Archive | Human Intervention

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World Population to Skyrocket, Hunger is Dropping

Posted on 27 June 2015 by Jerry

Revised estimates of the world population show it growing to a whopping 10.9 billion people by the year 2100.  This is a significant adjustment upward of over 2.5 billion people over an estimate prepared a few years ago.  World hunger or undernourishment is shown to be decreasing from 1.011 billion to 795 million in the space of 15 years.

The two reports would seem to contradict each other.  The devil however, is in the details.  The reports are from two sources within the United Nations. The population forecast is from the United Nation’s Population Division.  The hunger report compares the years of 1990-92 to 2014-16 and was prepared by the United Nation’s Agriculture Organization.  The two reports represent two different views of time, one is a projection of future population growth and the other is looking back at what has happened to hunger.

While the hunger statistics show significant reductions in the developed countries, those in sub-Saharan Africa and western Asia show sizable growth in malnutrition.  The statistics show that in the sub-Saharan area undernourished people grew from 176 million in the early nineties to about 220 million people in 2015.  The number of hungry in western Asia grew from eight million to nineteen million people in the same period of time.

Coincidentally, the greatest population growth over the next eighty-five years takes place in sub-Saharan Africa that is believed to grow from under a billion people to more than four billion people.   As a simple example, the population of Nigeria at 174 million is forecast to quintuple by 2100 to more than 900 million people.  Maintaining the same rate of growth in malnourished people the statistics show over a billion hungry people in the sub-Saharan area by the turn of the century.

While estimates may vary from one group to the next as their assumptions change, there is consensus the largest growth in population and the hungry will take place in the sub-Saharan area.  Unfortunately for the rest of the world this will also be one of the areas hardest hit by temperature rise from global warming.  This will lead to even more wholesale migration of Africans seeking relief from drought and certain death.

These statistics beg many questions but two must weigh the heaviest on each of us.  First, why do the Africans in the sub-Saharan area continue to have children when they have such starvation and death?  We must remember that children are still economic assets to farmers and hunter-gatherers.  They help raise food or find it for the family.  These children are to provide for their families and replace children that are dying in the region.

The second question is more serious and that is are we going to accept the numbers of displaced or dying people in the sub-Saharan region?  Will we do nothing?  I don’t believe we will find the amount of affected people acceptable.  We will attempt to help them.  For these reasons we must be ready.

These conditions in sub-Saharan Africa should be of great concern to the world’s governments and each of us who will have to give shelter and sustenance not only to Africans who stay in their native lands but those who also seek to migrate to other places.  We must begin conditioning our own countries to provide a welcome environment for the best of these who seek to immigrate.  Further we should prepare our neighbors and politicians to give necessary aid to support the continued sustenance and shelter of those remaining in their homelands.

Use the following links to gain more information on our growing population or the hungry or see the source documents that were used for this article.

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Where Did All the Water Go?

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Jerry

With the World Meteorological Organization declaring 2014 as the warmest year on record and droughts continuing throughout the world many are wondering what is happening to our fresh water.  The answer is it is disappearing because we are using it.  With replenishing sources of water drying up (glaciers, reservoirs and lakes) because of global warming, people all over the world are turning to underground water sources, using up natural aquifers.

The problem is that underground sources take a long time to replenish and once they are gone, they are gone for a long time.  Unfortunately the problem is getting worse.

A recent study by Wada and Bierkens divided underground water sources into renewable and non-renewable factoring in global warming.  This study reveals that non-renewable subterranean water use has grown by 50% from 1960 to 2010.  This is largely because of the growth of irrigation in the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and northern Iran.  Their study says, “Crucially, this rise is primarily attributed to non-renewable groundwater withdrawals.”

Droughts are widespread and the whole world is reeling.  California is in the midst of a drought and has implemented its first ever, mandatory water restriction.  It focuses on non-agricultural water use and requires a 25% reduction from levels established in 2013.

A Nature magazine “News in Brief” released in the April 9, 2015 edition states, “Many of California’s ski resorts have closed early this year because of low snow levels.  On April 1 for the first time in 75 years, surveyors had no snow to measure at an annual assessment at Phillips Station….The water department measured only 3.6 centimeters of water content in the snowpack statewide – 5% of the historical average for April 1.  The snowpack accounts for about 30% of the state’s fresh water.”

India is in a midst of a drought that has already exacerbated a poor water situation.  The dry months of June and July account for frequent power cuts and water shortages.  They offer a snapshot of what life in India will be like in the future.

In the dry months of 2013 hospitals in New Delhi stopped surgeries at one point because there was no water for sterilization of instruments.  They could not clean operating theaters and there was no water for the staff to wash their hands.  Luxury malls had to close their restrooms and not use their air conditioners.

India could be facing severe friction with its downstream neighbors.  Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have accused India of using too much water so the populations of these countries also have water shortages.

Even a short drought of two years duration is causing major water shocks in Brazil.  We are not talking about the groundwater but rather rainwater that is held in reservoirs and lakes.  Barring a reversal in climate, according to an article written by Herton Escobar printed in the February 20, 2015 issue of Science magazine, “Officials are contemplating drastic rationing that would deprive millions of households of water for up to 5 days a week.”

Further the article said, “The Cantareira system, which provides water for 8.8 million people, is so depleted that authorities are tapping the last 8% – little more than stagnant dregs.  Even if rainfall were to return to normal it will take several years to rebuild these reservoirs.”

At a conference on water security, the Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri stated, “Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned.”  Further he said, “Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions – probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states.”

The shortage of fresh water worldwide is reaching epic proportions.  Residential consumers will feel the heat before farming communities because the farmers feed us all and are a big source of employment.

We must speak up to the rest of the public and get them and us to demand action by our elected representatives.  Contingency planning is required if we are to avoid future shortages and disasters.  We must conserve and find other sources of water using the latest technologies, like desalinization.

Each of us must do our utmost to protect this diminishing resource.  We must do away with lawns; stop flushing as often and generally cut back on our water usage.  Droughts are not restricted to the countries mentioned but are everywhere.  There are too many of us demanding and using too much water.

Use the following links to gain more information or access the original source articles for this blog. (Scroll down to “Warmest Year”)

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Earth Day Loses….Again

Posted on 22 April 2014 by Jerry

This article is about keeping the big business of factory farming from polluting the environment and creating drug resistant bacteria that could harm each of us.  With income disparity, the Congress stymied by Republican reluctance to do anything, and a country that cannot produce the jobs necessary to keep everyone gainfully employed, this quickly is becoming an “Age of Discontent.”  In addition, it mocks our “Earth Day” objectives where we attempt to protect our planet from undesirable pollution.

With the help of a toothless Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that politically pays more attention to business interests than protecting us, the government stepped away from changing the regulations with which they control the use of drugs important to humans from being overused in factory farms and becoming resistant to today’s antibiotics.  In addition the EPA stopped short of having factory farms, that dump hundreds of millions of pounds of animal manure into the environment each year, register with the government or obtain a national pollution discharge permit.

In both cases, the government opted instead for voluntary standards or self-policing of present practices.  The agricultural farm industry is the biggest contributor to these two pollutions.  The U.S. government estimates that farm animals in factory farms consume 80 percent of the antibiotics used in this country.  In addition, it is recognized that animal waste is many times larger than human waste each year.  This is a little known hazard of our food production factory farms.

Further the agricultural farm industry discharges, according to estimates from the EPA, between roughly 500 million and a billion pounds of animal waste each year.  Using a pig example, the average pig farm is built on a model where roughly 5,000 animals are housed in two barns over two concrete pits.  Animals stand on metal grates that allow their waste to drop through the grates onto the floor of the concrete pit.  Flushed a few times a day, the untreated waste is generally stored in a nearby “waste lagoon”.  When these lagoons fill up, this untreated waste is either pumped onto surrounding fields or trucked to nearby fields and sprayed on the surface soil.

This waste is not treated in any way, unlike human waste.  It is 200 times more concentrated than treated human waste.  Even treated, it is 75 times more concentrated than treated human waste.  The problem is that since it is not treated, anything that is in the waste goes directly into the environment.  This includes residual antibiotics that are used by people that eventually become dug resistant.

Ultimately this waste goes into the surface or ground water surrounding these lagoons.  This discharge violates the EPA’s own legal mandate from the Clean Water Act which instructs it to shield our waterways and protect them from the toxic runoff of these industrial factory farms.

To add insult to injury, state legislatures in agricultural states like Iowa, are passing laws that prohibit whistle blowers from unveiling agricultural abuses of farm animals raised in factory farms.  The legislature in Iowa, the top egg and pork producing state, passed into law HF 589 (PDF), also known as the “Ag Gag” law, that allows prosecution of anyone who takes an entry level job at one of these factory farms with an intent to document animal abuses, food safety issues, or undesirable practices.  This law is designed for prosecution of whistle blowers like animal protection advocates or journalists who go ‘under cover’ at one of these facilities.

Our treatment of animals, handling of animal waste and ineffective governmental oversight of our industries do not live up to our human values.  We are killing our planet and ourselves.  There are so many of us now that almost anything we do will have long-term negative effects on our planet’s or our survival.  We continue to be our own worst enemy.  This is a lesson we must remember when we once again celebrate Earth Day.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents for this article:

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Self-Talk May Increase Competitiveness

Posted on 06 February 2014 by admin

No one knows what makes a country overtake its peers and emerge as a world leader in a variety of measures, e.g. GDP, innovation or educational competitiveness.  A recent study in the January 2014 issue of Science indicates that what people in a society say to themselves may make a difference.

The article in Science magazine about the research done by Hall, et al. indicates, “members of a group associated with unfavorable stereotypes can evoke behavior that conforms to those stereotypes.”  One remedy is to have each of the group recall a situation or incident in their lives where they experienced “autobiographical self affirmation”, for example when they had the positive experience of success or where the individual was recognized for an accomplishment.

While the first, or poor group, responded by doing better on batteries of tests after self-affirmation, wealthier people saw no performance enhancement.  They did not respond to the poor group’s negative stereotypes.  The study observed,  “As one would predict, the performance-enhancing effect of self-affirmation was not observed when wealthy people (whose average annual income was 10 times that of the poor participants) were tested.”

This suggests complacency in the wealthy.  It also shows the poor’s way of overcoming negative stereotypes, improving their self-image and increasing their competitiveness.  There is no reason to assume this same self-affirmation is not at work in entire countries.  If we think about the economy and wealth of the United States, the oft-mentioned thought of ‘American exceptionalism’, and the continued deterioration of the U.S position in a variety of rankings, other countries may soon usurp U.S. world leadership.

The October 2013 issue of Scientific American contains an excellent graphic that displays an index that is based on the combination of population size, gross domestic product per person, and the Global Innovation Index that looks at 84 data points of each of the 142 economies studied.  This chart and the Global Innovation index are the product of Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The category “Leaders” is headed by Switzerland that has had the highest Innovation Score for two years running.  This country of eight million has a per-person GDP of $45,285 and is number one in industry-university research collaboration. In the rankings the United Sates, that has the largest economy, ranks fifth.  In the absence of such a large economy and the resulting GDP, the U.S. may not rank as high against the other 142 countries. Switzerland is in first place, followed in order by Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Closely following but still in the Leader category are Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland.  Also in the leader category, but leading the middle in descending order is Canada followed by Luxembourg, Iceland, Israel, Germany, and Norway.  Heading up the bottom of the Leaders category are New Zealand, Korean Republic, Australia, France, Belgium, Japan, and Austria.

Another group is labeled “Learners”.  These countries are marked by more rapid growth but small population size with the notable exceptions of India and China.  At the top of this group are Malaysia, Hungary, and Latvia followed by China and Costa Rica.

Of note is the rapid development and growth of Costa Rica and Uganda that are listed as the two most improved countries. Costa Rica is distinguished by its ranking as third globally in the density of new business registrations.  Uganda is singled out because of its high R&D funding from abroad.

Following those at the top of the Learners category are Moldova, Montenegro, India, Mongolia and Vietnam.  Moldova stands out because of its second highest rate of trademark registrations relative to GDP in the world.

Because these results may be biased by the size of the U.S. economy let’s take it out of the equation.  Surely students in the U.S. are just as smart as anyone else.  Let’s look at comparisons of students and how they perform on the same internationally administered tests.   Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance reported that on the same tests administered internationally, U. S. students were not “progressing to catch up to their foreign peers”.  On these tests American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading.

The report continued by saying “Students in Latvia, Chile, and Brazil are making gains in academics three times faster than their American students, while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Columbia, and Lithuania are improving at twice the rate.”

Does this mean the quality of education in the U.S. is not as good as that found in other countries?   A recent article in the December issue of Scientific American written by Harold O. Levy states the popularity of U. S. university advanced degrees has risen as more and more foreign students go to America to study.

Levy cites statistics that show “Citizens of other countries now receive more than half the Ph.D.’s awarded by U.S. universities in engineering, computer science and physics, on top of earning one third of all college degrees in science and engineering.  In certain subfields, the disparity is much higher: in electrical engineering, for example, foreign students received 65% of all doctoral diplomas in 2001.”

Levy warns that in a study conducted in 2002 about 30% of these foreign students had no declared intention to stay in the U. S. after their education.  They indicated they were more interested in returning to their home countries.   This study took place before the 2007 collapse of the U. S. job market.  This contradicts the American self-talk that reinforces the thought that there is a brain drain of the brightest of the rest of the world immigrating to the U.S. to stay and work.

Another report, this one released by the Institute of International Education in 2013 was entitled Open Door Report on International Educational Exchange.  This report states “Students from the top three places of origin – China, India, and South Korea – now represent 49% of the total number of international students in the United States.”

In addition, the report states, “There were increases in the number of students from 16 of the top 25 places of origin.  These 16 are Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.”

If colleges and universities in the U.S. are still in demand internationally, the quality of our college and university educations are not the problem.   Let us turn once again to look at innovations more closely without considering the size of our economy.  A December 2013 report by the World Intellectual Property Organization is entitled Global Patent Filings See Fastest Growth in 18 Years.

It reports “for the first time, China tops the ranking at number 1 for both the source (filings by China) and the destination (filed in China) for the four types of Intellectual Property (patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs).”  The report continued, “Of the top five IP offices worldwide, the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) was alone in recording double-digit growth for each of the four types of IP.  Continued rapid filing growth in China is the main driver of IP growth.”

In a press release from WIPO on the same topic, they identified countries that led the pack with the most patent filings in their own country and in other countries.  The article stated, “Among the top 20 IP offices, China (+24%) saw the fastest growth in filings in 2012, followed by the offices in New Zealand (+14.3%), Mexico (+9%), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (+7.8%), and the Russian Federation (+6.8%).  Several offices of middle-income countries, such as Brazil (+5.1%), India (+3.9%), and South Africa (+2.9%), also reported growth in filings.”

The emphasis of the Utility patent model filings were as follows:

Country                                         Areas of filings

Israel and the U.S.                             computer and medical tech

Belgium, India, Switzerland                organic fine chemistry

Brazil                                              basic materials chemistry

China and Russia                              material metallurgy tech

Japan, Singapore, Republic of Korea    semiconductors

France, Germany and Sweden            transport-related tech

Of the top 20 countries with the most filings for Trademarks, the IP office of two middle-income countries, Turkey (+24.1%) and China (+16%) reported the highest rates of growth.  The report also states “Mexico (+5.5%) and Russia (+7.9%) also exhibited strong growth in class counts for 2012.  In raw numbers China filed for 1.58 million Trademarks, the U.S. filed 599,896, Germany filed some 387,503 and France filed 384,665.

In 2012 there were Industrial Design patents containing an estimated 1.22 million designs.  Those countries experiencing double digit grown in their industrial design patent filings were Russia with 29.5% growth, followed by China with 26.1%, Turkey with 12.4%, Brazil with 12% and Korea with 11.8%.

Many of the same countries keep showing up with significant growth numbers.  Someday they may catch up with the U.S.  Going back to our beginning premise we need to look at self-talk in the U.S. to see why America may be slipping in its world standing in so many categories.

On December 3, 2013 the BBC News ran a story reporting the results of a new (November 6, 2013) Pew survey.  The report states, “For the first time in 40 years, a majority of Americans say the US plays a less important and powerful role in the world than it did a decade ago.” Forty-eight percent of respondents mistakenly saw China as the world’s top economic power.  Only 31% correctly identified the U.S. as having the largest economy in the world.

Other findings of the survey showed that more than half of the participants said the US should mind its own business.  A majority of respondents who identified themselves as Republicans (53%) and independents (55%) agreed we should mind our own business.  Forty-six percent of Democrats agreed.  This was the first time in 50 years that a majority of Americans expressed this view.  They viewed involvements around the world as a mistake.

So these views of a declining U.S. could help explain a possible deterioration of optimism in Americans.  If they believe the country is over extended, has less influence around the world and no longer has the largest or strongest economy, this says our self-talk may be self-defeating.

It is impossible to make a hard and fast declaration of what the citizens of the U.S. are saying to themselves or how this might be affecting their actions.  We can see however, other countries redoubling their efforts to make the most out of their potential and seeing considerable opportunity to improve.  While the beginning premise may be flawed, it at least should stimulate further thought by each of us. The least that can be done is for Americans to redirect their self-talk to our positive accomplishments.

As a footnote, the process of self-affirmation and its beneficial effects on the individual is cited in the book Beyond, Animal Ego and Time.  It is described in Chapter 15, which is entitled Enhancing the Life Experience.  Described as a tool to be used in contextual reformation and mood management, it is mentioned in the text on page 212 of the paperback version of the book.  The author heartily recommends the tool for uplifting one’s mood and returning to a more optimistic disposition.

Use the following links to obtain more information or in most cases access the source documents.

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Does Desalination Replace Dwindling Water?

Posted on 19 November 2013 by admin

As the world searches for technological solutions to its problems, it has sharpened its focus on desalination to respond to climate change and dwindling fresh water.  Many people think the issue is simply financial.  How do we obtain drinking water at the lowest possible cost?  But what if your water source is going, going, gone forever? This is when support for desalination is strongest.

Bloomberg reports the desalination industry is booming and growing by 15% per year.  A February 13, 2013 article states, “As the global population soars by about 74 million people a year, water shortages are becoming more severe….At current rates of growth, the demand for water worldwide may exceed supplies by 40 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank sponsored 2030 Water Resources Group.”

The areas with greatest demand for water are countries that view it as key to further economic growth such as Saudi Arabia, China, Spain and the U.S.  The next greatest demand is in countries whose populations are growing and where demand will clearly outstrip the supply of available water such as China, India, and Pakistan.  These governments are willing to pay premiums to insure the future availability of water.

The economics clearly favor fresh ground water where the cost averages around 20 cents per cubic meter of water.  The lowest comparable price for desalinated water is somewhere around 50 cents per cubic meter.  This is a considerable improvement in cost as a result of newer, cheaper methods of desalination that used to cost multiple dollars to produce the same amount of water.

Historic processes include distillation, reverse osmosis (RO), electrodialysis, and vacuum freezing.  Of these, distillation and reverse osmosis are most in demand by local governments.  Cost reduction tends to focus on the reduction of the energy to run a desalination plant. Historically energy has represented between 44% and 60% of the cost of desalination.  Co-locating desalination and energy plants reduces costs.  Trying to transport the resulting water through pipelines to distant locations that are poor, deep in the interior of a continent or at higher elevations is cost prohibitive. This keeps desalination as economic mainly for coastal areas.

Distillation as a process involves evaporating input water and then compressing and condensing the vapor to release heat. The resulting heat is then used for further evaporation of the input water.  The condensation separates the salt and impurities from the fresh water that remains. This often will include sequential stages each of which is at a lower pressure.

Reverse osmosis begins with treatment of seawater to remove particles that would clog membranes.  Then the seawater is pumped at high pressure through membranes that separate the salt from the water.  The water can be improved by having multiple stages of membranes.

Farsighted communities are exploring future sources of fresh water.  Opponents of desalination point to environmental damage in the ocean and surrounding areas close to the desalination plants and collocated power plants.  They are progressively adding additional requirements to plans for these facilities to address areas of concern.

Unfortunately, we are not going to restrain industrial or population growth anytime soon.  We also have not yet found a renewable or clean power source to be used to power these desalination plants. But the reality remains that concerns of environmental damage become less important as water shortages begin to occur.  Governments act to eliminate shortages when fresh drinking water and water for farming and industry are disappearing.

drought chart US JPEG 12013 It is incumbent on each of us to consider our own areas and the likelihood of experienced dwindling water.  Water conservation requirements should be instituted now, before shortages become acute.  This will postpone requirements for desalination plants.  The longer the need is managed, the more time is allowed for further development of the technologies and the cheaper and greener the solutions will become.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access source reports for this article:

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