Monday, October 31, 2011

The tale of Two Trees by Phil Osophical

A nice parable about modern society and two ways of understanding how to organize our world society and the practices we live with.

If you ask a fish if its in water, it'll say "what's water".  Just as the fish floats in a sea of an existing matrix of conditions, so do we float in a matrix of existing thoughts and ways of being that we can call the prevailing consensus opinion.



Human population on this planet reaches a 7 billion people odometer moment; time to reflect on population growth

Odometer moments are those times when we pass a number like 10,000, or any other number that ends with a few zero's.  Remember the excitement when your "new" car reaches it's 10,000 mile mark?  That's an odometer moment in action, and today we have an odometer moment in world population.  It's estimated that today, Oct 31 2011, the human population of this planet has reached 7 billion people.  In practical terms the difference between 6.999 billion and 7 billion is small, but these odometer moments offer an opportunity to reflect on where we're headed.

There's a basic fact here, the rate of population growth has sped up considerably since 1800 when world human population first surpassed 1 billion people.

Population growth over history

The chart at the right shows population odometer moments since 1800.  What's most important about that table is the period of years between each odometer moment.  First, 127 years, then 33 years, then 14 years, then 13 years, then 12 years and again 12 years.  That means for the last 30-40 years it's taking 12-3 years to add a billion people to the planets human population.

Population over time


Here's another way to graph human population over time.  Mathematically this is an exponential growth curve.  Exponential curves are dangerous because they tend to explode.

Population growth by country

This chart shows where population growth hotspots currently exist.  The highest growth rates are colored in shades of green, and occur primarily in Africa, with other high population growth areas in Yemen, Oman, Iraq and Afghanistan.

India, one of the population powerhouses, is ominously growing at a fairly rapid rate whereas the other population powerhouse, China, is growing at a slower rate.

Rate of Population Growth

Fortunately the actual rate of population growth is slowing down.  There have been years of efforts to slow down population growth because many recognize the problem which can occur from overpopulation.

Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat.  Humanity has "agriculture" and "medical advances" to thank for the population growth.  If we think over history it's clear human families can bear quite a few children, but that disease will kill most of them.  Medical advances prevent childhood diseases from killing so many people and as a result our population is growing.

Modern agriculture has made tremendous strides in food production.

The recent rapid increase in human population over the past two centuries has raised concerns that humans are beginning to overpopulate the Earth, and that the planet may not be able to sustain present or larger numbers of inhabitants.  However, the rate of population growth has been declining since the 1980s, and is expected to stabilize by around the middle of the 21st century.  Unlike global warming, which has recently become considered nearly fact by the scientific community, many scientists do not believe that the world is overpopulated, and believe instead that waste and over-consumption, especially by wealthy nations, is the force putting strain on the environment.

The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment.

The concern is that the human population is exceeding the carrying capacity of this planet.  Not all population growth is the same.  Paul Erlich developed the IPAT equation to summarize the effect of population based on technological capability:

I = P * A * T


I is the impact on the environment resulting from consumption
P is the population number
A is the consumption per capita (affluence)
T is the technology factor

7 billion agrarians hunting and gathering have a smaller impact than 7 billion car owning humans following the American over-consumptive lifestyle.

America with 6% or so of world population consumes 25% or more of world resource production.  Per-capita our impact on the planet's wellbeing is greater than the per-capita impact of a tribal farmer in remote Africa.

Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource.

Over exploitation of Cod fisheries

This chart shows the effect of over-exploitation of cod fisheries in the North Atlantic.  That fish used to be a primary source of food in America but by 1992 the Cod fishery totally collapsed.  All along the coast from NY City up to Canada former fishing villages have run into serious economic trouble after the fishery collapsed.

This is presented as an example of effects of over-population and over-consumption.  It shows a period of over-exploitation beginning in the early 1950's perhaps driven by the "Baby Boom" and improved fishery technology including the use of SONAR to track fish populations so the fishermen could do a better job of harvesting fish.

It's thought that by 2050 all large fish in the ocean will be extinct, due to over-fishing.

I want to end this by linking to Dr. Al Bartlett's seminal lecture, "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy."  The argument is that if you look at the numbers, infinite growth is impossible and exponential growth patterns lead to crashes.



Friday, October 28, 2011

ooooby Box Scheme - community supported agriculture idea transplanted from New Zealand to Ireland

The ooooby (out of our own back yard) idea originated in New Zealand.  I first heard of it via the In Transition 1.0 movie about the Transition Towns movement.  This video shows a group implementing the idea in Ireland as a community supported agriculture system that's also a gardening training facility.

Part of this implementation is that backyard growers can sell their excess through the ooooby store.


ooooby Box Scheme from Tony Armstrong on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Sustainable Agrictulture" is vital to meeting challenges from instability, price volatility, etc

According to a study presented in Brussels (a.k.a. the Capital of both Belgium and the European Union) there are challenges from food instability, food price volatility, etc, that demand a new sort of sustainable agriculture integrating social, environmental, economic and research/development.

They say it's a global problem that demands a global solution.  Global solutions mean some sort of United Nations process, possibly?

We should note that the phrase "sustainable agriculture" has multiple meanings.  Reading between the lines of the following they're focused on price stability, and continuing the growth curve with ever-increasing population meaning an ever-increasing demand for stuff.  I wonder whether it would be better to change the demand curve, perhaps by reducing population (as noted in GrowthBusters, "Most Important Film Ever Made," premiere Nov 2, challenges growth-at-all-costs policies), but it appears the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition isn't on that wavelength.

Looking over their website (see link below) their conception of "sustainable agriculture" isn't about organic or permaculture methodologies.  They're talking about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), origin labeling, which crops use less water, the ecological footprint of food consumption, the rate of food consumption (e.g. one article points to the typical huge american diet and the typical huge american waist-line), etc.  One of their research areas is "Food for Sustainable Growth" which is focused on maintaining population growth, while somehow converting agriculture or consumption patterns to minimize ecological impact?

In other words - I appreciate that they're calling for "Sustainable Agriculture".  I appreciate that they're pointing to over-consumption, and calling for a smaller ecological impact from agriculture and food.  I appreciate they're calling attention to the unsustainable patterns.  I do not appreciate that "Sustainable Agriculture" in their terminology does not include agricultural practices that act to restore the land, such as Permaculture.

Achieving Sustainable Agriculture is Vital to Meeting Future Challenges, Demands a Multidisciplinary Approach

  BRUSSELS, October 20, 2011/PRNewswire/ -- Effectively addressing the challenges of delivering sustainable agriculture demands a multidisciplinary approach which integrates social, environmental, economic and R&D dimensions, according to a new study presented in Brussels today by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN).

Paolo De Castro, MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development, commented on key findings from the study at an open debate in the European Parliament, organised on behalf of the BCFN.

Speaking to representatives from European institutions, business and civil society, Mr. De Castro said; "We face a wide range of challenges; market instability and food price volatility, demographic growth, change in diets and lifestyles, environment and climate change. We are in a scenario where food will become more and more scarce, and will be increasingly expensive for everybody.

He continued; "We cannot hide from these challenges; we need to meet them head-on, by investing in research that will deliver solutions and finding new models to transfer innovation. This is a global problem that demands a global approach, which delivers a coordinated, comprehensive food security policy. The forthcoming CAP reform provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how a sustainable approach to agriculture can contribute to providing answers to this challenge."

Commenting on the findings of the study, Hans Herren, President of the Millennium Institute and member of the Advisory Board of the BCFN, said: "CAP reform can allow Europe to help define the standards for sustainability in agriculture. It is an opportunity to show leadership in effectively tackling a problem which will affect us all."

The full study The future of agriculture: Toward sustainable agricultural models will be presented on 30 November and 1 December at the third BCFN Forum in the Bocconi University, Milan.

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition is a multidisciplinary think tank focusing on issues of food and nutrition and their relations to economics, medicine, diet, sociology and the environment. The work of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition is backed by an authoritative Advisory Board composed of Barbara Buchner, Director of the Climate Policy Initiative in Venice, Mario Monti and John M. Reilly, economists, Gabriele Riccardi, endocrinologist, Camillo Ricordi, surgeon and scientist, Claude Fischler, sociologist and Umberto Veronesi, oncologist.

You may watch the event at

Source: Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition For additional information: Barilla - Giuseppe Coccon - Tel. +39-0521-2621 - -; APCO Worldwide - Marie van Raemdonck - Tel. +32-2-645-98-11 -

GrowthBusters, "Most Important Film Ever Made," premiere Nov 2, challenges growth-at-all-costs policies

A key but little discussed aspect of the environmental threat is the ever-growing population.  Al Gore didn't mention this issue in An Inconvenient Truth perhaps because the implications of raising the high population issue is rather scary.  It's easy to do the numbers and realize that if there were fewer people alive, the environmental impact of humanity would shrink, and we wouldn't have global warming or the other environmental issues (see Arithmetic, Population and Numbers).  But the implications of that observation are really scary, because it immediately asks how do you reduce the population and all sorts of dictatorial means come to mind.

I suppose the least dictatorial means to reducing over-population is via educating the public and getting voluntary cooperation in, for example, not having children.  A new movie, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, seems aimed to do just that.

Too much consumption, too much stuff, all that stuff being built means "resources" that are "extracted" from the planet - climate disruption and economic collapse and other kinds of collapse are directly related to over-extraction of resources, straining the planet's ability to keep up.  While we can decrease consumption by being more efficient and use less resources per person, especially in rich countries like the United States.  Another way is to reduce the population.  Fewer people, fewer resources being used, smaller impact on the planet, it's really simple.

Simple, except for the question of how to implement a smaller population.  And whether it's truly necessary.  It's also possible to reduce consumption with a smaller consumption rate per person.  Business interests tend to fight this solution because it means they sell smaller quantities of stuff, and make smaller profits.  Likewise business interests want to see more people because they can sell their stuff to more people.  Part of the growth train is business interests who demand continual growth, so that their quarterly profit figures continue to increase.  But... oh, there's a rathole here of considerations, and things to ponder, and so on, so just go see the movie and see what you think.  


GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth Trailer from Dave Gardner on Vimeo.

Controversial Documentary Challenges Policy and Perceptions as World Population Passes 7 Billion

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The provocative documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, will hold its world premiere November 2 in Washington, D.C. It's released to the public worldwide the next day. World population passes 7 billion on October 31. "This could be the most important film ever made," writes Paul Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb.

GrowthBusters delivers a full-frontal assault on the "taboos, myths and greedy growth profiteers that keep us speeding toward a cliff," says filmmaker Dave Gardner. "Population growth is not inevitable, but it won't stop until we acknowledge its role in the major crises we face." "The scale of the human presence on Earth has reached unprecedented proportions," ecological footprint pioneer William Rees states in the film. "We've outgrown the planet."

The film also challenges the wisdom of economic growth as a public policy goal. According to Gardner, "We've been programmed from birth to believe in the pot of gold at the end of the growth rainbow, but chasing that gold has let us down. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is right to challenge this system. It is crumbling around us; it should not - and cannot - be revived."

"Continued economic and population growth are not sustainable, plain and simple," declares Gardner. "Every citizen of the planet agrees we do not want to condemn our children to lives of misery and desperation." The film demonstrates our economy would be one billion times the size it is today in just 720 years at 3% annual growth.

Gardner interviewed psychologists, physicists, ecologists, sociologists and economists to research and create GrowthBusters. It features interviews with experts like former World Bank senior economist Herman Daly and former presidential advisors Gus Speth and Robert Solow.

GrowthBusters examines the beliefs, attitudes and propaganda causing people to ignore evidence perpetual growth is not possible or desirable. Gardner calls "Worship of Growth Everlasting the most powerful and widespread religion in the world."

Gardner takes on presidents and prime ministers, economists, news media and wealthy capitalists who keep society hooked on growth. Sociologist Juliet Schor and environmental leader Bill McKibben discuss how the relentless drive to earn, spend and consume is not making people happier.

It sounds depressing, but the film is actually humorous at times and hopeful. It profiles "GrowthBusters in Action," groups and individuals pioneering new value systems and ways of life that don't depend on growth, and they seem quite happy.

Once you see this film, you'll never again view the world the same way. After its world premiere November 2 at the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C., groups and individuals will hold screenings of the film around the world.

Photos and Video:
Buy Film:

World Population to Reach 7 Billion on October 31:


Rick DeHoff, Grey Stone Media
888 777 0111 x7

Dave Gardner, Citizen-Powered Media
719-576-5565 (office/cell/all hours)

SOURCE Citizen-Powered Media

Friday, October 7, 2011

Arizona beginning to look at long term sustainable water use policies

Arizona is a dry place, most of it's a desert. People have lived there for millennia and done so by understanding the environment and how to work with the environment. However westerners (us) in Arizona are flouting the natural ecosystem and it's most obvious in the water use patterns.

This is a good thing - for them to be studying water use on a 100 year time horizon.

Arizona's First Ever Statewide Study Projecting Water Use Praised by Conservation Group

Report Shows Need to Ensure Future Water Supplies, Protect Natural Resources

PHOENIX, Oct. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The first ever statewide report projecting Arizona's water supplies and demands over the next century is a key first step to "ensure that physical limits to water supplies don't limit Arizona's economic prosperity or the legacy of its natural resources," according to Environmental Defense Fund.

"This is the kind of forward-looking process that is needed for Arizona to ensure that it has secure water supplies for the future of its communities and natural resources, including its desert rivers and streams," said Jocelyn Gibbon, a Phoenix-based water law attorney for the Colorado River program at Environmental Defense Fund. "It also shows the need for a robust, well-funded Department of Water Resources to take a leadership role in developing creative solutions for the future. We need to ensure that physical limits to water supplies don't limit Arizona's economic prosperity or the legacy of natural resources that we leave to our kids."

The report, scheduled to be released today by the state's Water Resources Development Commission (WRDC) to the Arizona legislature, projects annual water use in the state could grow steadily from current levels of about 7.1 million acre-feet to between 9.9 to 10.6 million acre-feet per year in 2110, a jump of nearly 40 to 50 percent.

"Water is an essential element to Arizona's prosperity...It is clear that meeting the demand for additional water supplies in the 21st century requires inventive action to be taken and consideration of new ways to expand supplies," the report concludes. "Arizona must develop a broad portfolio of solutions to meet the myriad of challenges that are inherent in this diverse state. Finally, decisions must be made regarding what solutions will be most effective in discrete regions, how those solutions will be funded, and whether implementation of the solutions requires legislative changes."

Last year, the Arizona legislature passed House Bill 2661, which created the WRDC to assess the current and future water needs of Arizona.

The Commission's tasks include:

  1. Considering the projected water needs of each Arizona county in the next 25, 50, and 100 years;
  2. Identifying current and potential future supplies and the legal and technical issues associated with their development;
  3. Identifying possible financing mechanisms for acquisition, treatment and delivery of water supplies; and
  4. Making recommendations regarding further studies and evaluations.

The final report released today includes data and reports from five committees, recommendations related to future studies and evaluations, and the suggestion that the Commission continue to meet.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the Arizona Department of Water Resources and stakeholders for their efforts in developing the report information quickly and cooperatively under a tight deadline. EDF made particular mention of the work of the Environmental Working Group established by the Commission, which mapped and catalogued natural resources in Arizona that are dependent on water.

"The county-by-county inventory of natural resources dependent on water begins to illustrate how much the continued flow of water in rivers, streams, and other natural features means to the state," concluded Gibbon. "Arizona's incredibly rich and diverse ecosystems depend on reliable water supplies, as do communities across the state. We have a lot of work to do to prevent those supplies from being depleted."

The report identifies some next steps that could be taken towards planning for the state's water future, including evaluating the effectiveness of alternative water supply solutions for diverse areas of the state, and incorporating information about water for rivers and natural resources into future planning. The current report does not evaluate risks to these natural resources.

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Visit us on Twitter @EveryDayFactoid and

Contacts:Jennifer Witherspoon, (415) 293-6067, Crowley, (202) 550-6524-c, Gibbon, (602) 510-4619-c,

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense Fund
Web Site: