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What if there’s a bad snow year?

December 23rd, 2013 | Add a Comment

What if there’s a bad snow year?
By Allen Best, Aspen Journalism
See: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_24672753/what-if-theres-bad-snow-year

Skimpy-clothed people splashing amid the red sandstone canyons of Utah define our images of Lake Powell. But six months ago, engineers and water officials from the seven states of the Colorado River Basin quietly met in Santa Fe to consider a more serious possibility: Continued drought could leave too little water in the reservoir for the eight giant turbines in Glen Canyon Dam to produce electricity.

The turbines can produce great amounts of electricity, 1,320 megawatts at full throttle, or roughly twice as much as the Cherokee power plants north of downtown Denver. In practice, the volume runs half that. Most rural electrical cooperatives in the Rocky Mountains states buy power from Glen Canyon through their wholesale supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as does Xcel Energy.

The average $150 million in revenues from this power generation are a federal cash cow. The money paid for construction of Glen Canyon and other dams authorized by Congress in 1958, but also funds salinity control such as in the Paradox Valley west of Telluride and the endangered fish recovery program, including the 15-mile segment of the Colorado River from Palisade into Grand Junction.

What if the Colorado River Basin has another bum year for snow? Inflows into Lake Powell during the last two years were 25 percent and then 47 percent as compared to the rolling 30-year average. If the years 2001-2003 were about as bad, here’s the difference: in 1999, Lake Powell was full. In recent years, despite a few big snow years, the reservoir has often displayed big “bathtub rings.” Right now, it’s 43 percent of capacity. Drought has been our more steady companion of the 21st century.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_24672753/what-if-theres-bad-snow-year

Rapid Population Growth Imperils Egypt

December 23rd, 2013 | Add a Comment

Rapid Population Growth Imperils Egypt
Magued Osman, December 16, 2013
See: http://www.aucegypt.edu/gapp/cairoreview/pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=484

The world’s population broke the 7 billion person barrier in 2011 and is projected to increase by 40 percent in the coming forty years. Population growth averages vary among the world’s nations, with the populations of developed nations expected to increase by just 10 percent, and the greater part of population growth expected to come from developing nations, especially the least developed, where population is expected to double in the coming four decades.

So what about Egypt’s population outlook? Egyptian census data shows that in 1948, Egypt’s population reached nearly twenty million, added another twenty million by 1975, twenty million more by 1994, with the populace reaching sixty million. Another twenty million over the next seventeen years means eighty million Egyptians by 2011. Egyptians needed thousands of years to reach the first twenty million, before managing to double several times in a few years, without creating a concomitant increase in agricultural land or available water to ensure securing the necessities of life. They also failed to achieve human development and the quality of life achieved by other developing nations.

The United Nations’ population department issues periodical projections for the world’s nations-based on different scenarios, according to those nations’ potential fertility and mortality rates in the coming years. The latest study indicates that even if Egypt follows a low fertility scenario, the population will continue to grow reaching 100 million by 2036, then hitting 105 million by 2050 and settling at that level.

If, however, fertility rates are high, Egypt will break 100 million by 2025, and reach 140 million by the year 2050- a scenario that can be described as the “national suicide.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.aucegypt.edu/gapp/cairoreview/pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=484

Even An 85 MPH Highway Can’t Fix Austin’s Traffic Tangle

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

Even An 85 MPH Highway Can’t Fix Austin’s Traffic Tangle
Wayne Goodwyn, Dec. 17
See: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/17/248757580/even-an-85-mph-highway-cant-fix-austins-traffic-tangle

Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion.

For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what’s left of its quirky character.

The best way to experience Austin traffic may be from inside the police department’s new helicopter. Breathtaking in the late afternoon sunlight, the state Capitol and the University of Texas Tower glow like torches.

But tear your eyes away from the skyline to look down and – poof! There goes your pretty picture. Nearly everywhere you look, the roads are backed up with cars, pickup trucks and 18-wheelers crawling along.

Police officer Ryan Miller is up in the sky nearly every day, and he says he has seen Austin’s traffic grow exponentially worse during the past five years. Now, a large portion of the city’s inhabitants must plan their daily activities with the traffic in mind.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, a native Austinite, says he’s watching automobile traffic slowly ruin his beautiful city.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/17/248757580/even-an-85-mph-highway-cant-fix-austins-traffic-tangle

Dubious Proposition: Push to triple Top End’s population in 30 years

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

Push to triple Top End’s population in 30 years
See: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/push-to-triple-top-ends-population-in-30-years-20131217-2zi25.html

The chairman of a parliamentary committee examining ways to turbocharge the Top End wants to see the population of Northern Australia triple within 30 years.

While about 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass lies above the Tropic of Capricorn, only about 1 million people live there.

Warren Entsch, the chairman of the federal parliament’s Northern Australia committee said he would like to see the population of the North grow to 3 million people over the next three decades.

”I’d like to see it tripling,” he said.

”We need those sort of populations to sustain business and industry growth,” he said.

The committee will hold public hearings between February and April, present an interim report to parliament in late May or early June, and will deliver a final report by July. Its recommendation will then be considered by the government as it finalises the white paper.

Mr Entsch said his committee – which includes representatives from Labor and the Greens as well as the Coalition – would consider how to encourage people to relocate to the northern cities of Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton and how to keep people there.

To read the full article, please click here:  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/push-to-triple-top-ends-population-in-30-years-20131217-2zi25.html

Fighting poverty with unconditional cash?

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

Fighting poverty with unconditional cash
See: https://www.devex.com/en/news/fighting-poverty-with-unconditional-cash/82504

Rather than building schools and clinics, or donating solar lights and cows, is the best way to fight global poverty simply to give poor people money? That’s the question a group of smart economists are testing, and their answers could stand the multi-billion dollar aid industry on its head.

In an effort to unpack the promises and challenges associated with unconditional cash transfers, I hosted a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations last month with Paul Niehaus, an assistant professor at UC San Diego, and the co-founder of GiveDirectly, an innovative NGO implementing and evaluating a cash transfer program in Kenya; and Chris Blattman, an assistant professor at Columbia University and popular blogger whose research is also breaking new ground on cash transfers.

The most common concern about UCTs is that recipients will squander the money on detrimental activities such as drinking, gambling, and prostitution. To test this theory, Blattman conducted a field study in Liberia and selected participants not known for financial responsibility – drug addicts, former combatants, criminals, and the homeless. The preliminary results defy expectation: the Liberian recipients did not blow their cash on guilty pleasures. Instead, they spent it on useful things like clothing and shelter, and bought wholesale goods to start their own small businesses. Few of the criminals-turned-entrepreneurs succeeded in keeping their businesses afloat – likely due in part to the tough economic conditions in the post-conflict country, and the fact that, as microcredit programs have shown, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Still, even with no strings attached, the Liberian participants generally made good efforts to invest in and improve their quality of life.

To read the full article, please click here: https://www.devex.com/en/news/fighting-poverty-with-unconditional-cash/82504

Opinion: Humans making planet uninhabitable

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

Humans making planet uninhabitable
See: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20131215/OPINION03/312150017/Humans-making-planet-uninhabitable

The village-level enterprises around which Adam Smith postulated his economic theories some three centuries ago have since undergone a metamorphosis into multinational monolithic global corporations. These have no national allegiances and no perceptible code of ethics in their worldwide operations. For the most part these operations are cancerous on the life-support systems of this planet. Of the 24 life-support systems outlined by the United Nations, 16 are in jeopardy due to human activities.

Incredibly, our economic thinking remains rooted in the era of Adam Smith. Economists still employ the term “Externalities” to classify multinational corporations’ pollution of the atmosphere, poisoning aquifers, depleting soils, devastating forests, acidifying oceans, devouring the planet’s last accessible resources to turn them into “products” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Such “Externalities” are the main drivers of planetary ecological collapse, but are never taken into account in calculating corporate profits.

We have an economic system that is prone to collapse if excessive forms of consumption do not continuously grow. Over-consumption with its consumer addiction is propagated largely by corporate-controlled media. Rampant consumption requires overproduction which now is exhausting finite resources. The American GDP comprises 70 percent personal consumption. Should this economic model be replicated on a global scale, another 2.5 planet Earths would be required to provide the resources needed.

To read the full opinion, please click here: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20131215/OPINION03/312150017/Humans-making-planet-uninhabitable

“Taking planetary nutrient boundaries seriously: Can we feed the people?”

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

“Taking planetary nutrient boundaries seriously: Can we feed the people?”
See: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211912413000540


Nutrient flows in the earth system are instrumental to food security. Increase in the flows of nutrients is linked with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, those being the three human-induced shifts that have led to overstepping the ‘planetary boundaries’ (Rockström et al., 2009a and Rockström et al., 2009b) or ‘the upper tolerable limits’ (Carpenter and Bennett, 2011) of the regulatory capacity of the earth system. We cannot afford to risk the vital processes of the earth, but can we feed the world population within these boundaries?

The global demand for food is rapidly increasing. The world’s population has been projected to plateau at nearly ten billion people by the middle of this century and to peak at eleven billion by the end of the century (UN, 2011). Simultaneously, there is increasing competition for critical resources such as land, biomass, energy and phosphorus (P) reserves. The challenge of feeding the people is even more striking because it must be met when the critical biophysical boundaries for several earth system processes that determine elementary ecosystem services have been transgressed or are on the verge of becoming transgressed (Rockström et al., 2009a and Rockström et al., 2009b). Flows of reactive nitrogen (N) and P represent one such process; excessive nutrient flows cause eutrophication and exacerbate biodiversity loss and N flow exacerbates climate change…

To read the full study, please click here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211912413000540

Population, climate pressures imperil Solomon Islands’ food security

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

Population, climate pressures imperil Solomon Islands’ food security
See: http://www.trust.org/item/20131211143932-71o4x/?source=hpbreaking

BUALA, Solomon Islands (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The peaceful Maringe coastal lagoon in the Solomon Islands’ remote Isabel province may not look like a place threatened by food insecurity. But declining marine resources and rapid population growth have galvanised local leaders into considering the emerging signs of climate change and taking action to protect fish and other marine life.

There’s not a breath of wind under the tropical sun as our motorised canoe speeds across the lagoon, some 11 km long and 3 km wide, separating the main provincial settlement of Buala on Santa Isabel Island from the open sea of the southwest Pacific, visible beyond a chain of islands and reefs.

“In this lagoon area today we have about 9,000 people living in 15 villages, plus another four to five villages in the highlands (behind Buala) and the population is growing,” explained Alex Nindi, chairman of the Maringe Lagoon Conservation Committee, shouting over the roar of the outboard motor. “Before we used to catch a lot of fish and they were big, but now we only get small ones.”

Freddy Haile, fisheries officer in Buala, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that coastal and reef fisheries have been severely impacted by over-harvesting in the past 10 years.

A marine survey conducted in August by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international NGO, found that commercially important invertebrates, such as bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) and clams, were depleted, while fish sizes were small. At nearby Sulei Island, 80 percent of surrounding reefs were covered in thick algae, which is impacting marine life and may be caused by effluent from human settlements and logging activities in the area, TNC said.


Isabel province has a population of about 30,000, which is growing at 2.5 percent per year, with the Buala region the most densely inhabited. The rate of contraceptive use – which is 24 percent for the province, compared with an average of 55 percent for all least developed countries – reflects the significant reproductive health challenges facing Pacific Island developing states.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.trust.org/item/20131211143932-71o4x/?source=hpbreaking

California: State’s population growth rate highest in years

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

State’s population growth rate highest in years
See: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/article_6c02fda8-63ca-11e3-b5e5-001a4bcf6878.html

SACRAMENTO – California’s population grew by the highest rate in nearly a decade over the last year, swelling the state’s ranks to more than 38.2 million, new population figures released Thursday showed.

Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties all posted gains over last year. Sutter had the biggest increase with 304 residents. Yuba and Colusa had more than 100 new people move there, respectively.

By population, Sutter County ranked 37th, Yuba County 39th and Colusa County 50th.

The state added 332,000 people between July 1, 2012, and July 1 of this year, a growth rate of 0.9 percent that is the highest since 2003-04, before the recession, the state Department of Finance reported.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/article_6c02fda8-63ca-11e3-b5e5-001a4bcf6878.html

16 million risk hunger in Sahel despite good harves

December 19th, 2013 | Add a Comment

16 million risk hunger in Sahel despite good harvest

See: http://www.trust.org/item/20131210154923-896sm

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Around 16 million people are at risk of going hungry across Africa’s Sahel belt next year due to conflicts and rapid population growth, even though the region expects good harvests and rainfall, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday.

Violence in northern Nigeria, northern Mali and the Central African Republic combined with high fertility rates have fueled food shortages and high food prices across the savannah region. In Niger alone, the fertility rate is 7.6 children per mother.

Despite the need, a global downturn and the prominence of wars such as in Syria make it harder to raise donor funds for crises like the one in the Sahel, said Robert Piper of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Latest OCHA figures show that only 58 percent of the required $1.7 billion for 2013 has been met by donor funding, Piper told Reuters before the launch of a funding appeal.

Food insecurity in the Sahel next year will increase by 40 percent compared to this year when 11.3 million people had inadequate food and required around $1.7 billion in donor assistance, according to preliminary OCHA data.

“These are the first indicators that the Sahel crisis is getting away from us,” said Robert Piper, OCHA coordinator for the Sahel.”The numbers are getting bigger even though the harvest this year has been fractionally better than the average over the last five years.”

“Rapid population growth has meant the same amount of food has to feed more mouths. So despite a small increase in overall food production, on average there is 13 percent less food per person,” Piper explained.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.trust.org/item/20131210154923-896sm