Sustainable Development (environmental, population, economic, resources wars, ext.)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Yuthura, Jan 4, 2010.

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  1. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    There are also areas in which we are not using agricultural land efficiently. Roughly 90% of US grain crops are feed to livestock, but there's a question as to how much of that could translate to food suitable for humans. Much of the grain crops are grown on land which would not make suitable farm produce, so it's not like you can assume you can just take that 90% and give it directly to humans to eat. Still it is a lot of land of which is not being used very efficiently.

    Then there's the agricultural production of India sustained by glacier outwash... something of which is expected to diminish as global warming progresses. And even though they have over a billion people, there is more than enough food produced to end hunger in that country. The most significant limitations there are not in raw agricultural output, but in bad distribution of food and corruption among social classes.

    Almost everywhere can be found waste which otherwise could be used more efficiently. I favor the US using high speed rail not so much for passengers, but for simply using electricity. If we could stop using diesel electric trains, then the US no longer is dependent on foreign oil. Electric trains can use coal, which will last longer than oil, nuclear, wind, solar... all can take energy from the grid during off-peak hours. Right there is wasted energy available for the taking.

    I would favor pursuing renewable energies more, but the rate of supply for new solar thermal plants and wind turbines is outpaced by increasing demand. Or it would simply not be feasible to expect solar and wind to save us at the rate they're going. Nuclear really is the most significant step for the US to take in securing energy independence, but improving on inefficiencies is really the best way to go. Permanent and indefinite benefits.
  2. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Yuthura (or Jabbadabbado), when do you think we'll start to run into major problems concerning: fisheries, water scarcity, food production, etc.? Any timeline for when and how it would unfold? (Specifically for the United States, Europe, China, India)

    And anything we can do now?

  3. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Start?
    We've already had food riots as prices increase and water scarcity has been an issue, in some places, for a century at least already. I would say some major problems are already afoot, the issue is if we pass the point of no return before we address them adequately.
  4. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    The degree to which you experience severe water shortages will really depend on the location.

    As glaciers yield less and less melt water per year, India will reach the breaking point in ~15 years or so. India depends heavily on this melt water for it agriculture, so losing this will be VERY significant. And even if Global warming doesn't make this imminent, to have the glaciers cease melting will still result in less meltwater for India.

    In the US, there are locations that are already running short on water and have to use desalinization. The breaking point for water in the US comes when aquifers become depleted or the cost of getting freshwater is equal to desalinization. California and Florida are already in this situation, but there are many locations where freshwater are taken from distant sources. If that's not bad enough, we've already got agricultural production happening on land of which wouldn't support crops without irrigation. As water becomes scarce, farmers are expecting something to compensate for their 'disaster relief.' As if building on a desert wasn't foolish in the first place.
  5. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Well yes, I remember the food riots they had in Latin America in 2007/2008 and know about water scarcity in Western US and Australia, but these aren't really covered. I meant how long until the situation becomes so dire that people know it's a huge problem, such as how long until the lower-middle-class in the US/UK/Canada/France/etc begin to starve, or enough to cause serious turmoil in China/India.

    You say California and Florida are already experiencing serious water problems, but I don't hear of people starving to death from lack of food/water, or leaving by the millions.

    I heard about the disappearing glaciers in India, which could become very serious. What exactly do you imagine will happen in 15-20 years there?
  6. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Please note: there are already serious problems with water and the uneven distribution of wealth as it is in India. There is currently enough water and food for everyone, but it is not being provided to everyone. Those with an abundance of wealth or resources find it more profitable to export what they have than for domestic demands. And the situation with water and agriculture are already problematic. It's just that the sheer volume of resources needed for agriculture are not being used efficiently shared equally among the population.

    What I expect to happen in 20 years or so is that there will not be enough water to go around, even if the current problems with distribution of wealth are dealt with. So it's not like there's suddenly going to be a collapse after reaching a breaking point, but that the situation is going to steadily grind down until agriculture must depend solely on precipitation alone. Melt water will actually increase as glaciers disappear more rapidly, but then diminish to almost nothing once all the ice has been depleted.
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I think we're deep in population overshoot. Every year it will be a little bit worse, but economic recessions mask the problem, which in economic boom times presents as runaway commodity price inflation.

    I'm obviously a fringe believer. I don't think the fundamental cause of the great recession was a housing/credit bubble but rather severe commodity resource restraints collapsing the entire system through inflationary pressure. The housing bubble was merely the weakest part of a fragile interlocking financial and industrial complex and thus was the first sector to be brought to its knees.

    The permaculture movement has some ideas about what to do. Not sure if it will really help or not. I think there's a lot of denial even in that group. Since we've failed to keep population growth in check, the problem will solve itself radically in other ways. The most obvious solution is demand destruction by systematically throwing a billion people out of the world's middle class into a lower income/consumption level. The next 30-40 years will be about downward mobility on a global scale.
  8. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    ahem -

    *strums Gm7 chord*

    Forever conditioned to believe that we can't live
    We can't live here and be happy with less
    So many riches
    So many souls
    Everything we see we want to possess
  9. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Unfortunately we also have technology which plays a vital role in how many resources are available to us. Because technology is improving, we can assume that it will be easier to maintain our ways of life in the future because we've always come up with breakthroughs in manufacturing and automation.

    The problem is that we're now reaching a breaking point where technology won't save us. Sure we can build bigger and better machines for mining, but if there are no deposits of coal or bauxite, then that's pretty much irrelevant to us. We need to step back and really understand how long we can sustain ourselves indefinitely without technology manipulating land for a definite period of time.

    Maybe we shouldn't kill off half the population of the world, but we should consider having fewer children than the generation before us.
  10. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    It's just been a long time since this thread has been touched.

    Anyone have any comments on the oil spill when it comes to this particular topic?
  11. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    The oil spill itself I would say isn't all that relevant. The issue of oil and whether our planet is running out of the stuff, is. I could be wrong but I think dwindling supplies of oil has a lot of potential for triggering military conflict. When we're talking about water supplies, people might be more rational and willing to share since it's something that everyone needs....and also water isn't sexy. When it comes to oil though, it's the lifeblood of superpowers and modernized economies and I think the fear of losing such status will inevitably bring out people's selfishness and nationalism. Just like how an oil embargo triggered Japan's decision to go to war against America (rather than see its military rendered useless due to lack of fuel), a shortage of fuel to power one's economy and military might have the same effect on another country in the future.
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