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Critics question desirability of relentless economic growth

January 7th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Critics question desirability of relentless economic growth
Carolyn Lochhead, Hearst Newspapers
See: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Critics-question-desirability-of-relentless-5114217.php

WASHINGTON — Fresh-faced tech millionaires snap up glitzy new condos in San Francisco. Across America, construction is up and unemployment is down. Consumers are buying. The economy is growing.

Yet instead of applause, voices from across the political spectrum — Berkeley activists and Beltway conservatives, Pope Francis and even some corporate CEOs — are criticizing economic growth and its harm to the well-being of humans and the planet.

Ecologists warn that economic growth is strangling the natural systems on which life depends, creating not just wealth, but filth on a planetary scale. Carbon pollution is changing the climate. Water shortages, deforestation, tens of millions of acres of land too polluted to plant, and other global environmental ills are increasingly viewed as strategic risks by governments and corporations around the world.

“The physical pressure that human activities put on the environment can’t possibly be sustained,” said Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily, who is at the forefront of efforts across the world to incorporate “natural capital,” the value of such things as water, topsoil and genetic diversity that nature provides, into economic decision-making.

The efforts are “mostly behind the scenes,” Daily said. “No one is going out really trumpeting this work. It’s kind of quiet, but really rapid and intensive innovation” around the world.

“Everybody basically understands why we need to change our ways,” she said. “The big question now is how.”

No limits?

Mainstream economists universally reject the concept of limiting growth. As Larry Summers, a former adviser to President Obama, once put it, “The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error, and one that, were it ever to prove influential, would have staggering social costs.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Critics-question-desirability-of-relentless-5114217.php

Swift decision on RH law sought in Philippines

January 7th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Swift decision on RH law sought
See: http://www.freenewspos.com/news/article/d/319670/today/swift-decision-on-rh-law-sought

Manila, Philippines — Concerned about the country’s ballooning population, lawmakers are asking the Supreme Court to finally decide on the fate of the Reproductive Health (RH) law.

Teddy Brawner Baguilat made the appeal after Commission on Population (PopCom) executive director Juan Antonio Perez III disclosed that the country’s population is set to reach more than 100 million in the third or fourth quarter of 2014.

“For me, before the end of the first half of 2014, the SC should put to finish to this case, so that the policy issue addressed by Congress through the RH law should be put into life, implemented and its desired results be felt by our country. Half a year is ample time to arrive at a very sound and legal decision,” said Tugna.

Baguilat said there is a need for the SC to swiftly decide on the law, which does not only address increasing population growth but also high incidence of HIV infections and maternal deaths.

He said if the SC was able to immediately decide on the legality of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), it should also “decisively” act on the RH law implementation.

“No more delay. We sink or swim with the SC decision. Not just to curb runaway fertility, but also to combat maternal deaths, teenage pregnancies and HIV infections,” he said.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.freenewspos.com/news/article/d/319670/today/swift-decision-on-rh-law-sought

Justices Are Asked to Reject Nuns’ Challenge to Health Law

January 7th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Justices Are Asked to Reject Nuns’ Challenge to Health Law
See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/politics/obama-administration-urges-court-to-reject-nuns-health-law-challenge.html

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court on Friday to reject a lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns challenging requirements for many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties under the new health care law.

The Justice Department said the requirements did not impose a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ exercise of religion because they could “opt out” of the obligation by certifying that they had religious objections to such coverage.

The Little Sisters “need only self-certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the administration said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court by the solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

In addition, he said, the nuns would need to send a copy of the certification to an entity that administers their health plan, Christian Brothers Services.

On Tuesday night, hours before the contraceptive coverage requirements were to take effect, Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration from enforcing them with respect to the nuns and certain other religious groups. The Little Sisters of the Poor operate nursing homes for poor people in the United States and around the world.

In its filing with the court on Friday, the administration said the nuns “have no legal basis to challenge the self-certification requirement or to complain that it involves them in the process of providing contraceptive coverage.”

If the nuns sign the certification required by federal rules, the administration said, neither they nor their health plan nor the entity that manages their health plan will be under any legal obligation to provide coverage of birth control.

“With the stroke of their own pen,” Mr. Verrilli said, the nuns “can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this court.” Accordingly, he said, the court should lift the stay imposed by Justice Sotomayor.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/politics/obama-administration-urges-court-to-reject-nuns-health-law-challenge.html

Legal Call to Arms to Remedy Environmental and Climate Ills

January 7th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Legal Call to Arms to Remedy Environmental and Climate Ills

See: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/interview_mary_wood_a_legal_call_to_arms_to_fix_environmental_and_climate_ills/2724/

University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood says environmental laws in the United States are simply not working. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains why she believes a new strategy and robust judicial intervention are needed to protect nature and the climate.

by fen montaigne

Mary Christina Wood has an unsparing view of the state of environmental protection in the United States today: On a host of fronts – from climate change, to mountaintop removal mining, to the nationwide fracking boom – the federal and state governments are failing to protect ecosystems and resources vital to current and future generations.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 senior editor Fen Montaigne, Wood discusses why she believes the judiciary needs to step in to force the executive and legislative branches to protect natural resources that are part of the “public trust.” And as she does in her recently released book, Nature’s Trust, she also explains why she supports ongoing litigation to reduce carbon emissions under a related doctrine to protect the “atmospheric trust.”

“The political branches of government are doing next to nothing to address this crisis, which is threatening the future survival and welfare of the youth of this nation and future generations” says Wood. “Across the board, on the state, local, and federal level the agencies are not using the statutes to protect nature – they’re using statutes to permit damage to the environment.”

Yale Environment 360: Can you describe the concept of the “atmospheric trust,” and why you think it needs to be applied to slow climate change?

Mary Wood: The atmospheric trust approach simply applies the public trust doctrine to the atmosphere, which is not much of a leap because the purpose of the public trust is to protect critical resources that the public relies on for its very survival and welfare. The atmosphere certainly qualifies. So the litigation just takes this well known, ages-old principle that government is trustee of our crucial resources and applies it to the atmosphere and to the climate in particular.

To read the full interview, please click here: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/interview_mary_wood_a_legal_call_to_arms_to_fix_environmental_and_climate_ills/2724/

Is Youth Bulge a Crucial Determinant of Stability?

January 7th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Is Youth Bulge a Crucial Determinant of Stability?
By Katherine Carter
See: http://blog.fundforpeace.org/blog-20131007-youthbulge

Today approximately 44 percent of the world’s 7.2 billion people are under 24 years old – and 26 percent are under 14. Of those 7.2 billion people, a staggering 82 percent live in less developed regions of the world – primarily sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Currently, the global median age is 29.2 years old, a sharp contrast to Europe, for example, where the median age is 41.

This population phenomenon, called “youth bulge,” is especially prevalent in fragile states and Africa. Youth bulge specifically refers to a disproportionate percentage of a state population being between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. This is, however, almost always accompanied by a greater percentage of the population being under 14. Of the 20 states with the lowest median ages, 18 are in sub-Saharan Africa. The UN predicts that the median age will rise to 42 years old by the century’s end, and with it the population will increase to 10.9 billion people. Developing and least developed countries have the highest fertility rates and many are expected to triple in population by 2100. The populations of Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are predicted to increase by 500%. In absolute numbers, population growth remains concentrated in six countries: India, Nigeria, D.R. Congo, the United States, Tanzania, and Uganda. With the exception of the United States, each of those countries has a median age under the global average.

A young population can drive national growth, if the government and economy are strong enough to provide opportunities for upward mobility and financial independence. The problems begin when a young labor force finds itself unemployed, restless, poverty stricken, and uneducated. In recent years, countries with young populations have proven especially vulnerable to conflict, extremism and civil strife. Of the 67 nations currently experiencing youth bulges, 60 are also experiencing civil unrest and conflict.

To read the full article, please click here:  http://blog.fundforpeace.org/blog-20131007-youthbulge

Japan’s population logs record drop in 2013

January 3rd, 2014 | Add a Comment

Japan’s population logs record drop in 2013
See: http://www.theindianrepublic.com/world/japans-population-logs-record-drop-2013-100019378.html

Japan’s population fell by a record 244,000 in 2013, according to health ministry estimates released today, highlighting concerns over an ever-dwindling workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners.

An estimated 1,031,000 babies were born in 2013, down about 6,000 from a year earlier, the ministry said. On the other hand, around 1,275,000 people died – up about 19,000 from the previous year, the highest annual rise since World War II.

As a result, the natural population decline came to a record 244,000, the ministry said, beating the previous highest fall of 212,000 in 2012.

To read the rest of the article, please click here: http://www.theindianrepublic.com/world/japans-population-logs-record-drop-2013-100019378.html

Gary Brown: Population grows by the second

January 3rd, 2014 | Add a Comment

Gary Brown: Population grows by the second
See: http://www.wickedlocal.com/clinton/news/lifestyle/x825441615/Gary-Brown-Population-grows-by-the-second?zc_p=0

The “population clock” at the United State Census Bureau estimates the number in our nation at 317,295,153.

Actually, it lists us at 317,295,154. Just in the time it took for that statistic to settle into your mind, we’ve gone up a guy to 317,295,155. Before you reach the end of this paragraph, we probably will have grown to an estimated 317,295,156 people. And there will be many more of us by the time you read this.

According to a graphic accompanying the clock, there is one birth in the nation every 8 seconds. There is one death every 12 seconds, but the dearly departed isn’t missed as much – speaking only statistically – because there is one “international migrant” coming into the country every 40 seconds.

So our “net gain” in population in the United States is one person every 16 seconds.

I didn’t do the math to confirm that statistic, but I still feel a little more crowded since the moment I began writing about our population growth. This population, by the way, now is up to 317,295,187 people and counting rather quickly.

The world population – estimated by the World Population Clock – grows even faster. Right now, it’s listed as 7,132,776,124, I mean 7,132,776,127, no it’s 7,132,776,129, wait it’s 7,132,776,131, and now it’s 7,132,776,134, oh never mind.

Based on the spinning digits of the clock, the world population seems to be increasing by two or three people every second or so.

To read the article, please click here: http://www.wickedlocal.com/clinton/news/lifestyle/x825441615/Gary-Brown-Population-grows-by-the-second?zc_p=0

A Solar Boom So Successful, It’s Been Halted

January 3rd, 2014 | Add a Comment

A Solar Boom So Successful, It’s Been Halted
Photovoltaics proved so successful in Hawaii that the local utility, HECO, has instituted policies to block further expansion
See: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-boom-so-successfull-its-been-halted

William Walker and his wife, Mi Chong, wanted to join what’s seen as a solar revolution in Hawaii. Shortly after buying their Oahu home earlier this year, they plunked down $35,000 for a rooftop photovoltaic system.

The couple looked forward to joining neighbors who had added panels, to cutting their $250 monthly power bills and to knowing they were helping the environment.

Their plans shifted the day after the PV panels went up in early October. The Walkers learned from a neighbor about a major change in the local utility’s solar policy. It led to those 18 panels sitting dormant nearly three months later.

Hawaiian Electric Co., or HECO, in September told solar contractors on Oahu that the island’s solar boom is creating problems. On many circuits, the utility said, there’s so much solar energy that it poses a threat to the system and a safety issue. Studies are needed on whether grid upgrades are necessary. If they are, residents adding solar must foot the bill. And starting immediately, contractors and residents would need permission to connect most small rooftop systems to the grid.

The new HECO policy was included deep in the text of emails the Walkers’ solar contractor had sent, but it escaped their notice before installation. They’re now paying $300 per month on a loan for the panels, plus the $250 electric bill.

“It goes from frustration to outrage,” William Walker, 33, said of his reaction. “We hear the excuses that HECO provides, that they put out there at least as far as the justification. There’s really not a lot of substantiation. My belief is it’s purely profit-motivated, to keep people away from PV and keep them on the grid.”

To read the full length feature, please click here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-boom-so-successfull-its-been-halted

Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’

January 3rd, 2014 | Add a Comment

Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’
Industry expert warns of grim future of ‘recession’ driven ‘resource wars’ at University College London lecture
See: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession

A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of “continuous recession” and increased risk of conflict and hunger.

At a lecture on ‘Geohazards’ earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that “peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves.” Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

“We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply… New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum].”

Dr. Miller, who prepared annual in-house projections of future oil supply for BP from 2000 to 2007, refers to this as the “ATM problem” – “more money, but still limited daily withdrawals.” As a consequence: “Production of conventional liquid oil has been flat since 2008. Growth in liquid supply since then has been largely of natural gas liquids [NGL]- ethane, propane, butane, pentane – and oil-sand bitumen.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession

Millions Of Acres Of Chinese Farmland Too Polluted To Grow Food, Highlighting Growing Threat

January 3rd, 2014 | Add a Comment

Millions Of Acres Of Chinese Farmland Too Polluted To Grow Food, Highlighting Growing Threat
See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/30/chinese-farmland-polluted_n_4517601.html?utm_hp_ref=green

BEIJING (AP) – More than 8 million acres of China’s farmland is too polluted with heavy metals and other chemicals to use for growing food, a Cabinet official said Monday, highlighting a problem that is causing growing public concern.

The threat from pollution to China’s food supply has been overshadowed by public alarm at smog and water contamination but is gaining attention following scandals over tainted rice and other crops. The government triggered complaints in February when it refused to release results of a nationwide survey of soil pollution, declaring them a state secret.

The figure given at a news conference by Wang Shiyuan, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Land and Resources, would be about 2 percent of China’s 337 million acres of arable land.

Some scientists have given higher estimates of as much as 60 million acres, or one-fifth of the total, though it is unclear how much of that would be too badly contaminated for farming.

The issue poses a dilemma for communist leaders who want to maximize food production but face public pressure to ensure safety after an avalanche of scandals over shoddy infant formula and other goods.

The explosive growth of Chinese industry, overuse of farm chemicals and lax environmental enforcement have left swathes of the countryside tainted by lead, cadmium, pesticides and other toxins.

To read the full report, please click here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/30/chinese-farmland-polluted_n_4517601.html?utm_hp_ref=green