Friday September 22nd 2017

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Houston, We Have A Problem….

Few realize it, but most of us in America are amongst the wealthiest people who have ever inhabited the planet. Yep, even you and me. We live far, far better than the Pharaohs of Egypt or the Emperors of the Roman Empire. We live more comfortably, we are healthier, and we live longer than any King of Kings who came before us. Since the industrial revolution many millions of people have been lifted out of crushing poverty and live reasonably easy lives. Does anyone sense a “but” coming soon?…..

The “but” is that this material wealth has exacted a staggering toll on the environment. The way we raise our food, the technology we use to extract resources, and the processes we use to create products are profoundly destructive. And now, the sheer scale of these processes are overwhelming the planet’s life support systems that keep us, well, alive. We are a victim of our own success.
Let’s look at a few flashing lights to make it more real.
Food Production:
We all need food to survive and we need soil to grow that food.
In 1900 we had 4,000 ton of topsoil/person. In less than 100 years that figure had dropped to about 80 tons of topsoil/person. Each year we are adding about 100 million people to the planet while erosion wipes out about 24 billion tons of topsoil from our farmlands each year.
It takes Nature 100 years to produce 1 inch of topsoil. (An interesting article on this here.)
More people to feed each year, with less topsoil to grow food. Sure, science and technology can help increase productivity, but at some point, basic laws of physics will take over.
Fish and other sea life provide much of the protein for about 1 billion people on the planet. There are 17 major fisheries in the world. We are sucking the life out every one of these fisheries at unsustainable rates. 13 of these fisheries have already either collapsed or are on the brink of collapse. There
are dozens of examples all around the world where fisheries are collapsing. A couple for you:
  1. 40,000 fisherman in Newfoundland, Canada have been out of a job for the last 20 years. They over fished the waters off their coast and the Cod population collapsed. Two decades later the population has not recovered.
  2. In the Chesapeake Bay the oyster catch has dropped from 6 million bushels/year in the 1960s to less tha n 25,000 bushels now. (In the 1800s this yearly haul was 20 million bushels). So in less than 100 years the oyster population was reduced by 99.6%!
  3. Most large predator fish, tuna, marlin, swordfish have been wiped out. Only 10% remain in the oceans now. The tuna population was cut 80% in just the last 15 years.
Five days without fresh water and I am dead. The planet has the same amount of water now that it had a couple of million years ago. It is not making any new water.

In less than 100 years we went from 25,000 cubic meters of water/person to 6,000 cubic meters/person.
Why? Well, we have added about 6 billion people to the planet in the last 200 years. And our m odern farming techniques are very water intensive and few people realize that our factories and industries require tremendous amounts of water to make the goods we use every day.

Everything we need to survive comes from the planet. Clean air to breath. Adequate amounts of food and clean water. Protection from toxins and pollution.
In fact there are 8 global major environmental crises brewing around us:
  1. Climate Change
  2. Deforestation
  3. Land Loss
  4. Loss of Fresh Water
  5. Loss of Marine Fisheries
  6. Toxic Pollutants
  7. Loss of biodiversity
  8. Over fertilization w/nitrogen
I have touched on three of them today and we will visit the others at a later date. The point is, how many of these issues are you aware of? Why don’t we hear more about these issues? These are the issues the media should be discussing. These are the issues our politicians should be working on.
These are the issues our children and grand-children are going to ask us about because these are the megatrends that will have an impact on their lives.
And it is just a hunch, but I think that they are going to be rather difficult and rather angry questions indeed.

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