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Thread: Is this 21st century the best?

  1. #1 Is this 21st century the best? 
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    It seems like the 19th century was lacking technology like computer and internet. We have the privilege to enjoy the technology. The next century will not be as flashy as many thinks. The pollution and atomic weapons with the terrorism puts a question mark on our future. Do u think the current time is the best in the human history???


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    In terms of environmental issues this is definitely not a good time. Due to a combination of still increasing population, wasteful consumerism and energy consumption we are precipitating wholesale destruction of the biosphere and at the start of a mass extinction event of a scale that's never before been seen in by our species.

    If you meant other than environmental than I'll be more than happy to move it into the general science sub-forum.


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    i don't think so its a best century for us ,
    we have lots of problem in this time,
    environment is not behaving as normal ,
    lots of natural deserters are happening ..........
    its really a worried thing for mankind ............
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  5. #4  
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    Apart from possible environmental issues (which I think we will manage adequately anyway), the 21st Century so far is definitely the best time for humans.

    We get a lot of people suggesting that overpopulation is a major worry. What very few people seem to get is that overpopulation is a symptom of the fact that life is damn good right now. Population falls when times are bad. It rises when times are good. Times are very good right now.
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    Good joke, Ophiolite.

    However, the pessimistic view does not stand up to the facts. Overpopulation is predicted by the United Nations to peak at 9 billion in 2040, and probably decrease thereafter.

    However, recent history would suggest that the development of science and technology and the benefits thereof will continue. Recent history also shows that environmental problems get identified and solved. London's killer smogs, for example, are now relegated to history.
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  8. #7  
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    However, the pessimistic view does not stand up to the facts. Overpopulation is predicted by the United Nations to peak at 9 billion in 2040, and probably decrease thereafter.
    More correctly, population is predicted by the United Nations to peak at 9 billion in 2040, and probably decrease thereafter. The sustainable carrying capacity of the planet has been variously estimated at numbers far below even the present six billion so the planet is vastly overpopulated already if you believe these estimates (and being at the office I can’t look up and quote references but will try to do so at home tonight if anyone cares). This is not the pessimistic view. It is the scientific view if anthropology and sociology are sciences.

    However, recent history would suggest that the development of science and technology and the benefits thereof will continue. Recent history also shows that environmental problems get identified and solved. London's killer smogs, for example, are now relegated to history.
    The London smog (of which I have personal memories) and the filthy blackened buildings that went along with it, no longer exists thanks only to government action, not the benevolence of the coal companies. Today we need concerted action by governments to give us any hope of providing a decent standard of living to nine billion people. Technology could provide this, but left to the short-term profit demands of corporations, there is no possibility. The only possible way for this to happen is for governments to make it happen and the only way for this to happen (in democratic societies) is for individuals to shrug off the naïve libertarian selfishness that is marketed as “freedom”, learn the facts and choose the responsible course.

    The point I’ve tried to make in other threads, apparently without success, is that we are in a different world today from any that human beings have experienced and the prior successes of technology cannot be extrapolated to future conditions. This blind optimism has no basis in history. Now we have out-competed all creatures great and small except perhaps the microbes. Not too many of us can go out and catch a fish for dinner, or kill an elk. Two loaves of bread in my house today came from New Jersey and California!

    Technology gave many of us better lives while we dumped our effluent into the rivers, the landfills and the air, which we could do this without noticing and without worrying because we were small relative to the planet. We are not small any more in numbers and in impact.
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  9. #8  
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    Bunbury

    With the greatest of respect, I have to say that you appear to be selectively ignoring a lot of progress. We no longer dump all our effluent in rivers and lakes. OK, still a bit. However, the trend is, and has been for half a century, to increasingly treat effluent before disposal. We no longer experience acid rain. In the west, forest acreage is now increasing. OK, in the third world it is still reducing, but the rate is slowing.

    China is the biggest generater of air pollution today, and it has a massive, mega billion dollar, government campaign to clean it up. India also, to a lesser degree. The USA still emits far too much CO2, but it cleans up the sulfur and nitrogen oxides in its gaseous emissions.

    The whole world is moving towards a less polluting society. I agree that there is a way to go, but the trend is correct.

    A few years back, out of interest, I looked up the statistics on agricultural production. I found that the highest productivity for food per acre was from hydroponics. I then calculated from this, that the top one third of Australia (the monsoon part - therefore the part that has an abundance of water), if it were converted totally to hydroponics, could feed 20 billion people - assuming no animal products.

    Of course, this will not happen, but it illustrates the fact that agriculture can, when needed, produce enough food for the 9 billion people the world will soon support.
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  10. #9  
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    Skeptic,

    Instead of repeating your platitudes about improvements in pollution control (which I'm quite familiar with, having worked in related industries for 30 years), how about you explain how the situation described below is going to be remedied?...Something a little deeper than “technology will save us!” would be worth debating. Technology could and might save us if we have the will to put it to good use and soon. I don’t have your faith that we will.
    Agricultural capability on Earth expanded in the last quarter of the 20th century. But now there are many projections of a continuation of the decline in world agricultural capability (and hence carrying capacity) which began in the 1990s. Most conspicuously, China's food production is forecast to decline by 37% by the last half of the 21st century, placing a strain on the entire carrying capacity of the world, as China's population could expand to about 1.5 billion people by the year 2050.[11] This reduction in China's agricultural capability (as in other world regions) is largely due to the world water crisis and especially due to mining groundwater beyond sustainable yield, which has been happening in China since the mid-20th century.[12]
    (From Wiki - Carrying Capacity)
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  11. #10  
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    Here's more on groundwater depletion, not just in China but worldwide.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0923142503.htm

    "If you let the population grow by extending the irrigated areas using groundwater that is not being recharged, then you will run into a wall at a certain point in time, and you will have hunger and social unrest to go with it," Bierkens warns. "That is something that you can see coming for miles."
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  12. #11  
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    To Bunbury

    Re food production.

    The world has ample capacity to grow food.
    I was once reading an item on hydroponics, and the food production possible using this technology. Out of interest, I did a simple calculation.

    I chose the monsoon part of Australia for my example, because it is largely unused, and also because it is the only part of Oz with abundant water. If that part was all converted to hydroponics, it could feed nearly 20 billion people, assuming no meat.

    Obviously that is not going to happen, but it illustrates the fact that the world can feed everyone. All it takes is the will.
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  13. #12  
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    Much of the progress we think we've made has been by exporting our pollution to other nations. I hate it when I here people try to defend the U.S. for example, when they point out that we don't produce the most CO2 anymore, while they completely ignore that China does making the utterly unsustainable lifestyle enjoyed by Americans.

    Nine billion peak population is not a good news story we're already larger than a sustainable population, in essence driving our environmental support systems to the bottom and decreasing the world's holding capacity.

    It appears we're already starting a mass extinction that will rival those in the past and happen more suddenly.

    The only global environmental challenge we've been successful at was decreasing Ozone emissions. The others have been mostly local and regional were local politics can have a direct effect. Being many of our current problems are global in scale, politics in notoriously local and the richest nation is both turn Xenophobic (and anti global solution anything) and anti-intellectual towards the sciences the environmental picture for the next few generations seems pretty bleak.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Much of the progress we think we've made has been by exporting our pollution to other nations. I hate it when I here people try to defend the U.S. for example, when they point out that we don't produce the most CO2 anymore, while they completely ignore that China does making the utterly unsustainable lifestyle enjoyed by Americans.

    Nine billion peak population is not a good news story we're already larger than a sustainable population, in essence driving our environmental support systems to the bottom and decreasing the world's holding capacity.

    It appears we're already starting a mass extinction that will rival those in the past and happen more suddenly.

    The only global environmental challenge we've been successful at was decreasing Ozone emissions. The others have been mostly local and regional were local politics can have a direct effect. Being many of our current problems are global in scale, politics in notoriously local and the richest nation is both turn Xenophobic (and anti global solution anything) and anti-intellectual towards the sciences the environmental picture for the next few generations seems pretty bleak.
    I am not a scientist and probably not as concerned about the environment as I should be. There is always the chance that we are being too pessimistic, about the future, but my view is that we have to "go with the science" and there appears to be a general consensus, within the scientific community, that we are facing major problems, in the future, unless fairly radical steps are taken now.
    I am writing this, Lynx_Fox, because I have read many of your posts. I am not sure you are right about everything but your knowledge, on environmental matters, impresses me and much more so than the opinions and posts of your opponents at this forum.
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  15. #14  
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    To Lynx Fox

    You say you hate people supporting the USA. My personal gripe is people who talk a load of nonsense. In this, you are also guilty.

    You talk of us driving a massive extinction event. This may be correct but it is yet unproven. Actual species extinctions that are proven to happen (as opposed to wild Greenpeace type speculation) run at between 10 and 20 per year. If this rate proves to be temporary, then the extinction event becomes minor. So far, we do not know.

    You say that 9 billion is not sustainable. Again, that is a wild statement without scientific support. Again, we do not know. Certainly, we can feed 9 billion. I suspect that, with modification to economic systems, that it is a number that is indefinitely sustainable. However, I do not really know that. Nor do you know it is unsustainable.

    You say that the only environmental problem we have 'solved' is ozone. Not true. For example : the massive movement in the 1940's to 1970's in which non biodegradable pesticides were being sprayed willy nilly in the west, has been stopped. Now pesticides are of low mammalian toxicity and fully biodegradable. They do not build up in the environment.

    In the same way, massive air and water pollution in the western world has been stopped. Factory discharges now get treated. Smokestack emissions pass through scrubbers and precipitators, leaving minimal gaseous emissions. In fact, I notice with amusement, that when the media want a photo of air pollution, they usually photograph emissions of water vapour, which looks alarming, in spite of being totally harmless.

    In the west, forest acreage is growing, due to new plantings. Farmers are increasingly using environmentally friendly approaches, instead of the old damaging behaviours.

    Sure we have a long way to go. But being too pessimistic is at least as wrong as being too optimisitic. You should strive to achieve a more balanced message on environmental issues.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    To Lynx Fox

    You say you hate people supporting the USA. My personal gripe is people who talk a load of nonsense. In this, you are also guilty.

    You talk of us driving a massive extinction event. This may be correct but it is yet unproven. Actual species extinctions that are proven to happen (as opposed to wild Greenpeace type speculation) run at between 10 and 20 per year. If this rate proves to be temporary, then the extinction event becomes minor. So far, we do not know.
    I invite you to read the UN report on biodiversity, a consolidation of hundreds of science reports which is reporting the highest rate extinction rate since that of 65 million years ago; a rate at least 1000 times the natural rate, mostly due to massive loss of biodiversity due to a man-made biodiversity and invasive species. http://www.cbd.int/

    If you a non-international source read the National Academy of Science Report from 2 years ago, which reports nearly the same along with specific list of oceanographic large species which has declined by more than 90%, many of which are threatened. An earlier report foretasted an extinction rate of 1500 species/million/year just based on forest lost if we continue to deforest at the current rate. (http://www.pnas.org/content/103/29/10941.abstract)

    While there's still a lot to learn, to state it's not scientifically based is false--we know a great deal already--and what we know doesn't bode well.

    --
    You say that 9 billion is not sustainable. Again, that is a wild statement without scientific support. Again, we do not know. Certainly, we can feed 9 billion.
    Are you so sure? At least a quarter of the planet's population is malnourished (I've been to too many of those damn places...argg) now and areas available to agricultural are in many places decreasing because of wide scale use of unsustainable farming practices which erode soil, strip it of needed nutrients, or increase the salinity--and this is true in the even the U.S. And think we've largely achieved greater agricultural efficiency due to cheap energy, the one thing that we can't count on in the future. The Western reluctance to eat genetically modify plants (most are anyhow just not from a lab) and protectionism for seed varieties which make unavailable for independence safety testing and prohibitively expensive to the 3rd world which only makes matters worse.

    The comments about smoke stacks I largely agree with but lets not forget what what we fixed were emissions which caused local problems not the global problems. It's not hard to summon courage to clean up ones backyard.

    I don't want to come across as completely pessimistic either, the level of ignorance about the trouble we're in despite the huge about the science is disappointing. If the richest citizens of the world won't even acknowledge the problems then there's little chance serious resources or political influence will be applied to fix them.
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  17. #16  
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    Lynx fox

    Re feeding the billions. I requote from my earlier post.



    "The world has ample capacity to grow food.
    I was once reading an item on hydroponics, and the food production possible using this technology. Out of interest, I did a simple calculation.

    I chose the monsoon part of Australia for my example, because it is largely unused, and also because it is the only part of Oz with abundant water. If that part was all converted to hydroponics, it could feed nearly 20 billion people, assuming no meat.

    Obviously that is not going to happen, but it illustrates the fact that the world can feed everyone. All it takes is the will."


    On extinctions.
    I am not denying the problem, which is real. Just saying that it is still too early to say if this is the 6th great extinction event. In the past 500 odd years, less than 600 species are known for sure to have gone extinct as a result of human activity. This will, of course, be an under-estimate, since many species will be gone without the passing being recorded.

    Previous great extinction events resulted in millions of species going extinct. It is still too early to say if this will be the result of the current problem.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I chose the monsoon part of Australia ........ If that part was all converted to hydroponics, it could feed nearly 20 billion people, assuming no meat. .
    Let's see the calculation.
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  19. #18  
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    I would also like to see the calculation. I did a quick estimate of protein requirements for 9 billion people and came up with 600 million metric tons of protein per day. That's a lot of beans. Is that about right?
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  20. #19  
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    My apologies, guys. I lost my data.

    However, going by memory, it was something like 100 square metres of hydroponics to support the average human.

    The monsoon area of Australia is about 4,000 km wide and about 500 km deep. This is 2 trillion square metres. Divide by 100 and we get 20 billion people supported by this area.

    Hydroponics is incredibly efficient as a food production source. Since the water used can be sterilised, disease is minimal. Insect pests can be excluded. Water use is about 5% of the water per acre in open irrigated fields. Plant growth is maximised since nutrients, water, and CO2 are optimised.

    Hydroponics can even be operated using sterilised sewage as nutrient source.

    It is perhaps of interest to note that hydroponics is the method used in Antarctica to supply all their fresh produce. Immensely efficient heated greenhouses.

    However, whether my calculations above are correct or not (it all depends whether I remember the 100 m2 correctly or not), the point is that the world has the capacity to feed the maximum 9 billion population. Whether we do or not depends on politics and economic systems, not technological capability.
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  21. #20  
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    I must also apologize, having checked my calculation. I should have written 600,000 metric tons of protein per day. Still a lot of beans.
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