World Population Awareness

Sustainability, Carrying Capacity, and Overconsumption

August 20, 2015

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

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

The Weight of Our Global Civilization

November 3, 2014, Paul Chefurka website   By: Paul Chefurka

The weight of our global civilization is the cumulative total weight of all the structural materials that we use to build our structures, machinery, implements and artifacts of all kinds.

This idea occurred to me as I was searching for a better proxy variable to represent the "PAT" side of the I=PAT equation. The criteria for acceptable proxy variables include:

• It must be a measurable material quantity;
• It must be produced and used throughout modern civilization;
• It must have been used in its current form for a significant period of time;
• It must not vary in composition or use over time;
• Its role in human environmental impact should be intuitively obvious;
• It should represent a significant proportion of human activity;
• It must scale up as a consequence of population and economic growth;
• It must have a close connection with energy use; and
• It should incorporate increasing energy efficiency over time, in such a way that a parallel energy and technology analysis is not required.

Based on these criteria, I believe that the weight of human artifacts (97% of which comes from cement and steel) is is a far more accurate way of estimating the impact we are having on the biosphere than either GDP or energy consumption.

The total weight of civilization is about 125 billion tonnes today, up from about 1 billion tonnes at the beginning of the last century. In other words, the weight of human construction and artifacts has increased by a factor of 125 over the last century, while world population has only increased by a factor of 4. This increase implies that human impact of the planet's biosphere has also increased by about 125 times over the last century.

I'm now contemplating how this finding changes my perspective on the "Overpopulation vs. Overconsumption" debate. 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.

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

The Cure for Global Warming Lies in the Karoo

August 16, 2014   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

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

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Don't Eat Beef

July 15, 2008   By: Rick Ruffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development

April 14, 2015   By: Eduardo Porter

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

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

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

Selected Countries Killowatt-hours per capita per year

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

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

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

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

Karen Gaia says:

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

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

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

A Darker View of the Age of Us - the Anthropocene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking Earth's Limits in a World of Ecological Overshoot

October 21, 2013, Huffington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen Gaia says:

1) you can but an electronic copy of State of the World through Amazon for only $3.99 . See

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

Environment and Development Challenges: the Imperative to Act

February 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.. http to download the entire report (pdf). doclink

Growth Has An Expiration Date

October 23, 2011

(watch the video at to see a more accurate account and several educational graphs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See to join a discussion on this article.

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

April 2011, Georgetown Gazette by Ray Griffiths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 2003, Earth Policy Institute

Water tables all over the world are falling, as "world water demand has tripled over the last" 50 years. When these aquifers are depleted, food production worldwide will fall. doclink

Water Distribution Uneven Worldwide

April 1999,

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

UN Environment Program Sounds Alarm on Unsafe Water

March 19, 1999, Environmental News Network

In the world, a child dies every 8 seconds from water-related diseases.
Unsafe water causes 3 billion illnesses (half the population!) and 5 million
deaths a year from diseases such as such as diarrhea, cholera, dengue fever,
river blindness and trachoma. 20% of world's freshwater fish species
have been pushed to the edge of extinction. 20% of the
population faces unsafe water, the number to increase to 30% by 2050 doclink

Red Cross Appeals to Curb Cholera in Africa

March 19, 1999, Xinhua General News Service

In the city slums of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe cholera is widespread due to lack of water access, poor hygiene and sanitation, pollution and ignorance. Some pay 10% of their income for water. doclink

Water Water Crisis Looms as World Population Grows

March 1, 1999, John Hopkins Public School of Health

By 2025, 2.8 billion people could be facing an acute water shortage. "To avoid a catastrophe... it is important to act now by reducing demand for water by slowing population growth," ground water reserves depleted at 25% more
than replenishment rate doclink

Evidence of Water Tables Falling in Every Continent of the World,

February 7, 1999, BBC News

according to the World Watch Institute. Food shortages and fires are predicted. If
the Chinese consumed as much beef per person as in the USA, they would have
to import an amount of grain equal to the entire US grain harvest each year. doclink

Water's Increasing Currency

August 2001, United Press International

A shortage of drinking water could affect one-third of the world by 2025, and spark conflicts. 29 countries have water problems, exacerbated by crop failures and population pressures. Governments are looking at finding new sources of water or improving conservation. More states are looking toward cooperation among traditional opponents. Syria urged Turkey to join with Iraq in sharing the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris, though Ankara and Baghdad have been at odds politically and Turkey has routinely viewed its control of these rivers as important to its security. A Central Asian summit will deal with the drying up of the Aral Sea and Moscow called for the creation of a single agency to regulate Russia's use of its own water supplies. Their country has the largest supply of fresh water in the world and Moscow hopes that creditor nations might reduce debt if they protect this valuable resource and is considering making political demands in exchange for water. China's water shortages may prompt Beijing to seek a presence in those regions. People in Moscow recognize these threats and will be including discussions about water in their national security. Russia is unlikely to be the only country to do so. That sets the stage for a negotiation that few governments have had much experience with so far. doclink

Population Growth Sentencing Millions to Hydrological Poverty

June 21, 1999, World Watch Institute

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

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Deforestation and Desertification

'Too Many People': Philippine Island Being Deforested Despite Extensive Protections

October 31, 2014,   By: Shaira Panela

The Philippine island of Palawan hosts two World Heritage sites, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the provincial capital, and the Tubbataha Reef in Cagayancillo, and it is almost completely covered in Protected Areas; yet Palawan lost 6.4% of its tree cover since 2001.

Data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) reveals that many animals -- including 27 endemic species of birds, 19 varieties of land mammals, and 24 kinds of reptiles -- are facing huge population declines.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) records show that the population in Palawan grew by 2.66% per year from 2000 to 2010. This would double the population in 26 years.

"It's just too many people, and more people need more space," said Dr. Neil Aldrin Mallari, country program director of Fauna & Flora International - Philippines.

Illegal logging is one of the biggest contributors to forest cover loss.

"People living in the mountains still practice slash-and-burn where they cut trees and burn them to make the land available for farming," said an environmentalist, who asked not to be identified. "The problem is so difficult to solve," he said. "In a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest, I would rate the deforestation in Palawan is a 7," he said.

Deforestation in the southern part of the province results from bark tanning, in which bark harvested of mangroves is used to tan leather. Illegal land conversion and charcoal production are also common in northern Palawan.

Palawan's palm oil industry has also led to significant forest loss.

Mining also contributes to deforestation, but it is not the primary culprit. However, this controversial issue led to the 2011 shooting death of a well-known radio announcer and environmentalist in the Province, Dr. Gerry Ortega. Mining is mostly concentrated in the southern tip of the province.

Mining also adds to the growing of the population in the area.

Humans are also affected by deforestation. "Forest means life to us because forests are our first line of defense against typhoons, water, clean air and lots of things," Mallari said. "nd it is not just about the size of the forest but the quality."

Mining-caused deforestation could interfere with groundwater resources and could even make El Nino-induced drought worse in the Philippines. There would be more runoff during storms and less water retained during droughts, when trees are cut down. doclink

Rapa Nui is the Earth Writ Small

April 16, 2014, A Blue View for Escondido   By: Margaret Mccown Liles

In a October 12, 1999 letter to the San Diego Union Tribune, Margaret McCown Liles wrote about the Polynesians who in 400 AD colonized a remote, volcanic island in the South Pacific, now called Easter Island. The island was covered by palm forest, abundantly supplied with fresh water, large seabird colonies, and many species of land mammals and birds.

The population grew, their civilization flourished. Huge statues were carved from the volcanic rock. More palms were cut down and used to roll and lift the huge statues into place. More palms were cleared to create fields. The palm forests were completely gone by 1400. The delicate tropical soil eroded. With no forest to absorb the rain, springs and streams dried up.

The population peaked at around 10,000 in 1600, while the quality of life continued to decline. Then the population crashed. In 1722, the population was below 2,000.

As Jared Diamond stated: "Easter Island is Earth writ small. We too have no emigration valve."

"We too are depleting our natural resources much, much faster than they can be regenerated. In the last 100 years, humans have increased the level of CO2 in the atmosphere 30 percent. For nearly every month in the past ten years, the global mean land temperature has been above the long-term (1880-1998) mean.," Liles continued. "If we do not address the Y6B challenge now, we'll be talking about the Y12B in just 50 years."

Looking at this, 15 years later, it's hard to see that much progress. There are those who still oppose any measures to combat climate change as being too expensive-too hard on the economy. There are many who still believe overpopulation is a myth. doclink

Shrinking Forests: the Many Costs

November 2009, Earth Pollicy Institute

In 2004, illegal logging in the Philippines was found to have caused rampant deforestation, flash floods and landslides, and killed nearly 340 people. In 1989, the government of Thailand announced a nationwide ban on tree cutting following severe flooding and the heavy loss of life in landslides. In August 1998, the Chinese government banned all tree cutting in the upper reaches of the Yangtze basin after record flooding and $30 billion worth of damage.

Services provided by forests, such as flood control, may be far more valuable to society than the lumber in those forests.

The earth had 5 billion hectares forested area at the beginning of the twentieth century, now it is just under 4 billion hectares. From 1990, 13 million hectares of developing world forest has been lost per year. This is the equivalent of about 3% each decade and covers an area about the size of Greece.

While the industrial world gains an estimated 5.6 million hectares of forestland each year, mainly from a) abandoned cropland returning to forests on its own and b) from the spread of commercial forestry plantations, net forest loss worldwide exceeds 7 million hectares per year.

Tropical forests that are clear cut or burned off rarely recover, becoming wasteland or scrub forest, and are still counted as "forest" in official forestry numbers, as are plantations.

Only 40% of the world's remaining forests can be classified as frontier forest - large, intact, natural forest systems relatively undisturbed and big enough to maintain all of their biodiversity.

Use of firewood, paper, and lumber is expanding. Only half is used for fuel, but in developing countries, it is three fourths of the total.

In the Sahelian zone of Africa and the Indian subcontinent, deforestation to supply fuelwood is extensive.

Evident from satellite photos taken over time is the widening circle of retreating woods around cities, which leads to increased transport costs of firewood increase, triggering the development of an industry for charcoal, a more concentrated form of energy. Dakar and Khartoum now reach out further than 500 kilometers for charcoal, sometimes into neighboring countries.

In Southeast Asia and Africa logging for lumber is mostly done by foreign corporations more interested in maximizing a one-time harvest than in managing for a sustainable yield in perpetuity. Devastation is left behind. Nigeria and the Philippines have both lost their once-thriving tropical hardwood export industries and are now net importers of forest products.

China now supplies the world with furniture, flooring, particle board, and other building materials, reaching into Indonesia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Siberia, - recently the Amazon and the Congo Basin - to do so.

The natural forests in Indonesia and Myanmar will be gone within a decade or so, if current trends continue. Those in Papua New Guinea will last 16 years. Those in the Russian Far East, vast though they are, may not last much more than 20 years.

In the Brazilian Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Borneo, the clearing of land for farming and ranching are taking its toll. Brazil has lost 93% of its Atlantic and is now destroying the Amazon rainforest roughly the size of Europe. Close to 20% has been lost since 1970.

Africa's Congo Basin, spanning 10 countries, is also under assault from loggers, miners, and farmers. Here, 190-million-hectares are home to 400 species of mammals, including gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, and forest elephants.

Malaysian Borneo has palm oil - a leading biodiesel fuel - plantations which have expanded 8% between 1998 to 2003. In the Indonesian part of Borneo, the growth in oil palm plantings is over 11%.

Firewood demand and land clearing in Haiti has left the country with only 4% of its former land. After the trees go, the soil disappears. Haiti is in an ecological/economic downward spiral from which it has not been able to escape. It is a failed state, a country sustained by international life-support systems of food aid and economic assistance.

Madagascar is following in Haiti's footsteps. Madagascar could soon become a landscape of scrub growth and sand.

Deforestation in the Amazon causes more rain to run back into the sea, reducing dramatically the moisture that is recycled inland. The forest begins to dry out and becomes vulnerable to fire. The Amazon is approaching a tipping point beyond which it cannot be saved.

Similarly in Africa, production of firewood, land clearing, and logging have increased rainfall runoff, depriving the land of the water pumped through trees and into the atmosphere. When the forests disappear, this rainfall declines and crop yields follow.

China, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam now have total bans on logging in primary forest. Unfortunately, a ban in one country simply often shifts the deforestation to others or drives illegal logging. doclink

The Earth is Shrinking: Advancing Deserts and Rising Seas

November 15, 2006, Earth Policy Institute

Our civilization is being squeezed between advancing deserts and rising seas. Mounting population densities, once generated by the addition of over 70 million people per year, are now also fueled by the advance of deserts and the rise in sea level.

Expanding deserts are primarily the result of overstocking grasslands and overplowing land. Rising seas result from temperature increases from the burning of fossil fuels.

China is losing productive land at an accelerating rate. From 1950 to 1975 China lost an average of 600 square miles to desert each year. By 2000, 1,400 square miles were going to desert annually.

Satellite images show two deserts in north-central China expanding and merging to form a single, larger desert overlapping Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces. To the west in Xinjiang Province, two even larger deserts--the Taklimakan and Kumtag--are also heading for a merger. Further east, the Gobi Desert is within 150 miles of Beijing. Chinese scientists report that over the last half-century, 24,000 villages in northern and western China were abandoned as they were overrun by drifting sand.

Kazakhstan, site of the vast Soviet Virgin Lands Project, has abandoned nearly half of its cropland since 1980.

In Afghanistan, with a population of 31 million, the Registan Desert is encroaching on agricultural areas. A UNEP team reports that up to 100 villages have been submerged by windblown dust and sand. In the northwest, sand dunes are moving onto agricultural land, from the loss of stabilizing vegetation due to firewood gathering and overgrazing. Iran, which has 70 million people and 80 million goats and sheep, is losing its battle with the desert. In 2002 sand storms buried 124 villages in the southeastern province forcing their abandonment. Drifting sands had covered grazing areas, starving livestock and depriving villagers of their livelihood.

The Sahara Desert is pushing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria northward toward the Mediterranean. In countries from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia in the east, the demands of growing human and livestock numbers are converting land into desert. Nigeria is losing 1,355 square miles to desertification each year. While Nigeria's human population grew from 33 million in 1950 to 134 million in 2006, its livestock population grew from 6 million to 66 million. The food needs forced the plowing of marginal land and the forage needs of livestock exceeded the carrying capacity of its grasslands. Nigeria's population is being squeezed into an ever-smaller area.

In Mexico, the degradation of cropland forces some 700,000 Mexicans off the land each year in search of jobs in nearby cities or in the United States.

Rising seas promise to displace greater numbers in the future. During the twentieth century, sea level rose by 6 inches. During this century seas may rise by 4 to 35 inches. Since 2001, record-high temperatures have accelerated ice melting making it likely that the future rise in sea level will be even greater.

If the Greenland ice sheet, a mile thick in some places, were to melt entirely it would raise sea level by 23 feet, or 7 meters.

A one-meter rise would inundate many of the rice-growing river deltas and floodplains of India, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and China. A one-meter rise in sea level would cause some 30 million Bangladeshis to migrate, internally or to other countries.

Hundreds of cities would be at least partly inundated, including London, Alexandria, and Bangkok. More than a third of Shanghai, would be under water. A one-meter rise combined with a 50-year storm surge would leave large portions of Lower Manhattan and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., flooded. If the Greenland ice sheet should melt, it would force the abandonment of thousands of coastal cities and communities. Rising seas and desertification will present the world with an unprecedented flow of environmental refugees and the potential for civil strife.

We must deal with rapid population growth, advancing deserts, and rising seas. Growth in the human population is accompanied by a growth of livestock populations of more than 35 million per year. The rising concentrations of carbon dioxide that are destabilizing the earth's climate are driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Reverse these trends or risk being overwhelmed by them. doclink

Brazil Admits Amazon Deforestation on the Rise

December 19, 2008, ScienceDaily

Amazon deforestation jumped 69% in the past 12 months as rising demand for soy and cattle pushes farmers and ranchers to raze trees. Some 3,088 square miles of forest were destroyed between August 2007 and August 2008. Brazil's government has increased cash payments to fight illegal Amazon logging, and eliminated government bank loans to farmers who illegally clear forest. The country lost 2.7% of its Amazon rain forest in 2007, or 4,250 square miles. Monthly deforestation rates have slowed since May, but environmental groups say seasonal shifts in tree cutting make the annual number a more accurate gauge.

Most deforestation is in March and April, and routinely tapers off in May, June and July.

Environmentalists argue that INPE's deforestation report was to alert the government to deforestation hot spots in time to save the land.

The Amazon region covers about 1.6 million square miles of Brazil, nearly 60% of the country. About 20% of that land has been deforested. doclink

Chinese Farmers Are Losing Their Land

January 23, 2008, People and Planet

China faces a farming crisis as mass migration into the industrial zones of mushrooming cities eats up fertile land, while patterns of food consumption and land rights change. Historically the Chinese have spent most of their income on food, but to produce grains, vegetables and meat, the country must retain enough arable cropland. From the Ming Dynasty onwards farmers were able to feed a growing, increasingly urbanised population. Population growth was not an issue until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today China is importing more food and resources. The sustainable Chinese agriculture has been altered in favour of Western methods that harm the existing ecosystems. China's ability to feed its own people and the environmental destruction provokes serious concern.

By 2030 Chinese demographers expect the population to level out nearer to 1.5 billion, but predicted that soaring grain imports would upset global markets. Water, more than grain or meat, might well be the crucial issue. As water becomes scarce, 80% of the grain crop is irrigated, as per-acre yield gains are erased by the loss of cropland to industrialization. Densely populated countries undergoing industrialization become food importers as the population shifts from rural to urban workers.

The world is experiencing rising food prices. The Chinese government is mandating price freezes and subsiding various manufacturing and food industries.

Water scarcity in China will impact the entire world; the country is experiencing a lack of potable water due to the environmental damage from rapid industrialization without any agencies to protect the ecology.

China, with 20% of the world's population and 7% of the world's arable land, is losing even more land to industrialization.

Beijing has mandated that arable land cannot fall below 298 million acres. China's Ministry of Land and Resources noted that the country has lost 6.6% of its arable land in the past decade.

Corruption also contributes to arable land loss. In central China's Hubei Province every day since November 2, over 10,000 tons of rubbish has turned the small farming village into a stinking dumpsite.

No legislation exists to protect farmers against crooked officials. Local governments have become the epicentre of corrupt land deals.

Chinese farmers fall under a village collective system that forbids them to own, buy or sell the land they till. Competition over raw materials has risen dramatically in the last decade; the impact of greater Chinese food demands has affected global markets. Food price inflation is a serious worry for China's leaders.

The long term outlook is grim, because land is being lost to construction in eastern China. This has degraded the overall quality of the country's remaining arable land. Almost 15% of China's total arable lands are polluted by heavy metals, and more than 40% soil erosion and desertification.

Without effective measures to solve this crisis everyone is going to suffer. doclink

Reaping Cash From Lake Manyara's Biosphere

March 24, 2008, Guardian (London)

Located in the East African Rift Valley, the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve is one of the most thrilling tourist attractions of Tanzania. The lake is an important breeding site for residents and migrant birds. Tourists from different parts of the planet earth flock in this Tanzania`s heaven.

Communities living along LMBR are partly within the Lake Manyara National Park. According to Maasai elders` narratives, the indigenous Maasai community that lived close to LMNP used very little firewood for cooking due to their eating habit-mainly unboiled milk.

The town has become cosmopolitan in nature and demands for cooking firewood have increased.

Government initiative on Tse-tse fly eradication encouraged clearing of forests in the villages and paved way for erection of human settlements closer to the park, leading to deforestation, destruction of livestock routes and wildlife corridors.

Maasai elders narrate that, some years ago, people indiscriminately harvested the wildlife. Waters for irrigation drained to Lake Miwaleni and was one of the wildlife`s drinking points. The lake has little water while some animals have moved to other areas.

The cosmopolitan community originated from as far as Kenya and has been living in harmony after settling in the area and attracted by the tourism industry.

The human population in the biosphere reserve is estimated to over 250,000 people.

Most of immigrants in the region depend on tourism though poaching causes a menace to biodiversity. People in the area are now engaged in cultural tourism that relieves them from the jungle of poverty.

Several projects promote activities such as bee keeping or to control the tick infestation in the livestock. Tourists pay for services such as hiring out bicycles, nature trails, food and traditional dances.

There are mutual benefits in the sense that tourists learn from villagers the ways of life, whereas in doing so, they pay for those services thus benefiting villagers and the village government through contributions.

Cultural tourism conserves natural resources as people concentrate on other sources of income.

They have prepared a land use plan which demarcates the land for different purposes and make sure that the type of land use is adhered to. Population pressure has caused blockage of wildlife corridors and creates unnecessary quarrels between the existing communities and wildlife, especially the elephants.

Frequent fires have started jeopardizing the biosphere`s reserve.

Poaching remains one of the critical problems in the area. Plans are underway to annex the buffer zones and establish wildlife management areas that will be managed by the National Park and the surrounding communities. doclink

Rain Forests Fall at 'Alarming' Rate

February 2, 2008, Yahoo News

Human encroachment is shrinking the world's rain forests. Africa is a leader in destructiveness. U.N. specialists estimate 60 acres of tropical forest are felled worldwide every minute, up from 50 a generation back. Scientists today worry about Global warming that is expected to dry up and kill off vast tracts of rain forest, and dying forests will feed global warming. The burning or rotting of trees that comes with deforestation sends more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the world's planes, trains, trucks and automobiles. Forest destruction accounts for about 20% of man made emissions. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon. If we don't start turning this around in the next 10 years, the crisis will begin to spiral out of control.

The U.N. session in Bali may have been a turning point, endorsing negotiations in which nations may fashion the first global financial plan for compensating developing countries for preserving their forests. Because northern forests remain essentially stable, that means 50,000 square miles of tropical forest are being cleared every 12 months. The lumber and fuel wood removed in the tropics alone would fill more than 1,000 Empire State Buildings. Almost 1% of African forests disappear each year. In 2000-2005, the continent lost 10 million acres a year. South American forests are usually burned for cattle grazing or soybean farming. In Southeast Asia, island forests are being cut or burned to make way for giant plantations of palm, whose oil is used in food processing, cosmetics and other products.

In Africa, it's individuals hacking out plots for small-scale farming. In Nigeria's southeastern state, home to one of the largest remaining tropical forests in Africa, people from surrounding villages go to the forest each day to work their pineapple and cocoa farms. They see no other way of earning money to feed their families. The Cross Rivers government seeks to help would-be farmers learn other trades, such as beekeeping or raising land snails, a regional delicacy. Anyone who wants to cut down one of the forest's valuable mahogany trees must obtain a license and negotiate which tree to fell with the nearby community, which shares in the income. A community benefiting from such small-scale forestry is likely to keep out those engaged in illegal, uncontrolled logging. Environmentalists say such a conservation approach may work for rural, agrarian people in Nigeria, but lessons learned in one place aren't necessarily applicable elsewhere.

A global strategy is needed. A government earning carbon credits for "avoided deforestation" could then sell them to a European power plant, for example, to meet its emission-reduction quota. But in many ways rain forests are still a world of unknowns. How much carbon dioxide are forests absorbing? How much carbon is stored there? How might the death of the Amazon forest affect the climate in, say, the American Midwest? doclink

End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2


January 1995, E.O. Wilson

The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct. To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people but to poor ideology or land-use management is sophistic. doclink

January 1995, E.O. Wilson

The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct. To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people but to poor ideology or land-use management is sophistic. doclink

Population Growth Leading to Land Hunger

January 23, 2003, Earth Policy Institute

By 2000 the area in grain had fallen to 656 million hectares from its historical peak of 732 million hectares. With population expanding, the area per person shrank from 0.23 to 0.11 hectares as farmland was also covered by urban sprawl. When prices fall, farmers stop farming marginal lands. Farmers in Malaysia cultivate 0.03 hectares for each resident. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan each harvest less than 0.02 hectares and import more than 70% of their grain. Egypt harvests 0.04 hectares and imports 40%. In India, 16 million people are added each year and the grain area per person is 0.10 hectares, Pakistan, 0.09 hectares, China, 0.07 hectares. China imports grain, but cannot guarantee that additional demand will not increase prices. Rwanda's population tripled to 6.8 million and per capita grainland fell to 0.03 hectares, resulting in farm fragmentation, land degradation, deforestation, and famine, which ignited ethnic strife. If world grainland stays the same as 2000, the 9 billion people projected to inhabit the planet in 2050 would each be fed from 0.07 hectares of grainland. By 2050, India and Nigeria would cultivate 0.06 hectares of grainland for each person. China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia would drop to 0.04-0.05 hectares. Egypt and Afghanistan to 0.02 hectares, the Yemen, the Congo, and Uganda, to 0.01 hectares. With most of the planet's arable land already under the plow and with additional cropland being paved over and built on each year, there is little chance that the world grain area will rebound. doclink

Comment: With so many countries dependant on imorting grain, has any concern been expressed as to how we can ship grain when there is insufficient fuel oil to opereate the grain carriers. Back to sailing ships? or just let the people starve?

A Special Moment in History

May 1998, Atlantic Monthly

by Bill McKibben In the developing world cornstalks and other crop residues (60% of crop residues in China and 90% in Bangladesh) are now burned for heat and cooking , where wood is scarce. When crop residues are in the field, the soil is protected from wind erosion. When plowing begins, dry soils blow away. Measuring stations pick up China's soil in the Hawaii..and Africa's soil in Florida. doclink


Between 1945 and 1990 food production and other human activities degraded nearly three billion acres of vegetated land, an area equal to China and India combined. Two thirds of the most degraded land is in Africa and Asia. doclink

Industrial Farming Practices Spread Disease and Concern

March 10, 2001, Environmental News Network

Intensive, industrial farming practices gave rise to the outbreak of BSE and
have likely contributed to the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. (Unlike
BSE, foot-and-mouth disease is not dangerous to humans, but affects cattle,
pigs and sheep.) While the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease grips
the nation of Britain, other European nations hold their breath. North
America has been spared this sort of disaster and foot-and-mouth disease has
not been reported in Canada since the 1950s. But intensive farming could
lead to such a problem. It is likely that feeding of rendered sheep
carcasses sheep that were infected with the disease known as scrapie is the
cause of the epidemic. Then people people began to die from variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human version of BSE. There is no reliable way
to test live animals to see if they are harboring BSE. Dead pigs, horses and
poultry are still fed to cattle, along with sawdust, old newspapers and
anything else that might contain a bit of cheap protein to help cattle pack
on the pounds. In addition, antibiotics are routinely given to cattle, pig,
chicken and fish feed to increase growth rates and reduce infections. While
EU has banned this practice, Canada and the United States have not. In fact,
nearly half of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to animals. doclink

[Note: such practices can be placed under the "Bigger is Better" philosophy that allows large corporations to reap huge profits from the large numbers of people who now depend on industrialization for cheap food.]

1999 Report on Food - World Watch Institute

December 2000, World Watch Institute

On the food front, world grain prices in late 1998 dropped to the lowest
level in two decades, partly because of the economic downturn in several
East Asian countries, but more fundamentally because of extensive
overpumping for irrigation in both China and India, with 1.25 and 1 billion
people, respectively. In effect, both countries are expanding food
production in the short run by depleting their aquifers, which means they
will face sharp cutbacks in irrigation water supplies once the aquifers are

"In the world protein economy, growth in beef production has largely come to
a halt in the 1990s," said co-author Brian Halweil, " while the oceanic fish
catch has been growing by scarcely one percent per year." The rapid growth
is now coming in the more grain-efficient sources of animal protein, namely
poultry and the fish that are produced on fish farms. World poultry
production growing at
over five percent per year during the nineties has now overtaken beef,
making it second only to pork.

Aquacultural output, growing at nearly 12 percent per year during the
nineties, is emerging as a major new source of animal protein in the world
food economy. Increasing from 7 million tons in 1984 to an estimated 27
million tons in 1998, it is the world's fastest growing source of animal
protein. The 1998 production is just over half of world beef production,
which totaled 54 million tons in 1998. If recent trends continue,
aquacultural output could easily overtake that of beef before 2015 doclink

1996 - Per Capita Grain Production Dropped

1997, World Watch Institute

The global annual per capita
production of grain dropped from 346 kilograms per person in 1984 to 313
kilograms per person in 1996. This is a drop of 9.5% in just 8 years doclink

End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2 3 4 5


(agriculture intro)

July 24, 2002, Karen Gaia - WOA!!

Food production requires several elements, the most important being water and good soil. Unfortunately, many of the soils of the world are deteriorating due to wind and water erosion, salinization, and depletion of nutrients. This happens in both developed countries and lesser developed countries.

Most of the developed countries agricultural practices are not sustainable because they hasten the deterioration of the soil. Tilling practices can lead to wind erosion or compaction of the soil, irrigation can lead to salinization which makes the soil unusable for most crops. Use of chemical fertilizers will slow considerably when petroleum becomes less available. When croplands deteriorate, farmers look for other more fertile croplands. However, fewer and fewer new croplands are being found.

In either situation, rich or poor countries, when fewer crops can be produced, farmers turn to increased use, and often misuse, of pesticides which contaminate the water system and cause diseases in farm workers. doclink

Humans Appropriate 24% of Earth's Productivity

July 25, 2007,

Researchers have developed a detailed analysis of humankind's impact on the biosphere, as represented by a metric known as HANPP or human appropriation of net primary production. They show that HANPP is 23.8%. 53% from harvest, 40% from land-use-induced productivity changes, and 7% from human-induced fires. In most areas productivity has decreased due to human activities, though in some areas it has been artificially increased through intensive fertilization, irrigation and mechanization of agriculture. Intensification is resulting from shrinking opportunities for expansion; croplands and pastures now rival forests as the largest ecosystems on the planet, occupying 35% of the ice-free land surface. The rise of human dominated landscapes has come at the expense of natural ecosystems.

Human land-use activities are consuming an ever-larger share of the planet's biological productivity and altering the Earth's ecosystems.

How our use of ecosystems be sustained, let alone expanded. Ultimately, we need to question how much of the biosphere's productivity we can appropriate before planetary systems begin to break down. Or have we already crossed that threshold?"

As global populations swell, farmers are cultivating more and more land to keep pace with the intensifying needs of humans. Agricultural activity now dominates more than a third of the Earth's landscape and has emerged as one of the central forces of global environmental change. doclink

Ralph says: More people more food, more pollution, more disturbance nature. Simple, reduce the population peacefully ot nature will do it much more cruelly.

Zimbabwe: State Fiddles as Land Disaster Unfolds

January 2005, The Independent

Zimbabwe is awakening to the reality that the land reform programme has disfigured the landscape through lack of land management, planning and natural resource conservation among new landowners. During the land seizures at the behest of a ruling Zanu PF party, peasants grabbed any land available regardless of its agricultural value. Indigenous trees were burnt, fires blazed unattended leaving swathes of scorched veld. Settlers sold firewood for a living instead of agriculture. Virgin forests have vanished, replaced by patches of cleared land and pole-and-mud huts, creating fears of land degradation and desertification. Environmental and conservation experts have begun calling on resettled farmers to plant trees to rebuild the ozone layer being depleted by toxic emissions. Resettled farmers should establish plantations to replace the trees they cut for building houses and for firewood. Post-independence resettlement missed an opportunity to place on the land independent small-scale farmers who could lead the sustainability of agriculture. But the destruction of the trees, plants, shrubs and grass as more land is opened for settlement has continued despite government pleas. Land degradation has worsened a desperate situation in communal lands. In rural areas deep gullies have disfigured the landscape and the Environmental Management Act has done little to discourage deforestation. The local people were unwilling to take up offers of free land but were lured there by the prospect of free meat. They arrived with their dogs, nets and spears, doing an efficient job of decimating the wildlife. Poaching is regarded as a craft and wildlife have dwindled - also due to lack of access to water and grazing sources. Government officials admit that dryland crops have a low success rate in this area, yet will not say anything against the disastrous programme. The settlers' livestock that rely on the major rivers for water supply threaten massive riverbank destruction. doclink

Ecologist Says Population, Land at Odds

February 16, 2004, UPI

by David Pimentel Nearly half the world's population of 6.3 billion is malnourished and in the next 50 years the degree of malnutrition, disease and misery is unimaginable. Grains are being harvested at a faster rate, putting greater stress on land. Also humans are more susceptible to disease as a result of malnutrition. The world's population is expected to reach 12 billion in 50 to 70 years, putting greater stress on resources for fresh water, renewable and fossil energy, fertilizers and pesticides. doclink

Agriculture Alternatives

Plants and Population: Is there time?

December 5, 1998, National Academy of Science

Economists tended to be optimistic, except for Africa. The cite enormous 1960-90 gains, they expect yields to continue to increase and they expect, with effort, food per person to increase, but severe regional mismatches will occur.

  • Agronomists tended to be skeptical. They see absolute limitations on yields due to constraints of light, water, and nitrogen, plus suppressions due to pollution, urbanization and institutional restrictions.
  • Biotechnologists tended to be optimistic. The see enormous gains coming from genetic engineering, many known and many to come.
  • Ecologists tended to be skeptical. They see institutional constraints, and technological gains being offset by off-site degradation and societal disruptions. For example, doubling the use of nitrogen fertilizer does mean more food, but not a doubling, while simultaneously causing large increases in pollution.
  • L. Rupp comments: "Who would you choose to throw in your lot with? Economists, who tend to operate on an infinite growth model, along with the biotech/industrial complex?" ... "Or throw in with the agronomists and ecologists, who, really understand food production?" doclink

    Eating Insects: The Noisy Future of Farming

    November 11, 2013, Worldwatch Institute   By: Erik Assadourian

    The media is now regularly filled with articles about how insects are part of the future of our food. And for good reason-the Earth is rapidly changing, population projections are being revised upward, there is no real progress on curbing runaway climate change, and our future is looking more and more like a dystopian science-fiction novel.

    Grain prices will almost certainly go up in the future and so will the price of meat, as livestock depend on these grain supplies. Insects, though, offer a good alternative-healthy, easy to raise, and much more efficient in processing vegetable matter into animal protein (crickets use one-twelfth the feed that cattle use to produce an equal amount of protein). The United Nations even released a report this year advocating an accelerated shift to bug consumption in the west.

    But typically when discussing bugs, media stories are served with a large portion of amused disgust. (Just look at the picture from the above-referenced Sierra Club magazine and BBC News articles: a Lice Cream truck, seriously?!?) Part of this is cultural, another part is smart business: shock and entertain the audience and they'll keep reading.

    So it was funny to see the creation of this disgust first hand at a bug-eating reception at the Dutch Embassy this past summer. One journalist, Jenny Dorne of WJLA, couldn't fathom eating bugs and was captivated by Alida Maandag, the wife of Dutch entomologist Marcel Dicke-a leading proponent of incorporating insects into the western diet. Maandag quietly ate several crickets for the journalist while she videotaped the whole thing, scripting each bite to get the most shock value. Meanwhile, Mrs. Dicke stood there complying with a bemused look on her face, clearly thinking "what's all the fuss?"

    Perhaps this will be the way that bug eating gets attention and eventually goes from strange eccentricity to fun food event to normal part of the diet. It certainly was interesting to watch how people reacted to the insect cuisine at the event-the cricket guacamole, the cicadas and asparagus on a stick, the mealworm pancakes. Again mostly with good-humored disgust, but as most guests realized when they tasted the bugs (if they tried them-Ms. Dorne outright refused), bugs don't taste like much when integrated into a complex recipe.

    As Dr. Marcel Dicke and others have pointed out, the easiest way to integrate insects into the western diet will be through processed foods where the distinct crunch and taste of bugs is lost and just the healthful and sustainable source of protein is preserved.

    And that has already moved forward to some degree in the Netherlands-at specialty grocery stores shoppers can buy freezedried bug patties (like other frozen burger patties, whether hamburger, soy, Quorn, or chicken). At the event there were even samples of Chapul, a new energy bar for sale in the U.S. that has cricket bits in it. And it was pretty good-though no bugs could be seen or tasted at all, which was probably the point.

    All of this imagines a factory farmed bug future where agribusiness grows and sells insect protein at a large scale to fill the processed foods that now mostly have ground up chicken, pig and beef bits in them. Certainly an improvement, ecologically speaking, but considering how unhealthy processed foods are-filled with salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial flavors and served in unsustainable and often toxic packaging-maybe not so large a step forward as we could take. Bowl of mealworms, awaiting being added to the pancakes made by Daniella Martin of (Image by Erik Assadourian)

    Bowl of mealworms, awaiting being added to the pancakes made by Daniella Martin of (Photo by Erik Assadourian)

    During the event there was long discussion of a future of factory-farmed bugs-which Dr. Dicke assured the audience was just fine as insects like crowded conditions and their diseases don't easily migrate to humans like the diseases that affect current livestock do. But can't we do better? Massive amounts of waste will still be created-will it pour down rivers like chicken, pig, and cow manure currently does?

    In colonies of millions of bugs, conditions will be ripe to spread new insect diseases, which may in turn mean continuing reliance on huge amounts of antibiotics or fungicides for our new livestock (even if there's no risk of these diseases spreading to humans). And perhaps worst of all, the industrial model, with its concentration of profits, will continue-where Big Ag can employ small numbers of underpaid laborers to maintain their billions of bugs.

    The most exciting moment for me at this event came when Dr. Dicke mentioned in passing that 20,000 households in Thailand make part of their living from raising crickets or other bugs. Now THIS is the future I'd like to see. Everyone can raise a fish tank full of crickets off their own food scraps and rotting plant matter found near their house and probably generate a free pound of animal protein every month or so-just enough to live healthy and to lower overall household costs (while having a positive ecological effect as factory-farmed meat is displaced by freegan crickets). This report details small-scale insect farming in Thailand at length. I could imagine as the US consumer economy implodes, lots of American entrepreneurs will turn to small-scale farming (as is happening in Greece today) and bugs may become part of their crop mix.

    It is an intriguing question: how does one go about raising a small quantity of crickets for personal consumption: what are the hours of work time needed to sustain your flock? The inputs? Will food scraps and foraged bits of yard waste from your and neighbors' yards or local parks be enough or like larger-scale cricket farmers would one need to buy chicken feed (which would change the financial equation dramatically)? With hamburger at just $3.50 a pound, small-scale production of crickets probably can't pay for itself right now (not if time costs are factored in and environmental externalities aren't), but once food is no longer easily or cheaply purchased at the local grocery store, bug farmers may be some of the best equipped to survive food shortages. That's food for thought, even if you have to catch it first. doclink

    What Works: Farmers Increasing Resilience to Climate Change by Diversifying Crops

    September 12, 2013, World Watch Institute   By: Molly Redfield

    The loss of arable land due to climate change may amount to as much as 21 percent in South America, 18 percent in Africa, and 11 to 17 percent in Europe, according to scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The potential of climate change to adversely affect food security in these regions is staggering. But the loss of arable land is just one of many climate change-related agricultural concerns. Industrially produced crops can be especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and the shifting demographics of pathogens.

    Click on the link in the headline to read the report. doclink

    One Weird Trick to Fix Farms Forever

    Does David Brandt hold the secret for turning industrial agriculture from global-warming problem to carbon solution?
    September 9, 2013, New Yorker   By: Tom Philpott

    Chatting with David Brandt outside his barn on a sunny June morning, I wonder if he doesn't look too much like a farmer-what a casting director might call "too on the nose." He's a beefy man in bib overalls, a plaid shirt, and well-worn boots, with short, gray-streaked hair peeking out from a trucker hat over a round, unlined face ruddy from the sun. Also see: How Cover Crops Make Healthier Soil Brandt farms 1,200 acres in the central Ohio villa...
    . . . more doclink

    Africa: Women Farmers Can Overcome World Hunger

    January 12, 2012

    A UN FAO report showed women produce 60% to 80% of the food in developing countries, including those in Africa. But for many of them, owning land, accessing credit and even having a bank account is out of reach. The women shoulder much of the responsibility of growing crops and tending chicken, goats and sheep but men remain in control of much of the marketing and finances. The International Livestock Research Institute's (ILRI) Dr Jemimah Njuki said women were significantly disadvantaged in their access to information, training, farm equipment and financial help which was holding back economic productivity of many countries.

    An ILO study shows a 22% jump in productivity in countries where there is equal access by men and women to resources. "In 2010 there were one billion hungry people in the world but if we could increase agricultural productivity even by 20%, we could reduce this by 150 million," Dr Njuki said. "We will not be able to grow agriculture if we do not address the gender imbalance." Women should be able to benefit from what they are putting into agriculture. "Gender inequality in Africa is slowly changing with ILRI and its partners increasing their capacity to train women in farm production and also train more female service providers," she said.

    When markets become commercialised, women who participated in localised markets selling eggs and milk lack the capital or necessary skills to move up to formal markets. ILRI has been working with many women on innovative market payment schemes enabling them to use village banks or receive payment through their mobile phones.Projects of the Australian AusAID'S Africa Food Security Initiative have prioritised the importance of women in African agriculture and provided them with education and training into food production, marketing and post harvest production.

    One project that really helps women is the Sustainable Intensification of Maize and Legumes in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA). Its goal is to increase maize and legume production by 30% to more than 500,000 small farmers in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Maize has been grown in previous years with continual tillage and no fertiliser applications, significantly reducing the soil's fertility and leading to erosion. SIMLESA promotes conservation agriculture (or no-till cropping), inorganic fertilisers, spraying weeds prior to planting, improved plant varieties - potentially trebling maize yields from less than a tonne per hectare to 3.5t/ha.

    Kenyan Agriculture Resource Institute agronomist and SIMLESA Project Team Leader for western Kenya John Achieng said "There will be more maize for farmers to eat and feed their households and surplus to sell so they can pay school fees for their children, buy clothing and even improve their houses." Consultant Cathy McGowan has been running research and development and extension programs for women in two other developing countries, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and India for well over a decade. She says women in subsistence agriculture work long hours because of their strong connection to food growing for their families. Their work is often invisible and not considered important because it does not contribute to the country's gross domestic product but as an example in PNG, 85% of the food is grown by women in their gardens. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Increasing productivity by 20%-30% will not keep up with the tripling of population expected in Africa by 2050. And if 85% of food in Papua New Guinea is produced by women in their gardens, where is the other 15% coming from? Commercial enterprises selling food to locals or commercial enterprises producing food for people in other countries or is the food being imported?

    When the African Green Revolution has run out (as it did in the rest of the world), unless empowerment of women farmers reduces the fertility rate, there will be many more people to feed, who will then starve.

    Kenya: How Women Can Boost Food Security

    August 22, 2011, Xinhua

    African women contribute 70% of the effort towards food production, yet they are still under-represented in areas of research and policymaking, as well as influential leadership positions in agriculture.

    The African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), a programme funded by the Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking to strengthen research and leadership skills of female agriculture scientists to enable them contribute to food security in sub-Sahara Africa.

    This should enable Africa to revolutionize farming practices and rescue millions of citizens from recurrent hunger crises.

    So far, the program has benefited 250 women across eleven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. doclink

    Ending Hunger in Africa

    October 13, 2010, Worldwatch

    As hunger and drought spread across Africa, there's a focus on increasing yields of staple crops, such as maize, wheat, cassava, and rice. Although these crops are important for improving food security, they cannot cure malnutrition alone.

    There is no one-size fits all or single crop solution to solving global hunger, alleviating poverty, or protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. But the good news is that there is a multi-crop solution and it's already being spear-headed by farmers on the ground: vegetables.

    Some 1 billion people worldwide are affected by "hidden hunger," or micronutrient deficiencies - lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine, none of which are found in staple crops, but rather, in vegetables. Vegetable production is the most sustainable and affordable way of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor.

    It's also the most sustainable and affordable way of improving biodiversity, preserving traditions and cultures, and improving livelihoods. Because vegetables typically have a shorter growing period than staple crops, they are less risk-prone to drought, maximizing scarce water supplies and soil nutrients better than crops such as maize.

    Unfortunately, no country in Africa has a big focus on vegetable production. But that's where AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center steps in, working with farmers to build a sustainable seed system in Africa. The Center does this by breeding a variety of vegetables with different traits-including resistance to disease and longer shelf life-and by bringing the farmers to the Regional Center in Arusha and to other offices across Africa to find out what exactly those farmers need in the field and at market.

    Babel Isack, a tomato farmer from Tanzania, is just one of many farmers who visit the Center, advising staff about which vegetable varieties would be best suited for his particular needs-including varieties that depend on fewer chemical sprays and have a longer shelf life.

    Mel Oluoch, a Liaison Officer with the Center's Vegetable Breeding and Seed System Program (vBSS) trains both urban and rural farmers in seed production. "The sustainability of seed," says Oluoch, "is not yet there in Africa." In other words, farmers don't have access to a reliable source of seed for indigenous vegetables, such as amaranth, spider plant, cowpea, okra, moringa, and other crops. But Oluoch and others at the Center are working closely with farmers to change that.

    The hardiness and drought-tolerance of traditional vegetables become increasingly important as climate change becomes more evident. Many indigenous vegetables use less water than hybrid varieties and some are resistant to pests and disease without the use of chemical inputs, which are expensive both financially and environmentally.

    Of course, it's not only crucial for farmers to grow indigenous species; people also need to want to eat them. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, local foods are looked down upon by rich and poor shoppers alike. In Senegal, for example, many consumers and cooks consider local rice to be inferior and instead buy imported European brands that can cost four times as much.

    At the heart of these issues is a loss of knowledge about agricultural practices and indigenous varieties that create local agricultural, as well as cultural, biodiversity. While what we eat is important, what may be even more essential over the long term is preserving knowledge about how to plant, grow, and cook what we eat.

    In Uganda's Mukono District, Edward Mukiibi, 23, and Roger Serunjogi, 22, founded the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation Project, or DISC, with this premise in mind. The project began in 2006 as a way to improve nutrition, generate environmental awareness, and preserve food traditions and culture for local students by establishing school gardens at 15 preschool, day and boarding schools.

    By focusing on school gardens, Mukiibi and Serunjogi are helping not only to feed children, but are also revitalizing an interest in - and cultivation of - African indigenous vegetables, cultivating the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda's culinary traditions and increase food security.

    Says one 19 year-old student, Mary Naku, who is learning farming skills from DISC, "as youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables to support our lives."

    Organizations like the AVRDC and DISC, by inspiring our future farmers, working with current farmers and reigniting an interest and appetite for indigenous crop varieties, are helping to improve diets, livelihoods and local ecosystems around the world.

    Staple crops can't do it alone. Luckily for us, creating a sustainable agriculture system and fighting hunger takes all kinds of crops, for a more delicious and sustainable, well-nourished future. doclink

    Aquaculture Holds the Promise of Sustainability

    January 26, 2009, The Cutting Edge

    Specialists say aquaculture can help spur the recovery of natural populations of aquatic species - and provide food and income for small-scale farmers in developing countries.

    Asia continues to dominate the farming of aquatic species, accounting for approximately 92% of the world harvest.

    According to the UNFAO, annual production from commercial fishing has stabilized at about 95 million metric tons, while aquaculture has increased by almost 9% each year since 1970. Aquaculture's probably producing about 50% of the fish that are eaten.

    The most problematic problem is the spread of non-native species, when farmed fish escape. The best way to avoid this is to raise only fish that are native to that area.

    Other potential problems include pollution from excessive feeding and waste products, and the clearing of environmentally sensitive land to create ponds. Also, when the ponds are filled with salt water the salt can contaminate the soil.

    When practiced sustainably, aquaculture can benefit the environment by reducing pressure from commercial fishing and helping to rebuild wild populations.

    Disease, poor water quality and decades of overharvest have drastically reduced the Chesapeake Bays natural oyster population and aquaculture is a way to bring the oysters back. Oysters are removed and replaced with disease-free hatchery seed and allowed to grow until 60% are at least 10 centimeters long. Aquaculture contributes to local food security and generates income.

    The demand for seafood is expected to increase, and aquaculture will continue to be the most rapidly growing food production system. doclink

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2

    Energy, Oil

    A Review of the Past and Current State of EROI Data

    October 10, 2011, MDPI AG (Switzerland)   By: Ajay K. Gupta and Charles A.s. Hall

    This seems to be the latest review of the literature available on data for the EROI of oil and natural gas, coal, tar sands, shale oil, nuclear, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, wave/tidal and corn ethanol. Few studies have been undertaken since the 1980s, and such as have been done are often marked more by advocacy than objectivity.

    In the 1970's ecologist Charles Hall coined the term "Energy Return on Investment" (EROI), with originally a focus on migrating fish. In the 1980s, Hall, working with Cutler Cleveland, Robert Kaufmann and others, extended the concept to seeking oil and other fuels. The concept had been around for some time, although it was expressed as "net energy." The difference is that EROI is the unit-less ratio of energy returned from an energy-gathering activity to the energy it takes to provide that energy, and net energy is the difference left over after the costs have been subtracted from the gains.

    EROI allows the ranking of fuels and an estimate of the changing in their ease of extraction over time. One important idea is that as this ratio approaches 1:1 the fuel is no longer useful to society (except for the presumably rare case where a low quality fuel is used to produce a higher quality fuel). The original papers on EROI were mostly received with interest, but that interest waned in the late 1980s and 1990s as fuel prices declined. More recently as energy prices have again been increasing the interest in EROI has again increased. Additionally many papers on energy and emerging economic fields discuss this ratio and what it means to current and future economies.

    EROI for Oil and Gas

    Oil and conventional natural gas are usually studied together because they often occur in the same fields, have overlapping production operations and data archiving. The EROI for producing oil and gas was roughly 30:1 in the 1950s which declined irregularly to 20:1 in the 1970s and 11-18:1 in the mid 2000's. An additional finding of oil in these studies was that the EROI tended to decline when drilling rates were higher, and increase when drilling was relaxed. These two trends, a secular decline and a secondary response to drilling intensity together explained most of the variability in oil production. There have now been updates to these analyses for the U.S. until the present issue.

    Since few countries make data on inputs public, Gagnon et al. had to estimate energy costs by calculating the energy equivalent per dollar spent in the petroleum industry using various methods to estimate the energy intensity from fairly good data for the U.S. and the U.K. They concluded that global oil and gas EROI was approximately 26:1 in 1992, increased to 35:1 in 1999, and declined to 18:1 by 2006. Thus the EROI for global oil and gas appeared to have a similar declining trend as the U.S. but was from 50 to 100% higher at any given time, as the U.S. is more thoroughly exploited than the rest of the world. These authors also estimated through that the EROI for global oil and conventional natural gas could reach 1:1 as soon as about 2022. However, the authors also state that the uncertainty for the exact date is large and a linear decline assumes an exponential rise in cost per unit output. The authors note that although the EROI for gas is likely much higher than that for oil in most cases, due to the difference in energy costs for raising the fuel in a well, EROI is often represented as an average of both fuels for a given field.

    The authors of an unpublished 2007 SUNY ESF study estimated that in 2005 the EROI for a gas field in the U.S. is 10:1 although new analysis (in this special issue) by Sell et al. gives a considerably higher estimate. Heinberg predicts that these sources will have lower EROIs than conventional gas and as they take over market share in the global energy matrix, the EROI for natural gas could decline dramatically, but we are desperately in need of real analyses on this subject using solid data.

    EROI for Coal

    Studies prior to the 2007 SUNY ESF study found that the EROI of coal was approximately 30:1 until the 1960's when it increased to approximately 35:1, and then fell during the 1970's to less than 20:1. The rise in EROI during the 1960's is attributed to increased extraction efficiency as production shifted to Western surface coal, whereas the drop in EROI during the 1970's is attributed mostly to a decline in the quality of coal being mined in the U.S.

    A subsequent study by Cleveland found that the EROI of U.S. coal fell from about 100:1 during the 1960's to approximately 50:1 and then began to increase to higher than approximately 70:1 by 1987. There is no information on the EROI of coal beyond 1987 that we know of. However some assumptions can be made. For the U.S. there are forces driving down the EROI into the future. Bituminous coal hit its production peak in about 1992 and has been gradually declining in quality (BTUs per ton) since the 1950's. Also, increased environmental regulations on the industry would have negative impacts on EROI. Forces driving the EROI of coal up include the growing trend of moving from underground mining to surface mining, and other gains in extraction efficiencies. It is not clear whether over time the decline in resource quality would be greater or less than the increased impact of technology. A problem here, too, is a great decline in the quality of data maintenance by the federal government.

    EROI for Tar Sands

    Tar sands, or oil sands, consist of bitumen embedded in sand or clay. It can be liquefied underground through the injection of steam, or mined at the surface, and then processed into liquid fuel called syncrude. The largest producers of syncrude are Canada and Venezuela. The reserves are enormous, but the extraction rate is limited by environmental and other constraints.

    The 2007 SUNY ESF study calculate an EROI of tar sands of about 6:1 that is based mostly upon the direct energy costs of producing syncrude. Including indirect inputs reduced the EROI to about 5:1, and including the energy equivalent of environmental impacts and labor had only a marginal effect. Previous studies reported by Herweyer and Gupta calculated EROIs lower than their results, in the vicinity of 3:1. Also, syncrude production is not only very energy intensive, but also a large consumer of water, which could also have a negative impact on EROI.

    In 2009 a preliminary study posted on The Oil Drum calculated the EROI of producing syncrude from the new Toe to Heel Air Injection (THAI) method as about 9:1, with a range of 3.3-56:1 given different assumptions on the relevance of inputs. Smaller quantities of natural gas and water are necessary in the THAI process.

    EROI for Shale Oil

    Shale oil is similar to tar sands in some ways -- both are very low quality resources of petroleum. Whereas tar sands are bitumen surrounding a substrate such as clay or sand with a layer of water in between, shale oil consists of kerogen fused directly to the substrate itself. As it is more difficult to separate the kerogen from a substrate than to separate bitumen from water, it is expected that the EROI for shale oil should be lower than that of tars sands.

    The SUNY ESF study reviewed a number of studies from 1975 up to 2007 which had made some kind of EROI or net energy assessment. Most of these studies gave EROIs for shale oil from 1.5-4:1. A few earlier studies suggested an EROI of 7:1 to 13:1. In general, these numbers are in the same range and with the same degree of uncertainty as tar sands. Also, both are unique in that the resource can be used to fuel its own extraction.

    EROI for Nuclear

    Nuclear power is the use of controlled fission reactions for the purpose of producing electricity. There are currently 439 commercial nuclear power plants worldwide generally using variations of the same technology. The SUNY ESF study summarized the EROI of nuclear power from previous studies, concluding that the most reliable information is still from Hall et al.'s summary of an EROI of about 5-8:1. Clearly with reactors operating for longer periods of time, with the possibility of serious uranium shortages with larger use, and with the new considerations of the Japanese reactor accidents due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami new calculations are needed.

    EROI for Wind

    Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energies in the world today, although it still represents far less than one percent of global or U.S. energy use. Since it is renewable energy, EROI is not calculated the same as for finite resources. The energy cost for such renewable systems is mostly the very large capital cost per unit output and the backup systems needed, for two thirds of the time the wind is not blowing. As a result, the input for the EROI equation is mostly upfront, and the return over the lifetime of the system -- which largely is not known well. For renewable resources a slightly different type of EROI is often used, the "energy pay back time" (EPBT). EPBT is the time it takes for the system to generate the same amount of energy that went into creating, maintaining, and disposing of it, and so the boundaries used to define the EPBT are those incorporated into the EROI.

    The SUNY ESF study used a "meta-analysis" study by Cleveland and Kubiszewski, in which the authors examined 112 turbines from 41 analyses of both conceptual and operational nature. The system boundaries included the manufacture of components, transportation of components to the construction site, the construction of the facility itself, operation and maintenance over the lifetime of the facility, overhead, possible grid connection costs, and decommissioning where possible, however not all studies include the same scope of analysis. The authors concluded that the average EROI for all systems studied is 24.6:1 and that for all operational studies is 18.1:1.

    EROI tends to increase with the size of the turbine. This is because smaller turbines are of older design and can be less efficient; larger models have larger rotor diameters so they can operate at lower wind speeds and capture more wind energy at higher efficiencies year round; and larger models are taller and can take advantage of the higher wind speeds farther above ground.

    Aspects of wind energy which can lower the EROI include the location of manufacture and installation but have greater construction and maintenance costs as they can add to the initial capital investment of a wind turbine or limit the use of recycled materials. Also, energy storage and grid connection dynamics could potentially reduce EROI where applicable. Finally off shore systems would experience more reliable winds but have greater maintenance costs associated with them.

    EROI for Photovoltaics

    The use of Solar photovoltaics (PV) are increasing almost as rapidly as wind systems, although they too represent far less than 1% of the energy used by the U.S. or the world. Similarly, they are a renewable source of energy and thus the EROIs are also calculated using the same idea. We can calculate the EROI by dividing the lifetime of a module by its energy payback time (EPBT). Like wind turbines, PV EPBT can vary depending on the location of production and installation. It can also be affected by the materials used to make the modules, and the efficiency with which it operates - especially under extreme temperatures.

    The SUNY ESF study looked at a number of life cycle analyses from 2000 to 2008 on a range of PV systems to determine system lifetimes and EPBT, and subsequently calculated EROI. Most operational systems to have an EROI of approximately 3-10:1. The thin-film modules considered had an EROI of approximately 6:1 whereas some theoretical modules, including a 100MW very large scale PV installation reached or exceeded 20:1. A subsequent study by Kubiszewski et al. reviewed 51 systems from 13 analyses and calculated similarly an average EROI of 6.56:1. Much promotional literature gives higher estimates but we are unable to validate their claims.

    Factors contributing to the increase of EROI include increasing efficiency in production, increasing efficiency of the module, and using materials that are less energy intensive than those available today. Factors contributing to lower EROI include lower ore grades of rare metals used in production (from either depletion in the ground or competition from other industries) and lower than projected lifetimes and efficiencies, problems with energy storage, and intermittence.

    EROI for Hydropower

    The SUNY ESF study found EROI figures ranging from 11.2-267:1 due to the extreme variability of geography and technology. The author noted that environmental and social costs, which can be substantial, are not incorporated in the numbers. Since all these costs and gains are site sensitive, it is clear that determining an overall EROI for hydropower would be meaningless and that each project would need to be examined separately. Yet, given the range of EROIs in the study, it seems that hydropower, where available, is often a good energy return on investment.

    EROI for Geothermal

    Geothermal energy uses the heat within the Earth to do work by transferring the heat to a gas such as steam, or a liquid. This can be used to produce electricity or heat for buildings etc. The best suited sites are near plate boundaries and are not available to everyone. Enhanced geothermal systems also known as Hot Dry Rock (HDR) are thought to be able to exploit heat at greater underground depths where there is no groundwater although there are none in commercial use. Another theoretical system called geopressured geothermal could provide thermal energy from hot brine, mechanical energy from highly pressured fluid, and chemical energy from confined methane, but the specifics for such systems are unknown.

    The SUNY ESF study reported the EROI for electricity generation from HDR hydrothermal resources to be from 2 to 13:1. Corrected for quality as an electricity source, this is recalculated as approximately 6-39:1. No EROI values of geothermal direct use were found. Energy can be extracted from normal soils and ground water with an EROI of about 5:1, although the input is electricity and the output heat so the quality corrected output may not be very high.

    EROI for Wave/Tidal

    There is very little information available on wave or tidal energy due to its fledgling state in commercial application. The SUNY ESF study estimated that one wave energy project could have an EROI of approximately 15:1. This number was estimated based on a life cycle assessment of the Pelamis off-shore device currently deployed outside of Portugal. A problem is that it is difficult to maintain many devices when large storms occur.

    EROI for Corn Ethanol

    The debate over the EROI for corn ethanol is probably the most documented of all the energy sources presented here. The EROI of the numerous studies available on the subject range from approximately 0.8:1 to 1.3-2:1 . The difference in values is mostly attributed to boundaries used and energy quality issues.

    Since the 1980's the energy information required to make such calculations have become even scarcer. This is a terrible state of affairs given the massive changes in our energy situation unfolding daily. We need to make enormously important decisions but do not have the studies, the data or the trained personnel to do so. Thus we are left principally with poorly informed politicians, industry advocacy and a blind but misguided faith in market solutions to make critical decisions about how to invest our quite limited remaining high quality energy resources. Our major scientific funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and even the Department of Energy have been criminally negligent by avoiding any serious programs to undertake proper EROI, environmental effects, or other studies, while our federal energy data collections degrade year by year under misguided cost cutting and free market policies.

    Given what we do know, it seems that the EROI of the fuels we depend on most are in decline; whereas the EROI for those fuels we hope to replace them with are lower than we have enjoyed in the past. This leads one to believe that the current rates of energy consumption per capita we are experiencing are in no way sustainable in the long run. At best, the renewable energies we look toward may only cushion this decline. doclink

    Shale Natural-Gas Depletion

    June 2009, Energy Bulletin

    Note: there are a lot of numbers being thrown around on this topic, depending on who you ask. Please read the article through before you start quoting anything.

    Conventional gas production peaked in the 1970's in the United States. New supply from unconventional tight gas (and some coal-bed methane), along with imports, filled the supply/demand gap. The "new" technology (horizontal drilling & hydraulic fracturing) combined with rising price boosts recoverable reserves over time.

    If you add up the mean values for Traditional Gas Resources, which includes shale gas, and Coal Bed Methane, you get the 1,836 Tcf (trillions of cubic feet) of potential resources. If you throw in the EIA's proved reserves, the total resources are 2,074 Tcf in the Lower 48 and Alaska. This represents the 'technically recoverable' gas resource potential of the U.S. At current consumption rates, the new total represents about 100 years of supply. If speculative resources (500 Tcf) are excluded, we would still have about 75 years of supply.

    There has been a lot of promotion of the newly-found natural gas:

    The (T. Boone) Pickens Plan promotes using natural gas to replace liquid fuels in transportation, especially as a replacement for diesel in long-haul trucking. The PGC (Potential Gas Committee) reports say that "the 2,074 trillion cubic feet of domestic natural gas reserves cited in the study is the equivalent of nearly 350 billion barrels of oil, about the same as Saudi Arabia's oil reserves." But ASPO-USA commentator Tom Standing said it would take decades build out the supply chain (e.g. swap petroleum gas stations for natural gas stations). The Pickens Plan is currently dead in the water.

    Dr. Joseph Romm of the influential Center for American Progress proposes to use natural gas to ramp up under-utilized natural gas electrical power generation capacity to replace base-load coal. We now have the makings of a de facto moratorium on coal. We seem to be unwilling to build new nuclear capacity. It is theoretically possible for wind to provide 20% of our electricity by 2030, but there are many practical, economic & political barriers to success. Thus it would behoove us to switch to natural gas at large-scales if we want to maintain a functioning electricity grid 10-15 years from now.

    There is little reason to doubt that the potential natural gas resource base in the United States is very large. The hidden problem with such estimates relates to whether the gas is economic to produce.

    The Tristone Capital study (October, 2008, described in Oil & Gas Journal, shows increased shale gas production with a risked estimate out to 2018, from analysis of nine US and Canada shale gas plays. These are risked production additions - "the study expects companies ultimately to recover from these resources 261 Tcf of gas, based on various risk factors applied and a long-term average gas price of $8.50/MMbtu. Without the risk factors, Tristone Capital says these shales have a 743-Tcf recovery potential."

    Despite the likelihood that we will have low or average gas prices over the next few years due to the recession and oversupply, the market share of shale gas grows and grows. This forecast looks like a high-wire act that defies not only gravity, but also the laws of supply & demand. One wonders what the minimum price is that makes shale gas unprofitable. $4.50/Mcf (millions of cubic feet)? $3.50/Mcf?

    Art Berman, a Houston geologist and columnist at World Oil Magazine, does not believe most shale gas wells are economic unless operator costs go down, gas prices rise sharply, and high average prices are sustained. Talking about the Haynesville shale site, he says- "The play is marginally commercial today for operators with favorable hedge positions, but not commercial based on cost and price fundamentals. At current prices, the netback of $3.25/mcf barely covers operating costs, so no Haynesville well is economic and rates and reserves simply do not matter.

    Berman's analysis of the Barnett: "Shale gas is not commercial at any 'reasonable' price because the costs are too high. ... The average per-well EUR (estimated ultimate recovery) is about 0.6 Bcf (billions of cubic fee) -pathetic!"

    Berman says he has looked at the financial documents filed with the SEC of most of the major shale players (Chesapeake, Petrohawk, Range Resources, etc.) "they're all taking a bath financially but put on a brave face, and have huge debt. As long as their stock price is good, the executives get rich so why do they care? The analyst community is so naive about true costs that they believe the propaganda."

    The frac costs keep increasing because operators are now commonly using 10-12-stage fracs that cost millions. The extra cost may only accomplish a rate acceleration and not an increase in reserves. In the Barnett Shale, the average horizontally drilled and fractured wells only have approximately 25% more reserves than vertical wells but 3 times the cost! This talk about lowering operating cost and increasing reserves is more propaganda, and most cost benefit is more than negatively compensated by more interest expense on debt.

    From the L. David Roper website

    Please go to this website to see the charts.

    Shale-gas recoverable reserves have been estimated at 264 Tcf. Shale natural gas adds a short large blip to the natural-gas extraction for the United States. It could be reduced in size and stretched out over a larger time interval, but I doubt it will be. The U.S. will probably extract and use it as fast as possible.

    I could not find any data for shale-gas extraction for the world. Since the U.S. is way ahead of other nations in this effort, I assume that the extraction-rate data for the world is essentially the same as for the U.S.

    I also assume that the extractable reserves for the U.S. is 500 Tcf and that the extracable reserves for the world is the ratio of the Earth land area to the U.S. land area (~16) times 500 Tcf = ~8000 Tcf.

    Adding the 8000-Tcf-reserves shale gas to the conventional natural-gas depletion curve for the World adds just a short large blip to the natural-gas extraction for the World. It could be reduced in size and stretched out over a larger time interval, but I doubt it will be. The world will probably extract and use it as fast as possible.

    Trade-secret chemicals are inserted into the shale formations to fractionate ("fracking") the formation into cracks for the gas to seep through to the well pipe. There is strong indications that the fracking allows the gas to seep up into the water table, contamination wells for human use.

    There is very little information about what the chemicals used might be doing to the environment.

    A documentary film, Gasland, has been made about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas. Another documentary, Shale Gas and America's Future, gives great detail about the drilling and fracking process and discusses the environmental problems. The TV program 60 minutes showed a program about fracking.

    There is an effort in the Congress to regulate the gas companies such that they have to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.

    From Wikipedia:

    A study by Cornell University professor Robert W. Howarth in 2010 finds that, once methane leak impacts are included, the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of shale gas would be worse than those of coal and fuel oil. Methane is by far the major component of natural gas, and it is a powerful greenhouse gas: 25-times more powerful than is CO2 per molecule in the atmosphere. However, this report has been discredited as being only a preliminary study which has not gone through the peer process. doclink

    The Holdren Scenario


    The Holdren Scenario as presented by Paul Erlich
    Population [billions of people]
    X Energy/Person [killowatts = 103 watts] = Total Energy Use [terawatts = 1012 watts]
    Rich 1.2 7.7 9.2
    Poor 4.1 1.1 4.5
    5.3 13.7
    Rich 1.4 3.9 5.4
    Poor 6.8 2.2 15.0
    8.2 20.4
    10 15.0 30
    (>2X now)

    The Holdren Scenario


    The Holdren Scenario as presented by Paul Erlich
    Population [billions of people]
    X Energy/Person [killowatts = 103 watts] = Total Energy Use [terawatts = 1012 watts]
    Rich 1.2 7.7 9.2
    Poor 4.1 1.1 4.5
    5.3 13.7
    Rich 1.4 3.9 5.4
    Poor 6.8 2.2 15.0
    8.2 20.4
    10 15.0 30
    (>2X now)

    An Interview with Peak-Oil Provocateur Matthew Simmons

    November 6, 2005, Grist

    Matthew Simmons, a well-connected industry insider has concluded that some of the world's largest oil beds may be on the verge of collapse. Author of the recently published Twilight in the Desert: The Coming, Simmons is founder of an investment bank that handles mergers and acquisitions among energy companies and has predicted that the price of a barrel of oil could hit the high triple digits within a few years. To postpone this he says we should be drilling in the Arctic and other contested spots. At the same time, he's calling for improvements in efficiency, as well as a return to local farming and manufacturing. He said that we are either at or very close to peak oil and have to assume that five or 10 years we'll be producing less oil than today. And yet we expect that oil usage will grow by 30% to 50% over the next 25 years. It's a problem that could end up leading to more geopolitical fights and give way to a very ugly society. The odyssey began in the early 1980s when Simmons realized that his firm was threatened by a collapse in the oil business. So many experts in the energy market, including government analysts, don't base their opinions on actual data, because the relevant data are confidential. No major oil-producer allows audits of the data on their reserves which leaves the experts playing a guessing game. An inventory of the top oil fields showed that nobody had ever listed even the top 20 oil fields by name. There are only about 120 fields in the world that produce half of the world's oil supply. The top 14, which make up 20% of global supply, are over 53 years old. In Saudi Arabia there are only five key fields producing 90% of their oil. During a trip to Saudi Arabia they plied us with data that didn't add up, even vaguely. The major Saudi fields are at risk of reaching their peak, at which point they will see their output decline. Simmons started a year ago saying that we need to prepare for triple-digit oil prices that will be set by demand and supply. Current oil prices are cheap, consider that $65 a barrel translates to 10 cents a cup, cheaper than bottled water. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been injecting water in each key oil field to keep pressure high. The Saudis are injecting between 15 and 18 million barrels a day of water to recover 8 million barrels a day of oil. What they are doing is rapidly depleting the high-quality, high flow-rate oil, so they'll be left with vast amounts of oil that just won't come out of the ground without massive water input or thousands and thousands of wells being drilled. Sadad al-Husseini, a former executive of Saudi Aramco, corroborated this thesis. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia spoke at Rice University and said, "We're as transparent as anybody." Until we force that same standard of disclosure on Exxon and Shell and BP, there's no reason to expect Saudi Arabia to behave better. Ultimately, we have to create new forms of energy. Solar and wind are not helpful on the transportation front. Biofuels need to be examined, but corn-based ethanol is a scam because it requires such intensive oil inputs. There are some 220 million cars on the road in the U.S. and the problem with hybrids and hydrogen, which many people think is the alternative energy, is it will take 30 years to turn over the entire vehicle fleet. We don't have 15 or 20 years, much less 30. We have to find more energy-efficient methods of transporting products by rail and ship. We have to liberate the workforce and let them work in their village, through emails, faxes and video conferencing. We need to return to local farms and attack globalization. Manufacturing things close to home will begin to make sense again. doclink

    If Trees Are Family, an Oil Pipeline Is Ungodly

    February 19, 2003, New York Times*

    A new oil pipeline will run just north of Mongolia, into China. Oil companies and government officials say it will bring money and forge a new trading tie. But bulldozers will tear up the land, trees will be cut down and sacred places risk being violated. Ms. Prushenova, a teacher in the local school is incensed as the pipeline will run through the Tunkinsky National Park. The ministry of natural resources in Moscow confirmed that the territory cannot be used for the pipeline. But the oil company argues that this penalized the dwellers of the valley, who were banned from cutting wood for their stoves. A pipeline, they argue, will generate jobs. Ms. Vecher, a physics teacher turned activist does not believe the promise of jobs. Moreover, fees to be paid for damages during construction have been obliterated by inflation. Friends of the oil company published an article asserting that the environmentalists plotted to thwart Russian economic interests on behalf of America. Ms. Prushenova has a more immediate concern: firewood, costly on her tiny budget, is the only source of heat. The oil company argues that taxes will breathe life into the region. Ecological degradation began years ago, when the national park could no longer fend off illegal timber cutters. The Yukos pipeline, would bring cash, and might lead to gas supplies in the region, now heated with wood. The forest is being chopped down, and wood poachers are a greater danger than the pipeline. In midnight thefts, men cut down large swaths of forest to sell to China. doclink

    U.S. Retail Sales Fall, Again; the Next Crash is Near

    July 2015, Sprott Money   By: Jeff Nielson

    In June the U.S. government reported that U.S. retail sales have fallen (month-over-month) by 0.3%, a seemingly insignificant number. But this is before we adjust that number for inflation.

    But what is the real rate of inflation? The government number is unreliable. We can see inflation in our own lives, particularly in food and shelter, rising at 20% per year. As more and more of our populations descend to the economic status of working poor, or lower, food and shelter become the only categories of consumption, so they experience an inflation rate of 20+% per year. estimates inflation to be near 10%. But he uses the "basket of goods" of a Middle Class society (of the United States) to calculate inflation. If we aggregate the two halves of society we get around 15%, but for purposes of simplification, let's assume a conservative overall inflation-rate of 12% per year (or 1% per month).

    Subtract the inflation rate from the decline of 0.3 (a negative number since it is a decline), and we get a monthly decline of 1.3%, or 15% annually.

    Since the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble in 2007, and subsequent economic collapse, retail sales have plummeted by roughly 50%. In other words, U.S. retailers are selling roughly half as many goods (and services) as they were selling less than eight years ago. In a consumer economy, this can only be the symptom of a Greater Depression.

    When an economy no longer produces enough goods to pay, it consumes all of the accumulated wealth of that society. And when all of the wealth has been cannibalized, the economy turns to debt .

    The U.S. economy is now so ridiculously over-burdened with debt (public, private, and corporate) that it has become impossible to even sustain its level of consumption, once it has paid the massive, and ever-increasing, interest on these debts - even with the Federal Reserve's money-printing.

    To hide this death spiral, the U.S. government tells economic lies, claiming the official "inflation rate" is near-zero, even as we see food and real estate prices skyrocketing.

    But you can't hide the truth forever, so, roughly every eight years, the powers that be trigger a short-term economic shock to make it look like they are in control after the shock. These crashes are deliberately timed to coincide with the U.S. presidential cycle - and the next U.S. election is now little more than one year away.

    The crashes are timed to coincide with the eight-year "changing of the guard" in the U.S. two-party system. That way the incumbent can be blamed for the crash, and the new President rides to the rescue of the U.S. population.

    But the next bubble-and-crash will be different from every bubble-and-crash ever seen. In the Crash of '08 the corrupt regimes of the West were already bankrupted by the Big Bank "bail-outs".

    Then it will be time for another Great War, which the Old World Order hopes will hide the complete-and-utter economic devastation which it has wrought, and somehow retain its corrupt choke-hold on political power, financial power, and the Corporate media propaganda machine. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: these type of economic forecasts abound these days, and predictions don't often come true. Still, with resource depletion and the decline of EROI, one can't help but feel that we are on the cusp of peak civilization.

    The Dangerous Economics of Shale Oil

    December 27, 2014, PeakOil

    For years, we've warned that the economics of the US 'shale revolution' were suspect, having only been made possible by the new era of 'expensive' oil (between $80-$100 per barrel). We've argued that many in the shale industry simply wouldn't be able to operate profitably at lower prices.

    Now that oil prices have dipped to under $60 per barrel, we're about to find out.

    It is difficult to determine if shale drilling companies make money. There are a lot of moving parts, some deliberate obfuscation at some companies, and the massive decline rates make analysis difficult -- there are assumptions made regarding depreciation and depletion.

    In a shale well, after drilling down into the earth, the shaft bends 90 degrees, and extends horizontally 5000-10000 feet. Then the surrounding rock is fractured to release the oil locked inside the rock.

    The drilling of the vertical and horizontal shafts costs around $4 million. Each frack stage costs around $70k, and there are often 20-30 frac stages per well. The entire completion process costs around $4M.

    To estimate the total amount of oil likely to be produced over the lifetime of the well (EUR - Estimated Ultimate Recovery), the initial production and the expected decline rate are used. The EUR assumes a recovery time of 10-30 years, but from a practical standpoint, companies need to recoup the costs of drilling the well within 3 years.

    Shale drilling has dramatically improved over the past five years. Today's wells (vs wells drilled in 2008-2011) have horizontal sections twice as long, with three times more frac stages, with closer frac groupings, and the wells are drilled in about half the time. However many of the best spots have already been drilled, so the significant improvements in drilling efficiency have only been able to increase per-well production by about 7%.

    92% of shale-region oil production in the US takes place in three primary geographical regions: Bakken, Eagle Ford, and the Permian Basin. The Eagle Ford region has a 62% decline rate, the Bakken region overall has a 54% rate, and the Permian region declines at a 33% rate.

    Individual wells decline more rapidly: Bakken wells decline at a 72% rate for the first year, and then more slowly in the following years. Many Permian wells are vertical wells, and so their decline rates are much more gradual, accounting for the slower Permian region decline rate.

    A well with an initial production of 1000 bbl/day and a 72% well decline rate will only be producing 280 bbl/day in the 2nd year.

    In the Bakken shale, land costs to be around $2M-$6M per well.

    Before you can drill, you have to get the rights. Typically, you go into debt in order to buy the rights, then you start drilling to recoup your investment and pay the interest costs on all that debt. Rights only last from 5-10 years. Failure to drill = wasted money.

    An accountant, in calculating profits would take the following into account: * Revenues: barrels of oil sold x the price of oil. * Costs involved in drilling and completing wells, purchasing equipment, land drilling rights, and other long-lived assets required to run the business. * Operating expenses: well operations: insurance, repairs, maintenance, pumping costs, etc * General & administrative costs - including paying the CEO * Interest expense: for bonds, bank loans, preferred stock dividends * Transport: getting the oil to market * Royalties: paying the landowner a chunk of your revenues * Production taxes * Depreciation/depletion: i.e. the decline rate of each well multiplied by the cost of the land plus the cost to drill & complete.

    If you want your company to look profitable, you will tell your accountant to use a 10% decline rate rather than the actual 72% well decline rate. That way if you sell your shale properties or get a bank loan, or sell junk bonds, you probably want to look profitable.

    Banks however use ratios such as earnings before accounting/depletion fraud. Using this method, The average well in the Bakken -- at current prices -- loses money, no matter how you slice it.

    Bottom line: the average US shale oil well is uneconomical even with hedging in place, since most hedging is around $90/bbl and the break-even is $99/bbl.
    . . . more doclink

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2 3 4 5

    Sustainability: Energy, Oil

    California's Thirst Shapes Debate Over Fracking

    May 4, 2014, New York Times   By: Norimitsu Onishi

    In California, the third-largest oil producing state, about a dozen local governments have been motivated by the drought and a recent set of powerful earthquakes, to vote to restrict or prohibit fracking in their jurisdictions. In addition, a bill that would declare a statewide moratorium on fracking has been gathering support in the State Senate, a year after a similar effort failed.

    Lake Oroville, the state's second-largest water reservoir, which now holds only two-thirds of the water it should at this time of year. And in March in Los Angeles, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.6 was followed by a 5.1 temblor in the course of one evening

    The oil and gas industry says that fracking's opponents have exploited the emotions surrounding the drought to push for unnecessary restrictions. The Western States Petroleum Association, an industry lobbying group, argues that "the amount of water used here is quite small when compared to other uses for water." Fracking a single oil well in California last year took 87% of the water consumed in a year by a family of four, they claim

    A major issue in the political debate is the Monterey Shale, a 1,750-square-mile geological formation stretching from Southern to Central California that is estimated to contain the country's biggest shale oil reserves. Despite California's long oil production history, the reserve has been left largely untapped because of the formation's geological complexity. Advances in drilling and fracking have given hope to drillers that it is only a matter of time before the Monterey Shale's oil can be profitably extricated. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Frackers claim they have been fracking for decades, but the earlier fracking was for the easy-to-reach oil (gas was a by-product that they didn't even use - it was flared into the atmosphere). Now the more difficult oil and gas are much harder to get, and require more and more water and chemicals as more and more wells are drilled. The frackers just don't get it - or they don't want the public to get it - everyone is having to curtail their use of water, including the growers of our food! We should leave that oil and gas in the ground!

    Natural Gas

    Fracking by the Numbers: Report Quantifies Damage Done by Gas Drilling

    October 9, 2013, LivingGreen Magazine

    The Environment America Research & Policy Center report, "Fracking by the Numbers," is the first to measure the damaging footprint of fracking to date. It found:

    • 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,
    • 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year,
    • 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,
    • 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005,
    • 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

    "We're seeing nearby residents experiencing nausea, headaches and other symptoms linked to fracking pollution," said David Brown, a toxicologist who has reviewed health data from Pennsylvania.

    The Obama administration is considering a rule for fracking on public lands, and the oil and gas industry is seeking to expand fracking to several places which help provide drinking water for millions of Americans -- including the White River National Forest in Colorado and the Delaware River basin, which provides drinking water for more than 15 million Americans. There have been 1 million public comments submitted this summer to the Obama administration rejecting its proposed rule for fracking on public lands as far too weak.

    Billions of gallons of toxic waste created from fracking are exempted from our country's hazardous waste law. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17) has introduced the CLEANER Act, H.R. 2825, to close that loophole.

    The report's authors conclude:

    Given the scale and severity of fracking's myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling - much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country - seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.

    Environment America's John Rumple said, "It's time for our federal officials to step up; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and away from our parks, and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation's hazardous waste law."

    More articles on Fracking:

    • Fracking Follies

      Frac sand mining is a serious threat to Minnesota's communities and ecosystems. It's also part of a larger, extremely damaging industry across the country -- hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for oil and natural gas. Thanks to Environment Minnesota's recent report (available online at, we now have the numbers to reveal fracking's impact on our environment. Fracking generated 280 bil... October 16, 2013, Los Angeles Daily News

    • Canada Offers a Worthless Bargaining Chip in the Fight Over Keystone XL

      Canada is willing to do just about anything if President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline. That was the gist of a letter Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent to Obama in late August. In the letter, which Canada's CBC News reported last Friday, Harper promised to accept targets proposed by the United States to reduce its emissions, if the Obama administration agrees to greenlight the pipeline. It is a huge move-or a hugely desperate move, d... September 9, 2013, New Republic

    • Over 865,200 Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Public in Dark for Days Due to Government Shutdown

      Over 20,600 barrels of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale has spilled from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history. Though the spill occurred on September 29, the U.S. National Response Center - tasked with responding to chemical and oil spills - did not make the report available until October 8 due to the ongoing government shutdown. "The center generally makes such rep... October 10, 2013, DeSmogBlog

    • U.S.: Could Fracking the Monterey Shale Lead to the Next Big One?

      The Monterey Shale runs through some major fault lines, and that's raised concerns in earthquake-prone California. Could high-pressure pumping under the earth to free the shale's valuable oil deposits - known as hydraulic fracturing - trigger the next Big One? It's a question that seismologists get frequently as the debate heats up over fracking and other methods of extreme energy extraction. It turns out that the seismic danger is not so much l... September 17, 2013, Bay Nature

    • Does a Fracking Disaster Lurk Under Colorado's Floodwaters?

      As the sky finally clears in flood-devastated Colorado and official damage estimates continue to come out, questions remain about the stability of the state's fracking sites in one of the most densely drilled areas in the United States, many of which have been completely covered by floodwaters. Photo and video continue to surface of flooded fracking sites, toppled-over condensate tanks, tanks floating in floodwaters leaking unknown fluid and sca... September 17, 2013, Huffington Post

    • Streams Below Fracking Wastewater Treatment Show Elevated Salts, Metals, Radioactivity

      Elevated levels of radioactivity, salts and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek. "Radium levels were about 200 times greater in sediment samples collected where the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility discharges its treated wastewater into Blacklick Creek than in sediment samples collected just upstream of the plant," said Av... October 2, 2013, Science Daily

    • Colorado: Flooded with Fracking Fluid?

      The airplane banked right, bucking from the turbulence. I was blasted with freezing air as the pilot opened a window so the CNN cameraman could get good footage of the flooding South Platte River. I moaned. The fact that I was up there at all was a near-impossibility. Perhaps we all are allowed one irrational fear, and mine is small airplanes. But a rational fear of mine is much larger and looming, and I wanted to see one of the few things that f... September 25, 2013, Salon

    • Fracking Up The Golden State : The Democratic Party & SB 4

      "The anti-fracking movement began with the Golden State's characteristic optimism. When environmental groups discovered that regulators were completely asleep at the wheel on fracking in the most environmentally minded state in the nation, they sprung into action." 1 ~ RL Miller, Earth Island Journal ~ The overwhelming majority support for a moratorium or ban on fracking made the prospects of our environmental endeavor even more optimistic. "More... September 24, 2013, Daily Kos


    What the Frack? is There Really 100 Years' Worth of Natural Gas Beneath the United States?

    December 2011, Slate

    By Chris Nelder - The recent press about the potential of shale gas would have you believe that America is now sitting on a 100-year supply of natural gas. It's a "game-changer."

    Assuming that the United States continues to use about 24 tcf per annum, then, only an 11-year supply of natural gas is certain. The other 89 years' worth has not yet been shown to exist or to be recoverable.

    In addition, those 273 tcf are located in reserves that are undrilled, but are adjacent to drilled tracts where gas has been produced. Due to large lateral differences in the geology of shale plays, production can vary considerably from adjacent wells.

    One complicating factor here is recoverability, because we are never able to extract all of an oil or gas resource. For oil, a 35% recovery factor is considered excellent. But recovery factors for shale gas are highly variable, due to the varied geology of the source rocks. Even if we assume a very optimistic 50% recovery factor for the 550 tcf of probable gas (536.6 tcf from shale gas plus 13.4 tcf from coalbed gas), that would still only amount to 225 tcf, or a 10-year supply. That plus the 11-year supply of proved reserves would last the United States just 21 years, at current rates of consumption.

    Follow the link in the headline for the rest of the article, plus some excellent visuals. doclink

    The Big Fracking Bubble: the Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon's Gas Boom; It's Not Only Toxic - It's Driven by a Right-Wing Billionaire Who Profits More From Flipping Land Than Drilling for Gas

    March 1, 2012

    This article says pretty much the same as a May 2011 article from Post Carbon Institute at - but here are some highlights:

    "Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners. For Chesapeake, the primary profit in fracking comes not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas. The company is now the largest leaseholder in the United States, owning the drilling rights to some 15 million acres - an area more than twice the size of Maryland. McClendon has financed this land grab with junk bonds and complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged, deeply indebted company that has more in common with Enron than ExxonMobil. As McClendon put it in a conference call with Wall Street analysts a few years ago, 'I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet.'"

    Arthur Berman, a respected energy consultant in Texas says: 'When you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down.'

    "In January, the Energy Department cut its estimate of the amount of gas available in the Marcellus Shale by nearly 70%, and a group affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines warns that there may be only 23 years' worth of economically recoverable gas left nationwide.

    In addition, because of fugitive emissions of methane from wellheads and pipelines, natural gas may actually be no better than coal when it comes to global warming.

    Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy buys up such huge swaths of land requires huge chunks of cash - and the money often comes not from gas production, but from selling off land or going into debt. After Chesapeake drills a few wells in a region and 'proves up' the reserves, it hawks the leases to big oil and gas companies looking to get into the shale-gas game. In 2010.

    Recently Chesapeake has also sold futures in oil production, the first deal was made with Deutsche Bank and a Swiss investment firm for $1 billion in return for 15 years of future production from 4,000 wells. Because Chesapeake is not liable if the production fails, this gives the company a poor credit rating.

    "To make its operations even riskier, leaseholders like Chesapeake are required by law to drill on the land within three to five years after acquiring the rights or wind up forfeiting the lease. 'The more land they acquire, the more capital they have to spend upfront,' says Deborah Rogers, a former investment banker. 'They have to drill it or lose it, which further adds to capital costs. And the more they drill, the more gas they produce, which lowers the price of gas and further reduces their revenues. In the end, this drilling treadmill is difficult to sustain for long - especially if the wells under­perform, or the resource turns out to not be as valuable as they thought.' Thanks to McClendon's gambles, Chesapeake is struggling to cover $10 billion in long-term debt." doclink

    U.S.: Plans Moving Ahead for Drilling Near Underground Atomic Blast

    November 29, 2011, The Denver Post

    Colorado: Noble Energy Production is moving forward with plans to drill 78 gas wells at a site south of Rifle where in 1969 an underground atomic bomb was set off in an effort to boost natural-gas production.

    The experiment, Project Rulison, did increase natural-gas production - but the gas was not marketable because it was radioactive.

    The federal Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have approved parts of Noble's plan.

    To view the entire article, follow the link in the headline. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Now that the low-hanging fruit is gone, we go to more desperate measures to satisfy our energy demand, which grows as our population grows.

    Fracking for Support: Natural Gas Industry Pumps Cash Into Congress; New Report Details 10-year Spending Campaign by Fracking Interests to Avoid Regulation

    November 29, 2011, Common Cause

    Natural gas interests have spent more than $747 million during a 10-year campaign - stunningly successful so far - to avoid government regulation of hydraulic "fracking," a fast-growing and environmentally risky method of tapping underground gas reserves, according to a new study by Common Cause.

    A faction of the natural gas industry has directed more than $20 million to the campaigns of current members of Congress and put $726 million into lobbying aimed at shielding itself from oversight, according to the report, the third in a series of "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets" reports produced by the non-profit government watchdog group.

    "Players in this industry have pumped cash into Congress in the same way they pump toxic chemicals into underground rock formations to free trapped gas," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "nd as fracking for gas releases toxic chemicals into groundwater and streams, the industry's political fracking for support is toxic to efforts for a cleaner environment and relief from our dependence on fossil fuels."

    The study - which includes inserts for the fracking-heavy states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan - found that the natural gas industry focuses its political spending on members of the Congressional committees charged with overseeing it. Current members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have received an average of $70,342 from the industry; Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the former committee chairman, has collected a whopping $514,945, more than any other lawmaker.

    What's more, the industry's political giving also heavily favors lawmakers who supported the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Current members who voted for the bill received an average of $73,433, while those who voted against the bill received an average of $10,894.

    The report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to publish new, preliminary findings about the potential dangers of fracking in 2012, giving the industry a powerful incentive to increase political spending now in an attempt to shape public opinion and the debate over fracking in Congress, as well as affect the outcome of the 2012 congressional elections.

    "Thanks to the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, the natural gas industry will be free to spend whatever it likes next year to elect a Congress that will do its bidding," Edgar said. "The industry's political investments already have largely freed it from government oversight. Controlling the flow of that money and other corporate spending on our elections is critical to protecting our environment for this and future generations." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The natural gas industry cannot afford to do fracking if the price is too low. We can keep the price down by conservation measures and by making our population more sustainable.

    "The price of natural gas is currently $3.54 MMBtu, down from $13 a few years ago. Extracting natural gas from shale has high capital costs of land, drilling and completion. It is not economically feasible below $6 MMBtu." --

    The Fracking Industry's War on the New York Times -- and the Truth

    October 20, 2011, Huffington Post

    Note: this is an excellent article, well worth reading. To see the entire article, follow the link in the headline

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University writes about how the New York Times is being attacked by the natural gas industry (like Exxon and Chesapeake) for its superb investigative journalism into the irresponsible practices involved in the fracturing (fracking) of gas rich shale beds.

    This natural gas coalition is using slick PR firms, industry funded front groups and a predictable cabal of right wing industry toadies from cable TV and talk radio to avoid public disclosure and reasonable regulation.

    In 2009, before Kennedy found out the truth about fracking, he wrote an op-ed for the Financial Times predicting that newly accessible deposits of natural gas had the potential to rapidly relieve our country of its deadly addiction to Appalachian coal and end forever catastrophically destructive mountaintop removal mining. At that time geologists were predicting that new methods of fracturing gas rich shale beds would provide enough gas to power our country for a century.

    These rich reserves would have allowed us to replace 336 gigawatts from antiquated coal fired electric plants with energy from the underutilized capacity of existing gas generation plants, and reduce U.S. mercury emissions by 20%-25%, cutting deadly particulate matter and the pollutants that cause acid rain and slash America's grid based CO2 by an astonishing 20%. Gas could have been a critical bridge fuel to the new energy economy rooted in America's abundant renewables and could have helped free us from our debilitating reliance on foreign oil now costing our country so dearly in blood, national security, energy independence, and two pricey wars that are currently running tabs $2 billion per week.

    Kennedy sits on the New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel. Because this natural gas coalition has successfully battled regulation and stifled public disclosure while bending compliant government regulators to engineer exceptions to existing environmental rules, the Panel has to sort truth from the web of myths spun about fracking by fast talking landsmen, smarmy CEOs, and federal regulators.

    Public skepticism toward the industry and its government regulators is at a record high. There are over 40,000 highly motivated anti-fracking activists in New York alone; popular mistrust of the industry is presenting a daunting impediment to its expansion.

    Recent studies show that fracking is not all it's promoted to be:

    * Releases of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, may counterbalance virtually all the benefits of CO2 reductions projected to result from substituting gas power for coal.

    * The human health impacts (breast cancer) of gas extraction on local communities may rival those associated with coal.

    * The USGS just slashed its estimate on the amount of gas in the Marcellus Shale by 80%, raising doubts about all the industry's positive economic projections.

    * Only a small percentage of the land in each shale gas field turns out to be highly productive, even at the start. Nevertheless, companies routinely pretend that all of their acreage will be equally promising.

    * Contaminated well water, poisoned air, nuisance noise and dust, diminished property values and collapsing quality of life are often the predictable collateral damage of gas shale development in the rural towns of the east.

    * The industry says it cannot pay localities the costs of roads damaged from the thousands of truck trips per wellhead, leaving those ruinous costs to local taxpayers, many of whom will see no benefits from the shale boom.

    * For the most part, the industry has demonstrated a disturbing fervor for secrecy while advocating regulatory policies that favor the most irresponsible practices and the worst actors.

    The Times' reporting has found that sewage treatment plants in the Marcellus region have been accepting millions of gallons of natural gas industry wastewater that carry significant levels of radioactive elements and other pollutants that they are incapable of treating. . For many of us on New York State's fracking panel, the one bright light has been the presence of Southwest Energy's Vice President and General Counsel Mark Boling. Boling is bullish on shale gas but his passion for public disclosure and a rigorous and rational regulatory framework, his candor about the perils of certain practices and his honest assessments of the costs and benefits of gas shale extraction have inspired trust and confidence among his fellow panelists. The panel's confidence in his integrity is the one thing that might allow us to go forward with recommendations regarding a regulatory scheme that could allow certain kinds of fracking to proceed in New York State. doclink

    Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?

    May 29, 2011, Post Carbon Institute

    Natural gas has been touted as a "bridge" from high-carbon sources of energy like coal and oil to a renewable energy future. This assumes sufficient quantity of natural gas from previously inaccessible shale gas deposits to be accessed by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Without shale gas, U.S. domestic gas production is projected to fall by 20% through 2035, according to a review of the latest outlook (2011) of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    Unfortunately shale gas is characterized by high-cost, rapidly depleting wells that require high energy and water inputs, as well as contamination of surface water and groundwater, and the disposal of toxic drilling fluids produced from the wells. New York State has placed a moratorium on shale gas drilling.

    In addition, the marginal cost of shale gas production may be well above current gas prices, and above the EIA's price assumptions for most of the next quarter century, some analyses show. EIA's gas production forecast reveals that record levels of drilling will be required to achieve it, along with incumbent environmental impacts. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas may also be worse than previously understood - if you consider the full cycle, and possibly worse than coal.

    Furthermore replacing coal would require a 64% increase of lower-48 gas production over and above 2009 levels, heavy vehicles a further 24% and light vehicles yet another 76%, as well as a massive build out of new pipelines, gas storage and refueling facilities, and other infrastructure - a logistical, geological, environmental, and financial pipe dream.

    There are many other ways to reduce greenhouse emissions and improve energy security. Such as improving the efficiency of our coal- fired electricity generation fleet, much of which is over 40 years old. The EPA is requiring the retirement of as much as 21% of coal-fired capacity under regulations set to take effect in 2015. Best-in-class technologies for both natural-gas- and coal-fired generation can reduce CO2 emissions by 17% and 24%, respectively, and reduce other pollutants. Capturing waste heat from these plants for district and process heating can provide further increases in overall efficiency.

    The continued need for natural gas for uses other than electricity generation in the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors, which constitute 70% of current natural gas consumption must also be kept in mind. Natural gas vehicles are likely to increase in a niche role for high- mileage, short-haul applications.

    Strategies for energy sustainability must focus on reducing energy demand and optimizing the use of the fuels that must be burnt. At the end of the day, hydrocarbons that aren't burnt produce no emissions.

    Capital- and energy-intensive "solutions" such as carbon capture and storage (CSS) are questionable at best and inconsistent with the whole notion of energy sustainability at worst.

    There are three widespread assumptions about the role that natural gas can and should play in our energy future:

    #1: That, thanks to new techniques for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling of shale, we have sufficient natural gas resources to supply the needs of our country for the next 100 years.

    #2: That the price of natural gas, which has historically been volatile, will remain consistently low for decades to come.

    #3: That natural gas is much cleaner and safer than other fossil fuels, from the standpoint of greenhouse gas emissions and public health.

    Based on these assumptions, President Obama touted natural gas as a cornerstone of his Administration's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" and endorsed plans for converting a sizable portion of the vehicle fleet to run on natural gas.

    What emerges from the data is a very different assessment.

    The shale gas industry was motivated to hype production prospects in order to attract large amounts of needed investment capital; it did this by drilling the best sites first and extrapolating initial robust results to apply to more problematic prospective regions. The energy policy establishment, desperate to identify a new energy source to support future economic growth, accepted the industry's hype uncritically. This in turn led Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, 60 Minutes, and many other media outlets to proclaim that shale gas would transform the energy world.

    The biggest losers in the shale gas promotion are members of the public, who need sound energy policy based on realistic expectations for future supply, as well as sound assessments of economic and environmental costs.

    In the last decade the Post Carbon Institute and other non-profit energy groups warned that depletion of giant oilfields and declining oil discoveries would lead to a situation of higher petroleum prices and tight supplies beginning before 2010. Yet EIA oil forecasts in the early years of the decade contained no hint of this impending and wholly foreseeable supply-price shift. The EIA is now making similar mistakes in its too-rosy projections with regard to shale gas supplies and natural gas prices.

    If environmental groups focus their arguments only on the contamination of ground water supplies of shale gas without at the same time questioning the economics of shale gas drilling, they will have helped set up conditions for a political battle that could undermine their own influence and credibility. Oil and gas industries will once again claim that environmentalism is the only thing standing between Americans and energy security.

    While enormous amounts of natural gas, oil, and coal remain, the portions of those fuels that were cheapest and easiest to produce are now mostly gone, and producing remaining reserves will entail spiraling investment costs and environmental risks. Moreover, while alternative energy sources exist- including nuclear, wind, and solar-these come with their own problems and trade-offs, and none is capable of replicating the economic benefits that fossil fuels delivered in decades past.

    Energy conservation - reducing demand for energy and using energy more efficiently - are the cheapest and most effective ways of cutting carbon emissions, enhancing energy security, and providing a stable basis for economic planning.

    Unfortunately, energy supply limits and demand reduction do not support robust economic growth. This is probably the main reason why policy makers and many energy analysts and environmentalists shy away from conveying the real dimensions of our predicament.

    There is much we can do to ensure a secure social and natural environment in a lower-energy context, but we are unlikely to take the needed steps if we are laboring under fundamentally mistaken assumptions about the amounts of energy we can realistically access, and the costs of making that energy available.

    As recently as 2005, despite near record amounts of drilling, production in North America had fallen from a 2001 peak, and hit a low when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared through the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. Gas prices soared in 2005 and in mid-2008 at about the time the price of oil hit an all-time record of $147 per barrel. But gas demand and prices fell when the "Great Recession" in late 2008 struck. Meanwhile, production from unconventional gas plays, most prominently the Barnett Shale of east Texas, was rising rapidly and creating a glut. A new era of cheap, abundant natural gas was declared thanks to the latest hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, which unlocked previously uneconomic shale gas and tight sand reservoirs.

    Texas oil and gas entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens and shale gas driller Aubrey McClendon suggested U.S. gas production could fuel fleets of vehicles and displace oil imports and the EIA suggest it could provide 45% of an expanded supply by 2035.

    A good place to start is the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2011, which looks at existing consumption patterns and provides forecasts through 2035. While there is concern about the accuracy of these projections, which generally assume there will be no physical limits to hydrocarbon (i.e., fossil fuel) supplies through 2035, they serve as a starting point to understand the current energy system, and where we might go in a world without limits.

    Hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas and coal) provided 84% of consumption in 2009 and the forecast in this scenario is for hydrocarbons to provide 82% of an expanded energy demand in 2035. Oil was the largest source of energy in 2009 at 39%, followed by natural gas at 24%, coal at 21%, and non-carbon-emitting energy sources-nuclear power, hydropower, biomass (largely wood), and renewables (wind, solar, geothermal)-at 16%. In 2009, renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal sources made up less than 1.4% of energy consumption.

    We have succeeded-in what amounts to a blink of the eye in all of human history-in becoming nearly completely addicted to the dense, convenient stores of "fossilized sunshine" represented by hydrocarbons. Breaking that addiction, of course, will be no easy task.

    The transportation sector is the largest single consumer of energy. Roughly 68% of the energy used to generate electricity is unavailable due to generation and transmission losses.

    Moving away from large, remote, centralized sources of electricity generation to local, smaller- scale, distributed sources of generation can serve to increase efficiency and minimize these energy losses, as well as make cogeneration of both heat and power more feasible.

    Oil is currently the premier fuel for transportation, although it is also a very important feedstock for the petrochemical industry. The transportation sector consumed 72% of oil demand in 2009 and the industrial sector 22% .

    The American predilection for personal vehicles accounts for 62% of oil consumption in the transportation sector and 44% of all U.S. oil consumption. Personal vehicles also account for 19% of all U.S. CO2 emissions.

    Natural gas is a very versatile fuel with major uses in all sectors except transportation, where it is mainly used in the pipeline transport of natural gas and to a very limited extent for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. Natural gas is a primary feedstock in the petrochemical industry and underpins the production of nitrogen-based fertilizers, which are responsible for the "Green Revolution" that has improved crop yields by nearly 200% over the past 80 years. Industrial use of natural gas accounted for 32% of its consumption in 2009. Distributed use, as in residential and commercial heating applications in 2009 accounted for 21% and 14% of its use, respectively. Electricity generation accounted for a further 30% of U.S. natural gas consumption in 2009, mainly in "peaking" power plants. Peaking plants are used to meet peak electricity demand loads.

    Coal is primarily suited as a source of heat in the electricity generation sector and as a source of coke in the production of steel in the metallurgical industry. In 2009, 93% of U.S. coal consumption was used for electricity generation, with practically all of the balance used in the industrial sector, primarily in the steel industry. Transforming coal to gas or to liquids involves large capital investments in infrastructure that are roughly equivalent in scale to those required for oil-sands production, and the transformation process entails large energy losses and GHG emissions.

    In 2009, 45% of U.S. electricity was generated by coal and 23% by natural gas. Non- GHG-emitting sources including nuclear, large hydro, biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal generated only 31% of U.S. electricity in 2009.

    Electricity generation is the primary use for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar; yet these sources, including geothermal energy, generated only 2.7% of U.S. electricity in 2009, with biomass generating a further 1%. Even if these renewable sources more than double through 2035, as projected by the EIA, they will still constitute only 8% of forecast U.S. electricity demand. The scale of the problem of replacing hydrocarbons in electricity generation is simply daunting. Moreover, renewables have well- known issues with intermittency and unpredictability, which compromise their ability to make up a major proportion of electricity supply, especially at current rates of consumption and necessary supply reliability.

    Oil is by far the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions at 43%, followed by coal at 34% and natural gas at 23%. While this would seem to lead to a doomsday climate change scenario, there are potential supply constraints on the hydrocarbon inputs to this scenario that make it unlikely to happen. Even so, evidence mounts that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are already altering the climate.

    Electricity generation is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S. at 40% Non- electric use in the transportation sector is next at 34% followed by the industrial (16%), residential (6%), and commercial (4%) sectors.

    EIA projections assume that U.S. shale gas production will nearly quadruple by 2035, when it is supposed to account for 45% of U.S. gas supply. Other estimates for increases in shale gas production are even higher.

    But natural gas production is really a story about a race against depletion. Typically, the production from a new conventional gas well will decline by 25% to 40% in its first year, before tapering off to lower yearly declines as time goes by.

    There are now more than half a million producing gas wells in the United States, nearly double the number in 1990 . Yet the gas production per well has declined by nearly 50% over this period.

    When gas production peaked in 1973, about 7,000 gas wells were drilled annually. Throughout the 1990s gas drilling averaged about 10,000 wells yearly, which allowed some growth in production. Despite doubling this rate to more than 20,000 wells annually, gas production hit a post-peak summit in 2001 and began to decline. In the run-up to the Great Recession, gas drilling more than tripled from 1990s levels to 33,000 wells per year in the 2006-2008 time frame before falling back below the 20,000 level. This burst of drilling served to grow production modestly to near the 1973 peak, albeit at more than four times the 1973 drilling rate. This "exploration treadmill" indicates the United States will need on the order of 30,000 or more successful gas wells per year to increase production going forward, which is triple the 1990s levels.

    It is unlikely that drilling will rebound to 2008 levels in a low-priced gas environment; hence production can be expected to start falling until prices and drilling activity recover. Thus the level of drilling activity that would be required to maintain and grow U.S. gas production in the future would be unprecedented in the history of U.S. gas production.

    Economist Jeff Rubin notes that "far from being the game-changer it's supposed to be, North American shale gas production isn't even sustainable at today's natural gas prices." The bottom line with natural gas is that it isn't so much a matter of the resources in the ground that count. What really counts are the flow rates at which these resources can be produced. The flow rate will determine the ability of natural gas to contribute to future energy requirements, as well as to the social and environmental impacts of this production.

    Virtually all growth in gas supply in the current EIA reference case is projected to come from shale gas, which constitutes only a third of estimated U.S. gas resources.

    The U.S. House of Representatives has recently released a report on the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing, several of which are carcinogenic and are hazardous air pollutants. Anywhere between 15% and 80% of the injected water is brought back to the surface, along with formation water if it is present (Figure 15). Most of this water is produced in the first few months of production and, as it is toxic, must be disposed of through recycling, through reinjection, or, on the surface, through processing at wastewater treatment facilities.

    Analyst Arthur Berman, who has studied the Barnett Shale (the oldest and best-known shale gas play) in depth, suggests that the estimated ultimate recovery from shale gas wells and overall recoverable reserves have been overstated by operators, and that shale gas plays are marginally commercial at best in the current low gas price environment.

    As Berman pointed out, quoting Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, in the Barnett Shale all 17 counties were thought to be equally prospective a few years ago, but today just two and a half counties have been proven to be highly productive core areas.

    In 2010, the documentary movie Gasland brought many of the issues involved with hydraulic fracturing and shale gas production to the forefront.

    Most of us have heard about the high concentration of toxic chemicals involved in fracking, and the contamination of groundwater, but there is also these points to consider: - Very high water consumption, between 2 million and 8 million gallons per well, which is potentially problematic. - Higher full-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Full-cycle GHG emissions from shale gas are far larger than the burner-tip emissions of the gas itself. - Induced earthquakes through fluid injection both during the hydraulic fracturing process and during the disposal of waste fluid through injection wells. To date, seismic activity related to the injection of waste flowback fluids from hydraulic fracturing seems to be the largest source of induced seismic activity.

    Howarth et al. of Cornell University in their April 2011 paper states: Natural gas is composed largely of methane, and 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well. These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas. The higher emissions from shale gas occur at the time wells are hydraulically fractured-as methane escapes from flow-back return fluids-and during drill out following the fracturing. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide, particularly over the time horizon of the first few decades following emission. .... Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years."

    Should the United States commit to large amounts of new gas- fueled infrastructure that cannot be supplied by domestic gas production, it would consider imported LNG. The life-cycle emissions of CO2 are much higher for LNG than for conventional gas due to the energy required for liquefaction, transportation, and regasification. LNG-transported natural gas adds 20% more CO2 emissions than conventional gas on a full life-cycle basis. LNG increases emissions for the overall delivery process before the burner tip by 137% on average compared to the emissions for conventional gas.

    Greenhouse gas impacts over the next 30 to 40 years could be made considerably worse by a wholesale switch to gas for electricity generation. Thus the concept of natural gas as a low-carbon bridge fuel to a future powered largely by renewable energy is cast in considerable doubt as a strategy to reduce global warming. Indeed, it may in fact be a strategy that increases global warming over the next few decades.

    Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are being promoted by politicians as a panacea for expanding the consumption of fossil fuels globally while minimizing carbon emissions. There are four major issues with CCS that make it counterproductive: - The safety and long-term integrity of CO2 storage in deep saline aquifers which has been largely untested and then there is the potential for leakage. - The parasitic energy loss in separating CO2 from flue gas and compressing it to a liquid or supercritical state. These losses range from 18.8% to 26.8% of the power output from a coal plant, depending on the technology. - The capital cost of a CCS-equipped power plant is estimated to be between 32.2% and 74.2% higher than a conventional plant, depending on the technology . - The additional capital and energy costs of building CO2 pipelines, drilling injection wells, and monitoring storage sites for a few hundred years.

    CCS has yet to be demonstrated at a commercial scale, its projected costs could instead be invested in alternative energy and infrastructure to radically lower energy footprints. doclink

    U.S.: Unconventional Natural Gas: Fracking Water Killed Trees, Study Finds

    July 12, 2011, New York Times

    In a study by researchers from the United States Forest Service, two years after hydraulic fracturing fluids were legally spread on a section of the Fernow Experimental Forest, within the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, more than half of the trees in the affected area were dead, demonstrating that more research into the safe disposal of chemical-laced wastewater resulting from natural gas drilling.

    The Fernow Experimental Forest is also the site of a drilling operation by Berry Energy. While the government owns the surface rights to the forest, the sub-surface mineral rights are privately owned and available for natural gas exploration there and in other forest lands.

    The companies did not disclose the exact composition of the fluids, but the study assumed the main constituents appeared to be sodium and calcium chlorides because of their high concentrations on the surface soil.

    Almost immediately after disposal, the researchers said, nearly all ground plants died. After a few days, tree leaves turned brown, wilted and dropped; 56% of about 150 trees eventually died. doclink

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    Energy Alternatives


    Japan, March 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor
    meltdown and steam venting
    resulting from 8.9 earthquake and tsunami.

    Japan crisis: third explosion raises spectre of nuclear nightmare

    March 15, 2011   The Telegraph

    "The Fukushima crisis now rates as a more serious accident than the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, and is second only to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, according to the French nuclear safety authority." "The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was "unlikely" that the accident would turn into another Chernobyl, but failed to rule it out completely."


    Oil, Population ---- and the Future

    December 29, 2004, Ralph W Woodgate

    Oil is limited and renewables are slow in being developed. We depend on oil in many more ways than one would imagine. What will our future be like without this important resource? Follow the link in the headline to read all about it. doclink

    Colorado Residents Overwhelmingly Support the Use of Renewable Resources Over Fossil Fuels

    February 2003, Denver Post

    By a 3-to-1 ratio, respondents said Colorado should meet its demand for electricity through energy efficiency rather than generating more power. All age groups, political parties and regions showed a strong preference for renewables over fossil fuels but the executive VP of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association had concerns about the survey's and accuracy. The poll has a margin of error of 4.1%. A bill in the legislature would require utilities to produce a portion of their electricity from renewable sources.Respondents were aware that most of Colorado's electricity is produced from coal, although this is the fuel source they would least prefer. Wind was cited by 37.5% as the preferred method of generating power. Solar 36.2%, natural gas 9.7%, hydropower 8.4%, and coal 4.8%. Participants rated coal as the best fuel for reliability and affordability but the worst for environmental protection. doclink

    All Aboard the UK's First Poop Bus

    November 2014, Quartz   By: Adam Epstein

    Public transport powered by human waste and sewage could be the next big trend in sustainable energy. Seriously.

    The UK's "Bio-Bus" took it's first trip today, running entirely on biomethane gas produced by treating waste and sewage at a plant run by the biotechnology company GENeco. The 40-seat bus can travel 186 miles on one tank of gas, which requires roughly the annual waste of five people to fill.

    Biomethane produces fewer emissions than regular diesel fuel does. GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said that the Bio-Bus "is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself."

    In 2009, the city of Oslo, Norway converted 80 public buses to run on biomethane. And some European countries, like Sweden, have been using biogas to power vehicles for years. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Let's do the math: 40 people can travel 186 miles on the annual poop of 5 people. That means the average person could travel 8 trips per year, of 186 miles each trip -- or 29 miles a week -- on his own poop. Not bad. But not anything like what we are used to.

    Want to Change the World? Read This First

    June 16, 2014   By: Richard Heinberg

    Marvin Harris's magnum opus was the book Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (1979). The kernel of Harris's theoretical contribution can be summarized rather briefly.

    All human societies consist of three interrelated spheres: first, the infrastructure, which comprises a society's relations to its environment, including its modes of production and reproduction -- think of this primarily as its ways of getting food, energy, and materials; second, the structure, which comprises a society's economic, political, and social relations; and third, the superstructure, which consists of a society's symbolic and ideational aspects, including its religions, arts, rituals, sports and games, and science. Inevitably, these three spheres overlap, but they are also distinct, and it is literally impossible to find a human society that does not feature all three in some permutation.

    The structure and superstructure of societies are always conflicted with one another to one degree or another. Battles over distribution of wealth and over ideas are perennial, but truly radical societal change tends to be associated with shifts of infrastructure, such as the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago, and the fossil-fueled Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. In both cases, population levels grew, political and economic relations evolved, and ideas about the world mutated profoundly.

    Oil has given us the ability to dramatically increase the rate at which we extract and transform Earth's bounty (via mining machinery, tractors, and powered fishing boats), as well as the ability to transport people and materials at high speed and at little cost. It and the other fossil fuels have also served as feedstocks for greatly expanded chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries, and have enabled a dramatic intensification of agricultural production while reducing the need for field labor. The results of fossil-fueling our infrastructure have included rapid population growth, the ballooning of the middle class, unprecedented levels of urbanization, and the construction of a consumer economy.

    Our own society is on the cusp of an enormous infrastructural transformation. Our still-new infrastructural regime based on fossil fuels is already showing signs of winding down. Carbon dioxide, produced in the burning of fossil fuels, is creating a greenhouse effect that is warming the planet. The consequences will be somewhere between severe and cataclysmic. If we continue burning fossil fuels, we're more likely to see a cataclysmic result, which could make continuation of industrial agriculture, and perhaps civilization itself, problematic. We can dramatically curtail fossil fuel consumption to avert catastrophic climate change. Either way, however, our current infrastructure will be a casualty.

    Also, once useful fossil energy supply rates begin to falter, this could trigger an unwinding of the global financial system as well as international conflict.

    Do you want to change the world? More power to you. Start by identifying your core values-fairness, peace, stability, beauty, resilience, whatever. That's up to you. Figure out what ideas, projects, proposals, or policies further those values, but also fit with the infrastructure that's almost certainly headed our way. Then get to work. There's plenty to do, and lots at stake. doclink

    The Real Story Behind Falling Renewable Energy Investments

    April 24, 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Letha Tawney, Bharath Jairaj and Xuege (cathy) Lu

    Investors worldwide spent less on renewable energy and related technologies -- such as smart meters, electric vehicles, and storage -- last year than in previous years. Global investments in renewable energy fell to $214 billion, down 14% from 2012. Venture capital investments in U.S.-based clean-tech companies fell 25% in 2013, according to Clean Edge's latest report. And for the first time in a decade, China saw a decline in clean energy investment in 2013.

    But the recent fall in clean tech investments is partly driven by the fact that renewable energy has become much cheaper in the past few years. You can buy more energy output for less cash than you could have two or four years ago.

    In short, the renewable energy industry is maturing-and investors are starting to take notice. Investors like Citigroup are becoming more optimistic in the industry, claiming that the "age of renewables" has begun. "Green bonds" -- which direct investment towards environmentally friendly projects -- are becoming more and more popular. doclink

    Energy Commission Will Fund New Hydrogen Fueling Stations in California

    May 15, 2014   By: Mark Glover

    The Sacramento-based California Energy Commission says it will invest $46.6 million to accelerate the development of public hydrogen fueling stations throughout California to promote a consumer market for zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles, which could be widely available as early as next year.

    The plan calls for 13 new fueling sites in Northern California and 15 in Southern California, all strategically located along major corridors and in regional centers.

    "Transitioning to low- and zero-emission vehicles is critical to meeting air-quality goals and to reducing the emissions that lead to climate change," CEC Commissioner Janea Scott said. "With this funding, California will accelerate the construction of a reliable and affordable refueling infrastructure to support the commercial market launch of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles." doclink

    U.S.: Navy Researchers Demonstrate Flight Powered by Fuel Created From Seawater

    April 11, 2014, Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a technology for simultaneously extracting carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater and converting the two gases to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, as a possible replacement for petroleum-based jet fuel.

    In the first patented step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). These value-added hydrocarbons from this process serve as building blocks for the production of industrial chemicals and designer fuels.

    In the second step, these olefins can be converted to compounds of a higher molecular using controlled polymerization. The resulting liquid contains hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon range, C9-C16, suitable for use a possible renewable replacement for petroleum based jet fuel. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: we need to know the scale of production before we can say this is a good idea.

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2 3 4 5

    Manufacturing & Infrastructure

    Minerals, Ores, Materials

    North Korea May Have Two-Thirds of World's Rare Earths

    January 22, 2014, Diplomat Magazine   By: Zachary Keck

    A private equity firm based in the U.K. has made statements that confirm North Korea to possess the world's largest deposit of rate earth oxides.

    The company SRE Minerals Limited estimates that the Jongju deposit, in the Pyongan province holds 216 million tons of rare earth oxides, which includes light rare earth elements (REEs), heavy REEs, and rare earth minerals.

    REE are used in various sophisticated technologies, such as cell phones and guided missiles. Currently, China controls upwards of 90% of the REE market , due to its more lax mining regulations. Because of this China has shown at times an inclination to use its near monopoly on REEs to exert leverage over other countries in political disputes.

    It has long been known that North Korea sits on top of significant REE reserves; however significant obstacles remain where mining the REEs are concerned. Besides any technical challenges involved in this process, the political environment in North Korea is exceedingly difficult to work in, and this has inhibited Pyongyang's ability to exploit its significant mineral wealth for decades.

    For example, during the Sunshine Policy of the 1990s, many South Korean mineral companies invested heavily in North Korea, only to lose their investments when tensions between the two Koreas returned. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: rare earth elements will play an important role in resource depletion as the number of cell phones expand with the booming population and rising consumerism.

    You Need Phosphorus to Live -- and We Are Running Out

    March 2013, Mother Jones

    Morocco is thought to hold up to 85% of the globe's known phosphate rock reserve, which is held by Morocco's royal family. The "most important quasi-monopoly in economic history," says Jeremy Grantham, investment guru and co-founder of the global investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co.

    Our phosphorus use "must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve," Grantham tells us. All the crops we eat depend on phosphorus to produce healthy cells.

    Until the mid-20th century, farmers maintained phosphorus levels in soil by composting plant waste or spreading phosphorus-rich manure. Then the modern phosphorus fertilizer industry began with new mining and refining techniques gave rise to the modern phosphorus fertilizer industry -- and farmers, in Europe and North America used the quick, cheap, and easy phosphorus. Now that the rest of the world is starting to use it, the annual phosphorus demand is rising nearly twice as fast as the population.

    One problem is that not all the phosphorus used in farming is absorbed by crops. A lot leaches into water, ending up in lakes and rivers, where it causes algal blooms-which, as they decompose and suck up oxygen, and create dead zones. Another is that phosphate rock is a finite resource.

    A group of Australian and European academics in 2009 w predicted that phosphorus production would peak by 2030, driving up prices and giving massive geopolitical leverage to the Moroccan government.

    The United States has some phosphate reserves, most of them in Florida. But phosphate mining requires stripping large swaths of land and generates massive amounts of a waste product called phosphogypsum, which contains low levels of radiation as well as a range of toxic heavy metals. In Florida it sits in huge piles in mining regions, maybe 1 billion metric tons of it, with 32 million metric tons are added each year. Moreover, Florida's phosphate reserves are expected to run out within 25 years -- and we're already importing about 10% of our phosphate from Morocco.

    We can curb our phosphorus usage by eating less meat, which uses three times more phosphorus than vegetarian diets, reducing food waste, and shifting to farming techniques that conserve soil nutrients, including organic agriculture and permaculture.

    It wouldn't hurt to figure out safe ways to reuse an abundant source of phosphorus: human pee and we could make better use of animal manure. There's enough phosphorus in your annual output of urine to provide phosphorus for more than half of all the grain you consume in a year. doclink

    Are We Heading Toward Peak Fertilizer?

    November 28, 2012, Mother Jones   By: Tom Philpott

    Most people have heard of peak oil -- easy-to-get-to petroleum reserves are mostly already extracted, and most of what's left is the hard-to-get stuff. But what about peak phosphorus and potassium? They are the P and K of NPK - nitrogen, phospohorus, and potassium - the three nutrients needed in order for plants to grow. These nutrients are extracted from soil every time we harvest crops, and have to be replaced if farmland is to remain productive.

    In traditional agriculture, these nutrients were supplied by returning food waste, animal waste, and in some cases, human waste to the soil. In the first part of the 20th century we learned to mass produce the industrial version of N,P, and K

    Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer can be synthesized from nitrogen in the air, by a process that requires an enormous amount of fossil energy. Phosphorus and potassium cannot be synthesized -- they're found in significant amounts only in a few large deposits scattered across the world from phosphate rock and potash.

    Jeremy Grantham, cofounder and chief strategist for the Boston invetment firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, lays it out: the former Soviet states and Canada have more than 70% of the potash. Morocco has 85% of all high-grade phosphates. There can be only one conclusion: their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.

    Grantham has foreseen every bubble from the Japanese equity/real estate craze of the '80s through the U.S. real estate mania of the 2000s, the S&P 500 near all-time highs, and the Bear Stearns nosedive. In Nature magazine, Grantham argues that "we should not unnecessarily ruin a pleasant and currently very serviceable planet just to maximize the short-term profits of energy companies and others."

    Phosphorus is the more urgent due to the fact that It's in the Morroco's Western Sahara region, which is contested by he Polisario Front, a rebel movement the UN recognizes as the rightful representatives of the territory. "If the people of Western Sahara ever resume their war to get their country back -- or if the Arab Spring spreads and Morocco goes the way of Libya-then we may be adding phosphate fertilizer to the list of finite resources, such as water and land, that are constraining world food supplies sooner than we think."

    Developing an agriculture without potash means a massive focus on recycling the nutrients we take from the soil back into the soil -- in other words, composting, not on a backyard level but rather on a society-wide scale. It also requires policies that give farmers incentives to build up organic matter in soil, so it holds in nutrients instead of letting them leach away. Both of these solutions are specialties of organic agriculture. doclink

    New Gold Finds Not Keeping Up with Resource Depletion

    July 25, 2012

    Metals Economics Group, a Canada based minerals focused research organisation, has done anaysis that suggests that despite a huge focus by global miners and explorers on precious metals exploration over the past few years, the rate of new gold resource discovery is substantially lagging behind resource depletion.

    Significant gold finds (of at least 2 million ounces) over the past 14 years could only replace around 56% of the estimated amount of gold mined over the same period - and this is only if these same discoveries prove to be economically mineable.

    It is true that the top 26 global gold miners (those that mined at least 600,000 oz of gold in 2011) collectively replaced almost 208% of the gold they produced. Individually, 21 of these major producers added enough reserves through exploration and acquisitions to keep ahead of production, maintaining a strong pipeline of projects to insure stable or increased gold production.

    These larger gold producers have increased their aggregate annual production 17% over the past ten years to 57% of 2011 world mine production, and continued to raise production levels, perhaps to a projected 67% by 2017. Based on their 2011 production, the report suggests, each major producer already needs to replace an average of almost 2 million oz of gold in reserves each year.

    The biggest reserves replacement challenge faced by the bigger producers, and the industry as a whole, is perhaps not that there is no gold left, but that all the "easy" gold has been found. Worldwide, the total gold in reserves and resources at development-stage projects is essentially equal to that in currently producing mines. However, with increasing risk of political, regulatory, and tax instability in many resource-rich nations, declining grades, rising costs, and dramatically longer development times, the amount of gold available for production in the near term is likely far less than has been found. doclink

    Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush

    March 1, 2012, IPS Inter Press Service

    The Gaia Foundation's report, "Opening Pandora's Box" tells us of the scramble for the world's land and mineral resources, threatening the last remaining wilderness and critical ecosystems, destroying communities and contaminating huge volumes of fresh water.

    The more accessible resources have been consumed. Now the extractive industries, funded by pension funds and commodities speculators, are using new technologies like fracking for natural gas to get at previously unprofitable resources. These industries use far more raw material and have a much larger destructive footprint than in the past.

    Canada's tar sands require that two to four tonnes of earth be dug up and a similar amount of fresh water is needed to produce one barrel of oil. Copper requires 10 times the ore it once did to get the same volume. In the last 10 years, mining for iron ore has increased 180%, cobalt by 165% and lithium by 125%. China's mining sector grew 30% in just five years. Peru's mining exports increased by one-third in 2011 alone. Coal mining has increased by 44% in the past 10 years.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently warned of the threats to World Heritage Sites from planned mining and oil and gas projects. One in four iconic natural areas in Africa is negatively affected.

    Hobbelink of GRAIN, a small NGO working with small farmers, first told the world about the millions of hectares of land in Africa, Asia and South America that were being leased or purchased by foreign investors for food and biofuel production. More than 400 large land deals totalling nearly 35 million hectares, roughly the size of The Netherlands are involved.

    This movement is turning communities into refugees on their own land. Polly Higgins, author of "Eradicating Ecocide" said "This new wave of land grabbing is putting profit above people and planet."

    Major investments are going into the search for fossil fuels in remote regions like the Arctic and into "extreme energy sources" like shale gas and tar sands that have big environmental impacts.

    Canada's tar sands have 130,000 hectares of tailings ponds full of toxic wastes behind some of the largest earthen dams ever constructed. Mining companies dump more than 180 million tonnes of hazardous mine waste into rivers, lakes and oceans worldwide every year. Mining enough gold for just a single wedding band generates, on average, 20 tonnes of contaminated mine waste.

    Rising prices, increasing material consumption and a huge flood of investment have triggered this global boom, the report found. Following the 2008 collapse of financial markets, hedge and pension fund investors dramatically increased investments in metal, mineral, oil and gas commodities.

    The average U.S. citizen using an astonishing 22,000 times their weight in minerals, metals and fuels in their lifetime. doclink

    Pandora's Box: Digging the Earth, Killing the Future; Landgrabbing and mineral extraction spell disaster for Earth

    March 2, 2012, Common Dreams

    Across Latin America, Asia and Africa, more and more community lands, rivers and ecosystems are being despoiled, displaced and devoured by mining activities. Over the last 10 years, iron ore production is up by 180%; cobalt by 165%; lithium by 125%, and coal by 44%.

    The rights of farming and indigenous communities are increasingly ignored in the race to grab land and water. Each wave of new extractive technologies requires ever more water to wrench the material from its source. The hunger for these materials is a growing threat to the necessities for life: water, fertile soil and food. The implications are obvious, if not widely ignored by the industrial and economic powers that profit from such activities.

    The Opening Pandora's Box report was spearheaded by the Gaia foundation and supported by Friends of the Earth International, Grain, Oilwatch, Navdanya in India and other groups.

    The increase in prospecting has also grown exponentially, which means this massive acceleration in extraction will continue if concessions are granted as freely as they are now.

    The executive summary to the report says: "if we continue in our current direction, our children will be left to clean up an increasingly barren and unstable planet, littered with toxic wastelands and a huge scarcity of water, which we would have left in our wake."

    Environment editor at The Guardian, Jon Vidal added: Of the 10 biggest mining deals to be completed last year, seven were in Africa, with Anglo American earmarking $8bn (£5bn) for new platinum, diamond, iron ore and coal projects on the continent, and Brazil's Vale planning to invest more than $12bn over the next five years in Africa.

    China now extracts much of the world's mineral resources: 53% of the world's cement, 47% of its iron ore, 46% of its coal and more than 40% of the world's steel, lead, zinc and aluminium and re-exports much of this in the form of finished products for world markets.

    The loss of enormous quantities of soil, and the eviction of people to make way for large-scale extraction now threaten to make millions of people landless and hungry, a recipe for social problems.

    Water could be the limiting factor in the extraction of minerals in future. If demand continues to grow at the same rate that it has in the last decade, industry demands for fresh water are expected to grow from 4,500bn cubic metres today to 6,900bn cubic metres in 2030. Most mining companies have said they are already experiencing shortages.

    "Large-scale mining is now targeting all parts of the planet," said Gathuri Mburu, co-ordinator of the African Biodiversity Network. doclink

    US Alaska: Save Bristol Bay From Destructive Mining!

    March 31, 2011, Grist Magazine

    Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed is one of America's last and most important wild places -- an unspoiled Eden of vast tundra, crystal clear streams and pristine lakes.

    Sockeye salmon runs there support an abundance of bears, whales, seals and eagles as well as Native communities that have thrived here for thousands of years. Endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales live there - there are only 340 - truly are the last of their kind.

    A consortium of foreign mining companies is planning to dig a mega open-pit mine in the heart of this extraordinary ecosystem. This 2,000-foot-deep, two-mile-long gold and copper mine would have colossal earthen dams that are supposed to hold back some 10 billion tons of toxin-laced mining waste - despite being built in a known earthquake zone.

    The mine would be dug on state land, right next to 1.1 million acres of our federal public lands.

    Click on the link in the headline to help by telling BLM Director Bob Abbey NOT to open our public lands in Bristol Bay to hard rock mining at the Pebble Mine. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: copper is one of the world's disappearing resources. We have to dig deeper and deeper to get it, requiring more and more energy to do so. It is used in building construction, power generation and transmission, electronic product manufacturing, and the production of industrial machinery and transportation vehicles. Copper wiring and plumbing are integral to the appliances, heating and cooling systems, and telecommunications links used every day in homes and businesses. Copper is an essential component in the motors, wiring, radiators, connectors, brakes, and bearings used in cars and trucks. The more copper we use, the more destructive to the environment the production of this mineral will be.

    Australia's Mining Future is Limited

    October 26, 2007, ABC Online

    Dr Gavin Mudd of Monash University says that while demand for Australia's minerals is going up, the quality of ore is going down. The mining industry is not sustainable in the long-term, and the problem is international.

    At the standard of living in Australia, the amount of steel that is consumed, per person - or the amount of copper -and if we extrapolate those same standards across the whole of the global population, that's a challenge for sustainability of the world's mineral resources. Fifty years into the future, with everyone in the world at the same standard of living, there won't be any mineral resources left.

    We know that ore grades will decline, and that has important implications in terms of the amount of rock to dig up, and to dig up more rock means more energy, more CO2 emissions and so on.

    The mining industry has moved to improve its environmental management. The nature of rehabilitation bonding can be improved, and that way the liability and the risks and so on are not just borne by government if the company goes bankrupt.

    If we extrapolate 100 years into the future it's hard to believe that we'd actually have anywhere near the same scale of the iron ore industry that we do now. doclink

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    Third World Energy Use and Pollution

    Transpacific Pollution Leaves Thicker and Thicker Trail

    July 31, 2000, ENN

    Rising industrialization in Asia is discharging millions of tons of previously undetected contaminants annually into the winds that travel across the Pacific Ocean. Every spring there are massive dust storms in Asia that transport soil across the Pacific to the US, previous research has shown. Now Thomas Cahill, a researcher and professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric science at the University of California at Davis and an international authority on the atmospheric transport of pollutants has found that "sulfate and organic aerosols are also present, and in roughly the same amounts." These aerosols are killing crops, spreading illness in Asia, appear to be adding toxic materials to waters in America, and they could dramatically alter global climate. Every year, Asia burns millions of tons of coal in coal-burning power plants and coal-fired locomotives. Aerosols are also generated from metals production, vehicle exhaust, home heating, and overtilling of dry-area farmland. The U.S. has slowed it's annual releases of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere from about 20 million tons to 13 million tons between 1990 and 2000, while Asia's has climbed to about 45 million tons. Pollution of the air above the Pacific ocean, will change the heating/cooling effect of the ocean and produce changes in the weather. The research project is called the University of California Pacific Rim Aerosol Network and it works by determining the origins of these aerosols by finding the unique signature of their origins in their composition of trace elements, such as nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic and lead. Aerosols with these unique signatures from Asia have been detected all the way to the Rocky Mountains in the United States. doclink

    Developing Nations' Energy Consumption Declines

    August 17, 2000, Oil and Gas Journal

    Joanne Disan, director of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs' Division for Sustainable Development, told the the United Nations Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that energy consumption in the world's developing countries has declined 2.3% over the last year, "seriously" hampering economic and social development performance in these nations. In contrast, increased consumption was among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, where energy demand stuck to a 10-year growth trend. OECD countries currently represent almost 60% of total world commercial energy demand. doclink

    The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge

    November 13, 2000, Pardee Keynote Symposia Geological Society of America S

    The Olduvai theory is based on world energy and population data and is defined by the ratio of world energy use and world population. It states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years: 1930-2030.

    World energy production per capita from 1945 to 1973 grew at 3.45 %/year. From 1973 to the peak in 1979, it slowed to 0.64 %/year then took a long-term decline of 0.33 %/year from 1979 to 1999. The Olduvai theory explains the 1979 peak and the subsequent decline. It says that energy production per capita will fall to its 1930 value by 2030, thus giving Industrial Civilization a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years.

    Should this occur, any number of factors could be cited as the 'causes' of collapse. I believe, however, that it will be correlated with an 'epidemic' of permanent blackouts of high-voltage electric power networks. Briefly explained: When the electricity goes out, you are back in the Dark Age.

    The Olduvai theory, of course, may be proved wrong. But it cannot be rejected by the world energy production and population data. doclink

    Solar Energy: Alternative to Combat Energy Insecurity in India

    February 22, 2007, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict 2004-2007

    With an increasing population, India's energy demands is mounting. The household sector is the largest consumer, accounting for 40%-50%. In rural areas, the domestic sector accounts for 80%. With the current rate of consumption, India would require 450 million tones of coal, 94 million tones of oil and 220 million units of electricity by 2006. Most of these are non-renewable resources. India realized that the key to sustainable consumption is to divert the energy load onto the renewable sources. More than 3165 MW of power based on renewable sources have been installed, including the world's largest deployment of solar PV (Photovoltaic) aggregating 50 MW. India ranks 3rd in annual production capacity of solar PV. With 3.23 million biogas plants, India ranks 2nd after China. There is a potential of about 3500 MW of biogas-based power from 453 sugar mills. With wind power India ranks 5th in the world with 18710 MW.

    Solar energy is especially valuable as there is sunshine available for most parts of the year and most of the time. The amount of solar energy impacting India is about 32.8 million MW every second on the Indian land mass. Solar energy is inexhaustible, widely distributed, environment friendly and cost free in raw form. Offsetting these benefits are its low intensity and its unpredictability. Solar energy can supply from 40% to 75% of a building's energy needs.

    Harnessing the sun is a clean way to provide hot water or space heating. Another way is through photovoltaic cells.

    The Indian government has taken the initiative in promoting the use solar energy. Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) provides revolving fund offering credit for the purchase of PV systems, which service lower volume customers. Soft loans are provided at low interest rates for solar water heaters for the period of 6 years. To provide low-cost energy to every rural household has been the top priority of the successive Indian governments. Only the political and practical will is necessary for the encouragement of solar energy in India. doclink

    Protest Shuts Down Thai Hearing on Nuclear Power

    February 7, 2007, International Herald Tribune

    Thailand canceled a public hearing on a new power production plan to include the country's first nuclear plant. 200 villagers traveled 300 km (190 miles) from the west coast province of Prachuab Khirikhan to attend.

    They didn't have a big enough room the senior ministry official Norkhun Sitthipong told reporters.

    The villagers, whose protests in 2002 forced the government to cancel plans for two coal-powered plants, said they wanted no power plant in the province.

    Thailand's latest plan calls for 11 700-megawatt power plants, three coal powered, to be built in Prachuab Khirikhan.

    It also seeks to use more coal, biofuels and nuclear power and buy electricity from Laos, Myanmar and China. doclink

    China Trying to Cope with Burgeoning Car Culture

    September 8, 2003, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The number of motor vehicles in Beijing passed 2 million, seven years ahead of projections. One in five households in the Chinese capital now owns a car, a huge shift from 10 years ago. But with this has come congested roads, high pollution, rising accidents and worries about the policy to encourage car ownership. Concerns - whether Beijing, with 14 million people, will become another crammed Asian mega-city or an enlightened model of planning - are important as leaders remake the city for the 2008 Olympic Games. Beijing pledged to invest $12 billion to clean the air and water and $7.7 billion to add 90 miles of rail and subway, doubling the current network. It will spend $6.8 billion on road construction and repair, adding 900 miles by 2008, when vehicles are expected to number 3.5 million. Beijing and other Chinese cities have the highest air pollution levels in the world. Cities all over China are building roads and highways, in response to burgeoning commerce and as a way to attract investment. Few have the vision for proper urban and traffic planning. Beijing urban sprawl makes car ownership almost a necessity as developments spring up farther from the city center. As market reforms accelerated, Chinese leaders viewed freeways and private cars as signs of a modernized country and enticed the likes of Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors. For every car sold, two people are employed, either directly or indirectly. The media may criticize road designs or poor planning, but no one dares call for limiting the number of cars. Shanghai limits license plates for new cars to 2,000 to 3,000 a month, Beijing issues nearly 2,000 every day. doclink

    Hubris on the Yangtze

    November 24, 2003, Grist Magazine

    The new Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River is an environmental and human-rights disaster of monumental proportions, critics say. Up to 1.9 million people will be forced to leave their homes. It was built with more than six times as much concrete as the Panama Canal and already has cracks, some up to 8 feet in length. Experts in China have urged their country's government to rethink its plans. doclink

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2

    Carrying Capacity and Ecological Footprints

    Arable Land

    2000, ZPG

    "In 1830, there were 32 acres of land per living human being. Today there
    are fewer than 5 acres, including uninhabitable land." doclink

    Resources per person ...

    1999, Paul Story

    In India and China, there are a total of 2 billion people living on an area of only 31 meters by 31 meters doclink

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

    August 2015, 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

    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


    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

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2 3

    Overconsumption, Unsustainable Consumption

    (Impact = Population X Affluence X Technology)

    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

    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

    Grain vs. Meat

    October 1999, 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

    Grain vs. Meat

    October 1999, 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

    January 1999, 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

    The Most Harmful Consumer Activities

    January 1999, 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

    5 Things You Wouldn't Do on a Spaceship and Spaceship Earth Passenger Safety Briefing

    April 15, 2014

    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

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2


    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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.

    US California;: Organic Farmers Hit by Worker Shortage

    August 14, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    Increased patrolling along the border with Mexico, and easier, higher-paying jobs in the city have made farmworkers scarce. Farms are feeling the pinch, but organic farms that grow labor-intensive, hand-picked crops are especially suffering.

    More than half the 1.8 million farmworkers are here illegally, though in California the percentage is probably much higher.

    One farmer has been forced to tear out nearly 30 acres of vegetables, and estimated his loss so far to be about $200,000. Growers check documents of prospective workers, knowing that fakes are easy to find and the industry couldn't make it without the labor of undocumented workers.

    This has turned farmers into strong advocates of immigration reform. They're pushing hard for a program for guest worker. One farmer hired 320 workers for the harvest at his raspberry and blackberry farm. He could have used an extra 30 to 50 workers, but made do by paying workers to put in 12- or 14-hour days and postponing trellising, weeding and covering the plants.

    The labor shortage is a serious problem, and getting worse as the government adds more law enforcement to the border. Some growers are moving parts of their operations to Mexico; others, are having to tough it out, he said.

    "We need the workers; they need the work," one farmer said. "We just need to figure out some way to make this happen". doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Hiring illegal aliens to keep food prices down is a false economy. The growing population of the U.S. puts a strain upon its resources, including water and soil; and a strain on the world's environment and resources, including oil and global warming. The whole world pays for this false economy. If we want to help poor foreigners, it is better to send our money to poor countries to improve health and education there and stop spending money on cars and big houses and airplane trips.

    Lessons of the Ancients - Ephesians Provide a Cautionary Tale About Sustainability

    June 17, 2006, Tallahassee Democrat

    The residents of the ancient metropolis of Ephesus never considered the impermanence of their home.

    They were part of the Roman Empire, the most powerful empire on earth, one of the most desirable cities in the civilized world, with a population of at least 250,000.

    Ephesus today is an amazing testament to the engineering and of its Greek and Roman former residents.

    And yet, for the past 1,500 years, after river silt destroyed its harbor, Ephesus has remained a dead city. The lessons of the Ephesians, are very practical.

    Two thousand years ago, its residents assumed that Ephesus would be teeming with children, merchants and politicians as long as there was a sunrise.

    We have to wonder whether in 2,000 years, Venice, Italy, or New Orleans will be like Ephesus today.

    Just as the colonists of Ephesus never imagined that their access to the Aegean would go the way of the Hittites, New Orleans' founders never conceived that their descendants would permit the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands that provided a buffer against nature's wrath.

    In many cases, we allow things to happen because of our reluctance to alter course. We could be doing a lot of things to save us from ourselves.

    We can't assume, that we can continue to do things as we've always done and still go on forever. That nature won't eventually have her way.

    We must consider not only how a product is made but how it is to be used. If we don't start to think more sustainably future generations will see us the way we moderns see Ephesus. doclink

    Karen Gaia says - Ephesus was well-situated because it was both a port, close to the water, and had hills to protect it, but the city lost its vital access to the sea due to erosion from nearby farming that silted in the waterways. A growing population meant more food was needed, and therefore more farms, and thus the more the water channel was clogged.

    Japanese Women Wage Fertility Strike

    May 20, 2006, San Francisco Chronicle

    A Japanese government survey rates that nation as a difficult place for childrearing. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates. On average, a Japanese woman is expected to have only 1.29 kids, in contrast, the fertility rate is 2.04 in the US. Korea has a birth rate of 1.08, the lowest worldwide.

    Japanese cited the high cost of raising children and paying for their education as reasons not to have more kids. Japan and Korea have a cultural characteristic in common, they rely on the mother as the main caretaker, instead of viewing childrearing as a responsibility shared by both parents. About 68% of Japanese and Korean moms were the parent caring for a pre-K child, versus 36% of American moms.

    In Japan, the practice of keeping workers late into the night is rampant. If you have a job that has limited responsibilities, you might get off at a reasonable hour. But if your career is going anywhere, you're stuck at the office.

    Moms with careers keep their kids in day care for 12 hours at a stretch. Others let their careers take a back seat once they have kids. There's roughly 50% of mothers in Japan who are stay-at-home moms.

    Japan expects its population to decline in the coming years. In turn, the high ratio of the elderly population is expected to rise.

    If Japanese women stay on fertility strike, Japan won't have the workers to remain an economic powerhouse. Japanese companies need to wean themselves off their workaholic habits and create an atmosphere where it's not just acceptable but even macho for fathers to go home to their families at a reasonable hour. doclink

    Ralph says: Has anyone thought that eventually it might be better for all if the population declined and society prepared for that eventuality? Karen says: But also better to prepare for the time when a population has declined sufficiently and people need to learn to live a quality life without having to always grow the economy and without having to be workaholics - by getting away from the super consumer pattern.

    End of this section pg 1 ... Go to page 2


    Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush

    March 1, 2012, IPS Inter Press Service

    The Gaia Foundation's report, "Opening Pandora's Box" tells us of the scramble for the world's land and mineral resources, threatening the last remaining wilderness and critical ecosystems, destroying communities and contaminating huge volumes of fresh water.

    The more accessible resources have been consumed. Now the extractive industries, funded by pension funds and commodities speculators, are using new technologies like fracking for natural gas to get at previously unprofitable resources. These industries use far more raw material and have a much larger destructive footprint than in the past.

    Canada's tar sands require that two to four tonnes of earth be dug up and a similar amount of fresh water is needed to produce one barrel of oil. Copper requires 10 times the ore it once did to get the same volume. In the last 10 years, mining for iron ore has increased 180%, cobalt by 165% and lithium by 125%. China's mining sector grew 30% in just five years. Peru's mining exports increased by one-third in 2011 alone. Coal mining has increased by 44% in the past 10 years.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently warned of the threats to World Heritage Sites from planned mining and oil and gas projects. One in four iconic natural areas in Africa is negatively affected.

    Hobbelink of GRAIN, a small NGO working with small farmers, first told the world about the millions of hectares of land in Africa, Asia and South America that were being leased or purchased by foreign investors for food and biofuel production. More than 400 large land deals totalling nearly 35 million hectares, roughly the size of The Netherlands are involved.

    This movement is turning communities into refugees on their own land. Polly Higgins, author of "Eradicating Ecocide" said "This new wave of land grabbing is putting profit above people and planet."

    Major investments are going into the search for fossil fuels in remote regions like the Arctic and into "extreme energy sources" like shale gas and tar sands that have big environmental impacts.

    Canada's tar sands have 130,000 hectares of tailings ponds full of toxic wastes behind some of the largest earthen dams ever constructed. Mining companies dump more than 180 million tonnes of hazardous mine waste into rivers, lakes and oceans worldwide every year. Mining enough gold for just a single wedding band generates, on average, 20 tonnes of contaminated mine waste.

    Rising prices, increasing material consumption and a huge flood of investment have triggered this global boom, the report found. Following the 2008 collapse of financial markets, hedge and pension fund investors dramatically increased investments in metal, mineral, oil and gas commodities.

    The average U.S. citizen using an astonishing 22,000 times their weight in minerals, metals and fuels in their lifetime. doclink

    February 8, 1992, unknown executive

    "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable...because foregone earnings from increased morbidity" are low. He adds that "the underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles.... doclink

    Ghana: New study links low fish supply to increased bushmeat hunting

    November 2004, The Daily

    The declining fish supply in Ghana has led to increased illegal hunting of wild game. Dwindling marine resources have led to the extinction of almost half the species in some reserves. If people aren't able to get their protein from fish, they'll turn elsewhere for food and economic survival.

    African leaders have blamed subsidized foreign fleets for helping to accelerate the downturn in the fish supply. EU subsidies artificially increase the profitability for EU ships to fish in African waters. Data was recorded by park rangers from 1970 to 1998 for 41 species of larger mammals at six savanna nature reserves in Ghana. The information was compared with the supply of fish in the region during the same time period. There was a 76% drop in the 41 species studied. At the same time, the supply of fish ranged from 230,000 to 480,000 tons in a year. Years with a lower-than-average supply of fish had higher-than-average declines in land-based wildlife.

    Over the next four years they found that the monthly supply of fish was negatively linked to the price of fish and the volume of bushmeat sold. Estimates put the bushmeat trade at 400,000 tons per year but that the figure is almost certainly an underestimate.

    Some of Ghana's problems date back to 1982, when the UN established Exclusion Zones that entitled countries to exclusive use of all marine resources 200 miles off their shorelines and Ghanaian fishing boats would have to pay other countries for access to fishing grounds while it is difficult to assess the level of illegal fishing by foreign fleets. Agreements are unusually generous to the foreign fleets. Ghana's fishing sector employs about 20% of the country's labor force, but is rapidly declining.

    Ghanaian fishers are generally poorly educated and with few other options for income. Many unemployed fishers have been unable to improve their economic conditions.

    Part of the decline could be attributed to overfishing to feed a growing population from 6 million in 1957 to nearly 18 million in 1996. Reforming EU policy will not resolve the problems of diminishing resources in West African nations, but is a solution that can be enacted quickly.

    Without intervention, the collapse of resources would result in widespread human poverty and food insecurity. doclink

    Ralph says: No mention of action to slow or stop the population growth.

    Activists Detail Allegations of Illegal Indonesia Logging; Groups Track Shipments to China Over Recent Years

    February 17, 2005,

    Environmental activists said they had uncovered the biggest smuggling racket with huge shipments of logs shipped from Papua New Guinea to China. They said the illegal trade was threatening the last intact tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific region. International criminal syndicates were behind looting merbau trees - a hardwood used mainly for flooring, that was being taken from Papua at a rate of 300,000 cubic meters of logs each month to feed China's timber industry. This trade is controlled by a few people, so it's the biggest smuggling racket. More than 70% of Indonesia's forests have been lost. The government banned the export of logs in 2001, but that has not stopped the trade. Collusion with Indonesia's military was apparent, activists said. The armed forces has denied the institution was engaged in the trade, but conceded rogue elements could take part. Indonesia's new president has pledged to crack down on illegal logging. Local communities receive around $10 for each cubic meter felled on their land, they fetch $270 per cubic meter in China and up to $2,700 in North America. With forest cover at around 70% , New Guinea contains the last tracts of undisturbed forest in the Asia-Pacific region. A network of middlemen and Aokers arrange shipment of the logs to China. The syndicates paid $200,000 per shipment in bribes to ensure the logs were not intercepted. The majority of logs were destined for the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang. Indonesia and China signed an agreement over two years ago to cooperate in tackling the trade in illegal timber, but the words have not been matched by actions. doclink

    Nigerian Govt Moves to Settle Oil Delta Protest

    December 9, 2004, Reuters

    In Nigeria, Kula residents seized three oil platforms operated by Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Texaco, cutting off oil flows and trapping more than 100 workers. They left the installations after assurances that they would not be restarted until their grievances were addressed. The protesters threatened to extend the closures to another 100,000 barrels unless the government and oil companies responded to their demands for talks on jobs and development. Disputes are common in the region that pumps all of Nigeria's 2.3 million barrels a day and have caused armed conflict, occupations, hostage-taking, extortion and sabotage. Kula people feel they have little to show for the wealth being pumped from their tribal lands. State and local governments receive a larger share of oil revenues than other regions in recognition of their large contribution to the nation's economy, but civil society groups accuse the region's leaders of looting the money instead of channelling it into services and infrastructure. In September an ethnic militia threatened to blow up oil facilities in Rivers state, helping drive prices above $50 per barrel, but the leader of that group, said he was not involved in the Kula occupation. doclink

    473,500 Gallons of Oil Missing in River Spill; If it All Leaked, the Amount Could Be a Record for the Delaware

    December 1, 2004, Philadelphia Inquirer

    An estimated 473,500 gallons of crude is missing from a damaged oil tanker in the Delaware River; the spill could be worse than thought and 15 times greater than the 30,000 gallons that ship's engineers said had spewed from the Greek tanker. It is unclear whether all of the missing oil had spilled into the Delaware River. Some may have collected in an empty ballast tank. A leak of 473,500 gallons would be a worst-case scenario. The spill had spread, affecting patches of shoreline in a 44-mile stretch from the Salem nuclear power station to the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. The hardest-hit sections remained along the 10 miles between the southern end of Little Tinicum Island and the Schuylkill. The oil reached within three miles of drinking-water intakes for South Jersey and Philadelphia and precautions are being taken. Investigators had yet to determine what ripped the hull open, but some speculated that the hull struck a propeller that fell off a dredge owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The spill was discovered about 90 minutes after low tide in that section of the river. The number of cleanup workers has swelled from 557 to 730 who have recovered about 6,300 gallons of oil. Between 500 and 1,000 birds are have been "oiled," most are common birds, but two pairs of bald eagles are partly covered with oil. Rescue workers were trying to capture and clean them. Environmentalists feared that heavy rain could slow the cleanup, and strong wind from the north push the spill farther south. The company that manages the ship has agreed to pay for the multimillion-dollar cleanup, which is expected to take months. Nearly 100 claims have been filed including 75 owners of pleasure boats, four private owners with dock damage, and 10 commercial vessels that were delayed when the Coast Guard shut down marine traffic. A report said the tanker was detained in Korea in March after black oil that had filled the bottom of its engine room was pumped overboard. On this trip, the Athos I was loaded with 14 million gallons of heavy crude from Venezuela. Tugboat operators spotted the leak as they guided the 750-foot ship toward the Citgo dock. Divers found a six-foot-long gash and a nearly two-foot-wide puncture in the hull and the two holes jut inward, indicating the damage was caused by an object in the water. Citgo is responsible for keeping the waterway clear and deep enough for ships. Citgo said it had dredged the terminal area in 1992. But the Army Corps of Engineers said records indicate Citgo had not dredged the port since 1982. doclink

    Afghan Poppy Farmers Say Mystery Spraying Killed Crops

    December 5, 2004, New York Times*

    Recently, planes have been spraying Afghan poppy fields orchards, and perhaps even families -- with toxic chemicals intended to kill poppy crops. Afghan President said his government has vowed never to support this, and called on U.S. and U.K. ambassadors to explain the abrogation of Afghan sovereignty. The U.S. announced that it will provide $780 million to battle illegal drug production in Afghanistan, and has control over Afghan airspace. Both the U.S. and the U.K. denied involvement and didn't know who was responsible. doclink

    When Ecotourism Kills; Watching Whales, Bears, and Turtles Can Harm Them, Sometimes Fatally

    November 4, 2004, Monitor, The(Uganda)

    Well-meaning tourists are putting increasing pressure on animals worldwide. In some cases, ecotourism appears to be killing the wildlife it seeks to protect. So far ecotourism has done more good than harm, but there are signs that this can become more about profit than penguins. With more than 60 "green certification" programs, the World Tourism Organization and the International Ecotourism Society announced a new program to harmonize standards. Tourism generates so much cash that is needed by preservation groups, even good companies face a dilemma in trying to balance to help a community without destroying the goose that laid the golden egg. Tourism, profit-driven, and ecotourism geared to helping nature, make up 20% of international tourist travel and has worked well in many cases. Each year, the Galápagos Islands receive tens of thousands of human visitors yet have managed to preserve animals and habitat with little damage. Indirectly, money may help marine tourism. A 2001 study found that whale-watching took place in 87 countries, generating $1 billion. But human visits to whales can be a serious threat. Nineteen of 292 reported whale-ship strikes between 1975 and 2002 involved whale-watching vessels. Some operators try to maximize revenue by taking as many people as possible and that means zooming in at maximum speed. In Puget Sound, the industry organization of about 30 US and Canadian whale-watch operators has set up guidelines, including reducing speeds to limit underwater sound pollution that might interfere with orca feeding. Researchers report that meerkats and mongoose have caught tourist-borne diseases in Africa. On the south shore of Hudson Bay entrepreneurs in the 1980s built school-bus-size vehicles on top of monster-truck tires to take people to view 12-foot-tall polar bears but the bears go "on alert" every time a tundra vehicle goes by, when they should be sleeping which diminishes the fat they will carry into the winter and need for hunting or defending themselves. Bottlenose dolphins in northeastern New Zealand are getting less rest because of tourists, who arrive in droves to try to swim with them. New Zealand announced restrictions that limit dolphin visits to certain areas and times of day. doclink

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