Notices
Results 1 to 43 of 43

Thread: Overpopulation... again

  1. #1 Overpopulation... again 
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    I'm not sure there are too many humans on this planet, although, I'm not sure there aren't either.

    I'm reading an old book called "Progress and Poverty" written by Henry George. Feel free to check out the wikis on the book and the author, if you've never read it, or heard of him.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_and_Poverty
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George

    Although it is not central to the point, George makes a good point that we are not overpopulated but under-productive. Why we are under-productive, may be seen as the thesis of the book.

    He hypothesizes the inevitability of an economic cycle that defeats progress, and creates the most poverty where there is the most wealth, namely in cities.

    I'm not finished reading the book, so I can only explain the premise: that as technology increases, the value of land increases, and rent increases. As rent increases, wages decrease, disproportionate to the increase in production.

    What this all has to do with overpopulation is this. If his hypothesis is correct, in this particular detail, than humanity has much more room to grow, if systems to limit prospective ownership of resources--be it solid like land, or liquid like credit--were enacted, along with incentives to put resources to use.


    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2  
    Forum Professor
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,079
    A main problem with overpopulation has to do with decreasing biodiversity through habitat loss and pollution, as resources on the planet are consumed. We are undergoing a major extinction event, and it is down to human consumption born of overpopulation. Whether the planet could feed many more humans or not if we agri-formed the whole thing seems beside the point.


    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    So, overpopulation is not "the presence of too many people," but is "the consumption of too much resources?"

    Either way, how much is too much? I don't want to know what overpopulation can cause, I can imagine. I want to know what overpopulation is, so as to determine based on evidence and not assumptions that we are indeed overpopulated, and not merely over-consumptive.

    Most humans don't "need" to consume as much as we do to survive, but we do so to meet cultural standards of what it means to be alive, free and happy; so it seems to me to be a cultural excess, and not a biological one, yet population is a measure of organisms, not behavior. So to call it overpopulation is not a correct usage of a term, but a simplification distracting from the actuality of our situation, and what we as individuals have influence over; other than our ability to kill ourselves, others and/or lessen mating for the "global good."

    I'm not proposing any solution, I'm just proposing the usage of more accurate terminology, if it happens to be that the term "overpopulation" is being used to mean "over consumptive" so as not to give credence to some bleak idealism, and bring focus back on the relatively indifferent reality of our situation, and more importantly--what we can do about it, rather than assuming that to limit our breeding is the best thing we can do for global health. What if you happen to breed children who consume less, and go on to influence others in their generation to consume less, who all go on to have children of their own who consume less? Population goes up, whereas consumption has the potential to go down. Of course I'm assuming this, and accept that I can very well be wrong. it does go against assumptions that consumption increases with population, but the reasoning behind this counter-assumption is that different populations consume different amounts.

    If my assumptions are all wrong, please define how many people are too many, and we can start from there.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,169
    If we wish the planet to populated only by humans and their food sources then we are soemwhat underpopulated. If we wish all humans to enjoy a reasonably comfortable, safe, secure lifestyle then we are grossly overpopulated.

    Charles Dickens understood the principle as revealed by this quote from his character Mr. Micawber.

    "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

    We are currently, as a race, spending twenty two pounds and three shillings a year.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    I'm not sure we need to be worrying about definitions. If the population is expected to increase 50%, well that doesn't sound so bad - except that not only will there be more people, but all those people will want the same standard of living as the one billion of us in the developed countries have enjoyed. So the impact of a population of, say 9 billion, will not be 50% greater than the impact of 6 billion; the impact in terms of consumption and waste could be several times what it is today. This is not sustainable without changes our own habits.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Posts
    5
    Hi to all.
    I have joined before few days. Yes, you are discussing the current burning problem which our earth is facing and we all have to work together for our common future not considering our countries, colors, languages, traditions, etc..
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Just add one point here.

    I regularly hear that all these problems are due to the combination of overpopulation and economic growth. I would like to correct the latter. It is not economic growth that is the problem. It is the wrong kind of economic growth.

    I think of computers. In the 1960's, the media pundits were predicting the growth of computers to the point where one single computer would be bigger than a skyscraper. That would be the wrong kind of growth. Instead, what we got was miniaturisation, and new, vastly more powerful computers that were tiny by comparison, using far fewer raw materials, and running on much less electricity. That is the correct economic growth, and has permitted billions to enjoy the benefits of computers.

    Let us embrace economic growth, but emphasize the correct kind.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #8  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    I'm well aware of all the various opposing claims, from both sides of the fence. I am on the fence because I see a lack of support on both sides. So what I'm asking for is not more claims, but more support for one or two of the big claims, "We are overpopulated" and/or if you don't think we are, but think "We are consuming too many resources," then support that.

    There is no reason to think we are consuming too much, when for all we know we can produce as much to consume, more efficiently.

    Bottom line how much resources is too much? How many people are too much?

    So far it seems as though people only have opinions along the same lines as "self evident truths"

    please support your claims, put some thought into it, why do you think we are overpopulated? why do you think we are consuming too many resources?
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #9  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,169
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    So far it seems as though people only have opinions along the same lines as "self evident truths"
    It certainly may seem that way. However I have never posted anything I could not back up with solid evidence unless I clearly expressed it as an opinion. In this instance to do a proper job will take some literature research. Don't expect a quick reply.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  11. #10  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    There is no reason to think we are consuming too much, when for all we know we can produce as much to consume, more efficiently.
    I think the point you are missing is that producing anything useful also consumes resources and produces waste. Every single production activity without a single exception is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Grow a crop and you consume water, put chemicals into the water supply, use fossil fuels to drive tractors, produce fertilizers and get it to market. Let’s assume we can produce enough food to satisfy 10 billion people. Now ten billion people need food processing plants, water treatment plants, sewage systems, power stations, coal mines, and landfills for the trash. They may not need, but will want cars, warm houses, televisions and X-Boxes. It is fruitless to talk about production unless you recognize that you cannot produce goods without producing waste.

    More efficient production methods are certainly possible but the second law still applies. And in a market economy more efficient production will be interpreted as using the cheapest fuel available with the least control of effluents, which is the short term policy that business will (must) always adhere to, unless forced to develop sustainable methods by leadership from government.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  12. #11  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    I have always been sceptical about claims that overpopulation and economic growth are causing us to run out of resources. In fact, for the past several hundred years, improvements in technology have permitted us to exploit more and more of the various essential resources that we need, and bring the cost down and down.

    There was a famous wager between economist Prof. Julian Simon and author Dr. Paul Ehrlich, in which Simon claimed that resources become cheaper due to greater availability, and Ehrlich claimed we were running out, which would result in higher prices.. Simon won.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon-Ehrlich_wager

    Each time we use up a type of resource, we develop other techniques to extract other sources. For example : gold is very scarce, but it is known that a form of gold (called microcrystalline) in certain common minerals holds lots of gold (relatively speaking).
    http://www.geologynet.com/gpros.htm

    We cannot extract microcrystalline gold at this point in time, but when we develop the technology, it will dramatically increase the quantity of known gold reserves.

    In Iceland, there is a project to drill down to molten magma, which can be tapped for energy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceland...illing_Project
    However, one of the possible side benefits of this project is to use that magma as a source for mineral extraction. Probably some years in the future, but a real possibility. According to New Scientist (7 November 2009, page 18) the drillers have already struck molten magma at 2104 metres depth. In 2005, a drilling project in Hawaii also struck magma.

    I could envisage a time in the future when pumping magma and using it as a source of both energy and minerals would be commonplace.

    The point of all this is that resources are far more available than most alarmist would-be prophets are prepared to accept. As humanity develops better technology, we tap into more and more sources of vital resources.

    The Earth weighs 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes. That includes one hell of a lot of resources!
    Reply With Quote  
     

  13. #12  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    Bun: other than the fact that the second law of thermaldynamics applies "only to microscopic systems with well-defined temperatures" -wiki The second law of thermal dynamics applies to closed systems. So, if your using it as a metaphor for ecological dynamics, what closed system are you referring to?

    Ophi: Before you go writing an essay, we should first agree on the value of "over" in "overpopulation," which will undoubtedly make any discussion much more pragmatic, and may, in my opinion, be the only thing we will have to discuss, to prove whether or not we are overpopulated.


    Either way, we should define the subject more clearly. Since "We are overpopulated" would be understood by someone who understands(consider that self evident), it is nonetheless a very ambiguous statement. Who are we(lazy fat people, developed nations, humans, mammals, organisms?)? what does it mean to be overpopulated(producing more toxic and/or useless things than we have ways of getting rid of? in which case, what do we mean by toxic? useless?)[/url]
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  14. #13  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Bun: other than the fact that the second law of thermaldynamics applies "only to microscopic systems with well-defined temperatures"
    Try quoting the whole sentence in context, and then try to understand it:

    Thermodynamics is a theory of macroscopic systems and therefore the second law applies only to macroscopic systems with well-defined temperatures. For example, in a system of two molecules, there is a non-trivial probability that the slower-moving ("cold") molecule transfers energy to the faster-moving ("hot") molecule. Such tiny systems are not part of classical thermodynamics, but they can be investigated by quantum thermodynamics by using statistical mechanics. For any isolated system with a mass of more than a few picograms, probabilities of observing a decrease in entropy approach zero.
    In other words the second law doesn't automatically apply in microscopic systems, but it always applies in macroscopic systems - such as farming, energy production, eating, sleeping, building a house or driving a car.

    Here's a paper worth reading:

    http://nabc.cals.cornell.edu/pubs/na...talks/Rees.pdf

    The second law of thermodynamics cannot be overturned. The much-exalted
    seemingly vibrant far-from-equilibrium state of the modern human enterprise,
    and the very existence of today’s 6.3 billion people, is possible only because of the
    prior accumulation of large stocks of natural capital (resource stocks). In particular,
    since 1850, the plot of human population growth is virtually identical with
    the plot of fossil energy usage. Unfortunately, the most critical of our natural
    capital stocks—soils and oil—are rapidly being irreversibly depleted and the dissipated
    by-products (e.g., carbon dioxide) now threaten to double the damage
    through climate change. Meanwhile, the aggregate human ecological footprint of
    consumption and waste dissipation made possible by abundant energy supplies is
    20% greater than the biocapacity of the planet
    Seems to me that last sentence sums up why our present course is unsustainable.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  15. #14  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Bunbury

    There is a mjor flaw in the logic expressed by your Cornell quote. It is based on the assumption that resources are seriously limited and not able to be substituted for. That assumption is wrong.

    The major resource we depend on is energy from the sun. That energy, in fact, is limited, and the sun will expand to engulf the Earth in 5 billion years. However, for all practical purposes, we can assume this resource is unlimited.

    Oil, gas and coal are all able to be substituted, and researchers are working hard on the technologies of substitution. For example, researchers are developing methods of extracting bio-diesel from marine algae. These can be grown in estuarine conditions, fertilised by the outflow of sewage treatment plants. In theory, we can supply all our liquid fuel needs from this source.

    Soils can be replaced, and are being so replaced already in many places. For example, when soy beans are grown using no-till agriculture, top soil is increasing. We can even make synthetic soil by grinding up granite and mixing it with compost. Very fertile!

    Humanity has a long history of adapting to need. When pesticides threatened to poison waterways, we changed to less toxic and biodegradable new chemicals. When CFC's threatened the ozone layer, we replaced them. When agricultural productivity became too unproductive to feed the world, came the Green Revolution. Today we have a second green revolution in the form of genetic modification of crops, just beginning. For example : GM crops are being developed that are drought resistant, and can be grown in semi-arid places. A project to make drought resistant maize is well developed.

    We have ongoing challenges. Obviously climate change is the biggie. But action is already well underway to find solutions. Fresh water is more limited than we would like. However, that is nothing new, and a large part of the human species has been spending enormous time, and effort trying to solve that one for at least the past 3,000 years. We have more solutions to that problem literally in the pipeline now than any time in history.

    It is very common for people to focus on problems and fail to see the solutions that are already on the way. The great late economist Dr. Julian Simon always taught that the only resource always in short supply is human ingenuity. Strangely, that is a resource that increases with population.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  16. #15  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    Bun

    my bad, I read it wrong, clearly: I quoted "microscopic," when it says "macroscopic." That was not a typo, but what I thought it said.

    Nonetheless, choose a closed system, and define the temperatures of the parts.

    As skeptic said, the entire earth is not a closed system. Our food is produced in large part by the sun, soil and water. We have the ability to replenish the soil, and even improve it's ability to support biodiversity by using most our biological and a good deal of our mineral waste. As far as water goes, we contaminate a lot of it but those capable of doing so, have little incentive to produce fresh water, since they either already of plenty running water, or enough money to have it delivered. Nonetheless, there are better ways to maintain soil fertility, and ways to make plentiful amounts of clean water for cheep(solar distilleries). There are also more nutrient/energy efficient diets than most of the world, especially the wealthiest nations, consume. And I'll go so far as to say that many cultures can live in a more productive(producing resources for others and themselves) manner, while consuming less.


    Until you start drawing arbitrary closed systems, it seems, there are a variety of solutions to non-problems. One of them is looking for the causes of things, instead of the attributing of unrelated undesirable effects to some undefined problem, recognizable only by its effects. There is more to cause and effect than whether we like something or not. The ideological belief that the world is overpopulated, for example, may be a form of cultural identity for some, justifying globally destructive behavior for two major reasons, A: hopelessness due to the irreversibility of population growth, B: taking attention away from well defined problems, that clearly exist observable and referred to in the form of facts, not value terms. Like "population x looses y individuals a year to dehydration" or "population z looses a newborns a year because pregnant mothers get less than recommended levels of a, b and c (nutrients) in their diets"

    you can say "there is not enough water to go around" and "there is not enough food to go around" thus "there are too many people" but you are ignoring that people can find ways to produce water, and food.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  17. #16  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    you can say "there is not enough water to go around" and "there is not enough food to go around" thus "there are too many people" but you are ignoring that people can find ways to produce water, and food.
    OK then let's discuss the ways to produce water, for a population of, say 10 billion people.

    Here in the western US we continue to suck dry the Ogallala aquifer. Dams are silting up. Now we have lots of sunshine in the SW so we can build desalination plants, right? Not really. Desalination works best when there's a source of salt water nearby. Over in China they have already depleted their groundwater and there's serious trouble ahead. So I'm curious, as an engineer who does know something about cause and effect, as to how we are going to find ways to create water after we've exhausted the natural sources.

    It's not good enough to say, as you seem to be saying, that technology will find a way. This has allowed us to live comfortably because populations were smaller and the capacity of the land and the sky to absorb the waste seemed unlimited. This is no longer true. So if you are relying on as yet unknown technology to produce water for 10 billion people, well, in American football that's called a "hail Mary." Maybe we'll get lucky, but the odds are against us.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  18. #17  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Bunbury

    Ideas on water.

    1. Build giant holes in the ground, and line them with imperveous plastic, with an evaporation resistant cover, and collect rainwater. Even in the middle of the Australian desert, it still rains, though possibly only once in ten years. But collecting and preserving that water is possible. This technique is used in arid northern India, and has been for thousands of years. So it works.

    2. Plant forests in semi-arid areas. Proven to increase rainfall.

    3. Develop crops that grow with less water. This is already well under way with GM maize and other crops. Watch this space in 10 years!

    4. Improve efficiency of irrigation. Irrigation in agriculture uses more water than anything else, and is ususally very inefficient. Changing from flooding field to trickle feed irrigation, for example, save 80% of the water.

    5. Giant water transport schemes. Example again in Australia. Two thirds of that continent is too dry, but one third (monsoon North) gets far more water than it needs. If the bronze tool wielding Persians 3000 years ago could build underground canals transporting water 500 kms, then Australians today can do the same with modern materials only more so. Lake Argyll in the north, for example, could supply vast amounts of water further south if only the pipeline existed.

    There are lots more ideas relating to water supply and water conservation.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  19. #18  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    I am not saying that. You might be misunderstanding my stance. I am on the fence, and trying to consider opposing viewpoints. I might defend a viewpoint against opposition, but not because I think it's the right viewpoint, but because I want to know what the opposition has to say about it.

    It's not the best way to go about looking for information, so I'll resort to good old fashioned question asking.

    Desalination works best with a source of salt. I didn't know that. I'll need to see more cost-benefit analysis to know exactly what the difference is and whether it's worth preventing us from using non-coastal distilleries, or if it would be worthwhile to have the byproduct slurry from coastal plants shipped to non coastal plants
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  20. #19  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Comment on desalination. You may have noticed that I did not mention that in my list of ideas on water.

    The biggest need for fresh water by far is for agriculture. Desalination is far too expensive for this. Also, a desalination plant needs both sea water and a source of energy. Such plants get built next to big cities, and probably not too far from electrical generating plants. Even though the cost of desalination is dropping, due to improved reverse osmosis membranes, it will only be used for city water and industrial water for the foreseeable future.

    Desalination will become more important in the future, but will not replace rainfall as the primary source of fresh water. We need to become better at collecting and using rainfall.

    I do not believe humanity will 'solve' the fresh water problem any time soon. However, to keep it in perspective, humanity has always had a problem with limited fresh water. I do not believe it is any worse today. While we use more water per person than historically, we also have much better techniques for collecting and distributing it. We are likely to stumble along with a shortage for many decades yet, increasing our supply and our conservation methods, while also increasing the need for it.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  21. #20 Re: Overpopulation... again 
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    If his hypothesis is correct, in this particular detail, than humanity has much more room to grow, if systems to limit prospective ownership of resources--be it solid like land, or liquid like credit--were enacted, along with incentives to put resources to use.
    Crown Land in British Columbia corroborates well. We have most of the province withheld from market forces, because gradually doling it out at high demand makes money for the lawmakers and their clique of speculators/developers. BC politicians have had a finger in the business since day one, and abet by regulating immigration to extract the most from foreign money: successful applicants should bring earning potential and savings sufficient to buy (Vancouver) houses now selling at $0.75 to $1.25 million.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  22. #21  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    Good point about us always having limited fresh water. But that is of course like it is today, a generalization. Some have easier access to fresh water than others. It makes not difference to your point though, just something worth pointing out. Since noone has adressed my point that different people consume different amounts of resources, and the problem is not population but the consumption that is caused by not just the population, but by the environment of the population, and their behavior within their environment.

    In theory, if compliance was not a problem we could recycle cities and change them to be more efficient places for living, commerce and production.

    Also

    As pong pointed out, most of our water is for agriculture. A large chunk of our agriculture is fed to animals, to produce meat. This meat drinks a lot of water.

    One of my earlier points was that different people have different diets, and litterally(as well as figuratively) consume less. Namely, vegans. Not all of them of course, but in general, a vegan diet is more energy efficient, and produces much less pollution.

    So are vegans less overpopulated than meat eaters, assuming everything else is the same about them?
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  23. #22  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    A California-fed vegan, not much. The veggies they consume suck serious irrigation. Try growing plump, market-standard strawberries in California. Then so vegans in Toronto may enjoy crisp lettuce year-round we've got the handling and transport, maybe hothouse if locally produced.

    You're right about the meat consuming water. That's mostly through feed boosted by irrigation. In its favour, livestock feed crops don't require anything like crops for human consumption. Feeds are also grown on poor land without any fertilizer or irrigation. And they work with the seasons, not against them.

    A seafood-eating vegetarian beats us all, if she's willing to eat a lot of different species and preparations. Of course harvesting only select species inevitably overharvests... as we saw with Atlantic cod, and North Pacific salmon lately. But vegetarians who get their protein out of canned krill paste could number billions without significant footprint.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  24. #23  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    A seafood eating vegetarian ......

    The world's fisheries are on the edge of collapse. The absolutely last thing the world needs is some sort of move towards eating more seafood!!!!

    Unless, of course, it is mussels raised using aquaculture techniques - about the only seafood that is sustainable. Krill is mostly used to feed salmon, and the harvest of krill may be causing depopulation of krill feeding whales.

    Veganism may be energetically and ecologically less damaging. However, it is very much more difficult for a human to obtain all required nutrients from a vegan diet versus one that includes animal protein. Vegans have problems with vitamin B12, iron, protein, zinc and even anorexia!

    I think it is possible to set up a system that combines healthy animal protein consumption with ecological responsibility. We do not need to eat vast amounts of sea food. Even for omega 3 fatty acid intake. There is now a GM soya bean that has lots of omega 3 in it.

    For example : milk and eggs contain lots of the essential nutrients, without the ecological baggage.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  25. #24  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    We waste a lot of resources, calling them waste. Things like biodegradable food and other products(paper, cloth, animal waste, and even human waste) that can be composted.

    Has anyone heard of municipal programs for managing food waste?

    I know of various municipal programs around here (Maine, US) for managing mulch, like leaves, grass clippings and wood chips, but don't know of any programs for making compost.

    Are there any good models of food waste management programs?

    I know of individuals that compost, or feed their pigs food waste, but no government programs, even though compost will both save us money, and potentially make us money.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  26. #25  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The world's fisheries are on the edge of collapse. The absolutely last thing the world needs is some sort of move towards eating more seafood!!!!
    As i said, we've overharvested certain big-name species. It's like if we selectively log most the Douglas fir out of a forest... then forestry says they've "run out of trees".

    The krill fishery is tiny, experimental, hasn't possibly begun to scratch the potential. Lanternfish aren't used at all. For each example of depleted fish stock, I could pull up two that aren't utilized and out-weigh them. Lol cephalopods. Because people are incredibly picky about fish, and a profit-maximizing industry is no better. We literally select a short list of species among thousands of species. When our favorites are gone we say the fish are gone.

    Current harvest practices are absurdly wasteful. For example shrimp trawlers haul up more than shrimp, on average 6kg of everything including sea turtles for each 1kg of shrimp. This bycatch is normally separated from the shrimp and poured back dead into the ocean. When the trawlers are pulling ratios of 20:1, they say that fishery's depleted... so they re-equip to target more profitable species.

    Aquaculture mussel is a good example of sustainably producing one familiar stock so we don't deplete it. It is not the same as easing-off the mussel beds by broadening our harvest with barnacle, limpet, urchin, etc etc.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  27. #26  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Pong

    I agree with you about the wasteful nature of harvesting seafood. But how are you going to change that?

    The world fisheries are definitely overfished, and while a few species may still be abundant, humanity has to change its habit of just raping the oceans. Sharks, for example, as a top predator, are being killed off at a rate way beyond their ability to recover.

    Personally, what I would like to see (sadly this is unlikely) is a total moratorium on taking food from the oceans for about 20 years, except for sustainable aquaculture, allowing species time to recover. There is absolutely no reason why we have to keep pillaging the sea. We can grow plant food in ample abundance to replace everything we lose by not attacking the marine environment.

    Incidentally, the krill fishery is not small. Giant Russian factory ships remove it wholesale. Most is sold as fish food.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  28. #27  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I agree with you about the wasteful nature of harvesting seafood. But how are you going to change that?
    Make landing and sorting everything profitable. Handling and distribution are challenges, but ultimately this comes down to the consumer. Japanese are model consumers here because a) they eagerly try different seafoods, b) they're willing to sacrifice a larger portion of food budget for seafood, c) they prefer to process the seafood personally. So distributors and retailers are able to move just about anything a fisher lands. Then the fisher doesn't tell his net "Oh. Those are weird fish. No one will buy those."
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  29. #28  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Bunbury

    Ideas on water.

    1. Build giant holes in the ground, and line them with imperveous plastic, with an evaporation resistant cover, and collect rainwater. Even in the middle of the Australian desert, it still rains, though possibly only once in ten years. But collecting and preserving that water is possible. This technique is used in arid northern India, and has been for thousands of years. So it works.

    2. Plant forests in semi-arid areas. Proven to increase rainfall.

    3. Develop crops that grow with less water. This is already well under way with GM maize and other crops. Watch this space in 10 years!

    4. Improve efficiency of irrigation. Irrigation in agriculture uses more water than anything else, and is ususally very inefficient. Changing from flooding field to trickle feed irrigation, for example, save 80% of the water.

    5. Giant water transport schemes. Example again in Australia. Two thirds of that continent is too dry, but one third (monsoon North) gets far more water than it needs. If the bronze tool wielding Persians 3000 years ago could build underground canals transporting water 500 kms, then Australians today can do the same with modern materials only more so. Lake Argyll in the north, for example, could supply vast amounts of water further south if only the pipeline existed.

    There are lots more ideas relating to water supply and water conservation.

    All of the above are great ideas, but with limited overall impact on the problem. There are at least a billion people on the planet today who don't have access to clean water and these people don't have the money for projects such as giant water transport schemes. California has developed several giant water schemes, some of which have created environmental problems (far away from the consumer of course). But California can't afford to build new projects that are needed, or in some cases they are being denied by the current owners of the water (e.g there was a plan to pipe water from western Canada but the Canadians objected). California is a rich state and cannot afford the water projects it needs. How will poor countries build the projects they will need for their growing populations.

    I think we have to be a bit realistic. It's very easy to list ideas. It's a very different thing to bring all the requirements together to make them successful.

    The original post suggested that we don't have a population problem, we have a problem of inefficient production, and the suggested solution was
    systems to limit prospective ownership of resources--be it solid like land, or liquid like credit--were enacted, along with incentives to put resources to use.
    . This could indeed be the only way to get mega projects done so that everyone could have clean water. But what a huge government takeover that would be! This is not going to happen through the altruism of corporations, or even very rich individuals. It can only happen through internationally concerted government efforts. I don't see the remotest possibility of anything like this happening. Do you?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  30. #29  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    As a globally responsible citizen of Western Canada, I would like to offer all this land's clean water and generation potential. The efficient solution to dwindling resources is people moving to the resources, not the resources moving to them.

    I would like to offer, but we have a virtual fortress of protective laws built over this province.

    Seriously if a hundred years from now UN Security Council authorizes annexation by international coalition, we had it coming to us.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  31. #30  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    I watched a video about a man in India who harvests rain water from his roof using gutters, filtering it and storing it underground.

    Another video about a woman in Rhode Island who does the same thing, without filtering it, storing it above ground, for her garden and animals.

    These systems, other than the underground storage, are easy and cheep to build. many of the parts(pipes, gutters and containers) can be scavenged, depending on local consumptive behavior.




    Small solar stills can also be made easily, although glass is the most expensive part, plastic might make for a cheaper, but less sterile alternative.

    And other methods for collecting water are possible, although they may not be probable.

    For example, collecting dew, on a massive scale. Everywhere with regular and significant temperature changes produces droplets that go to waste. One of the oldest desert survival tricks is to harvest dew from rocks in the morning, by soaking it up with cloth and ringing it out in your mouth.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  32. #31  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Public health regulations discourage backyard solutions. For example on BC's Gulf Islands many residents collect rainwater and prefer it over local ground water that tastes like coal. They can actually be fined for doing so, as it's impossible to regulate the fecal amounts in water rolling down a roof. Most municipalities don't allow backyard chickens either. Even if 99% of owners do it properly that 1% disease risk causes health inspectors to prefer huge battery farms.

    I do agree decentralized solutions may be more efficient in terms of resources.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  33. #32  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    Bunbury

    As Marcus pointed out, there are lots of low tech and cheap ways of improving the fresh water position. As I pointed out, northern India, relying purely on physical labour, has built and used rainwater reservoirs for thousands of years. Ancient Persia, using only bronze tools, built underground canals to carry water hundreds of kilometres from the mountains to the arid plains for irrigation.

    New strains of drought resistant crop, often genetically modified, can be supplied. The GM vitamin A rich strain of rice, called 'golden rice' was supplied free of charge to the poor in Asia. I bet the same could be done with drought resistant crops.

    As far as the USA getting water from Western Canada, I bet the Canadian resistance to this idea would disappear if the fees paid for that water were high enough! Lack of money is not really a major problem for water supply in the wealthy west. If Obama can spend trillions of dollar bailing out corrupt corporations, the US can buy some water.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  34. #33  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Lack of money is not really a major problem for water supply in the wealthy west. If Obama can spend trillions of dollar bailing out corrupt corporations, the US can buy some water.
    I'm sorry but I think you're being very naive. There are political and environmental resistances to spending money on huge water projects in developed lands. The challenges are magnified many times in underdeveloped countries. I'm leaving it at that.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  35. #34  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    To Pong

    Re collecting rainwater.
    I do it myself. I live in a coastal area well away from any municipal water supply scheme. I collect rainwater, and store it in two big tanks, holding 4 months supply. My drinking water I pass through an activated charcoal filter to remove any coliform bacteria etc. The water I drink is purer than the stuff you buy in bottles, and much, much cheaper.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  36. #35  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Public health regulations discourage backyard solutions.
    In some places maybe, but in other places, only individual opinions discourage "backyard solutions."

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    For example on BC's Gulf Islands many residents collect rainwater and prefer it over local ground water that tastes like coal. They can actually be fined for doing so, as it's impossible to regulate the fecal amounts in water rolling down a roof.
    But it's entirely possible(vs partially possible... :wink: ) to regulate filtration. probably not cost effective though. Either way, you will definitely see these fines done away with, if enough people were against them.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Most municipalities don't allow backyard chickens either. Even if 99% of owners do it properly that 1% disease risk causes health inspectors to prefer huge battery farms.
    No matter how "properly" you keep a chicken, it will still carry and spread the flu, but so will other animals; whether they are in your front yard, backyard, or basement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I do agree decentralized solutions may be more efficient in terms of resources.
    What other terms can efficiency be used in?
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  37. #36  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    To Pong

    Re collecting rainwater.
    I do it myself. I live in a coastal area well away from any municipal water supply scheme. I collect rainwater, and store it in two big tanks, holding 4 months supply. My drinking water I pass through an activated charcoal filter to remove any coliform bacteria etc. The water I drink is purer than the stuff you buy in bottles, and much, much cheaper.
    Canadians may be at a disadvantage here. Side effect of universal health care, is that governments get into the business of restricting freedom to reduce public health costs. If drinking gutter-collected water is shown statistically to increase hospital visits, there's strong argument to regulate, discourage, or even ban it. Like hiking off trail, smoking, or even buying "professional strength" hair products without a license. In the US, government regulates such things on ethically debatable grounds, but in welfare states the motive is explicitly tied to government budgets, and you can't argue with the numbers.

    On the other hand, with public safety sculpted more by fear of litigation, it must be difficult for companies to sell charcoal filters and such.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  38. #37  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    'you can't argue with the numbers. "-pong

    sure you can, by doing more studies and acquiring other numbers

    for example the cost effectiveness of community roof water collection and filtration, might be a number worth persuing
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  39. #38  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    5,305
    Okay, then we've got local governments (bylaws) fighting the provincial (health management) and federal (national standards, health care purse strings). Besides small local governments are heavily influenced by private contractors and enterprise. I'm sorry but the layers of wrangling make an issue like rainwater collection unfathomably complex.

    Where's Stalin when we need him?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
    Reply With Quote  
     

  40. #39  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    4,843
    If the Canadian authorities fear disease from rainwater, they can legislate to make appropriate filters compulsory. Here in New Zealand, it is quite possible to buy, relatively cheaply, large micropore filters that remove bacteria, viruses, and protists from all water entering a house. It is every bit as safe as municipal chlorinated water. The technology is fully developed, and is commercially available. It just takes the will to implement it.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  41. #40  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    79
    Too much is too bad and thats what is hapenning!
    Reply With Quote  
     

  42. #41  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,704
    as we've determined(or at least I think we've determined) over-population is not a state of too much population, but is a state of too few resources to sustain a population. There is a slight difference in meaning, but a great difference in bearing.

    For example a specific population in a specific location may find that there is not enough of a specific resource and solve their problem in a variety of ways: maybe by supplementing their need with other resources, maybe by looking for resources elsewhere; or in our case, by using less and developing more sustainable methods of doing things(if this is not an option, please explain why). A population that decides, for some arbitrary reason, that the problem is not a lack of resources but an excess of people has a very limited number of somewhat bleak choices that, with a simple(please note a bit of synicism and much irony in my use of "simple
    ) change of paradigm, might be completely unnecessary.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  43. #42  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    8,046
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I have always been sceptical about claims that overpopulation and economic growth are causing us to run out of resources. In fact, for the past several hundred years, improvements in technology have permitted us to exploit more and more of the various essential resources that we need, and bring the cost down and down.

    There was a famous wager between economist Prof. Julian Simon and author Dr. Paul Ehrlich, in which Simon claimed that resources become cheaper due to greater availability, and Ehrlich claimed we were running out, which would result in higher prices.. Simon won.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon-Ehrlich_wager

    Each time we use up a type of resource, we develop other techniques to extract other sources. For example : gold is very scarce, but it is known that a form of gold (called microcrystalline) in certain common minerals holds lots of gold (relatively speaking).
    http://www.geologynet.com/gpros.htm

    We cannot extract microcrystalline gold at this point in time, but when we develop the technology, it will dramatically increase the quantity of known gold reserves.

    In Iceland, there is a project to drill down to molten magma, which can be tapped for energy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceland...illing_Project
    However, one of the possible side benefits of this project is to use that magma as a source for mineral extraction. Probably some years in the future, but a real possibility. According to New Scientist (7 November 2009, page 18) the drillers have already struck molten magma at 2104 metres depth. In 2005, a drilling project in Hawaii also struck magma.

    I could envisage a time in the future when pumping magma and using it as a source of both energy and minerals would be commonplace.

    The point of all this is that resources are far more available than most alarmist would-be prophets are prepared to accept. As humanity develops better technology, we tap into more and more sources of vital resources.

    The Earth weighs 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes. That includes one hell of a lot of resources!
    It is true that technology will extend what we get from existing resources, but it could be that the form this takes is like a hyperbolic curve. (I'm sure you graphed some of these in Algebra class in Highschool.) As you go further in the X direction, you're always moving closer and closer to a certain point in the Y direction, which you will only reach after you've gone infinity in the X direction.

    The problem is you will never exceed that value of Y. There is such a thing as 100% efficiency, but there is no such thing as 110%. I think Bunbury is on point about this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    There is no reason to think we are consuming too much, when for all we know we can produce as much to consume, more efficiently.
    I think the point you are missing is that producing anything useful also consumes resources and produces waste. Every single production activity without a single exception is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Grow a crop and you consume water, put chemicals into the water supply, use fossil fuels to drive tractors, produce fertilizers and get it to market. Let’s assume we can produce enough food to satisfy 10 billion people. Now ten billion people need food processing plants, water treatment plants, sewage systems, power stations, coal mines, and landfills for the trash. They may not need, but will want cars, warm houses, televisions and X-Boxes. It is fruitless to talk about production unless you recognize that you cannot produce goods without producing waste.

    More efficient production methods are certainly possible but the second law still applies. And in a market economy more efficient production will be interpreted as using the cheapest fuel available with the least control of effluents, which is the short term policy that business will (must) always adhere to, unless forced to develop sustainable methods by leadership from government.
    Suppose we said that a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon was only using the gasoline 25% efficiently. (I don't remember what exactly the values are, but that seems approximately right. ) If this were true, it would mean there was an absolute ceiling to efficiency of 200 miles to the gallon, and infinity technological progress would not put us past that point. You can't harvest more than 100% of the energy that is there.

    This is almost always true of entropy problems. You can't do better than zero entropy. You only even reach zero entropy at the point of infinity tech progress. You're always getting closer and closer, by less and less. So... the fact you see dramatic results when you're in the early stages of a technological advance doesn't imply that the trend will continue and you'll see similar results in the later stages. In fact, it's quite the opposite: you are virtually guaranteed not to see that trend continue.


    Going from 25% efficiency to 50% efficiency is a tremendous increase. Going from 50% to 75% will probably be more than twice as difficult, and it's a smaller increase - both. Going 75% to 87.5% is again.... going to be still more difficult, and a smaller benefit. By the time you're pushing 99.5%, you're going to be expending virtually infinite resources, for an imperceptibly small result.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  44. #43  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    8,046
    My point is that: if the population doubles early in the curve, then we can accommodate it. But, if it doubles late in the curve, then we're just hosed.
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •