Thursday, August 11, 2011

Twenty seven planet Earths by 2050

AlterNet: Do we need a militant movement to save the planet (and ourselves)? Three writers say yes. By this, they mean a committed small minority willing to go beyond even civil disobedience to direct destructive action against key industrial infrastructure. While such ideas remain on the fringe today, I suspect that the coming decades may well see debates shift from "do we have a problem?" to "just how radically and rapidly do we need to change?".

IPS: Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests. This isn't a problem confined to one area. Water stress is already affecting agriculture in parts of the USA, China, India, Middle East, Mexico, Pakistan and large areas of Africa.

Mongabay: Protected areas not enough to save biodiversity (a.k.a. life on earth): "Humans now impact over 80 percent of the world's land and 100 percent of the oceans. Around 40 percent of the Earth's surface has been 'strongly affected' by our consumption. [...] According to recent estimates, about 1.2 Earths would be required to support the different demands of the 5.9 billion people living on the planet in 1999 [...] if global society continues down the road we are on, we will need 27 planet Earths to sustain our consumption by 2050. [...] We're talking about losing 50 percent of species in the next half century—that's faster than any previous mass extinction event—and anybody who thinks we can go through a mass extinction and be perfectly fine is just deluding themselves." This is perhaps the most seriously dark paper I have come across in some time. And that is saying something.

Scientific American: Will 10 billion people use up the planet's resources? "The human enterprise now consumes nearly 60 billion metric tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and plant materials, such as crop plants and trees for timber or paper. [...] Hundreds of millions of people in Europe, North America and Asia live a modern life, which largely means consuming more than 16 metric tons of such natural resources—or more—per person per year. If the billions of poor people living today or born tomorrow consume anything approaching this figure, the world will have to find more than 140 billion metric tons of such materials each year by mid-century. [...] Between 1980 and 2002, the resources required to produce $1,000 worth of consumer goods fell from 2.1 metric tons to just 1.6 metric tons and global per capita income has increased seven-fold. The bad news is that trend will not necessarily continue and—in absolute terms—resource consumption has increased 10-fold since 1900 [...] already it takes three times as much total mining material to produce the same amount of ore as 100 years ago [...] Nor is it clear that "decoupling"—rising economic growth paired with reductions in resource consumption—actually is now taking place; most gains to date, such as those in Germany or Japan, may simply have been achieved by outsourcing resource-intensive manufacturing and the like abroad to countries like China."

NYT: Profile of a (very rich) Cassandra: "The prices of all important commodities except oil declined for 100 years until 2002, by an average of 70 percent. From 2002 until now, this entire decline was erased by a bigger price surge than occurred during World War II. Statistically, most commodities are now so far away from their former downward trend that it makes it very probable that the old trend has changed — that there is in fact a Paradigm Shift — perhaps the most important economic event since the Industrial Revolution.”

MWH: Ten things you didn't know you owned.

DD: Unemployment in the USA. A scary graph.

Mongabay: The glass is half-full: conservation has made a difference.