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PMC Articles Tagged 'resource depletion'

Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

April 9th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Bill Ryerson sent me the link to the following interview, featuring energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. If you are interested in the “future of energy”, this will no doubt be an enjoyable read for you. See: http://321energy.com/editorials/oilprice/oilprice032412.html (You may also find Dr. Murphy’s “Do The Math” blog to be of interest): http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

“It is no surprise that the phenomenal surge in population and living standards/expectations in the last few hundred years – both a direct consequence of exploiting our fossil fuel inheritance – should be exposing fault lines every which way. “

Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

Tom Murphy interview with James Stafford, March 25th, 2012

Rising geopolitical tensions and high oil prices are continuing to help renewable energy find favour amongst investors and politicians. Yet how much faith should we place in renewables to make up the shortfall in fossil fuels? Can science really solve our energy problems, and which sectors offers the best hope for our energy future?

To help us get to the bottom of this we spoke with energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. Tom runs the popular energy blog Do the Math which takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

In the interview Tom talks about the following:

  • Why we shouldn’t get too excited over the shale boom
  • Why resource depletion is a greater threat than climate change
  • Why Fukushima should not be seen as a reason to abandon nuclear
  • Why the Keystone XL pipeline may do little to help US energy security
  • Why renewables have difficulty mitigating a liquid fuels shortage
  • Why we shouldn’t rely on science to solve our energy problems
  • Forget fusion and thorium breeders – artificial photosynthesis would be a bigger game changer

Oilprice.com: Whilst you have proven that no renewable energy source can replace fossil fuels on its own. Which source is the most promising for providing cheap, abundant, clean energy?

Tom Murphy: First let me say that I think “proven” is too strong a word.  But yes, I have certainly indicated as much.  When it comes to cheap, clean, and abundant, I am drawn to solar.  I don’t care if it’s two or three times the cost of fossil fuel energy – that’s still cheap. Abundance is unquestionable, and I don’t see manufacturing as being inordinately caustic. The fact that I have panels on my roof feeding batteries in my garage only confirms for me the viability of this source of energy. Wind and next-generation nuclear also deserve mention as potential large-scale sources. Yet none of these help directly with a liquid fuels shortage.

Oilprice.com: Bill Gates has stated that innovation in energy can take 50-60 years to take effect. How then do you believe that that the ARPA-E’s short term objectives for projects can be helpful for solving current energy problems?

Tom Murphy: I applaud any effort that takes our energy challenge seriously, and gets boots on the ground chasing all manner of ideas.  If nothing else, it raises awareness about our predicament.  At the same time, I worry about our technofix culture with a tendency to interpret news clips about ARPA-E projects to mean that we have loads of viable solutions in the hopper. Many of the ideas are just batty.  And right – to the extent that implantation of innovation can take decades, we may find ourselves in a squeeze – wondering where all those funky news blurbs went.

To read the full interview, please click here: http://321energy.com/editorials/oilprice/oilprice032412.html

The Meaning of Sustainability, by Professor Emeritus Albert A. Bartlett

April 4th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Always a pleasure to hear from Professor Bartlett, who recently asked PMC to send this article of his out to you.


Volume 31, No. 1, Winter 2012, Pg. 1

Sponsored by the Association of Teachers in Independent Schools, Affiliated with the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.

Editor-in-Chief; John Roeder, The Calhoun School, 433 West End Avenue, New York City 10024

The Meaning of Sustainability

by Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder


NOTE; This text was developed from an invited paper of the same title that was presented August 1, 2011 at the National Summer Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers held in Omaha, Nebraska

Background on Sustainability

In the 1960s and 1970s, it became apparent to many thoughtful individuals that global populations, rates of resource use and environmental degradation were all increasing so rapidly that these increases would soon encounter the limits imposed by the finite productivity of the global ecosphere and the geological availability of mineral and fossil fuel resources.

Perhaps most prominent among the publications that introduced the reality of limits in hard quantitative terms was the book Limits to Growth (1) which, in 1972, reported the results of computer simulations of the global economy that were carried out by a systems analysis group at MIT. The simulation recorded five parameters for the global economy (population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution) for the period of time from 1900 to 1970 and then projected the computer-generated values of these parameters for the period from 1970 to 2100. For a wide range of input assumptions, the projections predicted a major collapse of world population in the mid-twenty first century. The computed results seemed to show that sustainability of life as we know it may not be an option.

Limits to Growth evoked admiration from scientists and environmentalists who were comfortable with quantitative analysis. The study evoked consternation from less quantitative types who tend not to believe in limits. Limits to Growth precipitated immediate and urgent rebuttals from the global economic community which proclaimed that human ingenuity can overcome all shortages so that, in effect, there are no limits. (2, 3) The book Limits to Growth got people thinking about sustainability.

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Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush

March 5th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Mark O’Connor, co-author of Overloading Australia, for sending this article, in which a representative of Friends of the Earth declares that “The devastating impact being inflicted on ecosystems and communities must be recognised as international crimes and punished accordingly.” See: http://ipsnews.net/2012/03/dwindling-resources-trigger-global-land-rush/

Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush
By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Mar 1 2012 (IPS) – A global scramble for land and mineral resources fuelled by billions of investment dollars is threatening the last remaining wilderness and critical ecosystems, destroying communities and contaminating huge volumes of fresh water, warned environmental groups in London Wednesday.

No national park, delicate ecosystem or community is off limits in the voracious hunt for valuable metals, minerals and fossil fuels, said the Gaia Foundation’s report, “Opening Pandora’s Box”. The intensity of the hunt and exploitation is building to a fever pitch despite the fact the Earth is already overheated and humanity is using more than can be sustained, the 56-page report warns.

“We’re calling for a global moratorium on large-scale new mining, extraction and prospecting,” said Teresa Anderson of The Gaia Foundation, an international NGO headquartered in London, UK that works with local communities.

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, the report notes.

“No matter where you live, land acquisitions for mining, oil or gas are coming,” Anderson told IPS following the report’s launch in London.

The easy-to-get resources are gone. 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.

To read the full article, please click here: http://ipsnews.net/2012/03/dwindling-resources-trigger-global-land-rush/

Student Reporting: Population 7 Billion

February 22nd, 2012 by joe | 2 Comments

I am pleased to distribute the following student essay, written by Carleton University undergrad Marika Washchyshyn (Bachelor of Journalism, 2012) for her International Reporting analytical course. Marika initially reached out to Population Institute’s Global Population Speak Out program for information and research leads. She submitted her paper on December 8, 2011. Congratulations, Marika.

Student Reporting: Population 7 Billion
Marika Washchyshyn

On October 31st, 2011, the United Nations announced the birth of the world’s seven billionth baby. According to the Population Institute’s population clock, the world population is 7,007,925,230 and counting today.

In a world where globalization has brought billions of people around the world closer together, is the birth of ‘Baby Seven Billion’ cause for concern or celebration? Now more than ever, factors like climate change, gender equality, the global economy and consumption of resources are being scrutinized as our planet’s sustainability is called into question.

Population growth has been on the rise since the 1800s, most notably from the three billion people milestone in 1959 to the seven billion people milestone in 2011. A report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows the billion-person increments between 1959 and 2011 took 12 years on average versus the 159 years it took to add the first three billion people. If current trends continue, the world population will rise to nine billion by 2050 and 10 billion by 2082, continuing to grow until the end of the century and beyond.

For perspective, the article “The Myth of 9 Billion” in May 2011′s Foreign Policy magazine says in the first five months of the year, the world population has grown by enough to equal all of the AIDS deaths since the epidemic began 30 years ago.

The world’s current population is consuming commodities and natural resources at a rate of one and a half Earths. In a report by the Global Footprint Network, this is explained as the “ecological overshoot” phenomenon, where annual demand for resources exceeds what the Earth can generate in a year. Today, it takes the Earth one and a half years to regenerate what its population uses in one year.

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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

Where Population Pressures Have Deadly Consequences

January 5th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

From the Boston area’s NPR news station, 90.9 WBUR, comes this “Here And Now” program segment. To hear audio interviews and watch a slide show, go to: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/12/01/where-population-pressures-have-deadly-consequences

Where Population Pressures Have Deadly Consequences

By Alex Ashlock

“The competition for finite resources has led to power grabs, the shredding of the bio-diversity… and the pitting of one ethnic group against another.”

-Robert Draper, reporter

With the world population now topping 7 billion, the November issue of National Geographic opens a window on a place where population pressures are having deadly consequences.

Africa’s Albertine Rift is a 920-mile crease or rift formed by shifting plate tectonics, where the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Burundi all meet.

It’s the continent’s most bio-diverse region, with highland forests, snow-capped mountains, savannas, great lakes and wetlands, populated with rare birds and fish not to mention lions, hippos and gorillas. Reporter Robert Draper wrote the piece and he told Here and Now the very richness of the area has led to scarcity.

“Plentiful rainfall, fertile volcanic soil. The fact that it is mainly at a high altitude, which has made it less susceptible to the spread of diseases. All of this has resulted in a lot of people showing up and a dense population. It now has the highest fertility rate on the continent and thus in the world. This has produced a strain on the land that is enormous. The competition for finite resources has led to power grabs, the shredding of the bio-diversity of the area and of course most notoriously…the formation of militias, the pitting of one ethnic group against another [through] mass rapes and genocides,” he said.

To read the full article, please click here: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/12/01/where-population-pressures-have-deadly-consequences

Is Fracking an Answer? To What?

December 27th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Many thanks to Lindsey Grant for this article.  To download your copy, see: https://docs.google.com/a/necsp.org/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B5F-idWfw7TeMDIwZjM0MTktMzRlZS00YTAwLTg0YzMtMjY0YjcwMjRhZjcz&hl=en_US&pli=1

Prince Charles warns of ‘sixth extinction event’

November 14th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Todd Daniel for this article from The Telegraph.  Prince Charles and his father have spoken out often about concern over human population growth and our destruction of the environment.  See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8749863/Prince-Charles-warns-of-sixth-extinction-event.html

Prince Charles warns of ‘sixth extinction event’

Mankind faces extinction, the Prince of Wales has warned, unless humans transform our lifestyles to stop mass consumption, run away climate change and destruction of wildlife.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

2:34PM BST 08 Sep 2011

In his first speech as the new President of the Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) UK, Prince Charles suggested ‘surviving ourselves’ should be a priority.

Referring to himself as “an endangered species”, he warned that the world is already in the “sixth extinction event”, with species dying out at a much faster rate than at any time since the death of most of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Despite campaigning for years on global warming, he said climate change was not the only problem but merely speeding up the “rapacious” destruction of natural resources like water, land and food that humans need to survive.

The Prince said if the world carries on “business as usual” then the human race itself could be in danger.

“We are, of course, witnessing what some people call the sixth great extinction event – the continued erosion of much of the Earth’s vital biodiversity caused by a whole host of pressures, from the rising demand for land to the corrosive effects of all kinds of pollution,” he said.

“This is an important point that needs to be stressed more than it is, because its ultimate impact is plainly not at all clear to most people – without the biodiversity that is so threatened, we won’t be able to survive ourselves.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8749863/Prince-Charles-warns-of-sixth-extinction-event.html

The Peak Oil Crisis: The German Army Report

November 1st, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to John Coulter for this article from the Falls Church News Press.  See: www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/10158-the-peak-oil-crisis-the-german-army-report.html

The Peak Oil Crisis: The German Army Report

By Tom Whipple

Wednesday, September 21 2011 06:49:43 PM

In the last five or six years at least 20 major studies have been published by governmental and non-governmental organizations that either deal with or touch upon the possibility of severe energy shortages developing in the near future.

Studies done by governmental entities, however, are rare for nearly all of the world’s governments still prefer to wait as long as possible before confronting the myriad of problems that will accompany declining oil production. Exceptions to this phenomenon of denial, however, seem to be military organizations that have realistic planning baked into their DNA. All professional military services know that in the last century they have become so dependent on liquid fuels that their effectiveness would be severely degraded should shortages or extremely high oil prices develop.

Last year two military planning organizations went public with studies predicting that serious consequences from oil depletion will befall us shortly. In the U.S. the Joint Forces Command concluded, without saying how they arrived at their dates, that by 2012 surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear and that by 2015 the global shortfall in oil production could be as much as 10 million b/d. Later in the year a draft of a German army study, which went into greater detail in analyzing the consequences of peaking world oil production, was leaked to the press. The German study which was released recently is unique for the frankness with which it explores the dire consequences which may be in store for us.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/10158-the-peak-oil-crisis-the-german-army-report.html

Learning from China: Why the Existing Economic Model Will Fail

October 24th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thank to Lester Brown for this article. See: http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights18

Learning from China: Why the Existing Economic Model Will Fail
By Lester R. Brown, September 8 2011

For almost as long as I can remember we have been saying that the United States, with 5 percent of the world’s people, consumes a third or more of the earth’s resources. That was true. It is no longer true. Today China consumes more basic resources than the United States does.

Among the key commodities such as grain, meat, oil, coal, and steel, China consumes more of each than the United States except for oil, where the United States still has a wide (though narrowing) lead. China uses a quarter more grain than the United States. Its meat consumption is double that of the United States. It uses three times as much coal and four times as much steel.

These numbers reflect national consumption, but what would happen if consumption per person in China were to catch up to that of the United States? If we assume conservatively that China’s economy slows from the 11 percent annual growth of recent years to 8 percent, then in 2035 income per person in China will reach the current U.S. level.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights18