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Water: You Only Think About It If You Can’t Get Any

Posted on 10 October 2013 by Jerry

There is a discovery of five new water sources, aquifers, in the largely desert area of Kenya.  Estimates are these aquifers represent 17% of Kenya’s known water reserves or some 250 billion cubic meters of water.  Based on a breakthrough in satellite sensing technology this then must take care of Kenya and sets the stage for the rest of Africa.  Right? Not so fast.

The search, use, and ownership of the world’s drinkable water is controversial and an ever growing picture of profit in scarcity.  Water disputes abound and as businesses seek to portray that there is really no problem they can’t handle for a price, the problems continue to grow.

The issue with water in Kenya is not really its scarcity but rather the absence of access to it or its distribution.  The water that was discovered is buried deep underground, more than 100 meters down.  A water borehole for a community hand pump costs roughly $1,300 apiece.  Unfortunately it can only accommodate sources of water at less than 50 meters of depth in order to maintain an adequate flow rate.  The new sources of water are between 100 to 250 meters in depth which require a pump whose cost starts at $130,000 and goes up from there.

Unfortunately Kenya is identified as a “very poor country”, with a per capita annual income of around $1700, or between $1001 and $2000, as characterized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  This income level puts the average cost of a water pump beyond what is affordable for most towns and villages in Kenya.  Funds to make up the difference would have to come from international charities or loans to the government from the IMF or from businesses in exchange for ownership of the water sources.

The fact that affordable water is out of reach for poor areas does not stop business interests such as agriculture and government officials, corrupt and well meaning, from fighting with their neighbors for a bigger share of available water.  The following are three descriptions of the ongoing disputes between upstream and downstream nations over who gets how much water.  They are representative of many disputes that include those between India and Bangladesh, China and India, and Jordan and Israel.

  • Ethiopia and Sudan are upstream from Egypt.  All three are angling for a greater share of the water of the Nile and its contributing tributaries, the Blue Nile and White Nile.  Ethiopia is building the Grand Renaissance Dam that will become the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa generating more than 6,000 megawatts of power.  Egypt is afraid the mile long damn and the 74 billion cubic meter reservoir it creates will siphon off water necessary for Egypt.  Egypt, that receives almost no rainfall, depends on the Nile for 97% of its annual renewable water supply.
  • Pakistan is fighting its upstream neighbor to maintain its share of the Indus River system that carries Himalayan water from the mountain glacier valleys through India to Pakistan.  India, which has 40% of its people off any power grid, has been planning the construction of the Kishenganga Dam along with several others to produce hydroelectric power for India.  Even though there is a long standing treaty signed in 1960 that guarantees 80% of the Indus River system water for Pakistan, it fears its historic upstream rival will have concentrated its ability to shut off all water to Pakistan and its large agricultural region.
  • The Euphrates and Tigris rivers flow from the mountains of Turkey through Syria, Iraq and into the Persian Gulf.  Turkey has used the water from these and other rivers to build a large water and power infrastructure.  With running water to 85% of the Turkish homes it compares well to the 75% average among Middle Eastern countries.  It only uses 41% of its annual water flow and has constructed over 670 large dams and 650 small ones distributed among its 25 hydrological basins.   It has historically been very proprietary about its water resources.  This has caused unending friction with its separatist Kurdish region and with Syria and Iraq.  Both neighboring countries have long complained that Turkey is not adequately sharing its water resources.  These frictions continue today.

Last but not least, water is fueling growth for a burgeoning water industry.  While there are hundreds if not thousands, of small companies competing for a piece of the water pie, the market is dominated by international conglomerates.  Many people participate in making drinkable water available around the world but some of them are voicing fears of what the future may hold.

Maude Barlow, chairperson, of the Council of Canadians and a former senior advisor to the U.N. General Assembly has long been an advocate of citizen rights to water around the globe.  She recently warned that international business is calling for increased privatization of water with businesses taking over ownership and provision of water.

She quotes Nestles as saying that 1.5% of the world’s water should be set-aside for the poor and rest should be put on the open market.  A recent report published in IPS News quotes Ms. Barlow as stating that if Nestle and other businesses prevail “There will one day be a water cartel similar to big oil, making life and death decisions about who gets water and under what circumstances every day.”

The international conglomerates she is concerned about include Nestle, Coca Cola, Suez, and the Veolia Corporation.  Each of these is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that are actively lobbying around the world and leading the charge on privatization.  They offer cities, counties, and countries financing, infrastructure and other assistance with their water needs for a price.

There are some notable examples of how some of these companies have done business over the years.  Many politicians around the world were bribed to insure positive contract awards, regulatory rulings or active support for privatization.

It has often been said that water will someday be more valuable than oil.  Rising temperatures, shrinking glaciers, and rising seas are rapidly diminishing the supply of pure drinking water.  At the same time the world’s population is growing especially in developing countries, many of which have never had an abundance of water.

The long-term problem is one of appropriate management of the world’s water resources to insure it is distributed fairly to the world’s citizens.  This can only happen as long as water is a public good, available to everyone on a non discriminate basis.  This means there must be increasing aide from the developed world to make water more plentiful and available.

Privatization is not the answer.  Putting water resources in the hands of businesses that are driven by the profit motive only insures continued waste by wealthy nations and greater poverty and thirst in the developing world.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or look at source documents:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6152/1327.summary?sid=aa310592-8263-463b-915f-7105f05eb01d

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-16/new-water-sources-wont-quench-the-worlds-thirst

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/20/us-africa-water-idUSBRE83J0W520120420

http://www.ibtimes.com/egypt-ethiopia-water-dispute-threatens-nations-1324189

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/06/world/la-fg-egypt-ethiopia-20130607

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/world/asia/21kashmir.html

http://www.merip.org/mer/mer254/turkeys-rivers-dispute

http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/u-n-s-water-agenda-at-risk-of-being-hijacked-by-big-business/

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/may/29/local/me-privatewater29

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-13/south-americans-face-upheaval-in-deadly-water-battles.html

http://www.publicintegrity.org/environment/natural-resources/water-barons

http://www.veolia.com

http://www.nestle.com

Phttp://www.suez-environnement.com

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Poverty Limits Thought & Fits Maslow’s Hierarchy

Posted on 04 September 2013 by Jerry

Many people see a causal relationship between diminished intellect and poverty.  They believe that if poor people were more intelligent they would figure a way out of their poverty.  Recent research shows that worries and challenges created by poverty consume greater intellectual resources and attention from poor people when compared to “well-off” people.

This report in the August 30, 2013 issue of Science Magazine, entitled “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function”, suggests that “poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity….because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks”.  The report stated further “The poor must manage sporadic income, juggle expenses, and make difficult tradeoffs….The human cognitive system has limited capacity. Preoccupations with pressing budgetary concerns leave fewer cognitive resources available to guide choice and action.”

In the latter part of the report, researchers warn, “Policy-makers should beware of imposing cognitive taxes on the poor just as they avoid monetary taxes on the poor.  Filling out long forms, preparing for a lengthy interview, deciphering new rules, or responding to complex incentives all consume cognitive resources.”

The research was conducted by Anandi Marti, PhD of Behavioral Economics at the University of Warwick, Sendhil Mullainathan, a MacArthur Genius award winner and Professor of Economics at Princeton University, Eldar Shafir, the William Stuart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, and Jaiying Zhao, an Assistant Professor in the Princeton Psychology Department.

See www.ted.com/talks/sendhil_mullainathan.html for an interesting TED presentation by the MacArthur Genius Sendhil Mullainathan.  His talk is entitled “Solving Social Problems with a Nudge”.

These research conclusions support Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the sense that Maslow does not identify any cognitive criteria for people’s existence at any level of his hierarchy.  He stated that the more closely the needs of the individual fall within the bottom levels of the Hierarchy, for example Physiological Needs or Safety Needs, the individual will seek to satisfy them first before considering other needs defined in the higher levels.  This would indicate support for the conclusion that dealing with poverty at the Physiological and Safety Needs levels focuses much more cognitive attention from the poor on lower level needs.  This leaves few cognitive resources for other pursuits.

Maslow’s Hierarchy is discussed more extensively in Chapter 9 – A Positive Life Experience Imperative in the book “Beyond Animal, Ego and Time”.  Posted on this blog, this book chapter can be accessed using the following link: www.iamaguardian.com/date/2013/03 .

Many people believe that poverty is the poor person’s fault.  That with a little gumption and hard work one can overcome poverty.  This research suggests a different reason why poor people tend to remain poor.  It hypothesizes that any brain only has so many cognitive resources and that they are occupied by the daily problems and challenges facing the poor. While this is a new and novel explanation of the cycle of poverty it sounds intuitively true and should cause us to reevaluate our approaches to helping the poor.

Use the following links to obtain more information or read source documents

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976.abstract?sid=7c8caef9-ae0c-4dea-b341-c4b5e319b4de (in addition to reading the Abstract, select the Editor’s Summary)

http://www.ted.com/talks/sendhil_mullainathan.html

http://www.iamaguardian.com/date/2013/03/

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Income Disparity Grows, Migration Push May Come

Posted on 18 July 2013 by Jerry

Recent studies show that after a brief pause the income disparity of the U.S. has continued to grow, CEOs salaries are back up and belief in U.S. as the “land of opportunity” is faltering.  The gap is widening here and abroad with a couple of notable exceptions, China and India.

As reported in the World of Work Report of 2013 issued by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization, the average ratio of the 15 largest U.S. companies CEO compensation is back to over 500 times the average earnings of their employees or back to the same level as before the market crash of 2009.  This compares to the same measure for the Netherlands at around 60 times, China at 130 times, and the United Kingdom at 220 times.

This of course is a comparison of CEO income to the average worker’s income.  Also this year, Bloomberg reported on the pay multiple of some of the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index of companies between the CEO’s pay and that of their lowliest worker.  The most egregiously high multiple was between Ron Johnson’s compensation package at J.C. Penney’s and his least paid full time employee.  The multiple was a staggering 1,795 times.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, has stated that if the income inequality were not enough he sees “increasing economic inequality leading to increasing inequality in political power.”  In his mind the spiral continues leading to increased economic inequality which will not be possible to reverse without significant changes in our economy and how we regulate and run our businesses.

Looking beyond the U.S. at global income disparities, a report from the World Bank’s Development Research Group Poverty and Inequality team draws interesting conclusions.  It’s author, Branko Milanovic, explains how income inequality has been looked at with different formulas applying to different groups.  He argues it is best to look at global inequality composed of individuals, not nations, as this shows the most accurate views of the disparities.

The three major conclusions of this report are that:

  • Researchers who wish to highlight the growing unevenness of global income focus on growing inter-country gaps.  These statistics do not consider population sizes in their respective countries.  Those who wish to show a more positive outcome adjust their numbers to account for the population densities of countries such as China and India.
  • Because of China’s economic growth, supported by India’s, the data shows they are single handedly forcing world population inequality to decline.  The report states, “Perhaps for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, there may be a decline in global inequality.”
  • Attempting to plot the cause of global inequality (using the Thiel coefficient rather than the Gini), the author looks at the reasons for inequality between 1870 and 2000 based on the two factors of “class” and “location”.  Class is defined as the inequalities between the classes of rich and poor worldwide while location is the size of the gaps between mean incomes of one country versus another.  The data shows the importance between these factors has inverted since 1870 so that location is now the dominant factor.

Further the two elements that affect future inequality are economic growth and location.  If the economic growth in the third world stagnates then pressure for migration from poor countries to wealthy ones will increase as people seek to better their circumstances.  This would take advantage of incomes that vary considerably from country to country.

It is best illustrated by the reality that the ‘poorest’ Americans are still at the 60% percentile of world income distribution.  This means our poorest have a higher annual income than 60% of the world’s population.  Absent economic growth, people will seek to migrate to locations where the lowest income is still significantly higher than the incomes of where they are.

These articles raise a few suggestions for how income inequalities should be addressed.   In the United States we must:

  • Enforce the recently enacted Dodd-Frank law that requires companies to reveal their CEO-to-worker pay ratios.  For more than three years this requirement has been bottled up in an SEC that has failed to draw up the rules to implement it.  Of the 94 rules called for in the Dodd-Frank law the SEC has drafted only 39 of the required rules or less than half.  This ratio would increase shareholder and employee pressure on rubber stamp boards of directors that owe their positions to their CEOs and on the greed of higher management to either limit CEO compensation or increase the wages of the average worker.  James Cotton was possibly the first person to propose publishing this ratio in a 1997 article in the Northern Illinois University Law Review.  The dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin, said “When CEOs switched from asking the question of ‘how much is enough’ to ‘how much can I get,’ investor capital and executive talent started scrapping like hyenas for every morsel.  It is not that either hates labor, or wants to crush their lives.  They just don’t care.”
  • Congress must pass a law reversing the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that removed constraints on the money companies can spend to sway the electorate.  In addition we should require a company’s shareholders to approve campaign contributions.
  • Joseph Stiglitz says the U.S. needs to stop rent-seekers in the U.S. economy who “extract profit from existing industries without contributing value – in the form of innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth – to the economy.  They use their wealth to consolidate their power, by influencing regulations and government policies.  This has happened in many instances – we see it in our military and drug companies, in our banks that succeeded in stripping away regulations, which allowed them to earn huge profits at the expense of the rest of society – and it’s not a model for a competitive dynamic economy.”  Further he supports the raising of taxes on capital gains and suggests it should be taxed at the same rate as income.  He states, “And government can use those increased revenues to invest in those areas that will give a boost to the opportunities of the middle and bottom income earners – especially investments in education, health, technology, and infrastructure.”

These are just a few of the most obvious steps we should take to rebalance the economic differences between the top 1% and the rest of our citizenry.  We should support politicians that are working this agenda.  Further, we need to invest in the economic growth in the rest of the world to insure the collective economic security and fairness increases for all the world’s citizens.

Use the following links to obtain additional information:

http://www.ilo.org/global/research/global-reports/world-of-work/lang–en/index.htm .  Go to the right hand column scrolling country and region briefs until you reach your area of interest.  Select the country of interest.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-30/ceo-pay-1-795-to-1-multiple-of-workers-skirts-law-as-sec-delays.html

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121226/joseph-stiglitz-us-income-inequality

http://elibrary.worldbank.org/content/workingpaper/10.1596/1813-9450-6259

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Distribution of World Wealth Worsens

Posted on 08 May 2012 by Jerry

An October 2011 report released by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, the second annual Global Wealth Report, shows that global wealth has increased by 14% between January 2010 and June 2011.   The largest share of this growth was in Asia Pacific which produced 23% of the growth.  This contrasted with the 9.2% growth in North America and 4.8% in Europe in the same period.  Unfortunately, this wealth continued to concentrate in the hands of the top 1%.  The report found that 29.7 million adults with household wealth greater than $1 million make up less than 1% of the world’s adult population but own 38.5% of global household wealth.  For the first time Europe surpassed North America with 37.2% millionaires to North America’s 37%.

Another recent report focuses on the least fortunate world citizens who score high on the Global Hunger Index.  The Hunger Index which combines the three equally weighted indicators of Undernourishment, Child Underweight, and Child Mortality into a single index number has declined only minimally since 1990.  South Asia continues to lead the world with the highest Hunger Index of 22.6 followed by Sub Saharan Africa with 20.5 and compared to the world’s average Hunger Index of 14.6. 

The Global Wealth Report focuses on the people with the highest Global Hunger Index when it reports on the world’s poor.  It identifies that three billion people, more than two thirds of the global adult population, have an average wealth per adult of less than $10,000.  About 1.1 billion of these adults have a net worth of less than $1,000.

With all the discussion, and envy, in the U.S. about the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the top 1% of its citizens, what is more important is the number of people at the other end of the scale not just in the U.S. but worldwide.  We need focus on human beings whose existence is a continuing struggle to ward off hunger and death.  Poverty and hunger in the world matter far more than the people that keep amassing all the wealth. This is not to say that the world’s wealth should continue to be concentrated in the top 1%.  It is to say that the scale of world hunger and poverty is a far larger problem and much more deserving of our attention.

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 9: A Positive Life Experience Imperative, there is the use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs compared with adult personal income and the World’s distribution of household wealth to derive a point of view of the net positive or net negative aggregate life experience of people in the world.  The conclusion is that the majority of the World’s population is primarily engaged in satisfying survival needs and has very limited opportunity to experience higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy and certainly not Maslow’s self-actualization. 

Use the following link to obtain more information on these topics:

https://www.credit-suisse.com/news/en/media_release.jsp?ns=41874

https://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ghi11.pdf (If you have difficulty accessing this report, copy this url address into your browser and get the report over  your browser)

https://www.livemint.com/Articles/PrintArticle.aspx?artid=5C771814-D6DE-11DF-AEF1-000B5DABF613

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Historic Humane Agreement to Help Hens

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Jerry

The United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced an historic agreement to support legislation to progressively end the use of barren battery cages to immobilize more than 90% of the over 260 million egg laying hens in the U.S. today. Once enacted by Congress this would be the first federal protection for any farm animal during production.  While there is federal law governing the humane slaughter of animals it applies to mammals only.

The proposed legislation increases the space allocated per bird over time to 124-144 square inches.  This contrasts with 67 square inches allocated to the majority of hens today with approximately 50 million hens having only 48 square inches presently.  The increase space will be accomplished by phasing in new hen housing systems.  The proposed legislation would also:

  • Prohibit the practice of forced molting through starvation, an inhumane treatment inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year which involves starving the birds for up to two weeks to reduce their body weight and change the laying cycle;
  • Provide “environmental enrichments” that allow the hens to perform natural instinctive behaviors  by providing perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas;
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationally to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens” or “eggs from cage free hens”;
  • Prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses;
  • Prohibit the sale of all eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

This proposed change in how egg laying hens are treated follows closely behind results of research with chickens that seem to show they display signs of empathy when they see close relatives in distress.  Joanne Edgar at the University of Bristol, UK and her coworkers place individual hens and their chicks in boxes where they were separated by a clear plastic sheet allowing the hen to see the chicks and vice versa. When the chicks were frightened by bursts of air their mothers’ behavior and physiology changed showing greater clucking and an increased heartbeat.  [see Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2701(2011)]

This agreement represents the type of direct human intervention that is required by all who accept the role of Guardians of Life.  This holds up representatives of both the Humane Society and the United Egg Producers as symbolizing the higher consciousness required in a humanely managed world.

 

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 15: Enhancing the Life Experience there is considerable discussion of the cruelty to which factory farmed animals are subjected in the U.S. and throughout the world.  This Chapter identified forward looking legislation passed in California in 2008 entitled the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.  This legislation was approved in a public referendum in which it received a 63% majority.  This legislation was supported by the Humane Society, Farm Sanctuary, and the ASPCA among others.  While applying more broadly than just the hens, it serves as a useful model for the proposed federal legislation.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.unitedegg.org/homeNews/UEP_Press_Release_7-7-11.pdf

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2011/07/landmark-egg-agreement.html

July 7, 2011, San Francisco, Human Intervention

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