Category Archives: ecology

As Population Peaks There is One Certainty: Things Will Be Messy and Complicated


We humans are clearly overrunning the planet, but few understand or will face what is happening.  As population hits an all-time peak later this century, life on the planet will get much tougher and there will be no simple answers to the problems that will arise or simply increase in severity.  While it is hard to see ahead with any detail, past experience says there will never be a single crisis that challenges humanity like overpopulation does (barring an asteroid impact, a global volcanic surprise, or the sun doing something unexpected).  This is because human nature drives us to want to live better and have more children.  Can we successfully change ourselves to have less offspring and live more sustainably?  Continue reading

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Remembering the Monarch Butterfly Migration


Yesterday as I walked outside the building where I work, a single monarch butterfly was working its way up wind across the parking lot, heading South.  The day before in the afternoon a single monarch butterfly was working its way south, slowly flapping up and over my house, also headed south.  Was it always like this? ( It was not!) Continue reading

Mixed News and Misconceptions Regarding Our Future


Awareness of humanity’s biggest problems is rising.  While there appears to finally be a slow groundswell of popular understanding and alarm about what humans are doing to the planet (which is quite late but very good), there is still a lot of mishandling (and often misrepresentation) of the news. This results in persistent widespread misconceptions about our position and probable future on the planet.  So what kinds of things are we “not getting”? Continue reading

NOW I Understand the Danger in Genetically Modified Organisms!


For years I have watched the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO), predominantly food items, with interest but not been sure where the problem was.  Recent news articles have given me some new thoughts on the matter and a real cause for concern, however.  Current genetic modifications, predominantly created and promoted by Monsanto, make food crops resistant to weed-killing chemicals so that more of those chemicals can be used without harming the crops.  The higher yield of those crops is offered as reason enough to use these genetically modified seeds.  The GM crops are generally tougher to kill and that, while it has benefits, presents the real problems. Continue reading

Clues to the Future: Being Ecologically Responsible Can Save Money!


Here is a clue to how we might live in the future, when resources are expensive and scarce in a world of over 9 billion people. The clue lies in a plugged drain.IMG_0195

Most of us have had to deal with a plugged drain at some point.  I have coped with many as a homeowner.  What do you do when that shower or sink drain starts running slower and slower?  Typically I end up at the store buying a bottle of chemicals which I can pour down the drain, wait a while (in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions) and then follow with the hottest water possible.  This technique tends to work, but I think about the drains of 9 billion people being cleared this way, and the consequences of the use of valuable resources and the cost of cleaning the waste water of those nasty chemicals.  (See a mathematical “thought tool” at the end of this article.) So what can I do differently, and how might we remedy the common clogged drain in the future? Continue reading

Humanity Almost Vanished 70,000 Years Ago, and Can Again


A number of studies described in a recent NPR article agree that slightly over 70,000 years ago, after a supervolcano eruption much larger than any we’ve seen in recorded history, total human numbers were reduced to a few thousand or less.  Now we find ourselves in a heavily overpopulated situation where we may surpass the Earth’s capacity to provide food and energy within the next few decades, and we need to think ahead as to how to survive the coming period of extreme volatility.  Still, there are supervolcanos in the world that are centuries and millennia past their normal eruption cycle, just ready to blow.  Surely we are smart enough as a species to think ahead and prepare for such calamities, aren’t we? 

I leave this as an open question.  It has meaning well beyond the immediate topic.  Thanks for reading – Tim

Organic Farming Will Replace Current Farming Methods as the Population Peaks


Food systems are going to be of primary importance as population peaks.  If, as the UN says, population will reach more than 9 billion in the 2040’s before beginning a steep decline, the causes of that decline are important to consider today.  A historical review of population reductions shows that neither war nor the natural disasters we’ve seen so far make a noticeable difference, but suggests that famine and possibly disease have the potential to make major reductions in the population.  Decades ago I expected that we might pollute our world so badly that average lifespans would fall, but there has been some progress on preserving the environment and it appears that energy and food shortages created by overpopulation are bigger concerns.  (Of course, the primary concern SHOULD be overpopulation itself, as these other problems are results of it.)  If organic food and farming methods are more costly than agribusiness’ methods now, why would they replace the hugely productive methods used to produce most food in the developed world today? Continue reading