Saturday, February 28, 2009

Water Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink

The old rhyme of "The Old Mariner" has become an excellent description of the state of fresh water scarcity in the world. The UN and other international organizations have predicted that water will become one of the most sought after assets during the twenty first century. Actually geopolitical conflicts about water are not uncommon and with the approaching climate change and increased demand for water the conditions can only intensify.

Calculating carbon and ecological footprints has been common , at least in some circles, for a while. But now an organization has been attempting to highlight what it calls the water footprint per capita per year. As you look at the figures in the accompanying table you must resist the temptation of treating water as a non renewable resource. Water is not oil although the increase in demand makes it more scare.

A selective list of cubic meters of water used annually per capita:

Nation.................Cu. Meters/cap/annum






Furthermore it has been estimated that to produce a liter of milk requires 1000 liters of water , a kilogram of wheat 1350 liters of water and for each cup of coffee 1120 liters of water!!!!

Note: Does this mean that the Prius drivers should not stop at Starbucks any longer? :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Urban Sprawl

A major criticism of conventional, mainstream thinking is its inability to distinguish the forests from the trees, so to speak. There seems to be an overwhelming urge to be satisfied with describing symptoms when the urgent need is for an understanding of the root cause for the phenomenon in question.

"Descrirtive" analysis might not be totally useless but it fails to advance , meaningfully, our understanding of the dynamics behind the issue of concern.To suggest that environmental degradation is caused by excessive pollution is a "no brainer" when in fact what is instrumental is an understanding of the reason why we pollute.

This line of "shallow environmentalism" has become so widely spread that it is not an exaggeration to suggest that it might have become the norm. And that is tragic. One current example where this "shallow" analysis has become often applied is that of Urban Sprawl. There is no doubt that urban sprawl is one of the most destructive developments that we are confronting but to suggest that urban sprawl is related to numbers of inhabitants goes a long way in mismanaging the problem. No doubt that numbers can and often do play a role but may I suggest that the single most important issue in urban sprawl is NOT connected to numbers. Urban sprawl is very much the result of a life style, a habit of consumption and an accepted standard of living. Urban sprawl is very much a product of a feeling of entitlement that every family is to live in a ranch home spread over an acre of land with a swimming pool in the backyard and a three car garage in front. A recent study by the EU concluded that 65% of material use and 70% of global warming potential is related to urban areas. And yet uncontrolled, rampant urbanization is not only accepted but is even encouraged the world over.
Yet, is there a justification for the following:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Unintended Consequences

It has been well known for years that Global Warming cannot be reversed. The best that we can hope for is to adopt policies and enact measures that are commensurate to the challenge i.e. reduce the level of emissions to such an extent as to avoid what scientists consider to be a catastrophic outcome.
Unfortunately the latest comprehensive studies and the latest sophisticated computer models done by the EU show that if the growth in carbon emissions is to be maintained at the current global rate of 1.9% annual growth then the catastrophic increase of 2 degrees Centigrade would be assured. That will cause the Greenland Icesheet to disappear, floods to become more frequent and more severe, oceans level to increase, crops to fail, rate of extinction to gain and disease to spread.
As bad as the above scenarios might be, at least they do not threaten to change the globe into a wasteland and to visit upon all species the dangers of strange mutations and nuclear winter. So why would we want to fight global warming by encouraging the wider adoption of nuclear energy? Could it be because Homo Sapiens (wise humans)we are not?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Is This For Real?

We have all heard the term shallow environmentalism but I never thought that shallowness could become sooooo thin.
The upcoming Grammy Awards is planning on promoting the annual music bash as a Green event. Only in la la land would a person have the temerity to speak about becoming green by advocating high fashion , stylish items , extravagant consumption, a 4 hour gala with all sorts of sumptous food and a bag of totally unnecessary but expensive freebies.
This years Grammys is being congratulated for its environmental commitment and its devotion to mother nature. After all,each of the lucky participants will be given a free Infinity Sun treatment in addition to traditional "bag of swag" and the "green with Music" celebration. All environmentalists should take note that a sunless anti aging tan is such a major step in fostering environmental awareness and spreading the belief in simple life styles, no growth and sustainability that we should all rejoice at this development. Please tell me that all of this is a dream or more aptly a nightmare.