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
Category Archives: sustainability
It may seem like simple logic that, if human numbers continue to grow rapidly, there will be a point where shortages of food, energy, and other natural resources will cause shortages, and a global collapse would occur. I wrote a post about this and our prospects for bailing ourselves out with technology back in 2012, titled “Can We Invent Our Way Out of the Population Explosion? Not the Way You’re Thinking“. Still and understandably, many people, including those in official roles with plenty of evidence before them, have consistently denied the risks and signs of future collapse, possibly due to the influence of corporate interests who feel that efforts to counter the situation could affect their profits. Now a NASA project report offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately. Here is a Guardian columnist’s analysis of the study. Continue reading
I just read an article on the Empowerhouse, a Habitat for Humanity project in Washington DC that may show the way to the kind of housing that we need now and will need in the future. This house has a greater potential than any I’ve ever heard of to use zero externally delivered energy and still be affordable. If it is durable enough to last at least as long as ordinary homes it represents the kind of hope we need for a future when the fossil fuel we use so much of now will cost perhaps ten or twenty times as much as it does today. And here I’d been wishing for solar shingles for the last decade or so and yet not seeing them anywhere. The Empowerhouse doesn’t solve all our problems – many existing home will need to be retrofitted and moved closer to self-sufficiency – but I hope it will drive more innovation and reduce the sense of hopelessness many people feel when they consider the future of overpopulation and the exhaustion of fossil fuels.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading — Tim
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
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
Important Question for your Legislators: Can Growth Continue Indefinitely and, If Not, What Follows It?
Hindsight is golden – no question about that. All through the recent election season I pondered what the right question was to ask legislators and, of course, it hit me days after the election: “Do you think population and economic growth can continue forever and, if not, what do you think will happen when the trend reverses?” This and similar questions should be at the top of everyone’s list, not just today but every day for decades to come. Continue reading
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