Sunnuntai 20.11.2022 klo 14:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa
It is now almost universally accepted that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (virus that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic) is originally a bat virus that has spilled over to humans. In a Nature article (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05506-2) Eby et al. have followed for 25 years, which environmental drivers are associated with the spill over of another bat virus to mammals. The study is most important, as it directly associates two big areas of environmental concern and the likelihood of bat viruses and probably also other zoonoses spilling over to humans, namely land use and climate change.
The problem with increasing land area being used by humans in increasing the likelihood of humans getting zoonoses has been suggested many times earlier. Whenever the probability of human-animal interaction increases, also the possibility of viruses spilling over to man increases. Today areas free of human influence are getting smaller and smaller because of increasing human population.
The effect of increased land use is worsened by climate change. Whenever there is drought or any other reason for food shortage, shedding of viruses to nearby organisms increases. As climate change increases drought periods, the probability of virus spill over increases. Consequently, pandemics and climate change occur together, by combatting climate change we can also prevent pandemics.
Tiistai 5.4.2022 klo 14:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The people denying that human influence has little or nothing to do with climate change invariably point out that the addition by humans represents only 5 % of the total production of carbon dioxide at any given moment. Surely, such a small increment cannot have an effect attributed to it.
Another group of people say that the climate change problem is only caused by rich industrialized nations, and has nothing to do with population growth in poor areas of the world. The richest 10 % of the world’s population cause 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions while poorest 50 % emit only 15 % of world’s total human-emitted carbon dioxide.
Both of these statements are drastically wrong, and below I try to indicate why. In both cases the ultimate reason is the disturbance of the carbon cycle. In undisturbed nature the carbon cycle is in equilibrium. The carbon dioxide produced in the respiration of all organisms is used up in the photosynthesis and oxygen is produced.
A 5 % increase in carbon dioxide production, because of fossil fuel use, generates a huge disequilibrium, which we now see as climate change. In undisturbed nature, the disequilibrium would slowly (in hundreds to thousands of years) be corrected by an increase of green vegetation to generate a new equilibrium. The 5 % disequilibrium is so huge than the return to equilibrium lasts a long time if it is possible at all. Tipping point can be caused by the disequilibrium such that the temperature increase is so large that a net increase in photosynthesis cannot be achieved. In such a case temperature increase just continues and as worst, Earth becomes similar to Venus.
A disturbance of the carbon cycle can also result from the increased use of land by humans. This is what is currently happening in poor areas, where population increases. The carbon dioxide uptake and oxygen production by green plants is currently decreasing, mainly because of deforestation (but also as agricultural land erodes or is turned to human settlements). This causes similar worsening of the climate change situation as the fossil fuel use of the industrialized nations.
We live in one world with limits, and we should all work for the wellbeing of the planet. We should stop blaming others, which is the easy thing to do, and instead aim at reducing inequality and excessive consumption.
Tiistai 18.1.2022 klo 18:12 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Whenever population growth stops anywhere, media and politicians are screaming about demographic catastrophe. This has earlier been said of Japan and many European countries, but now China is concluding the same. The concept of endlessly growing population is based on the gross misunderstanding that the earth has no limits, it is related to the concept of eternal increase of consumption.
Even though recent reports have suggested that human population may peak during this century at 10 000 000 000, this number is far greater than is sustainable. If one would want to have the consumption habits of Americans, we could have about 1 500 000 000 people, if we would want to be like Europeans, then about 2 500 000 000 people could inhabit the world sustainably, and if our outset were that the wealth (or its lack) was frozen at the present-day level throughout the world, about 5 000 000 000 people could inhabit the world. So, regardless of the goal, human population needs to decrease at least to half to enable sustainable use of resources. The last goal, freezing the wealth in different parts of the world is completely unacceptable: it amounts to “climate colonialism”, the rich keeping what they have, and preventing the poor from increasing their wealth.
A sustainable solution would involve a marked decrease of inequality, the rich 25 % of nations should decrease their gross national product by improving the standing of poor nations, which should aim at limiting population growth. Interestingly, the carbon footprint of a Chinese is greater today than that of a European. Thus, a stable or decreasing population in China has as much influence on climate as that of Europe and thus China cannot claim to be a developing country which would have exemptions from policies required of rich countries.Decreasing or stable population is not a demographic catastrophe. Rather, increasing population is a demographic catastrophe, since it will cause unsustainable life on earth.
Keskiviikko 7.10.2020 klo 11:26 - Mikko Nikinmaa
At least one thing is certain, Earth has finite size. People may disagree on economic policies, but in the end Earth's limits dictate, what the economic thinking must converge to in the end: sustainability. This is because we do not have planet B, C, D etc. to continue economic policies, which do not take Earth's limits into account. For a long time it has been possible to base all the future scenarios on limitless growth. This has been possible, because human population had new areas to live in, because new material resources were always found and because the atmosphere, aquatic environment and unused land absorbed all our wastes and toxic materials without observable damage. Thus, economic theories are based on growth and we depend on population growth to maintain welfare state in European countries.
However, we have now reached tipping point. Economic growth requires increased consumption. Increased consumption requires the use of increased amount of resources, somewhere to dispose of wastes, increased land use to relieve anthropogenic pressures and so on. There are several indications that finite Earth cannot tolerate increased consumption any more. We have climate change, pandemic, biodiversity loss (6th extinction wave) and global pollution - for example about 1/3 of world's children are subjected to chronic lead poisoning. Despite all the indications that we cannot continue in the path of earlier generations, it has become very common to start defending nationalistic values and possessions at the expense of those bloody foreigners, especially in poor areas, who do not do their share, and whose work we in the rich areas can utilize to increase our consumption. This attitude is very short-sighted, as the limits to Earth do not follow national boundaries and no country can be hermetically sealed off from the earth.
People are saying that changing our feeding habits from meat-based to vegetarian diet would change the situation: combat climate change and limit pandemics. Yes, it would improve the situation momentarily, but if the economic theories were still based on limitless growth, after a lag time we would be back to the same problems we presently face. Its length would depend on the time that will be taken for the growth to eat up the environmental benefits that the new habits have given. Because of this, the only way to sustainability is to decrease consumption, where it is possible. It is also necessary to scrap the concept of dependency ratio, because it is completely unsustainable. Maybe this would buy us enough time to achieve, what is an ultimate necessity for sustainability, a reduction of human population.
One would need to develop a sustainability index, which takes into account both the consumption per person and population growth. By doing this, one could relate the actions in rich European and poor African and Asian countries. At present it is quite clear that one child born in USA causes a bigger load to the environment that ten born in Nigeria. Regardless, it is imperative that the consumption in the rich countries is decreased.
I hope that we can get away from the unfortunate truth in the "joke", where an economist says to an environmentalist: "Climate change and environmental distruction are just unfortunate consequences of having a healthy economy."
Sunnuntai 28.6.2020 klo 20:13 - Mikko Nikinmaa
In a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA) Caballos et al. wrote an article “Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction” (PNAS 117(24): 13596-13602, 2020). It is a clear account about how many terrestrial vertebrates are on the brink of extension. While the message of human role in extinctions is very clear, the present extinction rate being about 1000 times greater than the background rate, it is very difficult to get people who do not care of the environment to realize that it also matters to them. One of the salient points of the article is that the disappearance of one species affects the well-being of other species.
People, who don’t care of the environment, usually care about themselves. Only few people have been against Covid-19 restrictions. What they often do not realize that the Covid-19 pandemic is associated with the extinction wave. One of the biggest reasons for extinctions is the fact that increasing proportion of land goes to human use because of our population growth. As a result, the remaining wild animals come in closer contact to humans and tame animals than earlier. This increases the likelihood of animal micro-organisms reaching humans and consequently zoonosis (i.e. diseases transmitted from animals to humans). It is no wonder that the number of diseases transmitted from animals to man has drastically increased in 2000’s: MERS, SARS, Ebola, Chicken flu, Swine flu and now Covid-19. Even if one does not care about environment, one should care about one’s health.
Also people, who do not care of the environment, must eat, and they may like blueberry pie. About three quarters of all our food plants require insect pollination. Currently pollinating insect populations are decreasing drastically, and the worst scenarios suggest that we cannot eat blueberry pies within 50 years, because of lack of pollination. There are two reasons for the decreasing insect populations. The first is the heavy use of insecticides, and the second the reduced land area for insect refuges (i.e. land areas, which are not in heavy agricultural or other human use). Again, the increasing human populations exert the most important pressures, and to enable sustainable agriculture, one should be able to stop population growth.
While Caballos et al. article did not consider aquatic animals, they are also suffering from extinctions. The worst scenarios suggest that overfishing causes extinction of most important commercial fish species before 2100. In addition to overfishing, aquatic pollution causes the extinctions. Thus, the problem affecting the diets of people not caring of the environment, is caused by mass extinctions.
The mass extinctions themselves are the result of growth ideology. To be able to have reasonably good life for everyone, we should be able to abolish inequality.
Coronavirus pandemic signifies the end for greedy globalism but should be the starting point for sustainable globalism
Sunnuntai 10.5.2020 klo 17:35 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Looking at the figures showing, how coronavirus is spreading in the world, one cannot but come to one conclusion. The situation is rapidly becoming worst in countries with populistic leaders who preach nationalism. Also, most indicators of world’s present problems show that the greedy economic globalism has failed miserably, and is contributing to the possible rise of next pandemic, climate change, immigration and environmental pollution.
On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the world is one entity, regardless if we want it or not. Currently the virus has spread to 212 countries, and the fact that one can travel from the most remote part of the world to any centre means that the only way to avoid the spreading of this or future pests is complete isolation from the rest of the world. From this I can reach only one conclusion: the only way to have acceptable future is to start sustainable globalism.
A starting point for sustainable globalism is that human population growth must be stopped, and should actually start to decrease. This is already happening in several rich countries, but it is invariably presented as a huge problem threatening the future of the nations concerned. The population growth mainly occurs in poor nations, which were for a long time under colonial rule. Because of this, any efforts originating from the industrialized countries to curb population growth are easily viewed as tries to re-establish colonial rule. As long as the efforts are seen as the rich countries’ effort to maintain their wealth, this is an unavoidable conclusion. Thus, curbing population growth cannot succeed, if nationalistic attitude prevails: it requires understanding that it is needed for global health. Consequently, the global wealth inequality should be decreased.
Decreasing wealth inequality is largely correcting colonial injustices, which persist even today. One cannot say that the currently poor areas like Africa would be poor because of their lack of natural resources. They are poor, because the resources are not used for their benefit, but profit usually multinational companies based in rich countries. This is also true for both manufacturing and agricultural production. With regard to agricultural production, poor countries often cultivate plants which are exported to rich countries and do not feed the local population. Furthermore, the production is largely owned by companies residing in rich countries. When agricultural production is largely exported, the poor countries end up as importers of food required by the local people. With regard to industrial production, much of it is done for export. Again, the companies are largely parts of multinational ones with headquarters in rich countries. The reasons for production in poor countries is first that the salaries are very low, but also that environmental standards required for production in rich countries need not be followed whereby production costs are minimized. This type of cutting cost is the greedy economic globalism, which the true sustainable globalism should do its utmost to fight against. The solution to decreasing wealth inequality is actually quite simple. All the products from poor areas are priced as if they were produced in rich countries, and the difference in the present and future price is given to (especially women’s) education, improving the environmental standards of production and salaries. The funds cannot be given directly to the governments of the poor nations, because they are (unfortunately) often corrupt, and would just use the funds for their own benefit instead of using them for the benefit of the people.
The third part of changes, which are required in order to combat one of the grave problems, the climate change, is to stop using fossil fuels. I don’t go further in detail to it, because the two directions above will immensely help in achieving that goal, and because there are already several technological possibilities for the required change.
Why should we then do all of this? The answer is really simple: I suppose we want our children and grandchildren to be able to live in an open society. If this is our hope, we must be able to decrease the likelihood of viral transmissions from animals to humans. They have increased in frequency in recent years, because increased human population decreases the space available for animals, and consequently animal-human interactions increase. Vegetarian diet is not a solution, because direct animal-human transmissions remain a possibility. In addition to avoiding zoonosis, sustainable globalism would also decrease migrations and environmental pollution and combat climate change.
Lauantai 9.5.2020 klo 18:11 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Three quarters of the plant food we eat requires pollination. Intensive agriculture has been able to increase yields partly with the help of heavy insecticide use.
The two above sentences are in direct contradiction, as pollinators are insects. Harmful insects and beneficial insects are equally killed by insecticides. For a long period of intensive agriculture the negative effects of insecticides on pollinators were not seen, as adequate areas remained outside intensive agriculture to enable effective reproduction. However, it now seems that we have reached a tipping point, where increased intensive agriculture with heavy insecticide use decreases yields. Tipping point means that any further increase in insecticide use results in catastrophic decline of insect populations, whereby pollination is reduced and consequently agricultural production decreases markedly. This conclusion is based on the observations that insect populations have already decreased in size, and that an increasing proportion of land must be used for agricultural production to feed the ever-increasing human population. Because of this, the insecticide-free refuges for pollinators are disappearing with increasing frequency.
The media discussion at the moment concentrates mainly on neonicotinoids, but actually the type of insecticide does not matter much, because they all have a negative impact on bee and bumblebee populations. In addition to the direct effects of insecticides on bees, it is possible that the recent serious outbreaks of viruses in bee colonies are affected by insecticides reducing the efficiency of insect immune system.
The declines of pollinator populations and consecutive reduction of yields of agricultural products are another symptom of the overuse of the planet, the other notable ones being coronavirus pandemic and climate change. For climate change the reasons are overconsumption in rich countries, inequal distribution of wealth and population growth, for the other two mainly population growth. Because human population has increased beyond sustainability, major efforts should be directed towards population control. It should be done in a way that it is not seen as rich countries again imposing colonial rule. Maybe shifts in wealth distribution could help?
Perjantai 24.4.2020 klo 16:48 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The incidence of coronavirus infections has been lowest in islands or island-like areas (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Iceland, Alaska). Generally, they are sparsely populated and not important for through-traffic. However, both Taiwan and South Korea have high population densities. The low number of coronavirus infections in South Korea has usually been explained with early onset of restrictions and early start of intensive testing. That interpretation is not entirely convincing, since early onset intensive testing has also been done in places with high counts of coronavirus infections. Further, significant differences in coronavirus-induced mortalities occur between areas with high numbers of coronavirus infections.
Two articles published in the Science of the Total Environment have now, in my opinion, completely clarified both these outstanding issues. Both the incidence of infections and the lethality of infections is increased by air pollution. Especially nitrogen dioxide but probably also ozone and particulate matter increase both the incidence of coronavirus infections and the mortality caused by them (Zhu et al. Science of the Total Environment 727 (2020) 138704; Ogen Science of the Total Environment 726 (2020) 138605). In every sparsely populated place also the nitrogen dioxide level is low, but it is quite low also in Taiwan and South Korea, since the pollution does not stagnate in the area. In contrast, the polluted air remains in Lombardia and Madrid area, where coronavirus cases and mortalities abound. Also, Paris, London and New York area likely have high nitrogen dioxide level – and all have high number of coronavirus mortalities. In contrast, at least partially the low coronavirus mortality in Germany associates with relatively low nitrogen dioxide levels even in the densely populated areas.
Thus, air pollution, to a large extent because of car traffic, has significant connections with coronavirus infections. They are symptoms of the same problem, our overuse of the planet. Population bomb, talked much of in 1960-1970’s, increases the likelihood of future pandemics. An Indian author pointed out that because of the decreasing space for wild animals, their interactions with man may cause the birth of next pandemic in India ( S. Minhas, Could India be the origin of next COVID-19 like epidemic?, Science of the Total Environment (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138918)
Coronavirus Pandemic and Climate Change are Different Facets of the Same Problem: the Overuse of the Earth
Perjantai 17.4.2020 klo 19:29 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Coronavirus Pandemic and Climate Change are both different aspects of the same problem: our overuse of the Earth. Further, neither problem can be solved thinking nationally: both viruses and pollutants cross national borders with no problems. Even if hermetic closure helps to limit the spread of the current Coronavirus, without solving the problem with the overuse of the Earth there will be a next virus attacking man in the future. It is not by accident that there have been several worries about pandemics in 21st century, Ebola, SARS, swine flu, at the same time that clear Climate Change signs have been seen. Hitherto international cooperation has enabled us to avoid the worst possible outcome of the diseases, but this time it appears that the ongoing surge of nationalism has meant that instead of thinking what would be the best way to combat Coronavirus globally, one has resorted to national solutions.
The overuse of the Earth can be divided into three components, which all must be addressed in order to avoid future pandemics and combat climate change. The three components are population growth, excessive consumption by the rich and inequal wealth distribution. Quite often when one discusses with some climate activists, they claim that including population growth is virtually racism, as it “blames” the world’s poorest, who have caused little of the climate problem. On the other hand, some people from rich areas maintain that the climate problem is solely caused by population growth, as the use of fossil fuels in for example Europe has decreased for the past 30 years. Both are wrong, because they come together as a result of wealth inequality.
The reason why population growth is an ultimate problem for both Coronavirus Pandemic and Climate Change is manyfold. There are now about eight billion people living on the earth. The sheer number of people inevitably leads to increasing portion of the Earth to be used for human habitation and food production. Agricultural practices have led to land deterioration – loss of fertility and erosion, which increasing amount of land is needed to feed people, and this need is compounded by the population growth. As a result, natural habitats are changed to human use, which means both that the carbon dioxide sinks of forests decrease and that animal biodiversity gets smaller. Also, wild animals have less space and must increasingly be in close proximity to humans and domestic animals. At present, the total biomass of humans exceeds that of wild animals and the biomass of farm animals is far greater. Further, humans everywhere like to eat meat, and in most places the only way to get meat unspoiled to the customers is to have animals alive until someone buys their meat. The animals, which are sold are often wild homeothermic animals, birds and mammals. Zoonosis – a disease transmitted from animals to man – is a bacterium or virus of birds or mammals, which mutates enough to enable transmission to humans. The vegetarians naturally point out that if eating meat were stopped, both the possibility of zoonoses would disappear and climate change be reduced. Zoonosis risk would decrease markedly, but not disappear, since wild animals would still be in close contact with humans because of the diminishing area of natural environment. Climate Change would be combatted, as the carbon footprint of meat production is much larger than if vegetarian diet is used. One must remember, though, that eating fish or shellfish or terrestrial poikilotherms has only slightly higher carbon footprint than vegetarian diet. Also, there are currently no known transmission of microbial pathogens from poikilothermic animals to humans.
Although rich countries at present are decreasing their carbon dioxide emissions, the present use of Earth’s resources is severalfold compared to poor areas. Further, to reduce costs, a lot of the cultivation of plants in poor areas are done to produce goods for rich nations. The cotton and avocado cultivation uses most of the water in arid areas and is almost exclusively done for export to rich nations, and the sales do not benefit the local population. Also, the rich nations export much of their wastes like plastics and metals to poor countries, where they somehow disappear (and are found in, e.g. plastic waste gyres of the oceans); the companies from rich countries make profits on products (e.g. clothes) manufactured in poor countries with virtually no pollution control. In conclusion, we in rich nations owe a lot of our wealth to the poor areas. Consequently, we cannot say that they would not be allowed to want to have similar standard of living as we do.
This leads to the final part of the problem, wealth inequality. Correcting that is needed both to reduce the risk of future pandemics and to combat climate change. We in rich nations could easily decrease our resource use and consumption, as the present Coronavirus lockdowns indicate. The decrease could be transferred as wealth to poor areas, and the technological progress used to help everyone. If we continue with our greedy economic globalism or resort to nationalistic policies the humankind, even we rich, goes under either because of another pandemic or climate change.
Young climate activists - why they should always include African, Asian or South American individuals
Sunnuntai 26.1.2020 klo 17:30 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Young climate activists were allowed to take part in Davos Economic Forum. However, it appears that the message of requirement for huge conceptual changes in the economic thinking throughout the world is still not taken seriously. When discussing economy, world leaders seem to forget the environment when one has to decide between healthy environment and economic growth. It is completely forgotten that a functional economy requires healthy environment, and that limitless growth is not possible in a planet with limits.
Notably, American Press (AP) initially left a young black African climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of a group photo showing young climate activists attending the Davos meeting. The other activists were young white Europeans. This omission may be more serious than mere reading of the news item suggests. It prompted questions about racism, but in a way more worrying is that the only representant of activists outside the traditional industrialized countries was left out, intentionally or non-intentionally. The problem with this is that the environmental problems involve the whole globe.
As pointed out by Vanessa Nakate, the climate problem is largely caused by the massive energy consumption (mainly using fossil fuels) of traditional industrialized countries. However, presently African, Asian and South American countries are increasing their energy consumption (also mainly using fossil fuels), and without a strong contribution to climate actions from the traditional Third World countries, effective actions cannot be done. This is required, as China is already emitting most carbon dioxide in the world, and countries like India and Brazil are rapidly climbing in the statistics. An increase of energy production in those countries should be environmentally clean, which is presently not the case: while the energy consumption utilizing fossil fuels has decreased in Europe for the past 20 years, it has markedly increased in Asian and African countries. Although the use of energy per person is much lower in those countries than in traditionally industrialized countries, the new energy should be produced without fossil fuels if one tries to combat climate change. And this cannot be achieved without active movement against climate change.There is also another environmental problem, which mainly concerns the traditional Third World countries. The marked increase in human population has occurred outside the traditional industrialized countries, where population increase is close to 0. Biodiversity loss, decreased fertility of land, deforestation and such like would be of concern even if we could solve the climate problem. The overconsumption and excessive fossil fuel use, and overpopulation are thus questions that require concerted action from people at all corners of the world. In view of this, intentional or non-intentional omission of a climate activist from Africa is an unfortunate incidence. (BTW, all the young activists are female, where are all the young men).
Keskiviikko 18.12.2019 klo 14:53 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Another indication of the climate change is the observation that Australia experienced the hottest day ever. Despite this and a multitude of other signs, the backward-looking politicians like the Australian prime minister thwart any actions to combat climate change. President Trump lists as one of his major achievements “cancellation of the unfair and costly Paris Climate Agreement”.
The discussion about climate change has concentrated on coal and oil use in energy production and on eating meat. Also flying and rain forests have attracted much media attention. It is seldom mentioned that the size of the human population is a problem, and actually makes the populistic solution of going back to the past impossible. In the past that the backward-looking leaders want to return to, there were two-three billion people, now we are about eight billion. With two-three billion people, limits to growth had not been reached, now they have. The importance of unicellular algae of the ocean in generating the oxygen balance by photosynthesis is often not acknowledged. Yet, almost half of the oxygen-generating photosynthesis is carried out by these small algae. Finally, one of the important carbon dioxide sources is concrete building – it accounts close to ten percent of the present carbon dioxide emissions.
Thus, one should stop building using concrete and steel. Most of the carbon dioxide emissions are due to cement production, an indispensable component of concrete. Making brick or stone houses would already be much better than concrete. However, the pest alternative would be wooden houses. Technologies are already available, which enable building multi-store houses. Further, the probability of burning of wooden houses is much reduced from 19th century, when whole cities could burn. In a wooden house the carbon would be stored for its entire life length, up to several hundred years. Thus, if all new buildings were wood-based, the carbon footprint of building sector would decrease for 10 % of world total to 0. This would be a huge win in combatting climate change, and could be reached with the presently available techniques. In view of this, one must ask: why is it not done?
Tiistai 26.11.2019 klo 12:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Among the 11000 other scientists, I was among the signatories in the article authored by William Ripple et al. It was published in BioScience in early November, and attracted pronounced media coverage. Since the article is open access, here is a link to the published paper. Please, read it (and if you know anybody who doubts anthroponic effects on climate, get them to read it): https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088
Perjantai 1.11.2019 klo 18:38 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Climate change is a question that has filled the media because of its potential effects on all aspects of life on the Earth. In the coverage of climate change, it has become THE PROBLEM. If we can solve it, life can continue with small disturbances. In view of this, different technological solutions to combat carbon dioxide increase have been offered. Mainly they concentrate on stopping the use of fossil fuels, changing the food preferences, removing carbon dioxide from the air and stopping overconsumption. The good news is that there are technological and societal solutions for stopping climate change without a need for drastic changes in everyday life – it only needs some adjustments. The worrisome problem is that there appears no sign of change in attitudes of economic leaders. In the recent report of World Economic Forum environmental questions were not even mentioned as factors to be taken into account, when considering economic development.
The bad news is that even if the presently gravest symptom of Earth’s overuse, the climate change, can be stopped as a result of technological advancements, that does not stop the real problem: the overuse of Earth. There are two major components of this, population growth and consumption growth. Population growth demands more food production, and the increasing population in the presently poor areas will want to improve their living standards closer to, e.g., Europe. However, the food production with present agricultural methods has decreased the fertile soil by 50-70 %. Also, the present type of food production requires insecticides, herbicides and other pesticides, and artificial fertilizers. Already with the present population the pesticide use causes decrease of beneficial insect populations, which are required for the growth of berries, fruits and many oil-producing plants. So one would need to revert to environmentally friendly agricultural production. The problem is that consequently the production will decrease and will be unable to feed the presently increasing population. Because the fertility of land decreases, also new areas need to be taken to agriculture. This is difficult, since most of arable land is already in use. The increasing population also needs more space, and consequently habitation takes agricultural land and forest. As a result biodiversity decreases.
With regard to consumption, it is difficult to decrease environmental pollution even if recycling and water treatment technologies are effective. There are always people, who do not follow good practises, and developing areas do not see the treatment of wastes and water purification as priorities. Consequently, environmental pollution continues to increase throughout the world. Both aquatic and terrestrial organisms will be affected.Thus, one can say that even if there were no climate change, other drastic symptoms of Earth’s overuse would be in the news. The basic problem is that limitless growth is the basis of economy in a planet which clearly has limits.
Lauantai 5.10.2019 klo 16:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa
First, I need to point out that I like children, and the future of mankind depends on an adequate number of children. However, population growth is the root of all environmental and climate problems we have. It was quite shocking to see, for example, a picture where world population change and change of energy consumption were both included. The two figures could have been superimposed. This is because during recent years the energy consumption in areas with high energy use has decreased, but in developing countries every additional person increases the (per person small) energy consumption.
In view of this, the recent report that the number of children has decreased in every part of the world is really something positive. This opinion is opposite to the worry that the proponents of continuous growth preach. According to them the population needs to grow in order to guarantee future well-being. However, isn’t the outset behind limitless growth untenable? For continuing until eternity, it would require that there are no limits in the earth’s resources. The climate change, environmental pollution, erosion and decrease of suitable agricultural land, overfishing, and biodiversity loss all indicate that we have reached the limits of the earth. Since it is largely caused by increasing human population, any decrease and even stop of population growth is welcome.
It is even more welcome that population is starting to shrink in industrialized countries. This is because every person in, e.g., Europe uses a given amount of resources 5-10 times faster than a person in Asia or Africa. Thus, a modest population increase in Africa and a small population decrease in Europe will mean an overall decrease in resource use. However, the closer the gross national product in African countries gets to that of European and North American countries, the smaller the possible effect is.
In view of the above considerations we need to start thinking in global (environmental) terms. Putting walls between nations and thinking nationalistically is the worst we can do – since none of the environmental problems and their consequences follow national boundaries. It is further important to note that even if population growth already decreases, without additional measures the world population increases another hundred years. Because of this, the two measures which are the most effective means of decreasing birth rate, improving education and women’s status, should be in the centre of any developmental aid. One cannot and must not accept patriarchal aspects of culture: people should be treated equal regardless of their gender, colour, ethnicity or disability.
Torstai 1.8.2019 klo 10:38 - William J. Ripple et al.
This is not written by me, but the real writers wanted it to be shared as widely as possible
World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (Condensed Version)
William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, xxxx scientist signatories from xxx countries
We scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any great existential threat. In this paper, we present a suite of graphical vital signs of climate change over the last 40 years. Results show greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, with increasingly damaging effects. With few exceptions, we are largely failing to address this predicament. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity. We suggest six critical and interrelated steps that governments and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change, covering 1) Energy, 2) Short-lived pollutants, 3) Nature, 4) Food, 5) Economy, and 6) Population. Mitigating and adapting to climate change entails transformations in the ways we govern, manage, feed, and fulfill material and energy requirements. We are encouraged by a recent global surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. The Pope issued an encyclical on climate change. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change. As scientists, we urge widespread use of our vital signs and anticipate that graphical indicators will better allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities to alleviate climate change. The good news is that such transformative change, with social and ecological justice, promises greater human wellbeing in the long-run than business as usual. We believe that prospects will be greatest if policy makers and the rest of humanity promptly respond to our warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.
William J. Ripple email: email@example.com
Sunnuntai 24.3.2019 klo 19:49 - Mikko Nikinmaa
We need to live in this planet. There is no alternative universe, where we can jump to if we overuse the resources of Earth. Although climate change is the single topic that has caught general attention, it is no more than a symptom of the general sickness of Gaia. There are several other symptoms that will also unattended make life problematic.
In all of this, the major problem is that the decision makers were young in the world that didn't have any of the environmental problems, which the teenagers today are faced with. A week ago schoolchildren around the world demonstrated against climate change. Not surprisingly a lot of people in my generation said that they are just taking time off school. Their thinking is not idealistic or important. - People completely forget when saying this that when we were young, we demonstrated against Vietnam War, were worried about population growth and chained ourselves to dredging machines, which were spoiling lakes for economical land use. In fact, many of the problems associated with climate change would not be acute, if we had, in addition to demonstrating, used our working life to solve the environmental questions.
The major problems are the large world population, and the very uneven distribution of wealth in the world. Together these generate much of the refugee problem, which cannot be solved by closing our borders, building walls, and decreasing foreign aid. On the contrary, increasing foreign aid is the only possible solution. People would not move to rich countries, if life in their living place were tolarable. Also, schooling of women is by far the most effective way of decreasing population growth. Further, we in the rich North lived quite happily 50 years ago, when our standard of living was only a fraction of what it is today.
This partial solution requires that we, the generation in power, stop thinking in the old ways, and admit that one has to do things that cost. We cannot keep taking from our children's well-being to be able to go towards a crash in first class.
Lauantai 10.11.2018 klo 11:17
Reading the news, two problems are invariably brought forward: population growth in Japan and Europe have completely stopped and economic growth is again slowing down. These are given as negative news, although at the same time the news bring forward that this year the day that the resources of the world that could be used per year if sustainability were the aim was reached earlier than ever. Consequently, both news items about the stop of population growth and and decrease of economic growth are positive news for the Earth, hopefully more of them follow.
As a need for economic growth, it is invariably said that if economic growth does not continue, one cannot continue with the present benefits - but wait a minute, those if us who lived in 1970s lived quite happily then, even though all the economic indicators were much worse than today .- the gross national product was only a fraction of today's and there are many things all of us consume now, which were not needed then: and honestly, do we really need them.
As a need for population growth it is usually said that without it there is not enough working force to pay pensions to retired people (and jobless atc.). Again, wait a minute, at the moment immigration is the most negatively thought-about aspect of life in Europe. Wouldn't it be actually right to welcome immigrants and say that they are needed to make it possible to continue the welfare states of Europe. If this were the attitude, I bet the majority of immigrants would soon assimilate to society. And if immugration were mostly young people and children, taken in with a positive attitude, they wood soon see their new living place as home and try to make the normal habits there their own. The hostile apartheid mentality of the right wing populists generates hate and conflicts, which is good for nobody.
To combat the major environmental problems in the world, we would need to forget nation satates, and think that we are citizens of the world. This does not mean that we would need to forget our identity or that we should not try to convince other people about the points done well in our societies. But - I can say that I am a Finnish World citizen, against inequality, male white domination, environmental distruction etc. However, although my aims are good, I make mistakes - human as I am.
Tiistai 9.10.2018 klo 20:26 - Mikko Nikinmaa
In the late 1960s, when I became an environmentlaists (and still am 50 years later), the major worry was population growth. Then it was estimated that food production would soon become a problem. However, as a result of advances in agricultural methods, the absolute hunger in the world has decreased, although the population has increased threefold. However, one can say that virtually all of the present mejor global problems are due to population growth. I was shocked to see two charts superimposed: the population growth and the energy consumption in the world. The graphs were more or less identical. So, the climate change is very much to do with population growth. If the population could decrease to the level that it was in 1960s, there would be no climate change, nor would there be the global plastic problem etc.
Naturally we cannot forcefully decrease world population, but one of the ways to migitate climate change should be to decrease population growth in Asia and Africa. And there could be quite a simple way to do this with everyone being happy. Much of the developmental aid could be tied to birth control: if a family had maximally two children, they would be given a certain yerly sum of money. This would probably be more effective way of combatting climate change in developing counties than anything else.
Sunnuntai 19.8.2018 klo 12:37 - Mikko Nikinmaa
When thinking of the most sustainable diet, it is normally considered that one should turn to fully vegetarian one to feed world's population. If animal products were used at all, they should be from ectotherms like insects and fish. Against this background it came as a surprise that having a small amount of traditional farm animal products in the diet actually reduces the land use needed for obtaining a given amount of energy even as compared to vegetarian diets. This surprising result is caused by the fact that farm animals can utilize feed that is human refuse - something that cannot be included in vegetarian diets. Pigs and cows happily eat the leaves of sugarbeets and turnips, which would just be left to rot and to release the carbon dioxide taken up back to the environment, if strictly vegetarian diet were utilized. This surprising conclusion was reviewd by van Zanten et al. recently (Glob Change Biol. 2018;24:4185–4194). So, the most sustainable diet includes some animal products.
Tiistai 10.7.2018 klo 10:52 - Mikko Nikinmaa
In 1960's-1970's when the environmental movement started, population growth was considered to be maybe the biggest problem for the future of the earth - it was considered that world's agriculture could not feed population exceeding 5 000 000 000. We are now 8 000 000 000. So, the development of agricultural practises has enabled food production far beyond the expectations of late 20th century.
However, that does not mean that there would not be many problems associated with the large population. The increase in agricultural production has been achieved with the help of pronounced pesticide use and artificial (mineral) fertilization. Fertilization in crop production is an important component in eutrophication of waters, which is also caused by the excretion of people and livestock. Water and land is polluted by pesticides and other toxicants. Recently, as a result of waste production of the large human population, the huge plastics problem has been generated. One can also say that the climate change, associated with the large use of fossil fuels, is caused by the large population.
Further, the oceans are overfished, the mineral resources are overexploited etc. In fact, the earth's resources are drastically overused - if the population were much smaller, the overuse were much easier to avoid.
The World Population Day is on July 11. As one aim of the future for world population is to curb population growth. In Europe the population is not increasing any more, and the same could and should be the goal for every other part of the world. The second aim should be to increase recycling: instead of producing new products of virgin materials and at the end of the product's life time throwing it away, everything should be recycled. It would be important for us in Europe to have all the household machines to be made so that they would be repaired instead of being thrown away/replaced when broken down. As a final aim, the whole concept of economy should be changed: economic growth should not be sought for.
As individuals and families/groups we can celebrate World Population Day by decreasing the group's use of resources per time. The manifest of concerned scientists can be found at http://www.scientistswarning.org/, which generally is a site to follow if one is interested in anthropogenic influences on Earth.