Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor April 24, 2009Comments (3)
Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Earth Policy Institute
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
In the May issue of Scientific American, Lester Brown discusses how food shortages could be the weak link that brings down civilization. In this feature article, “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?” Brown reveals that the biggest threat to global political stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Those crises are brought on by rising demand and ever worsening environmental degradation.
“In the twentieth century, dramatic rises in grain prices resulted from poor harvests. They were event driven and short-lived,” Brown says. “In contrast, the recent escalation in world grain prices is trend-driven, making it unlikely to reverse the rise in food prices without a reversal in the trends themselves.”
Demand side trends include the addition of more than 70 million people to the global population each year, 4 billion people moving up the food chain—consuming more grain-intensive meat, milk, and eggs—and the massive diversion of U.S. grain to fuel ethanol distilleries. On the supply side, the trends include falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures. Higher temperatures lower grain yields. They also melt the glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau whose ice melt sustains the major rivers and irrigation systems of China and India during the dry seasons. Without a massive intervention to reverse these three environmental trends, Brown argues, more and more states will fail, ultimately threatening civilization itself.
In the article, Brown discusses measures to reverse the trends. “Among other steps,” he says, “it will take a massive restructuring of the world energy economy similar in scale and urgency to the wartime restructuring of the U.S. industrial economy in 1942.”Comments (1)
Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Society — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor April 23, 2009
Today we look at another environmental feedback loop, and also put you in the driver’s seat of the world’s biggest fast food chain.
Over the last few years, the term ‘feedback loop’ has become common terminology. For the uninitiated, it’s a concise way to describe how the results of an activity cause a change in the activity itself – subsequently amplifying the outcome of the activity, and beginning an increasingly rapid, and potentially runaway, cycle of change.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, here are few of good examples to illustrate:
- Increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are causing permafrost in the arctic tundra to melt – releasing enormous quantities of methane (approximately 20x more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2), thus escalating the pace of warming, thus releasing more methane, and so on….
- Shrinking forests, like the Amazon, reduce the ability of the forest to water itself through evaporation and precipitation – thus resulting in a rapid drying and an escalating reduction in forest cover, causing forests to transform from carbon sinks into carbon sources – amplifying atmospheric warming, escalating forest drying, and so on….
- Increased CO2 levels cause the oceans (the world’s largest carbon sink) to become over saturated with carbonic acid, causing acidification and stratification of seawater until phytoplankton (also an enormous carbon sink – using photosynthesis to take CO2 out of the water) are no longer able to function (and being at the bottom of the food chain, this has direct consequences for all other creatures…).
Today we learn of a feedback loop that is more economic than it is scientific.Comments (7)
Conferences, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, News, Population, Presentations/Demonstrations, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Earth Policy Institute April 21, 2009
Teleconference: Thursday, April 23, 11:00 AM EDT
Environmental Analyst Lester Brown: How Food Shortages Could Bring Down Civilization
Washington, DC — On Thursday, April 23, 2009, at 11 a.m. EDT, environmental analyst Lester Brown will discuss how food shortages could be the weak link that brings down civilization. In an article featured in the May issue of Scientific American, Brown reveals that the biggest threat to global political stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Those crises are brought on by rising demand and ever worsening environmental degradation.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Population, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor April 20, 2009
French illustrator and printmaker Gustave Doré shows the
squalid conditions in London, England created for the urban
labouring classes by the Industrial Revolution
From the very beginning proponents of the industrial revolution looked upon nature as a pirate might look upon a defenseless gold-laden ship – as easy pickings. A long term view of stewardship gave way to the short term mindset of a plunderer.Comments (0)
Comedy Break, Consumerism, Economics, Society — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor April 12, 2009
It’s with a degree of dark fascination I watch as the current financial crisis brings substantial funding to the same people who’ve been instrumental in bringing it upon us – and who’ve single handedly manipulated and destroyed the local economies of dozens of countries (see this backgrounder on the food crisis for example).
The cartoon featured here is one of my favourites from the wizard enviro-cartoonist Marc Roberts, and works as a great intro to an article I’d like to draw your attention to, and strongly encourage you to read (see further below).Comments (3)
Comedy Break, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Marc Roberts April 9, 2009
Click for full view
Truth is far stranger and dumber than fiction.
Noel Lynch brought the Tesco idiocy to my attention thus:
Today’s Guardian has a half page advert for TESCO. It is headed ‘Turn lights into flights’. It shows a low energy light bulb and says that if you buy it you can get a clubcard voucher that you can turn into 60 Airmiles. So save a small amount of energy by buying a low energy light bulb and then consume a large amount of energy by flying an extra 60 miles. Doh
The Earth Hour folk also drop a bollock with Alanis – really quite breathtakingly numb of them:Comments (0)
Comedy Break, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Marc Roberts April 8, 2009
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It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? Development and climate change. Such a dilemma – convoluted and labyrinthine, loaded and provocative. Whilst India pushes for escape from endemic poverty by pursuing a Nano for everyone, its islands start to disappear, as do its neighbours. The result of success will be failure. Hmm. Tricky. Plenty of arguments to be had there. Good job we’re all totally focused on it and not distracted by beer and football.
When even the CBI say we’re not doing enough, we know we’re in trouble.Comments (0)
Economics, peak oil — by Marcin Gerwin April 7, 2009
As Matt Simmons points out: oil is not just another commodity. For industrial societies oil is as basic as food and water. That’s why the price of oil cannot go up very high after the production of oil peaks. Economic logic suggests that if demand is high and supply is low then prices will skyrocket. However, there are goods for which the prices cannot be set by the interplay of demand and supply, because if they were it would undermine the viability of the whole economy. Oil is one of these goods.Comments (11)
Biodiversity, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor March 31, 2009
Big Biotech is gearing up to substantially increase their market share in the face of a global food and climate crisis — in hopes of cashing in on desperation. The patenting office has never been so busy.
Do you remember the pulitzer prize-winning photo that shocked the world back in 1994? You know, that macabre shot of an emaciated child struggling hopelessly towards a feeding station a kilometre away, with a vulture waiting patiently, and wistfully, behind. With that single image, the photographer, Kevin Carter, brought the Sudan famine into stark relief for an astonished public.
Well-framed images can evoke sympathy and outrage, so I am thus left almost desperately wondering how to frame what I see happening with the current international food crisis — as sympathy and outrage are needed now like never before.Comments (0)
Biodiversity, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
We’ve made mention of the social and environmental costs of monocultures and genetically modified crops often. Amongst these has been many mentions of a humanitarian disaster occuring on a daily basis in India, where thousands of farmers have been committing suicide as a result of failed harvests — the failed harvests being the result of failed promises from the likes of Monsanto. The following documentary, produced in India, by Indians, paints the clearest picture of this situation that I’ve yet seen. In addition, the documentary compares the failure of those sucked into input-intensive industrialised agriculture with the success of those who have reverted to organic methods.
Part I: Duration 00:38:00 (drag slider to the 30 second mark to skip an awful beep!)Comments (0)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor March 26, 2009
Seeing Permaculture promoted on the BBC is yet another positive sign of the times. In this 50 minute presentation, wildlife film-maker Rebecca Hosking returns to her farming roots – hoping to take over the reins of her family farm in Devon, UK – and duly considers exactly what kind of farm she wants to develop. Significantly, Rebecca looks at where the world is heading in regards to food production, and, in particular, thinks about the serious implications of peaking oil supplies on our fossil-fuel dependent agriculture.
After talking to energy experts, Rebecca seeks out a few UK-based Permaculturists in a bid to learn how some are managing their land without fossil fuel inputs, and on the way discovers the key lesson in Permaculture – that nature is just waiting to work for us, and very productively, if we’d only exercise a few observational skills.
I’m reminded of the following very astute quote:Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Demonstration Sites, Economics, Food Shortages, News, Urban Projects — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
Here’s a little more on arguably the best news to come out of politics this year:
And, word around the campfire is that the garden will be organic. You can see a garden plan here. It’s not exactly a food forest, but it’s a great start! Congratulations to all who lobbied the Obamas on this issue. Here’s hoping this little garden will bring the intended results – inspiring millions to do the same.Comments (2)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Comedy Break, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Marc Roberts March 24, 2009
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More than 7 million quids worth of police will be ensuring that protestors don’t contaminate the G20 summit with any new ideas, thus making the world safe for inadequate investment, climate chaos, dehydration and myopia, with some open-ended blank cheques thrown in.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Society — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor March 21, 2009
Preamble: I post the following today, as next Wednesday night (8pm March 25, 2009) HBO2 in the U.S. is running the new documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy. If you have opportunity, be sure to watch it. Read the following to find out what it’s about.
If you have opportunity to pick up a January 2007 copy of the National Geographic, take it. It’s easily recognisable by the startling image of a forlorn looking tree, standing alone where was once a thick bio-diverse rainforest. The author, Scott Wallace, unfortunately doesn’t follow through very well on the external connections that are causing the Amazon to shrink, instead focusing on some of the main local antagonists in the battle over the land the forest sits on. Despite this weakness, however, I believe that meeting these characters helps bring the whole tug-of-war over the environment a little closer to home, and in this he’s done an excellent work.Comments (2)