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PMC Articles Tagged 'sustainability'

Population Media Center Offers Solution to Unsustainable Population Growth in New Environmental Book

January 17th, 2013 by PMC | Add a Comment

The San Francisco Chronicle

January 15, 2013

Rapid population growth on a planet already suffering from human induced climate change, species extinctions and ocean acidification is not helpful. In a new environmental book, Life on The Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, Bill Ryerson, founder of the non-profit organization Population Media Center, explains how population growth can be slowed using human-rights enhancing, progressive strategies of entertainment-education.

Founder and President of Population Media Center, Bill Ryerson, is a featured author in a new book, Life on The Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation (University of Georgia, 2012).

The book, an edited anthology, aspires to reignite a robust discussion of population issues among environmentalists, environmental studies scholars, policymakers, and the general public. Some of the leading voices in the American environmental movement restate the case that population growth is a major force behind many of our most serious ecological problems, including global climate change, habitat loss and species extinctions, air and water pollution, and food and water scarcity.

Ryerson’s chapter is titled “How Do We Solve the Population Problem?” It explains that the major barriers to contraceptive use around the world include traditional desires for large families, religious opposition and unwarranted fear of health side-effects. This conclusion contrasts with the more common idea that contraceptive use remains low in developing countries primarily due to supply chain constraints.

“Of course, high-quality supply chains for contraceptives are crucial, but Demographic and Health Surveys carried out in numerous developing countries reveal that lack of access is infrequently cited as a reason for non-use of contraception,” says Ryerson. “Rather, the major obstacles are cultural and informational barriers.”

Currently, global population is expanding by an estimated 231,000 people per day — the net result of approximately 385,000 births minus 154,000 deaths. In turn, this results in over 84 million additional people on Earth per year. This annual population growth is equal to the total current population sizes of France, Libya, Singapore, Rwanda and Qatar.

“Such rapid population growth on a planet already suffering from human induced climate change, species extinctions and ocean acidification is not helpful. Global population stabilization should be a priority for international sustainable development programs and initiatives,” says Ryerson.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/Population-Media-Center-Offers-Solution-to-4195270.php

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.

TEACHERS CLEARINGHOUSE, FOR SCIENCE AND SOCIETY EDUCATION NEWSLETTER

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

Albert.Bartlett@Colorado.EDU

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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On the Use and Misuse of the Concept of Sustainability

March 6th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

The following is an excerpt of a paper co-presented by Ed Barry and William Rees at the 8th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability. The conference was held in Vancouver in early January, 2012. To learn more about the next conference (2013), click here: http://onsustainability.com/conference-2013/

On the Use and Misuse of the Concept of Sustainability: Including Population and Resource Macro-Balancing in the Sustainability Dialog.

A paper for the 8th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability

Mr. Ed Barry – The Population Institute, Washington D.C., USA

Dr. William Rees – University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada


I. Resource overshoot – today’s global reality:

A. The current scale of human economic activity on Earth is already excessive; the human enterprise is in a state of unsustainable ‘overshoot.’ By this we mean that the consumption and dissipation of energy and material resources exceed the regenerative and assimilative capacity of supportive ecosystems. Many critical stocks of ‘natural capital’ are in decline and global waste sinks are filled to overflowing. Business as usual for today’s global human enterprise is clearly unsustainable. Any society that is living by depleting its capital assets is unsustainable by definition.

Resource overshoot can be demonstrated empirically in at least four ways:

1. Direct observation of the degradation of resource ecosystems (e.g., marine fisheries and tropical rain forests) and the depletion of non-renewable resources (e.g., conventional petroleum and various industrial minerals and metals);

2. Direct observation of the gross pollution of major ecosystems and the global commons (e.g., expanding ocean anoxic zones and the accumulation of atmospheric green-house gases [carbon dioxide is the largest waste product of industrial economies]);

3. Macro-economic analysis that compares traditional GDP with indicators that incorporate physical assessments and appropriate valuation of natural capital stocks and pollution damage costs (e.g., the ‘Genuine Progress Indicator’ or the ‘Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare’);

4. Ecological footprint analysis, a quantitative method that compares human demand for bio-capacity (ecosystem services) with sustainably available supply. The aggregate human eco-footprint is already approximately 50% larger than the available bio-capacity. Moreover, demand is increasing and supply is in decline. How is this possible? Remember, at present, the growth of the human enterprise is being unsustainably funded by permanently depleting critical natural capital stocks.

B. Climate change, fresh water shortfalls, biodiversity loss, food shortages (and price increases), and global oil supply ‘peaking’ along with increasing energy costs are all additional symptoms of ecological overshoot.

C. Achieving a positive balance between production in nature and consumption by humans is not merely one of many ‘options,’ it is an obligatory requirement for sustainability. We must eliminate overshoot as a prerequisite to preserving social justice, creating intergenerational equity and securing a future for global civilization. Otherwise we will continue to undermine the Earth’s natural resource assets, which will cause hardships and suffering for future generations of life on the planet.

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Addressing Population Growth to Increase the Well-being of People and the Planet

February 15th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

See: http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/citizen/addressing-population-growth-increase-1/

Addressing Population Growth to Increase the Well-being of People and the Planet

Source: The Bay Citizen

By Suzanne York, HowMany.org, Feb. 10, 2012

The University of California, Berkeley hosted a gathering February 4th of globally-respected experts in the fields of population, sustainability, and global health. Some 450 participants heard why it is critical that the world addresses these issues today.

Malcom Potts, director and founder of the Bixby Center for Population, Health & Sustainability at UC Berkeley, kicked off the Plenary on population, consumption, and human well-being. Potts has introduced family planning methods into many developing countries, and believes family planning is the single most valuable resource we have at our disposal.

The morning’s keynote speaker was Sir John Sulston, a Nobel Laureate and chair of the UK Royal Society Working Group People and the Planet, a project studying the relationship between changes in population size, age structure, consumption, and human well-being. Sir John minced no words and said that we need to think about the the well-being of the planet and not just human well-being, stating that “we should accept responsibility for stewardship.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/citizen/addressing-population-growth-increase-1/

Peter Gleick: Population Dynamics Key to Sustainable Water Solutions

January 30th, 2012 by joe | 2 Comments

Congratulations to the New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, for prospering into their 5th year of existence. Their efforts help me to share this quick Saturday morning reading (and watching). Click here for Peter Gleick, world renowned water expert, commenting on the relationship between water and population:

Peter Gleick – Addressing Water and Population Dynamics

“Water is tied to everything we care about,” said MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and President of the Pacific Institute Peter Gleick in an interview with ECSP. However, “we cannot talk about water or any other resource issue…without also understanding the enormously important role of population dynamics and population growth.”
As world population passes seven billion, there is substantial pressure on natural resources. Gleick, who recently launched the seventh edition of The World’s Water at the Wilson Center, spoke previously to ECSP about “peak water,” noting that people are, and have been for some time, using groundwater faster than it can be naturally replenished.

“Unless we talk about population, and its role in all of these resource issues,” said Gleick, “then we are never going to move to sustainable solutions.”

In the short-term, we should start by integrating our discussions about natural resources, water, food, energy, and population. “That is proving to be a challenge for policymakers, but it’s a challenge we are going to have to overcome,” he concluded.

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.

At the Crossroads of Sustainability: A Conversation with Bill Ryerson

January 17th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

forbes.com – January 9, 2012

By Michael Charles Tobias

Imagine a country like French Guiana or Vanuatu – with human populations of 225,000 to 235,000 – emerging, every day! That is the conundrum facing humanity and the natural world. The human population explosion, multiplied by its cumulative consumption, represents what many believe to be the most significant challenge ever faced by life on Earth in billions of years. This is an equation that forms the basis for most rational analysis of global environmental issues. It is a starting point. In the absence of dealing with it, most other techno-fixes or alleged ecological “solutions” are unlikely to produce much traction.

I spoke with Bill Ryerson about this essentially fundamental reality we are all grappling with. Ryerson is President of Population Media Center (Shelburne, Vermont) and CEO of the Population Institute (Washington, DC). He has endeavored to help solve the population problem for 40 years, including 25 years of using social change communications worldwide.  You can read his chapter in the Post Carbon Reader, “Population: the Multiplier of Everything Else.”

During his career, Ryerson has served as Director of the Population Institute’s Youth and Student Division, Development Director of Planned Parenthood SE Pennsylvania, Associate Director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Executive Vice President of Population Communications International.

Michael Tobias: Bill, most corporations and students of the environment– consumers, people everywhere – seem to be paying some lip-service to the word “sustainability.” What is the underlying reality, in your opinion?  Is human civilization moving in a sustainable direction?

Bill Ryerson: Michael, sustainability is the ultimate health issue, the ultimate human rights issue, and the ultimate environmental issue.  Books like “Collapse” are ringing alarms for the public, while numerous scientists are now debating not whether the collapse will occur, but when – and how bad it will be.

Michael Tobias: Arguably, humankind is exceeding the Earth’s biological carrying capacity. Our global footprint enshrines a multitude of economic impacts that are bundled together. Oil and agriculture, for example, are linked in problematic ways people often ignore, no?

Bill Ryerson: Absolutely. Industrial agriculture and our industrial way of life depend on non-renewable resources, particularly cheap oil. Consider what happened in 2008 when the price of oil rose to $140 per barrel.

The price of food went so high that there were food riots worldwide.  Remember, oil is used in pumping irrigation water, plowing, planting, fertilizing, harvesting, transport to market, refrigeration, transport home, and cooking.  Modern industrial agriculture is the process of turning oil – and water – into food.  While the recession reduced demand for oil, and prices dropped, the “recovery,” such as it is, has led oil prices back up to over $100 per barrel, and food is now near all time peak prices.

For the full article, visit: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/01/09/at-the-crossroads-of-sustainability-a-conversation-with-bill-ryerson/

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/

At the Crossroads of Sustainability: A Conversation with Bill Ryerson

January 10th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Michael Tobias conducting this interview with Bill Ryerson, which appears on the Forbes.com website. Please Tweet, Facebook or otherwise share as you are able. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/01/09/at-the-crossroads-of-sustainability-a-conversation-with-bill-ryerson/

At the Crossroads of Sustainability: A Conversation with Bill Ryerson

Michael Charles Tobias, Contributor

I write about all things ecological – economics, biology, ethics

Imagine a country like French Guiana or Vanuatu – with human populations of 225,000 to 235,000 – emerging, every day! That is the conundrum facing humanity and the natural world. The human population explosion, multiplied by its cumulative consumption, represents what many believe to be the most significant challenge ever faced by life on Earth in billions of years. This is an equation that forms the basis for most rational analysis of global environmental issues. It is a starting point. In the absence of dealing with it, most other techno-fixes or alleged ecological “solutions” are unlikely to produce much traction.

I spoke with Bill Ryerson about this essentially fundamental reality we are all grappling with. Ryerson is President of Population Media Center (Shelburne, Vermont) and CEO of the Population Institute (Washington, DC). He has endeavored to help solve the population problem for 40 years, including 25 years of using social change communications worldwide.  You can read his chapter in the Post Carbon Reader, “Population: the Multiplier of Everything Else.”

During his career, Ryerson has served as Director of the Population Institute’s Youth and Student Division, Development Director of Planned Parenthood SE Pennsylvania, Associate Director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Executive Vice President of Population Communications International.

Michael Tobias: Bill, most corporations and students of the environment- consumers, people everywhere – seem to be paying some lip-service to the word “sustainability.” What is the underlying reality, in your opinion?  Is human civilization moving in a sustainable direction?

Bill Ryerson: Michael, sustainability is the ultimate health issue, the ultimate human rights issue, and the ultimate environmental issue.  Books like “Collapse” are ringing alarms for the public, while numerous scientists are now debating not whether the collapse will occur, but when – and how bad it will be.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/01/09/at-the-crossroads-of-sustainability-a-conversation-with-bill-ryerson/

Sustainability Evaluation and Reporting

December 14th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Ed Barry for this proposed insertion for the first draft of the document being prepared for the Earth Summit in Rio next June.

Sustainability Evaluation and Reporting (SER)

Recommendation to fully incorporate SER into the “Zero Draft” of the Secretary General’s Compilation Document for Rio 2012, and for its incorporation into the final ‘plan of action’ at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Background: The nations of the world have already clearly acknowledged and endorsed our common responsibility to operate human civilization in harmony with the natural environment, so as to maximize human development potential, advance human well-being, and preserve all life on planet Earth.  More specifically, as provided in Agenda 21, the relationships between population size, human societal activity, and environmental resources and between environmental degradation and the components of demographic change should be analyzed.[1] Moreover, assessments should be made of national population carrying capacities in the context of satisfaction of human needs, sustainable development and human rights, and special attention should be given to critical resources, such as water and land, and environmental factors, such as ecosystem health and biodiversity.[2]

In developing the final plan of action for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, it’s important to reaffirm and build upon Agenda 21 by explicitly recognizing that:

1.      All life on planet Earth is dependent on a highly complex and ubiquitous set of biological and geophysical resource systems;

2.      Human life and all of our economic and societal activities require and rely on the goods and services of Earth’s natural resource systems;

3.      Economic and social development are dependent on adequate and healthy resource systems;

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