October 28, 2011

One real scary moment for Halloween is the overcrowding mob on hand for the party — the UN claims the population of the earth will top 7 billion on Monday, embellishing a smorgasbord of dangerous problems already facing a beleaguered planet.
Despite a prognosis to the contrary:

Max Singer, founder of the Hudson Institute, warned in 1999 that the world would soon be downsizing.
“Fifty years from now,” he predicted, “the world’s population will be declining, with no end in sight.”

Throw that one on the dustbin floor of  history.

(Illustration found here).

A population bomb is one with a long, long fuse (a baby born every 2.6 seconds) — the situation is not directly in your face like climate change or peak oil, both being garnished by way-too-many-folks, and this can of worms will become like the thief in the night, quiet, stealthy and dangerous.
Just as the news cycle cranks out all kinds of bullshit, the world is dying even as life comes alive, creating a most-strange take on the future.

In the next few years, some striking changes will be taking place — some you’ll be able to witness first hand, others will just be just things you need, but can’t get.
Earlier this month, Columbia University’s Earth Institute held a conference to explore and discuss the impacts of this human population explosion, and came away with at least five big examples of some real bad shit — shifting population, urbanization, water wars, energy, and, wait for it, mass extinctions.
Via LiveScience:

“In 1950, there were three times as many Europeans as sub-Saharan Africans, said Joel Cohen, a population biologist at Columbia University.
“By 2100, there will be five sub-Saharan Africans for every European.
That’s a 15-fold change in the ratio,” Cohen said.
“Could you imagine that that might have an impact, geopolitically and on international migration?”

Globally, the number of people living in urban areas matched and then overtook the number of rural people sometime in the past two years.
The trend will continue.
According to Cohen, the number of people living in cities will climb from 3.5 billion today to 6.3 billion by 2050.
This rate of urbanization is equivalent to “the construction of a city of a million people every five days from now for the next 40 years,” he said.

No resource is more precious and vital than water, and, according to economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, there are already parts of the world that, because of the rapidly changing climate, are at a severe crisis point.
“Take the Horn of Africa for example: Somalia’s population has risen roughly fivefold since the middle of the 20th century,” Sachs said.
“Precipitation is down roughly 25 percent over the last quarter century.
“There’s a devastating famine under way right now after two years of complete failure of rains, and [there is] the potential that this is entering a period of long-term climate change.”

Currently, there isn’t enough energy being extracted from known sources of fossil fuels to sustain 10 billion people.
This means that humans will be forced to turn to a new energy source before the end of the century. However, it’s a mystery what that new source will be.
“Energy is the basic resource which underlies every other,” said Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.
“And actually, technology is not quite ready to solve the [energy] problem.
We know there’s plenty of energy in solar, in nuclear, in carbon itself — in fossil carbon — for probably 100 or 200 years (if we are willing to clean up after ourselves and pay the extra to make that happen).
But none of these technologies are quite ready.
Solar has its problems and is still too expensive.”

As humans spread, we leave scant room or resources for other species.
“There is good evidence that we are in the sixth massive species extinction of the history of the planet, because of the incredible amount of primary production that we take as a species to maintain 7 billion of us,” Sachs said.

All that shit gives one a nice, rosy glow, huh?

And it’s already coming, and is now here.
From the UK’s The Guardian in March 2010:

The world’s mega-cities are merging to form vast “mega-regions” which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people, according to a major new UN report.
The phenomenon of the so-called “endless city” could be one of the most significant developments — and problems — in the way people live and economies grow in the next 50 years, says UN-Habitat, the agency for human settlements, which identifies the trend of developing mega-regions in its biannual State of World Cities report.

And climate change is already causing problems, in this particular case, around the Mediterranean Sea region: “The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” said Martin Hoerling, Ph.D. of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Climate this month. “This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.”
And that most precious of material things, even more precious than oil — water.
The US will have problems with water very soon, especially in the parched, drought of the southwest, and will we be able to get that precious liquid to people.
From Reuters:

“In 1985-1986 there were historical (water level) highs and now in less than 25 years we are at historical lows.
“Those sorts of swings are very scary,” said Robert Glennon, speaking at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Glennon, a professor at Arizona State University and the author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It,” said that that according to climate experts, shorter, warmer winters mean less ice and greater exposure to the air, leading eventually to more water evaporation.
“We think about water like the air — infinite and inexhaustible but it is very finite and very exhaustible,” Glennon said.
“When you have a shorter ice season you have great exposure to the air and more evaporation. As temperatures go up it is very troubling,” Glennon said.
“The cycles are going to become more acute which is very troubling.”

The problem isn’t just getting water to obviously needy areas like the desert city of Las Vegas, Glennon said.
Areas with high rainfall and seemingly abundant freshwater sources also are increasingly exceeding capacity.
“The population of the U.S. is supposed to be 420 million by 2050,” said Glennon,
“Where are we going to get the water to support another 120 million Americans?”

The nasty economic situation right now has caused another population shift — US poor are becoming suburbanites.
In the past decade, the increase in the suburbs was 53 percent, compared with 26 percent in cities, but the recession accelerated the pace: two-thirds of the new suburban poor were added from 2007 to 2010.
Times shift the times: “The whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore,” said Edward Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Do Ozzie and Harriet types live anywhere nowadays?

Happy Halloween — Go trick-or-treating as Lady Gaga — shock ’em.

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