most of the world's hazardous chemical wastes, 96% of radioactive wastes, and nearly 90% of all ozone- depleting chlorofluorocarbons. doclink

    The Environmental Impact of US Babies

    An American born in the 1990s will produce in a lifetime approximately one million kilograms (2.2 million lbs.) of atmospheric wastes, 10 million kgs (22 million lbs.) of liquid wastes, and one million kgs (2.2 million lbs.) of solid wastes. An American will consume 700,000 kgs (1.54 million lbs.) of minerals, and 24 billion BTUs of energy -- equivalent to 4000 barrels of oil. In a lifetime, an average American will eat 25,000 kgs (55,000 lbs.) of animal products, provided in part by slaughtering 2000 animals. doclink

    Fresh Water Consumption

    United Nations Development Program

    Consumption of fresh water has doubled since 1960, (but so has population, so per-person usage has not changed) and wood consumption (for household and industry us) is 40% higher than 25 years ago.


    A Chicken in Every Pot

    Dr. Norman Myers

    If every person in China ate an extra chicken, the grain needed to rear the birds would be equivalent to the entire grain exports of Canada. America's annual consumption is 800 kgs per person, much of it in the form of feed for cattle in a meat-based diet. doclink


    United Nations Population Fund

    Producing a quarter pound of hamburger requires 100 gallons of water, 1.2 lbs. of feed grain and energy equal to a cup of gasoline, causes the loss of 1.25 lbs. of topsoil and causes greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a 6-mile drive in a typical U.S. car. The average person in the United States consumes 260 lbs. of meat per year, most of it hamburgers. In Bangladesh, the average is 6.5 lbs. doclink

    The Environmental Impast of U.S. Babies

    Robert Engleman of Population Action International

    An American born in the 1990s will produce in a lifetime approximately one million kilograms (2.2 million lbs.) of atmospheric wastes, 10 million kgs (22 million lbs.) of liquid wastes, and one million kgs (2.2 million lbs.) of solid wastes. An American will consume 700,000 kgs (1.54 million lbs.) of minerals, and 24 billion BTUs of energy -- equivalent to 4000 barrels of oil. In a lifetime, an average American will eat 25,000 kgs (55,000 lbs.) of animal products, provided in part by slaughtering 2000 animals. The US per-capita consumption rate is ten to 100 times that of most of the world's countries. Compared to Indians, Americans (on a per capita basis) produce 27 times as much carbon dioxide, ... and consume 35 times as much energy. by Charles A. S. Hall, Ph.D., R. Gil Pontius Jr., Lisa Coleman and Jae-Young Ko


    Dodging Numbers: Reporters Avoid the Population Crunch

    In a study published Population and Environment, March 1997, an analysis was made of how newspaper journalists depicted causality in urban sprawl, water shortage, and endangered species stories. Only about 10% of the stories show population growth as the source. Only 1% suggested population stability as a solution. An urban sprawl story or a story describing impacts on wildlife habitat mentions only the land developer as the cause of the problem, and ignores increased demand that population growth provides to land development possible. A typical water shortage story mentions drought or the inadequate water delivery as a cause, and doesn't mention that many more people now want access to a water supply that is limited. In an interview with 25 journalists from newspapers with circulations ranging from less than 250,000 to more than 500,000, most felt that population was a problem, but that the issue was too controversial, or that because there was a limited space for the story, that population growth was too broad and distant to figure in their stories. A May 1992 Gallup poll showed that less than half of Americans polled felt that population would be a problem by the year 2000. A second poll, done in 1993 for the Pew Global Stewardship Initiative, showed similar results: less than half of a sample of Americans agreed that lowering the U.S. birthrate was important for the environment. doclink

    Only a Quarter of Americans Know That Oil, Coal, and Wood Generate 70% Of our Energy

    Sierra magazine/World Resources Institute

    Since 1961, world wood consumption has increased by 64%, while demand for industrial wood has risen by 50%. World demand for industrial wood fiber is expected to increase by 20 to 40% by 2010. And though industrial wood plantations account for about one-quarter of supply, additional consumption needs are met by commercial logging of old-growth and secondary-growth forests throughout the world. Logging is responsible for about one-third of the 450 million hectares of tropical forest loss that occurred between 1960 and 1990, destroying one-fifth of the world's forest cover. The article suggests that increasing consumption may threaten additional old-growth forests, destroying ecosystems, depleting biodiversity, and failing to provide sources of future production. World Resources Institute "Critical Consumption Trends and Implications: Degrading Earth's Ecosystems" doclink

    Critical Consumption Trends and Implications: Degrading Earth's Ecosystems

    World Resources Institute

    Since 1960, global demand for fish and fish products has increased by 240 percent, with fish harvests rising from 21 million tons in 1950 to 121 million in 1996. fisheries will not be able to meet the increasing demand for fish products in the future. By the year 2010, demand for fish products is expected to increase by between 34 and 50 percent. Over-fishing, pollution, and habitat destruction have reduced the productivity of many fishing areas and it is unlikely that development of fish farming activities will be able to make up for this declining productivity. doclink

    The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices:

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example:
    reducing electricity use would have roughly 100 times greater impact on
    common air pollution and global warming than reducing spending on telephone
    by an equal amount, as well as 55 times greater impact on common water
    pollution and 5 times greater impact on toxic air pollution. doclink

    The Post-Petroleum Paradigm -- and Population

    Population and Environment by Walter Youngquist

    Global oil production is expected to "peak" in about five years, and nothing can replace it. For example, domestic coal is expected to become a "sink" -- not worth digging out of the ground -- in about 40 years.[p. 67, Gever, et al.] doclink

    Out of Reach: How Sprawl Jacks Up the Cost of 'Affordable' Housing

    February 28, 2012, Grist

    Affordable housing for low-income Americans is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars. This social safety net helps keep families and the elderly from falling through the cracks. But the problem is that housing has been built far away from public transit, schools, and jobs. Residents have to drive long distances and spend lots of money on gas in doing so. Transportation and housing costs can eat up over half of their income, leaving healthy food, higher education, and health care unobtainable.

    However interest has been shown on the state and federal levels to alleviate transportation costs for low-income families. Tax breaks and funding for projects are awarded more to to housing that is close to public transit. In the Chicago region 85% of the housing funded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) is now located within walking distance of bus or train stations.

    Often the transit systems are not up to snuff. Living near a train station is great, but you're less apt to ride the train if it only passes through a couple times a day. Ditto with buses that don't get you where you need to go when you need to get there. From 2001-2008, transit service to neighborhoods with IHDA-financed housing dropped 24 %.

    More important than access to mass transit, are densely developed, compact neighborhoods with lots of amenities like grocery stores, schools, and jobs - in other words, communities where residents don't have to travel long distances to meet their basic needs.

    One idea being floated is a labeling system where you would find information about the transportation costs associated with a house. Families receiving rental assistance could then compare different residences to find a location that fits within their budget.

    When they began ranking different areas of San Francisco on how many amenities were within walking distance, within about a year, for sale signs in front of houses were listing their walk scores.

    Ditching the long car commute (via car, train, or otherwise) and creating walkable, tight-knit communities is the ultimate goal. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: what to do about the higher price of housing in the city compared to the suburbs? Have the taxpayer eat the cost?

    Cutting Food Waste to Feed the World; Over a Billion Tonnes Squandered Each Year

    May 9, 2011, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

    Note: so many articles on the milestone of 7 Billion people have cited this report, that I felt compelled to repeat its appearance on the WOA!! website, and examine it further. For it has been used by many to say the there is plenty of food if we would just stop throwing it away. Karen Gaia's comments are in italics. Over a billion tonnes squandered each year. Right away I would like to take issue with the word 'squandered'. It implies gross negligence. Even in developed countries, food has a price and most citizens of these countries are careful not to throw away a lot of their money on food that will be wasted. Food prices are rising in all parts of the world, including developed countries, so there will be even less wasted food. In addition, the U.S. and other developed countries are facing a major recession and there are a large number of people unemployed. In the U.S. the middle class is fast disappearing. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted, with 670 million tonnes wasted in industrialized countries and 630 in developing countries. Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food. This raises a lot of questions. Fruits and vegetables, roots and tubers weigh more than grain. That is, grain is measured in a dehydrated state. So it is not good science to compare the weights of fruits and vegetables to the weight in grain. Also: what percentage of the total food wasted is comprised of fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers? These foods spoil much faster than grains. Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). It is likely that people living in cities waste more food than people in rural areas. People that live in rural areas have more immediate access to food, and can access food like fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers before it spoils. In fact, with fruits and vegetables, which are often grown on family farms, some of the food can be left unharvested for awhile until it is needed, saving a great deal on spoilage. People who live in cities must depend on someone, usually a middle man, to bring the food to the city. For fruits and vegetables the food must survive the trip without getting bruised or dirty. Unless the food is delivered to every corner of the city, the consumer must still make a trip to get the food. If the trip is far, the consumer may decide to buy food only once or twice a week. In many cities the consumer must travel by motor vehicle in order to buy food, which means an added expense and more carbon emissions. So the consumer must plan ahead and buy enough fruit or vegetables that will last a week. There is no way of telling whether this food will last a week and some of it does, indeed, spoil before the end of the week. The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010). Equivalent in weight? This would be an unscientific comparison as mentioned above. The report distinguishes between food loss and food waste. Food losses - occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases - are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems. This is not something that should be passed over. It is an important part of food security for the world. After all, it is not sustainable to go on sending surplus food from rich countries to poor countries. Rich countries are running out of arable land. China is buying up land in Madagascar to grow its food. Other reports from FAO do not neglect this important part of food security. This is where our efforts should be concentrated, along with voluntary family planning. Americans and Europeans cannot send their rotten fruits and vegetables to Africa. Why make them feel guilty for something that, if it could be corrected, would not help people in Africa with their food security? Food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries, most often caused by both retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg a year. Again, I doubt that Americans are throwing away perfectly edible food when they are faced with rising food prices and a deep recession. And, Europeans and North American are wasting mostly fruits and vegetables (that has a tendency to spoil) while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia are wasting ??? grain? And are they throwing it away or is it wasted some other way? Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change. In developing countries the advice is therefore to strengthen the food supply chain by assisting small farmers to link directly to buyers. The private and public sectors should also invest more in infrastructure, transportation and in processing and packaging. Surveys show that consumers are willing to buy produce not meeting appearance standards as long as it is safe and tastes good. Customers thus have the power to influence quality standards and should do so, the report said. With this I agree. Let the retailers put the culls in the display along with the rest of the fruits and vegetables. The customer will pick it over and what is left will be culled before it spoils. Actually this happens already to some degree. The bargain stores have less expensive food but you have to be willing to choose from food that may contain less attractive examples. Selling farm produce closer to consumers, without having to conform to supermarkets' quality standards, is another suggestion. This could be achieved through farmers' markets and farm shops. We already have these and they are much appreciated. But there aren't enough of them and they only usually are open one day a week, and we still have to drive a ways to get to them. Good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away should be found. Commercial and charity organizations could work with retailers to collect, and then sell or use products that have been disposed of but are still good in terms of safety, taste and nutritional value. Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need. "Buy three, pay two" promotions are one example, while the oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry are another. "Buy three, pay two" is a better plan than making more trips to the grocery store. We 'eat' 25% of our fossil fuels, so saving on gas (petrol) is a good plan. Oversized ready-to-eat meals are bought by people who eat large meals while the rest of us have smaller portions to choose from. Restaurants frequently offer fixed-price buffets that spur customers to heap their plates. There are a few of us that overdo these type of restaurants, but most of us do this only once in a while. And not all of us heap our plates or throw away food. Generally speaking, consumers fail to plan their food purchases properly, the report found. That means they often throw food away when "best-before" dates expired. I trust the consumers to make the best decision. Often it is better to buy too much than not enough if 'not enough' means having to make an extra trip to the grocery store. A better solution would be for the consumer to move closer to the grocery store to save on gas (petrol) and carbon emissions.

    Not so fresh tomatoes
    They should also be made aware that given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: If you wish to comment on this article, go to:

    Response to "Why Population Hysteria is More Damaging Than it Seems" and other annoying repetitions of "Its Not Population but Consumption"

    October 28, 2011, Lee Miller

    To blame the mess we are in mainly on consumption rates is misplaced. If all humans could consume at higher rates they would, because we are all greedy and needy in various ways. Those of us accustomed to cars are not suddenly going to walk everywhere instead of driving or take mass transit because of past patterns that established far flung housing distribution based on cheap fuel. In China, they are abandoning the bicycle for cars. The population is the driver of most if not all of our problems from intra-specfic competition for jobs and resources to environmental damage to ecosystems on a wholesale basis.

    One has to understand that the population/environmental problem has its roots in the agricultural revolution and it began to overshoot planetary carrying capacity with the industrial revolution. We are far along into overshoot of carrying capacity and if you don't know what that means, I suggest you consult an ecology textbook. Homo sapiens is an evolutionary fluke that was altogether too successful and has pretty much destroyed the planet that we knew as hunter-gatherers.

    The bumper sticker that states: "Its the population, stupid," pretty much tells the whole story. I don't mean to imply that we should not reduce consumption to save resources, though many an economist is currently complaining about the lack of sufficient consumption to create jobs for the many jobless. I am afraid many more will be jobless before the unfolding scenarios of collapse are over.

    We may well be at peak oil and peak food as well. Population is going up and food production will not keep up which means more hungry people just as Mr. Malthus elucidated 200+ years ago. Stopping and reversing population growth is the most relevant and important thing that humanity needs to do. If we can cut consumption too and keep a viable economy going as well; that would be a welcome bonus. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: China now produces more cars than the U.S. "But China Has More People," you say. Exactly. "More people" is the problem. China also produces more carbon emissions than the U.S.

    Guatemala: Hunger in a Land of Plenty as Global Elites Harvest a Banana and Biofuel Bounty

    June 1, 2011, Guardian (London)

    Guatema is a leading producer of food for global markets. Yet people who work on farms there often cannot afford to eat every day. Domingo Tamupsis works works 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, as a harvester on a sugar plantation for a firm that exports bioethanol to fill the fuel tanks of cars in the US. Some all he has to eat are the mangoes that drop from trees by the roadside.

    His wife is so slight she might be mistaken for a girl. Her last pregnancy ended with a stillborn child. His two year old daughter is the size of the average European one-year-old. With a little land he'd grow food, but the promised government redistribution of unproductive land, which drew him to the area, never took place.

    Oxfam says the global food system is failing, predicting that the average price of staple foods will double by 2030. It warns: "Spiralling food prices, climate chaos, rising demand on top of a collapsing resource base, and markets rigged against the many in favour of the few" are taking us into a new era of crisis in which more and more people are going hungry.

    The world's poorest people spend up to 80% of their income on food and will be hit the hardest.

    Half of Guatemala's children under five are malnourished - one the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, and its 14 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day. Yet the country has food in abundance. It is the fifth largest exporter of sugar, coffee, and bananas. Its rural areas are witnessing a palm-oil rush as international traders seek to cash in on demand for biofuels created by US and EU mandates and subsidies. The money to be made from the food chain here, as in most poor countries, has been captured by elites and transnational corporations, leaving half the population excluded.

    Aida Pesquera, Oxfam director for Guatemala, says: "The food is here but the main problem is distribution. Land is concentrated in very few hands. The big companies pay very little tax. ... It's a classic case of how a very productive country, .. especially among the indigenous population, cannot feed its own people."

    In the 1980s a structural adjustment programme imposed by the IMF on the debt-laden nation led to the slashing of technical assistance provided by the agriculture ministry to small farmers. Guatemala, which had been self-sufficient in grain, was encouraged to pursue growth through agricultural exports. Local production of staples declined.

    Oxfam believes that Cafta, the free-trade agreement between the US and Central American states approved in 2005, has undermined farmers further as subsidised US grains have poured in, making it impossible for small farmers in developing countries to compete.

    More than two-thirds of productive land is in the hands of 2% to 3% of the population.

    Land reform is desperately needed, but there has been much conflict over it.

    More from the article at doclink

    Consume Less: Costa Rica Offers a Model for Living More Simply

    August 27, 2011, Durango Herald

    by Richard Grossman MD, 2011

    A child born in a developing country will have only a fraction of the impact that a child would have in the United States. And worldwide our numbers are increasing by 1 % per year while consumption is skyrocketing at 2 to 4 %.

    Costa Rica is a good example of a nation that approaches sustainability. The income of an average Costa Rican (or "Tico", to use their nickname) is significantly less than that of an American. Our buying power is about $47,000 per person each year, but in Costa Rica it is less than a quarter of that, at $11,000. Obviously Ticos consume less than do norteamericanos.

    Yet on the Satisfaction with Life Index, rates Ticos higher (13th in the world) than Americans (just 23rd).

    Most Ticos do not own cars, but use their feet or public transportation to travel. On average, Ticos live a year or two longer than Americans. Tico people are physically active and fast food is uncommon.

    Costa Rica is unique in the world in that it emphasizes education and health. It has no military-that's right, none! Instead it provides free health care to all citizens and free education through high school. In contrast, the USA spends a huge fraction of our finances on the military. Part of our expenditure is to support our extravagant use of petroleum, which largely comes from far away. A large portion of our military might is used to gain and protect sources of petroleum. Furthermore, our military consumes huge amounts of oil.

    Contraception is free and available to all Ticos as part of their health care. Funding for family planning in the USA, however, has been shrinking when measured in real dollars, and its very existence has been jeopardized with recent political changes.

    The Tico lifestyle uses much less of the planet's resources and adds less pollution to the environment. Costa Rica has also preserved a greater proportion of its land as parks than any other country in the world. Its rain and cloud forests have become a major tourist destination, and a major source of income. Almost all electricity in Costa Rica comes from renewable sources-hydro and wind-but it is affordable for all.

    We cannot all move to Costa Rica. We here in the USA can, however, endeavor to reduce our consumption. People who choose "simple living" (or a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity) work less, spend less, and enjoy life more. Most important is that they are happier and have less impact on the planet. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Another reason for living simply is that our small GDP, unemployment, high food prices, and peak of natural resources is going to force us towards a more simple life style. Now is the time to develop a healthy attitude and the infrastructure necessary for a more simplistic - yet fulfilling - life.

    Tropics in Decline as Natural Resources Exhausted at Alarming Rate

    October 18, 2010, Science News

    New analysis shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity's demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50% more than the earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of WWF's Living Planet Report -- the leading survey of the planet's health.

    The biennial report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, uses the global Living Planet Index as a measure of the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species. The global Index shows a decrease by 30% since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit showing a 60% decline in less than 40 years.

    "There is an alarming rate of biodiversity loss in low-income, often tropical countries while the developed world is living in a false paradise, fuelled by excessive consumption and high carbon emissions," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

    While the report shows some promising recovery by species' populations in temperate areas, thanks in part to greater conservation efforts and improvements in pollution and waste control, tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70% -- greater than any species' decline measured on land or in our oceans.

    "Species are the foundation of ecosystems," said Jonathan Baillie of the Zoological Society of London. "Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have -- lose them and we destroy our life support system."

    The Ecological Footprint, one of the indicators used in the report, shows that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we're using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If we continue living beyond the Earth's limits, by 2030 we'll need the equivalent of two planets' productive capacity to meet our annual demands.

    "Continuing of the current consumption trends would lead us to the point of no return." .. "4.5 Earths would be required to support a global population living like an average resident of the of the US."

    Carbon is a major culprit in driving the planet to ecological overdraft. An alarming 11-fold increase in our carbon footprint over the last five decades means carbon now accounts for more than half the global Ecological Footprint.

    The top 10 countries with the biggest Ecological Footprint per person are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Kuwait and Ireland.

    The 31 OECD countries, which include the world's richest economies, account for nearly 40% of the global footprint. While there are twice as many people living in BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- as there are in OECD countries, the report shows the current rate of per-person footprint of the BRIC countries puts them on a trajectory to overtake the OECD bloc if they follow same development path.

    "Countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies at risk," said Mathis Wackernagel, President of the Global Footprint Network. "Those countries that are able to provide the highest quality of life on the lowest amount of ecological demand will not only serve the global interest, they will be the leaders in a resource-constrained world."

    New analysis in the report also shows that the steepest decline in biodiversity falls in low-income countries, with a nearly 60% decline in less than 40 years.

    The biggest footprint is found in high-income countries, on average five times that of low-income countries, which suggests unsustainable consumption in wealthier nations rests largely on depleting the natural resources of poorer, often still resource rich tropical countries.

    The Living Planet Report also shows that a high footprint and high level of consumption, which often comes at the cost of others, is not reflected in a higher level of development. The UN Human Development Index, which looks at life expectancy, income and educational attainment, can be high in countries with moderate footprint.

    The Report outlines solutions needed to ensure the Earth can sustain a global population projected to pass nine billion in 2050, and points to choices in diet and energy consumption as critical to reducing footprint, as well as improved efforts to value and invest in our natural capital.

    "The challenge posed by the Living Planet Report is clear," said Leape. "Somehow we need to find a way to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly prosperous population within the resources of this one planet. All of us have to find a way to make better choices in what we consume and how we produce and use energy." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Once again the blame is put on overconsumption and no menton of stabilizing population. Without population stabilization, no amount of reduction in consumption will result in fewer malnourished people (already at 1-2 billion).

    Worker Bees Or Locusts: the 6.8 Billion People Who Currently Live on Our Planet

    November 11, 2010, The Smirking Chimp

    Back in 1971 Dr. Seuss had begun warning us about the dangers of over-manufacturing and over-population. "I am the Lorax," he wrote. "I speak for the trees." And then one day all the trees disappeared.

    The Lorax had clearly warned all of us -- way back in 1971. We have been warned.

    And yet despite of this explicit warning that almost every child in America has heard at least twice since 1971, to this day America (and almost every other nation on the planet) still measures its national well- being by the standard of whether or not there's been a growth in gross national product that year -- how much each nation as produced and/or consumed.

    Apparently it's still very important to prove that we human beings are all good little worker bees. But lately it just seems that all we are proving is that human beings make excellent locusts.

    Do we really NEED all this stuff that we are still madly manufacturing? And even if we do need it, can we afford it? The devastation that human beings have created on our planet since beginning of the Industrial Revolution makes me think of locusts, not bees -- unthinkingly swarming all over the Earth, madly gobbling up all that they see.

    There are 6,878,795,705 people now living on this planet -- and all of them seem to be screaming, "More! More! More!" at the top of their lungs. But there's just not going to BE any more -- once we locusts have completely stripped the place.

    "If every single one of the 6.8 billion of us humans (except for those who are currently living at absolute subsistence levels) doesn't cut down his or her consumption of goods and materials by at least half before January 1, 2015, then we will suffer the dire and severe consequences of living on a planet that is occupied by locusts instead of by bees - and Dr. Seuss's awful prediction will come true." doclink

    Asia Faces Growing Rice Crisis - Real One

    February 25, 2008, Asia Times Online

    Leading rice-exporting nations are reducing sales overseas to check domestic price rises. Previously healthy buffer stocks in Thailand are shrinking.

    The ban by India intensifies a worldwide rice shortage that drove up prices by nearly 40% last year. An additional 50 million tonnes of rice is needed each year up to 2015 to plug the demand-supply gap. Additional agricultural land for growing rice is extremely limited, while rice consumption is growing worldwide and wheat stocks are hitting record lows. Unregulated private cross-border trading makes exact figures hard to come by. India's rice export ban comes at a sensitive time ahead of the final annual budget. India's ban on rice exports follows a gradual limiting of exports over the past few months. The ban extends to all exports of rice except government-to-government trading, but excludes exports of basmati rice, a more fragrant, long-grained and expensive variety. Bangladesh, needs food grains after Cyclone Sidr in December destroyed $600 million worth of the country's rice crop. To cope with the crisis, the Bangladesh government floated global tender notices for 300,000 tonnes of various varieties of rice.

    India's export ban caused 300 rice trucks to be stranded in India-Bangladesh border zones. A famine threatens remote areas of southeast Bangladesh after millions of rats devastated food crops. The animals turn to ravaging rice stalks and vegetables in the affected region. Higher incomes across Asia are leading to increased consumption of grains and vegetables and of meat, which leads to more grain being diverted for use as cattle fodder.

    In the short term, prices can spike as natural disasters ranging from severe drought and floods cause havoc on agriculture. Vietnam suspended exports to protect domestic needs, while Thailand plans to auction an additional 500,000 tonnes of rice to cater to increasing international demand. Food scientists are developing sturdier varieties of rice that can withstand climate challenges as well as higher yielding seeds.

    Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in January announced a grant of $19.9 million to help 400,000 small farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa access to improved rice varieties and better growing technology. doclink

    Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: the Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States

    July 21, 2010, ACS Publications - Environmental Science and Technology

    Food is not only a form of energy but also a consumer of fossil energy in its production, transportation, and preparation.

    A study calculated the energy intensity of food production from agriculture, transportation, processing, food sales, storage, and preparation for 2007 as 8080 ± 760 trillion BTU. In 1995, approximately 27% of edible food was wasted (according to the USDA), and the study concluded from this that 2030 ± 160 trillion BTU of energy were embedded in the 2007 wasted food. This represents approximately 2% of annual energy consumption in the United States, which is substantial when compared to other energy conservation and production proposals.

    Recent food shortages, blamed in part on the growth of the biofuels industry, have created a new awareness of the relationship between food and energy.

    Over last 50 years we have seen increased agricultural productivity thanks to the adoption of new technologies and inputs, which are largely based on fossil fuels. The increase in the energy intensity of agriculture has brought with it unprecedented yields with minimal human labor.

    Mechanization of the agriculture sector, improved fertilizers, more resilient crops, and the development of pesticides, all of which rely on fossil fuels, are the reasons for the increased productivity.

    The 27% food waste figure does not include food wasted on the farm, in fisheries, and during processing and relies on outdated food consumption and waste data, some of which is from the 1970s.

    Because of economic and population growth, the total amount of food production and consumption has grown since the latest food loss study for 1995, and the portion of income Americans spend on food has dropped. From this, the researchers hypothesized that the current amount of food wasted to be higher compared to the USDA's 1995 estimates. If this is true, addressing food waste represents an opportunity for avoided energy consumption.

    Follow the link in the headline to read the complete report. doclink

    (Impact = Population X Affluence X Technology)

    Energy Efficiency

    Sierra magazine

    It is far faster, cheaper, and more cost effective to solve our energy needs by working to increase our energy efficiency as quickly as possible. We gain far greater energy independence, faster, cheaper and more cost effectively.

  • California could save enough electricity for one million homes -- 1000 megawatts of electricity -- just by replacing outmoded air conditioners with modern, efficient ones.
  • Replacing old refrigerators would save another 1000 megawatts, and make power available for another million homes.
  • The truth is that if auto companies were required to install the best technology and increase the fuel economy of new cars and light trucks to 40 miles per gallon, Americans would save three million barrels of oil every day -- more than the Arctic, Persian Gulf imports, and off-shore California combined.
  • If tire companies were required to sell replacement tires as fuel efficient as the tires installed on new cars America would save 5.4 billion barrels of oil -- more than geologists expect to find in the Arctic.
  • doclink

    Sorry, Folks - We Can't Resolve the Problem by Simpler Living. Overpopulation is the Problem

    Mark E. Kelley III, PE

    So I didn't know I would grow up to be a curmudgeon, but there it is. I guess I have a simplistic view of the population/sustainability problem, but I see considerable flawed logic in some of the arguments in this conversation. I have found that the data seem clear, but the reactions seem to be uncomprehending or denying of the true import, or perhaps are simply so gentle as to fail to address the catastrophic magnitude of the message.

    First of all, Tim Keating's plea for a return to nature, ignores the fact that humans have never had a conscience or much discrimination with regard to potential food items. No need to chastise the dodo eaters, ask the wooly mammoth, giant sloth, moa, or any of hundreds of game and plant (and possibly human), species wiped out by our hunter gatherer ancestors. Though many hunter gatherers had a much more inclusive spiritual attitude toward other species, when it came down to nut cutting, it was them or us.

    So it is today, when investors say "we will hunt whales as long as we can get a 30% profit, when they are all gone, we'll find something else on which to make a 30% profit". Human restraint is a faint hope, at best. But take away our freedom? Our right to profit? Our god given right for each couple to decide how many children to have? Well, does each couple consider the cost to the environment of each child, the fact that the other species, are being asked to provide the supreme sacrifice for their right? Like the atmosphere and the oceans, the human population is a global commons. No one has the right to overgraze.

    Carrying capacity isn't a matter of opinion, there are real limits. Pollution is bearing down on us now, one of the lightest touches limits will show us. Donella Meadows, in Beyond the Limits, suggested that the entire world (5 billion at the time), might live equitably with a standard of living similar to that of western Europe. Various carrying capacity and ecological footprint studies have indicated that the American lifestyle cannot be spread to all 6 billion unless we can obtain the resources of two more planets. Can the earth support 12 billion in 25 more years, 24 billion in 40 years? Nah!

    My sustainability colleagues say "sustainability is inevitable". No doubt about it. So what are the scenarios for establishing equilibrium with the environment? Well, there are the four horsemen, they should be riding through here any time now, unless we can detour them to the south. But those who argue against "population control" are deluding themselves that, by evading hard choices, they aren't responsible for the more severe mechanisms that will inevitably step in to do the job.

    If the population were to increase to 12 billion, perhaps there would be enough food, if distributed equitably, for a meager existence for all. But the toll on other species would be severe - omnivorous locusts come to mind. Beyond the Limits explores many ways that an overshoot and collapse scenario could play out. But there are worse scenarios. One is a state of global dynamic equilibrium, where a balance exists between the large number of poor and the few rich. Such a bipolar equilibrium system would see war, famine, disease only affecting the large pool of poor that supports the aristocracy, who would live as far from the rabble as they could get. In this sense we Americans are all rich, my dog's daily food would keep a third world child alive for weeks. Third world nations may hope for economic success and eventual triumph of capitalism, but the underlying dynamics are solidly against it. We have set up the world economy and the multinational consumer system so that the poor will be the first to starve, but in a real sense we are eating their children even now.

    What this implies is that the whole world won't starve, but that the third world will take the brunt of the limits, sort of like the sequential collapse of the front of a Volvo in a crash. They will be the ones to suffer famine, disease, and war, in order to maintain the balance which allows the rich to stay comfortable. Theirs will be the sacrifice, and the less powerful, including other species, will be the first to go.

    Dave Denber's contention that "the problem isn't overpopulation in the developing countries but overconsumption by the developed countries" is preposterous, not because we aren't overconsuming, but because it suggests that if we only reduced our consumption to that of the third world, we could go on increasing population indefinitely. But many poor countries cannot even maintain their meager standard of living, and this is only partially due to the extraction of means by the multinational consumer system. They have overreached their local carrying capacity, and must make adjustments or beg to receive a greater share of global wealth.

    The hope that we can act locally as Julie Hudson suggests, to achieve regional sustainability, is a noble idea, but can only help assuage our guilt so long as our resource use exceeds our local carrying capacity. And even if we could achieve local equilibrium, it would require a significant reduction in population in most areas. Sub-Saharan Africa is doing its share to establish local equilibrium or perhaps maintain global equilibrium, our pity should be informed by our guilt. The densities achieved in China and India are certainly approaching the maximum, and balance is being imposed by resource shortages and mandates. Following that path leads to a world of wall to wall people and little else, an equilibrium where the limits are imposed more equitably, in your face, every day. A drab world vision, indeed. And to what purpose?

    What possible value could filling the world with more people have? Is it the right of our species to wipe out all others? Are we to measure ourselves by the mass of souls or the soul of the masses?

    I know I've been brutally frank in the discussion above, and perhaps just the teeniest bit pessimistic, but the time has come to discard the rationalizations that allow us to hide from the realities and stark limits. This is the big problem. The one we can't face. Social or economic equity won't solve it, reduced consumption won't solve it, sustainable living won't solve it, only population reduction will solve it. That solution is inevitable, but perhaps we can work to ease the pain of the transition.

    Perhaps we humans can seek the path that maximizes kindness to all beings. If we can't bring ourselves to personally forsake our comfort, perhaps we can chose and promote, from the security of our place and time, the path that minimizes the pain to others. doclink

    Pet food

    Americans and Europeans together spend $17 billion a year on pet food, $4 billion more than the estimated yearly additional amount needed to provide everyone in the world with basic health and nutrition. The richest 20% of humanity consume 45% of all meat and fish, use 58% of all energy produced and own 87% of the vehicles. Consumption of fossil fuels has almost doubled since 1950 (and so has population), doclink

    Grain vs. Meat

    Population Action International

    Meat consumption is going up worldwide, and that demands correspondingly higher per capita production of grain. It takes about 7 pounds of grain to yield 1 pound of beef. Poultry takes 2.7 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat, while swine eat 6 pounds of grain for every pound of pork. In the U.S. and Canada, each person eats about a ton of grain annually, mostly as meat.

    People in Developing countries consume about 200 pounds of grain per capita each year. Between now and 2030, grain consumption, primarily as animal feed, is expected to grow by about 2.5% annually in the developing countries. Those millions of tons of grain represent, in turn, great quantities of expended natural resources -- from water for irrigation to the natural gas used to produce fertilizers.

    Then there is the associated environmental impact: rivers polluted with pesticides and nitrates, exhausted aquifers, and eroded soil. Unfortunately, the quantity of arable land is all too finite. doclink

    The Most Harmful Consumer Activities

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    Cars and Light Trucks
    The manufacture and, more important, the use of consumers' vehicles cause more environmental damage--especially air pollution and global warming --than any other single consumer spending category.

    Meat and Poultry Meat and poulter production requires large amounts of water and causes 20 percent of the common (as opposed to toxic) water pollution related to consumer expenditure. It also uses a significant share of the nation's land--800 million acres for grazing livestock and an additional 60 million acres to grow animal feed. Red meat causes especially hight amounts of environmental damage for the nutrition it delivers.

    Fruit, Vegetables, and Grains Irrigated crops grown to meet consumer demand use an enormous quantity of water (30 percent of consumer-related water use). pesticides and fertilizers cause 5 percent of consumer-related toxic water pollution. Food crops also use substantial amounts of land.

    Household Appliances and Lighting Electricity seems clean and nonpolluting when it's used in the home, but most of it is generated by burning polluting fossil fuels, especially coal. Appliances and lighting are responsible for 15 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions related to consumer expenditures and 13 percent of consumer-related common air pollution.

    Home Heating, Hot water, and Air Conditioning Cooling and heating homes and water has an impact on global warming and air pollution similar to that of appliances and lighting. Systems that rely on electricity or oil contribute heavily to both problems. Most fireplaces and wood stoves are especially high air polluters.

    Home Construction The land and wood used for new home s are responsible for about a quarter of consumers' impact on wildlife and natural ecosystems. Six percent of consumer-related water pollution comes from manufacturing the materials for new homes and disturbing the soil during construction.

    Household Water and Sewage Despite advances in sewage treatment, municipal sewage remains a major source (around 11 percent) of water pollution, especially affecting coastal areas and estuaries. Interestingly, households' home water use is only 5 percent of the total compared with nearly 74 percent for food production and distribution. doclink

    Population Action International Vice Pres for Research

    Mahatma Gandhi argued that "the world has enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed." In his lifetime, however, the world had less than half its current population, and population could double again as we struggle to turn around our wasteful and destructive consumption patterns. doclink

    'Greed Culture' Killing Planet

    January 14, 2010, Guardian (London)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    U.S.: Remake a Living: Sustainable Development in Today's Job Market

    March 13, 2007, Grist Magazine

    "Sustainable development" has the most commonly used definition : "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

    Suggesting the possibility of a "sustainable" economy has changed the primary goal of environmentalism away from "protecting the environment" and toward the creation of a society that will simultaneously provide economic and social well-being for over 6 billion human beings and guarantee healthy habitats for millions of species that share the Earth with us.

    Transportation, agriculture, energy, forestry, architecture, construction, mining, urban planning, financial institutions, and manufacturing are a few industries that are toying with new approaches aimed at "sustainability."

    Environmental professionals have taken to heart the idea that it is our responsibility to take the lead in defining what a sustainable society and economy might look like.

    Before the idea of sustainability caught hold, it seemed fair for environmental professionals to protect Nature against the destructiveness of the human economy.

    The idea that we could be seen as a privileged elite who "care more about birds and bears than about people" was hard to grasp.

    And yet, years of environmental and conservation work had taught us that most of the exclusively "environmental" approaches were pushing the boundaries of political support. Putting environmental regulatory, technical, and managerial fingers in the dike would not ultimately hold back the rising waters of population growth, economic desires, and social injustice.

    The ideal of a "sustainable economy," then, was a new statement of goals, a political strategy for winning over economic development champions and social justice advocates, and a practical recognition that the existing tools for improving the planet's ecological health were ultimately no match for the forces arrayed against it.

    We must all be honestly engaged in the work of inventing a truly new synthesis that seeks to accommodate the economic and social justice desires of people with the habitat requirements of the widest possible spectrum of species on the planet.

    It's not outlandish to ask if we are all willing to "care about birds and bears as well as about people." As we struggle to become environmental professionals who understand the legitimate human requirement for economic security and social justice, we are within our rights to require other professions to take on the quest for global ecological health and habitat protection.

    If we do, then the vision of a sustainable economy suggested may become Our Common Future. If we don't, we may be engaging in unilateral disarmament, brilliantly disguised as an attempt at social innovation. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we should care about the birds and the bears - after they go, we are next. Those who attach little significance to the drowning of polar bears are extremely short-sighted.

    Sustainability in China

    January 23, 2009, Guardian (London)

    Dr. Lin said that China has made positive efforts to tackle Global Warming. Two years ago, the Energy Saving and Emission Reduction Leading Group and the Global Warming Countermeasures Leading Group were organized in the central government. These two groups set a goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of sales by 20% by 2010 and reducing major environmental indicators. There was an understanding that pursuing economic growth alone has led to "growth without development" in terms of social welfare. A new idea has emerged, with the focus shifting from "growth" to "development." It asks what is really necessary to make people happy.

    The new concept sees the importance of public welfare, leading to happiness and well-being. It aims to enhance the quality of life by improving social security, housing, medical services, and pensions.

    Market reform has gone too far. In the process toward a market economy, the government gave up its role, thus causing various problems in medical services, housing, and education.

    China has recognized the need to review the government's role and this has resulted in new policies focused on medical services, social welfare, and housing.

    In contrast, Beijing has progressed so much that China contains an advanced country as large as Japan. More people waste so many things, and a certain class is especially wasteful.

    To change consumption behavior, we are considering a graduated system of utility rates for things such as electricity and water. We have not yet introduced inheritance and property taxes but are considering them. There are two challenges, create a transition in the public's awareness and promote environment and challenge how we can make innovations in the resource price mechanism. It is important to change the pricing mechanism to reduce resource consumption.

    European countries and the US took 150 years to be industrialized, Japan half of that. China is expected to achieve the goal within half the years that Japan took. China is facing intensive and interrelated environmental problems, because of its unprecedented speed of industrialization. doclink

    'One Planet' Pledge for Wales

    November 19, 2008, BBC News

    A plan to reduce the impact Wales has on the environment has been announced. Environment Minister committed Wales to use only its "fair share" of the world's resources. This includes an 80%-90% cut in carbon-based energy and a move to recycling waste.

    The timescale envisaged is around "30 to 40 years".

    The assembly government report said there was a need to "travel less by car, and live and work in ways which have a stronger connection with our local economies and communities".

    The Environment Minister said ministers would use their powers to lessen Wales' environmental impact.

    "Wales' ecological footprint is currently 5.16 global hectares per person, compared to a global availability of 1.88 global hectares.

    Unchecked, this could rise by 20% by 2020. Environment spokesman said: "The minister has yet to fulfill her pledges on the devolution of building regulations and new powers over large energy developments, environmental protection, and waste management. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: why wait on technology, which will only go so far, and work on personal life styles, which has the capability to conserve so much more of the world's natural resources.

    Report Calls for Everyone to Take Action

    January 31, 2008,

    Achieving a sustainable New Zealand "is the responsibility of all New Zealanders," President Basil Morrison said today. Councils already have strategies to improve environmental indicators. However, reversing the downward trends cannot be solved by local government alone. Councils have to establish ongoing partnerships with central government, industry and community groups and take the lead in deciding how to balance community well-being with economic realities. The rate of consumption of goods and services by New Zealand households continues to grow as our population increases and our economy grows.

    Households make a bigger impact than people realise but we can turn this around by making wise choices about what we consume, and in the case of waste, how we dispose of it.

    Local Governments in New Zealand have been working to address household waste and consumption through recycling and the Packaging Accord, which aims to reduce the proportion of packaging in our total waste. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: no mention in the article of the need to slow down population growth.

    Nigeria: Resource Utilisation and the 7-Point Agenda (3)

    July 9, 2008, Nigerian Tribune

    In Nigeria there is a lack of understanding of the rights, responsibilities and limits of communities, companies, State and Federal Government.

    In the 1960s, mining drove the infrastructure. The current administration has recognised the need to focus on coal, barytes, bitumen, gold, iron ore, lead/ zinc and limestone, as they are available in sufficient quantities and will contribute 5% to the GDP by 2015.

    Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the natural environment, it is in the most common form of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future. Enviromental sustainability is the ability of the environment to continue to function properly indefinitely. The goal of environmental sustainability is to halt environmental degradation.

    It is possible to consume less and have economic growth as is found in European economies. Between 2005 and 2006, the quantity of natural resources used by the UK economy, fell by 6 million tonnes 0.9%. Over the last decade, resource use remained unchanged, despite rising economic activity.

    Th Malthus doctrine of resource scarcity and economic growth says that humanity is endowed with finite amount of material resources. If uncontrolled, the tendency of human population is to grow exponentially.

    Technology should not be perceived as the ultimate escape from the problem of resource scarcity.

    Economic activity cannot be expected to grow indefinitely unless the rates of population growth and resource utilisation are effectively controlled. Population + Resources = Scarcity.

    In 1968, Paul R Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb (1968) that predicted disaster for humanity due to overpopulation and the "population explosion".

    Population growth will outpace agricultural growth unless controlled. The failure on a global scale has not happened because of the flow of ideas, knowledge and capital, but there are failures where inequalities have accelerated the breaching of the limits of growth. The dependence on natural resources has to be understood within the conditions arising when the actions of some individuals have direct effects on the welfare of others who have direct control over that actions. doclink

    Scotland: Eat Local ... a Sunday Herald Campaign to Help Feed a Hungry World

    March 9, 2008, Sunday Herald

    As a relatively rich, developed country, Scotland is hardly likely to experience mass starvation, but the average price of all foods has increased by 6.6% over the past year. The biggest increases were for butter, eggs, milk, bread and potatoes.

    The cost of a supermarket trolley containing 100 basic food items has risen by 13.63 to 183.28 over the past two years. The prices of chicken, fish, cheese, vegetables and fruit have also increased, along with sugar, coffee and wine. And the prices are forecast to keep on rising. The era of cheap food is coming to an end, and that has huge implications for those on fixed incomes. Global food production could be centred on the belt of fertile land that lies between Bordeaux and Caithness.

    Land is going to have to be brought back into production to feed an ever-expanding world population. Scotland is well placed to play its part. Others point out that Scotland has its own problems. Meat is an inefficient way of delivering calories, with eight kilos of grain required for one kilo of beef. Much of the meat consumed in Scotland has been imported.

    Eating more fresh and seasonal fruit and vegetables, and less processed and packaged food as well as less meat and dairy produce, will be as good for us as it is for the planet. doclink

    Changing the Object of Capitalism

    June 30, 2008, Barron's

    Capitalism has been successful as a growth machine. The world economy is on a path to quadruple in size by midcentury. But capitalism must be retooled or the world will be physically unfit to live in. The new capitalism should protect the environment and raise the quality of human life.

    For those of us in the affluent societies, economic growth has now entered a period of diminishing returns.

    This shift is most apparent on the environmental front. All we have to do to destroy the planet's climate and leave a ruined world to our children is to keep doing what we are doing today with no growth in the human population or the world economy. Just continue to impoverish ecosystems and release toxic chemicals at current rates, and the world in the latter part of this century won't be fit to live in.

    But human activities are accelerating dramatically and constitute a severe indictment of the capitalism we have today.

    The main features of today's capitalism include: an unquestioning commitment to economic growth at any cost; enormous investment in technologies with little or no regard for the environment; corporate interests whose objective is to grow by generating profit. Rampant consumerism spurred by sophisticated advertising and marketing on so large in scale that its impact alters the fundamental biophysical operations of the planet.

    Capitalism as it operates today will grow in size and complexity and will generate ever-larger environmental consequences.

    Market failure can be corrected by government, perverse subsidies can be eliminated, and environmentally honest prices can be forged. The affluent countries can shift to where jobs and economic security, the natural environment, our communities and the public sector are no longer sacrificed in order to sustain high rates of growth that is consuming natural and social capital.

    There are many steps that can be taken, and include measures such as a shorter work week and longer vacations; greater labor protections, job security and benefits; restrictions on advertising; strong social and environmental provisions; rigorous environmental and consumer protection; greater economic and social equality, progressive taxation for the rich and greater income support for the poor; major spending on public-sector services and environmental amenities; a huge investment in education, skills and new technology; and programs to address population growth at home and abroad.

    The economy might evolve to a steady state, where a declining labor force and shorter work hours are offset by rising productivity.

    There would still be scope for all kinds of mental culture, and moral and social progress; as much room for improving the art of living, and more likelihood of it being improved. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: there are not enough resources to make everyone comfortable, we must start by redefining 'comfortable' and redistributing resources between rich and poor. We also must continue to practice voluntary family planning.

    Can the World Afford a Middle Class?

    Foreign Policy

    The middle class in poor countries is the fastest-growing segment of the world's population. Of these new members of the middle class, 600 million will be in China. By 2020 the world's middle class will grow to 52% percent of the global population, up from 30%.

    Humanity will have to adjust to unprecedented pressures. In 2007, higher pasta prices sparked street protests in Milan. Mexicans marched against the price of tortillas. Senegalese protested the price of rice, and Indians took up banners against the price of onions. We are all paying more for bread, milk, and chocolate, to name just a few items. The new consumers of the emerging global middle class are driving up food prices everywhere.

    Prices are soaring because some grains are now being used as fuel and more people can afford to eat more. The average consumption of meat in China, has more than doubled since the mid-1980s.

    Members of the middle class not only consume more meat and grains, but they also buy more clothes, refrigerators, toys, medicines, and, eventually, cars and homes. China and India, with 40% of the world's population, consume more than half of the global supply of coal, iron ore, and steel. In the past two years, the world price of tin, nickel, and zinc have roughly doubled, while aluminum is up 39% and plywood 27%. A middle-class lifestyle in these developing countries is more energy intensive. China accounts for one third of the growth in the world's oil consumption. The lifestyle of the existing middle class will probably have to change as the new middle class emerges.

    Changes in migration, urbanization, and income distribution will be widespread. And growing demands for better housing, healthcare, education, and, inevitably, political participation.

    Higher prices and new technologies always came to the rescue, boosting supplies and allowing the world to continue to grow. But the adjustment to a middle class greater than what the world has ever known is just beginning. As the Indonesian and Mexican protesters can attest, it won't be cheap. And it won't be quiet. doclink

    Healthy Body, Healthy Earth: More Canadians Expected to Prove ...

    May 27, 2008, Canada NewsWire

    Thousands of Canadians will leave their cars at home for a week this June as the 18th annual National Commuter Challenge kicks off with more Canadians and companies expected to participate It is a workplace competition to promote environmentally sustainable transportation such as walking, jogging, biking, in line skating, transit, carpooling and telecommuting.

    This year's competition is set to be its strongest in 18 years.

    Corporations across the country will vie for the distinction of having the most sustainable commuter population while supporting their employees' healthier choices. Communities and companies with the highest participation rates in the National Commuter Challenge win recognition. Individuals can win prizes donated by many sponsors. doclink

    UAE Development - Skyscrapers Built on Sand

    March 11, 2008, Ethical Corporation Magazine

    Gulf leaders should wake up to the environmental costs of their rush to attract wealthy visitors. News about urban developments in the UAE has been greeted with a mixture of awe and uncertainty across the world. Growth rates of 16% in the resource-poor emirate of Dubai reinforce optimism, the question remains: who is taking ownership of the sustainability agenda in the UAE?

    Demand for new developments is ever increasing. In Dubai, hotel occupancy levels are at over 80% and rates are at record highs. Dubai's population is a measly 1.4 million people. And the entire UAE is home to 4.1 million, 80% of whom are foreigners.

    Are Dubai's plans for 15 million visitors to contribute 20% of GDP are realistic? The strategy of Dubai authorities is "build it and they will come". But with neighbouring emirates also planning expansion, what happens if demand wanes?

    What is most troubling is the damage they are causing the environment. Palm Islands has clouded Gulf waters with silt. Construction has buried coral reefs, oyster beds and subterranean sea grass, while the disruption of natural currents is leading to the erosion of beaches. doclink

    China: Saying Farewell to the GDP Growth Cult

    February 4, 2008, China Daily

    Two years after the western province Qinghai dropped GDP growth for evaluating the performance of government officials in two of its prefectures, the ecological deterioration of the source of China's three major rivers has begun to ebb.

    Wetlands have reappeared, while water has returned to some of the dried-up lakes in the Sanjiangyuan, China's largest nature reserve that covers 318,000 sq km.

    While desertification throughout Qinghai is still a problem, the annual rate at which the desert is spreading has dropped to 2,000 hectares from 13,000 hectares in the late 1990s.

    It may take a while before the ecosystem is fully rehabilitated. The initial efforts in the two Tibetan autonomous prefectures, Yushu and Golok, is promising.

    Qinghai's move signals a departure from the "GDP cult", which sees economic growth as the only yardstick for development. For years, this cult has dominated China's development. In the fervor to pursue GDP growth, we have seen mountains denuded, cropland devastated and air and water polluted.

    We have double-digit growth in our GDP, which is envied by many. Yet the cost is dear.

    Among the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in China. The worsening air quality has given rise to lung cancer, which has become a top killer in the country. Also on the rise are TB and other diseases.

    Pollution has aggravated the country's water supply and caused the occasional drought. At 500 sections of China's nine major river systems that are monitored for water quality, only 28% have water suitable for drinking, 31% have water with no functional use. A sample survey of 118 cities revealed that 97% of their groundwater was polluted. Many polluters escape punishment because they are "local economic pillars". That is why Qinghai's decision to delete GDP growth when evaluating government accomplishments is admirable. The move compels local government to shift its outlook from a focus on GDP growth to one that is environmentally friendly and socially conscious.

    Some might say it was not a big deal for Yushu and Golok to be exempted from GDP evaluations, since the secondary and tertiary industries are relatively small there. The two prefectures, are known as "China's water tower" and have traditionally been pastures for nomadic Tibetans.

    The habits of the GDP cult have led to overgrazing and gold mining, which have damaged vegetation on the highlands, which sit at 4,000 m above sea level. If the livestock population and mining spree are not checked, ecological deterioration will choke further development.

    GDP growth must be based on environmental sustainability and benefit people's welfare.

    To sustain the vitality of China we need to continue to expand our GDP to meet the growing needs of the people. But if our rivers and lakes all run dry, the air and soil made toxic, then we will not be far from doom.

    There have been warning signs. The water stopped flowing at the source area of the Yellow River, the sudden explosion that blanketed Taihu Lake in Jiangsu and cut the drinking water supply to more than 2 million people in Wuxi city.

    Jiangsu has shut down more than 2,000 small chemical plants and built a 1 km wide green buffer zone around Taihu Lake. For the green belt, some 660 hectares of cropland will be returned to nature to reduce discharges of agricultural waste to the lake.

    The move reflects Jiangsu's determination to repay its debt to nature. We now have the Scientific Outlook on Development, which emphasizes putting people first and the pursuit of sustainable development. There is hope that old mindset will change. doclink

    Are Americans the Pigs of the World - Or the Sheep?

    January 3, 2008, OpEdNews

    A NY Times article spotlights the imbalance in consumption between the developed and undeveloped world. There are one billion people in the developed world, with 5.5 billion still living within far less environmentally taxing means. Those of us in the advanced societies are using up the world's resources at 32 times the rate of a person living in a undeveloped area.

    If we cannot contain our demand, we will face economic, political and environmental crises.

    The Chinese see the high-tech lifestyle and want it for themselves. India, with a population of about 1 billion, is also expecting a place at the table.

    Experts believe terrorism is a product of frustration with those that consume 32 times as much as they do.

    With China's per capita consumption rates their rise to our rates of consumption would mean the world would double it's current consumption of oil and metal. If India followed as well, consumption rates would triple.

    Recent efforts to unite the world's pollution standards failed when US leaders refused to cut greenhouse gas emissions. China backed out after Bush's filibuster. Australia threw their Bush-friendly President out and signed on to Kyoto, leaving the US as the biggest emitter, (although over 225 US cities including NY, LA and Chicago have voluntarily signed on anyway).

    But present rates are unsustainable. China knows this, producing greener cars than us and forging alliances that acknowledge their consumption.

    Much American consumption is the product of corporate consumerism. Office buildings burn their lights all night long because of their "architectural majesty".

    Most SUV buyers prioritize their image, their safety, their comfort, their cargo room. This has proven fatal for the US auto industry. GM's workers union considered suing GM executives for making too many SUVs, resulting in years of losses, while Asian carmakers' profits soared.

    SUVs are a metaphor for needless N. American waste, the least practical car design for the 21st Century. Low-mileage vehicles also helped replace the former glory of GM as the largest US employer.

    The average American travels over 40 minutes one way to their place of work. Europeans have paid $7 per gallon gas for more then 12 years to diminish reliance on motor vehicles. Be green, work for solar and wind realities - there is enough wind and sun in just three states to power the whole country if only we build the collection apparatus.

    Many fisheries have closed down and projections for over-fishing tuna may haunt us. During the McMansion boom, we built houses much larger then our practical needs.

    We are swayed by TV ads more then any other form of information, and is proven true every time Super Bowl ad rates increase, and every time spending on political TV ads increases. China and India will be competing for our resources in a major way, with the rest of the world right behind them. doclink

    US Colorado: Down-Sizing County's Dream Homes

    January 27, 2008, Daily Camera

    The largest home in Boulder County is 24,953 square feet, the median house was 6,290 square feet in 2006, up from 2,881 square feet in 1990.

    County commissioners denied a request to raze the 962-square-foot house and replace it with a home 20 times the size. The technical reason was complex: The parcel of land is part of a wildlife migration corridor; the house would teeter on important riparian habitat; the land is designated of "statewide agricultural importance"; and the house would not exist "harmoniously" with its neighborhood, among other arguments.

    But Commissioner Will Toor much summed it up: "I think it's just too big," he said. doclink

    U.K.: The Advantages of Having No Babies

    November 7, 2007, New Scientist

    Consider the example of a woman who has adopted an extremely frugal lifestyle, reducing her emissions by 60%, and who, at the age of 25, decides to have a baby. The reduction in her emissions during her life will be exactly offset by the increase in emissions caused by the child over its lifetime, and that is assuming that the child can be persuaded to adopt the same frugal lifestyle.

    When one considers the difficulty of persuading children to accept one's own goals in life, and especially when it is borne in mind that even if successful the net gain to the planet is nil, the advantages of not having babies becomes readily apparent. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I publish this example only to illustrate the relationship of population growth to consumption. Reducing consumption is NOT enough. We must address population!

    U.K.: Calls for 'Three Planets' Action

    October 13, 2007, icWales

    The report, says that if everyone on Earth consumed resources at the rate Wales does, the world's population would need three planets. It sets out a vision for a Wales, with a 75% cut in the nation's ecological footprint by 2050.

    It identifies seven key areas.

    Food: At present 75% of all food eaten in Wales comes through supermarkets. The agenda sees an agricultural-environmental agenda on the producer side, and a healthy diet on the consumer side;

    Buildings: Many towns in Wales are composed of buildings which are inefficient. Policies for new buildings are needed, with a future of low carbon sustainable buildings responsive to the sun and the elements, surrounded by townscapes which are green, clean and human scale.

    The vision sees a future of low-impact, high-quality, IT-enabled, responsive public transport; a car fleet which has raised its efficiency by several times; and on the demand side, a coordination of activities and locations to reduce travel needs.

    In a new economy, the average product will last longer and be designed for re-use and reconditioning, built from lower-impact materials with higher efficiency, sourced locally or with low-impact distribution. Services the agenda needs to focus on public sector procurement and corporate social responsibility. Wales' energy demand is tapered down and local renewable energy sources are accelerated.

    Resource economy is based on re-circulation: recycled, re-manufactured and re-used materials and products. Our very future depends on our ability to live within the limits of the Earth's natural resources, yet since the 1980s human demand has been exceeding the Earth's ability to replenish and absorb. doclink

    Ralph says: Easy to make words. now let us wee how easy it is to turn them into action. Karen Gaia says: no mention of stablizing population.

    New Zealand Battles Climate Change Threat to Trade, Tourism

    November 7, 2007, AFP: Google

    New Zealand ,with a population of only 4.1 million and few industrial smokestacks, is facing accusations that its food and tourism industries are helping destroy the environment.

    Dragging our feet on climate change would pose an economic risk to New Zealand, devastating to our reputation.

    The impact of greenhouse gases from transport, especially aviation, means New Zealand's environmental credentials are coming under new scrutiny.

    Environmentally-conscious tourists are being asked if they can justify flying 20,000 kilometres for a holiday on the opposite side of the world.

    They are also being asked why they are eating lamb, beef and butter from New Zealand when they could be buying from local farmers.

    Tourism is New Zealand's single largest export, providing one in 10 jobs and 8.9% of GDP.

    Of New Zealand's 2.42 million visitors last year, 54% were from Europe, the Americas and Asia. Aircraft emissions account for around 3% of global emissions, but have increased 87% since 1990.

    Tourism New Zealand said there has been no impact on long haul visitor arrivals that we can attribute to concerns over sustainability. But it is a situation we are watching closely.

    A former British cabinet minister claimed that a kilogram of kiwi fruit airfreighted from New Zealand to Europe caused five kilograms of carbon to be released. The New Zealand government said that kiwifruit is always transported by ship. Of New Zealand's exports in the year to June totalling 33.4 billion dollars, the US accounted for 4.5 billion and the EU 5.2 billion. Dairy products account for 21% of New Zealand's exports and meat 13.2%. Critics in Britain and Germany in particular have been saying it is irresponsible to import food and drinks from the other side of the world.

    Trade minister Phil Goff said foreign consumers would realise the flaws of the argument and focus instead on the total carbon footprint of foods.

    British dairy farmers produce 31% more greenhouse gases than their counterparts in New Zealand, including the impact of transport.

    New Zealand's climate means cattle eat grass all year round. Those running the food miles campaigns often represent producers which have a far greater greenhouse gas footprint than do the products they are complaining about from New Zealand. New Zealand will gradually introduce an emissions trading scheme.

    The tourism industry has a new strategy focussed on environmental sustainability. Air New Zealand announced it would trial bio-fuel in association with engine maker Rolls Royce and Boeing. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: One of the things that we must do to compensate from overpopulation is to produce nearly all of our food locally.

    U.S.: Divorce Isn't Resource Efficient, Study Finds

    December 4, 2007, Seattle Times

    Divorce can be bad for the environment. Each time a family dissolves, the result is two new households.

    Researchers concluded that in 2005, in the US alone, divorced households could have saved 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water compared to that of married households.

    11 other countries were examined, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and South Africa between 1998 and 2002. In these countries, if divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been a million fewer households using energy and water. With the number of divorces rising, so is the number of households, outpacing population growth itself. doclink

    U.S.: Why Working Less is Better for the Globe

    May 22, 2007, AlterNet

    Americans are working harder than ever before. We seem more determined to work harder and produce more. Choosing to work less is the biggest environmental issue no one's talking about.

    The Work Less Party is a growing initiative aimed at cutting work hours while tackling unemployment, environment, and boosting leisure time. Working less would produce less, consume less, pollute less and live more.

    We work 250 hours, or five weeks, more than the Brits, and a whopping 500 hours, or 12 and a half weeks, more than the Germans. Longer hours plus labor-saving technology equals ever-increasing productivity. Without high annual growth to match productivity, there's unemployment. Maintaining growth means using more energy and resources, which results in increased waste and pollution.

    The US is the world's largest polluter. When people work longer hours, they rely increasingly on fast food, disposable diapers, or bottled water. Earning more means spending money in ways that are environmentally detrimental. When people are time-starved they don't have enough time to be conscious consumers. If Europe moved towards a U.S. based economic model, it would consume 15-30% more energy by 2050.

    The problem is, France has already begun following America's lead by increasing the workload. France's increased productivity would create even larger problems. In both the US and Europe, work hours declined from the beginning of the industrial revolution until World War II. After the war, the 40-hour workweek was legally in place. Since the 1970s, most European governments have continued shortening work hours whereas the United States has opted instead to let wages fall. The USA has declined relative to all other industrial countries in health, equality, savings, sustainability. What's happened in Europe is people have discovered it's nice to have some time in their lives, and they've wanted more. Here, business has kept that door completely shut.

    Take Back Your Time has launched a campaign in the US calling for legislation guaranteeing a minimum of three weeks of paid vacation.

    The average vacation in the United States is now only a long weekend, and 25% percent of American workers have no paid vacation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But we continue to suffer from overload, debt, and anxiety, and are stuck in a fatalistic rat race generated by heightened consumerism. Our society is focused on work that makes stuff that goes directly into landfills. Essential work such as art, music, creativity, community, the kind necessary to create a healthy society and planet, is being negated in favor of that.

    If you want to protect the environment, you have to consume less, which means you have to produce less, and you have to work less. Our standard of living will improve hugely. doclink

    Europeans More Likely to Buy Environmentally-friendly Products

    October 29, 2007, European Research

    A survey revealed that Europeans are 50% more likely to buy environmentally-friendly products than Americans. They are 25% more likely to recycle and to try to influence family and friends to buy green goods and be environmentally conscious.

    The study divided the adult population of Europe according to people's buying patterns, product use and attitudes to sustainability, corporate responsibility and the use of environmentally friendly products and services.

    The results showed that Europeans are 32% more likely to buy products that have organic or environmental stamps of authenticity on them, but 25% less likely than Americans to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

    Environmental initiatives carried out by the European Union have played a large role in developing a "green consciousness" among European consumers. The rise in popularity of organic food and natural medicines and therapies, which are publicised frequently in the media, are also contributing to the growing green consciousness. doclink

    In Search of Common Sense

    October 13, 2007, Yale Global Online

    During the past century, globalization grew exponentially, paced by population, technological and economic hyper-growth. However, we find ourselves without mechanisms to create solutions for the whole. New problems do not recognize national boundaries, every nation has sovereign power over its own territory. The Tällberg Foundation proposes new frameworks for international negotiations, and changed institutions for global governance.

    The initial objective is to develop recommendations for humanity's relationship with nature. We will use well-tested methods to develop global operations. Planning is missing in the international negotiations that should guarantee welfare and security for all. Responses today are based upon the spontaneous crises that erupt from changes in the balance of power.

    Environmental issues are systems problems. No one nation can solve the climate problem or control water problem.

    The world now relies on economic growth. To question the idea of growth is taboo. That growth should have limits is not politically or economically acceptable, but environmental crises say otherwise. Current trends of growth destabilize our future.

    The political rhetoric is that continued high global economic growth is compatible with avoiding the effects of climate change. All serious research demonstrates that our planet does not meet the growth ambitions of everyone in the current technological infrastructure.

    The American invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the institution does not have the authority to limit a superpower's ambition to maximize its own interests.

    But all parties must be part of the process toward political agreement. Yet today we lack political debate about how to organize our global society.

    Distrust among nations has grown for many years within multilateral organizations, with conflicts between poor and rich nations, between various religions, ethnic and cultural spheres.

    There is mistrust over the ever-increasing gap between promises, agreements and results delivered. In the meantime, the sustainability of Earth's ecosystems continues to be undermined.

    The technological infrastructure is not compatible with the growth that 6.6 billion people see as their vision of the future. Too many in too short a time strive after too high a material standard of living. We are caught between our ambitions and the Earth's capacity.

    Within 30 years the world's population will grow to 9 billion and will place the ecosystem under an enormous stress.

    Water is one example of a resource with imbalances throughout the world. In large areas of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, China and western and southwestern US, water is approaching critical levels.

    The shortages are greatest in the most densely populated areas. In many regions of the world groundwater levels are sinking and global warming will hasten this process.

    The struggle for natural resources will harden geopolitical tensions, with resulting military conflicts and terror. There are no longer new worlds to which millions could emigrate. A fight for survival awaits us, as the international systems of economy, finances and logistics erode.

    Management of global issues needs new principles and models to meet the fast-growing mutual dependencies.

    The Tällberg Foundation will organize a series of workshops in seven national capitals in cooperation with diverse partners with a goal to develop global public opinion that does not stem from individual political, national or economic interests.

    One Swedish tradition is a centuries-old practice protected by the Swedish Constitution: Everyone shall have the right of access to nature. You may go anywhere as long as you heed the common sense of freedom and responsibility concisely expressed in the phrase, "Do not disturb, do not destroy." doclink

    Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change

    New York Times*

    The biggest animal rights groups have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. The UN reported that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport.

    Environmentalists are pointing fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.'s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate. PETA is outfitting a Hummer with a driver in a chicken suit and a vinyl banner proclaiming meat as the top cause of global warming. PETA had written to more than 700 environmental groups, asking them to promote vegetarianism. The Humane Society has also highlighted that "switching to a plant-based diet does more to curb global warming than switching from an S.U.V. to a Camry. Vegan Outreach, a 14-year-old group in Tucson with just three full-time workers and a $500,000 annual budget, is spending about $800 this month to run ads to give more prominence to the global warming aspect of vegetarianism. Al Gore calls global warming a risk to humanity, yet hasn't changed or mentioned vegetarianism. Using global warming as a tactic for advancing the cause of vegetarianism feels a bit opportunistic. Environmental groups, concede that mobilizing against meat eaters is not their highest priority.

    Lecturing people about personal consumption choices is not effective. doclink

    It's Not the Number of Automobiles but the Number of People

    Paul Watson

    by Capt. Paul Watson, co-founder of The Greenpeace Foundation, and president and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society .. The NO. 1 cause of global greenhouse gas emissions is over-population. In 1950, the world population was 3 billion, now 6.5 billion people who produce an enormous output of waste and utilize an unbelievable amount of resources and energy. Most people having children have no idea why they are even having children other than that's what you do. Most don't really love their children because if they did they would be very much involved in trying to ensure that their children have a world to survive in.

    Unless over-population is addressed, there is no way of slowing down greenhouse gas emissions. But corporations need workers, governments need taxpayers, bureaucrats and soldiers. More people means more money.

    The solution to all of our problems is simple. We just need to live in accordance with the three basic laws of ecology.

    Weaken diversity and the entire system will be weakened and will ultimately collapse. All of the species within an eco-system are interdependent. There is a limit to growth because there is a limit to carrying capacity.

    Human populations are exceeding carrying capacity and diminishing resources and diversity of species.

    Albert Einstein wrote that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

    And the honey bee is disappearing. Why? We don't know why. All around the world bees are disappearing and bees pollinate our plants. If the bees disappear, we will have only four years. We are cutting down the forest and plundering the oceans. We are polluting the soil, the air and the water and rapidly running out of fresh water to drink. Water is now being sold for more than the equivalent amount of gasoline.

    Now for Al Gore's really inconvenient truth. In his film he does not mention once that the meat and dairy industry that produces the bacon, the steaks, the chicken wings and the milk is a larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry. Al may drive a Prius but he likes his burgers.

    This is why the big organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club will not say a thing about the meat industry. Last year I saw Greenpeacers sitting down for a fish meal while engaged in a campaign to oppose over-fishing.

    When we pointed out that our Sea Shepherd ships serve only vegan meals, the Greenpeace cook replied, "that's just silly."

    The oceans have been plundered to the point that 90% of the fish have been removed. This is ecological insanity.

    The largest marine predator is the cow. More than half the fish is rendered into fish meal and fed to domestic livestock. We are extracting some 50 to 60 fish from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon. doclink

    UK Consumers Place a Premium on Sustainability

    May 16, 2007, The Global Network of Environment and Technology

    Concern for the environment has prompted one of the most complete and speedy revolutions in consumer attitudes. A survey of more than 1,500 British adults found that 80% believe it's important for companies to be environmentally friendly.

    A reversal from a year ago, when "the green agenda was out on the lunatic fringe for most people."

    British consumers are concerned and pessimistic about the state of the environment but not quite sure what to do about it. Climate change is seen as the most important environmental issue and more than 70% rate society's performance in addressing the issue as neutral or worse.

    But consumers focus primarily on reducing their waste rather than reducing consumption. Rounding out the list of common green behaviors is recycling plastic bags, followed by the use of products that do not deplete the ozone layer.

    There is widespread belief that we are all part of the problem. But most are still thinking in terms of throwing away less, rather than consuming less.

    More than 20% of the population could not identify steps a company should take to make itself green.

    The research shows that companies seeking rewards in the marketplace can do so by marketing themselves as environmentally concerned. Green brands are perceived as having higher quality and consumers are prepared to pay a premium. Six in ten, for instance, said they will spend more on energy saving household appliances.

    Consumers want to do the right thing but need help from companies to lead them into action. Brands which align themselves with environmental concerns can expect to secure a competitive advantage. doclink

    If We Want to Save the Planet, We Need a Five-year Freeze on Biofuels

    March 27, 2007,

    The governments using biofuel to tackle global warming know that it causes more harm than good. From next year, all suppliers in the UK will have to ensure that 2.5% of the fuel they sell is made from plants. By 2050, the government hopes that 33% of our fuel will come from crops. By 2017 the USA should be supplying 24% of the nation's transport fuel.

    Biofuels are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster. Those who can afford to drive are richer than those who are in danger of starvation and it will lead to the destruction of important habitats.

    The price of maize has doubled. The price of wheat has reached a 10-year high, while global stockpiles of both grains have reached 25-year lows. There have been food riots in Mexico and the poor are feeling the strain all over the world. According to the UN the main reason is the demand for ethanol. Farmers will plant more, but it is not clear that they can overtake the booming demand. Biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. A UN report suggests that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be gone by 2022 with the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel.

    Biodiesel from palm oil eventually causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel.

    Indigenous people in South America, Asia and Africa are starting to complain about incursions onto their land by fuel planters. The environment secretary noted that palm oil plantations "are destroying 0.7% of the Malaysian rainforest each year, reducing a vital natural resource (and in the process, destroying the natural habitat of the orang-utan). It is all connected."

    The European commission was faced with a choice between fuel efficiency and biofuels. After heavy lobbying on behalf of car manufacturers, it caved in and raised the limit to 130 grams. It announced that it would make up the shortfall by increasing the contribution from biofuel.

    The British government says it "will require transport fuel suppliers to report on the carbon saving and sustainability of the biofuels they supply". But it will not require them to do anything. Biofuels occupy the space that other crops now fill, displacing them into new habitats. It promises that one day there will be biofuels made from straw or grass or wood. But there are still major technical obstacles. The author suggests a five-year freeze.

    Encouraged by government policy, vast investments are now being made by farmers and chemical companies. doclink

    Saving Planet Earth -- One Store at a Time

    March 26, 2007, ABC News

    While Washington debates how to tackle climate change, Wal-Mart, DuPont and Honda are among a small but growing cadre that is taking action on its own. Their size could lead to change in an area where Congress and the president, have mostly balked.

    If these corporations use their power to go "green," the hope is that there will be a significant reduction in global warming.

    If they can cut a deal now, they can get a better deal than they would get later. When Wal-Mart says 'Don't use excess packaging,' packing is reduced on products across the board. Such efforts were "both genuine and will make a difference."

    Whether it is the world's growing population or global warming, we see the need for sustainable business practices" Wal-Mart chief executive said. With 176 million weekly shoppers in 14 countries , Wal-Mart can have a major impact. If a supplier changes its packaging to comply with Wal-Mart's demand, other retailers will also see the effects.

    Going green has expanded. Chairlifts at Vail, Heavenly and other Vail Resorts mountains are now powered by wind energy by purchasing 100% wind power offsets for all of its electric needs.

    The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of companies and environmental groups is pushing a cap-and-trade system where limits are set on greenhouse-gas emissions. These people want a seat while policy is being shaped. They'd rather be there and help and make sure their concerns and sector issues are considered.

    A lot of the companies are going to be making capital investments and have an interest in what the regulations will be. .

    "There are a certain number of CEOs who feel it's time to give something back, and they're looking at the world they're going to leave behind." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I see two things wrong with this picture: 1) the major impact of big box stores is the large number of miles driven to get to the store, compared to the local neighborhood store. 2) Stores promote consumerism; much of it is stuff we don't need.

    Living with Water Scarcity -- World Must Act Now

    March 21, 2007, Eureka Alert

    A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture - the first of its kind, brings together the work of over 700 specialists, examining policies and practices of water use and development in the agricultural sector over the last 50 years.

    One-third of the world's population live in areas where water scarcity must be reckoned with. Much of this cannot be avoided, but can be averted through better water management. As a rule of thumb, about one litre of liquid water gets converted to water vapor to produce one calorie of food. A heavy meat diet requires much more water than a vegetarian diet.

    The relation between water and food is a struggle for over two thirds of world's 850 million under-nourished people. There is water scarcity in India and China, because of rapid economic growth in both countries. Diets are more dependent on animal products. In China, meat demand has quadrupled over the last 30 years, and in India milk and egg products are increasingly popular. Growing cities take more water, and environmental concerns are rising.

    Water use in agriculture is one of the major drivers of ecosystem degradation. Flows of rivers in important food producing areas dry up because of the water needed for irrigated agriculture. More people require more water for more food; more water is essential in the fight against poverty; yet we should limit the amount of water taken from ecosystems.

    In the worst case scenario where practices don't change, water use will double. Agricultural practices are changing, but not fast enough.

    With wise policies and investments it is possible over the next 50 years to limit future growth in water withdrawals to 13% and cultivated land expansion to 9%. But complicating the situation are climate change and the increased use of biofuels. Water scarcity is with us to stay, and we have to learn to live with it.

    Consider agriculture as an ecosystem producing multiple services for people and sustain biodiversity. We need to place the means of getting out of poverty into the hands of poor people by focusing on water as a means to raise their own food and gain more income.

    Growing more food with less water can reduce future demand for water, thus easing competition for water and environmental degradation. A 35% increase in water productivity could reduce additional crop water needs from 80% to 20% by 2050.

    Improving access to water, and using it better are essential in the fight against poverty.

    Poverty, hunger, gender inequality, and environmental degradation continue to afflict developing countries because of political and institutional failings. While water scarcity is here to stay, many of the problems associated with water scarcity can be avoided. This will require that we deal with difficult choices and tradeoffs. doclink

    Ralph says: Not a single suggestion that if we reduce the world population we cut the demand for water. I can remember only 70 or so years ago as a young boy walking through the British countryside and drinking from any stream Ii found. Water was universally available. It is the growth in population that is causing most of the problems we discuss in this web site, but no one wants to talk about it!!!! Karen Gaia says: the article ignores the problems of biofuels which will take over most of the water and the land used by poor people to grow food - just to keep the rich people of the planet in their cars and SUVs.

    Another Way to Fight Global Warming

    March 25, 2007, Fred Brown

    Next to the burning of hydrocarbons, the principal source of greenhouse gases is that emitted by the digestive tracts of the cattle required to meet the demands of a horribly over-populated world. Can we justify the continued use of flesh foods and dairy products?

    Vegetarians live longer than meat eaters.

    The transition to a vegan diet can even be made without a change in daily menu since there are now so many vegetarian meat substitutes and soy milk products available.

    The planet you save may be your own. doclink

    Australia: Facing Up to the Challenges of Urban Sustainability

    February 14, 2007, The Canberra Times

    Australia's cities are at the centre of its economic, life and are crucial to the country's future. Yet our cities are struggling with problems. The demand for new infrastructure, the transport and traffic congestion, managing a sustainable water supply, creeping inequity and social division and global warming are just some of the many issues.

    These issues have been repeatedly highlighted as major concerns with the state of our cities, and the need for action.

    The common theme is the urgent need for a national approach. We can no longer consider our major population centres as isolated entities which do not impact on each other or the nation. Competing demands for natural and human resources, the impacts of growth and our reliance on the supply of goods and services between cities highlight this fact.

    The Howard Government has remained mute on the issue. It has refused to discuss repeated calls for a coordinated approach to the challenges our cities face.

    The Government has committed to a national agenda in other areas, water for example, yet does not see that sustainable growth of our major urban areas should compel as much attention.

    All state and territory planning ministers are now proposing a way forward, currently being considered to establish a National Action Plan for Urban Australia.

    The Plan would be established through an Australia-wide intergovernmental agreement, that would involve outlining measures to tackle the environmental, social or economic issues being faced.

    States and territories would receive payments in accordance with their commitment to implement the plans and could be penalised for failure to implement the measures within agreed timeframes or outcomes by the cancellation of these payments.

    An independent body would be created to recommend to the Commonwealth whether payments to the states and territories should be made. The Commonwealth would establish a fund to be used to leverage commitment to action plans. States and territories would be required to contribute.

    An April 2005 report identified a $25 billion backlog in infrastructure investment. Failure to deal with traffic congestion in Sydney has a cost of $11 billion.

    A report concluded that a "a substantial dividend" would result from improving sustainability in major urban areas".

    It is time for consideration of a national agenda for our urban areas, with the Commonwealth taking a significant role. doclink

    Turning Point in US as More Women Choose Not to Marry: Majority Live Without a Spouse, Census Shows Marriage No Longer the Norm

    January 17, 2007, Guardian (London)

    Some 51% (59.9 million) women were living without a spouse in 2005, a rise from 35% in 1950. Of the more than 117 million American women above the age of 15, 63 million are married, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million are married to husbands who are not living at home.

    Some of the women have outlived their husbands. In 1960s and 1970s, the family was a focus of baby boomers' rebellion.

    Forty years later, the growing independence of women has produced a generation of women who see choices other than marriage.

    Men and women are waiting until they are well into their 30s to marry, or live together. In 1950, some 42% of women below the age of 24 were married; by 2000, the figure had fallen to 16%, the census data found.

    The proportion of married women between 25 and 34 fell to 58% in 2000 from 82% in 1950.

    Those women who do marry and go on to divorce take longer to remarry than men, or may choose to live with a partner without being legally married.

    The declining incidence of marriage was pronounced among African-Americans, with only 30% of women living with a spouse.

    About 60% of Asian woman are living in married households.

    Social forces have created a society where women no longer need to rely on husbands for financial support. This has created a society where people spend half of their adult life alone. We will never go back to the 1950s. That dominant social norm is gone forever. doclink

    One Last Thing - Would a Drop in Population Be a Positive Or a Negative?

    November 26, 2006, Philadelphia Inquirer (US)

    Fertility rates are dropping while population continues to increase. By 2080, world population will peak at approximately nine billion. There is a school of thought that argues that smaller populations are good. Decreased population will lead to higher wages and a better quality of life as supplies exceed demands.

    These arguments do not withstand scrutiny.

    Ehrlich wrote that, in the face of expanding populations, "the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death."

    Instead, the availability of food has increased, even with growing population. Famine, has become a matter of fair distribution, not of inadequate supply.

    Population increase fosters agricultural innovation, which, spurs leaps in production. Everywhere you go today, you find traffic jams and sprawl, but this is a problem of density, not population. There's plenty of land available out there.

    Markets and human innovation stepped in to provide greater efficiency.

    For instance, in 1850, you needed an average of 4.6 tons of petroleum equivalent to produce $1,000 of goods and services. By 1950, you needed only 1.8 tons, and, by 1978, 1.5 tons. More population means more creators and producers, both of goods along established production patterns and of new knowledge and inventions."

    All things being equal, population increase leads to increased per capita production.

    Between A.D. 200 and 600, population shrank from 257 million to 208 million. It took 400 more years for the population to recover. There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital.

    There is good reason to believe population decline will be bad for us. Innovation will suffer and economies contract. The supposed benefits of population decline are a mirage. The real question is whether falling populations will lead Western civilization to something like the fall of Rome. doclink

    Ralph says: The author should open his eyes to the millions who are already dying for want of food. Karen Gaia says: The author seems totally unaware of the limits of the supply of resources, particularly water, soil, and oil.

    U.S. Motorists Driving a Little Less

    November 30, 2006, MarketWatch

    A study by finds that the average American drove 13,657 miles in 2005, down from 13,711 in 2004. Last year also saw SUVs comprise a smaller part of new-vehicle sales. While gas consumption continues to rise, demand grew only 0.3% last year and 1% for the first 11 months of 2006. Gas costs about 3.8% of average household spending. The graying of the population has contributed, as older drivers tend to drive less. doclink

    Has the Earth Got a Prayer? Status Quo Really is Planet's Dead End

    November 21, 2006, The Japan Times

    It should be obvious that we are setting ourselves up for a crisis of global proportions.

    We have been "fruitful and multiplied" to such an extent that Earth's human population, which was a mere 3 billion in 1959, will, by most estimates, top 9 billion by around 2042.

    Our forests are being replaced with agriculture, our oceans are deserted, and deserts worldwide are spreading.

    If you're among the majority of humans who care about the planet, then you probably sense that the status quo is a dead end. We cannot allow population to rise apace.

    Increasingly the faithful are stepping into the arena of environmental activism. Only a fundamental change in how we view our planetary resources can prevent a global crisis.

    Economics in the 20th century produced productive but also polluting and resource-intensive economies. That model is being pursued by developing economies seeking their shot at prosperity. But key elements of the approach cannot be sustained.

    Adherents to the status quo still reassure us that new technologies, new resources, and human ingenuity will see us through. But scientists are not so optimistic. As long as you have exponential growth in population and industry, it doesn't make any difference what you assume about technology, resources, or productivity. Eventually you overshoot and collapse. We've got one planet, finite resources and more people consuming more resources, something has to give.

    Ideally, development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the future generations.

    This will require governments worldwide to recognize that all economic activity is dependent on the natural environment. Presently governments pursue rapid economic growth, then clean up the mess they've made.

    Today's developed nations have used this approach, none has achieved sustainability. Other countries will have to get development right the first time. That's the case for China and India, with over a billion mouths to feed each and those people demanding clean water and shelter, as well as dishwashers, computers and cars. Over the next decades we have to move our environment from political and social concerns and restructure our economic system to reflect this priority.

    We will have to adopt a new understanding of what "wealth" and "quality of life" mean. This is where faith-based communities can offer us guiding values.

    A Buddhist movement in Sri Lanka embraces a vision of well-being based on 10 basic needs: A clean and beautiful environment; a clean and adequate supply of water; basic clothing; a balanced diet; a simple house to live in; basic health care; simple communications facilities; basic energy requirements; well-rounded education; and cultural and spiritual sustenance.

    For the majority of our fellow human beings such a community would be a godsend.

    It is critical, for the developed world to consume less so that the rest of the world can have a fairer share of the planet. No new doctrine is needed, every religion condemns the taking of life and stealing from future generations.

    There is only one Earth, we are its custodians. Whatever our religion we share the same place of worship. Our neighbor's plight is our own, and their well-being is intertwined with ours. doclink

    Earth's Ecological Debt Crisis; Today Mankind's 'Borrowing' From Nature Hits New Record

    October 9, 2006, The Independent (London)

    Evidence is mounting that rapid population growth and rising living standards are putting an intolerable strain on nature.

    Just like a company bound for bankruptcy plunging into the red, the world starts falling into ecological debt on 9 October. Problems range from carbon dioxide emissions to the destruction of rainforests.

    Catching too many fish has left once-common fish struggling to survive. And eventually only small and juvenile fish are left, and stocks become unviable.

    Climate change threatens to plunge the world into conflict. British military planners are preparing for conflicts arising from the scramble for resources in 20 to 30 years' time.

    Flooding, melting permafrost and desertification could lead to loss of agricultural land, poisoning of water supplies and destruction of economic infrastructure.

    Each individual's share is the equivalent of 1.8 hectares of the Earth's surface, the area equivalent we use is 2.2 hectares per person. Humanity is living off its ecological credit card and is liquidating the planet's natural resources.

    Globally we deny millions of people who lack access to land, food and clean water, and we put the planet's life support mechanisms in peril."

    Humanity started living beyond its means in 1987. Consumption is profligate in the West, where individuals consume air-freighted food, buy hard-wood furniture, enjoy foreign holidays and own cars.

    The world would need five planet Earth's to sustain a materialistic society such as the US. By contrast, developing countries use a fraction of the resources.

    We are using resources faster than they can be replaced, we are drawing natural capital, we know that collapse is a real possibility.

    Degradation of the marine ecosystem is one of the world's biggest problems after climate change.

    Oil reserves are fast running out; some 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year. Population growth, pollution and climate change are making water a scarce resource. Overfarming drains the soil of nutrients, while the chemicals used in the process pollute waterways. doclink


    A More Resilient World: the Role of Population and Family Planning in Sustainable Development

    June 27, 2018, New Security Beat   By: Olivia Smith

    A recent Wilson Center event focused on the development of a more resilient world through sustainable development. "Community mobilization, local capacity-building, and innovation are the cornerstones of successful development," according to Franklin Moore, Africare's Chief of Programs. And, he believes "tailored education campaigns" are necessary for change.

    One of the biggest hurdles to achieving resilience is water security. Water is essential for life, and each person in the developed world uses enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool every year. As the population grows so does the demand for water. The ongoing water crisis in Pakistan, where the population is predicted to reach 300 million by 2050, "has brought the population issue also on to the table," said Zeba Sathar of the Population Council.

    Changing farms to feed families is another way to contribute to the stability of communities. Seventy percent of water usage goes to food production, so Africare is encouraging farmers to plant drought-resistant plants to feed livestock. And, to address the problem of population growth exceeding food supply, family planning is being promoted along with changes in agricultural practices that increase nutritious food production.

    Displacement due to extreme weather has caused additional instability in undeveloped regions. In Nigeria droughts have contributed to this problem, and in Pakistan flooding has led to destroyed homes and livelihoods.

    "Seventy percent of water we use on this planet goes to food production," said Eric Viala, Director of the Sustainable Water Partnership.. "If you don't have the water to produce food, you can't eat.” Severe droughts can lead to hunger, even famine; while too much water-floods-can swamp farmland.

    Zeba Sathar reported that the African Union has seen success "linking the reduction in fertility, and favorable birth spacing patterns, with a demographic dividend...with positive development outcomes.”

    Jason Bremmer of Family Planning 2020 believes that to achieve resilience "it is really critical that we understand these interlinked challenges and we find new ways of doing business, as business as usual - standard family planning programs, our standard efforts of reaching communities with water and environmental issues - are going to be further stressed.” doclink

    Dar is Water Stressed as Population, Economy Pile Pressure on Resource

    Tanzania is doing well in economy in Africa but needs to improve water resource management, according to the latest World Bank report.
    November 7, 2017, Daily News

    In Tanzania water resources have remained the same while the population has doubled and the size of the economy has more than tripled over the last 25 years. Water resources recently dropped below 1,700 cubic meters per capita meaning that the country has joined the ranks of the world's water stressed countries.

    "This is still well in excess of the 1,000 cubic metres per person that is internationally considered to be threshold for absolute scarcity, but it is below the 1,700 cubic metres level that the United Nations considers countries to be water stressed," World Bank expert, William Rex said.

    The figure will continue to decline, reaching around 1,400 by 2025, he said.

    Most rain falls in two to three months of the year and after accounting for environmental flow requirements, national demand in Tanzania is already 150% of accessible water during dry periods.

    Agriculture currently uses 89% of the total water of Tanzania's utilized water resources. The global average is around 70%.

    The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Prof Kitila Mkumbo said measures include coordination of institutions dealing with water management for coordinated efforts on water resource management. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), Geoffrey Kirenga said enforcement of regulations governing water use and management was vital to improve management of water.

    A representative for Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Salum Shamte said Tanzania needs modern irrigation facilities were needed to boost productivity in agriculture. doclink

    Cattle raised by pastoralists and wildlife suffer during drought periods.

    Two Billion People Drinking Polluted Water Worldwide: WHO

    Dramatic improvements are needed in ensuring access to clean water and sanitation worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday, warning that nearly two billion people currently use fecal-contaminated water.
    April 13, 2017, Press Tv

    "Today, almost two billion people use a source of drinking-water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio," said Maria Neira, head of WHO's public health department.

    "Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500,000 diarrheal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma," she added.

    In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) vowed to ensure universal access to safe and affordable water and sanitation by 2030.

    A new report published by WHO on behalf of UN-Water, says that countries will fall far short of this goal if they do not radically increase their investments.

    Countries have already, on average, raised their annual budgets for water, sanitation and hygiene by 4.9% over the last three years. But 80% of countries acknowledge that their financing is still not enough to meet their nationally-set targets for increasing access to safe water and sanitation.

    The World Bank has estimated that investments in infrastructure will need to triple to $114 billion per year -- not including operating and maintenance costs -- in order to meet the SDG targets.

    "Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind," said Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water and head of the International Labor Organization.. doclink

    Affordable Water May Soon Dry Up, Especially If You Live Here

    January 25, 2017, Public Broadcasting System (PBS)   By: Nsikan Akpan

    The average monthly water bill in America is $120. Research conducted by Elizabeth Mack Mack and her colleague Sarah Wrase at Michigan State University found that water bills in rose in the 30 major U.S. cities they surveyed by 41% between 2010 and 2015. The study was published recently in PLOS ONE.

    In Detroit, 50,000 households have lost water access since 2014. In Philadelphia 40% of the city's 227,000 water bills are past due.

    According to the EPA, if water prices rise above 4.5% of a household's income, then "that means you're going to have to take expenditures from other portions of your budget and allocate them to water," Mack said.

    To meet this affordability benchmark, a household must earn at least $32,000 per year. Based on their numbers, 11.9% of American households couldn't afford water in 2014. This percentage could rise to 33% if water prices continue to rise at the same rate of 41%.

    Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama had the largest numbers of census tracts facing a high-risk of future water poverty. Many of the at-risk areas also have higher rates of disability, food stamp usage, unemployment and black and Hispanic residents.

    Justin Mattingly, a research manager at the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, said "Aging infrastructure is a problem for everybody, and water scarcity is becoming a bigger problem in many regions as well. There have been years of disinvestment for water infrastructure, and it's starting to come back to us now."

    Much of the nation's water infrastructure dates back to World War II, if not earlier. Senate democrats recently unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would allocate $110 billion to water and sewer rehabilitation. But water policy agencies predict a total overhaul of America's water would itself cost $1 trillion. Tack on another $36 billion to adjust for drought, seawater intrusion into aquifers, flooding and other climate change-based shifts to water systems.

    Atlanta, which spends more on water than any other state, moved to prevent stormwater from discharging into wastewate, thus preventing raw sewage from mixing into the streams used for drinking water. This regulatory decision plus the privatization of water services bumped Atlanta's water bills to $325 per month on average.

    In addition, as populations decline in places like Detroit, water utilities are forced to spread their expenses across fewer people, which boosts rates. Meanwhile, cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas have low prices due to human growth.

    Mattingly said one tactic to take some of the burden off low-income households involves higher charges for those who use more water, rather than a flat fee for everyone. doclink

    What Happens to the U.S. Midwest When the Water's Gone?

    The Ogallala aquifer turned the region into America's breadbasket. Now it, and a way of life, are being drained away.
    August 1, 2016, National Geographic magazine   By: Laura Parker

    The Ogallala aquifer, also known as High Plains aquifer, is an immense underground freshwater basin that makes modern life possible in the dry states of Middle America. In some places wells that tap into the aquifer do not have enough water left to irrigate for an entire summer.

    The water has been accumulating in porous rock for about 15,000 years, before the end of the last ice age. For the past 60 years, the Ogallala has been pumped out faster than rain and snow melt can seep back into the ground to replenish it, thanks largely to irrigation machinery. As a result, in parts of western Kansas, the aquifer has declined by more than 60% during that period. In some parts, it is already exhausted. In 2015 rain was exceptionally heavy -- 50 to 100% above normal. Even so, water levels in the wells dropped again.

    The Ogallala territory, from South Dakota to Texas has some of the most productive farmland anywhere, home to at least a $20-billion-a-year industry that grows nearly one-fifth of the United States' wheat, corn, and beef cattle.

    In the coming decades this slow-speed crisis will unfold just as the world needs to increase food production by 60%, according to the UN, to feed more than nine billion people by mid-century.

    This draining of aquifers is playing out in similar ways across the world, as large groundwater basins in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East decline rapidly. Many of these aquifers have little ability to recharge. Once their water is gone, they could take thousands of years to refill.

    Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead researcher on a study using satellites to record changes in the world's 37 largest aquifers says: "We need to sustain groundwater to sustain food production, and we're not doing it. Is draining the Ogallala the smartest thing for food production in the U.S. and globally? This is the question we need to answer."

    Even a well that orignially pumped a thousand gallons a minute, a rate that would fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in half a day, is dry because neighbors are pulling out so much from their wells that this well drops a foot every year. The neighbors are irrigating corn, which makes a lot of money but uses a lot of water.

    In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed a Great Plains committee to examine the cause of the Dust Bowl, and the committee noted the contradiction in basing an expanding farm economy on a finite resource.

    Irrigated land is worth more and earns more than dryland farming, and pressure is on to keep pumping-from seed salespeople, farm equipment dealers, bankers, insurers, and landlords. "We know we are overdrafting the Ogallala. But we are all so landlocked into these microeconomic decisions that we can't manage on a larger level," siad Jay Garetson, a proud fifth-generation farmer in Sublette, Kansas.

    Hope lies in technology; farmers have iPhone apps that track water use so precisely that as little as a tenth of an inch can be applied to their crops. In Colby, Kansas, a farmer who farms 30,000 acres of wheat and corn, irrigates with two billion gallons of water yearly. He counts among his farmhands an IT technician who collects data to keep his yields ahead of his declining wells.

    As a hedge against declining income when wells go dry, farmers are increasingly tapping into the High Plains' only truly inexhaustible resource: wind. The going rate for wind rights runs about $10,000 a year per turbine. "We can't water our land anymore anyway. For some people, wind is a lifeline,” one farmer said.

    The aquifer's heart, an overstressed zone that runs the width of the Texas Panhandle north 450 miles, from Lubbock to the Kansas-Nebraska state line is at greatest risk of depletion. There, transition to a new era of permanent depletion is under way.

    The aquifer's decline will be twinned with the increasing impacts of climate change, which will add more warm days and longer, more frequent droughts, scientists predict. Already, warmer-than-average evening temperatures in feedlots in southwest Kansas mean that beef cattle drink more water than they did in cooler years. As more farmers return to dryland farming, large farms are likely to swallow smaller family farms, because dry farming, with lower yields, requires more land to be profitable. Irrigation will disappear from most places, so more small towns will fade away. Countless towns across the Plains already teeter on the brink of extinction.

    The irrigation era may come to be called the "great pump up,” bookending the other man-made High Plains disaster-the "great plow up,” when 5.2 million acres of native grasses were torn out, setting the stage for the Dust Bowl.

    Ogallala water made Kansas a leading producer of wheat. Ethanol production and the consolidation of beef feedlots in southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle made corn king. The world's largest contiguous cotton-producing land surrounds Lubbock, thanks to Ogallala water. Large scale hog-processing plants and dairies moved into Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

    All the Earth's continents contain aquifers, several larger than the Ogallala. By the beginning of the 21st century, a third of the world depended on aquifers for drinking water and farming. In China, plagued by drought, the North China Plain aquifer sustains 117 million people in Beijing and surrounding areas. Similar aquifers in the Ganges Brahmaputra Basin and the Indus Basin have helped lead to a population boom that will cause India to pass China as the world's most populous nation by 2022.

    The story is virtually the same everywhere. These and other aquifers in several of the world's most productive, heavily populated regions are being drawn down at precipitous rates. NASA satellites, monitoring changes in Earth's gravitational pull, found that 21 of the world's 37 largest aquifers have passed the sustainable tipping point. California's prolonged drought has driven water levels in much of the Central Valley aquifer to historic lows. India now consumes more groundwater than any other country, and at a faster rate.

    Perhaps Saudi Arabia provides the most spectacular example of overdrawing a resource. The Saudis went after the huge Arabian aquifer with a greater passion than they sought their oil, drilling 2,000 feet deep. The dunes turned green with grain, transforming the desert nation into a leading exporter in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the aquifer has been all but emptied. This year wheat wasn't even planted; the Saudis are growing alfalfa in Arizona and California.

    From 2000 to 2008, the years of both a drought and a corn boom, the Ogallala declined at twice the rate of the previous decade, according to Leonard Konikow, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist. Every year the aquifer lost the equivalent to about half the annual flow of the Colorado River as it runs through the Grand Canyon. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: it is good to see the blame being placed on population and unwise consumption, rather than so often on climate change.

    When it Comes to Water Scarcity, Population Growth Trumps Climate Change

    August 1, 2016, New Security Beat   By: Robert Engelman

    Findings of the Worldwatch Institute's Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA) suggests it's not accurate to claim that climate change is at the root of growing water scarcity around the world. Instead, the ongoing growth of human population has a greater impact on water availability than climate change does.

    Over two years were spent collaboratively assessing over 900 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in the last 12 years on the relationship between family planning, population, and the environment. While balance of the evidence falls short of scientific confirmation of the hypothesis that investments in family planning directly promote environmental sustainability, evidence offers strong support for the idea. Almost no evidence was found indicating that family planning is environmentally irrelevant or harmful.

    The use of family planning clearly helps women and couples prevent unwanted pregnancy. This reduces fertility, raises the average age of childbearing, and slows population growth. Slower population growth translates into a slower accumulation of environmental pressures stemming from human activity. In addition, the use of family planning appears to contribute to the empowerment of women. This, in turn, helps women take more active civic and economic roles, which contributes to environmental sustainability.

    Not one paper found evidence showing that climate change would have a greater impact than population growth on water availability. Most found population growth the stronger force.. A few papers found growth in human demand - related to population but certainly not limited to it - to matter more than decreases in water supply due to climate change.

    Though often renewable, freshwater is a finite natural resource essential to life. As former Vice President Al Gore said, there's no more of it today than when Moses was in the bulrushes. All humans need water.

    Twice as many people in a watershed means half as much of the water available to each person. Climate change, by contrast, may increase or decrease the supply of water, depending on a complex mix of precipitation trends and the greater evaporation caused by warmer temperatures.

    Meanwhile, population growth in many or even most water basins has been more dramatic or the past few decades than any changes in climate.

    Demographers project future population growth, based on the population momentum propelled by young people already born and the slowness of changes in fertility, with more confidence than climate change experts project how precipitation will change with rising temperatures.

    Robert I. McDonald and colleagues concluded that by 2050 population growth in cities in the developing world will multiply the number of people perennially short of water seven-fold, from 150 million to 1 billion. Projected climate change, they found, will add 100 million people to this number - no trivial growth increment, but still a much smaller one.

    A study by Richard C. Carter and Alison Parker projected that the combined force of population growth and urbanization in Africa will "dwarf the likely impacts of climate change on groundwater resources, at least in the first half of the 21st century."

    Yongbo Liu and Yaning Chen compared changes in stream flow of the headwaters of the Tarim River in Western China with changes in downstream flow where human populations were withdrawing this water. While water was less available to people downstream, there was actually more of it upstream over the last three decades - a clear indication that, at least in this case, it was demand for water rather than overall supply decreases that caused scarcity.

    While these papers do not prove absolutely that population growth matters more to water scarcity or other environmental problems than climate change, the absence of papers calculating greater effects from climate change on water supply is at least telling, especially when combined with the logic of how rising human demand interacts with changing supplies of a resource.

    Scientists, experts, and journalists should more often explore the power of population growth in placing demands on finite supplies of freshwater rather than reflexively pointing the finger at climate change.

    While neither population growth nor climate change are amenable to easy solutions or swift turnarounds, there are logical ways to address each, compatible with the values of human rights and reducing inequality. Since the widespread use of contraception yields slower population growth, among its many other benefits, and since continued population growth today is very likely a factor in environmental decline, encouraging access to and the use of voluntary family planning is likely to have environmental benefits - not the least of which is more freshwater availability. doclink

    U.S.: Water Knives in the Near Future - 16 Year Drought Brings Lake Mead to New Record Low

    June 23, 2016, Robertscribbler   By: Robertscribbler

    Over the past four days (June 23, 2016), highs have peaked at 109 to 111 F. Similar heat blasted all up and down the Colorado River Basin, squeezing moisture out of a key water supply for 25 million people in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

    For over the past 16 years the Colorado River has been assailed by drought. This is a new kind of mega-drought that has almost certainly been spurred by a human-forced warming of the world.

    As of June 21, 2016, the water level for Lake Mead was 3 feet below the 1075 mark breached for the first time in the reservoir's history last year. And if Lake Mead remains below that line by the end of this year, it will mean mandatory cuts to Arizona and Nevada's water supply.

    The US Bureau of Reclamation predicts a 64% likelihood that Lake Mead will not only remain below the 1075 foot level by 2019, but that it will plunge to as low as 1025 feet -- only 125 feet above Lake Mead's dead pool line of 900 feet. This would mean mandatory water cuts all up and down the Colorado River Basin.

    California retains senior rights to the river's water supply. If the 16 year drought along the Colorado River basin continues, 6 million people and related industries in Nevada and Arizona will be first hit; water rationing is almost certain to take effect in Arizona and Nevada over the next few years.

    If the drought continues, and the water level hits 1025 feet at Lake Mead by 2019 to 2022, then the Department of the Interior will step in to take control of Lake Mead's water management. At that point, all bets are off even for California and its 19 million people using Lake Mead water - who would likely then see a 10% reduction in the water provided them by Lake Mead.

    Studies indicate that factors related to human-caused climate change prevent weather systems bearing precipitation from reaching the US West Coast. The most intense drying is expected to occur in the Southwest. Record to near record high temperatures results in greatly increased rates of evaporation. So what rain does fall doesn't stay in rivers or in the soil as long.

    NASA notes that reductions in fossil fuel emissions help to blunt the intensity of the coming droughts, but that worsening drought conditions will still occur. doclink

    The Growing Stress on the World's Water

    May 10, 2016, Washington Post

    Water, a resource that many people in advanced nations take for granted, will be significantly impacted by climate change, warns the World Bank.

    Not only will there be sea level rise, but there will be concerns about whether people will have enough fresh water to farm, produce electricity, bathe and drink.

    Global warming will affect water's distribution across countries, making some much worse off. Water strain from population growth and climate change could reduce growth in some major economies by 6% by 2050. That would push some countries into "sustained negative growth," which would mean prolonged suffering for millions of people.

    A belt of nations from Africa through the Middle East to central and east Asia are in most danger, the World Bank warned

    The poorest people in this belt of countries will feel waters stresses the most. These are the people who are "more likely to rely on rain-fed agriculture to feed their families, live on the most marginal lands which are more prone to floods, and are most at risk from contaminated water and inadequate sanitation."

    About 4 billion people already live in areas suffering from water stress.

    By 2030, demand could exceed "current sustainable water supplies by 40 percent." The World Bank warns that water scarcity could encourage other sorts of conflict and dislocation, such as civil wars.

    While the world has started down the path of slashing the greenhouse gas emissions, the effectiveness of the global climate effort likely depends, on the results of this year's presidential election.

    Warming and significant water challenges are already happening, and population growth will place increasing demands on existing resources.

    Water must be treated like any other precious resource: Create a fair and transparent market for it, allowing supply to meet demand, which will let the water flow to its most efficient uses. Meanwhile, governments should invest in water storage and gird their infrastructure against floods and other extreme weather events. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: While the World Bank says that water strain from population growth and climate change could reduce growth in some major economies by 6% by 2050, peak per capita energy will also lower economies.

    Also, creating a market for water will distribute most of it to the rich.

    Is India Facing Its Worst-Ever Water Crisis?

    March 27, 2016, BBC News   By: Soutik Biswas

    The 1,553 mile-long Ganges River supports the water needs of one quarter of India's 1.3 billion people. The Himalayas, which hold the world's largest body of ice outside the polar caps, contributes up to 15% of the river's flow. But a controversial UN climate report predicted that by 2035 the Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of their current size.

    The amount of rainwater that falls during the monsoon rains determines the river's water level and the reserves of groundwater in the watershed, but two successive years of minimal rain has lowered the river's water level and increased its pollution level. Reckless groundwater extraction has also been lowering the water tables in the Ganges basin, and arsenic and fluoride have already contaminated much of the groundwater.

    Last year Emmanuel Theophilus and his son, Theo, kayaked on the Ganges during an 87-day, 2,500km journey of India's rivers. The native turtles were not to be found; instead they saw sewage and floating dead bodies. When they asked local people what had changed most, they said that water levels had lowered over the years.

    According to the Central Water Commission, three months of dry summer weather will soon begin, but India's 91 reservoirs are already at their lowest levels in a decade - at 29% of capacity. According to WaterAid, some 85% of the country's drinking water comes from the over-taxed, polluted aquifers.

    Farmers and fishermen are leaving for the cities to look for work, and conflicts over water are on the rise. States like Punjab squabble over who owns the river water. In water-scarce Orissa, farmers have cut down embankments to save their crops. Tens of thousands of farmers and livestock have moved to camps providing free fodder and water for animals. Thousands of villagers in the Maharashtra region depend on tankers for water. Towns are not allowed to fill swimming pools. And, to reduce conflicts, the Latur district has prohibited groups of more than five people from hanging around the storage tanks.

    During the 1970s India built a barrage at Farakka in West Bengal state that diverted water away from Bangladesh, but in the mid-1990s India signed a 30-year agreement to share water by diverting it toward or away from Bangladesh on a 10-day cycle. Last March a precipitous decline in water levels occurred while it was Bangladesh's turn to receive the water. Farakka's giant 2,300-megawatt river-side power station had to close for ten days because the supply of water to run the steam turbines and cool vital equipment of coal-fired power stations ran short. This event caused unprecedented shortages in India's power grid. No one knew why it happened so quickly.

    Next, the township where more than 1,000 families of plant workers live along the river ran out of water. Fire engines extracted river water for cooking and cleaning, and the government distributed thousands of bottles of drinking water. Further downstream, ferries stopped running as sandbars emerged on the river. Some 13 barges carrying imported coal to the power station were stranded midstream.

    "Never before have we shut down the plant because of a shortage of water," says Milan Kumar, a senior plant official. And he fears it will happen again. "Being located on the banks of one of the world's largest rivers, we never thought we would face a scarcity of water." Now he says, "The unthinkable is happening." doclink

    Four Billion People Face Severe Water Scarcity, New Research Finds

    Water shortages affecting two-thirds of world's population for a month every year and the crisis is far worse than previously thought
    February 12, 2016, Guardian   By: Damian Carrington

    Scarcity of water is an enormous hurdle for societies. We may have grown up to take an unlimited flow for granted from our taps, showers and tubs, but there are limits to how much the Earth can supply. A recent report of a study made by researchers at the University of Twente quantifies global lack of access, and the results are not encouraging by any means.

    Key findings:

    - 500 million people live in areas where they consume during the entire year double or more than what is replenished by rainwater.

    - The most acutely struck parts of the World are India, China and Yemen. The situation is also urgent in Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the United States.

    - Up to 4 billion humans use more than twice the amount replenished during at least one month every year.

    These water problems are set to worsen as population growth and increasing water use - particularly through eating meat - continues to rise, say the researchers.

    Many countries are living on borrowed time, with Yemen running out of water within a few years. Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia will follow.

    It is commonly believed that lack of water was a major instigating factor behind the horrible conflict in Syria, and we can expect more conflicts over the control of water, especially in the light of escalating population numbers.

    The researcher makes it very clear that private consumption is only a small part of our water "footprint". The main culprit is the huge usage of water to irrigate land used for the production of meat. So if anything can be done, he argues that it should start with putting legal, public relations and economical pressure on meat corporations.

    "Taking a shorter shower is not the answer" to the global problem, said Prof. Arjen Hoekstra, who led the new research. Only 1% to 4% of a person's water footprint is in the home, while 25% is via meat consumption. It takes over 15,000 liters of water to make 1kg of beef, with almost all of that used to irrigate the crops fed to the cattle.

    The study was recently published in the journal Science Advances. doclink

    Drought, Drought, Drought!

    March 12, 2016, WOA website

    California Government Prepares For Extreme Effects Of Climate Change

    California is in it's 5th year of drought. California grows a third of all vegetables in the U.S. and two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts. The total economic impact of the 2015 California drought is at $2.7 billion, with an estimated loss of 10,100 seasonal farm worker jobs.

    In Mexico's thirsty capital, a renewed focus on recycled rainwater

    Mexico City is sinking, in some places by as much as 8 inches a year. 70% of homes in Mexico City already have cisterns on the property, the most expensive part of setting up a rain harvesting system.

    Four Billion People Face Severe Water Scarcity, New Research Finds

    In January, water crises were rated as one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the next decade by the World Economic Forum, alongside climate change and mass migration.

    Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

    Strong El Niño Causes Ethiopia's Worst Drought Crisis in Decades; Millions in Need of Food

    2.9 million children and adults were estimated to be food insecure in January 2015, a number that has risen to 10.2 million over the course of a year.

    An estimated $1.4 billion is needed to provide food and other resources. So far about 30% of that amount has been raised from donors.

    Two-Thirds of the World Faces Severe Water Shortages

    Half of the four billion people who experience conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year live in either China or India. Previous studies had estimated that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people were affected by extreme water shortages. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The more people there are, the smaller the portion of water for each.

    Brazil's Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat


    A satellite image of Brazil's Amazon rainforest shows a vast 1,000 mile swath of what should be some of the wettest lands on the globe running south of the world's largest river, and it is covered by a dense pall of smoke. The fires' tell-tale plumes streak out over a drought-parched Brazil, across the Atlantic, and over to Africa where the plume is again thickened by yet more wildfires.

    The greatest rainforest in the world is belching out a thick pulse of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere that is already greatly over-burdened with industry-emitted greenhouse gasses.

    The crisis threatens to turn South Brazil into a desert, and one of the world's vast carbon stores into a carbon emissions source, and to eventually convert the great rainforest itself into dry grasslands.

    Human-caused warming of the globe is causing the rainforest to slowly heat up and dry out. Add to this the insults of what amounts to a half century of slash and burn agriculture. Immense swaths of the forest have been cut and burned away, converted into farmlands. Increasingly, large sections of the forest are isolated into smaller, less productive islands.

    To top it off, Brazil is experiencing the effects of what is likely to become the strongest El Nino ever recorded, warming the Pacific Ocean which causes the rainforest to dry. With the great Amazon already suffering from at least a decade of drought, the impacts on the rainforest are horrendous.

    Clear cutting, wildfire, and drought have left the Amazon rainforest less and less able to pump water into the atmosphere. Its once massive 'flying rivers' are drying out. Over the past two decades, the massive cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have suffered from increasingly frequent droughts, which have been particularly extreme over the past three years.

    In area surrounding Sao Paulo, the largest reservoir remains below dead pool levels even as other reservoirs have fallen under increasing stress. Many of the area's 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security.

    If dry conditions continue, Rio de Janeiro will almost certainly see Brazil's second largest city fall into a crisis similar to that of Sao Paulo. Satellite data from NASA shows that the drought in much of southeast Brazil -- also home to the region's breadbasket -- is much worse than originally believed.

    Continuing droughts will put a strain on electricity supplies, on commercial activity, and on practically every aspect of city life - which is largely dependent upon access to water. In eastern Brazil, more than 30 million people now face the threat of this climate change induced destabilization. But what's worse is the fact that the ongoing burning and drought in the Amazon to the north practically ensures that the flying rivers will continue to wilt, that the droughts in the southeast will grow to become city-killers. doclink

    Water Shortages Unite Iraq, Islamic State Against Turkey

    There's one thing Islamic State militants and the Iraqi government they're besieging agree on: Turkey is using more than its fair share of water.
    July 1, 2015, Bloomberg View   By: Zaid Sabah, Selcan Hacaoglu and Jack Fairweather

    Water levels on the Euphrates River that flows 1,700 miles from eastern Turkey through Syria and Iraq past ancient Mesopotamian lands have fallen more than half this year, withering farmers' crops, endanger millions and raising the risk of a wider regional conflict, according to Iraqi officials.

    Recently re-flooded and restored marshlands which had seen the rise of agriculture only to be drained in the 1990s by Saddam Hussein, are in danger of drying out as a result of the tactics of Islamic State, which captured a dam in Ramadi to cut off water, says Azzam Awash, who runs an NGO helping preserve Iraq's wetlands.

    Turkey acted unilaterally to build $35.5 billion worth of dam and irrigation works to ensure reliable water supplies.

    Jay Famiglietti, a NASA water scientist says the problem "is really over the failure to agree on how to manage the waters of the rivers across political boundaries."

    Turkey signed an accord with Syria in 1987 to keep about a third of the Euphrates historic average flow, according to the FAO. It has no such treaty with Iraq. No international agreement for the Tigris river exists at all.

    Still, "Turkey's desire to withdraw yet more water runs the risk of plunging the region into greater turmoil," said Adel Darwish, co-author of Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East. "Turkey believes it can act with impunity while other countries are busy fighting Islamic State."

    About 261 transboundary basins support 40% of the world's population. The UN says the number affected by water scarcity due to climate change may more than double to 1.8 billion by 2025.

    The Euphrates and Tigris, meanwhile, suffer high rates of groundwater storage loss.

    A NASA study of the Tigris-Euphrates river basins showed stored freshwater reserves about equal to that in the Dead Sea was lost over seven years through 2009.

    Turkey claims the falling water levels are the result of others' poor downstream management, failure to make repairs and conflict. Leaks cost Syria 60% of its water, says the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    An Iraqi official claims that Turkey is taking more than a fair share. Islamic State agrees.

    "There's enough water to go around but the conflict with Islamic State has weakened" Iraq and Syria's ability to negotiate resource-sharing agreements with Turkey, Awash said.

    Water "played a significant role in the instigation of the civil war in Syria," Jay Famiglietti of NASA said.

    The result may be a vicious circle where water shortages exacerbate the conflict, in turn blunting resource management. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: instead of Islam State, which gives these terrorists legitimacy, this faction should be called Daesh, a name used by the victims of ISIS in Syria. See an more (a rather long article) at

    Spread of Deserts Costs Trillions, Spurs Migrants: Study

    September 15, 2015, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Alister Doyle

    Land degradation, such as a spread of deserts in parts of Africa, causes damage of $6.3-$10.6 trillion per year -- according to the report by The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD). The cost is figured in lost benefits such as production of food, timber, medicines, fresh water, cycling of nutrients or absorption of greenhouse gases. Degradation causes include clearance of tropical forests, pollution and over-grazing.

    About 52% of farmland is already damaged. "One third of the world is vulnerable to land degradation; one third of Africa is threatened by desertification," the report said.

    A 2012 report concluded that up to 50 million people could be forced to seek new homes and livelihoods within a decade because of desertification and regional conflicts.

    In May, a study in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlighted the link between drought, man-made climate change and conflict in Syria.

    "Human-induced climate change made a multi-year drought the most severe in the observed record," Colin Kelley of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led that Syria study, said. "The severity of this drought started a cascade of events, namely an agricultural collapse, a mass migration of farming families to the cities in Syria's west, and ultimately conflict," he said. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the more people in the region, the more stress on limited resources, such as arable land and water. Or perhaps I didn't need to make this point - it's so obvious, isn't it?

    Middle East Faces Water Shortages for the Next 25 Years, Study Says

    Rising population and dwindling water supplies will affect millions of people and exacerbate conflict in the region
    August 27, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: John Vidal

    The World Resources Institute (WRI) claims that "drought and water shortages in Syria likely contributed to the unrest that stoked the country's 2011 civil war. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria's general destabilisation."

    The Middle East is home to over 350 million people. Fourteen of the world's 33 most water-stressed countries are in the Middle East and north Africa region (MENA), including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and Lebanon, according to the WRI. Companies, farms and residents in these countries are all highly vulnerable to the slightest change in supplies.

    "The world's demand for water is likely to surge in the next few decades. Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamour for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation," say the authors.

    Middle East water supplies depend heavily on underground aquifers, but these are drying out at alarming rates.

    Areas of China, India, and the south-west US could see water stress increase by 40 to 70% by 2040.

    "Water is a significant dimension of the decades-old conflict between Palestine and Israel. Saudi Arabia's government said its people will depend entirely on grain imports by 2016, a change from decades of growing all they need, due to fear of water-resource depletion. The US National Intelligence Council wrote that water problems will put key north African and Middle East countries at greater risk of instability and state failure," says the report.

    Satellite images from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that the Tigris-Euphrates basin is losing water faster than any other place in the world, except northern India, with the loss of 117m acre-feet of stored freshwater between 2003-2009. Pollution in the Tigris river caused by the discharge of drainage water from agricultural areas and sewage discharge near Baghdad is a major constraint to freshwater availability in Iraq," says a recent Brookings Institute report.

    In the Sana'a basin in Yemen, the groundwater table is falling nearly six metres per year and government has debated moving the capital city.

    In Egypt, the country's annual water supply dropped to an average of 660 cubic metres a person in 2013, down from over 2,500 cubic metres in 1947.

    In some areas water supplies are restricted to only a few hours a day, but this year many smaller cities have run out of water completely.

    Israel, Syria, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and many other MENA governments have had to warn people to take extra precautions in the extreme heat that has engulfed cities. Earlier this year hundreds of people in India and Pakistan had died of heat stroke. Algeria has experienced over 40 days of heatwave this year," said Mahi Tabet-Aoul, Algerian atmospheric scientist.

    One reason why water is so scarce is because farming wastes so much. In addition, many rich people across the region have dug their own wells to tap into aquifers, leading to over-pumping and pollution of groundwater in cities like Damascus. 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

    California Drought Resurrects Old Population Growth Concerns

    June 1, 2015, Sacramento Bee

    With California in its fourth year of drought, population growth has again appeared in California's consciousness.

    "When you increase a population significantly," said Pattison, general manager of the Mountain House Community Services District in East Bay area, California, "you reach a point of what's called 'demand hardening,' and you cannot conserve your way out of a situation where there's just too many people and overcommitment of demand across the spectrum."

    California will grow from about 39 million people now to more than 51 million by 2060, according to projections from the state Department of Finance . The Public Policy Institute of California said that, as the population expands, California will see "increased demand in all areas of infrastructure and public services - including education, transportation, corrections, housing, water, health and welfare."

    In a headline-grabbing television ad last month, a group called Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) blamed immigration for the state's lack of water. "Virtually all of California's population growth is from immigration. Let's slow immigration and save some California for tomorrow." For population growth "from immigration," CAPS counted not only immigrants, but the U.S.-born children of immigrants, who are citizens.

    Dowell Myers, a University of Southern California demography professor saw it differently: "Without immigrants, California would be dead as a doornail. We don't have enough children right now as it is to replace the workforce and the tax base ... when Californians retire."

    Myers attributes fear of population growth to the 1980s, when population grew rapidly. These people are "behind the times."

    Governor Jerry Brown, who governed California before from 1975 to 1983, said about population that "we run up against certain limits." He also said "We can accommodate more people. I believe we can certainly take another 10 million, but we have to do it in a different way."

    He said Californians must "find a more elegant way of relating to material things, and you have to use them with great sensitivity and sophistication."

    Heather Cooley, water program director at the Pacific Institute, said that local agencies, which have long considered transportation and environmental impacts of development, could "do a much better job of understanding how many people should live in a particular area" given water availability, she said.

    Still, water use per person in California has declined in recent years. In Southern California, where most of the state's population lives, total water consumption has remained flat over the past 15 years, despite population growth.

    The experience of water conservation efforts in other countries suggests California could survive on far less water.

    Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis said: "You could basically double California's population if we use the same per capita urban water use as Spain." ... "To me, there's really no serious basis for population discussions on the basis of water."

    In 1991 Gov. Pete Wilson created a council of Cabinet-level agencies to study population growth statewide. "We must shape our future, not suffer it," he said.

    Richard Sybert, who was director of Wilson's office of planning and research said "The notion that there's too many people here is frankly absurd," he said. "It's frankly not borne out by the numbers ... You could halve the population here - say we have 20 million instead of 40 million - and there would still be a drought."

    Ellen Hanak, a water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that "hot spots" in the drought have not been in the population centers of Los Angeles or San Francisco, but in relatively isolated rural communities "where the issues really are infrastructure, and not just that there's no water available in a generic sense."

    The heaviest users of water in California are not city dwellers, but agriculture. The industry accounts for roughly 80% of all water used by people in the state.

    Gregory Weber, executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, said "I think there's plenty of room for California to grow," Weber said. "How it should grow, how big it should grow, these are I think some of the major pressing questions that are facing the state today." doclink

    Steve Kritzer (commenter in the Bee) says: "Yeah, Spain is a great example. Government debt to GDP ratio for Spain is 97.7%. Let's make California so crappy that people can't wait to leave. Spain had out migration of 256,849 persons in 2013."

    Karen Gaia says: Things look much more encouraging if you put births to immigrants on the 'births' side rather than the immigrant side. Give every woman the opportunity for free effective IUDs and impants and we will see the birth rate go down. This can be done through Medicare and Obamacare. Sacramento has recently passed a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to get care (and contraception). Let's prevent those 50% of pregnancies that are unintended. At the same time, let's conserve both water and energy - let's learn to live better on less.

    A Third of Global Groundwater Basins Are Overstressed

    June 16, 2015, New York Times

    Two studies published by Water Resources Research and the Journal of the American Geophysical Union indicate that population growth and climate change have caused over-pumping of vital aquifers. People are overdrawing water from some of the world's largest groundwater basins that serve more than 60 million people.

    Measurements taken by NASA's twin Grace satellites indicate that the most stressed groundwater basins are found in the driest regions. The Arabian Aquifer System in the Middle East is considered the world's most stressed aquifer followed by the Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan. The farm-rich Central Valley in California is also highly stressed. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine say it's unclear how much water remains in these aquifers. doclink

    California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth

    A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state's engine has run against the limits of nature.
    April 4, 2015, New York Times   By: Adam Nagourney, Jack Healy and Nelson D. Schwartz

    For more than a century, California has been the symbol of prosperity and possibility: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, aerospace, agriculture and vineyards.

    But now a punishing 4-year drought -- and government mandated water rationing -- threaten to get in the way. The 25% cut in water consumption ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown raises questions about what life will be like in the future.

    This state has defied doomsayers before, and often emerged stronger than ever. These days the economy is thriving and supporting evidence can be seen in the form of construction cranes dotting the skylines of Los Angeles and San Francisco. But even California's biggest cheerleaders are wondering if the severity of this drought will force a change in the way the state does business.

    Can Los Angeles continue to lead the way if people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes and water bills become prohibitively expensive? Will tourists stop visiting?

    Almost 40 million people live in California today, more than double the roughly 16 million people who lived here in 1960.

    California's 2 trillion dollar economy today is the seventh largest in the world. The median household income jumped to an estimated 61,000 dollars in 2013, from almost 45,000 dollars in 1960, adjusted for inflation.

    For over 10,000 years only 300,000 to 400,000 people lived in California, current Governor Jerry Brown says. Now the state is home to nearly 40 million people, all living mostly high energy lifestyles. Brown said. "Now we are embarked upon an experiment that no one has ever tried: 38 million people, with 32 million vehicles, living at the level of comfort that we all strive to attain. This will require adjustment. This will require learning." "This will require adjustment" he says.

    Even in places like Palm Springs, where daily per capita water use is over double the state average, drought is now forcing change. Palm Springs has ordered 50 percent cuts in water use by city agencies and plans to replace irrigated public lawns with native landscapes. City government is paying residents to replace their lawns with rocks and desert plants, and offering rebates to people who install low-flow toilets.

    Other places face different threats to their way of life. In Mendota, farm workers are moving on as once moist farmland turns dry and crusty. "You can't pay the bills with free food," said Mendota Mayor Robert Silva. "Give me some water, and I know I can go to work, that's the bottom line."

    Richard White, a Stanford University professor says the scarcity of water could hinder housing development in places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. "How many (housing) developments can you afford if you don't have water?" he said.

    The California governor's executive order mandates a 25% overall reduction in water use throughout the state, however this does not apply to farms, which consume the great bulk of this state's water.

    Reductions in water supplies for farmers were likely to be announced in the coming weeks, and there is also likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops - like almonds.

    "We have to deal with a new normal," Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles said. "That said, do we have enough water to sustain life here? Absolutely. Do we have enough water to grow economically? Absolutely."

    Felicia Marcus, head of the State Water Resources Control Board, said "We have a long way to go before we have tapped out our resources," she added.

    But to what extent has Governor Brown succeeded in persuading people here to shake long-held habits and assumptions?

    Now that "we have ....... reached the limits of supply...... the focus is on demand." said Heather Cooley, water program director for the Pacific Institute, an environmental research group based in Oakland.

    Despite the mandatory cuts in supply, efficiency has been slowly gaining ground in recent decades. Total water use in Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other urban areas is now lower than it was in 1980, despite the huge economic growth and population increases.

    What Californians traditionally regarded as beautiful, according to Ms. Cooley "has been a lawn that has been the standard for front yards and backyards." Now utility companies are paying people to replace their traditional thirsty plants with more drought resistant shrubbery. "This will change what Californians see as beautiful," she said.

    But of all the surface water consumed in the state, roughly 80% is earmarked for the agricultural sector. Now even a small consumption shift by farmers can have the same effects as large lifestyle changes taken by local residents.

    "Every time California has a problem -- we ran out of electricity in the early 2000s, then we ran out of money, and now we are running out of water -- people say California is over," Dr. Starr said. "It's not over. It's too important a part of American culture to be over. But it will change itself." doclink

    Suzanne York of says:

    It's shocking, but a mainstream media outlet has actually mentioned the idea of limits to growth and limits of nature. The New York Times, no less, has run a front-page story on the drought in California, invoking the concept of limits, in an article titled "California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth."

    For decades, barely anyone has questioned California's model of development. Perhaps now that the New York Times is raising questions, it should give us hope that humanity is waking up and growing up.

    Dr. Starr noted that the state "is not going to go under, but we are going to have to go in a different way." That is obvious, and it applies not only to California, but also to the world. Business as usual cannot go on unabated without serious environmental and social consequences.

    Yes, Governor Brown seems to understand the reality of the drought crisis, yet while he talks the talk, at the same time he is also supporting fracking, a very w

    UN Calls for Action as Global Water Crisis Looms

    The UN has warned that the world will soon face a crisis of huge dimensions if water management does not improve
    March 20, 2015, DW

    The U.N. warned in its annual World Water Development Report that, if current trends of water usage continue, the demand for water will exceed its replenishment by 40% by 2030.

    One of the main factors is the rise in the world's population by some 80 million people per year. The current population of some 7.3 billion is likely to reach 9.1 billion by 2050.

    Agriculture uses some 70% of water resources globally and over 90% in most of the world's least-developed countries. With growing population agriculture will need water resources to increase by some 60%, the report said.

    Climate change, and growing urban populations across the world will also exacerbate water shortages, with global demand for water likely to rise by 55% by 2050.

    About 20% of groundwater supplies -- which provide drinking water to about 50% of the world's population -- are now suffering from over-extraction, which leads to freshwater in coastal areas often being contaminated by saline intrusion.

    In India, regions such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan are subjected to significant water stress, according to the report.

    "The fact is there is enough water to meet the world's needs, but not without dramatically changing the way water is used, managed and shared," the report said, pointing to a number of current abuses, including agricultural and industrial pollution and contamination by untreated sewage.

    The report called for the introduction of measures to curb waste and punish pollution, increased education about the problem and possibly rises in the price of water. doclink

    100+ Ways to Conserve

    March 1, 2015, Water Use It Wisely

    When it comes to conserving water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Here you can sort through nearly 200 water-saving tips, download and print tip posters or share your favorites on social media. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the best answer to a growing population -- other than family planning -- is not so much technology but conservation.

    Lester Brown: 'Vast Dust Bowls Threaten Tens of Millions with Hunger'

    Over his 50-year career, Lester Brown has become known for his accurate global environmental predictions. As he enters retirement, he warns the world may face the worst hunger crisis of our lifetimes
    February 24, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Suzanne Goldenberg

    At 80, Lester Brown is best known for his writings on population and for founding first the Worldwatch Institute (the first U.S. environmental think tank ) and later the Earth Policy Institute. Brown plans to retire as President of the Earth Policy Institute in June and wind down a prolific career. His 53 books in 630 editions helped shape the thinking of two generations of academics and activists. Both President Lyndon Johnson and the government of China based policy decisions on Brown's advice.

    As Brown nears retirement, he fears the world may soon face a huge hunger disaster. Much of the world is exhausting its ground water due to overuse and overpumping. He noted two large regions in particular where people are running out of land to grow food, and millions of acres are becoming wasteland due to over-farming and over-grazing. In the Sahel region of Africa, an area wracked by war, a huge dust bowl that extends from Senegal to Somalia is losing a lot of top soil. "Eventually they will be in serious trouble," he said. And in northern and western China, where much of the land is too depleted to raise flocks or grow food, villagers are leaving. "At some point they will have abandoned so much farming and grazing land that China no longer will be able to expand food production." This will be worse than what America saw in the 1930s. "Our dust bowl was a confined area. Within a matter of years we had it under control, but these two areas don't have that capacity. We are pushing against the limits of land that can be ploughed and the land available for grazing."

    Although Brown believes that most people now accept that family planning and improving childhood nutrition are essential to development, he says that was not the case when he started. "In so much of the developing world people live in cities, not so many in the countryside, and so they buy their food," he said. "What is happening in countries like Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Peru is that low-income families have reached the point where they can no longer afford to eat every day."

    "I have been working on these issues for half a century plus, and it is only in the last year or two that this actually become an issue in a number of countries. It used to be the low end of things where you only had one meal a day." But for the first time, he said, "there are now places in the world where tens of millions of people are saying things like: 'we can only eat five days this week'. That is how they are managing." doclink

    Art says: At a time when a New York Times article describes the problems caused by having to dispose of tons of wasted food, Lester Brown reminds us millions of poor people are not so fortunate. As we keep losing croplands, our food supplies cannot expand indefinitely.

    3 Maps Explain India's Growing Water Risks

    February 26, 2015, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Tien Shiao, Andrew Maddocks, Chris Carson and Emma Loizeaux

    India is one of the most water-challenged countries in the world. Wells and aquifers are being drained by farmers, city residents and industries. What water is available is often severely polluted.

    Worse yet, the national supply is predicted to fall 50% below demand by 2030. And 54% of India's total area facing high to extremely high stress, which would leave almost 600 million people at higher risk of surface-water supply disruptions.

    The India Water Tool 2. 0. is a comprehensive, publicly available online tool evaluating India's water risks. Created by a group of companies, research organizations, and industry associations-including WRI and coordinated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)-the tool can help companies, government agencies, and other water users identify their most pressing challenges and carefully target water-risk management efforts.

    Click through to the link in the headline to see the maps and more information.
    . . . more doclink

    A Thirsty, Violent World

    February 24, 2015, New Yorker   By: Michael Specter

    The angry protests by crowds in the streets of Karachi last week had nothing to do with freedom of expression, drone wars, or Americans. They were about access to water.

    Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Minister of Defense, Power, and Water had warned that the country's chronic water shortages could soon become uncontrollable. The meagre allotment of water available to each Pakistani is a third of what it was in 1950. As the country's population rises, that amount is falling fast.

    Dozens of other countries face similar situations. Rapid climate change, population growth, and a growing demand for meat (and, thus, for the water required to grow feed for livestock) have propelled them into a state of emergency.

    Growing hunger and the struggle to find clean water for billions of people are clearly connected.

    California is now in its fourth year of drought, staggering through its worst dry spell in twelve hundred years. In Nigeria, water shortages are responsible for more deaths in Nigeria than Boko Haram, according to the NGO Wateraid. In India there are places in India where hospitals have trouble finding the water required to sterilize surgical tools. In São Paulo Brazil, the shortage of water is so acute that the country is bracing for riots.

    The amount of freshwater on earth has not changed significantly for millions of years. But in the past century population has tripled and water use has grown sixfold. Also we have polluted much of what remains readily available -- and climate change has made it significantly more difficult to plan for floods and droughts.

    As populations grow more prosperous, vegetarian life styles often yield to a Western diet. The new middle classes, particularly in India and China, eat more protein than they once did, and that, again, requires more water use. Hundreds of gallons of water are required to produce a single hamburger.

    The world will require at least 50% more water in 2050 than we use today -- to feed nine billion residents. Where will the water come from?. Half of the planet already lives in urban areas, and that number will increase along with the pressure to supply clean water.

    Floods and droughts will become more common. At the same time, demands for economic growth in India and other developing nations will necessarily increase pollution of rivers and lakes. That will force people to dig deeper than ever before into the earth for water.

    There are renewables that may replace oil, gas, and coal, but there isn't anything to replace water. Conservation would help immensely, as would a more rational use of agricultural land -- irrigation today consumes 70% of all freshwater.

    Experts seem to agree on the dire state of a future water shortage and predict water wars are on the horizon. doclink

    Richard says: China has seen meat consumption increase 15 fold over the last five centuries.

    In Singapore the people have acted before it is too late. They are now making drinking water from sewage. Personally, I would rather drink out of a clear, mountain stream.

    California's Population Growth Expected to Outstrip Water Conservation in Coming Years

    February 14, 2015, Sacramento Bee   By: Matt Weiser and Phillip Reese

    Water districts forecast the total number of water customers in the state to increase about 20% from 2015 to 2030, according to the surveys. Many of the largest increases are expected in the state's hottest climates, areas where water demand is generally greater.

    Large Southern California water districts in Coachella, Highland, Rialto, Indio, Palmdale and inland San Diego all predict water demand increases of greater than 50% between 2015 and 2030.

    Several Central Valley water districts also predict significant growth. The cities of Tulare, Madera and Merced, along with the Sacramento County Water Agency and the El Dorado County Irrigation District, each anticipate water consumption to grow by at least 40% between 2015 and 2030. doclink

    Water Risks Threaten Billions in U.S. Electric Sales, Farm Products

    November 6, 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Paul Reig, Andrew Maddocks and Cyrus Lotfipour

    Food production and power generation account for more than 80% of U.S. water withdrawals. Because electric power plants and other water-intensive industries are often located in areas with thousands of acres of irrigated agriculture, there is high competition for limited supply. Water stress in those areas could have serious consequences for hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world.

    MSCI ESG Research has written a new report, Corn or Current? The Agro-Industrial Water Conflict, in which data from data from World Resource Institute's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas to evaluate agro-industrial water conflict for 110 publicly traded, water-intensive companies operating in highly irrigated and water-stressed U.S. counties was used to show where conflicts between industry and agriculture for limited water supplies could be most severe.

    Thermoelectric power production accounts for 41% of U.S annual water withdrawals. And electric utilities are 11 times more water intensive than all other industries combined and more than twice as water intensive as the next most-intensive industry, paper manufacturing. Nevertheless, approximately one in every four electric utilities operates in irrigation-intensive and water-stressed U.S. counties.

    In one example, in 2010, drought and increased competition reduced the volume of water, which allowed the sun to warm it up more quickly, which led to higher water temperatures and -- to avoid overheating -- forced the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on the Tennessee River to reduce generating capacity by between 40 and 60% for 45 days. This could mean significant financial losses for the electric utility and more vulnerable energy security across the grid.

    Irrigation, while a close second to thermoelectric power generation in U.S. water withdrawals, is by far the country's largest consumptive water user. 42% of irrigation-intensive counties in the U.S. -- with approximately $1.2 billion in corn, soy, and wheat crops -- face moderate to high water stress. A drop in water supplies for irrigation could disrupt agricultural supply chains worldwide. **

    Across the United States, up to $900 million worth of corn and $400 million worth of cotton crops are exposed to high agro-industrial water conflict. doclink

    Study Reveals That Accumulated Deforestation in the Amazon is Starting to Affect Climate

    October 30, 2014, World Wide Fund For Nature - WWF

    A recent report launched in Sao Paulo synthesizes the findings of around two hundred leading scientific studies and articles on the role the Amazon forest plays in climate and rainfall regulation and in the exportation of environmental services to areas of production bordering the Amazon region and others far beyond it. The report concludes that achieving zero deforestation is no longer sufficient, on its own, to guarantee the upkeep of the biome's climate functions. It is essential to address the accumulated environmental debt of forest destruction and set in motion a large scale process to recuperate those areas which, in Brazil, represent the equivalent to 184 million football pitches.

    The Amazon Climate Future study (see ), conducted by research scientist Antonio Donato Nobre of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute's Terrestrial System Science Centre, clearly demonstrates the climate potential of the virgin forest or "green ocean", as scientists call it, and the impacts of its destruction through felling and burning.

    Many studies have suggested that the forest has survived in its pristine condition for tens of millions of years due to its great capacity to resist cataclysmic climate events. However, when it is destroyed, its immunity is broken. The occupation of the Amazon has destroyed at least 42 billion trees -- or 2,000 trees a minute -- uninterruptedly, for the last 40 years. The harm of such vast devastation is now beginning to be felt in regions far from the Amazon and the forecasts indicate that the scenario is likely to get worse if deforestation continues and the forest is not restored. doclink

    California Drought is Driving the Depletion of Irreplaceable Groundwater

    A new study by NASA scientist James Famiglietti quantifies how fast we're pumping water out of California's aquifers in response to the drought.
    November 3, 2014, MNN Mother Nature Network   By: Shea Gunther

    A new report by NASA scientist James Famiglietti paints a grim picture of water conditions in California, our country's breadbasket. A third of America's produce comes from California. Here's a example of some of them:

    Pomegranates- 100%
    Artichokes- 99%
    Kiwi- 97%
    Olives- 96%
    Plumes and prunes- 94%
    Avocados- 90%
    Nectarines- 89%
    Garlic- 85%
    Grapes- 82%
    Lemons- 79%
    Tomatoes- 76%
    Strawberries- 59%

    If we lose California agriculture, food will get a lot more expensive and possibly become completely unavailable, at least seasonally.

    California's long-running drought is a major driver of the rise in aquifer pumping. If people can't get water from a lake or river, they're going to get it from a well. While the state's surface water is relatively well protected, if you own land and drill a well, you can pump as much water as you'd like, pretty much. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation into law that will require some of level local oversight of aquifer pumping, but plans are not required to be drawn up until 2020 or 2022.

    Central Valley farmers who grew up with 200-foot wells are finding now that 1,000-foot wells aren't deep enough to hit the retreating water table.

    The thing about aquifer water is that it is more and less irreplaceable. It took thousands of years to trickle down through cracks and pores of the Earth.

    Some of California's output will have to be shifted to other states.

    Unfortunately a similar situation is happening in the middle of the country as corn and soybean farmers compete with cities and towns to see who can suck out the most water from the Ogallala Aquifer, so it's likely we'll see a similar rise in the price of corn and corn-based foods. doclink

    Pakistan's Largest City Thirsts for Water as Growing Population Strains Resources

    August 24, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Adil Jawad

    In the slums of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, protesters are demanding water at least once a week. Some areas have received no water in three months. Without city delivery of water they are forced to use groundwater contaminated with salt. As the city of about 18 million people rapidly grows, the water shortages are only expected to get worse.

    Karachi's water comes from the Indus River and the Hub Dam. Misbah Fareed, an official with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said that only meets about half the city's needs.

    The city's water is delivered tank trucks since criminals have illegally tapped into the city's water pipes and set up their own distribution points where they siphon off water and sell it.

    The underground water is too salty to drink, but is often used for showering or washing clothes.

    Pakistani military operations and American drone strikes in the northern tribal regions, as well as natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes, have pushed people toward Karachi.

    One resident Aisha Saleem said "Women and kids have to go miles by foot and carry drinking water every day." doclink

    These 10 Seconds Show Just How Big of a Problem Drought Has Become in California

    August 15, 2014, Los Angeles Times   By: Kyle Kim

    Go here and scroll 2/3 down to see a cool animated gif showing how fast the drought has progressed in California. doclink

    These 10 Seconds Show Just How Big of a Problem Drought Has Become in California

    Los Angeles Times   By: Kyle Kim

    Click the link in the headline and scroll down about 2/3 of the way down to see the cool animated gif of California's drought history since 2011. doclink

    Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Other Cities Headed for Imminent Water Supply Collapse; Wave of Drought Refugees Now Inevitable

    June 29, 2014, Natural News   By: Mike Adams

    The 600,000 people of Las Vegas, Nevada depends almost universally on one lake - Lake Mead - for their water. That lake has dropped by 50%. Created in 1936, when the Las Vegas population was very tiny, Lake Mead has in recent years dropped by 50% and is receding with alarming speed. It is expected to be "bone dry" in less than 20 years.

    Rob Mrowka, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, says: "Truth be told, much of the Western USA is in the same dire situation as Las Vegas. Cities like Los Angeles were founded in the desert, then artificially supplied with water that's literally pumped over a mountain. If those pumps are halted for any reason, Las Vegas immediately reverts to a desert, and the city becomes a death trap for its millions of residents who rapidly discover they are living in a desert." doclink

    U.S.: California Farms Are Sucking Up Enough Groundwater to Put Rhode Island 17 Feet Under

    July 16, 2014, Mother Jones   By: Julia Lurie

    According to Julia Lurie, nearly 80% of California is experiencing "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, and that is hitting the nation's largest agriculture producer exceptionally hard. California grows nearly half of the nation's fruits, nuts, and vegetables and is a leading crop exporter. Four-fifths of the world's almonds ship from California. The state now faces its third driest year on record and the "greatest absolute reduction in water availability" it has experienced. Most years, about two-thirds of California's irrigation water comes from rivers and reservoirs, and one-third comes from wells. This year, the state cannot deliver about one-third of its surface water supply, so farmers who stand to lose whole orchards if they cannot get enough water, are hitting the groundwater supply so hard that thousands of wells must be deepened to work.

    The hardest hit area is a normally fertile inland region called the Central Valley. The Colorado River does not feed that area, as it does further south, and groundwater is harder to pump there than on the coasts. Farmers who can fallow their land without losing orchards have put 410,000 acres to rest.

    A report prepared by UC-Davis scientists for the California Department of Food and Agriculture used current water data, agricultural models, satellite data, and other methods to predict the drought's economic and environmental toll through 2016. It concluded that, in addition to the loss of groundwater and agricultural production, the drought will cost the state $2.2 billion this year. That includes $810 million from lower crop revenues, $203 million from livestock and dairy losses, $454 million from well drilling and pumping costs, and most of the rest from lost earnings. Up to 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs will be lost. And, since this is the third consecutive year of below average rainfall, even if 2015 brings an El Niño with above average rainfall, next year will not restore normalcy.

    California is the only western state without groundwater regulation or measurement of major groundwater use. It may not be fair or equitable, but those who can drill deep enough to reach the ever deepening water table may take what water is there. This year, by pumping 62% more groundwater than usual, they are projected to drain 13 million acre-feet ̶ enough to cover Rhode Island 17 feet deep. According to Richard Howitt of UC-Davis, who co-authored the report, "A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account." With those who can drill deepest pumping all they want, they may deplete the entire reserve. doclink

    Can the World Feed China?

    February 25, 2014, Earth Policy Institute   By: Leter R. Brown

    China is expected to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013-14 trade year, according to the latest USDA projections. Only eight years ago China had a grain surplus and was exporting 10 million tons.

    With population growth slowing, the rise in grain use in China largely the result of the country's huge population moving up the food chain and consuming more grain-based meat, milk, and eggs.

    In 2013, the world consumed an estimated 107 million tons of pork-half of which was eaten in China. China's 1.4 billion people now consume six times as much pork as the United States does.

    China's grain yield is already among the highest in the world, so the potential for China to increase production within its own borders is limited. In addition, aquifers in China are being depleted - by over 10 feet per year in some areas. Meanwhile, water supplies are being diverted to nonfarm uses and cropland is being lost to urban and industrial construction.

    About 2 billion people in other countries are also moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products.

    The world is transitioning from an era of abundance to one dominated by scarcity. China's turn to the outside world for massive quantities of grain is forcing us to recognize that we are in trouble on the food front.

    Can we reverse the trends that are tightening food supplies, or is the world moving toward a future of rising food prices and political unrest? doclink

    We Have Forgotten the Crisis Yemen is Facing

    May 14, 2014, Yemen News

    Yemen is one of the most water-starved countries in the world. Its rapid population growth rate of more than 3% a year means shortages will continue and intensify -- driving further conflicts across the country. Yemen's capital, Sanaa risks becoming the world's first capital to run out of water.

    Some 14.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, hundreds of thousands of them driven from their homes by successive waves of violence over the past decade. Yemen's malnutrition levels are the second-highest on the planet: more than 4.5 million people are severely food insecure, and around half of Yemen's children under five are stunted.

    Yemen has undergone a significant political transition and recently concluded a national dialogue process that will pave the way for a new constitution, general elections and a federal system of government. However, stability in Yemen is not possible if more than half of the population do not know where their next meal is coming from, or cannot access safe water and sanitation. doclink

    Brazil: Nor Any Drop to Drink

    April 26, 2014, Economist

    Brazil has the world's biggest reserves of fresh water, but most of it sits in the sparsely populated Amazon. Brazilians in the drier, more populous south used to hose down pavements with gallons of potable water, but now use brooms to clean the pavement instead. Citizens are urged to take shorter showers and re-use coffee mugs.

    São Paulo state, home to one-fifth of Brazil's population and one-third of its economic activity, is suffering the worst drought since records began in 1930. Pitiful rainfall and high rates of evaporation in scorching heat have caused the volume of water stored in reservoirs, which supplies 10m people, to dip below 12% of capacity. Last year at the end of the so-called wet season, it stood at 64%.

    In preparation for the opening game of the football World Cup on June 12th the city is planning to pump half of the 400 billion litres of reserves beneath the pipes, at a cost of USD $36m. This water, never before used, is of questionable quality.

    The problem exposed by the drought is that supply has not kept pace with the rising urban population. Facing a jumble of overlapping municipal, state and federal regulations, investment in storage, distribution and treatment has lagged behind. doclink

    World's 18 Most Water-Stressed Rivers (Interactive map)

    March 20, 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Andrew Maddocks and Paul Reig

    The world's 100 most-populated river basins are indispensable resources for billions of people, companies, farms, and ecosystems. But many of these river basins are also increasingly at risk. As water demand from irrigated agriculture, industrialization, and domestic users explodes, major rivers on several continents are becoming so depleted that they sometimes fail to reach their ocean destinations. Add climate change, nutrient and chemical pollution, and physical alterations like dams and other infrastructure development to the mix and it's clear that many communities rely on water resources that face an increasingly risky future.

    Periodic, and often serious droughts only make the situation worse. Stressed river basins can severely threaten regional water security and economic growth, and may even contribute to political instability-especially if a basin does not have adequate water-management plans in place.

    Water stress is the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable supply in an area. In high-stress areas, 40% or more of the available supply is withdrawn every year. In extremely high-stress areas, that number goes up to 80% or higher. A higher percentage means more water users are competing for limited supplies.

    Our interactive map and working paper share the average exposure to five of water-quantity risk indicators for all major river basins and countries worldwide. These indicators include:

    -Baseline water stress: the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply.

    -Inter-annual variability: the variation in water supply between years.

    -Seasonal variability: the variation in water supply between months of the year.

    -Flood occurrence: the number of floods recorded from 1985 to 2011.

    -Drought severity: the average length of droughts times the dryness of the droughts from 1901 to 2008.

    As the world marks another World Water Day, we must become more knowledgeable about the water security threats we face. River basin-level water risk data is a key tool in moving toward a water-secure future. doclink

    California Needs Overdraft Protection for Its Dwindling Groundwater Supplies

    April 13, 2014, Sacramento Bee

    In the San Joaquin Valley and in some coastal and Southern California areas, more groundwater is being taken than the amount going in. Farmers and residents see their wells going dry and, with land subsidence (sinking), some canals running backwards.

    The governor, legislators, farmers, water districts, environmentalists and others agree that California has to better manage groundwater resources, that we have to control pumping and levy fees to finance replenishment.

    California is the only state in the western United States that does not govern its groundwater at the state level.

    In the eight-county San Joaquin Valley, fruit and nut crops increased by 386,000 acres and field crops increased by 72,000 acres between 2007 and 2012, according to Jeff Michael at the University of the Pacific. Vegetable crops decreased by 72,000 acres.

    It was suggested that those seeking to change open land to irrigated should be required to get conditional land-use permits, showing that groundwater extraction rates would not adversely impact others.

    n 1978, Brown said that just as we shouldn't overdraft our bank accounts, we ought not overdraft our groundwater basins. Thirty-six years later, California needs to get serious about regulating groundwater. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: this is a both a overpopulation and consumption problem. California is the country's leading producer of tree nuts. Nearly 90% of each year's nut production is harvested from California's orchards, including almost all almonds, pistachios and walnuts. ... Over the past 10 years, U.S. almond exports grew by 270% in value, with the United States currently accounting for nearly 75% of world almond exports in 2010. --

    The water used to grow many of these nuts is threatened by the drought. The water is being stretch thin, trying to serve the demands of a growing number households, agriculture, golf courses, wetland and delta, and now enterprises like fracking.

    Food Policy Reform Key to Boosting China's Water Security

    April 25, 2014, CleanBiz.Asia   By: Zhang Hongzhou

    China has 20% of the world's population but only 7% of the world's fresh water, with water unevenly distributed between the south and north of the country. This water insecurity presents a challenge to China's quest to become a great power.

    With rapid industrialization and urbanization, it is forecast that by 2030, China's water demand will surpass 800 billion cubic metres. However, China's supply is severely undermined by worsening water scarcity and pollution.

    China has lost more than 28,000 of its rivers in the last two decades duw to over-exploration and inefficient consumption, the same factors contributing to aquifer levels dropping. The North China Plain aquifer system has dropped by more than 20 metres in the past decades, and with some areas experiencing declines of over 40 metres, due to intensive farming practices. The country's wetlands have shrunk nearly 9% - an area larger than the Netherlands - to make way for massive agricultural production and infrastructure projects since 2003.

    Im addition nearly 40% of China's rivers were seriously polluted in 2012. There are claims that groundwater of 90% of cities in China could be polluted.

    To solve the problem China is spending trillions of yuan on megaprojects such as the South-North Water Diversion project and damming the rivers to boost the country's water supply. This project is based on the assumption that the south, which has seen recent droughts, has surplus water. The project is causing huge environmental and ecological damage. The country is also building dams, but if they are built across cross-border rivers (such as Brahmaputra and Mekong) this could easily trigger diplomatic tensions.

    China needs to take measures to curb water consumption and, for pollution, follow the polluter-pays principle. doclink

    U.S.: Final California Water Action Plan Released

    Outlines California's near- and long-term water priorities
    January 30, 2014, OneWorld US   By: Chuck Knutson, Sierra Club Population Committee chair, Motherlode Chapter

    As California experiences one of the driest winters on record, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the final California Water Action Plan, laying out goals and vision for the next five years.

    Chuck Knutson, Sierra Club Population Committee chair, Motherlode Chapter noticed that one of the main challenges listed was: "Population growth and climate change further increase the severity of these risks - The state's population is projected to grow from 38 million to 50 million by 2049."

    Knutson noted: "Even though population growth is identified as a major challenge, no solutions to the population growth problem were listed anywhere in the Action Plan, although it is a significant contributor to statewide water demand. I am amazed that LA County says that water demand in their area has not increased even though population growth has occurred in recent years. They fail to realize that TOTAL water demand needs to be REDUCED if badly-needed environmental benefits are to be realized. If water savings occur through conservation and recycling, which is a good thing, population growth cancels out the benefits accrued. More endangered species are on life support. Fall-run Chinook salmon are next."

    Key actions identified in the Plan include: Make conservation a California way of life. Increase regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government. Achieve the co-equal goals for the Delta. Protect and restore important ecosystems. Manage and prepare for dry periods. Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management. Provide safe water for all communities. Increase flood protection. Increase operational and regulatory efficiency. Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities. doclink

    Lee says: These folks just don't have the perspective to know how to deal with what they perceive as inevitable growth in population with hardly a clue about how it could be stopped. If we just could eliminate unplanned, unwanted pregnancies by providing better contraception and sex education if would nearly solve the problem as 40% or more of pregnancies are unintended. We need to just keep after people until they start to listen and act. It is so logical, but hard to achieve social ends with such a large population of people, many of whom know little about the world they live in. I am amazed that no one wants to talk about ways to solve the growth problem. I know one thing, if we don't do something it will be self-correcting and very unpleasant to try to live through it. We are way beyond a sustainable carrying capacity.

    Karen Gaia says: I agree with Lee, but also advocate making conservation a California way of life. I do not see expanding water storage as a significant solution.

    Water Shortages Slow Energy Production Worldwide

    January 21, 2014, MENAFN - Arab News

    A new initiative, launched by the World Bank at the World Future Energy Summit and International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi, will aim to help developing countries better manage and meet energy demands, in tandem with water resource management.

    In 2013 alone, water shortages shut down thermal power plans in India, decreased energy production in American power plants, and threatened hydro power generation in Sri Lanka, China, Brazil and many other countries.

    By 2035, the problem is expected only to worsen as energy consumption will increase by 35%, in turn increase water consumption by 85%, according to the International Energy Agency.

    "The world's energy and water are inextricably linked. With demand rising for both resources and increasing challenges from climate change, water scarcity can threaten the long-term viability of energy projects and hinder development," said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change.

    Part of the challenge for the energy sector is the competing demand for water. As the world population reaches 9 billion, water consumption will increase due to rising demand not only for energy but food production and other water services, such as sanitation.

    Solutions exist, but countries must work together to innovate and adapt policies to address this global issue. These solutions include technological development and adoption and improved operations to reduce water use.

    "Water constraints on the energy sector can be overcome, but all stakeholders, public and private, must work together to develop innovative tools and use water as a guiding factor for assessing viability of projects," said Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. "The absence of integrated planning is unsustainable."

    Since its inception in 2008, WFES has grown to become the leading discussion platform for renewable energy, clean technology and sustainability. It is now considered to be the preeminent international event for government and industry decision makers to find viable, sustainable solutions to the world's growing energy challenges. doclink

    Alex says: Today, some 780 million people lack access to improved water and 2.5 billion, more than one-third of the world's people, do not have basic sanitation. This only shows that, as the population increase, demands for water will only increase exponentially.

    Water More Important Than Oil for the Future of the Arab World

    December 5, 2013, Huffington Post

    Crisis, conflict and political challenges may dominate the discussion in nations such as Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Palestine, and Yemen, but the Arab people also face major challenges in our relation with the natural world. If oil-related matters dominated our concerns for the last seventy years, in coming years, challenges over water access will shape our future.

    The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working to improve water governance in 16 Arab nations. Some of our programs have already born fruit, though much more work is needed. The UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States recently released the Arab Water Governance Report. It found that oil and gas wealth have allowed for modernization and improved development over recent decades, but to continue making progress we must vastly improve the way we manage water.

    We should grant as much or more reverence to water as we have devoted to our energy resources. Water challenges face many arid and semi-arid regions, but we feel the critical importance of water more than all others. While we may have the world's largest stockpiles of oil, we have the lowest levels of water, including 7 of the 10 most water-scarce nations in the world.

    An average Arab citizen has access to about 6% of the amount renewable fresh water that the average global citizen enjoys; and 2/3 of our water comes from rivers that originate outside the region. We consume groundwater faster than nature can replenish it, and we often use this precious resource without foresight or solid planning. Some districts have exhausted their renewable fresh water supplies and several others are on course to run near zero in the decades to come.

    With the population of the Arab world having tripled from 128 million people in 1970 to over 360 million today, UN projections show that it may nearly double again by 2050, and three of every four people will live in cities. Our oil wealth allows for scientists, business people and representatives to work on the water problem, but we need the political will to make water a priority and planning to ensure effective solutions. A recent report by the Islamic Development Bank calls for US$200 billion more in infrastructure financing. We must also transform our system of water governance by strengthening our technical capacities and increasing the openness and accountability of responsible institutions.

    The drive to improve water governance cannot be separated from the broader challenges currently facing the Arab world. People want justice, equity, and a brighter future for their children, their communities, and the region as a whole, but progress also requires more political attention and commitment to water needs. From agricultural decline, to youth unemployment and civil unrest, most of the difficult dynamics facing the Arab region today are linked in different ways to water issues. We must address the links between water and health, education, poverty alleviation, environmental protection, job creation, and food and energy security. We also need increased cooperation both within the region and with neighboring countries so that water is fairly allocated for the benefit of all. doclink

    Water Balance of Global Aquifers Revealed by Groundwater Footprint

    August 8, 2012, Nature magazine

    Groundwater is a life-sustaining resource that supplies water to billions of people, plays a central part in irrigated agriculture and influences the health of many ecosystems. Most assessments of global water resources have focused on surface water, but unsustainable depletion of groundwater has recently been documented on both regional and global scales.

    It remains unclear how the rate of global groundwater depletion compares to the rate of natural renewal and the supply needed to support ecosystems. Here we define the groundwater footprint (the area required to sustain groundwater use and groundwater-dependent ecosystem services) and show that humans are overexploiting groundwater in many large aquifers that are critical to agriculture, especially in Asia and North America.

    The size of the global groundwater footprint is currently estimated at about 3.5 times the actual area of aquifers while about 1.7 billion people live in areas where groundwater resources and/or groundwater-dependent ecosystems are under threat. That said, 80% of aquifers have a groundwater footprint that is less than their area, meaning that the net global value is driven by a few heavily overexploited aquifers.

    The groundwater footprint is the first tool suitable for consistently evaluating the use, renewal and ecosystem requirements of groundwater at an aquifer scale. It can be combined with the water footprint and virtual water calculations, and be used to assess the potential for increasing agricultural yields with renewable groundwater. doclink

    Lester Brown Dishes on What it Takes to Feed a Hungry World   By: Joel Makower

    During a recent interview with Joel Makower, Lester Brown, Founder of the Earth Policy Institute and author of several books on overpopulation, commented on food scarcity, falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures.

    Brown sees little expansion of cropland areas in the future. In some nations, due to erosion or water shortages, we now have less planted acreage. Nations in drier climates, having exhausted their water supplies from dams and rivers, have resorted to over-pumping ground water. China, India, and the U.S, which account for half of world food production, are vastly over-pumping. With population growth outstripping land and water supplies, we will lose more acreage when the wells go dry. And that will raise prices. World grain prices have already doubled since early 2007, and Brown expects such increases to continue. Farming has evolved over an 11,000-year period of fairly good climate stability. But the climate system is changing. With each passing year our climate and food production systems grow more out of sync, and tighter supplies will lead to higher prices.

    During a 30-year period, stating in the1950s, we tripled grain yields. In a similar manner, we must now learn how to raise water productivity. Brown is not certain how much we can do. We have viewed water as a free resource, which it is where rain routinely falls. But farmers who use irrigation in California, large parts of China, and elsewhere do not pay the full cost of the water they use. That water is no longer free or even cheap, but we have not yet adjusted for that. Growing a ton of rice takes twice the water as growing a ton of wheat. We need to let prices reflect the value of water so that high water use crops, such as rice, only gets planted where water is plentiful. Some technological fixes might help, such as developing drip irrigation for vegetable farms or orchards, but we have been doing that, and drip doesn't work with wheat and corn, the world's two most prevalent crops. Favoring crops that require less water should become part of the public policy debate. We see the economic effects of water shortages showing up in higher food prices, but we hear about the water shortages only after the damage is done. We haven't addressed this issue in a meaningful way.

    Thus far, advances in biotechnology have been mostly limited to making certain crops taste better or insect resistant so they require fewer pesticides. Before biotechnology arrived on the scene, selective breeders had already done what they could to raise yields, and biotech has not been able to improve much on that. Once you've eliminated the nutrient and moisture constraints on yields insofar as you can, the limits inherent to plants are the only remaining constraint. We are pushing against those limits now. After decades of rising yields, the output of 40% of the world's grains have begun to plateau, including corn in the U.S., rice in Japan and China, and wheat in Europe, and that plateau rate will grow to 50% in another few years. But our public policy has not been preparing for that. Over the last half-century the U.S. always produced a surplus of grain, so government programs idled thousands of acres. Our grain stocks were large enough to feed the world for 100 days. That's now down to 61 days. A situation where our reserves get low and prices are already high would create a lot of instability in world grain markets. I'm afraid that instability will become part of the landscape in which agribusiness firms will work. Our policymakers must think about ensuring reserves in ways that they've not had to do before.

    In the past, we could always produce more, as needed -- but not anymore. The need for food will probably win the price competition with biofuels, and that will help. We also consume many fat-rich livestock products which require more land to grow than edible plants. Close to a billion people can move some way down the food chain and improve their health in the process.

    During the last few years, governments in food-importing countries started looking for land in other parts of the world that they could acquire to secure a food source for themselves. This could also happen in the corporate world, where companies that depend on farm crops will begin to look for ways that they can assure the supplies they will need. These solutions may work for those who have the money, but most of the lands they procure have long been occupied by subsistence farmers who depend on them to feed their families. Food production problems that stem from overpopulation grow increasingly difficult to fix. doclink

    Tunnel Vision Part Two: Rivers in Peril

    How Jerry Brown's plan to build two giant water tunnels, along with legislation in Congress, could ultimately spoil the last of Northern California's wild and scenic rivers
    June 19, 2013, East Bay Express   By: Robert Gammon

    California has many beautiful rivers, including the breathtaking Merced, which flows over two waterfalls in Yosemite, Nevada and Vernal and then begins a one-hundred-mile journey to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately there are plans afoot to remove the federal wild and scenic designation on a section of the Merced River west of Yosemite National Park.

    Water purveyors want to raise the Exchequer Dam on the Merced river to trap more water in Lake McClure, a massive reservoir holding about 500,000 acre-feet of water. Ironically the move would likely won't provide much water to the irrigation district, providing no more than 12,000 acre-feet of additional water for Lake McClure, an amount that represents just 2% of the reservoir's normal capacity, according to Friends of the River. But it would set a precedent for other rivers designated wild and scenic, which keeps them from being dammed or diverted.

    If the bill gains the backing of Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein, it could win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and would pass since it has already been approved by the House.

    The wild and scenic McCloud River near Mount Shasta has been similarly threatened so that Shasta Lake can be made larger and more water can be sent south.

    A Bureau of Reclamation report said that raising Shasta Dam would add about 133,400 acre-feet of water to the state's water conveyance system; opponents contend that taxpayers will ultimately have to pay at least a portion of the costs of expanding Shasta Lake because the additional water won't produce enough revenue due to the cheap water prices given to Westlands and Metropolitan.

    The Eel, the Smith, and the Trinity on the North Coast contain millions of acre-feet of water that could be diverted and could be used by big Agribusiness and powerful water interests if their wild and scenic designation were removed.

    The state's water conveyance system, particularly in the Delta, also entails restrictions which are threatened. The fragile estuary serves as a natural barrier to those who want to move more freshwater from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Removing too much freshwater from the Sacramento before it reaches the Delta would salt up the estuary.

    Although Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two giant water tunnels underneath the Delta does not propose sending more freshwater south than the state does now, the huge water tunnels could easily accommodate both the extra water created by damming up more of the McCloud River and from diverting millions of acre-feet of water from the North Coast.

    As Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity points out, "at some point, it's going to be used to its max." Both Westlands and Metropolitan water districts are pushing hard for Governor Brown's giant water tunnels plan.

    The Smith on the North Coast is truly wild, the only major undammed river in the state. It begins in the mountains that straddle the California-Oregon border and wends through a spectacular canyon of old-growth redwoods in Del Norte County on its way to the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City.

    In the decades to come, the pressure to ship more water south will intensify, especially if the state has the infrastructure in place to make it happen.

    NASA predicts that, as temperatures increase around the globe, regions that receive a lot of precipitation will likely get wetter, while drier areas, like Southern California, will likely get drier. But California, as a whole, particularly southern California, will be 15 to 35% drier by 2100."

    According to studies, climate change will result in more periods of drought, especially in arid regions - thereby creating additional pressure to ship water to Southern California. Climate change will also likely produce more heat waves, and thus magnify the demand for even more water to keep crops from wilting.

    California's population is expected to top 50 million people by 2050, according to the state Department of Finance. And most of that growth is projected to occur in Southern California. More people also will mean the state will need to produce more food to eat.

    Also if the fracking boom expands here as it has in other states, massive amounts of water and chemicals will be shot deep into the earth in order to release otherwise trapped natural gas and oil. Each fracked well uses between 5-10 million gallons of water.

    Environmental groups are wary. "It is hard to imagine that the exporters would pay the additional billions of dollars to construct the 15,000 CFS tunnels ... unless the true plan and project is to operate at that level," Friends of the River wrote in a letter to federal water officials.

    Westlands is the largest water district in the nation in terms of acreage. It includes 600,000 acres of desert land on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley that has been turned into an agricultural cash cow thanks to cheap water diverted from Northern California through the Delta. Westlands began receiving Delta water in 1960 after a politician bankrolled by the district, US Representative Bernard Sisk, a Fresno Democrat, vowed to Congress that the water would allow Westlands to become a bastion for small-scale family farms. Instead, Westlands used the huge profits that they reaped from all that water to make sure that the area has remained primarily in the hands of Big Ag. Westlands and its major growers have spent millions on lobbying and political donations over the past few decades. At the same time, the district has pocketed more than $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

    In 2012, Westlands spent $360,000 lobbying on issues relating to the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Endangered Species Act. Westlands growers have contributed heavily over the years to Feinstein and Congressman Costa, the San Joaquin Valley Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill to remove the wild and scenic designation on the Merced River.

    It makes no sense to dam up and divert the Smith, Eel, and Trinity rivers - unless the twin tunnels are built to send millions of acre-feet of additional water south. "If you construct the water tunnels," noted Ron Stork of Friends of the River, "then it could be politically easier" to remove the wild and scenic designations on the rivers of California's North Coast.  doclink

    Water Distribution Uneven Worldwide

    There is enough fresh water for everyone, but the water supply distribution
    is uneven. Two-thirds of the world's population live in areas that receive
    only 25% of the planet's rainfall. As population grows, water supplies for
    each person diminish. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have experienced serious
    international tensions over water rights to the Euphrates River. doclink

    Water as Vital to National Security as Defense, UN Says

    March 22, 2013, Reuters

    Water supplies are under increasing stress from climate change and a population of more than 7 billion people likely to reach 9 billion by 2050.

    Such stresses are likely to cause more conflicts and water should be considered as vital to national security, according to the U.N. and World Meteorological Organization. 145 nations share river basins with their neighbors and need to promote cooperation over a resource likely to be disrupted by more frequent floods and heatwaves. There are over 300 trans-boundary aquifers from which groundwater can be extracted.

    In 2011 an estimated 185,000 Somalis their country, driven largely by water and food shortages linked to drought, while in South Sudan, entire communities were forced to leave due to water scarcity brought on by conflict in 2012. Floods in Pakistan in 2010 killed almost 2,000 people and droughts in the United States and Russia in recent years have driven up global food prices.

    Water-related diseases, from diarrhoea to malaria, kill about 3.5 million people every year, mostly in developing nations. Climate change could worsen the toll in some areas.

    A good example of cooperation is that Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina have signed a deal in 2010 to cooperate and prevent conflicts over the Guarani Aquifer, which extends over more than 1 million square kilometres (386,000 sq miles).

    The World Health Organization estimates that each person needs between 50 and 100 litres (13-26 U.S. gallons) of water a day to meet basic needs. doclink

    Water-Controlled Wealth of Nations

    January 28, 2013, PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Population growth is in general constrained by food production,which in turn depends on the access to water resources. Some countries use more water than they control because of their ability to import food and the virtual water required for its production.

    In several areas of the world the demand has already exceeded the supply of renewable freshwater resources. This negative water budget be sustained by importing food. This is called virtual water trade. This report investigates the dependence of demographic growth on available water resources for exporting and importing nations.

    Most of the water we use is to produce the food we eat. With the world's population that has doubled every 40 years there is a growing concern that water limitations will soon impede humanity to meet its food requirements.

    The recent Rio+20 Earth Summit organized by the United Nations addressed the urgency to deal with this alarming situation by developing durable socio-political and economic strategies that promote a sustainable use of the environment and its natural resources.

    Several studies have been used to assess whether mankind will run out of water in the next few decades and to investigate possible strategies to deal with the global water and food crisis. In this report the carrying capacity of nations is calculated on the basis of calculations of the virtual water available through the food trade network as a means of demonstrating the existence of a global water unbalance.

    It is likely that current export rates will not be maintained and thus the long-term sustainability of the food trade system as a whole is in question. While most exporting countries can afford to sustain VW (virtual water) exports, their demographic growth might soon limit the amount of VW resources they can place on the global market, thus leaving import-dependent regions without enough water to sustain their populations.

    However, it may be that the vulnerability of water-controlled societies might be reduced through:

    1. cooperative interactions among nations whereby water-rich countries maintain a tiny fraction of their food production available for export,

    2. changes in consumption patterns, and

    3. a positive feedback between demographic growth and technological innovations.

    Water-rich regions are in North and South America, Australia, and the former Soviet Union (or "Eastern Bloc"). Virtual water-dependent regions are mainly in Europe, Mexico, and the western side of South America. Despite VW trade, large parts of Africa and Asia remain affected by water stress.

    For this report the "carrying capacity" of a nation, i.e., its maximum sustainable population, is calculated on the basis of the water resources currently available for agriculture and livestock.

    For almost one-third of all of the world's nations (i.e., water-rich and VW-dependent countries), the carrying capacity depends on their food availability, which, in turn, depends on the available water resources. Therefore, a quantitative estimate of the average local carrying capacity of a country is obtained by dividing the total water currently available for food production in that country by the volume of water used to produce the food consumed, on average, by one individual in that nation. This will give you the number of individuals that that country can sustain, given the available local freshwater resources of country.

    The virtual carrying capacity is the maximum sustainable population of a country when VW imports and exports are accounted for. The carrying capacity can also change with changes in consumption patterns, crop expansion, and increase in the efficiency of agricultural production. Demographic data was from 1970-2010.

    The 5 categories of countries used for the model were: water rich nations, eastern block, VW dependent, barely self-suicient, water scarce, and inconsistent data.

    A good example is that, during the 2008 food crisis some exporting countries panicked and banned the exports of food crops. Unless new freshwater resources become available or investments for a more water-efficient agriculture are made, these populations would have to decrease, if the exports were banned for a long period of time.

    The model shows, that if water-rich countries keep a fraction of their water resources in the VW global market, VW- dependent countries can sustain a larger population. The overall effect of a cooperative regime is a long term increase in the total global population and thus a more sustainable demographic growth. In the absence of such cooperation the decline in the trade-dependent population is expected to start around 2030, a date that is close to von Foerster's Doomsday date. With the keeping of some of the VW water in the global market, the decline is expected to occur between 2040 and 2060, depending on the intensity of the cooperative regime.

    Similarly, it was found that strategies based on the enhancement of productivity efficiency and a decrease in per capita global consumption result in a remarkable relief for trade-dependent countries, whose populations are subjected to less pronounced declines.

    We also find that changes in consumption patterns and greater equity in per capita consumption would not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand of a growing human population.

    Despite the presence of a number of other environmental, cultural, and health-related factors not included in this study, this analysis points out how VW trade is only a temporary solution to a local-to-regional unbalance between populations and food production. The existence of this unbalanced condition might be mitigated if a cooperative regime among water-rich and VW-dependent nations continues to exist even once the excess of VW in the exporting countries is strongly reduced by their demographic growth.

    We finally show that strategies aiming at an increase in productivity efficiency through agricultural practices that enhance crop yields while reducing water losses (e.g., water harvesting, water conservation, genetically modified crops) or increased water use efficiency resulting from increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations improve the sustainability of trade-dependent societies with respect to a decrease in export rates from water rich countries. doclink

    Global Irrigated Area at Record Levels, but Expansion Slowing

    December 3, 2012, World Watch Institute

    Irrigation can offer crop yields that are two to four times greater than is possible with rainfed farming.

    Irrigation takes about 70% of the world's freshwater withdrawals, and currently provides 40% of the world's food from about 20% of all agricultural land.

    Since the late 1970s, irrigation expansion has slowed down. 311 million acres were equipped for irrigation in 2009, but only 84% of that was being used. The FAO attributes the decline to the unsatisfactory performances of formal large canal systems, corruption in the construction process, and acknowledgement of the environmental impact of irrigation projects.

    The increasing availability of inexpensive individual pumps and well construction methods has led affordable and effective irrigation that is attractive to poor farmers worldwide, with rewards of higher outputs and incomes and better diets. There are also government subsidies for energy costs of running groundwater pumps and support prices of irrigated products. But with rising numbers of farmers tapping groundwater resources, more and more aquifers are in danger of being unable to recharge fast enough to keep pace with water withdrawals.

    While 80% of aquifers worldwide could handle additional water withdrawals, the world's major agricultural producers (particularly India, China, and the United States) are also the ones responsible for the highest levels of depletion.

    Pumping water from aquifers and redirecting flows for irrigation also causes salinization, which occurs when water moves past plant roots to the water table due to inefficient irrigation and drainage systems; as the water table rises, it brings salts to the base of plant roots. Plants take in the water, and the salts are left behind, degrading soil quality and therefore the potential for growth.

    Drip irrigation waters plants slowly and in small amounts either on the soil surface or directly on roots, with the potential to reduce water use by as much as 70% while increasing output by 20-90%. Drip and other micro-irrigation methods have increased from 1.6 million hectares to over 10.3 million hectares in the last two decades,

    With predictions of a global population exceeding 9 billion by 2050, water withdrawals for irrigation will need to rise by 11% in the next three decades to meet crop production demands. Intelligent water management is crucial especially in the face of climate change, which will force the agriculture industry to compete with the environment for water. doclink

    India: Water, Food and 1.2 Billion People

    November 16, 2012,   By: Suzanne York

    By Suzanne York

    India is a predominantly rural country, with over 600 million of its 1.2 billion citizens relying directly on agriculture. Nearly two-thirds of Indian fields are fed only by rain, which is why Indian agriculture is dependent on the monsoons. June to September the monsoons bring 75% of India's annual rainfall. But climate change is likely to make the South Asia monsoon season 40-70% below normal levels and fail every 5 years or so over the next two centuries, warn experts1. This is bad news for Indian farmers who depend on the monsoons and consequently bad news for food and water security in a country destined to be the world's most populous by 2030.

    Krishna Kumar Kanikicharla, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said: "Livelihoods, water security, and energy security are all tied to volume and timely arrival of monsoon season."

    In India, nearly 80% of women work in agriculture, so they will feel the brunt of climate change the most.

    As for the water that is supplied by pumping of groundwater from aquifers - the aquifers are being depleted faster than can be replenished by nature.

    The past 200 years of ever increasing reliance on fossil fuels is altering the climate in ways yet unknown. The world should commit to renewable and less carbon intensive solutions, yet the International Energy Agency just issued its annual World Energy Outlook 2012 report that states the world is failing to move towards a more sustainable path for energy, as it continues its addiction to fossil fuels in the face of climate change and growing water scarcity.

    The Green Foundation is a grassroots organization that works to empower south Indian women to build resilient communities in the face of climate change and sustain rural livelihoods without damaging the ecosystem. Another organization, GRAVIS, promotes sustainable rural development via capacity building, community and women's empowerment, social justice, and protecting the environment, and using a traditional source of water storage, called taankas.

    The overall solution though, is reducing global fossil fuel usage and emissions, which is the challenge facing the whole world.

    1. Environmental Research Letters from researchers at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: already 40% of Indian children are malnourished, facing physical and mental stunting. It doesn't look good.

    Stress Levels of Major Global Aquifers Revealed by Groundwater Footprint Study

    August 21, 2012, NewSecurityBeat

    A study published in Nature finds that the "size of the global groundwater footprint is currently about 3.5 times the actual area of aquifers." An aquifer's footprint is the theoretical size it would need to be to sustainably support use at its current rate, so groundwater footprints being much larger than their corresponding aquifers is a sign of overuse.

    Highlighted was overuse in six major aquifers: the Western Mexico, High Plains, North Arabian, Persian, Upper Ganges, and North China Plain.

    Some aquifers are replenishable, like many in India, for example, but are being refilled more slowly than they are being drained. So-called "fossil aquifers" - are not replenishable, like the Ogallala aquifer in the midwestern United States and the Sana'a Basin in Yemen. Streams which once deposited water no longer reach them. Once water is depleted from the fossil aquifers, farmers must turn to other forms of irrigation or cease agricultural production altogether. Even before aquifers run dry, falling water tables increase the cost of irrigation by forcing farmers to drill deeper and deeper for access to water.

    Yemen, for example, is using up water more quickly than it can be replenished, due to population growth and poor management. Experts predict the country will run out of water by 2025 - the first in the modern era.

    Over-use is not universal. Many aquifers appear to be being used at sustainable rates, and some regions thought to be water scarce actually have enormous underground reserves, like those recently mapped in Africa. Then there are areas where water resources are ample, but there are limitations to its use. Northern Russia, for example, experiences harsh Siberian winters-- a natural limit to agricultural production.

    The article also looks at how "bringing the world's agricultural yields to within 95% of their potential" would impact the groundwater of each region. Some experts predict food supplies will need to increase at least 70% by 2050 to meet the needs of an expanding and higher-consuming world population.

    Unfortunately, many of the areas which have the most room to improve in capacity are already over-consuming groundwater, like the American Midwest, the Upper Ganges, the North China plain, and parts of Poland and Ukraine. These areas are the traditional global grain producers, but because of already-existing stress on their aquifers, "groundwater cannot be used sustainably to increase yields." doclink

    Twenty More "Niles" Needed to Feed Growing Population

    September 10, 2012, Chicago Tribune

    The world needs more water - the equivalent of 20 more Nile rivers or 100 Colorado Rivers by 2025 - to grow enough food to feed a rising population and help avoid conflicts over water scarcity, according to a study sponsored by the InterAction Council of former leaders. The group has a membership of 40 leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Nelson Mandela.

    The study - backed by the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNWEH) and Canada's Gordon Foundation - predicted that many nations were likely to face freshwater shortages within two decades, and called on the U.N. Security Council to make water the top concern, above global warming.

    "The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating," former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. "It will lead to some conflicts," he said, highlighting tensions such as in the Middle East over the Jordan River. For example, water-related conflicts exist between Israelis and Palestinians over aquifers, between Egypt and other nations sharing the Nile, or between Iran and Afghanistan over the Hirmand River.

    3,800 cubic km (910 cubic miles) of fresh water has been taken from rivers and lakes every year.

    "With about 1 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025, global agriculture alone will require another 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic miles) of water per year," the study said. The world's population is now over 7 billion.

    One billion people have no fresh water and 2 billion lack basic sanitation. About 4,500 children die of water-related diseases every day - the equivalent of 10 jumbo jets falling out of the sky with no survivors, Chretien wrote.

    The greatest growth in demand for water would be in China, the United States and India due to population growth, increasing irrigation and economic growth. India and China are expected to exceed their demand for water by 2030.

    Water problems will be aggravated by severe weather events - such as droughts, floods, mudslides or downpours, which are becoming more frequent. These are the result of global warming brought on by human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels

    The report said that fixing leaky pipes could help - in developing nations, about 40 percent of domestic water is lost before it reaches households. Some nations are shifting to less water-intensive crops or recycling.

    The report said that annual spending on improving water supplies and sanitation in developing nations should be raised by about $11 billion a year. Every dollar spent would yield an economic return of $3 to $4, it estimated. doclink

    Global Water Sustainability Flows Through Natural and Human Challenges

    August 9, 2012,

    In their article "Water Sustainability for China and Beyond," Jianguo "Jack" Liu, director of Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, and doctoral student Wu Yang outline China's water crisis and recent leapfrog investment in water conservancy, and suggest addressing complex human-nature interactions for long-term water supply and quality.

    Two-thirds of China's 669 cities have water shortages, more than 40% of its rivers are severely polluted, 80% of its lakes suffer from eutrophication - an over abundance of nutrients - and about 300 million rural residents lack access to safe drinking water.

    China also suffers floods. A flood in Beijing in July overwhelmed drainage systems, resulting in scores of deaths. China has dedicated $635 billion for engineering measures to manage water.

    Water shortages also may have contributed to recent massive power outages in India as rural farmers stressed a fragile grid by pumping water for irrigation during drought.

    There needs to be, Liu and Yang say, a big picture view of water beyond engineering measures. "There is an inescapable complexity with water," Liu said. "When you generate energy, you need water; when you produce food, you need water. However, to provide more water, more energy and more land are needed, thus creating more challenges for energy and food production, which in turn use more water and pollute more water.

    Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, says solutions come from looking at issues from multiple points of view at the same time. His suggestions include:

    * Shore up laws and policies with cross-organizational coordination to clarify who is in charge, and who has enforcement powers.

    * Get proactive., evaluate initiatives, set performance criteria and engage the public in planning Use social science to strengthen long-term plans by predicting people's behaviors and taking values into account.

    * Remember the world has become much smaller, and global connections such as trade and sharing of international rivers have great impacts on water sustainability and quality. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: why do solutions for sustainability that don't involve family planning always seem so idealistic?

    U.S.: As Colorado River Dries Up, The West Feels The Pain

    June 26, 2012, NPR National Public Radio

    South of the U.S.- Mexico border the Colorado River Delta and its once-rich estuary wetlands have been reduced by 95% since the river was restricted by dams, and are as parched as the surrounding desert.

    The river begins in the Rocky Mountains and flows into Mexico's Sea of Cortez providing drinking water, and irrigation of millions of acres of farmland.

    But the river is drying up. As it does, those who rely on it for farming, cattle ranching, fishing and tourism fear economic disaster. doclink

    Resource Scarcity and Population Growth

    January 6, 2012, Financial Sense

    Writer Richard Mills in a recent article, "An Argument for a Contrarian Investment" wrote:

    "...the most investable trend over the next 20 years is going to be in the resource sector, the renewable and non-renewable resources, the minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass a wealthier and growing global population is increasingly demanding from finite supplies and already strained production capabilities."

    Potash and uranium are two good candidates for investment. Here is why...

    There are an estimated 326 million trillion gallons of water on earth, but 780 million to one billion people are without basic and reliable water supplies and over two billion people lack the requirements for basic sanitation. Peter Voser the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell said in June 2011, that global demand for fresh water may outstrip supply by as much as 40% in 20 years if current fresh-water consumption trends continue.

    70% of earth is covered in ocean and 98% of the worlds water is in the oceans - which makes it unfit for drinking or irrigation because of salt. Only 2% is fresh water, but 1.6% of that is locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers.

    Freshwater aquifers are one of the most important natural resources in the world today, but in recent decades the rate at which we're pumping them dry has more than doubled. If water was pumped as rapidly from the Great Lakes they would be dry in roughly 80 years.

    There is another problem that, if too much groundwater is pumped out from coastal aquifers, saltwater may flow into them causing contamination of the aquifer. In addition, lowering water levels in aquifers is being reflected in reduced amounts of water flowing at the surface, in streams, rivers and lakes.. Groundwater depletion is also responsible for the Yellow River in China not reaching the ocean for months at a time, the failure of the Colorado River, also along the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain, and the Indus River in Pakistan failing to reach the ocean every day.

    There is also widespread surface and groundwater contamination that makes valuable water supplies unfit for other uses.

    If the predicted 40% shortfall occurs, and United Nations (UN) population growth estimates of 9 billion are correct, how will we share this less than half a per cent of usable freshwater to feed our increasing population?

    In addition to finite water resources, relentless population growth, changing diets, a lack of investment in water infrastructure, we have increased urban, agricultural and industrial water usage.

    Arable land is another consideration in the production of food. Arable land covers only 3% of the world's surface and decreases by 25 million acres annually caused by desertification and urbanization.

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is losing almost 900,000 acres of cropland per year to desertification because of increased livestock foraging and human needs.

    Urbanization is growing in Africa, and with it the newly prosperous add more meat to their diet; this is the most important factor stoking the rise in global food demand. It takes up to 8 kilograms of grain to produce one pound of beef - less for pork, chicken, milk or eggs - between 2kg and 6kg. As meat consumption soars, more grain is needed to feed more livestock. Chinese consumption of meat has risen from 25kg of meat per person in 1995 to 53kg in 2007.

    The more people on this planet, plus more people who eat a western style diet, the more crops this planet must produce. Whether or not humanity can achieve and sustain the enormous harvest we need from this planet to feed ourselves is the central issue, not climate change.

    We must a) place more of the world's land under cultivation or b) increase yields on existing usable land or c) both of the above. To grow more food on the productive land we have, we need to invest in water infrastructure, fertilizer production and nuclear energy. There are three types of macronutrients (fertilizer): nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The availability of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil, in a readily available form, is the biggest limiter to plant growth.

    Potassium is the scarcest of the three, but also very important for plant growth. Potash is a major source of potassium. A huge increase in the application of potash-rich fertilizers will have to happen to increase crop yields.

    To supply the fresh water we're going to need to for drinking, irrigation and sanitation of the world's growing population, uranium, or rather the nuclear power generated by uranium to run seawater desalinization plants we will need uranium to provide the power. It's going to be impossible to meet the global, growing demand for energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions without nuclear energy.

    Energy use accounts for between 35 and 45% of the total cost of producing desalinated water using reverse osmosis . On the other hand, evaporative desalination could be the least expensive approach to generating fresh water because of the free heat energy available as a by-product of electricity generation using nuclear power.