Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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The Symptoms of Over-population and Limits to Growth

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 1, 2017—At the time of this writing the global population is estimated to be about 7.4 billion. It is growing at the rate of a billion every 12 years. Earth is a finite object traveling through space with a size which is essentially fixed. An important question is whether the earth can continue to provide the resources to support a continually growing population. Limits to growth implies that there is an upper limit to the size of population a region can support. There may not be an absolute limit to growth in any region but it can certainly be overpopulated. The resources humans need are those things which provide food, clothing and shelter. Overpopulation occurs when the available resources cannot sustain the number of people without damage to those very resources the people depend on. There are some common symptoms of overpopulation.

Hunger

Overpopulation can devastate the world’s food supply.

Human health problems

Among the health problems are undernutrition, dehydration, and declining resistance to disease. Globally undernutrition is probably the greatest health problem. At this time it is estimated that nearly a billion people suffer some form of it. This is the equivalent of the population of North America and South America combined. Undernutrition does not mean starvation, but that the people in question are in some way being physically affected by not getting either enough food or not getting the right kind of food. Starvation is the extreme case. There are a variety of types of malnutrition based on what is missing in the diet. Essentially malnutrition is the imbalance between the body’s need for nutrients and energy and what the body is actually getting. Another billion do not have fresh water for drinking.

An untold number are suffering from disease related to health problems. Scientific data shows that the most important factor in experiencing physical illness (as distinct from mental illness) is undernutrition. When people are undernourished the probability of getting an infectious disease increases significantly. Children suffer more from undernutrition than adults because of the high demand for energy and protein associated with physical growth. Some form of undernutrition affects as many as a fourth of all children. A large majority of these children live in the developing countries. The most common form of malnutrition in children is kwashiorkor. It results from lack of protein and manifests itself in distended stomachs.

world hunger

Overpopulation depletes resources

Resource Depletion

Resources used to sustain people include a variety of elements in the environment. Some sort of resource depletion occurs in almost all types of environments. Land degradation has become widespread. In grasslands, where most intensive agriculture takes place, soil erosion is widespread. Soil has been the basis for agriculture for thousands of years. Some of the most valuable land on the planet consists of land with the best soil for growing crops. Soil erosion is widespread. In some areas the erosion has been and is so bad the land is no longer usable for agriculture. In the dryer parts of the grasslands overgrazing is common. Desertification often results. This is the reduction of the land to essentially desert conditions.

Deforestation is another example of resource depletion. Vast areas of the tropical rainforest are disappearing rapidly. It is being cleared for agriculture purposes. The huge band of forest in the sub-Arctic is also disappearing. In this case the timber is being cut for lumber. With the lost of the forest cover soil erosion becomes pervasive. These forests are important to the climate of Earth as well as a means of livelihood for people. Once these resources are reduced or eliminated overpopulation inevitably results. With land degradation and deforestation animal species are also disappearing. Animals of all variety provide food, and clothing, and other items. There is currently a global demise of species taking place so great that it is being referred to as a mass extinction.

Overpopulation and hunger

A depletion of resources.

Migration

Human migration is the movement of people from one location to another. It can be from one part of a country to another or across national boundaries. It can involve individuals or numbers in the thousands or millions. The human species has engaged in migration nearly as long as the species has existed on Earth. Present consensus is that the earliest humans developed in an area of East Africa known as as Olduvai Gorge in what is now Kenya. The species spread out from there in all directions. It moved southeast through the open forests into what is now the country of South Africa. Later the species spread north and east across the middle east and all the way to Australia, Asia, and the Americas.

People migrate for a variety of reasons. In the past people may have migrated out of curiosity. A more likely reason is the search for more abundant resources. The massive wave of migration in Europe and the Middle East at the moment is the greatest since the period just before and during world War II. The world is now focused on this current migration due to the problems it is creating. Some of the migration is an attempt to move from areas suffering from overpopulation and a shortage of resources. Another portion is to escape violence in their homeland. Declining employment opportunities is another force driving migration. No continent is exempt from problems due to migration. An influx of large numbers of people into any region can generate major problems. The building of wall, fences, and moats came into existence by groups of people to keep migrants out of their territory.

Violence

It is predictable that when overpopulation occurs, in some cases at least, there will be violence among individuals and groups. Tribalism, indigenous uprisings and terrorism become predictable. Violence among groups may be along ethnic lines, economic status, or political power. Violence has become pervasive around the world as competition for resources increases. Personal violence is epidemic in many cities and countries.

Indigenous uprisings are violent acts by people native to an area. Indigenous uprisings by tribal people have occurred throughout history and on every continent when an external population becomes too oppressive. Many such uprisings have occurred around the world as Europeans moved to take over land used by the people originally occupying it. Such uprisings are now forcing governments to recognize the native people as a political force.

Terrorism is what appears to be a random act of violence, usually directed against groups of people. It almost always involves the killing of unsuspecting people. It is usually carried out to serve the purpose of those committing the act. It can be directed against a political group, a government, religion, or other group. It has been engaged in by individuals, groups, and even governments. These acts of violence are often done in a spectacular fashion so as to attract attention to the perpetrators. Revolutions are an example of violent reaction to government policies

Population Growth: Limited or Uncontrolled

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species. There are examples everywhere. Is it possible that the entire planet has reached this stage? If this is the case there are options. We can foster a population in which there is less undernourishment, less massive migration and less violence. Limiting population growth is an alternative to the dominant economic and political policy of economic growth. It is a viable option that would be healthy for both the human population and the planet. The alternative is to allow uncontrolled growth of the population and increase the hazards to all.


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Overpopulation Results in Global Stress

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region.

By Dr. John Hidore

February 23, 2017—The human population has been growing in size and spreading out over the planet ever since its origin in Africa long ago. It is currently growing faster than at any time in history. Today it is equivalent to adding the populations of the earth’s three largest metropolitan areas each year…or between 80 and 90 million people every 12 months. Various estimates place the global population at between seven and seven and a half billion. Of this two billion has been added in just the last 24 years.

Overpopulation Defined

There are a number of concepts being used today in relating the size of the human population to the environment. These are population growth, limits to growth and overpopulation, and they are each related. The basic resources people need are food, water and essentials for clothing and shelter. Ideally, in any region the size of the human population remains below or in balance with the resources available to support it. When in balance it results in the population being sustained for long periods of time. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the sustainable population seldom exists.

Population growth in any region may result in the area no longer having enough resources to sustain the growing number of people at a healthy level. When this occurs either the people, the environment, or both become stressed. The symptoms of population stress include human health problems, resource depletion, migration, and violence. Environmental stress includes a variety of processes, including deforestation, soil erosion and climate change. In any event when human stress or environmental stress takes place the region is overpopulated.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Processes That Create an Unsustainable Population

Even if the population in a region stays fairly constant it can become overpopulated by environmental changes. Climate change can increase the number of people a region can support. Rainfall may increase in a dry region, or temperatures may get warmer or cooler to favor plant growth.

Carrying capacity is the number of organisms a region can support without environmental degradation. Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region. During the last ice age, large areas of what are now dry lands or deserts received more rainfall than they do now. The Sahara Desert and much of the middle east contain the remains of cities that flourished during wetter times, but are abandoned now due to climate change.

Changes in technology can also change the carrying capacity. As technology has progressed through time many regions have been able to support an increasing number of people. However, the effect of technological change tends to be short-lived and ultimately encourage overpopulation. Even with a more favorable climate and the addition of technological advances there is still a limited carrying capacity and overpopulation can occur.

The green revolution of the 20th Century is a good example of how the carrying capacity can be increased. Modifying plant species allowed crop production, particularly grain, to greatly increase and feed a growing population. 

Just as humans can increase the carrying capacity they can also decrease it. Over-grazing by livestock, soil erosion, salinization of soils, deforestation, or human induced climate change can reduce the carrying capacity. This lowers the level of the sustainable population so that overpopulation occurs.

overpopulation

Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Overpopulation: The Big Question

The big question, “Does overpopulation occur regionally or globally?” Clearly on a regional basis the answer is yes. All the symptoms are there. Whether it is occurring on a global basis in today’s world is not clear. There are symptoms of overpopulation on every continent except the Antarctic.

Many scientists say the evidence of overpopulation is severe. For example: more than a billion people are undernourished. Another billion do not have clean water to drink.

 Climate change is taking place at an astonishing rate. The extinction rate of plant and animal species is the highest in recorded history. It may be that the resources available to us will support a population of only half what it is at the present time. If the latter is the case, immediate, and perhaps extreme, measures must be taken if world stress and turmoil is to be avoided!

The evidence of overpopulation is severe!


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Organized Religions Thrive on Population Growth

“Global acceptance of family planning would alleviate much of the stress on the environment!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

January 10, 2017—-As the year 2017 begins, Earth’s population is in turmoil. People the world over are protesting against unemployment, poverty, hunger, disease and drastic environmental change. A key to reducing this global turmoil is to slow, stop, or reverse population growth, but there is tremendous pressure to support a growing population. There are groups that thrive on population growth and spend large sums of money to support this growth.

Organized religions are a major contributor to population growth. The strength of organized religions is in the number of their adherents. Since their power lies in their numbers, they encourage large families and oppose family planning, including birth control. Population growth might be slowed substantially in just a few years if it were not for organized religions.

Overpopulation and wallstreet

Does organized religion support overpopulation?

Christianity

The two major religions in terms of membership are Christianity and Islam. There are about 2.1 billion adherents of Christianity. The holy book of Christianity is the Bible, which does not address the issue of family planning. Within Christianity there are many different organized churches. The largest is the Catholic Church with approximately 1.2 billion members. The Catholic Church has long considered any kind of birth control to be a sin and this has been reiterated by Pope Francis. Other Christian churches also support rules against abortion and the use of contraceptives. There is considerable debate now among Evangelical churches. Many do not condone contraception. Others do support it and are leading a movement to accept it as church doctrine.

Global Greenhouse Gases

Climate Change

Islam

There are approximately 1.5 billion followers of Islam. The Islamic holy book is the Quran. The Quran does not prohibit family planning. It does not formally address the issue. Some forms of contraception have been in use in Islamic countries since the origin of Islam. In today’s world the followers of Islam have a wide variety of choices of birth control.

In some countries where Islam is the prevalent religion contraceptive use among women is as high as 70%. Islam has strict rules that prohibit sexual relations before marriage. It views sexual relations between husband and wife as an expression of love and is encouraged. However, prohibition of contraception has grown as a means of increasing the followers of Islam. Individual countries or sects are prohibiting contraception for a variety of reasons.

National and Tribal Interests

In some religions and geographical areas the use of birth control methods is considered a crime. A case in point is the nation of Iran. In 2016 the government declared the use of contraceptives to be a criminal act. Even in some secular countries there are laws that make abortion a crime of murder, even to save the life of the mother or in the case of rape.

A number of European countries have become concerned about their declining birthrate. Among them are Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Italy. The populations of these countries, as in many European countries, is aging due to the low birth rates. The number of residents over the age of 65 is nearly double the world average and is expected to increase. This has major economic and social impact on these countries. Denmark has introduced education concerning the implications of having vs. not having children.

Many religious policies are responsible for much of the rapid growth in population and human stress. The self-interest of religions is more important in some countries than the welfare of the human population or the condition of the environment. It is time the effect of these policies should be made clear and the policies made subject to re-evaluation.

The stress of population growth adds to the stress on our environment. Each day without action increases the probability of a global human disaster. Global acceptance of family planning would alleviate much of this and contribute positively to human health, especially that of women!


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Forecasting Global Change

Elections 3016

Predicting the future


Dr. John J. Hidore

November 16, 2016—–The desire to know the future is deeply ingrained in the human species. The future is extremely important to contemporary society, but it is probably no more so than it was to people at any other time in history. Forecasting is the process of predicting some event or the status of some phenomenon in the future. Forecasts can be useful for planning purposes, humorous, or even dangerous. In the past when a demand for knowledge of the future existed, mystical forms of prophecy came into existence. Priests, witches, prophets, crystal balls, astrology, palmistry, and oracles all played a part.

Climate change

Nothing is Permanent

The Great Pyramid of Cheops

There exist sites and remains of structures which have played important roles in predicting the future in ages past. One of the earliest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops (ca. 2650 B.C.) in Egypt. The size and finesse of construction of this pyramid, more than 4000 years ago, has led to speculation of every kind about its construction and what it means.

The pyramid is a monument to Pharaoh Cheops, founder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps as many as l00,000 laborers built this monument. They moved more than two million stone blocks from a quarry down the Nile River to near Cairo. The blocks were then transported to the west side of the Nile valley and hoisted onto the escarpment. There they assembled the blocks into the structure which remains today. White limestone pieces were then fitted so as to provide a smooth surface to the structure. Most of the white facing is now gone. Only a few pieces still remain near the top. It was probably pirated over time for other structures.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Inside the structure are a series of passageways which lead to two burial chambers, one for the pharaoh and the other for his wife. In 1864 a Scottish astronomer, Charles Piayyi Smyth, made accurate measurements of the direction and dimensions of the passageways. Based on his measurements he came up with a chronology covering 6000 years. He used one pyramid inch (25.25 mm) to represent one year. Downturns and restrictions in passageways represent hard times and world disasters. Upturns, broad passageways, and the burial chambers themselves represent good times and major advances for the human species.

Some of the structural chronology and significant world events coincide. However, either the human species did not heed the message, or there were mistakes made in construction because the system fails frequently. They built the passageways, as they are, for real reasons. Certainly, a people capable of the design and construction of the monument did not build the interior randomly. However, their reasons are now unknown. The end of the corridors implies a great new world by 2001, an optimistic prediction which unfortunately did not seem to be correct.

The Need for Forecasting

Today, as in the past, there are many questions about the future global system for which we need information. One whole group of question centers around the widespread and varied impact that climate change would have on other aspects of the environment. Among the many things that would change if climate changes are global temperatures, sea level, biological diversity both on land and in the ocean. Some notion of the difficulty of forecasting global environmental change is the complexity of the interaction and feedback between various parts of the global system.

For example, human induced increases in CO2 and other trace gasses are major elements in potential global warming. However, because CO2 is the primary raw material for photosynthesis, increased CO2 concentration is likely to have a direct biological impact on the extent and distribution of Earth’s vegetation.

Forecasting Today

As the human population grows, and the world enters further into a global economy, forecasting future events becomes ever more important. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the future for certain. There are now forecasts being made from climate change to space travel. Some forecasts are being made out as far as the year 2100, 85 years from now. If we look back 85 years to 1930, it is worth noting what has transpired. Technological developments that have occurred since then include such things as hybrid cars, self-drive cars, drones, television, organ transplants, satellites, travel to the moon, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence. None of these could have been included in forecasting today’s world.

Today forecasts are being made for conditions as far away as 2050 and 2100. The question is, how can forecasts for conditions this far out be made accurately, when so many technological and cultural changes can be expected to occur during this time. Some cultural elements, such as regional over-population, income imbalance, indigenous uprisings, and resource depletion, are individually and collectively important factors in defining our world in the future. There can be no doubt that in 2016 the rate of change is taking place faster than ever before and how it will change simply is unknown in many, if not most, cases.

The effective life of forecasts may be very short. For instance, climate forecasts by the IPCC have often underestimated the extent of future changes. These forecasts have been revised every seven years. Forecasts of global conditions to 2050 are at least questionable. Those for 2100 even more so. It must be recognized, that for some forecasts that are continually being made, the reliability decreases on almost a daily basis.

As an example of forecasts going bad is the presidential election in the United States in 2016. A seemingly endless number of forecasts predicted Hillary Clinton to win up to the day before the election. Sadly they were all wrong.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is purported to have stated, “There is nothing permanent except change!”


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Investors Support Population Growth for Profit

Overpopulation and wallstreet

Do Republicans support overpopulation?

“Should the Republican Party sweep the coming elections, the availability of family planning services will be greatly reduced and our population will continue to grow at an unhealthy rate.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

September 22, 2016—-The human population of planet earth is under a great deal of stress. Civil uprisings and violence are widespread. There are a variety of factors responsible for the stress. They include population growth, resource depletion, climate change, and the rapid concentration of wealth in a small group of super rich.

Slowing Population Growth

There is no simple answer to these problems but slowing or halting population growth provides part of the answer. Much of today’s global unrest and violence can be traced directly to overpopulation. The population in large areas has simply grown to the point that there are no longer enough resources to provide even a basic standard of living. However, there are those that profit from the rapid growth and are working to prevent efforts to slow the rate of growth.

Population Growth and the Corporate World

The global population is growing—80 million people each year. It is now adding a billion every 12 years. It’s clear the earth cannot sustain this kind of growth. Wall Street and its investors want to see our population grow. The operating philosophy of the corporate world is economic growth. Economic growth has been the cornerstone of political and the economy since the advent of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago.

Corporate Profits and an Expanding Market

The industrial revolution was about increasing the production of manufactured goods for profit. Corporate profits depend on expanding the market for their manufactured goods and services. This can be accomplished in either of two ways. The first was to expand the market geographically and the second was by reducing the price of the commodity. In the United States, 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now generated by services, and so the major market is the size of the population itself. Increasing the population automatically increases the market for goods and services. Based on this simple principal of growth, corporate America has opposed any effort to slow the population growth.

Planned Parenthood

Opposition to Defund Planned Parenthood

In the United States, there is a substantial effort to reduce family size through methods of birth control. However, there are more than three million unintended pregnancies each year. Most are not using oral contraceptives simply because they do not have access to them. Planned Parenthood of America (PPA) is one of the most prominent groups providing these services. The demand for their services is high. It is estimated that twenty percent of American women have been to a clinic operated by PPA for health reasons. Most of the clients are low income and have no other health care provider.

The Republican Party vs. Planned Parenthood

There is now a major movement in this country to eliminate birth control. The opposition to these services is led by a variety of groups which consider themselves as being pro-life. One anti-abortion group even produced a video supposedly showing a clinic selling fetal parts after an abortion. The video has since been shown to have been fabricated.

In recent years the the government has supported Wall Street’s position. The Republican Party has long prevented US funds from being used for family planning in foreign countries. It is now supporting the religious right in efforts to defund family planning in this country. They consider contraception to be a form of abortion. They thus argue that contraception is not compatible with the pro-life movement.

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

The current congress is also in opposition to the Affordable Care Act under which contraception is available. As a result opposing contraception has become a Republican strategy. The house of representatives proposed the defund Planned Parenthood act of 2015 (HR3134) last year. This bill would prohibit any funds from being used for any purpose by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The 114th congress blocked funding for Planned Parenthood for providing abortions. This bill would remove nearly half a billion dollars from the organization.

Also in 2015 congress setup several committees to investigate Planned Parenthood. Fortunately, President Obama has prevented these bills from becoming law. Many states have since passed their own laws limiting family planning. Should the Republican Party sweep the coming elections, the availability of family planning services will be greatly reduced and our population will continue to grow at an unhealthy rate.


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The Indian Subcontinent Again Sets Record Temperatures

India Droiught

Record breaking temperatures and little rain.

“As the planet warms it can be expected that there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places.”

Dr. John Hidore

July 22, 2016—Global warming is occurring over the entire planet and record high temperatures have become common. The Indian subcontinent is no exception. Early written history documents heat waves and droughts.While temperature records were not available prior to the late 19th century, written descriptions indicate the severity of some earlier events.

Drought and Famine in 1768-1770

In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primitive crop agriculture subject to the vagaries of the monsoon. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the mass of the population, and the marginal food supply, only a small shortfall in rain produced scattered starvation.

India is a large country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, or of moving people to more productive areas. Therefore, when drought set in, the alternatives were few. The beginnings of a prolonged drought and massive famine began in India in the fall months of l768. Rainfall was below normal and the crops were poor in December. The summer monsoons did not produce the usual rain in l769 and again the crop yields were scanty. By April of l770, over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were directly affected. Estimates of deaths ranged upward to l0 million. The deaths were due to a combination of starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic in association with the drought. The death toll was exacerbated by the flood of people that fled the countryside and moved into the cities looking for sustenance. There was little to be found.

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Drought and Famine in Asia, 1875-1879

It was just a little more than a century later that drought and famine struck India with even more lethal results. The atmospheric circulation began to shift as early as 1873 in central Asia. Summer monsoons weakened for a number of years. By August 1877 the Indian government was well aware that a major famine was in progress and was going to get worse. Since rainfall was low there was insufficient feed for livestock. Wells, ponds and streams dried up. The lack of feed and water resulted in extensive loss of animals. Rainfall was so low that there was no measurable summer crop harvested in many districts. Human mortality was high.

Following the poor summer harvest, dysentery, smallpox, and cholera flared up into epidemic proportions taking a heavy toll of the population. In Bombay Presidency (Providence), the excess mortality from the famine of 1876-1877 reached 800,000 lives over the normal death rate. The Famine Commission estimated that by the end of 1878 the loss of life in the Providence totaled 3.5 million.

Indian drought

Global warming raises temperatures around the world.

The Asian Heat Wave of 2015

In May 2015, a heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degrees F). Other high temperatures were:Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F) Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F) Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F).

In June 2015, the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. It was followed by several weeks of the most severe heat wave to strike India. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services could not cope with the heat.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

The Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced even higher temperatures this year than in 2015. Temperatures were above normal most of the spring. Normally, the hottest months of the year are April, May, and June, before the summer monsoon rains begin. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 117°F (47.2°C) occur. In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 124°F (51°C). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 104 degrees F (40°C) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were New Delhi 47 °C (117 degrees F) Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)Philodi 51.°(124 degrees F).

The impact in India was immense. More than 300 million people have been been adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in the last growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. In places the asphalt on the streets partially melted. At Bikaner, the streets were being sprinkled with water to reduce the heat. 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region.

Fortunately, the government responded in a variety of ways to reduce the suffering and mortality. Forecasts for the summer monsoons are far above average precipitation. The first monsoon rains began in the south in the second week of June. Only time will tell if the monsoons will be enough to break the drought.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population, they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set across the planet.


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Human Population Growth Challenges Global Carrying Capacity.

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

The major premise of sustainable growth is that there must be a balance among population growth, economic growth, and the carrying capacity of planet.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 27, 2016—-Carrying capacity is a biological concept. It is the limit to the population size of a given species the environment can sustain without damage to the environment. There is, for example, a limit to the size of a herd of elephants that the Serengeti Plains in Africa can support without the herd damaging the ecosystem. Carrying capacity for a species can, and often does, change over time. It can increase or decrease due to changing climate. If annual rainfall increases over time this may increase the food supply for some animals. It may decrease the food supply for others.

Over Population and Carrying Capacity

The same is true when temperature changes. The size of a population may increase or decrease, depending on reproductive rates. Overpopulation can damage the ecosystem and reduce the carrying capacity. The ultimate limit to carrying capacity on the planet is tied to photosynthesis. This is the limit of the ability of green plants, algae, and bacteria to convert solar energy to living organic matter.

Overpopulation of our planet.

You may not want to be here!

Limits to Growth: Carrying Capacity for Humans

A fundamental question for us is to decide if there is a carrying capacity of Earth for the human species. “Limits to Growth” by Paul Ehrlich was perhaps the first major statement that recognized the problem at the global scale. The basic premise is that there is an upper limit to the sum of population growth, food production, and economic productivity. There is growing support for a global policy of sustainable development.

The major premise of sustainable growth is that there must be a balance among population growth, economic growth, and the carrying capacity of planet. Sustainable development must provide a balance between the needs and desires of the present generation, and yet protect the carrying capacity of our planet for future generations. In planning for the future, we cannot consider the environment alone, or human needs alone.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Economic Growth and Environmental Stability are Linked

Economic growth and environmental stability are inextricably linked. Sustainable development recognizes that there are limits to human population growth and economic growth. There are a group of academics, mainly social scientists and economists, that argue there is no carrying capacity at all–that there is no limit to population growth! They base their argument on the fact that, in the past, all projections of shortages of food, energy, and other resources have failed to materialize.

These academics say we have always been able to find substitutes for items in short supply. They say we have always been able to increase food supply to not only keep up with the growing population, but to meet a satisfactory level of nutrition. They continually point to the Malthusian doctrine as being not only scientifically but morally wrong.

What is the Carrying Capacity of Our Planet?

What the carrying capacity is for the planet for the human species has been studied extensively in recent decades. The result is that there is no fixed number of people attached to the carrying capacity, but with a lower population, the better the quality of life is going to be in the future. This quality of life is also dependent on the food we are able to grow to feed future populations. We can make choices about the level of food intake and the economic level at which we wish to live.

All technological developments, from the early use of stone tools and fire to the invention of fracking, cause change in our environment. What the sustainable population may be, in which world resources are distributed equally, is not known. The estimates vary widely—from four billion to 16 billion. If the carrying capacity is actually near the lower estimate we are in deep trouble as the population is already over seven billion. Even a cursory look at the extent of malnutrition, migration, poverty, and violence suggest that we are well past the sustainable level!


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Cocoa and Deforestation

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance: Sustainably Grown Chocolate

By Linn Smith

Cocoa plantations created by clearing away the rainforests create multiple environmental problems.

February 5, 2016—Who doesn’t like chocolate? When we eat this delicious melt-in-your-mouth treat we want to enjoy it–not think about the environmental destruction connected with it or how it may be affecting our everchanging climate. My first reaction–NO! Not chocolate too! But alas–it seems so!

To keep up with our sweet tooth demands, cocoa farmers have shifted from natural, sustainable farming to methods that are environmentally destructive, including clearing away the rainforests.

Cocoa Production: A Huge Industry

Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. According to Wikipedia, cocoa farming can only take place 15 degrees north or south of the Equator, with West Africa being the biggest producer. The Ivory Coast produces 40% of the world’s cacao for chocolate. Other cacao producing countries are Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Peru. The market value for the world’s chocolate for 2016 is approximately $98.3 billion–a huge industry that can also be corrupt, involving everything from child labor to smuggling.

Cacao Tree and Chocolate

Grown on Plantations-Destroying Rainforest

The Environmental Impact of Cocoa Production

What is the environmental impact of our sweet tooth? Cacao is traditionally grown on small farms. The trees that produce the beans grow naturally under the large leafy canopies of the rainforests, but many cocoa farmers have cleared away the rainforest to create cocoa plantations in the open sunlight, as it makes the pods easier to harvest.

Cocoa plantations created by clearing away the rainforests create multiple environmental problems. Farmers have moved towards plantations because they produce a greater quantity, lower quality and a higher yield of cocoa, but planting cacao in an open, cleared field attracts pests which requires spraying with chemicals. Also, animal habitats are destroyed and tons of CO2, which is stored in the leaves and trunks of the cleared trees, is released into our atmosphere, furthering the warming of our planet. “The more intense the farming practices are, the more damaging they are to the ecosystem. Cocoa farming becomes a destructive circle as farmers wear out the soils and cut further into the forest to obtain fresh land. All of these processes stress the Cacao trees and eventually lead to lower yields of cocoa, giving the opposite effect to what the farmers expect from these practices.”

Clearing the Rainforest for Cocoa

Where rainforests are protected by the government, farmers and corporations will often cut down forests illegally. An example of this was recently documented by scientists and conservation groups, charging United Cacao with “quietly cutting down more than 2,000 hectares (one hectare equals about 2 1/2 acre) of primary, closed-canopy rainforest along the Peruvian Amazon.” Scientists watched this happen via satellites which monitor the earth’s surface and provide data on how the earth is changing over time. In 2013 United Cacao also boldly stated on their website that they were starting the “clearing work to ready their land for a cacao plantation.”

Dennis Melka, CEO of United Cacao, has also been involved in the palm oil industry, cutting down rainforests for palm oil. Clinton Jenkins, ecologist at the Institute of Ecological Research in Brazil, says, regardless of data, that United Cacao will continue to claim the land was already deforested when they obtained it—that they created their cocoa plantations on previously cleared land and United Cacao had nothing to do with the deforestation! But Clinton states, “It was already deforested because United Cacao has deforested it!”

Certified Sustainable Practices

Look for Products with the Green Frog

Educating Cocoa Farmers

Training farmers in sustainable farming is the key to deforestation. Organizations such as the World Cocoa Foundation, Deforestation-Free Cocoa and Rainforest Alliance are attempting to return cocoa farming to its sustainable roots, planting the trees in their natural habitats underneath the broad leafs of the rainforest canopy. Even though rainforests are already cleared in many places, farmers can still be educated in ways to sustainably grow cacao, such as financing farmers on the condition they will not deforest further, ensuring fair labor and organic practices, and selling through a farmer’s coop that assures higher prices.

Rainforest Alliance

Dove Dark Chocolate

What can you do to help? Buy only Rainforest Alliance chocolate. “The Rainforest Alliance has been working to strengthen the position of smallholder cocoa farmers since 2006, both on the land and in the marketplace, by training them to conserve natural resources, increasing productivity and securing a decent living and working conditions.”

Rainforest Alliance brands are stamped with the little green frog on the wrapping! Some companies that use chocolate from Rainforest Alliance farmers are: Clif Bar, Dove Dark Chocolate, Dagobac, Hershey’s Bliss, NibMor.

Protecting forests plays a key role in fighting climate change.


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The Irresponsible Practices of the Palm Oil Industry

Palm oil and negative environmental impact

Palm oil plantations are in demand as the world uses more palm oil

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable!

By Linn Smith

December 4, 2015—Being curious about palm oil and its devastation to wildlife habitats and the environment, many questions have lingered in my mind. What are the various kinds of palms and what palms are used as oil palms? What is the relationship of oil palms to coconut palms? (I use a lot of coconut oil!) How is the harvesting of products from palm trees effecting our environment? So I decided to investigate and here’s what I found:

Palm Oil Products

According to Philadelphiazoo.org, a zoo currently working towards spreading awareness of the negative impacts of palm oil, the oil can go by many different names in many different products, such as foods, cosmetics, hair and lotion products, cookies, toothpaste, cleaning products, and the list goes on. Here are some of the different names for palm oil you may find on these products: Cetyl Palmite, Ethyllhexyl Palmitate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Octyl Palmitate, Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol, Palmolein, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palmate….and more!

The Arecaceae Family

Oil palm and other palms, including coconut, come from the family Arecaceae which means “palm”–but there are thousands of different species of palm trees which grow a variety of different fruits, from dates and acai to coconuts. The fruit of the palm oil tree has kernels which are pressed to make palm oil. Most palm oil comes from the species Elaeis Guineensis. Coconut palm is from the species Cocos Nuciferas. A website, davesgarden.com, describes many of the various fruits of the palm family.

The Palm tree, which we get our coconut oil from, is mostly cultivated in Indonesia, the Philippines and India on a very small scale. The coconuts, harvested by local farmers, are a renewable resource. The coconut palm is known as a “three generation tree”, as it continues through three generations, supporting the farmer, his children and his grandchildren. The farmers produce coconut for coconut milk, coconut oil, fibres for rope, mats, mattresses, and paint brushes.

Removing tropical forests for palm oil

Tropical forests are burned to make room for palm oil plantations.

The Negative Impacts of Palm Oil

Quite the opposite of coconut production is the environmentally unfriendly production of palm oil. The oil palm is mass cultivated on large plantations that have been created by removing not only the indigenous people from their homes, but also have devastated the habitat of wildlife, mainly the Orangutan and Tiger in Indonesia and Malaysia. Tropical forests have been cleared to create plantations. This clearing has added to the warming of our planet as the valuable trees are cut and sold, leaving the rest to be burned down. Burning of the tropical forests emits large quantities of smoke into our atmosphere. Oil palms are then planted.

When the forests are cut they release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, driving up temperatures by the greenhouse effect. Indonesia is the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It is estimated that 714 million acres of tropical forests will be cleared by 2050 adding another 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the the atmosphere, significantly raising global temperatures.

Oil palm industry and child labor

Child labor is used by the oil palm industry.

Violations by the Palm Industry Corporations

Corporations involved in the palm industry are accused of human rights violatons by employing child labor and taking the land owned by indigenous people for their own financial benefit–to supply the world with palm oil! Without their own land, the indigenous people have no choice but to become palm plantation workers, getting paid barely enough to support their families.

Another negative effect of cutting tropical forests for palm oil plantations is the destruction of peatlands, which store carbon. These peatlands, which have developed over thousands of years, are drained and cleared. According to biofueldaily.com, “Draining the peatlands exposes the upper layer to oxygen, raising decomposition rates and soil carbon losses. Most of the carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change by emitting still more greenhouse gasses.” Clearing a single acre of peatland rain forest can release up to 15,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, (one hectare releases up to 6000 tons of CO2).

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by producers, manufacturers, traders, bankers and investors of the palm oil industry, with the objective to “promote growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards.”

Greenpeace and many other environmental organizations have criticized this group as, “Falling short of protecting the rain forests and reducing greenhouse gasses,” because the RSPO which has created the certified sustainable palm oils is not guaranteed to be deforestation-free. The RSPO also allows the destruction of peatlands by the industry. In 2013, 200 scientists asked for stronger standards, but the RSPO failed to respond.

In 2014, 67,000 tons of palm oil was used by Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Nature Valley, requiring 44,700 acres of tropical land to be cleared to grow the palm oil.

According to the Union Of Concerned Scientists there are steps we can take to let the industry know these practices are not acceptable. By going to the website:https://secure3.convio.net, you can sign a letter to the industry to increase sustainable practices.

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable! Do what you can to make a difference!


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We Have Met the Enemy

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

By Pogo
(Kelley, Poster 1970 Earth Day)

By Dr. John J. Hidore
October 16, 2015—Over the period that humans have been a species on Earth the number of individuals has increased over time. At first it increased very slowly. Gradually the total population increased and is currently increasing at a faster rate than previously recorded. There have been times when disaster struck, which slowed the population growth, or possibly even decreased the total number of people.

Growing Pressure on Earth’s Resources

During the 21st century the earth has added approximately 80 million persons each year. For each additional person added to the total, there must be additional resources of food, fresh water, energy supplies, and material for clothing and shelter. There has been growing pressure on Earth’s resources to support this rapid increase in population. The 2013 report by the Inerter-governmental panel on Climate Change states, “Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.” The growth of the human population and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are not only similar, but follow the same growth pattern.

The key to reducing climate change, global hunger, and poverty is to slow, stop, or reverse population growth. There are means available to slow or even stop the growth. However, there is tremendous pressure to keep the population growing. There are major groups that thrive on population growth and spend huge amounts of money and time to keep it growing.

population

Population growth accelerating.

Organized Religions thrive on Population Growth

Many organized religions contribute to climate change and global poverty. The strength of organized religions is in the size of their adherents. Since their power lies in their numbers they often encourage large families and oppose the use of any kind of family planning including birth control. Population growth could be slowed substantially if it were not for this type of thinking of many organized religions.

The two major religions in terms of membership are Christianity and Islam. There are about 2.1 billion adherents of Christianity. The holy book of Christianity is the Bible which does not address the issue of family planning. Within Christianity there are many different organized churches, the largest being the Catholic Church with approximately 1.2 billion members. The Catholic Church has long considered any kind of birth control to be a sin and this was reiterated by Pope Francis this year. Other Christian churches also support rules against abortion and the use of contraceptives.

There are approximately 1.5 billion followers of Islam. The Islamic holy book is the Quran. Like the Bible, the Quran does not prohibit family planning and does not formally address the issue. Some forms of contraception have been in use in Islamic countries since the origin of Islam. In today’s world the followers of Islam have a wide variety of choices of birth control. In some countries, where Islam is the prevalent religion, contraceptive use among women is a high as 70%. In others it is estimated to be substantial. Islam has strict rules that prohibit sexual relations before marriage. It views sexual relations between husband and wife as an expression of love and is encouraged. However, prohibition of contraception has grown as a means of increasing the followers of Islam. Many other countries or sects are prohibiting contraception for a variety of reasons.

population growth and energy needs

With population growth comes the accelerated need for energy.

Wall Street and Economic Development Thrive on Population Growth

Nations that advocate economic growth do so for reasons of profit. In much of the world today the advocates of increasing profits control the economic policies. In countries such as the United States and other western countries, almost all governmental economic decisions are aimed at increasing the market for goods and increasing profits. The profit motive inevitably overrides the needs of the majority of the human population or the impact on the environment. The end result is often predictable–civil disobedience and popular uprisings!

Much of the global business community has denied climate change and resource scarcity since before the Kyoto conference, and has been a major proponent of population growth in the name of profit. This manifests itself in the form of government opposition to family planning, sponsoring legislation to limit abortion and contraception. It is often counselled by the global business community as a woman’s health issue.

National and tribal interests

In some religions and geographical areas, the use of birth control methods is considered a crime. A case in point is the nation of Iran. This year the government declared the use of contraceptives to be a criminal act. Even in some secular countries there are laws that make abortion a crime of murder even to save the life of the mother or in the case of rape.

Iran is not alone. A number of European countries have become concerned about their declining birthrate. Among them are Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Italy. The populations of these countries, as in many European countries, is aging due to the low birth rates. The number of residents over the age of 65 has nearly doubled the world average and is expected to increase. This has major economic and social impact on these countries. Denmark has now introduced education on having children, as well as not having them.

These group policies are responsible for much of the rapid growth in population. Their self-interest is more important than the welfare of the human population or the condition of the environment. It is time the effect of these policies should be made clear and the policies made subject to re-evaluation. Much of the global population is now under great stress as is the environment.

Each day without action increases the stress and the probability of a global human disaster.