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Articles by Category for ‘Environment’

Africa’s Dividing Farmlands A Threat To Food Security

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Africa’s Dividing Farmlands A Threat To Food Security 

See: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/africas-dividing-farmlands-a-threat-to-food-security/
NAIROBI, Sep 10 2014 (IPS) - When Kiprui Kibet pictures his future as a maize farmer in the fertile Uasin Gishu county in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, all he sees is the ever-decreasing plot of land that he has to farm on.

 
“I used to farm on 40 hectares but now I only have 0.8 hectares. My father had 10 sons and we all wanted to own a piece of the farmland. Subdivision … ate into the actual farmland,” Kibet tells IPS. “From 3,200 bags a harvest, now I only produce 20 bags, at times even less.”

 
Experts say that Africa’s extensive land subdivision is emerging as a significant threat to food security.

 

Statistics by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) show that a majority of Africa’s farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land.

 
According to FAO, in the last 10 years the land/person in agriculture ratio in Kenya declined from 0.264 to the current 0.219. Explained as a percentage, this means that the number of people with one hectare of agricultural land in Kenya decreased by 17 percent over the last decade.

See: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/africas-dividing-farmlands-a-threat-to-food-security/

Three Limits to Growth

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Three Limits to Growth 

See: http://steadystate.org/three-limits-to-growth/
As production (real GDP) grows, its marginal utility declines, because we satisfy our most important needs first. Likewise, the marginal disutilitiy inflicted by growth increases, because as the economy expands into the ecosphere we sacrifice our least important ecological services first (to the extent we know them). These rising costs and declining benefits of growth at the margin are depicted in the diagram below.

daly graph1

From the diagram we can distinguish three concepts of limits to growth.
1. The “futility limit” occurs when marginal utility of production falls to zero. Even with no cost of production, there is a limit to how much we can consume and still enjoy it. There is a limit to how many goods we can enjoy in a given time period, as well as a limit to our stomachs and to the sensory capacity of our nervous systems. In a world with considerable poverty, and in which the poor observe the rich apparently still enjoying their extra wealth, this futility limit is thought to be far away, not only for the poor, but for everyone. By its “non satiety” postulate, neoclassical economics formally denies the concept of the futility limit. However, studies showing that beyond a threshold self-evaluated happiness (total utility) ceases to increase with GDP, strengthen the relevance of the futility limit.
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Population stabilization is not enough to save Earth

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Population stabilization is not enough to save Earth

See: http://www.africasciencenews.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=982:population-stabilization-is-not-enough-to-save-earth&catid=52:environment&Itemid=115
As a college undergraduate years ago majoring in forestry and wildlife management, I took an elective philosophy course in logic. One of the key takeaways that I still remember more than three decades later is the crucial distinction between the words “necessary” and “sufficient.”

 
When it comes to population issues, I often find myself using these two words and drawing the distinction between them, as in the following statement: “Population stabilization is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for environmental sustainability.”

 
In other words, if we do not stabilize the human population at or below carrying capacity, it will be impossible to ever achieve environmental sustainability. However, even if we do stabilize population, sustainability is still not guaranteed, because stabilization alone is insufficient.
We also need the right technologies, and most important of all, the right values and priorities, in other words, a sense of ethics that embraces more than short-term human interests.

 
Our ideological adversaries on population – cornucopians both on the left and the right – would have flunked my college logic class because they misunderstand or conflate “necessary” and “sufficient.” They mistakenly or mendaciously conclude that because population stabilization is not sufficient, neither is it necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Around The “Limited” World — In 5 Short Stories

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Cape Cod’s namesake fish population rapidly disappearing

See: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-cod-fishing-20140831-story.html
There aren’t enough cod left on Cape Cod.

 

 
That soon becomes evident to the tourists crowding an observation deck to watch fishermen unload their boats in this picturesque harbor sheltered from the ocean by sandy dunes.

 

 
Today’s catch: pounds of skate, a fish that looks like a sting ray until fishermen catch it, when they cut off its wings and throw the body back into the water. The skate wings, white triangular pieces of flesh trailed by streams of blood, slide down ramps onto the loading dock.

 
“Eeeewww,” says 5-year-old Felix Haight. “It looks like raspberry jelly,” he adds, as his mother wrinkles her nose.

 
The next boat brings in dogfish, which looks like a mix between a shark and a lizard, and is no more appealing to the tourists.

 
For generations, the fish sliding down this ramp would have been cod, a ground fish that has been caught in these parts since the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod, and before. But for reasons that scientists are still trying to determine, the cod population, shrinking for decades, dropped off precipitously in the last few years.

 

Pacific tuna stocks on the brink of disaster, warns outgoing fisheries head Glenn Hurry

 

See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-02/pacific-tuna-stocks-on-brink-of-disaster-says-glenn-hurry/5704644
The Australian who heads fishery management in the Western and Central Pacific has warned an international agreement is urgently needed to avert disaster for the tuna industry.
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Why the Earth is Farting

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Why the Earth is Farting

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/12/opinion/weisman-craters-methane/index.html?iref=allsearch

(CNN) – Every day, you have a close personal encounter with methane, a key ingredient of something we don’t usually mention in polite company: farts.

 
Perhaps that’s why methane is also called “natural gas.” Unfortunately, neither propriety nor intestinal discipline can suppress its unpleasantness lately, because now not just us, but the Earth itself is farting.

 
Recently, three new craters, one of which measured approximately 100 feet wide and over 200 feet deep, were discovered in the Siberian permafrost. The explanation for them is even more alarming than asteroid strikes: Apparently, after two consecutive summers averaging 5 degrees Celsius hotter than normal, frozen methane is not merely thawing, it’s exploding. Scientists fear that, like chronic bad digestion, this phenomenon could be ongoing. Methane in the air surrounding these craters already measures 53,000 times the normal concentration.

 
Then, just a week into a research trip, a team from Stockholm University found “vast methane plumes” shooting from the sea floor off the Siberian coast. Columns of gas bubbles, they reported, were surfacing around their icebreaker in waters saturated with 10 to 50 times more methane than usual.

 
This was the marine equivalent of melting permafrost, the undoing of frozen crystals called methane hydrates, locked solid for millennia by the pressure and temperature of deep oceans.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/12/opinion/weisman-craters-methane/index.html?iref=allsearch

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

Four decades after the book was published, Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

 

It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

 

Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

 

The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.

 

The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

Japan: ‘Groundwork needed to stem population decline’

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

‘Groundwork needed to stem population decline’

See: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001510864

Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda has long grappled with various issues arising from a continued decline in the nation’s population. In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Masuda said now is the time for the government to lay the foundation for a long-term fight against Japan’s low birthrate. The following is an excerpt from the interview.

 
The Yomiuri Shimbun: In May, the Japan Policy Council, a private-sector expert panel that you chair, released its estimates on the population decline. By the end of 2040, the number of women aged 20 to 39 will likely decrease by more than 50 percent in 896 cities, wards, towns and villages nationwide, or about half of the total municipalities, according to the projection. The council said about half of these municipalities could be wiped off the map.

 
Masuda: Population decline has been a concern of mine since my days as the governor of Iwate (1995-2007). During that time, enormous progress was made in integrating and closing down primary schools in the prefecture. But the process was accompanied by severe negative effects. This was evident in, for example, the difficulty in maintaining local communities that some areas experienced [due to the loss of primary schools].

 
However, [the consolidation] had to be carried out to accommodate a progressive decline in the number of children. The situation caused me to face a question: What will become of my prefecture in 20 years?

 
Even before the release of the panel’s estimates, many city, town and village mayors were more or less aware that the population was bound to decrease.

See: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001510864

How can we stop the world from having too many babies? Feed more people

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

How can we stop the world from having too many babies? Feed more people 

See: http://grist.org/food/to-end-population-growth-spread-the-wealth/

Zoom out on the graph of human population until it encompasses the entire timeline of our species and you’ll notice something alarming. It looks like a right angle, with one line hovering near zero for millennia, and another, at present day, headed straight up toward the stratosphere.

 

Here I sit, on a warm quiet day in my neighborhood, with children playing nearby and a train whistle farther off, living a reasonable, modest life. And yet, at the same time, I, along with you and the rest of us, am plastered against the tip of population rocket powering upward atop megatons of explosive fuel.

 

That graph comes from Joel Cohen’s 1995 book, How Many People Can the Earth Support? Though it’s now almost 20 years old, it’s still incredibly useful in exploring the conflicting answers to that question, because Cohen never takes sides. He simply (and exhaustively) lays out the arguments, and every shred of data used to support them.
Cohen is still alarmed by that graph. “We are in a completely unprecedented range of experience,” he said. He has a gentle, grandfatherly manner, and speaks slowly, choosing his words one by one. “Population has tripled in my lifetime. It’s changing the world so fast and in so many dimensions that people aren’t aware of the significance.”

See: http://grist.org/food/to-end-population-growth-spread-the-wealth/

Do We Really Need Another Walmart More Than We Need Wildlife?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Do We Really Need Another Walmart More Than We Need Wildlife? 

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-feldstein/do-we-really-need-another_1_b_5682478.html

It doesn’t get much more David versus Goliath than this: In South Florida endangered butterflies and bats are clinging to the last remaining pine rockland forest habitat where a developer wants to build yet another strip mall, complete with Walmart and Chick-fil-A.

The development — with the shamelessly ironic name of Coral Reef Commons — also includes 900 “high quality” apartments, which could leave rare species like the Florida leafwing butterfly and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak searching for a new home. Although these two species just gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, their habitat options are rapidly disappearing. Literally. The site for the new Walmart & Friends sits on priceless habitat reduced to just 2 percent of its original size. As if that’s not enough, the butterflies are also threatened by sea-level rise from climate change in other areas of the state.

It doesn’t matter how many solar panels Walmart might add to its new location, Florida’s threatened wildlife needs its habitat far more than it needs yet another development causing more emissions, more traffic, more pollution and more overconsumption.

So, what about humans? Do we really need another Walmart more than we need biodiversity?

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-feldstein/do-we-really-need-another_1_b_5682478.html

100,000 Elephants Killed In 3 Years As Poaching Rates Climb In Africa, Study Finds

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

100,000 Elephants Killed In 3 Years As Poaching Rates Climb In Africa, Study Finds 

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/100000-elephants-killed_n_5688893.html
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Poachers killed an estimated 100,000 elephants across Africa between 2010 and 2012, a huge spike in the continent’s death rate of the world’s largest mammals because of an increased demand for ivory in China and other Asian nations, a new study published Monday found.

Warnings about massive elephant slaughters have been ringing for years, but Monday’s study is the first to scientifically quantify the number of deaths across the continent by measuring deaths in one closely monitored park in Kenya and using other published data to extrapolate fatality tolls across the continent.

The study – which was carried out by the world’s leading elephant experts – found that the proportion of illegally killed elephants has climbed from 25 percent of all elephant deaths a decade ago to roughly 65 percent of all elephant deaths today, a percentage that, if continued, will lead to the extinction of the species.

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/100000-elephants-killed_n_5688893.html