Thursday, January 14, 2010

Overpopulation a Myth? Think again!


Fig. 1: The FINITE Earth as seen from space. This image more than anything shows why we must conserve precious resources- and control our numbers.


Human stupidity, I have found, often runs in bunches and can emerge from disparate areas of the media spectrum, or political spectrum. In the past 24 hours, for example, we have already beheld Pat Robertson’s pathetic attempt to lay the blame for the Haitians' current earthquake woes on some “pact” made with Satan to escape French colonial hegemony. (See previous blog entry)

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, we find a Salon.com (actually ‘Open Salon’) blogger named Deborah Young writing balderdash that the planet’s not really overpopulated under the header: ‘Overpopulation: Have A Baby! Have Two!

On reading it I had to wonder if the woman was really that dense and misinformed (or easily propagandized) or if she was being sarcastic, or was just trying to stir up controversy to get eyeballs feeding on her article. I still haven’t decided yet, but am leading to the first and last. (Though we also can't discount she may have just taken in too much Hawaiian sun and fried her brains before writing it!) Propagandized? Well, she does write:

Even though the New York Times rightly listed it as "one of the myths of the 20th century" in its January 1, 2000 Millennium Edition, it's a myth that just won't die.”

And, of course, who are we to dispute the great New York Times, the venerable gray lady herself? Well, if anyone read my series on the U.S. Propaganda Industry they’d have seen the New York Times was right in the middle of it, trying to divert attention on everything from conspiracy in the JFK assassination to corporate chicanery- and later, cheerleading us into an ill-conceived war with Iraq. But alas, the lady is wrong (both the Young lady and the Gray lady) and the Times is in error. Population crisis is no myth and even a person of menial intellect can grasp it once they attend to the most critical limiting factors.

Perhaps the most critical limiting factor of all is potable water: by distribution, volume, by accessibility and by quality. Start with the fact that only a tiny part of the fresh water on Earth (barely 0.3%) is accessible. The rest is either too remote (e.g. in Amazonian and Siberian rivers) or too polluted to use. Even as I write this more than 57% of the U.S. watershed is polluted, often by nasties such as agricultural runoff (which caused 490,000 Milwaukeeans to get ill in 1994- from cryptosporidium) to potassium perchlorate – otherwise known as rocket fuel.
In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47- issued the same year as the New York Times “myth” on overpopulation), it was noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025.As they note (p. 47):

When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”


Market “solutions” are absurd on their face since water is an absolute life necessity – not a commercial commodity, or one that a vast population can simply "move to" , to access! (Hint: nations with their own water may not appreciate it!) One cannot and nations will not, “bargain for water” or permit privatized solutions, such as recently met with major political crisis in Bolivia. You are looking, in effect, at mass chaos, bloody guerilla style warfare which no country will be able to prevent inside its borders.

The same 'State of the World’ report notes at present rates of decline and even without factoring in the worst global warming influences – the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion by 2025. More than a sixfold increase. Add in projected new climate change data and likely effects (see. eg. recent issues of Eos) and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold. All subsequent State of the World reports that have touched on this issue note the paucity problem for water is worsening, mainly due to climate change. For example, large parts of Africa right now are literally nearing their last drop – in some nations people are close to drinking mud.

Of course, to bolster her myriad spurious claims, Young drags in ‘The Population Bomb’ by Paul R. Ehrlich, noting:

He promised us we would experience famines between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources.


Of course, Ehrlich and others (in various WSJ, Financial Times op-ed articles since 2000) have noted that merely because he was off several decades (mainly because the positive compensatory effects of the Green Revolution initiated by Norman Borlaug couldn’t be forecast precisely) doesn’t mean he is wrong in the absolute sense and it will never happen. Surely, any major water shortage such as forecast will also incept a food shortage, since 99% of crops require considerable water to grow! Does the lady get it? Nope.

The lady also recycles another canard:

“World population growth is rapidly declining. United Nations figures showed in 2003 that 79 countries that comprise 40% of the worlds population had fertility rates too low to prevent population decline.”


But, of course, she doesn’t indicate this is based on averages! And statistics can conceal a lot, for example focusing on declines in fertility but not declines in death rates! Right now, India and Africa continue to have literal population explosions, as noted by several issues of The Reporter, the publication of Population Connection. Not only that, Africa’s youngest demographic (11-16 yrs.) is rising most rapidly and with it the threat of greatest internal unrest, strife and civil war – especially as the jobs can’t be found to provide these youngsters. Uganda alone, given its current fertility rate increase, will more than triple its population to 158 million by 2050. Young doesn't factor in these examples at all.

She also doesn’t mention that even with some declines (mainly occurring in western developed democracies) the world’s population will take until almost 2050 to stabilize at a population of 10 billion. (There are some lower estimates of 8.5 billion, but I regard them as pie in the sky) This, despite the fact we can’t even properly feed three-fifths of our current 6.8 billion! (Note the UN's population estimates or projections are only one of several, and not all of us believe they are realistic. See the webcast below!)

Interested readers may access more information on projected population trends, problems from the Fred H. Bixby Population Forum ('The World in 2050'):

http://www.prb.org/Journalists/Webcasts/worldin2050/worldin2050-overview.aspx

Population myths such as circulated by Young are dealt with in this webcast:

http://www.prb.org/Journalists/Webcasts/2009/distilleddemographics2.aspx

Young, for her part, continues with her canards:

“Population rose six-fold in the next 200 years. But this is an increase, not an explosion because it has been accompanied by a productivity explosion, a resource explosion, a food explosion, an information explosion, a communication explosion, a science explosion and a medical explosion.The result is that the six-fold increase in world population is dwarfed by the eighty-fold increase in world output during the same 200 year period.”

Not so fast there, lady! First, you are tacitly placing all the “explosions” within the same generic or categorical tableaux and this is a basic logical error. For example, the “productivity explosion” is largely bogus. It has been shown mainly to have arisen (from stats especially in the U.S.) from companies laying off workers and having fewer remaining workers do the tasks originally done by 50% or 75% more, with the cost of lost wages (from the displaced workers) in the process. The “communication explosion” can also be severely questioned, given how much electronic communication is pure piffle and junk – like sending emails with You tube videos of a cat playing a piano, or some doofus doing a solo dance in his dorm room.

The “science explosion” is also questionable, especially as it pertains to the ability to deal specifically with problems attendant on much larger populations. For example, most of this explosion has been in the fields of physics (Large hadron collider, Fermi lab, superconductivity etc.) and astronomy (Hubble telescope, numerous spacecrafts to other worlds) and not in the fields where increased crop production can make a difference. As it is, the Green revolution is grinding to a halt, no thanks to huge multinationals that force farmers world wide to use their genetically-engineered, specialized seeds which are for one growth cycle only. Other multinationals, in addition, have actually had the nerve to invoke and place patents on biological species including crops, thereby circumscribing their use. Up to now, no one has figured out how to control these multinationals - which often rival governments and nation states in their power. Young doesn't factor in any of that in her rose-colored glasses.

The “medical explosion” is also arguably spurious since it is unbalanced. Nearly all medical costs are consumed in the last year of life, and the most costly procedures are used to try to extend it using highly specialized devices, techniques. Meanwhile, more than 45 million in the U.S. have no access to medical care that won’t bankrupt them. Though a “health care” bill is funneling through congress, it contains many defects – not the least of which is that it doesn’t address the dwindling number of primary care physicians. To sustain and tend to the enhanced medical needs of the population that will emerge if the health bill is passed, will require at least another 200,000 physicians each year for the next ten years. And at least half of those need to be in geriatric medicine. It just isn’t happening!

Thus, the “eighty fold world output” to which the lady appends her hopes is more an illusion than anything that can translate into supporting a mammoth population of 10 billion in quality. And I mean, if quality is not part of it, then it can’t be worth anything. If we are all to be packed into a world of the lowest common denominator- something on the order of living without most goods and services so all can have- then forget about it. She does have a point concerning dictators squandering national resources (like Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti) but totally excludes from comment the most wasteful and rapacious system in the world, capitalism. There is never going to be ANY way for her more equitable distribution of food, resources, water...until she confronts that bogey. Her omission speaks volumes....of selective attention, expedience and convenience!

The Pollyanna Princess from Hawaii, already on a tear, continues:

“People change, grow and evolve. Systems are put into place to cope with larger populations. We are not a static humanity. We invent things. We are made up of both the mundane and divine. “

Here is where she’s totally off. First, we are in no way "divine" - if we were, 6 millon wouldn't have been slaughtered in a holocaust. Second, as I noted, all potential systems are limited by critical factors. In the case of supporting human population, it’s water. If any food or housing system is to be put into place to support a population of 10 billion (Young actually cites a projection to 16 billion!) it must first be able to provide the water- the water for crops, the water for cement to construct domeciles, the water to drink and the water to bathe. She is oblivious to this factor as she doesn’t even mention it! She just expects, I guess, that some genius will be born amidst her baby-making charge, and figure out a way to make water from ……air? Even implementing conversion plants (sea water to fresh water) can’t solve the entrenched problem – because the expense of building more than 22,000 such plants worldwide (to provide for the base water needs of even ten billion) would be astronomical.

Another monumental bit of horse pockey is her claim that:

“We don't live in a finite world; for every problem there are always several solutions which don't involve taxing the citizenship into poverty or paying farmers not to grow nutritious food. ”

But that’s logically mixing chalk and cheese. Just because there may be the odd “solution” for the odd problem, doesn’t mean we don’t live in a finite world! In truth we live in a very finite world, which is obvious to any remote half-blind moron – if they behold the image of our Earth from space. Starting out with this base reality – visibly disclosed in numerous photographs, e.g. taken of the Earth during the Apollo lunar missions (See Figure 1) the first thing we may dispense with is that the planet is “infinite” in size, or has an “infinite” or unlimited amount of resources (which is essentially saying the same thing). Especially given the fact its human population continually grows to consume those (finite) resources, while leaving atrocious volumes of waste (chemical toxins, CO2, etc.) in its wake.

Logically, if any non-renewable resources are removed and consumed from a finite planet, then there must be fewer left behind, but more pollutants. Already we can see that this is indeed a “zero- sum” game and one cannot simply extract any x amount of “wealth” without impoverishing or degrading the most fundamental natural wealth of the planet. (On which all other wealth is predicated, as Univ. of Maryland Economics Professor Herman Daly has pointed out).

The last bit of malarkey from Young is her best:

You want number crunching? If you gave every person on Planet Earth an acre of land, Europe, Asia, Africa and half of Latin America and North America would be empty. Antigrowth arguments that we are running out of land are just plain wrong. The vast majority of the planet's inhabitable surface is empty of human inhabitants.”


Of course, Ms. Young can’t grasp or process that those vast tracts of land are empty for a reason – they aren’t habitable because the readily accessible resources (especially water) aren’t there in abundance to allow living there. I believe for this reason I haven’t seen too many people rushing into the Mojave to set up communities, or into the heartland of interior Alaska. In addition, we know that even now the main water reservoir of Lake Mead (which provides Vegas’ needs) will likely run out if the drought continues there another two years. Already Hoover Dam (which I visited in ’06) is at a precarious level. To have enough pressure to function and pump water it needs to be at least at 1045’. It is already within the danger zone. Some 50’ lower and it will have to stop pumping. The problems peculiar to Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Vegas aren’t unique, they are occurring world wide.

Trying to more evenly distribute the population across the planet sounds plausible on paper, but when one examines the critical factors that would enable this – they just aren’t there. And no newborn genius will deliver us from this reality.
The lady advises “Have a baby! Have two!”

My rejoinder is, sure, go ahead- make babies, if you want to speed humanity’s descent into a hell on Earth. For other issues to do with Peak Oil I haven’t touched on, go to:

www. dieoff.org


The noted, science writer Isaac Asimov- in various essays written over decades- has also warned of similar constraints on humanity’s use of resources, particularly in terms of how population growth impinges on finite resources and sets limits to growth. Isaac Asimov was probably also the first to use the term “carrying capacity” which he estimated to be 3 billion humans for this limited world.

Asimov warned that humans had two choices: decrease their population to the carrying capacity limit to live in an equilibrium with the Earth and its resources, or let nature “increase the human death rate” (e.g. by starvation, pestilence, wars over resources etc.) I have seen nothing in all the resource use, disease, water shortage and other data to convince me of any opposite Pollyanna point of view.

11 comments:

Caleb Shay said...

Damn! What a great article! I also saw this woman's piece in Salon. What a moron! What does she have for brains, swiss cheese? She's almost as balmy as Pastor Mike, your brudda- but not quite. He takes the cake. I really think he's suffering from early Alzhemier's!

The points about water being a limiting factor are good ones but would probably sail over that bimbo's head. (Like my firm logical arguments on god sail over pastor Mike's)

Personally, I am glad to see you ripped her. Over population is a very serious problem and humans are fools if they think they can surmount it by just sticking more people in Siberia or the Sahara, and calling themselves 'divine'.

Also, this moron doesn't even consider all the JOBS: J-O-B-S! Where are they going to come from? Does she think they will just pop out of the blue? Companies everywhere are cutting back workers, not hiring them. More skilled tasks are also being done by machine! Where I live they even have automated checkout lines at the grocery with NO humans!

This woman is a moron and ought to stick to easier topics like maybe how to nurse a baby or knitting!

Pete Murphy said...

The biggest obstacle we face in changing attitudes toward overpopulation is economists. Since the field of economics was branded "the dismal science" after Malthus' theory, economists have been adamant that they would never again consider the subject of overpopulation and continue to insist that man is ingenious enough to overcome any obstacle to further growth. Even worse, economists insist that population growth is vital to economic growth. This is why world leaders continue to ignore population growth in the face of mounting challenges like peak oil, global warming and a whole host of other environmental and resource issues.

But because they are blind to population growth, there's one obstacle they haven't considered: the finiteness of space available on earth. The very act of using space more efficiently creates a problem for which there is no solution: it inevitably begins to drive down per capita consumption and, consequently, per capita employment, leading to rising unemployment and poverty.

If you‘re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, then I invite you to visit my web site at http://PeteMurphy.wordpress.com.

Pete Murphy
Author, "Five Short Blasts"

Copernicus said...

Pete Murphy wrote: "If you‘re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, then I invite you to visit my web site at http://PeteMurphy.wordpress.com. "

Thanks! I will check it out. You are spot on correct about economics which has always maintained a 'pie in the sky', falsely optimistic, 'conquer anything' outlook - despite the fact their whole constellation of spurious claims is held up only by some dubious statistics. (I seem to vaguely recall one of them trying to use the "Pareto distribution" some years ago to try and show there is no genuine inequality)

At root of much of their nonsense - and which enables them to inhabit their outlandish, unreal world- is their consistent failure (in their so-called models) to factor in the costs of the externalities- like rain forests, potable water, rare flora -fauna that may have benefit for humans,etc.

Thus, when most of a rain forest is cut down - as in Brazil- this isn't factored into the cost of controlling CO2 (which the rain forests had acted as a repository for).

Worse, in the U.S.A. they hold up much more optimistic GDP and growth numbers than the situation warrants. For example, all GDP numbers and growth really need to be reduced by the size of outstanding liabilities - the main one now being the cost of infrastructure repair (estimated to be nearly $1.7 trillion just to bring it back to 1980 levels - no true modernization included)

Thanks again for your comment!

Copernicus said...

Caleb Shay wrote:

"She's almost as balmy as Pastor Mike, your brudda- but not quite. He takes the cake. I really think he's suffering from early Alzhemier's!"

No, I think that's unfair. I don't believe that my brother has any remote phase of "Alzheimers" - which is (as you know) a serious disease and which term ought not be tossed around lightly.

Mike neither has that nor a low IQ, he's simply totally and emotionally invested in his belief system- which means that the possibilities for truly logical exchange are limited. This is because his emotional logic will always differ from ours.

That was why I "conceded" impasse in our last exchange on God- which actually isn't the most accurate word to have used, since it wasn't a concession to MIKE (or the rectitude of his arguments) but a concession that our exchange was at a logical impasse. Two different things. I think the problem is the English language doesn't allow for adequate nuance and variation.

Caleb Shay said...

Okay, copernicus, I'll lay off the old fart....for now. Maybe he isn't as dense as I believe but he sure doesn't know anything about debating logically. Hope you get that piece up about truth claims soon. Btw, he has a new blog piece up defending Robertson, claims he was taken "out of context"! I mean, c'mon copernicus, it's on videos all over the web ....and he can't find 'em!

You still believe this guy is sharp? I know he's your brudda, but jeez....any moron can find that Robertson clip and hear directly what he said and it wasn't out of context!

clay said...

>Market “solutions” are absurd on their face since water is an absolute life necessity – not a commercial commodity

As is food. just because something is a necessity doesn't mean it can't be provided by the market. As an aside, I'd add that the system we have in the US (that's all I know about, so that's all I'm saying) is closer to a market system than you might think, since water is usually controlled at the municipal or county level.
>the “productivity explosion” is largely bogus… [statistics about companies laying workers off]

Are you saying there hasn't been an enormous increase in efficiency since the 1700s? I find that very hard to believe.
>The “communication explosion” can also be severely questioned, given how much electronic communication is pure piffle and junk… [cats]

Seriously? Because people use a technology for silly purposes, you deny its impact?
>The “science explosion” is also questionable, especially as it pertains to the ability to deal specifically with problems attendant on much larger populations. For example, most of this explosion has been in the fields of physics and astronomy…

You're seriously saying that, since the 18th century, there've been little scientific discoveries improving the carrying capacity of the earth? You've clearly misinterpreted something, especially since the examples you listed were all from the 20th or 21st century. Even then, you're wrong. You don't think the discovery of DNA has any impact on population? Gene therapy has the potential to absolutely revolutionize medicine.

And, BTW, those useless physicists are trying to create methods for clean energy, while astronomers are planning for our first steps off this planet.
>The “medical explosion” is also arguably spurious since it is unbalanced. Nearly all medical costs are consumed in the last year of life, and the most costly procedures are used to try to extend it using highly specialized devices, techniques.

That's true, but there have been remarkable advances elsewhere. If you stick with the 200 year time frame, GERM THEORY was pretty huge. If you stick within the last hundred years, reliable vaccines are pretty fuckin' cool. Antibiotics, managing chelesterol, and various surgical advances are also neat.

Copernicus said...

clay wrote:

"As is food. just because something is a necessity doesn't mean it can't be provided by the market"

But the market is ALL about profit. Markets, none I know of, opoerate out of charity - and as profit margins decline with diminished resources this becomes more difficult. The problem is that MOST of the increased population will not have jobs (a convenient fact the lady...and you overlook) and won't be able to afford even dog or cat food. Markets themselves are no longer "free" - contrary to their fundamentalist purveyors - but rather controlled by demand. Mega corporations finagle and finesse them any way they want.

--
"Are you saying there hasn't been an enormous increase in efficiency since the 1700s? "

NO! I am saying that what efficiencies we have seen have barely been integrated into industrial processes to keep up with the existing poplation needs, jobs and supports - far less a population of 10 billion. Get any of the papers by Univ. of Maryland eco-economist Herman Daly who shows that GDP is largely a fictitios measure, and as resources are depleted the total stock of natural wealth goes down, and artificial wealth (which inputs to industrial processes) with it
--

"Seriously? Because people use a technology for silly purposes, you deny its impact?"

Nope. But the impact is not such that it will make the difference needed, in the time needed, to support a burgeoning population of the scale that this woman declares.
The fact is that currently the resources of the net are used for frivolous purposes. Knowing human nature as I think I do (having taught for so many years) I believe I can safely say this won't change anytime soon. Read 'The Dumbest Generation'
--

"You're seriously saying that, since the 18th century, there've been little scientific discoveries improving the carrying capacity of the earth? "

That's right. You finally correctly interpreted one thing (btw, I rejected your other comment because it was too off kilter and misconstrued too many points I made). I'd say I don't see even two things that can improve the carrying capacity to the EXTENT THIS LADY WANTS! And that is, about ten billion.

Borlaug's discoveries perhaps got us up to supporting about 6.9 billion, which cusp or threshold we are at now. DNA advances - if they can actually translate into more crop yields - may get us to 8 billion but I doubt it. Not the way the multinationals like Monsanto are running the show, with 1 year cycles on seeds, and no inclination to stop it - again because of the profit demand.

An advance in physics (nuclear) to enable nuclear fusion to be the prime energy source would probably get us close to ten billion - but as any one who's ever done fusion or plasma physics knows, the indicators are not looking good and certainly with magnetic field containment times of barely 1 second nowhere near what will be needed for energy delivered - by 2050. And that includes for de-salination plants.
---
cont'd

Copernicus said...

clay opined:


"Gene therapy has the potential to absolutely revolutionize medicine."

Sure it does, in the wrong way! By extending life spans and ADDING to the existing population increase from births. Without the energy - say from fusion - to accompany those increases, humanity is looking at its own end, and we won't even get into the enormous amounts of CO2 produced by each human- making population increase a prime contributor to global warming.
--

"And, BTW, those useless physicists are trying to create methods for clean energy,"

I already noted the only plausible energy source - fusion- which could support a population on the scale of ten billion. I also noted it was implausible that it will ever come onstream, certainly before about 2100 or later. We simply lack the insights and resources to increase those magnetic containment times to make it practical.
----


"while astronomers are planning for our first steps off this planet"

Astronomers are planning NO such thing. Most astronomers I know are painfully aware that- given the dwindling economic capital of this country the chances of further manned space flight - say to the other planets are slim and none. Hell, a recent panel (enjoined by the Obama admin.))even put the kibosh on a ginned up NASA plan to return to the Moon by 2020. The panel also included the recommendation to allow the existing space station to crash to Earth (under the influence of a naturally decaying orbit) by 2016. NONE of these steps comports with your fantasy ideations - which I presume includes putting the surplus humans on other worlds. Totally daft and devoid of realism - like your other pie in the sky projections for gene therapy or DNA.

Most astronomers I know just want the UNMANNED missions, by robot craft, to continue to Mars, Saturn etc. They understand that this is the best payoff that can be made with the resources at hand.

Copernicus said...

clay wrote:
"If you stick with the 200 year time frame, GERM THEORY was pretty huge. If you stick within the last hundred years, reliable vaccines are pretty fuckin' cool. Antibiotics, managing chelesterol, and various surgical advances are also neat"

Too true, but again, all these examples promote the INCREASE in human population, they do not show HOW a presumed finding can SUPPORT a much larger population.

Now, before you reply again, I want you to provide me ONE single advance that can control the CO2 emitted by a much larger population. This alone will show me you're serious here, and not a drive-by dilettante.

DON'T just give me another example that can putatively increase the population, while omitting examples that can dampen the growing population's ill effects. Also, the examples given must be in synch with the energy sources and availablility we're likely to have up to 2050. Not some pie in the sky entity or source not even remotely on the horizon. (Also bearing in mind Peak Oil will likely occur within the next 10 years if it hasn't already)

Vaccines, antibiotics, gene therapy....all these have the potential to increase life span and thereby population. What I need are examples of advances that can *support* a growing population- without deleteriously affecting the quality of life for all. (Think analogous to airline de-regulation here, and how MORE people got to fly after it, but with much less quality - e.g. being packed in like sardines, and now...not even a hot meal!)

If you reply that there is no validity to greenhouse warming etc. so we need not worry over it, your comment WILL be rejected. I am telling you that in advance. Irrespective of the email hacking, the scientific evidence remains valid.

Greenhouse gas warming, especially in the runaway effect- remains the biggest potential drain on water supplies, as well as energy use - and must be addressed if people are going to bloviate (another of my favorite words, eh) on the Earth supporting 10 billion people.

People who won't or don't address this issue, are therefore not serious - and merit no space in any comment domains on this blog. Forewarned and all that.

Caleb Shay said...

copernicus wrote:

"DON'T just give me another example that can putatively increase the population, while omitting examples that can dampen the growing population's ill effects. Also, the examples given must be in synch with the energy sources and availablility we're likely to have up to 2050"

Can I give a reply for this clay character? (Not that I'm in any way for increasing human population to the point he and that Young woman want).

The best way to do what you asked him is just to stop wasting food! Current studies show the U.S. alone wastes as much as 40% of the groceries purchased each year. If that 40% were distributed (or sold for much less) to those who need it, at least 20 million tons less of carbon dioxide a year might be achieved.

If not all the food or other garbage waste can be easily used up, then anaerobic digesters - which they already have in Germany- can be used to convert the mixture of waste to methane, which can then be used for energy.

The problem is the energy from methane is not as dense as that afforded by oil so that vast volumes would be required and a good distribution system. I can't see it supplying more than another 1 billion people. So your fusion idea for energy remains the best, copernicus. Trouble is most estimates I've seen show it won't come on stream before 2400 if by then. Too late to address water scarcity or other problems.

Copernicus said...

Caleb Shay wrote:

"The best way to do what you asked him is just to stop wasting food! Current studies show the U.S. alone wastes as much as 40% of the groceries purchased each year"

This is actually spot on, especially in light of an article 'Plenty of Guilt and a Very Heavy Footprint'- appearing in today's Financial Times (Business & Food Sustainability Section)

The author, Fiona Harvey, notes that in the UK alone some 8.5 million tonnes of food is wasted each year. A third of the food the average British household buys is tossed away, uneaten. This level of waste, she attests "costs households several billion pounds a year"

The U.S. isn't far behind, as you point out wasting 40% of its food, at a cost of nearly $1 billion dollars a year. In the UK, she notes, the wasted food adds up to a full third of that nation's carbon footprint a year. A third! Thus, just the simple act of eliminating food wastage could also attend to the problem of excess CO2 driving global warming.

She also adds "the full impact of our diet on climate change is astonishingly high" and that the very (industrial farming, genetic engineering processes) that make for cheap and abundant food ALSO contribute to its inreasing wastage.

From this well-researched article in which she cites numerous sources (The Food Climate Research Network), it is self-evident that increasing efficiency in food production is not going to help us one iota support a larger population, if people keep their wasteful habits.

Companies, capitalist grocery marts also need to help in this by ceasing their "By 2 and get 3 free" offers, so people buy more food than they can actually use at once. But of course, this would impact on the precious capitalist models for inventory disposal and re-supply.

Restaurants for their part, need to thin down their portion sizes. Also, find a way to give that extra unused food away - maybe to the homeless (of which there will be billions more as the planet inches toward 10 billion)