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PMC Articles Tagged 'consumption'

The Populations Problem

October 23rd, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

By Herman Daly
See: http://steadystate.org/populations-problem/

The population problem should be considered from the point of view of all populations – populations of both humans and their artifacts (cars, houses, livestock, cell phones, etc.) – in short, populations of all “dissipative structures” engendered, bred, or built by humans. In other words, the populations of human bodies and of their extensions. Or in yet other words, the populations of all organs that support human life and the enjoyment thereof, both endosomatic (within the skin) and exosomatic (outside the skin) organs.

All of these organs are capital equipment that support our lives. The endosomatic equipment – heart, lungs, kidneys – support our lives quite directly. The exosomatic organs – farms, factories, electric grids, transportation networks – support our lives indirectly. One should also add “natural capital” (e.g., the hydrologic cycle, carbon cycle, etc.) which is exosomatic capital comprised of structures complementary to endosomatic organs, but not made by humans (forests, rivers, soil, atmosphere).

The reason for pluralizing the “population problem” to the populations of all dissipative structures is two-fold. First, all these populations require a metabolic throughput from low-entropy resources extracted from the environment and eventually returned to the environment as high-entropy wastes, encountering both depletion and pollution limits. In a physical sense the final product of the economic activity of converting nature into ourselves and our stuff, and then using up or wearing out what we have made, is waste. Second, what keeps this from being an idiotic activity, grinding up the world into waste, is the fact that all these populations of dissipative structures have the common purpose of supporting the maintenance and enjoyment of life.

To read the full article, click here: http://steadystate.org/populations-problem/

More Prime California Farmland Feared to be Lost

August 13th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

July 2012 statements made by a representative of the California Department of Conservation.

More prime farmland feared to be lost to population growth

By STEVE ADLER/ Special from Ag Alert

Created:   08/05/2012 03:46:05 PM PDT

See: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/news/ci_21241505/more-prime-farmland-feared-be-lost-population-growth

New pressures from high-speed rail and solar-power development, added to California’s continued population growth, threaten to accelerate the loss of prime farmland, according to experts.

“California’s population is approaching 40 million people. Population growth in and of itself is one of the most significant forces in the quest to develop land for interests other than agricultural production and open space,” said John Lowrie of the California Department of Conservation at the July meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento.

While California is the nation’s most populous state, because of its geographic size its overall population density is fairly low, he said, but because population is concentrated in a few areas, those locations feel the effects of urban growth more than other regions.

“One of the more alarming developments, at least to me, is the increasing density in the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the major agricultural areas of the state,” Lowrie said. “The conversion of agricultural land to urban uses starts slowly; it doesn’t happen overnight. It can be driven by a number of forces and factors, many of which began as very localized and then expanded over time.”

Edward Thompson Jr. of American Farmland Trust told the board that 30 percent of the developed land in California was originally prime farmland. In the Central Valley, the percentage is even higher – more than 60 percent.

“Since most of the cities are located in the vicinity of the best farmland, if we are going to save farmland while cities continue to grow and accommodate more people and jobs, we need to think in terms of yield per acre the same way that farmers look at crops,” he said.

Statewide, there are just under 10 people for every developed acre of land and in the San Joaquin Valley it is about eight people per developed acre. This includes residential and commercial areas, such as shopping malls and parking lots, Thompson said.

“We are likely to lose another 2 million acres of prime agricultural land by mid-century,” he said. “While Southern California bears an enormous amount of that growth, again it is the San Joaquin Valley that is responsible for 60 percent of our agricultural production that is going to bear an equal amount of that growth.”

To read the full article, click here: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/news/ci_21241505/more-prime-farmland-feared-be-lost-population-growth

Civilization faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’

February 23rd, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

The following news report appeared in the environmental section of the The Guardian’s website titled “Global Development”. The report is based on the release of a synthesis paper created from key messages found in individual papers written by the past 18 winners of the Asahi Glass Foundation’s Blue Planet Prize. The Blue Planet prize is reported to be the “unofficial Nobel for the environment”.

Civilisation faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’
Abuse of the environment has created an ‘absolutely unprecedented’ emergency, say Blue Planet prizewinners

John Vidal, environment editor

Monday 20 February 2012 09.45 EST

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency”, say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us”.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/20/climate-change-overconsumption

Consumption: the other side of population for development

February 13th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Bill Ryerson for pointing out this recently published article, which appears in the January issue of Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics. Below is the abstract, and you can download the full paper here: http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esep/v12/n1/p15-20/

ABSTRACT: World population is growing at an alarming rate, and thus population has become a major topic in sustainable development fora. In these debates, it is often asserted that developing countries with large populations pose a greater world environmental threat than developed countries with smaller populations. Because of this view, developed countries often appeal to developing countries to reduce their population growth. However, it is well known that developed countries have higher levels of consumption than developing countries and that consumption also exerts pressure on the environment. Although awareness of the importance of consumption for development and the recognition of the relationship between population and consumption are increasing, population still takes precedence over consumption as a major concern for sustainability.

Our objective here is to present the importance of consumption vis-à-vis population for development and to discuss their direct linkages. We draw on the work by Vallentyne (1978: Verh Int Verein Limnol 20:1-12; and 1982: Biol Int 5:10-12), and use his ‘demotechnic’ index to combine and inter-relate population and consumption. By doing so, we are able to adjust population by consumption, obtaining estimates that allow fair comparisons of countries in terms of their global environmental stress. The conclusions obtained from the estimates of population adjusted by consumption seriously question the assumption that countries with larger populations pose a greater environmental risk. Sustainable development is premised on a balance between population and consumption within the overall limits imposed by nature. Therefore, it becomes clear that not only population but also consumption have to be reduced if sustainability is to be achieved.

Vallentyne was right: achieving sustainability requires accounting for all relevant factors

January 24th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Congratulations to Bill Ryerson on the following essay, published in the latest edition of Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics. It is the first in a series of 3 articles related to the late John R. “Jack” Vallentyne I will be sending in the next week or so. The abstract is below. You may access the full essay in one of two ways.

1. Navigate here and download the relevant .pdf: http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esep/v12/n1/p5-13/

2. Follow this link to a shared Google Document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PJxFeo51IdQk7GH_A2WsFLRgPXS_1KZPcIhDXAlJRtw/edit

Vallentyne was right: achieving sustainability requires accounting for all relevant factors

ABSTRACT: Population has waxed and waned as an issue of public consciousness and action by policymakers. The issue is on the ascendancy again in part because of climate change and food crises caused by escalating food prices, the energy crisis and growing shortages of fresh water. In the face of these problems, attempts of some governments to stimulate higher birth rates, over concern with aging populations, are misplaced and counterproductive. Vallentyne’s long-neglected ‘demotechnic index’ holds new promise for considering both population numbers and consumption rates when evaluating the impact of humans on the environment. Its appearance in publication now is all the more important because of the failure of political leaders to act on the numerous expert warnings issued over several decades regarding the impact of human population growth and expanding utilization of resources. Thus, the world community needs to act urgently to utilize the demotechnic index of Jack Vallentyne to look holistically at ways to achieve a sustainable society.

There’s Hope for a New Economy in the New Year

January 17th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Bill Ryerson for forwarding me this article, written by Brent Blackwelder and published at the Center for Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) blog: http://steadystate.org/theres-hope-for-a-new-economy-in-the-new-year/

There’s Hope for a New Economy in the New Year

by Brent Blackwelder

Early in 2011 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a profound condemnation of the global economy’s ill-conceived pattern of growth: “For most of the past century, economic growth was fueled by what seemed to be a certain truth: the abundance of natural resources. We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. These days are gone… Over time, that model is a recipe for national disaster. It is a global suicide pact.” (Spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 2011).

That’s a somber statement, but there’s hope that the U.S. will break free from this “global suicide pact” and develop a fundamentally different economy.  My prediction for 2012:  decentralized forces, formed in response to the unsustainable and unfair economic situation, will begin to fundamentally change how our national economy works. People in the Occupy Wall Street movement and groups working on human rights, public health, clean energy, and social and tax justice are laying the groundwork for a shift to a steady state – a dynamic and sustainable economy that pursues prosperity and full employment without GDP growth.

To read the full article, please click here: http://steadystate.org/theres-hope-for-a-new-economy-in-the-new-year/

Humanity’s Ponzi Scheme

January 13th, 2012 by joe | 1 Comment

Kudos to Bryan Welch, publisher of Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Natural Home and The Herb Companion for stepping up to the plate on the population issue. I had always been amazed at the willingness of Mother Earth News editorials to engage on population. Now I understand. See: http://www.motherearthnews.com/beautiful-abundant/humanitys-ponzi-scheme.aspx

Humanity’s Ponzi Scheme

A Ponzi scheme, also known as a “pyramid scheme,” is a scam in which an unethical financial entrepreneur promises investors big returns, which he fraudulently generates from the contributions of later investors. Bernard Madoff is the most notorious recent perpetrator. He raised tens of billions of dollars from thousands of investors before he went to jail in 2009. New investors heard about the big returns earned by earlier contributors to the scheme and eagerly put their money in, which allowed the con artist to fool several successive new generations of victims over the course of two decades. Every Ponzi artist faces a day of reckoning. Eventually, he runs out of new investors. His actual returns have never been equal to the dividends he paid out, but he made up the difference by draining new accounts. Eventually, he can’t pay dividends any more. He doesn’t even have the money to return to late investors because he’s spent their money paying off earlier contributors, building his reputation as a genius.

Our economic dependence on population growth bears a disturbing similarity to a global Ponzi scheme. It’s relatively easy to create “economic growth” so long as there are more consumers every year. Directly or indirectly, we are all dependent on population growth for our livelihoods. But eventually, resources run short. Every pyramid scheme eventually collapses when the supply of new investors dries up. If we accept the obvious fact that this planet’s resources are not unlimited, then eventually the global supply of new consumers will be constrained.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/beautiful-abundant/humanitys-ponzi-scheme.aspx

India Journal: Overpopulation? I’ll Buy That

November 20th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to David Poindexter for this article. See: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/10/07/india-journal-overpopulation-i%E2%80%99ll-buy-that/

India Journal: Overpopulation? I’ll Buy That

October 7, 2011, 10:42 AM IST

By Ranjani Mohanty

In the 1980s, before India’s economic revolution, there used to be ubiquitous billboards showing the ideal Indian family-a father, a mother and two children-in order to encourage family planning. By the 2000s, these ads had been replaced by ones for Nokia, Coke and “India’s Got Talent.” We seem to have solved our overpopulation issue by using the philosophy “if you have lemons, make lemonade,” or, if you have a heck of a lot of people, make them consumers.

In 1952, when India’s population was less than 400 million, the government initiated a family planning program, one of the first of its kind in the world. By the 80s, India’s population had grown to 700 million. Today, India is the world’s second-most populous country at 1.2 billion. By 2025, it is expected to surpass China and become the most populous country with 1.4 billion, and some predict that figure may reach two billion by the year 2100. To put the growth into perspective, over the past 40 years, the population of the U.K. has increased by seven million while the population of India has increased by 700 million. We proudly call ourselves the world’s largest democracy, but that “largest” bit might not be something to strive for.

Economist Thomas Malthus first warned of the dangers of overpopulation back in 1798. In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich rang the alarm bells again with his bestseller “The Population Bomb.” The 90s brought population scientist’s Joel Cohen’s book “How many people can the world support?” and ecologist Garrett James Hardin’s “Living within Limits.” But over the last few years, apart from some scientists, academics, NGO-types and concerned individuals shouting into the wind, there seems to have been little mainstream concern about the issue.

For the full article, please click here: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/10/07/india-journal-overpopulation-i%E2%80%99ll-buy-that/

Consume Less

October 12th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Richard Grossman for this OpEd.

Consume Less

© Richard Grossman MD, 2011

There is something you can do that is likely to make you happier, healthier, save money and lessen your impact on the planet. What is it? Consume less by practicing simpler living.

I usually focus on human population growth, but consumption is an issue that affects our impact on the planet just as much.

A child born in a developing country will have only a fraction of the impact that a child would have in the United States. This illustrates that it is not just the numbers of people but also the resources they use (and the pollution they cause) that really matters. Furthermore, consumption is growing faster than population growth. Worldwide our numbers are increasing by 1 % per year while consumption is skyrocketing at 2 to 4 %.

Costa Rica is a good example of a nation that approaches sustainability. We lived in Monteverde for three months recently, giving us personal experience with the differencesfrom the USA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Shrinkage: Envisioning a Smaller, Stronger Economy

October 10th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

From the August issue of Solutions Magazine.  See: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/968

Sustainable Shrinkage: Envisioning a Smaller, Stronger Economy

By Ernest Callenbach

In 1987 when the United Nations’ Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, appeared to worldwide fanfare, its slogan of “sustainable development” reassured environmentalists, who focused on the term “sustainable,” while pleasing business interests, who understood “development” to mean continued material growth. It seemed we could have it all. But many thoughtful observers then and since have pointed out that “sustainable development” is an oxymoron. On a finite planet, we can’t have both sustainability and continued material growth. More than two decades after the Brundtland Report, it’s past time to abandon this linguistic sleight of hand and rally around a new, shocking but this time realistic slogan: sustainable shrinkage! Within this new perspective, we can get on with saving species, restoring wastelands, improving efficiency, putting our life-support systems on sustainable bases-in short, finding solutions.

But we’ll do so with a new urgency and clarity, conscious that if we are to survive on our little planet in some reasonably civilized way, human activity (and its impacts) must shrink. If we don’t shrink it, Gaia will shrink it for us, catastrophically.

What to Shrink?

Population must shrink. Nobody knows exactly how many people eating what kinds of food the earth can support in acceptable comfort, but we know there are too many of us already. We’re steadily decreasing the fertility of the globe’s limited arable soils, increasing our dependence on fertilizers produced with fossil fuel, and rapidly pumping dry the essential aquifers on which millions depend. If climate change thins the Himalayan glaciers as it is thinning lower-elevation ones, several billion people will be unfed. They will not go peacefully. While it is shameful that world food supplies are distributed so unfairly, greater equality of access is both highly improbable under capitalism and moot in the long run: humans, like any other species, tend to use up whatever food is available.

Consumption must shrink. Sheer numbers matter in food consumption. Sheer wealth matters in food and everything else…

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/968