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Green Abundance, the Future of Sustainable Living

As the cleantech revolution gathers momentum and environmentalist values command unprecedented influence on policy, it is more important than ever to have a vigorous global dialogue as to what constitutes clean technology, and what constitutes a legitimate continuum of environmentalist values.

How these questions are answered will have profound impact on the nature and speed of economic growth, as well as the quality of our lives and the quantity of our individual rights and freedoms.

There are two fundamental assumptions that govern environmental values today:

  1. The use of fossil fuels should be phased out as soon as possible
  2. Resource scarcity is an inevitable reality will not be escaped for generations.

To this end, massive reallocations of wealth are being enacted to subsidize alternatives to fossil fuel, and rationing of resource use is becoming policy in the areas of energy, water and land. But what if both of these assumptions are completely wrong?

Tomorrow’s leaders today, children
at the slopes to Kilimanjaro.

There is a case to be made that resource abundance, not scarcity, is the immediate destiny of the human race, and that scientific innovation combined with free markets are the keys to realizing this optimistic scenario. In every fundamental area, energy, water and land, there are promising trends – unfolding with breathtaking speed – that provide humanity with the opportunity to realize global wealth and prosperity within a generation.

Probably the most difficult notion to intuitively fathom is that land will become abundant again, but for several important reasons, that is precisely what is going to happen. The primary reason for this is that human population growth is finally leveling off. From today’s total of 6.7 billion people, projections now indicate human population will peak at somewhat less than 9.0 billion around 2050, an increase of only another 30 percent. While this seems like a lot, it is important to remember that in 1970, the world population was only 3.7 billion, meaning the last 40 years has registered a human population increase of 80%. We have already seen the dramatic growth in population, and are now in the leveling off phase.

The reason this slowdown and leveling of human population will result in more abundant land is because as human population increase slows, human migration to cities continues to accelerate. In 1970 only 1.3 billion people lived in cities, 35% of the world’s population. Today over half the world’s population live in cities, 3.4 billion people. Over the past 40 years overall population has increased 80%, but urban population has increased by 160%. Urbanization is accelerating, and is depopulating rural areas far more quickly than projected remaining overall population growth will fill them. Forty years from now, there will be more open land in the world than there is today. And these twin phenomenon, urbanization and population stabilization, are completely voluntary, inexorable, and are occurring at rates that are, if anything, underestimated.

If land abundance on planet earth is going to be achieved by a stabilized population living mostly in megacities, how will we build these cities? How will we transform our cities, already swarming with far more people than they were originally designed to hold, into 21st century magnets for humanity, offering economic and cultural opportunities instead of merely a last destination for the destitute? Here is where Malthusian assumptions, combined with an overweening environmentalist ideology that condemns development, have conspired to stifle the building of next generation infrastructure. The good news is these delays have also allowed us the time to develop better-than-ever technology.


High-rise agriculture has the potential to greatly
reduce the amount of land required for agriculture.
(Photo: Vertical Farms LLC)

From high-rise agriculture to high-speed rail, from advanced water recycling to ultra-efficient energy conduits and appliances, from cars that are clean, smart and safe, to wide new roads that convert pavement heat into utility-scale electricity and convey luxurious mass transit busses that offer wi-fi and drive themselves, cities of the future can be built today – but not if the wealth we need to pour concrete and smelt steel is spent instead on environmentalist lawsuits, and not if the market incentives that animate billions of construction entrepreneurs are squelched because instead we gave the work to government bureaucrats. Creating abundance is human nature – but only individual liberty, property rights, and free markets will enable this nature to be realized. Governments enforce the rules, but only a free people can play the game.

Abundant water is just around the corner because of several interrelated technological opportunities. The most promising of all is the potential of smart irrigation. Primarily this means using drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation, but this also refers to no-till farming, new crops that consume less water, inter-cropping, and advanced irrigation management, where irrigation timing and volume are precisely coordinated with weather conditions. Smart irrigation techniques could reduce the volume of water required for global agriculture by 40-50%.

Other means to create water abundance span the gamut from traditional methods – contour berms to catch and percolate runoff, urban cisterns to harvest rainwater, or where necessary, massive new infrastructure projects to move large volumes of water from water rich areas to water poor areas. To save ecosystems and restore fisheries, why not build a gravity-fed canal connecting the Volga River to the Aral Basin, if the Caspian Sea is rising anyway? Diverting only 10% of the Volga’s 250 cubic kilometer annual flow would make a decisive contribution to restoring the Aral Sea. Why not divert a small percentage of the Ubangi River north to refill Lake Chad?

Finally, water reuse and desalination will guarantee water abundance in urban areas. High-rise agriculture, for example, can use gray water to irrigate hydroponic gardens at a commercial scale, and the transpiration these plants emit within these enclosed spaces can be harvested to yield pristine drinking water. Desalination is no longer a technology reserved for energy rich nations – it now only takes 2.0 kilowatt-hours to desalinate a cubic meter of seawater. Desalination already provides over 1% of the fresh water used world wide, over 30 km3 per year, and this total is rising fast. But water reuse is the most promising source of urban water of all – technologies now exist to create essentially a closed loop in urban areas. Water is used for drinking, then treated and piped back to use for irrigation and to refill reservoirs, then after percolating and filtering back into aquifers, is pumped up, treated, and used again for drinking.

Water abundance will enable us to grow all the food we want, using new strains of crops and new agricultural techniques that are enabling another revolution in yields, guaranteeing abundant food. Water abundance will allow us to finally begin refilling our depleted aquifers, restore our vanished lakes, and never have to wonder whether or not the next war might be fought to quench a nation’s thirst.

To create water abundance, however, and to build megacities, to create 21st century civil infrastructure, and to deploy advanced technologies, we will need wealth and prosperity, and more than anything else, the enabler of wealth and prosperity is energy production. Today global civilization produces about 500 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year, which equals an average per person of 75 million BTUs per year. But this energy consumption is not evenly distributed. In the European Union, per capita energy consumption is about 250 million BTUs per year; in the USA, the average is closer to 350 million BTUs per year. But energy consumption equals wealth. Even with extraordinary improvements in energy efficiency, say, twice what we enjoy today, for 9.0 billion people to average only half the per capita energy consumption of residents of the EU, i.e., 125 million BTUs per year, global energy production would have to more than double, to 1,125 quadrillion BTUs per year. And this is what needs to happen by 2050.

The challenge to achieve resource abundance is not impossible; it is within our grasp. Despite heartbreaking examples of lingering poverty all over the planet, the fact is the overall condition of humanity is remarkably better now than it was 40 years ago, 400 years ago, 4,000 years ago. Disease and starvation remain endemic, but by all objective measures, they are on the retreat; and this is the trend the future holds, if we seize the opportunity. But to achieve this bright future, we must ask these questions: What is clean technology, and what are legitimate environmentalist values?

To create prosperity, for example, given 80% of the world’s energy currently comes from fossil fuel, and given there is a staggering abundance of remaining fossil fuel reserves in the form of heavy oil, coal, and natural gas, do we really want to stop using fossil fuel? What if clean technology stopped at the point where harmful pollutants were reduced to parts per billion through advanced filtration and efficient burning, instead of having to make that gigantic leap beyond simply making emissions healthy, and requiring zero emissions of CO2? Given the certain and devastating price humanity will pay in the form of ongoing poverty and escalating tensions over resources – especially if we precipitously abandon developing new sources of fossil fuel – do we really want to stop emitting CO2? What if solar cycles indeed are all there is causing climate change? What if climate change isn’t anything but normal fluctuations? What if rainforest destruction and aquifer depletion, dried up lakes and misused lands are the reasons for regional climate change? What if we can’t do anything at all about climate change anyway? If you believe the worst scenarios, it is too late anyway – but what if the models are simply wrong? If they’re right, it’s too late, and if they’re wrong, it doesn’t matter. So why on earth would we consign humanity to much higher probabilities of poverty and war, instead of developing clean fossil fuel, at the same time as we systematically develop advanced, alternative sources of energy?

The challenge to achieve resource abundance in the world hinges on the role environmentalists play in influencing policy. There are vital environmentalist values that everyone should embrace, such as practicing sustainability, eliminating genuine pollution, and taking reasonable steps to protect species and ecosystems. But without the energy, without the mines, without the steel mills, without the paved roads and poured concrete and power plants and pumping stations and water treatment plants and countless other ecologically disruptive activities, humanity will struggle to realize their destiny of prosperity; humanity will struggle to find peace.

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Posted in Business & Economics, Cars, Coal, Consumption, Drinking Water, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure, Natural Gas, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Urbanization6 Comments

The Tibetan Plateau

The rooftop of the world, the land of snows… with an average elevation of 4000 meters (over 13,000 feet), the Tibetan Plateau is the highest and largest plateau on earth. The plants and animals there are unique– the snow leopard, Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, Bengal tiger, wild yak, blue sheep, brown bear, and black-necked crane, to name a few. Visitors to Tibet before 1950 compared it to East Africa, with vast herds of large mammals roaming free through the mountains. Today, precious few remain.

Snow Leopard
There could be worse days in the life of a Tibetan Snow Leopard.
(Panthera uncia)
-

But although the flora and fauna are diverse, the extreme climate has allowed only a relatively small number of them to flourish; species that have been able to adapt to the thin air, low temperatures, intense radiation, and strong winds. The most recent research indicates that about 13,000 vascular plants and 1200 species of vertebrates have been identified: 678 species of birds, 206 mammals, 83 reptiles, 80 amphibians and 152 fish. Of these, 40 plants and 141 animal species are considered to be endangered.

While this picture may seem rich—and indeed it is—these numbers are actually very low when looked at on a global scale. This ecosystem is the polar opposite of, for example, a South American rainforest consisting of millions of different species of flora and fauna. The result is a web of life that is much more vulnerable and difficult to repair. Imagine a spider web with ten strands next to one with a hundred, or a thousand—if even one string is broken on the first, the whole thing will fall apart.

“Because of its high elevation, the ecosystem here is extremely fragile,” said Dawa Tsering, who heads the World Wildlife Fund’s China Program Office (local branch) in Lhasa. “Once damaged, it is extremely difficult to reverse.”

The major threats the region faces are grassland degradation and deforestation, poaching and the illegal trade of animal products, destruction of habitat due to urbanization and mining, and air pollution. Because of the elevation, the air is thin and more susceptible to toxic fumes.

“The sale of souvenirs and other products made from endangered species is growing due to tourist consumption, and is increasing pressure on local biodiversity,” Tsering said. “Tourists can make a difference simply by not purchasing these products.”

Tibet is the last remaining refuge of the Bengal tiger in China. WWF and other non-profits plan to distribute pamphlets, asking visitors not to buy illegal products made from endangered species like tigers and Tibetan antelopes. The soft underbelly fur of these antelopes is made into shahtoosh shawls, which fetch high prices on the black market.

“International and local laws have guaranteed that killing wild tigers and other protected species for their parts isn’t legal anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Xu Hongfa from TRAFFIC’s China Program. “But the killing of these animals will continue until the demand for buying them stops.”

“Integrating the needs of local development with conserving Tibet’s biodiversity is in need of urgent attention,” Tsering said.

China invaded Tibet in 1949; since occupation, Tibet has suffered loss of life, freedom and human rights. In March 1959, Tibetans rose up against China’s occupation, but were unsuccessful. The Dalai Lama was forced to escape into exile in Dharmshala, India, followed by 80,000 Tibetans. It is from here that the Dalai Lama heads the Tibet Government-In-Exile.

When a country is taken by force, and brutally occupied, and its people are regarded as little more than an impediment to another end, without basic rights, what chance can that country’s plants and animals have? And do we have the right to concern ourselves with flora and fauna when human beings, perhaps some of the most beautiful and peaceful human beings on this planet, are also nearing extinction?

It is not necessary to choose. For thousands of years the Tibetan people have lived in harmony with their ecosystem and been a part of it; therefore, their struggle to survive must be included in a discussion of the destruction of that ecosystem.

Tibet is also the only nation in the world that has recognized meditation as essential to life, and has made the search for truth and the awakening of personal consciousness an undisputed priority in its culture and religion. In the words of Osho, a contemporary enlightened master:

Himalayan Mountains
Above harsh rangeland nearly three miles above sea level, vast
beyond imagining, tower the mighty Himalaya, backbone of the world.
(Photo: Guy Taylor)
-

“Nowhere has such concentrated effort been made to discover man’s being. Every family in Tibet used to give their eldest son to some monastery where he was to meditate and grow closer to awakening. It was a joy to every family that at least one of them was wholeheartedly, twenty-four hours a day, working on the inner being. They were also working but they could not give all their time; they had to create food and clothes and shelter… but still every family used to give their first-born child to the monastery.

“And we think the world is civilized, where innocent people who are not doing any harm to anybody are simply destroyed. And with them, something of great importance to all humanity is also destroyed. If there were something civilized in man, every nation would have stood against the invasion of Tibet by China. It is the invasion of matter against consciousness. It is invasion of materialism against spiritual heights.

“If humanity were a little more aware, Tibet should be made free because it is the only country which has devoted almost two thousand years to doing nothing but going deeper into meditation. And it can teach the whole world something which is immensely needed” [Om Mani Padme Humm].

Tibetan Buddhism belongs to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, which emphasizes compassion as the ultimate goal of meditation, rather than just enlightenment. Recent scientific studies show neurological proof that people who meditate actually feel more compassion for others, and are more likely to feel compassion for strangers.

“Emotionally, mentally and physically, all humans are equal and the same. We should take care of one another. It is good for us,” said the Dalai Lama last month in India. His life and work embody compassion, laughter and love—although the Chinese insist it is a diabolically constructed illusion, and to possess even a photograph of him is illegal in Tibet.

At least 6,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, nunneries and temples, and their contents have been destroyed since the Chinese invasion and during the Cultural Revolution. At least hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been killed as a direct result of Chinese execution, imprisonment and torture; by some counts, including suicide and other indirect means of death, the number is over a million.

Perhaps because the Dalai Lama is both the religious and political leader of Tibet, China still regards Tibetan Buddhism as a threat. “Patriotic re-education” is their term for the torture of monks and nuns, who are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, and repeat after them that “Tibet has always been part of China.” Religious pilgrimages are restricted, or impossible, and Buddhist education is difficult or impossible for Tibetans now. Forced sterilizations and abortions are commonplace.

Railroad
A belated band of steel to the remotest place on earth.
The newly buit Qingzang Railway passes over Namtso Lake
(Photo: Guy Taylor)

Since the turn of the century, China’s economy has been booming, and what they call their “Western Development Plan” in Tibet has been picking up steam. Key to the plan has been the Qingzang Railway project.

The 815 km section of the railroad from Xining, Qinghai to Gormo (Golmud in Chinese), Qinghai opened to traffic in 1984.

Construction of the remaining 1,142 km section from Gormo to Lhasa could not be started until the recent economic growth of China. This section was begun in 2001, and completed in 2006. The cost to the Chinese Government was $3.68 billion.

Before he left office, the former President of China, Jiang Zemin, said of the Gormo-Lhasa railway, “Some people have advised me not to go ahead with this project because it is not commercially viable. I said this is a political decision” [New York Times, 10 August 2001].

This political decision is advantageous to China in many ways, and is one which will likely prove financially profitable.

Tibet houses an estimated 4-5 billion tons in potential oil reserves; the railroad has greatly increased the efficiency of lumber, mining, and other government industries and projects as well.

Due largely to the railroad, Tibetans have become a minority in their own country. A recent report by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet says the completion of the railway has led to an influx of ethnic Chinese immigrants to the region, and that any economic gains from the improved transport links are largely limited to urban areas, rather than the countryside where about 80 percent of Tibetans live.

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing that the railway has played a positive role in developing Tibet’s economy and it has also strengthened its communication links with neighboring provinces. “I believe the benefits of this project are obvious to all,” he said.

The rail link contributed to a 60 percent increase in the number of tourists visiting the region last year, according to a previous government report. This year, tourism is predicted to gross over $800 million.

Monks in Lhasa
Monks carry on ancient traditions in Lhasa.
(Photo: Guy Taylor)

In 1980, there were only 1059 visitors to Tibet, and 95 percent came from abroad. Since then tourism has surged, and in 2002, an estimated 140,000 visited Tibet.

With 1.22 million visitors arriving in 2004, Tibet logged an increase in tourism of over 1,000 times the 1980 level. Ninety-two percent of the visitors are Chinese tourists.

But while the economy may have improved, the general economic status of Tibetans has not, as they are largely unskilled workers, and cannot compete with the skilled Han Chinese migrants. The ICT report says that the needs of the region’s largely rural population are ignored by China’s planners, and that Tibetans feel increasingly marginalized as their culture and rural way of life are slowly eroded. The Tibetan language is being systematically eliminated, and nomads forced into settlements.

The Chinese government itself has touted the Qingzang railway as a means of transport for troops, saying that not only will the railway improve the efficiency of the army, but the army will improve the efficiency of the railway (Xinhuanet, 10 December 2003). The railway has enabled rapid troop deployments and facilitated the expansion of the People’s Liberation Army, as seen in the recent crackdown. It not only has strengthened China’s grip on Tibet, but its strategic location may pose a threat to India as well, increasing instability in the region.

This April, China announced its plans to continue construction of the railroad all the way to Khasha, on the Nepalese border, estimated to be completed by 2013. Eventually, the train may run all the way through Nepal, to the North Indian state of Bihar.

The ICT report also states that China’s policy of urbanization in Tibet, encouraged by the new rail link, is damaging its natural ecosystems. Over 46% of forests have been destroyed, which has led to increased soil erosion and siltation of rivers, creating major floods and landslides. Government lumber operations continue to cut at an unprecedented rate, and reforestation is generally neglected and ineffective. Rapid and widespread deforestation has life-threatening consequences for the hundreds of millions who live in the flood plains of the major rivers of Southeast Asia, many of which have their headwaters in Tibet. Clear-cutting also threatens the habitat of the rare giant panda, golden monkey, and over 5,000 unique plant species.

The demands of the fast-growing human population, construction of roads, mining, and poor grazing practices are degrading Tibet’s grasslands as well. Huge factory farms are being developed, motivated by the need to feed the growing Chinese population and reduce the costly wheat imports. Traditional farming practices have maintained the ecological balance for centuries, but large-scale commercial agriculture may ultimately harm Tibet more than it helps.

Of far greater concern, however, are China’s nuclear weapons projects in Tibet. Today there are at least three nuclear missile launch sites there, and the number of actual warheads is unknown. The northern Tibetan Plateau was home to China’s “Los Alamos”– its primary nuclear weapons research and development plant. Tibetan nomads living in the area claim to have suffered illness and death. Their strange symptoms are consistent with radiation poisoning, indicating that nuclear waste may have been dumped on the plains nearby. The International Campaign for Tibet has published a ground-breaking report on the issue, entitled Nuclear Tibet.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of almost all of Asia’s major rivers: the Yellow River, the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Salween, the Indus, and the Yarlung Tsangpo, which downstream becomes the Brahmaputra. Contamination of these waterways, nuclear or otherwise, harms not only residents of Tibet, but potentially all those who drink from them—nearly half the world’s population lives downstream.

One such threat to the rivers is the mining industry. Tibet is rich in natural resources, and the unregulated extraction of borax, chromium, copper and gold is increasing rapidly. More surprising, however, is Tibet’s supply of lithium.

Chabyer salt lake, at an elevation of 14,400 feet (4,400 meters) is not only the largest lithium mine in China but also one of the three largest salt lakes in the world. Chabyer now makes Tibet the No. 1 area in the world in terms of prospective lithium reserves, according to the China Tibet Information Center. China is now the largest producer and consumer of lithium-ion batteries, found in everything from cell phones to computers and even hybrid cars.

The future of zero and ultralow emission vehicles depends on lithium, which is relatively scarce. Lithium is only the 33rd most abundant element on Earth. With Tibet in its hand, China is well poised to move into that future.

March 9th was the anniversary of the 1959 uprising, which recent protesters have been commemorating; but like their predecessors, this cry for freedom has met with little more than imprisonment, torture, and often death. The Chinese Government claims that 18 Han Chinese immigrants were killed in the Lhasa riots; but in their crushing response, over 140 Tibetans were killed by the Chinese. Countless others are still being held in prison, and may be executed as well.

On June 21, the Olympic Torch came and went through Lhasa in about two hours. Since March, Tibetans live under virtual martial law, and were told not only to stay at home, but not to look out of their windows during the relay.

The decision by China to continue with the relay through Lhasa in light of recent events is a message to the world, that Tibet is their property and they fear no one. At the end of the relay, Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party secretary of Tibet, stood beneath the Potala Palace, the historic seat of the Dalai Lama. “Tibet’s sky will never change, and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it,” Zhang said, according to Reuters. “We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique.”

This is the language of power, and people who use it know no other. Talks have just resumed between the Chinese and envoys of the Dalai Lama since the protests, but those talks had been going on since 2002 without progress. The Dalai Lama does not hope for independence, only autonomy for Tibet. Only time will tell if this round is any different.

The Dalai Lama spoke in Denver years ago—not about politics, but parenting, love, and other topics. When he asked for questions, one woman said, “What can we do about Tibet?”
The Dalai Lama was silent. “Just go and see it before it’s gone,” he said at last. “It is a beautiful country.”

Tibet—the plants, animals, water, air, people, religious heritage and the inner search itself— is our heritage as human beings; it is a part of us. Tibet is one of the real diamonds of this world… its freedom is our freedom, and whether the effort is futile or not, we must do anything and everything in our power to save it.

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Posted in Air Pollution, Amphibians, Animals, Biodiversity, Birds, Cars, Consumption, Education, Fish, Mammals, Nature & Ecosystems, Office, Other, People, Radiation, Reptiles, Soil Erosion, Urbanization4 Comments

Desalination is Here!

A TECHNOLOGY WHOSE TIME HAS COME
Goldfish
With desalination, reuse & recycling,
and smart agricultural irrigation, fish can
thrive, and humans can avoid rationing.

Editor’s Note: In this excerpt from an in-depth study authored by international water investment expert Laura Shenkar of the Artemis Project, the state of desalination technology today is examined. It is clear that desalination has come a long way – and just in time, in order to address the “triple threat” of population growth, crumbling water utility infrastructure, and climate change.

Even if you believe climate change is overhyped, and we do, the challenge posed due to population growth, combined with increasing global prosperity which increases per capita water consumption, along with scandalously inadequate investment in water infrastructure, makes any drought or climate irregularity far more likely to cause catastrophe. But with any threat comes opportunity.

To answer this triple threat is a triple opportunity – the promise of desalination, smart irrigation, and advanced water recycling techniques – that in aggregate bestow the potential of water abundance at a level and quality unimaginable a few decades ago.

Technology and free markets create wealth and abundance, which happens when businesses compete for customers, never through punitive rationing. Defining what is clean sets crucial ground rules, but only free markets create abundance. And while we define what is clean, we might be cognizant of which special interests may wish to set the bar so high that nothing is clean enough, that only endless and futile war, only socialist misery, is an acceptible moral choice. But is this true, or a convenient deception?

It is quite plausible that the entire notion of permanent water, energy and land scarcity is a myth, a temporary affliction, inevitably doomed by the promise of technology; desalination, drip irrigation, advanced water recycling, urbanization, population stablization, clean fossil fuel, clean nuclear power, as well as alternative energy where and when it is competitive. Will humanity seize this bright and prosperous future, or will we succumb to the propaganda of extreme environmentalists who feed on panic and fear? Because the environment won’t benefit from a socialist, backwards march into the past; the industrial filth of the USSR is testimony to that. But politics of fear will enable environmentalist nonprofits to collect more tax-exempt donations from the terrified multitudes (as well as legislated set-asides), and enable unionized public employees to pay themselves outrageous wages and ridiculously inflated pensions, instead of earning market rate compensation and working hard to build new utility infrastructure that creates abundance, and competes for energy and water customers on the free market.

Scarcity is not inevitable. Often it is a political choice, the result of concessions to powerful special interests who have a pecuniary interest in high prices, artificial scarcity, and fomenting fear. The precious bird of environmentalism has been flying for too long with only one wing, the left one. Read on, and learn a little more about how easy it might be to know abundance. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Desalination – A Technology Whose Time Has Come
by Laura Shenkar, June 16th, 2008
Industrial Workers at Desalination Plant
Industrial workers at a desalination plant.

The global desalination industry has been one of the first to benefit from the impact of the triple threat to water supply. Desalination offers a means for increasing the supply of fresh water from a source independent of existing ground and surface water supplies.

It can form an important supplement to existing water supplies during droughts or periodic water supply shortfalls. Worldwide, desalination operations are set to grow from a capacity of 39.9 million cubic meters per day (m3/d) at the beginning of 2006 to 64.3 million m3/d in 2010, and to 97.5 million m3/d in 2015. This represents a 61 percent increase in capacity over a five-year period, and a 140 percent increase in capacity over a ten-year period, according to the latest estimates for the desalination market.

The compound annual growth rate of installed capacity is roughly 9 percent. The compound annual growth rate of the market for new capacity hovers around 13 percent. This expansion of capacity will entail capital investment totaling $25 billion by the end of 2010, or $56.4 billion by the end of 2015.

Dramatic improvements through innovation have brought the cost of desalted water closer to that of other water sources than ever before. Improved membranes and pumping systems have sharply reduced electricity costs. For example, the Carlsbad, California, desalination plant expects to pay $1.10 in electricity to produce 1,000 gallons of water, down from $2.10 per 1,000 gallons at the mothballed Santa Barbara plant. Costs have been as low as $0.50 per 1,000 gallons in the large-scale plant in Ashkelon, Israel. Here are two companies on the forefront of desalination technology:

Energy Recovery Incorporated

www.energyrecovery.com

Location: San Leandro, California, United States

Funding: $9.5 million from private individuals, S-1 registered for an IPO

Value proposition: Energy Recovery, Inc. (ERI) invented, patented, and commercialized an energy recovery solution: the PX Pressure Exchanger® (PX), which saves energy in high pressure hydraulic operations, such as reverse osmosis for desalination. The PX energy recovery device uses the principle of positive displacement and isobaric chambers to achieve extremely efficient transfer of energy from a high-pressure waste stream, such as the brine stream from a reverse osmosis desalination unit, to a low-pressure incoming feed stream. According to ERI, the PX is 98 percent efficient, losing little energy in the transfer.

ERI states that it has 10 times more operating experience than competing manufacturers of isobaric energy recovery devices, including 10 million unit hours of proven experience and over 6,000 units installed or contracted worldwide. This install base is estimated to account for more than 5.2 million m3/day of capacity installed or under construction, and more than 450 independent reference plants.

Take away: ERI has established a dominant position for energy recovery in the desalination market. Given that leadership and the revenue and profitability (9.6 percent net) that position affords the company, it should be able to enter a host of other water and energy markets that use high-pressure pumps, such as the considerable market for cooling energy generation facilities.

Israeli Desalination Enterprises (IDE)

www.ide-tech.com

Location: Petah Tikva, Israel

Funding: IDE is equally owned by ICL (Israel Chemical Ltd.) and the Delek Group. Both holding companies are multinational and multidisciplinary groups, with an annual turnover of approximately US$2 billion (2003) each.

Value proposition: Established in 1965, IDE Technologies Ltd. is internationally recognized as a pioneer and leader in the delivery of sophisticated water management solutions. IDE specializes in research and development of saline water desalination processes, concentration and purification of industrial streams, wastewater treatment, heat pumps, and ice/snow machines. The company develops, designs, manufactures, and installs sophisticated equipment for industrial and domestic applications throughout the world.

While IDE lacks the market presence that the larger desalination providers such as Veolia and Suez possess, it continues to win portions of key projects based on its innovative approaches to various processes such as pre-treatment reverse osmosis, energy recovery, and input water uptake.

Take away: Look for spinoffs from IDE that provide breakthrough technology and are able to work with IDE competition in their niche markets.

Laura Shenkar

Laura Shenkar is an international water expert on water investments and water technology, and a Principal of The Artemis Project, a consultancy that specializes in supporting innovative technology companies achieve their potential in the global market. As a member of the leadership team of three successful startups, she has learned how to employ the unique capabilities of a company’s technology and its team to target the best opportunities in an emerging market. Laura is an active member of several national and international water industry associations and participates in governmental water management initiatives as well as venture investment conferences. This combination of activities enables her to share with The Artemis Project clients a wide view of emerging opportunities and new product trends. This report was excerpted from a recently released study by the Artemis Project entitled “Water Matters: Venture Investment Opportunities in Innovative Water Technology,” which can be obtained by contacting Ms. Shenkar at laura@theartemisfund.com.

Additional EcoWorld reports on water and desalination:

- India’s Hydropower

- India’s Water Consciousness

- Our Endangered Oceans

- India’s Water Future

- Arctic to Aral

- Mangroves Stop Tsunami

- Clean the Ganges

- Seawater Farms

- Affordable Desalination

- California’s Water System

- Sverdrups & Brine

- Revisiting Desalination

- Photovoltaic Desalination

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Posted in Consumption, Drought, Electricity, Energy, Fish, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology, Urbanization4 Comments

An Environmentalist's Review of Al Gore's "Assault on Reason"

It would be fitting, after just reporting on a recent appearance by Former Vice President Al Gore (ref. Al Gore and Innovation), to review his latest book “The Assault on Reason.” The premise of the book is that modern mass media constitutes a relentless march towards “one way conversations,” where money and power dictate what radio, then television, have force-fed into the minds of vulnerable and impressionable human psyches. Gore then offers hope that the internet and the Democratic party can reverse this trend.

Al Gore
Will his greentech revolution save the
earth, or merely revive socialist tyranny?

Gore’s concerns about mass media are certainly not unfounded, but what struck me again and again when reading the book was how easily you could substitute the canards he accuses his Republican political adversaries of manipulated the media into brainwashing into the body politic, with Gore’s own canards.

“Our systematic exposure to fear and other arousal stimuli on television can be exploited by the clever public relations specialist, advertiser, or politician.” – Al Gore

One of the favorite arguments of global warming alarmists is the so called “precautionary principle.” If some future scenario is sufficiently horrific, then taking steps to prevent it, even if it isn’t likely it will happen, is simply prudent and rational behavior. But Gore himself debunks the precautionary principle:

“Another psychological phenomenon that is important to understanding how fear influences our thinking [is] ‘probability neglect.’ Social scientists have found that when confronted with either an enormous threat or a huge reward, people tend to focus on the magnitude of the consequence and ignore the probability.” – Al Gore

That might be Saddam’s nukes. Then again, it might be the spectre of sea level rising 300 feet, too. Fear indeed is a powerful selling tool. Once again, to quote Gore:

In the immediate run up to the election campaign of 2002, a new product – the war against Iraq – was being launched. For everything there is a season, particularly in the politics of fear.” – Al Gore

Now we’re in the election season of 2008, and what high profile $300 million advertising campaign is about to be launched – in the “immediate run-up to the election campaign?” None other than Al Gore’s climate change advertising blitz. Look for footage of extreme storms, burning deserts, endangered mega-fauna, and starving children. Yet when it comes to co-opting media by using hype to trump logical analysis, Gore is at his outraged best:

“I don’t remember a single newspaper, commentator, or political leader ever questioning the president’s claim that our nations objective should be to ‘rid the world of evil.’ Further, I heard precious little questioning of the preposterous logic by which the president and vice president had conflated Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It was as if the nation had decided to suspend the normal rigors of logical analysis…” – Al Gore

Well how many newspapers, commentators, or political leaders are questioning global warming alarm? How many are pointing out that the reality of climate change, the reasons for climate change, the severity of climate change, and the steps to mitigate climate change – are all worthy of vigorous debate? Gore’s propaganda machine has silenced them all, using the same tactics he deplores throughout his new book. It is as if we have “suspended the normal rigors of logical analysis.” Climate change alarm has become a secular faith. And speaking of faith, what about this?

“Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged.” – Al Gore

If the absolute intolerance of the global warming alarmists, who dominate the media and call those of us who simply call for reasoned discussion “deniers,” isn’t evocative of religious extremists, I don’t know what is. Similarly, if making Americans pay punitive prices and endure rationing of government controlled energy, water and land – so attorneys, CPAs, Wall Street traders, huge and heavily subsidized corporations, well-heeled environmentalist nonprofits, the U.N., and academia can harvest the proceeds to enrich themselves – isn’t being seen as “the most radical effort in American history to take what belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged,” it is only because Gore’s media machine has done its work well.

These are just a few examples of how Gore’s criticisms of media and Republicans could just as easily apply to his own campaign. Indeed Gore slips at one point and pretty much admits he’s cut of the same cloth, when he writes “there are, of course, many historical examples of vivid imagery producing vicarious traumatization that has been used for positive purposes.” Such as those Polar Bears perched precariously on a rapidly melting fragment of sea ice, perhaps? Or New York City covered with mountains of glacial ice? Apparently Gore doesn’t really mind the assault on reason represented by modern media one bit. He just minds when he can’t control it.

Not to worry. Gore’s vision is on the ascendancy these days. Ever seen the bumper sticker that says “Endless War,” with a few letters crossed out so it actually reads “End This War”? That is how anyone who can see what Gore and the radical environmentalists – who now control the environmental lobby here in the USA and most other places in the world – should view the war on anthropogenic “greenhouse gas.” They won’t succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to anywhere near where those supposedly accurate “general circulation models” indicate they need to go in order to avert planetary catastrophe. But that isn’t the point. The objective is to take over huge new sectors of the economy, to put America on a war footing, to ration energy, land and water, and as with all socialist totalitarian states, this will benefit the rich and hurt the poor. This is the “endless war” we should all fear. Gore’s remarks on page 143 of his new book summarize the threat of reinventing our political economy according to the gospel of global warming alarmism quite well:

“There are also reasons for concern this time around that what we are experiencing may no longer be the first half of a recurring cycle, but rather the beginning of something new. For one thing, this war is predicted by the administration to last for the rest of our lives. So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity…it will become a more or less permanent struggle that occupies a significant part of our law enforcement and security agenda from now on. If that is the case, then when – if ever – does this encroachment on our freedoms die a natural death?” – Al Gore

Posted in Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, History, Other, Religion, Television1 Comment

Global Warming & Climate Change Media Hysteria

MEDIA GLOBAL WARMING HYSTERIA DISTORTS REALITY
California Ocean Shore
The green land and blue sea of planet earth.
Big Sur, California

Editor’s Note: This latest report on global warming by D. James Guzy is yet another well reasoned and well researched analysis that makes clear the emphasis on CO2 emissions is based on highly debateable precepts.

As a matter of principle we publish these analyses by global warming skeptics. To put it mildly, it is astonishing that most media continue to largely ignore – or discredit – any information that runs counter to global warming alarm. The least they might do is cast the skeptics as the voices of moderation, instead of “deniers” and “flat earthers.”

Here is the basic algebra of global energy today: Over 80% is produced through combustion of fossil fuel, and global energy production needs to double in order to allow emerging nations to achieve a decent standard of living. It is unlikely – if not unthinkable – that we can make absolute cuts in total global CO2 output within only a few decades without collapsing the global economy. Ref. “Fossil Fuel Reality,” and “Environmentalist Priorities.”

The good news is – if you are paying attention – we are not necessarily going to destroy the planet by increasing atmospheric levels of CO2. New observational data is not reinforcing the alarming scenarios, despite many high profile studies that continue to make those claims. Consider:

  • New satellite data that can do 3D imaging of clouds indicate
    water vapor forcing may be a negative feedback, causing cooling
    instead of warming.
  • New ocean buoys are returning data suggesting the ocean,
    overall, is marginally cooling for at least the last five years.
  • A recent study published in the journal Nature predicts the earth will be cooling for at least the next 15 years. (Ref. “Next Decade May See No Warming.”)

The truth is the many general circulation models do not have the ability to predict global climate trends. They are being constantly revised and to assert their scenarios are a certainty is ludicrous. And while humans may indeed have the ability to affect global climate, these changes may be due more to tropical deforestation than because of rising levels of CO2.

It is grossly irresponsible for scientists and journalists to abandon their innate skepticism when so much is at stake. They should understand the large international corporations, the U.N., government agencies everywhere, associations of government workers, huge swaths of the scientific and academic community, myriad non-profit organizations, trial lawyers and insurance companies all stand to benefit from policies enacted in the name of global warming mitigation. This is the hidden agenda, likely creating futile and destructive policies based on flawed logic.

It is the duty of anyone influencing global warming policy – from individual voters to international journalists and world leaders – to personally and continuously survey all the facts and keep an open mind, or science becomes religion, and journalism becomes propaganda. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Media Global Warming Hysteria Distorts Reality.
by D. James Guzy, May 24, 2008
California Ocean Shore Cliffs
The Pacific, greatest of oceans. Will climate
change arouse her to unprecedented fury?

Arctic summer sea ice registers the smallest aerial extent in history, Greenland and Antarctica ice is melting at accelerating rates, paleoclimate proxies indicate current warming is unprecedented for thousands of years, and your community will be under water by the end of the century. We are within a decade of the tipping point of irrecoverable warming.

These sample headlines in recent months can compel the unknowing to follow the leading alarmists’ cries for CO2 action. Even agnostics and some cynics resign themselves to heed these cries as an insurance policy just in case there is some chance of climate impact. We are bombarded every day with alarmist global warming headlines, giving credence to scientific consensus and draconian mitigation policies. Are these headlines distorting reality? Yes. And worse, they are often completely false.

Furthermore, the media fails completely to report the gathering research which contradicts anthropogenic (man-made) global warming hypotheses. The last year, in particular, has been a landmark year for research and observational data advancing the theory that natural forces, over anthropogenic forces, are far more responsible for the global warming we have experienced in the last thirty years. I will give examples of what has been overlooked. These recent studies begin to shed light on how tentative the science is behind man-made global warming theories.

Why do these studies go unreported and non-discussed? There are three reasons. One, environmentalists and some leading scientists are pushing global warming as a moral issue. The media are loath to be portrayed as apostates. Two, global warming mitigation policies give public policy makers and advocates means to expand their power base. Three, perhaps most importantly, the U.S. government’s global warming science grant budget is approximately $5 billion a year. Scientists and other vested colleagues are afraid of losing money. If their research does not support the pursuit of populist global warming studies, they can lose grants, tenure, publishing space and more.

I will give examples of recent compelling research that gives a completely different perspective on global warming. There is a healthy debate on man versus natural effects on climate, and there is no scientific consensus on global warming.

Amidst all the talk about the last couple decades being the warmest for thousands of years, little attention has been made to what global temperatures have been for the last several years. Since the big El Nino year of 1998, the average global temperature has not risen. An interesting example is to take this past January’s global temperature and note the difference between this temperature and the temperature from January of 2007. Next, note the temperature difference between December of 2007 and December of 2006. Repeat for each previous month. Once a year’s worth of temperature differences is noted, calculate the average difference. Comparing yearly average temperature differences, the data reveals that the earth has been cooling since 2001. 1998 has been the warmest year, the global temperature since 1998 has been relatively flat! I am the first to admit that looking at a decade’s set of data is not statistically significant enough. We probably need another seven or eight year’s worth of temperature data to be statistically significant. However, the trend is clearly not at an alarming or uncontrolled warming rate.

Ocean Rocks
Will these rocks be submerged beneath rising seas?

It is possible that we are headed for a cooling, let alone worry about warming. The earth is embarking upon solar cycle 24.

We are experiencing the end of solar cycle 23. Solar cycles track the sun’s magnetic activity through sun spot activity. The intensity of the solar cycles correlates to the number of sun spots. Sun spots modulate the solar irradiance that that reaches the earth and each solar cycle is on average, eleven years duration. Solar cycles, which have been tracked since the mid eighteenth century, are typically strong and short, indicating more solar irradiance on the earth, or weak and long, indicating less solar irradiance on the earth. Solar cycles 21 and 22 (from the late 1970s to the late 1990s) had high numbers of sun spots and lasted less than eleven years. In conjunction, the earth experienced higher temperatures with these more intense solar cycles. Solar cycle 23, ending now, is at least thirteen years long. This, along with current very low sun spot activity (sometimes zero sun spots) harbingers a very long and weak solar cycle 24. Compelling research has been published within the last year correlating the earth’s temperature with the number solar cycle sun spots: the more sun spots the higher the temperature. The bottom line is that soon we will experience a real cooling!

Temperature measurements are even under scrutiny and reevaluation. No scientist is arguing that we have not been experiencing a warming, but there is emerging questioning on how much we have warmed, particularly in the last thirty years. Pat Michaels and Ross McKitrick last year came out with a paper critiquing the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) temperature data base it uses (from 1979 to 2002). One of the big debates in climate science (yes, there are many debates in global warming science and no universal consensus) is how much to ascribe socio-economic effects into temperature measuring algorithms. As an example, urbanization through streets, concrete, steel, etc. causes a profound temperature increase. This is the urban heat island effect. Socio-economic impacts are non natural impacts on temperature.

Land use change, fossil fuel consumption, irrigation, population growth are other examples of socio-economic impacts on temperature. A robust temperature measurement algorithm should have no data dependent on socio-economic variables. The current database the IPCC uses employs an questionable algorithm to cross correlate neighboring temperature grid cells and applies a mere 0.05 C bias for the urban heat island effect. Michaels and McKitrick employed a more robust socio-economic analysis to conclude that the IPCC database not only underestimates socio-economic impacts on global temperature, but inflates temperature measurements two times! Up to one half of today’s observed global warming may just be an artifact of the measuring methods. It is difficult to argue with their results because they compared their temperature measurement data and the IPCC measurement data with socio-economic variables. Michaels and McKitrick discovered that the IPCC data set has correlations with socio-economic trends while their data set has no dependence.

Last year, Craig Loehle published a paper which reassessed temperature paleoclimate proxy data sets going back 2000 years. One of the big debates in climate science is proof of the existence of significant temperature swings designating the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), 1000 years ago, and the Little Ice Age (LIA), 300 years ago. This debate is highly significant, particularly related to the existence of the MWP. If the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age did not occur, or only experienced minor temperature fluctuations, then, as the man made global warming protagonists contend, today’s temperature level is the warmest we have experienced for at least a couple thousand years. This supports the theory that the global temperature is inherently stable and today’s temperature level is unprecedented, on the precipice of a runaway condition (refer to the infamous hockey stick temperature graph).

If the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age did occur, then, as the skeptics contend, this would validate the theory that earth’s climate and temperature are naturally cyclical and variant, with the MWP having been a couple degrees Celsius warmer than it is now. The proxy data sets that show no MWP and LIA are highly dependent on tree ring data. Tree ring proxies are the most controversial of all temperature measurement data sets because of the requirement of significant subjective interpretation tree ring growth influences.

Loehle’s paper extracts robust temperature proxy data sets. Loehle takes 18 data sets selected to give a geographical distribution of the earth. Each of the data sets comes from data that was published in peer reviewed journals. Each of the data sets comes from disparate paleoclimate proxies, such as ice cores, boreholes, stalagmites, etc. And, most importantly, the data sets contain no tree ring proxies. Loehle tried to create an objective case as possible. His analysis, indeed, yields the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age temperature cycles. It seems the only way to eliminate the MWP and LIA is to include data dependent on tree ring proxies. Steven McIntyre of Climateaudit.com has done extensive research on temperature proxy data and shows how all graphs that eliminate the MWP and LIA have a core set of similarly interpreted tree ring proxy data. Loehle’s analysis further lends credence to the theory that global temperatures are naturally cyclical.

Steven Milloy of Junkscience.com describes the interesting example of the cyclical nature of our climate. From January to July, the earth warms by four degrees Celsius. This four degree rise is much greater than the 0.75 degrees Celsius rise the earth experienced during the 20th century. However, the earth does not reach a state of uncontrolled warming, it naturally cycles cooler from July to December with its natural feedback systems.

The debate is on!

In further reports I will provide examples of what the mass media is not reporting to you and how recent studies are discrediting anthropogenic global warming hypotheses.

Iceberg
Icebergs at Cape York, Greenland
Will they all melt into a warm and angry ocean?
-

Additional EcoWorld features on Global Warming:

  • The Debate Goes On, Marc Morano
  • A Case Against Climate Alarmism, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • 35 Inconvenient Truths, Lord Christopher Monckton
  • Interview with Roger Pielke, Sr., EcoWorld Exclusive
  • Glacial Acceleration, Paul Brown
  • Global Warming Priorities, Dr. Edward Wheeler
  • Rebuttal to Inconvenient Truth, Marlo Lewis
  • Inconvenient Skeptics, D. James Guzy
  • Global Warming Facts, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • Is There a Basis for Global Warming Alarm?, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • Global Warming Alarm, Dr. Edward Wheeler
EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Causes, Consumption, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, History, Organizations, Other, Policies & Solutions, Population Growth, Religion, Solar, Urbanization0 Comments

India's Population

“ONE MOUTH, TWO HANDS,” INDIA’S POPULATION PARADOX
Indian Baby
What future will this young Indian inherit?

Editor’s Note: Current demographic trends suggest India will soon become the world’s most populous nation, given India currently has 1.1 billion people and an annual population increase of 1.4%, whereas the current population leader, China, currently has a population of 1.3 billion people but an annual population increase of only 0.6%. India’s population is growing twice as fast as China’s.

When we predict that the virtues of democracy and technology will enable humanity to enter an era of abundant land, air and water within a generation, it is India and China where this prediction will be put to the test. The fate of democratic India in particular, with roughly half the per capita income and more than twice the population density of China, is going to determine whether or not this optimistic prediction can become reality.

While the challenge is daunting, the possibilities for positive outcomes are real. Within the past ten years, India has increased per capita income by a factor of almost 10x, becoming a major world economic power. This wealth has been accompanied by a falling rate of population increase, down from 1.8% per year ten years ago to 1.4% today. Nearly a third of India’s population now lives in urban areas.

Technology creates wealth, and when wealth goes up, birthrates go down. To think that India won’t eventually face the same challenges European nations face today – that of birth rates falling below replacement levels – is to take a very short-term view. The fact is, within 20 years global population will have stablized at around 8.5 billion and will then begin to fall. At the same time, urban populations will continue to increase – hence open land will be abundant.

It isn’t if technology can deliver abundant water and energy, nor whether or not population stablization and subsequent decline, combined with urbanization, will deliver abundant land. The question is when and how, and nowhere is that question more revealing than in India. But India’s tradition of democracy, combined with India’s status as one of the leading global centers of technology innovation, may bring abundance to her shores far sooner than anyone has yet imagined. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

One mouth, two hands: Inside India’s population paradox
by Brook & Guarav Bhagat, April 30, 2007
Indian Pro-Girl Propaganda Poster
“Why only a boy? Are these not girls?”
India Directorate of Family Welfare

“A child is another mouth to feed, but he will have two hands to work and bring in money for the family, especially as the parents grow older,”

…said Mrs. Asha Rane, explaining why it is often the poorest families who have the most children.

The world population in 1930 was about 2 billion; in the year 2000, around 6 billion; and in 2050, according to estimates from the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, it will hit 9 billion. 98 percent of this growth will be in the developing world, where resources are being consumed faster than they can be renewed – and India will be at the forefront of the crisis.

Rane, who was a professor at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, now sees the effects of this phenomenon first-hand at the Hamara Club, a project which helps children living on the street in Mumbai. Understanding how and why poverty leads to increasing population is essential to curbing, or at least slowing, the tide.

Currently at 1.1 billion people, India is not far behind China’s 1.3 billion; and, because of China’s well-known government policy of one child per family, its population has stabilized and is expected to level off soon. According to the U.N., India’s population in 2050 will have overtaken China at around 1.6 billion, to claim the ominous title of the most populous nation on earth.

What are the causes? Aside from the aforementioned reasoning of more children helping the family survive, one major factor has been the increased life expectancy in India. In 1947, when India gained independence from British rule, the average life expectancy was only 33 years. Now, thanks to improved standards of living and healthcare, that number is in the mid-60′s.

As life expectancy increased, the birth rate has been falling– but not fast enough to make up the difference. India was the first country in the world to launch a national family planning program, which has had success. The total fertility rate has declined by more than 40 percent since the 1960′s, and today the average number of children per woman is around three.

Indian Propaganda Poster Promoting Small Families
“Big family: Problems all the way” (left),
“Small family: Happiness all the way” (right).
India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

The current approach focuses on improving women’s educational, social and economic opportunities – statistics show that as their status in these realms improves, their family size declines naturally.

This positive message is in part an effort to make up for a backlash against the harsher messages of the family planning program in the 70′s. At that time, the government declared a population “state of emergency,” which implemented forced sterilizations in the country’s poorest regions and even rewarded medical workers who performed the most operations. This led to a conception, especially among women, that birth control was synonymous with sterilization – an all-or-nothing decision that they then chose to forgo entirely.

Current aspects of the family planning program include financial incentives for families, and their children’s educations, when they do get sterilized. Birth control pills are incredibly cheap and easy to obtain, especially in comparison to supposedly “developed” nations’ policies– in India the cheapest brands cost about 8 rupees (appx. $ 0.20) per month at any pharmacy, with no prescription necessary and no questions asked.

Another key issue targeted by Indian public awareness campaigns is favoritism for male children, a value deeply ingrained and interwoven with the cultural structure. Traditionally, when girls get married, they first of all must offer a dowry, and secondly they go to live with and care for their new husband and his parents.

It is not unusual for a poor family to spend their entire life savings on their daughter’s dowry and extravagant wedding (which is also their burden). Then, unless the girl’s parents have a son as well, they are left with no one to take care of them in their old age. Thus the desire for boys drives couples to either keep having children if their first or second children are girls, abort female babies or even commit infanticide.

This preference for males has resulted in women being outnumbered by men in India by 32 million, according to the U.N. While the implications of this discrepancy are still largely unknown, it is not likely to benefit women or make them “more valuable,” as the law of supply and demand might imply.

Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the Washington, D.C.-based International Center for Research on Women, says that evidence suggests the opposite– that if the sex ratio imbalance worsens, so will conditions for women. She said that it forces women to marry at a younger age, if less women are available. She also predicts that there will be a greater entrenchment of the dominance of men, because there will be fewer women to speak up, and show that they are valuable. And raising the status of women is essential to lowering the fertility rate.

In ancient India, women enjoyed power and freedom in the family, marketplace, government and even scripture – for every god in Hinduism there is a goddess. But a thousand years of invasions and occupations by outside forces led to women being secluded in the home, and excluded from community and even family decisions. Superstitions and cultural mores continued to reinforce practices that had lost their usefulness. But outdated thinking has changed widely in urban areas.

Indian Propaganda Poster Promoting Waiting Before a Second Child
“For a healthy family, wait three years
before your second child.”
Family Planning Services Agency

“Birthrates are declining primarily because of improved access to modern contraception,” said Rao Gupta. “Also because of improvements in women’s status globally, and by that I mean improvements in educational status, access to economic opportunities, and a new perception of women’s role in society. Many Indian women have employment and hold the highest positions in industry and government. Indeed, we’ve had an Indian prime minister who was a woman.”

“Yet the reality is that the majority of young Indian women are very disempowered. They have a much lower status with regard to education and literacy, with regard to income and economic opportunities, with regard to access to health care and health-care services. Women, especially young women, have very little control over reproductive decision-making for themselves.”

Often, especially in poorer, more traditional families in India, the husband’s family has as much or more to say about how many children a couple should have and how fast they should have them than the husband and wife themselves. Since the burden of raising and caring for children is borne primarily by women, Rao Gupta says, given free choice, they almost always will choose smaller families than society will for them.

The status of women, however, has improved and continues to change as India changes– the economic boom, technological advances, and the increased mobilization of society has altered in many cases the entire family structure. Joined families, a household consisting of parents, their sons and their sons’ wives and children, are becoming less common, and nuclear families are on the rise.

More and more, two incomes are necessary or desired, so women are working outside the home. And, in a nuclear family, although there are certainly disadvantages to this development, the in-laws’ influence, or pressure to have more children, is less than in a joined family. And without grandparents and aunts and uncles in the home to help care for the children, especially if both parents are working, it is simply not feasible to have a large number of children.

India has a quota for women in government– it is currently 33 percent for local government bodies, and bills have been repeatedly introduced to make that number 50 percent locally and nationally as well, although they have not been passed.

It is now illegal to demand a dowry for marriage (although giving gifts is legal). It is illegal for a doctor or medical worker to reveal the sex of a baby from a sonography report, although it is still done.

Women’s employment is increasing more quickly than any other group in India, which is key to raising their status. Goverment investment in girls’ education (secondary as well as primary) has also been shown to cause a chain reaction of positive results. An educated woman is statistically more likely to earn an income, have less children and provide those children with better nutrition and health care. This outcome benefits the family, community, and eventually the world.

The numbers, however, are not slowing down fast enough. To support a population of 1.6 billion in 2050, India would have to dramatically increaase agricultural production– but there is no way to increase the amount of available fresh water, which is already in short demand.

Montek Singh Ahluwali, deputy chairman of India’s influential Planning Commission, argues that India can eventually provide such a population.

Indian Propaganda Poster Promoting Small Families Because of Limited Resources
India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

“Resources at the moment are very sub-optimally used. I think it’s possible to manage that kind of population provided there is a systemic change in how we deal with resources which are becoming scarce. The scope for increased efficiency is very large. That’s the nature of the development challenge that India faces.”

Ahluwali may be looking at the glass as half full, but the empty half depends on the increased efficiency of primarily government agencies– which sounds to many like a contradiction in terms.

It also always seems to be under debate in India to barr individuals with more than 3 or 4 children from entering politics as a public example. This idea, however, has not been put into law, and probably won’t be. The poster child, or rather anti-poster child, for this cause is Lalu Prasad Yadav, a member of Parliament and the Minister of Railways. He has nine children, which he claims is a personal protest against the forced sterilizations of the 1970′s. For those familiar with the economic and population trends in India, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Yadav hails from, and was formerly Chief Minister of, the state of Bihar.

In Bihar, which literally means, “the land where Buddha walked,” the average number of children per woman is more than four, and the life expectancy less than 60 years. Contraceptive usage is less than half of the national average, and only 35 percent of women have heard of HIV/AIDS, compared with 57 percent nationally. According to the the National Family Survey of 2006, only 17 percent of the women in Bihar had access to three rounds of antenatal care before their last child was born. What will happen to these little buddhas? For the poorest 20 percent of Indian children, the chances of survival is worse than in Bangladesh or Vietnam.

Yet, in Southern states like Maharastra, income and literacy rates are high and fertility is low– about 2 children per woman, balancing out the poorer, more rural states to the North like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar and pulling the national average fertility rate down to 3. One of the most essential issues to be addressed is the discrepancy between these different states and regions of India.

According to the United Nations Population Fund’s 2007 report on the state of the world population, 2008 will be the year that the global urban population outnumbers the rural half of the world for the first time, at 3.3 billion. And, by 2030, this number is expected to reach almost 5 billion. The urban population of Africa and Asia will double in less than a generation. This unprecedented shift to the cities, large and small, could enhance development, create opportunities and accelerate sustainability– or it could deepen poverty exponentially, and accelerate environmental degradation.

The outcome will depend largely on the management of the migration by governments, city planners and social agencies– most of the newcomers will be poor, and demographically young. They often have little choice but to live in city slums, which have higher fertility rates, higher rates of disease due to poor sanitation and water, and higher casualty rates in natural disasters.

Indian Propaganda Poster Written in an Indian Language
“Tying the tubes of women is now simple.
Laparoscopy is the newest method.
The hospital releases you quickly.
The scar is very light. This service is
available at hospitals and health centers.”
India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

It is not necessarily, however, a gloomy prognosis: historically, the urbanization of countries generally leads to development and a higher standard of living, as we see in the Southern states of India.

Identifying populations at risk, planning infrastructure and housing policies, orienting furure urban expansion, and generating early-warning indicators about rapidly growing population growth in particular areas are all tools that can help policy-makers manage the changes ahead.

One aspect of urban planning that must not be forgotten in the rush is open space and vegetation. While cities may benefit humans economically, it is important to remember that living in such close quarters with one another, and away from greenery and natural landscapes, is not natural for us.

The hardness, grey color and anonynmity of cities often leads to a loss of a feeling of commumity and friendliness; this contributes to lonliness, depression and to the higher crime and homicide rates in urban areas. The shift to the city is often a move away from extended family members to begin with; migrants find themselves suddenly in a harsh and unfriendly environment.

Public spaces like walkways and parks are often the only leisure the poor can afford to enjoy, and they are crucial to a sense of well-being in cities. Everyone is welcome in open public spaces; they are key to keeping the peace and benefitting the whole.

While the increasing population is a reality that must be planned for and managed, there is a recent theory among economists and the media that India’s booming population is not a problem at all, but a “demographic dividend” that will pay off for everyone.

Many developed nations’ birth rates have stabilized, and some are even negative, like Japan and Italy. They are increasingly facing a greying of their workforces, and will have shortages of workers in the future. Even China’s stabilazation will ultimately result in a workforce crunch within 25-30 years, as the current workers grow older. Only India is projected to still be a “young” country at that time, with the majority of its population in the working age. So, the logic goes, India will be in a position to both attract jobs and export workers to the “old” countries.

While the theory certainly has some truth to it, the demographic dividend that is earned will not amount to much when the human and environmental cost of such a large population is taken into consideration. The population issue has been pushed so hard by the Indian government for so long that it feels refreshing, especially to the media, to hear that there might be a flip side to it. Imagine being nagged for years that smoking is bad for your health. If you find an article that says it might increase hand-eye coordination, you might make a copy for everyone you know. But that won’t stop you from getting cancer.

While other countries may export jobs, they are not likely to export water, land, clean air or forests. If there are some positive side effects to India’s booming population, that’s great. But that doesn’t make the disease any less deadly. We have to keep nagging, keep trying to shake each other awake. Because in the end, while some suits may reap a dividend, it is the children who will pay the price.

Additional EcoWorld Features on India:

- India’s Water Consciousness

- India’s Solar Power

- Nuclear Power in India

- Technology & Sunlight, India’s Green Future

- India’s Biodiesel Scene

- India’s Water Future

- India’s Energy Future

- Clean the Ganges

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China's Corn & Ethanol

CHINA MAY BECOME A NET CORN IMPORTER DESPITE MOVING AWAY FROM GRAIN ETHANOL
Food & Fuel – Corn becomes more prized than ever.

Editor’s Note: We have made no secret of our concern for the tropical rainforests of the world, the total area of which has been cut roughly in half in the last 150 years by steady population growth, logging, timber, and agriculture. And in the last 5-10 years a new threat to tropical rainforests has emerged and become perhaps the greatest challenge yet – deforestation to grow biofuel. The irony is that biofuel is touted as a “carbon neutral” way to produce fuel, but if anything really is causing climate change, it’s rainforest destruction.

After being asleep at the wheel up until about a year ago, the environmentalist community has awakened, enacting much needed changes to, for example, certification procedures for sustainable biofuel. It is not likely that European Carbon Offset Credits will fund any further rainforest destruction. Similarly, in the USA, groups like the 25×25 Alliance have come up with Sustainability Principles for biofuel. All of this is necessary and welcome.

On the other hand, the fact that biofuel is as fungible as money means much of what the developed world does to secure a sustainably produced supply of biofuel is irrelevant. The genie is out of the bottle, and biofuel grown in unsustainable ways will still be sold, into local markets or on the black market. But let’s step back for a moment.

First of all, biofuel was going to come along as soon as petroleum prices got high enough to make it viable. We give ourselves too much credit if we think this might have been averted, if, for example, environmentalists were aware of the dangers of biofuel sooner. And while biofuel is inevitably causing food prices to rise, since many crops such as corn have dual uses as either biofuel feedstock or as food for humans and livestock, this is not all bad. Higher commodity prices will help avert deflation if the global economy undergoes a cyclical contraction – which is going to happen eventually. Higher prices also stimulate innovation – better ways to produce food and biofuel are being developed far more quickly than they might have been if prices remained low. For many years there were surpluses of food, and innovation lagged accordingly.

Global population stablization and urbanization – both inevitable and well documented trends – combined with technological innovation, are going to lead to abundance of land, energy and water within a generation. And hopefully when that occurs, tropical rainforests will regenerate even faster than they were lost. Biofuel today definitely has negative side effects, but when biofuel is grown in an enclosed reactor in a factory, and food of the highest quality is grown in urban highrise farms using recycled water, we will know these innovations came about because we saw what we were doing, and adapted. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

China’s Corn – China may become net corn importer despite move away from grain ethanol.
by Andrew Billard, March 2008
CORN GROWING AREAS IN CHINA
Map of Corn Growing Areas in China
Source: USDA Joint Agricultural Weather Facility

China is the world’s second largest corn producer, but a growing appetite for grain combined with ambitious fuel ethanol targets may make the country a net corn importer, possibly as early as this year.

China may become net corn importer despite move away from grain ethanol. At present, grain accounts for about 80 percent of biofuel feedstock, and consumers are finding themselves at increased competition with the country’s burgeoning energy needs for limited domestic resources.

Although China can essentially meet its own grain demand for the moment, it is a tight balance that could easily be thrown off. With 20 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent of global farmland, the country’s grain supply is under long-term pressure from a growing population, and rising incomes, while urbanization gradually nibbles away at cultivatable land.

By 2010, China plans to consume 6.7 million tons of blended ethanol fuel gasoline and 11 million tons of bio-diesel-blended diesel annually, which would meet 10 percent of forecast demand for transport fuel. Government targets caused demand for corn from the ethanol industry to explode, which has raised concerns about how the policy will impact the country’s grain supply safety and price inflation.

Although the government has suspended the approval of new corn-based fuel ethanol projects and encouraged the use of non-grain feedstock for ethanol plants, industry insiders remain doubtful.

“China has just started on its mass plantation plans for cassava and sweet potato for industrial use, and it takes time for such crops to grow and mature,” said an official with a foreign equipment manufacturer whose products include those used in bio-fuel production. I believe that within three years time, grains such as corn and wheat will still be the leading feedstock for ethanol fuel.”

Henan Tianguan Enterprise Group Co. Ltd., one of the country’s four major ethanol producers, currently uses a mix of 60 percent wheat, 20 percent corn, 10 percent cassava and 10 percent sweet potato to produce the fuel.

China has just started large-scale production of crops such as cassava, sweet potato and sweet sorghum. However, the country lacks mature technology to produce cellulosic ethanol, which is seen as the future of large-scale ethanol fuel industry.

China’s concerns about rising food prices and grain supply concerns are not unique. A report published last year by the Sri Lanka-based World Water Management Institute said biofuel production will increase demand for land at the expense of the environment, and will also require large quantities of water, already a major constraint to agriculture in many parts of the world, including China. Other reports have said that ethanol production may severely impact upon the food industry, since, at excessive levels, it can use the food industry to feed energy needs.

The International Monetary Fund has said higher bio-fuel demand will push up food prices, especially for the world’s poor, and increase food import costs, thus curbing economic growth. In the last 15 years, China went from being the world’s largest soybean exporter to the world’s largest importer. With similar trends emerging in soy meal, edible oil, and grains, rising import costs will affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

China began promoting the production of corn-based ethanol in 2001, when the country’s corn production was booming, and net corn exports increased from 10.47 million tons in 2000 to a high of 16.4 million tons in 2003. After peaking in 2003, imports began to fall rapidly. Last year, China’s corn exports reached 4.8 million tons, but this was mainly due to the fulfilling contracts signed in 2006.

CHINA’S GRAIN OUTPUT: 1997 – 2007
Bar Chart of China's Grain Output from 1997 to 2007
Source: China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)
-

The dramatic reduction of export quotas for this year from 3 million to 1 million tons, the ongoing introduction of stricter usage policies, and the cancellation of all tax rebates on grain exports belie the official stance of grain security, especially insofar as corn.

Consumption in 2008 is estimated at 141.5 million tons, of which nearly two-thirds is for animal feed. In January, pork prices surged 58.8 percent year-on-year. Further rapid price growth, coupled with government support to the industry, may see pig production increase at a faster-than-anticipated rate, which means livestock feed estimates are likely too conservative. An increase of 5 percent in this area could put severe strains on domestic supply. Corn and soy meal are used to produce approximately 70 percent of animal feedstuffs. Note that these figures have not yet been adjusted for damage and losses caused by the current snowstorm crisis that has battered China since mid-January.

CHINA’S GRAIN DEMAND: 1997 – 2006 (million tons)
Bar Chart of China's Grain Demand from 1997 to 2006
Source: China Customs, Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, Interfax research.
(In this report, Interfax uses the sum of domestic grain output
and net grain import to estimate total domestic demand for grain.)
-

The USDA estimates China’s state corn stockpiles are in the region of 35 million tons, but it is difficult to verify this figure. However, given China’s aggressive state auction policy designed to stabilize market prices, this figure may be optimistic, although it could serve as a cushion in the event of a production shortfall.

Planting intentions, while difficult to predict as farmers tend to delay decisions, may be affected by corn ethanol restrictions. The tendency may be to shift to wheat and, where possible, soybeans which are more profitable, and China may have to resort to significant corn importation, possibly this season. This may be a continuing trend, given the scarcity of arable land and water resources.

If China does become a net corn importer this year, the impact on the price, both domestically and globally, will be dramatic and a price of $6 per bushel, up from current price of $5 is probable. The question now is how China will impact other agricultural commodities, like wheat, soybean and edible oils, in the year ahead.

Edited by Erik Dahl with contributions from Victor Wang, Tinko Hua, Yang Jing, and David Harman. This article was originally published by Interfax-China, and is republished with permission.

Findings in the article are based on extensive research from the Interfax-China China Commodities Report Grains & Softs 2008 industry report. Interfax-China’s team of in-country analysts track China’s industries and markets, providing comprehensive daily coverage of China’s energy sector. Learn how more about these markets and the opportunities they offer your business. Learn about energy in China through our China Energy Weekly and focused energy reports carbon trading, clean & renewable energy, CTL, oil & gas, and power generation. Free Trial: Contact Andrew Billard; andrew@interfax.cn or by phone at 86-10-8532-5021 (Beijing, China).

Additional EcoWorld reports on China:

- China’s Coal

- Cleaning Up China

- China’s Energy Demand

- China’s Renewable Energy

- Wind Power in China

- China’s Energy Outlook

- Fuel Cell Development in China

- China, Canals & Coal

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The Resource Revolution

CRADLE TO CRADLE SUSTAINABILITY EVENTUALLY WILL YIELD RESOURCE ABUNDANCE, BUT THE TRANSITION IS NOT EASY
Teak Plantation
One year old Acacia and Teak, “pioneer trees” begin the
process of transforming cattle rangeland back into forest.

Editor’s Note: When we founded EcoWorld back in 1995, one of the editorial missions of our online magazine was to support the goal to “double the timber mass of the planet within a 50 year period ending 2045.” Since then we’ve learned a lot – we’ve learned that global forest mass, overall, is not diminishing any more.

We’ve observed several encouraging trends – in 2007 for the first time in history, over 50% of the world’s population has moved into cities. It is now clear that the world’s human population will probably max at around 8.5 billion people, and that urbanization is already removing people, voluntarily, from rural and forest areas faster than population increase is adding them to those places.

At the same time we’ve witnessed the emergence of new trends – the rapid industrialization of China and India and other nations, putting a greater strain than ever on some of the finite resources in the world such as tropical forests which are prized for their hardwoods. We’ve also seen the popularity of biofuels translate into devastating new pressure on tropical rainforests, as they give way to plantations of oil palms and sugar cane, to harvest biodiesel and bioethanol. That China and India are industrializing is a good thing. That we have discovered a new source of energy, biofuel, is also a good thing. But it will make our hope to protect and restore forests all the more difficult.

Also since 1995 the concerns about climate change have become nearly all-consuming to the environmental movement. In some respects this is dangerous – climate change worries have taken all of the spotlight, and even led to more rainforest destruction, since the conventional wisdom has it that biofuel is better than petroleum, no matter if it is grown on land that used to be rainforest.

A few years ago we learned about Finca Leola, a company in Costa Rica that has quietly begun purchasing cattle ranches to turn them into tree plantations. But not just any tree plantations – Finca Leola’s operations are designed to systematically bring original forest back. First they plant “pioneer trees” such as Teak, fast growing with high value as timber. Then as these trees are progressively thinned, they are replaced with original native trees, which themselves are harvested sustainably. By underharvesting and increasing the timber mass, Finca Leola is able to increase the size of their timber harvest each year, at the same time as they sustainably and profitably harvest timber, and use the proceeds to purchase new land to convert.

Operations like Finca Leola are encouraging because they work in the real world. They create good jobs for local citizens, they deliver high yields of high value timber to burgeoning world markets for these products, and they do it while restoring forest, instead of diminishing it. Here is another installment in what has become an ongoing and inspiring saga. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

The Resource Revolution, or the End of the World As We Know It
by Fred Morgan, January 2008
Fred & Amy Morgan
Fred & Amy Morgan – pioneers of a business
model that profitably restores forests.

A new revolution has begun. As with all changes of great magnitude, the status quo is resisting for as long as it can, but inevitably, the Resource Revolution will push aside the old way of life and bring in the new.

When the world stopped having to rely on manual power and animal power, the result was the Industrial Revolution. Until that time, if you wanted a horseshoe, you would ask a blacksmith to make one for you and he would custom make it to fit your horse. When industry could make thousands of horseshoes per day, the price dropped and often the quality increased, helping create a market for the thousands of horseshoes. Much of the affluence of the modern world is due to the efficiency of industry.

Each revolution sows the seeds for the next. For example, without the Industrial Revolution, the Microchip Revolution would have been impossible, because manufacturing at the micro level cannot be done by hand. And without cheap computers and the microchip, the Information Revolution or Information Superhighway would never have happened, with its profound impact on the world. Now a smaller company can compete effectively against large companies because of the efficiencies brought about by computers and the Internet.

There are people left behind in the Information Revolution, as in any revolution. There are jobs that have gone away, just as blacksmithing became nearly an extinct occupation as a result of the industrial revolution. No longer does someone dictate to a secretary who takes shorthand. Draftsmen who did not learn to use CAD systems lost their jobs. In the publishing industry, in the early days, computers helped tremendously by replacing old typesetting processes. But now, because of the Internet, most old-style publishing companies are feeling the pressure. No longer do you need a publisher to get your ideas out, just a website. I can be sitting in Costa Rica typing this while those who will read it can be anywhere. The amount of time invested for me to write and disseminate this is very little compared to the time and cost of publishing it.

The Information Revolution has permitted us to have a global perspective like we’ve never experienced before, helping bring us into the Resource Revolution, wherein for the first time we are starting to view the earth as a closed system.

Now that we can see the world as a closed system, we have to learn how to treat it like one. With few exceptions, man has removed the easily available resources, and when those were depleted, we moved on to the next place. Land was left fallow to recover from the wastes. Our species always migrates toward resources. In the USA there is a grave problem with illegal immigration. In truth, there may not be a political solution. This is because we are dealing with the fact that it is always easier to migrate toward resources than to create them. It is the perception in many countries that the USA has an abundance of resources still remaining and all that is necessary to have a better life is to get there. You might as well try to hold back the waves with your hands as to try to stop a migration to easily available resources.

Much of the tropics have been deforested in recent years due to slash-and-burn farming (). A farmer stakes out land and removes the forest. After a few years, the soils and fertility have been used up and so he moves to the next section of land. It angers the average farmer when I try to explain why this is a problem, because I’m attacking what they perceive as their only means of earning a living. Besides, if it was good enough for dear old dad, it’s good enough for them.

I can remember a time when it was considered okay to dump your trash in the nearest stream. The ability for the streams and rivers to accept it seemed inexhaustible until rivers started to catch fire and fish started dying.

In many ways, we as a species have functioned like children. Leave children with no training alone in a home, and they will eat whatever is in the refrigerator and the pantry and, if you are lucky, fill up the trash baskets. We have been doing the same; we have been consuming all the resources of the planet without being worried that someday we would run out. The magic refrigerator and pantry were filled with all manner of good things and we have eaten like there was no tomorrow. We didn’t think about the need to deal with the trash pile growing up around our ears. Mother Earth has been like the adult who comes home to replenish the larder and tell the kids to take out the trash, but we are rapidly running out of easily available resources, untapped frontiers, and places to dump the garbage.

Cradle to Cradle Book Cover
Cradle to Cradle
Remaking the Way
We Make Things

Those who do not learn how to treat the world as a closed system will be left behind in the Resource Revolution.

Much of the profitability of old-style companies is based on resources whose only cost is that of extraction. This has left other costs not calculated. For example, to be healthy, a company needs to calculate the cost of resource replacement and the cost of cleanup of any unwanted byproducts of using the resource or creating products with the resource.

As resources become more and more dear, the nature of business is changing. Since I am in the business of wood and reforestation and it is a subject I know well, I’ll use it as my example.

Before the Industrial Revolution, if you wanted to use wood, you went out and cut the tree down yourself. Since you literally created your home from the sweat of your brow with the power of your body, you built small unless you were very rich. Log cabins required very little wood processing. The only planks that were necessary were for the floor, if you didn’t just have a dirt floor. The roof was made by splitting wood for shakes.

It was a challenge to make much of a dent in the forest. The population was relatively small, and the time involved to take a tree and make wood from it was long. In truth, most of the time the forest recuperated faster than trees could be removed. Most of the clearing for farms was done with fire, not with ax.

When the Industrial Revolution came about, not only did saws and axes become of better quality and cheaper, but motorized means of cutting trees came into play. Sawmills were invented that could process thousands of board feet of wood a day. If you wished to build a home, you could merely go and buy the processed wood. About this time the USA moved away from post and beam construction that produced homes and barns that lasted for hundreds of years to homes built using framing construction that do not last nearly as long. But it was faster to build with precut framing wood than to build post and beam, and if the homes didn’t last as long, at least they were easier to repair or replace, since there was always more wood available down at the sawmill or lumber store.

Now we have machinery such that a single crew can clearcut a square mile of forest per day. In the past, for a person to drop ten large trees in a day would be a good day’s work; now tens of thousands is more normal. This is considered progress.

But now we are seeing something: All of this great productivity has destroyed streams, rivers, and the land itself in runoff, degradation of soil, and erosion. Where before was an ecosystem that could easily regenerate itself, now it gets harder and harder to regrow the forest. We’ve tried replacing trees in monocrop plantations, but this has created very serious disease and pest problems in many areas.

Not only that, as the supply dwindles, there is not enough wood to keep the very expensive sawmills and harvest equipment busy. The nature of a large capital investment in equipment is that it only makes sense if it is used at nearly full capacity. It is hard to pay the bills on a million dollar piece of equipment if it is sitting idle because there are no trees to cut. Yet as sawmills are closing, for example, in many parts of the USA, there are people elsewhere who are doing very well in wood today.

Finca Leola Woodshop
Finca Leola’s woodshop – because they own their own
sawmill, they can harvest nearly all of the tree

They are revolutionary thinkers who have taken the long view, treating the world as a closed system and buying land with trees on it that had very little value because others had already taken all the good trees.

These people have gone out and selectively harvested just the bad trees. Instead of only taking the best, they took the worst. Even though it is not as profitable to process poor quality wood, when you do it with smaller equipment and use it to make flooring, moldings, and such, you can make more than enough to survive while you allow the forest to recover. Instead of year by year the forest being worse off, it actually improves. This means the owner, instead of being poorer every year, actually is getting wealthier. It is like having a magic pantry that every time you open it, the amount of food as well as the quality increases.

The secret to this business model is to always have a view to the future, because if you destroy the resource, you will destroy your business and your livelihood. You also have to be careful of your waste, because no more can we assume that there is yet another frontier to exploit just over the hill. If you poison your environment, it will be you that you poison, not your neighbors. The good part is that if you have your own source of resources, your business is not held hostage by availability of the resource nor by price fluctuations of that resource.

There is a book worth reading called Collapse by Jared Diamond. Diamond shows how civilizations have collapsed due to various factors, often including abuse of their environment. The author might agree with me that in the coming years, no longer can we view a society as civilized that plunders resources. After all, do we think of societies that are based on robbing and plundering as being civilizations? No, we think of them as barbaric forces against civilization. Now has come a time that if we are not to suffer a collapse of the civilization we have, we must understand that exploitation of anything is not civilization because such action is not sustainable. In the future, we may view companies who exploit resources as no different from a thief who supports himself by stealing. It is not producing to merely take from a common pool of resources. The resources of the world belong to all of us, and those who take and do not replenish are enriching themselves by making all of us poorer. This is not being civilized.

You will notice that those who are against the Kyoto agreement often state that adopting it would wreck our economy. Think about what they are saying: If we have to pay for the damage we cause, our businesses will not be profitable. In reality, since we know that there is no “magic pantry” and no “magic trash can,” businesses like that are showing themselves profitable only because they are not calculating the full costs and are leaving the rest of them for all of us to pay. It’s like transferring your expenses to another department to appear profitable. This is considered fraud in business, and we should consider it fraud in civilization as well.

Natural Capitalism Book Cover
Natural Capitalism:
Creating the Next
Industrial Revolution

When we think of the businesses that have taken resources without putting back and have left the trash for the public to deal with, we need to understand that we are really the culprits.

Any time we buy their products, we are benefiting from their short-term gains, and when we place our money in their companies via investments, we are granting them our agreement with their practices. Unfortunately, it will not be them who pay the piper at the end, but all of us.

We are starting to see new companies that not only do not rape the planet for resources, but manage to actually turn a profit while turning back the clock on resource consumption. We at Finca Leola believe we have managed to create such a company. The reason, I think, is simple: We were never driven by a need for short-term profit and so were able to take the long view, the revolutionary view.

In much of Latin America, the way people outside of the cities earn a living is often by raising cattle. They have chopped down or burned the rainforest, planted grass, and put cattle on the land. Much of the meat is purchased in order to supply cheap beef for the northern markets. There is a problem with this model. First of all, if you have to buy the land, you cannot survive this way – it is better to put the money in the bank and receive the interest. So, raising cattle in Latin America is based on having a free resource: land. Secondly, the longer you have cattle on the land, the poorer becomes the land. I constantly hear stories of how rich the land here in Costa Rica was in the past. When the forest was first removed, all that was needed to raise corn or beans was to cast the seeds on the ground and you would have a great harvest! But after a few years of doing this, you have to start adding fertilizer or you will not have a harvest at all.

Finca Leola buys cattle farms and plants trees on them. You can own trees on Finca Leola plantations, and your money will bring back rainforest, improving the world and your bottom line. We raise trees that are pioneer species in order to quickly protect the land and produce a return for the tree owners. After a while, we plant the permanent rainforest trees among the pioneer trees, using them like a nursery. As the forest returns, its products will sustain its protection as well as provide work for the locals so that they value the forest. The forest will be considered a partner, not a free resource to be robbed.

This creates many very good and permanent jobs, because the permanent forest is productive, whereas raising cattle in the tropics is a cycle of poverty for all except a few large landowners.

Every year our lands are more productive and the future looks brighter. The streams and rivers on our land are cleaner and flow with more water. The wildlife is much more abundant, and amazingly, much more comfortable around people. All our workers have health insurance and retirement, uncommon among rural Costa Rican laborers. They have better jobs that pay better than average in the area.

We now have a woodshop that is producing products from the plantations. Since we own the woodshop and sawmill, we use nearly all the tree, not just the easiest part to process. This is because we take the closed-system view that no resource is to be wasted. It takes a lot of effort to grow a tree, and we don’t want to throw away any of it. True, it would be more profitable in the short term if we took the best of the tree and left the rest as waste, but in the long run, it is better to use as much as we can. And since we don’t have many layers (loggers, sawmills, wood brokers, lumber yards, etc.) we can use wood that normally would not be considered profitable.

Sheep: natural weed control & fertilizing.

We also use sheep, small cattle, and horses to keep down the grass between the trees. This produces revenue while reducing our cost to care for the trees. When we have to create a bridge for access, at times we create a pond for fish as well. This produces food for our workers and for ourselves and perhaps some for market.

We don’t run like an assembly line but as a complete system. We try to use all resources efficiently while producing more if at all possible.

No more can industry use up the resources in one location and move on to where there are more. We have finally realized that resources are not inexhaustible. People who have decided to invest in diminishing resources such as trees instead of investing in old-fashioned businesses not only understand that many of the old-style businesses are facing very serious challenges in the future, but that companies such as ours are allowing investors to benefit in the new way of business. They are finding that the returns from the efficient way we grow trees exceed what they would have received from an old-style plantation.

We are entering into a new kind of world where holistic companies are the profitable ones. Green investing is a movement that recognizes this as a market force. Instead of investing in businesses that rape and pillage and are therefore doomed to only short-term success, the smart investor places his money in businesses that work in harmony with the earth and help replenish life.

Success in business and in investing is usually due to recognizing emerging trends. Buy low; sell high, because no one thinks what you are investing in is worth much, but when the trend catches on, your initial investment is worth many times more. Sometimes the trend is so large, it becomes a revolution. These are times when the fundamentals of business changes radically, and during such times there are always winners and losers, the losers being those who either do not or will not accept the change.

Don’t be left behind in this revolution – invest in companies that treat the earth as a closed system. If we are going to advance civilization, our money needs to do more than just earn more money; it needs to buy back the health of our planet.

About the Author: Fred Morgan, entrepreneur and former computer systems developer, turned to planting valuable tropical hardwoods in 2001 as a means to secure his own retirement. Acquaintances asked Fred and his wife, Amy, to grow trees for them alongside their own. By 2007, Finca Leola was growing trees for more than 100 clients from all over the world. Their model is to use plantation trees as a first step to permanent reforestation, with all of the Finca Leola tree farms placed under ecological easements so that the land use can never be changed from forest use.

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India's Water Consciousness

THE BABY AND THE BATHWATER
Indian Woman Collecting Water
Water Harvesting:
Using a sari to funnel raindrops into a container

Editor’s Note: At over a billion people and still increasing in population, within a country 3.3 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) in size, how India develops poses challenges representative of humanity at large. We have covered India’s energy and water issues extensively, in features such as “India’s Solar Power,” “Nuclear Power in India,” “Technology & Sunlight, India’s Green Future,” “India’s Biodiesel Scene,” “India’s Water Future,” “India’s Energy Future,” and “Clean the Ganges, to name some. Democratic, diverse, emerging. As goes India, so goes the world.

In many respects India has great advantages as the world rushes towards green energy technologies. Abundant solar energy and abundant rainfall provide the most critical raw materials for any going green economy, so when it comes to access to raw solar energy and raw water volume, India is a resource rich nation. India also has world class technology, with an industrial base as well as a high-tech and scientific community that is deep and broad. While of course facing afflictions that confront any great nation, India nonetheless is a healthy democracy, where green innovations gain a much better hearing. From these perspectives, India has a bright future, with many ways to collectively realize the overall goal of energy and water abundance.

Reforesting is possibly the most critical challenge for India, insofar as tropical forests increase the amount of regional rain as well as the ability of the land to naturally collect and store rain. The way to evaluate trees is to think of them as water reservoirs. Trees are water – they collect water, they store water, they breath water. When forests are restored, rainfall returns – more moderate and more frequent. When forests are restored, rainfall returns and springs again flow year-round.

It is difficult at times for those who support or oppose large scale projects such as interlinking rivers to reconcile with each other to this fact: Modern mega-project solutions and solutions involving traditional technologies are not always incompatible. What if a nuclear powered desalination station pumped water into the desert where rainforest once stood, and across tens of thousands of square kilometers irrigated pioneer stands of new trees? Then once the forest was restored, and rainfall returned, the desalinated water could be used to supply water to new city, or to refill deep aquifers, or be transported via tunnel to another watershed?

Whether or not you support mega-proposals such as nuclear powered desalination plants, the combination of decentralized solutions that combine high technology and traditional designs is what holds most immediate promise. Unlike megaprojects, which take decades to plan and implement, decentralized solutions are on a scale, by definition, where diverse suppliers could supply various solutions to millions of consumers. Thin film PV roofing material would be a good product for India. Series-hybrid vehicles would also be a good product. Home lighting and energy storage systems would be a good product – any off-grid system. So would commodifying cisterns to harvest runoff, and off-grid water treatment systems.

And the ultimate decentralized technology solution for India’s energy and water challenges is a tree. If everybody in India planted a few trees a year, imagine how much more the good rains would fall. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

India’s Water Consciousness – The Baby & the Bathwater
by Brook & Guarav Bhagat, August 15, 2007
Flood in India
The drought-flood cycle. How can water
abundance be harvested instead of cause harm?

With about 20 percent of the global population, India is struggling to meet her water needs with just five percent of the world’s available water.

The gap between these numbers is widening, and experts predict that by the year 2020, demand will exceed supply.

Making the issue of water management even more pressing is the fact that many states get as much as 90 percent of their rainfall in the four months of the summer monsoon season, leading to a drought-flood cycle. While the main enemy is drought, flooding also kills hundreds and displaces millions of people each year. And, after decades of debate, the government’s main answer is grandiose river linking schemes that would relocate the water to where it is needed– plans that are yet to reach the drawing board, but extremely expensive, invasive, environmentally risky and possibly impossible (ref. “India’s Interlinking Rivers”).

Since the 1960′s, as the water crisis in India grew more serious, people drilled deeper and deeper into the ground to tap fresh water. The idea was a success at first: the water was used for irrigation for crops needed to feed India’s ever-growing population, and farmers began focusing on water-thirsty cash crops. This, along with other “modern” amenities and the shift from rural to urban lifestyles set India on the path to unsustainable water management.

Mumbai, 2007. Without water management,
monsoons cause flooding, while during the dry
season wells deplete irreplaceable groundwater

Approximately 70 percent of India’s irrigation water and 80 percent of its domestic water supplies come from groundwater rather than from surface water.

In a recent report, the World Bank said that India has no proper water management system at all – her groundwater is disappearing and her river bodies are turning into sewers.

The annual monsoon that once was capable of filling the rivers and recharging the underground aquifers through the soil is losing ground– or, rather, losing water. In parts of New Delhi, the groundwater level drops by up to 10 meters (33 feet) each year. Rupert Talbot, a water consultant with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), described the situation in many areas as irreversible.

“You can go to parts where they are drilling so deep that they are mining fossil water that is 20,000 years old. It will never be recharged (by rains),” he said.

If she continues down this path, Mother India is headed for the official title of being in “water stress” in about 10 years, according to the World Bank. This is indicated by the annual availability of freshwater per head, which is expected at that time to fall below 1,700 cubic metres. By 2025, with an estimated 1,000 cubic metres per head, the situation will be categorized as water scarcity.

Even with numbers like these staring them in the face, there is still “widespread complacency” in government circles about the water situation, according to the World Bank report– although public promises of safe water and sanitation are abundant, getting there is not quite so easy.

For water, as with every resource, money separates the haves from the have-nots. When the government fails to provide a constant supply of water even in the national capital of New Delhi, those who can afford it find their own ways of getting it. The result is a kind of free market, with no incentive to conserve water.

“What has happened in the last 20 or 30 years is a shift to self-provision. Every farmer sinks a tubewell and every house in Delhi has a pump pumping groundwater,” said Briscoe, a water issues specialist at the World Bank. “Once that water stops you get into a situation where towns will not be able to function.”

Globally, increasing numbers of poor people are deprived of access to water of the quality and quantity necessary to meet even the most basic levels of health and sanitation. And in situations of scarcity, the poor are of course the first ones to suffer, losing out to those who can afford more powerful machinery for extracting water or those who have more political influence. In India, this means that owners of more expensive pumps and deeper-boring wells are able to continue pumping groundwater, despite rapidly depleting aquifers, leaving the hand pumps and shallow irrigation pumps of the poor high and dry.

Clearly, this is an area where the government should step in–poor people should not be the ones who are disproportionately forced to conserve water, or go without it. If anything, more responsibility for water conservation should fall on the larger, wealthier water users.

But, while it is easy to agree on the magnitude of the problem, it is not so easy to agree on the solution, or even the general direction of the solution. Most people, or at least the most vocal people, seem to favor huge government projects and interventions like the interlinking of rivers — perhaps many of these people are part of the government themselves. Or perhaps, as a result of urbanization, we have all gotten too used to our resources being someone else’s responsibility– if there is no heat, or no light, or no water coming from the tap to drink or to flush, someone ought to fix it.

Water Distribution:
Using rocks, bamboo and gravity
to transport water

What is needed, in part, is a shift in consciousness: a movement towards awareness of ourselves, the resources we consume, where they come from and where they go to. This is not only true of Earth’s water, but of all our requirements – food, land, air, energy, everything.

Greater self-awareness will lead to greater self-sufficiency – and, simultaneously, greater consciousness of the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things. Becoming more aware of and able to meet our own needs can, in a perfect world, make us more aware that everyone needs the same things. We will be better equipped to help each other on the local, personal, practical level – if you know that your neighbor dug his own compost pit, you will feel more confident (and perhaps even more obligated) to do the same, especially if he knows what you are going through and offers to help you. And, as more people in the neighborhood talk about it and do it, the design and effectiveness of the pits are likely to become better and better.

This is all, however, up in the air. In the real world, one tree-hugger’ might make the effort, and the neighbors will do little more than complain about the dust, or the noise, or whatever else they can think of.

This is where bigger groups and ideas come in: the responsibility of government and non-government organizations to organize and mobilize people. Isn’t this what we originally hired them to do? A balance must be struck between personal responsibility and the government (or non-government) promotion, organization, facilitation, and execution of plans and methods to meet our needs.

Sound like a good dream? Now it seems far away, but this kind of communal and personal consciousness of resources actually composes most of human history – out of necessity. For the 70-80% of the Indian population still living in rural villages, this is still a reality.

Everyone in the village knows where the water and food and electricity comes from, and where they go to. But the modernization, for lack of a better word, that has swept across the world judges these conditions and values as old-fashioned and time-consuming. Instant gratification, in every element of life, is becoming extreme, and actually eroding the quality of life it claims to improve.

We can speed up the pace of life, but we cannot change human nature. Instant food, water, shelter, and sex leave us without nutrition, love, or peace of mind… and the so-called developed countries are developing insanity, addiction, suicide and war faster than anything else – not to mention polluting the planet to the brink of disaster.

In the immortal words of Yoda: Sometimes the way forward is the way back. What is needed is a combination of the fruits of modern technology and development and the self-awareness that brought balance in the past. Now the necessity is different, the risks are different, but the situation is just as urgent; and the first thing we have to change is our consciousness.

Anil Agarwal Portrait
Anil Agarwal, 1947-2002
The visionary founder of India’s
Center for Science & the Environment
(Photo: www.IndianNGOs.com)

One of the first things we might notice if we were more aware is the amount of water we could save by simply catching the rainwater.

In the realm of water management in India, this is a movement called rainwater harvesting. One of its biggest champions, Anil Agarwal, is the founder and director of the Centre for Science and Environment and the editor of Down to Earth magazine. On the Editor’s Page of the March 4th issue, he wrote:

“Until the start of the 20th century most of water use in a highly developed country like India – we must remember that until the British came, it was one of the world’s richest, most urbanized and literate nations – was of rainwater and flood water. Indians knew that almost all the water they got in a year – in a country that is relatively rich in rainfall – was in just 100 hours. The remaining 8,660 hours in a year, the gods gave them nothing. So they built a civilization on these drops of nectar from heaven. Bengal and the Thanjavur delta were one of the most agriculturally prosperous regions in the country and they depended almost entirely on the capture of flood water for irrigation.”

The population, however, is much larger now than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. Combine this with problems like salinity, mercury poisoning and rising levels of other heavy metals in water which have significantly decreased the useable ground water, and the result is that even if every drop of rainwater was harvested, it would no longer be enough for everyone.

But the emphasis on personal and community responsibility is right on the money, and people are starting to take notice – like the last State of India Report, which focused on traditional methods of rainwater harvesting.

For more than two decades now, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organization (NGO), has been promoting the revival of traditional systems of water harvesting, with appropriate adaptation and integration of modern systems.

From tanks and talabs to rooftop harvesting systems in the city, rainwater harvesting, with government support, is the most logical and practical way to start trying to solve the water crisis in both rural and urban, domestic and industrial, India. CSE conducts training workshops that are open to everyone – from engineers, NGO’s and politicians to concerned citizens. And, they have undertaken the awesome project of documenting hundreds of traditional and contemporary Indian rainwater harvesting systems on the website (http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org).

Water Storage:
With more water harvesting, India can to raise the water
tables in the jheels, and everywhere else

Even a passing glance at these widely varying and often brilliant methods is inspirational – from delicate bamboo pipeline irrigation to check dams, modern percolation ponds, tankas, kundis, you name it. It is truly an essential and even beautiful collection. By comparison, it makes government plans like “connecting all the rivers” seem incredibly heavy-handed.

India’s population is increasingly becoming the densest on the planet – but the bureaucracy seems even denser, particularly when it comes to tackling the difficult issue of water management. So many projects and committees and objectives are formed and rarely met, it seems tedious to even think of listing them; but the largest desk animal of them all is the ILR Project.

In the discussion of consciousness, one disturbing aspect of the Interlinking of Rivers project is that since the government will not have the money to implement the hugely ambitious project, it will go the build-own-operate-transfer route and lease rivers to concessionaires. These operators will own the water resources for several years and will charge users, both urban and rural, for that time period. This goes against India’s tradition of treating water as a community, not private, resource. While money, or the lack of it, already determines the availability and quality of water directly or indirectly for most people, it leaves a strange taste in the mouth – this is the same country that once respected every river as a goddess.

The interlinking of rivers, while perhaps being a visionary idea, doesn’t seem to have much chance. If it is literally possible or not has not been shown – and if it is possible, it still seems financially and politically doomed, and most importantly, environmentally risky.

It is a hard gamble to claim acceptable losses of any kind of life – plants, animals, and people will be undoubtedly displaced and in many cases destroyed. Will that water save more lives than it takes? Maybe. It is worth researching, it is worth asking. Every vision is worth trying. But India cannot afford to wait and see if these daydreams can come true or not.

Meanwhile, although rainwater harvesting is the appropriate place to start, this alone is not going to solve all India’s water problems. We have to look for ways to increase the available ground water supply and decrease the dependence on underground aquifers. We have to find more and more ways to stop wasting, and recycle, the water we have – in most cases, innovative technology is already there, it is just not cost-effective.

Low-flow toilets, faucets and showers should be mandatory in new construction; composting toilets and many other options exist, but are in most cases too complicated and expensive.

The development of these and other new ideas, like natural pollution- and wastewater-cleaning systems (ref. “Clean the Ganges”) should be funded; investment in water and environmental technology is an investment in life.

Furthermore, industries and corporations must be held accountable for their actions, taxed and prodded to stop making the situation worse.

This is the government’s place – to protect the people, and their water, from money-hungry predators. It can also provide incentives for the public to move toward ecologically sound products and practices, as it has already done gracefully on the issue of population control, offering financial and educational advantages to smaller families.

In the end it is a tightrope balancing act – self-sufficiency and awareness as far as it will go on one hand, and outside organization and direction on the other. While they may seem contradictory, they are not; the solutions are sure to stem from a seat of self-awareness, personal and community responsibility – not only in water management, but every aspect of life.

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Animals, Composting, Conservation, Drought, Electricity, Energy, History, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Nuclear, Organizations, Other, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Urbanization0 Comments

California's Land Fight

Back in 2004 it seemed like a Jerry Brown / Arnold Schwarzenegger regime in California would be an odd pairing. But why? Both are intelligent, pragmatic yet outspoken politicians. Both are lampooned; the Moonbeam, the Terminator.

Now Moonbeam and the Terminator are California’s Governor and Attorney General, not in that order. And this week, in any case, they are both fundamentally wrong on environmental policy. Bravo to any politician in Sacramento who won’t pass a budget in a year when the State is going to sue and prosecute land owners at a whole higher level.

Already favored with nonprofit status, tax-deductible contributions, and settlement payoffs, environmentalist financial interests are now beginning to get reconveyance fees. And adding to this power, our Attorney General now enacts a law to require environmental impact reports, “EIR reports,” to include global warming impact.

This law will encourage additional civil suits on landowners who just want their land to have homes built all over it and as they choose, maybe even on big lots. Every scrap of ground will become even more contested between developers and environmentalists. Only the most powerful will survive. Growth will be forced into tiny land allocations of ultra high density housing. Low density suburbs inside the infill wall will be destroyed – their lifestyle exterminated – with innoculations of ultra-high density compounds. These “smart growth” ideologues and opportunists, whichever, are facilitating the increase in California’s population to sixty million people in 20 years. Perhaps there are other options.

To estimate global warming impact in an “EIR,” even if you believe in all the current precepts of global warming law – based on science – is still impossibly subjective. Perhaps high density urbanization causes congestion, because the reality of too few roads crushes utopian fantasies that people will stop buying SCG (“smart, clean, green”) cars and using them. A low density urbanized landscape would permit wildlife and surface vegetation to thrive on the private land – costing taxpayers nothing, delivering everything. Roads would not be congested. In-turn, this land use would be cooler and less water intensive than, say, biofuel plantations, and would significantly lower overall regional surface temperatures.

In an ultra-high density urban model, there are no trees. In the Sacramento “urban services” area, for example, people now live in high density residential housing, up to 10,000 per square mile. From any practical perspective of landscaping today, high density housing permits no trees on private lots, and it gets hot inside these compounds. The farmland outside the urban service walls is also hot. This is “smart growth,” and it makes regional surface temperatures hot as hell. For the sake of the environment, we need to loosen the rules on land use, not tighten them.

So go ahead and launch your global warming impact EIR requirement, Sacramento. But unless it is turned on its head, this law will only feed consultants and lawyers, as bulldozers stay close to the compounds, and our freedoms wither in a hotter sun.

Posted in Cars, Causes, Landscaping, Other, Policy, Law, & Government, Regional, Urbanization2 Comments

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