Sunday, March 29, 2009

Connecting the Dots Between Global Warming and Human Population

Global warming continues to dominate the news, and the news is grim. The world is heating up faster than scientists predicted. Global ice sheets are melting, hot smoggy days are increasing and severe weather hammers us more frequently. And, in spite of dire warnings , we continue to party on. Yes, the recession is helping, but we’ll be out of that in a year or two. And yes we are embracing more fuel-efficient vehicles, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other conservation measures. But these are too little, too late.
Let’s connect the dots. A growing population leads to greater consumption which requires more energy which uses fossil fuels which leads to global warming. The first and primary factor is population. But all the solutions being proposed attack subsequent, secondary factors. And none of these solutions will be nearly enough. Take, for example, the environmentalists favourite proposal: dumping coal and using wind and solar. This won’t make a significant contribution for at least 50 years, if then. Why? Because the infrastructure involved with coal-fired electricity is gigantic. There are over 5000 coal plants in the world with more being built every day. Utilities don’t have the resources to scrap the plants that still have many years of useful life left and replace them with expensive solar plants. I don’t see people rushing out to scrap their one-year-old SUVs and buying hybrids.
Like all complex problems, global warming has no simple solution. We need to employ many strategies including conservation, more efficient technologies and renewable energy. But all that won’t work unless we also slow and stop human population growth. It’s vital that we recognize this crucial fact. Let’s connect the dots.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Popes as Mass Murderers

Since 1980 when the AIDS epidemic first struck, 22 million people have died, the large majority in Africa. And with 40 million more HIV-infected, the future looks grim.
So what is the Roman Catholic Church, the supposed protector of the weak and poor, doing to help the situation? In 1990, Pope John Paul II visited several countries in Africa. Some villages consisted only of the very young and the very old. All the rest lay under rows of wooden crosses. Facing such human devastation and misery, the Pope message was unequivocal: condoms, the only solution to reducing AIDS infections, were a sin. Simply put, Africans were not to use condoms in any circumstances.
As might be expected, the Papal visit helped the AIDS pandemic gather steam. In his zealotry to prevent any form of family planning, i.e. to protect life and birth, the Pope sentenced millions to death. What incredible arrogance, not to mention stupidity!
This week Pope Benedict is visiting Africa. Has the Vatican changed its tune, now that it has witnessed the carnage since the 1990 papal tour? Not a whit. Benedict promptly stuck his head in the sand and glibly stated that AIDS "cannot be overcome by distributing condoms – it only increases the problem." What utter rubbish!
In Africa condoms are an absolute necessity. They will not only help control the ravages of AIDS but will also help reduce population growth in a humane manner. A win-win situation for a continent that desperately needs good news.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Incoherent Policies

While visiting in Australia three headlines caught my eye. They were reported as completely independent issues; one did not affect the other. The first stated that the baby bonuses of $5000 per child, which were started in 2004, are working: there has been a measurable increase in births. The second reported that the water supply for Adelaide and the surrounding region of South Australia was in crisis and unless drastic action is taken serious water shortages will start soon. The third stated that immigration, after holding steady for decades, would be cut by 14 percent (from 135,000 to 115,000) to help protect Australian workers in this recession.
Australia is a large country with a low population (about 20 million). Nevertheless, population should be a national issue that is addressed in a coherent and integrated manner. These newspaper reports clearly show that this is not the case. The baby-bonus and immigration policies are in direct conflict with each other. For the Adelaide water shortage, it is not even recognized that the large and growing population contributes to the problem. All the blame is placed on the drought and non of the proposed solutions suggests curbing population growth.
I am not picking on Australia for most nations are in the same boat. For example, the US southwest, notably Phoenix and Las Vegas, are suffering similar troubles as Adelaide. With human population approaching seven billion, the globe is experiencing severe shortages in many resources including fisheries, oil and gas, water and more. I won’t even touch on global warming.
It is time to recognize that human population is a serious, if not the most serious, problem the world faces. National and international policies are needed to address this issue. These policies must be coherent and integrated with all the relevant issues.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Will Human Numbers Ever Decrease?

Concerned scientists such as Paul Ehrlich argue that the ever-increasing human population is looting the planet. Most economists and politicians refuse to accept this. Often they respond that population growth is slowing and is actually decreasing in some countries, notably western Europe, and is slowing in most developed nations. In a few more decades human population will peak and then slowly decline, they claim.
Recent evidence from Australia indicates that this slow down in population growth rate may be temporary. In 2005, Australian treasurer Peter Costello made his famous plea, "Have one (child) for mum, one for dad, and one for the country." In 2004, to encourage fecundity he offered a $3000 bonus for every new baby. Recent data shows that Australia’s strategy has worked. The birth rate, which had been in a rut for years, rose in 2005 and again in 2006. The baby-bonus cost for the two years was $1.7 billion, resulting in 37,000 extra babies. The province of Quebec, Russia and other jurisdictions are offering similar incentives.
It’s too early to tell, but it appears that projections for human population growth will likely be at the high end of United Nations predictions. After all, Australia and others don’t seem to care about peak oil, fisheries depletion, water shortages and global warming. Instead they’re paying big bucks to keep the population, that is, the economy, expanding. Is there any hope?