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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    The earth is full

    So I'm reading Paul Gilding's "The Great Disruption" as I pointed out in another thread.

    Found a Thomas Friedman article today in the NY Times and he had a piece on Gilding and his ideas that I thought might interest everyone who rides a bike to avoid wasting previous resources.

    This is not science fiction. This is what happens when our system of growth and the system of nature hit the wall at once. While in Yemen last year, I saw a tanker truck delivering water in the capital, Sana. Why? Because Sana could be the first big city in the world to run out of water, within a decade. That is what happens when one generation in one country lives at 150 percent of sustainable capacity.

    “If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees,” writes Gilding. “If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer. If you do all these and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation; this is high school science.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/op...8friedman.html

    Is the earth really full? Are we running out of juice?
    Last edited by gerv; 01-19-12 at 09:29 PM.

  2. #2
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    We're running out of "juice" for our current society's lifestyle. We'll change, adapt, and make do. We won't go extinct just yet. The changes could be quite painful and cause a population decrease.
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  3. #3
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    Regarding the water tankers in Sana: Just a couple of years ago, if I recall correctly, the main reservoir that provides Atlanta with its water was dangerously close to running dry enough to no longer be able to provide the city with adequate water. Eventually, dry reservoirs/wells will happen in a great many places and it's going to be ugly.

    In a resource limited environment, or one in which resources accumulate slower than they are used, there aren't any real shortages until the last generation meets its demise. At that point, they are totally shocked because such a thing was unknown in history.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ro-monster's Avatar
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    I think the Earth was full two or three generations ago, but we're only just beginning to realize it. I've thought that ever since I was old enough to understand the concept, and it was one of the reasons I chose not to breed. It seems inevitable that our population will undergo the natural trimming that occurs when growth outstrips resources. It happens in most species regularly; we've just been clever enough to postpone it for a very long time. But that probably means that it will be unusually severe when it does occur. Perhaps the saddest part is that we will also take down most of the planet's other species too.

    I expect humans will survive, since we are opportunistic and adaptable. But our knowledge base and technologies, those may well be lost.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I think we are very close to the tipping point, just not sure which side of it we are on...

    Aaron
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    If we ARE full, it's more because we have collectively poked a hole in the bottom of the boat.

    As a global society, we have managed (better than anything else in our history) to CRAP UP the planet to the point where the planet is about to crap back -- all over us.

    I remember reading, as a young man, the following:

    "A reasonable man adjusts himself to suit his environment; an unreasonable man adjusts his environment to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

    Defining "progress" is the tip-over point here; is "progress" re-making the immediate environment to suit our sense of comfort, or is "progress" making the best of what there is available in a way that doesn't wreck 'resource recovery'?

    One thing (may be a bit odd) that I learned from my military time is, making a minimal impact; the smaller the impact you make, the lesser trace of yourself you leave behind, making it harder for anyone to TRACK you. So that, plus my dad's influence (emperor of packrats!) caused me to make use of things a LOT of others would just drop to the side. I bike instead of drive, I only live in a too-large house because I'm helping house family (and it's cheaper than living separately), and the great majority of my worldly goods could be packed into a standard cargo van. I don't want to be anchored down with too much, it may hold me back from an unguessed future.

  7. #7
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    I read 'Empires of Food' by Fraser and Rimas about a year ago. In the book, they claim that societies become more efficient at producing food by greater and greater specialization, and then something happens to one piece of the puzzle, which makes the entire thing collapse. One area that they look at is how our agricultural technology has enabled a huge increase in the world's production of food through a combination of chemical fertilizers applied to geographic areas that are able to be very productive, and then shipping the food from these areas to where the mouths are. The issue is that both the shipping and the chemical fertilizer industries are very highly dependent upon fossil fuels which are limited in capacity. The earth has a current population of approximately 7Billion, and without the added productivity offered by chemical fertilizers, we have the capacity to feed about 3Billion.

    For me, one of the really scary things is how many of those 4 Billion people live in countries with access to nuclear weapons technology.

    We are way past full, we are in the flood stage, and it is going to take a major crisis to bring us to a stable point.

  8. #8
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I consider Palm Springs a bellweather community. I think it will run out of water pretty soon. When I lived near there, there was one period where there wasn't a drop of rain for 15 months. I never read of any admonitions to cut back on water usage in that time nor did I hear of anyone talking about it. It's true that they don't depend on daily rain; they get some water from the Colorado River and the rest from the aquifer below the valley. But that aquifer's level is dropping like a rock and they continue to water the 100+ golf courses in the area and build and build more houses.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Lspade's Avatar
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    It is a shame that 95% of the population wont care until it makes their lives miserable.

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I think the earth can sustain 10 billion people (the projected maximum population). But we will need to tke advantage of innovations not only in technology, but in society, ploitical and economic systems, as well as technology. We can find the food, water, and energy for 10 billion--but can we get it to them.

    A lot of people are going to have to relocate. Millions of homes will be flooded by rising sea levels, while other homes will be devastated by drought. We need to find a fair and jst way to accomodate these future refugees.


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  11. #11
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
    The earth has a current population of approximately 7Billion, and without the added productivity offered by chemical fertilizers, we have the capacity to feed about 3Billion.
    Many agriclutural experts would dispute this. Using modern farming methods, based on organic and sustainable farming practices, we can grow as much food per acre as we currently groww with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, these more modern methods are more labor intensive than the industrial methods currently used. But that might be a good thing in a wolrld where jobs are almost as hard to come by as food.


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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lspade View Post
    It is a shame that 95% of the population wont care until it makes their lives miserable.
    Environmentalists of various stripes have been predicting the end of the world since the 1960s, at least. You should consider the idea that 95% of the population may just be tired of "wolf!"

  13. #13
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    I consider Palm Springs a bellweather community. I think it will run out of water pretty soon. When I lived near there, there was one period where there wasn't a drop of rain for 15 months. I never read of any admonitions to cut back on water usage in that time nor did I hear of anyone talking about it. It's true that they don't depend on daily rain; they get some water from the Colorado River and the rest from the aquifer below the valley. But that aquifer's level is dropping like a rock and they continue to water the 100+ golf courses in the area and build and build more houses.
    There are apparently a lot of Palm Springs out there. Texas has been in a severe drought for the last two years and that drought is expected to continue into next fall. While everyone points out the cyclic nature of the drought, this one has been far worse than any yet recorded.Recently it was reported that up to half a billion trees have been lost -- something like 10% of the total... those certainly won't return in our lifetime.

    I've lived through one ecological disaster.. one that Gilding mentions in his book. In the late 1980s, early 1990s the entire North Atlantic saw a dramatic failure in the cod fishery. Catches diminished to near zero in the 1990s and have not since rebounded. The economic toll was devastating.

    But the funniest part of it was that during the disaster, there was actually not a big awareness of the future impact. Most people didn't understand that their desk job in the city relied heavily on those cod catches. In fact, it was largely that disaster which lead me to move out.

    In the same way, a lot of what happens in the Texas economy, or for that matter the whole South West, is being negatively shaped by this ecological disaster.

    But the real impact may not be completely understood for years.

  14. #14
    Lao
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Environmentalists of various stripes have been predicting the end of the world since the 1960s, at least. You should consider the idea that 95% of the population may just be tired of "wolf!"
    True, but then also it's kind of weird that the same people are very concsious about the danger of driving (seatbelts, airbags and what not) dispite ever have being in an accident and have been driving since the 1960's. Sure, there are obvious differences in the two cases but in one the rule "better safe than sorry" applies for "climate change deniers" and the other... well not so much.
    My point is that even though you are not certain that climate change is a real threat, better safe than sorry is still a valid argument, especially since climate change can be a big catastrophy.
    "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

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    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Environmentalists of various stripes have been predicting the end of the world since the 1960s, at least. You should consider the idea that 95% of the population may just be tired of "wolf!"
    If I can believe what I read, it's more that they are in denial, and have not even received the message yet rather than being tired of it. We are sorry for troubling them with timely warnings rather than trying to panic them when it will be too late. Excuse us. Our humble apologies for interrupting Idol.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Lspade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lao View Post
    My point is that even though you are not certain that climate change is a real threat, better safe than sorry is still a valid argument, especially since climate change can be a big catastrophy.
    Well said.

  17. #17
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Environmentalists of various stripes have been predicting the end of the world since the 1960s, at least. You should consider the idea that 95% of the population may just be tired of "wolf!"
    There has been some wolf-crying, and that hasn't been helpful. But other factors are much more significant, including:

    1. The warnings (or wolf-cryings) were and are still valid, but they haven't reached fruition yet.
    2. In other cases, people actually did listen to the warnings, and took action--so they never came true.
    Last edited by Roody; 01-21-12 at 02:04 PM.


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    Never mind. I don't know why I keep thinking there's a point to arguing with True Believers. I'm going to go by another SUV.
    Last edited by Six jours; 01-21-12 at 02:10 PM.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    That doesn't make any sense. If they haven't received the message, how can they be in denial of it?
    I don't know, but you seem to be doing it!


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  20. #20
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    1. The warnings (or wolf-cryings) were and are still valid, but they haven't reached fruition yet.
    I disagree. It's not like climate change is going to hit us like a ton of bricks some day. There are lots of signs of the effects of warming happening just as we speak. But many people refuse to believe what they experiencing. The whole Chad/Darfur disaster is pretty much a classic case of precious resources dwindling because of over-use and the warming climate, leading to wars and other disruptions. What's happening in the Southwest right now, increase in wild fires, drought, diminishing water...

    I get concerned because we expend so much energy trying to convince a bunch of people who are clearly in a denial phase. It's like trying to tell an alcoholic not to drink whiskey...

    Instead we need to focus our energy to figure out how best to survive the future.

  21. #21
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Never mind. I don't know why I keep thinking there's a point to arguing with True Believers. I'm going to go by another SUV.
    Well try not to drive it off a cliff or anything.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  22. #22
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I disagree. It's not like climate change is going to hit us like a ton of bricks some day. There are lots of signs of the effects of warming happening just as we speak. But many people refuse to believe what they experiencing. The whole Chad/Darfur disaster is pretty much a classic case of precious resources dwindling because of over-use and the warming climate, leading to wars and other disruptions. What's happening in the Southwest right now, increase in wild fires, drought, diminishing water...

    I get concerned because we expend so much energy trying to convince a bunch of people who are clearly in a denial phase. It's like trying to tell an alcoholic not to drink whiskey...

    Instead we need to focus our energy to figure out how best to survive the future.
    Maybe it's time to just leave the idiots behind, like Noah did with his ark.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  23. #23
    Lao
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Maybe it's time to just leave the idiots behind, like Noah did with his ark.
    The difference is that the idiots surrounding Noah didn't drill holes in his ark just to prove their point... (or did they?)
    "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

  24. #24
    Senior Member ubringliten's Avatar
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    I think it's not that people are in denial, it's because climate change is moving so slowly that people can't tell. As Al Gore puts it, put a frog in a pot of water and slowly increases the temperature, the frog will not budge and die. But if you put a front in a hot pot of water, it will jump out.

    And the common Americans are reactionaries and that's the problem that lies in their culture. They don't think about the future and think at what's in front of them. It is very simple to think what's in front of you. An example is the credit card debt crisis.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    The advantage of global warming is that it may permanently end the ice age. Cooling would be far more damaging to the environment than warming- vast areas of the northern hemisphere reduced to icy wasteland.

    Once the temperature has risen a few degrees and the frozen north thawed, I think we'll have to see mass migrations out of desert regions (which will probably include much of Mexico and the southern US, as well as southern Europe) into siberia, the nordic countries and northern canada. There's plenty of untapped farmland under all the snow. People will have to move out of low-lying coastal areas too (who builds on the coasts, raises the sea level and then complains about it?- people are stupid).

    However, this implies people helping each other in mass-migration: something that isn't going to happen with the short-sighted mentality of just looking out for yourself.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

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