Thursday, June 28, 2007

Human Population Crisis

There are numerous problems with the environment today. Problems that are in dire need of attention. However, what needs to be acknowledged is that the vast majority of these problems cannot be corrected in the long run without first dealing with the problem of overpopulation.

When people think of population, they're most likely to think of swarms of people. Overpopulation is not population density, but rather the number of people in an area relative to its resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities. Even more important than the number of people are the resources consumed by each person, and the damage done by technologies used to supply them.

As the population of the United States recently surpassed 300,000,000, many people are still incapable of sensing the problem of overpopulation. They point to the fact that there is enough wide open space available to hold numerous times the present population. But what they don't realize is that most of the open space that they are talking about is not inhabitable.

Sure there are other countries that have many more people per square mile than the United States. But these countries are either third world countries that use just a small percentage of the natural resources that we do, or else they rely on other countries to supply them with natural resources. Overpopulation is when the number of people can not be permanently maintained without depleting resources and without degrading the environment and the people's standard of living. Because we are rapidly using up resources around the world, virtually all nations are overpopulated.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Earth in a Pressure Cooker - The Global Warming Controversy, Part Two

The Evils of Burning Down our Forests

What would become of the Earth's oxygen supply if all our forests were destroyed?

One report states that 30% of CO2 levels rising higher each year are due to deforestation, particularly due to slash-and-burn operations, perpetrated by greedy, selfish cultivators, who are ruthlessly raping our rainforests, such as in South America and Africa. However, the brutality of deforestation has been conducted in Brazil, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and even the United States. In fact, slash-and-burn methods are conducted by more than two-hundred million people across the planet, particularly in the nations listed above. Not only does the burning of these forests create pollution and higher CO2 levels, but the lack of these forestlands robs the planet of the necessary oxygen-producing trees that we need for life-support.

Another report states that a large portion of rainforest in South America, particularly Brazil, had been burned down and replaced by soybean farms. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the soybean crops failed. Why? Because the soil was naturally geared toward growing rainforests, not soybeans! And if those rainforests have been there for thousands of years, do you think you can easily grow soybeans overnight? Obviously you need a certain kind of soil for soybeans, and then a certain kind of soil for rainforests. Ma Nature seems to know how to do this because she's the Master Gardener. Perhaps we can learn from her. Intelligent environmentalists maintain the view that the rainforests are the lungs of the world, as if our precious planet is a huge organism. Stop and think about that for several moments.

If most of or all of our rainforests are destroyed, particularly in South America and Africa, you have an organism that can't breathe very easily, and there will be extreme oxygen depletion in our atmosphere. That is probably far more scarier than you can imagine. But the soybean farmers would rather have money in their pockets from selling soybeans than having good old-fashioned air to breathe. I hate to bring up this next analogy, because there are a lot of smokers out there. Alright, you could liken the burning of rainforests to the burning up lungs of a heavy smoker, because it's much harder for a smoker to breathe then a non-smoker. Incidentally, I'm an ex-smoker, so I stopped before it was too late, so I know what it's like.

Another fact is that our forests remove carbon dioxide and pollutants from the atmosphere, and emits large quantities of oxygen back into it, which helps stabilize life on the planet. It's also a fact that all plants, especially trees, deliver the appropriate amount of revitalized oxygen in order to support life on our planet. And yet another fact is that the rainforests produce about 40% of all the oxygen on the Earth. But if these precious forests begin to disappear, so will our precious oxygen. There will be less air to breathe for our inhabitants, 6.6 billion of us (not counting other life-forms), but since global warming will begin killing people off, maybe things will balance out in the end. (Yeah right!)

Another report states that between 1960 and 1990 one-fifth of the planet's rainforests were destroyed. If these kinds of deforesting procedures continue, it is estimated that all tropical forests could disappear by the year 2090. That would definitely devastate the whole planet and its inhabitants -- to put it mildly

Deforestation, particularly caused by slash-and-burning, wildfires, the occasional arsonist, and other tragic methods as well, leads to higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, so these heinous activities must be stopped, because our precious plant-life is extremely important, especially our major forests. If all the forests were ruthlessly destroyed, there would be nearly 40% less oxygen on the planet, which means the CO2 levels would increase much higher, so this would inevitably annihilate the inhabitants here. With CO2 levels increasing and oxygen decreasing, that equals death to life on Earth. We would literally choke to death!

Although "reforestation" is practiced in some areas, that is, the replanting of new trees, I don't think it's being done fast enough to replace all of our vital forests we have already lost.

More Bad News We Just Don't Want To Hear

Another side effect of global warming has been "bad weather" anomalies, which means there will be increased intensity and frequency of various weather patterns involving hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and even droughts, and there will be major heat waves as well. There are also reports that estimate the possibility of the extinction of certain species. In fact, I recently heard in the news that several species of birds are already dying off and possibly becoming endangered. Another report states that there will be an increase of diseases. In fact, thirty new diseases have arrived on the scene, just in the last quarter-century. Naturally, the skeptical experts will deny this particular connection to the climate problem, saying the Chicken-Little environmentalists are just trying to throw anything and everything into the global warming stewpot. You have to realize that on this planet everything is interconnected. Everything! This one big living organism, our beloved Emerald Planet, needs our help. I don't think Ma Nature can do it alone. We've got to stop attacking her and start working with her. Or we could be heading toward mass-annihilation. Who wants that on their conscience?

You may have heard the theory that there once was life on Mars, perhaps several thousands of years ago, of which there is some evidence. Did the Martians destroy themselves -- just like we are about to do?

Gas Guzzlers Beware!

Yes it's true! Fuel emissions are on the rise! Since the world's population is approximately 6.6 billion (and it's still growing!), does that mean there are approximately six-billion gas-spewing vehicles on this planet as well? Alright, there are a few backward countries where the people either don't have automobiles or they're too poor to own them, which means they probably use their feet or pedal bicycles to get around -- or the occasional rickshaw. So even if we guesstimated approximately five-billion automobiles and various other forms of transportation that are used on the planet, we're talking about a massive amount of polluted air. Plus, let's throw in some miscellaneous factories that chug out plumes of nasty smoke as well. Yes, we can see filthy brown clouds over large cities, but a lot of this dirty air, due to continual winds, is spread throughout our atmosphere. That sounds like a good thing, right? Nope! Those blowing winds are not going to solve the problem, as if making the pollution magically disappear; they're just redistributing pollutants throughout the atmosphere. You could say the wind currents are playing a global shell game with pollutants.

One report states that the net carbon-emission rate of the planet will have to be decreased by roughly 60%, and on the outside by 80%. Yikes! That sounds like a tall order! Not only that, but we would have to accomplish this by the year 2050 to even begin to reach a place where we are marginally close to almost being safe! Does that mean all of us have to stop driving cars and flying airplanes, and close down our oil refineries and factories, or even stop smoking? Holy moly! Now, how many billions of people are laughing about how absurd this sounds? Go ahead and have your laugh. Alright, if we sit back and idly do nothing about it, except gradually die off, how absurd does that sound?

How many billions of people really care about our precious planet? In today's modern society we have become vehicularly-dependent, hence we are auto-addicts. Perhaps there needs to be a new AA therapy program for these miserable people -- all six-billion of them! I mean – us! Yeah, I admit it, I'm one too. Perhaps we should start Auto-addicts Anonymous!

The Boiling Frog Syndrome

Too many people are non-responsive because the global warming problem appears to be too gradual. It seems there's nothing to really notice, that is, if you're not paying attention or conveniently putting your head in a hole in the ground. You could say it's an illusion that the climate crisis seems to be occurring slowly, but it's actually happening much faster than you think. Within the last couple of decades there have been radical changes come to pass, as we have discussed already. Let's not forget those vanishing islands, or big chunks breaking away from the ice caps.

The problem is that we humans also are stricken with the Boiling Frog Syndrome. You've probably heard it by other names. Al Gore refers to this analogy in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truths. We all know that if you put a frog in a saucepan of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. So you have to trick the little critter, put it in a pan of pleasantly cool water, and it will just sit there. If you turn the burner on, and let the water very gradually warm up, keeping the burner on low, this particular frog, not being very bright, will just sit there and eventually be boiled to death, or so the theory goes. Personally, if I was the frog, and the water was starting to get too hot, I would be urged to jump out.

Unfortunately, there are too many frogs in the world that just don't care, and they're letting themselves be boiled to death. We need to have a lot of smart frogs that are willing to jump out of the water before it boils. In other words, we the people have to become vigilant participants and activists and crank the heat down. Which means we must do whatever it takes, even if that means making a lot of sacrifices to our personal lifestyles.

Now the question is, how many frogs boiling in a saucepan does it take before there's too many? And will they get smart enough to jump out in time?

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Goddard Institute Issues a Warning on Global Warming

Sometimes the fact of global warming gets a short shrift due to the more politically-charged discussion on whether it is caused naturally by, for example, an unusual cycle of sun flares, or human activity.

I think the latter question will never be settled to the satisfaction of all parties involved because it has political undertones and repercussions for people who do not share the same political views.

However we should keep the causality question separate from the more urgent one of whether there is indeed a global warming or not. And on that note, the evidence keeps piling on a daily basis from sources whose credentials are in general beyond reproach.

Take the Goddard Institute of Space Studies at Columbia University, for example. The Institute represents as intense a concentration of scientific minds as any.

Dr. James Hansen, the President of the Institute, said during a presentation of Al Gore's Oscar-winning movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in Dennison, Iowa, that global warming has reached a "crisis" state and its full impact might be felt within as short as ten years.

Hansen also dealt with the "former question" that I've underlined above, namely, "who" causes all this warming. He said the quality of the scientific evidence which pointed at "human activity" and "burning fossil fuels" as the culprit was beyond discussion.

Hansen, leaving diplomacy aside, has also dashed the hopes that his fellow Iowans invested in corn-produced ethanol for reducing the impact of the green house gases.

"There is a lot of potential in biofuels," he said. "[But] corn-based ethanol, in the long-term, is not very helpful… it still puts a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere."