Overuse of the Earth is the Problem: Climate Change is just a Symptom

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 neIMG_20170801_0087.jpgws 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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: biodiversity, environmental pollution, population growth, agriculture

Good News - the Number of Children in the World Is Decreasing

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 industriIMG_20170803_0028.jpgalized 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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, resource use, climate change

World Scientists' Warning on Climate Emergency

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

Mikko Nikinmaa

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: scientistswarning@oregonstate.edu

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, environmental economics, population growth

We don't have a plan B

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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, resource utilization, biodiversity, population growth

Growth - threat to Earth

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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, economic growth, sustainability, gross national product

Population explotion and climate change - close connection

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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, energy consumption, carbon dioxide

Meat-containing diet - not as bad as usually thought

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.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: land use, climate change, food consumption, population growth

World Population Day

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.

 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, sustainability, climate change, resource use

State of the world - what has happened in 25 years

Lauantai 18.11.2017 klo 12:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Twenty five years ago the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" (with the major authors and 1700 scientists' signatures) where they were concerned about population growth, freshwater availability, climate change, extinctions etc. Now, scientists have looked at what has happened in the past 25 years, and concluded that "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: Second Notice" was in order. This article was published on November 13 in Bioscience with William J. Ripple as the first author (in addition to the major authors the article had 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries). Apart from the ozone hole, which is now starting to shrink, all the environmental problems recognized in 1992 have become worse, and are still continuing to be more detrimental. For example, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions has increased in the last year after it had stabilized or even slightly decreased in the previous two years. In the past 25 years, the availability of fresh water has decreased by 25 %, mean global temperature increased by 0.5 degrees C, carbon dioxide emissions have almost doubled, the dead zones in marine areas increased by almost a third, forests decreased by about 5 % and vertebrate species number decreased by about 30 %. Although human population growth has stopped in the developed countries, the same thing has not happened in Africa and most Asian countries, whereby the total world population has increased by almost 40 % with no sign of increase rate to be slowing down. The number of extinctions in vertebrates is probably much smaller than that of invertebrates - for example insect biomass in certain protected areas in Germany has decreased by 75 %. A significant problem is also that despite increased catching effort, the marine fish catches have decreased by about 20 % from the best years. One final note of the gloomy statistics, we consider almost always only deforestration as causing a decrease in carbon dioxide removal. However, because of the prevalence of sea area, almost half of global photosynthetic activity takes place in marine algae. Marine pollution has decreased algal photosynthesis by approximately 10 % in the past 25 years.                                

Although most of the indices show radical worsening in the state of global environment, the situation with ozone hole indicates that if mankind heeds the warnings, we are able to make the changes required to keep the environment in satisfactory state. The stratospheric ozone layer above Antarctica is now strongest since 1988. If similar united actions were done for the other questions pinpointed by the authors of the Bioscience article, they could also be solved in reasonable fashion. Changes of diet, schooling, improvement of women's situation, discontinuation of fossil fuel use could all be done if we so decided.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: deforestration, population growth, fisheries, climate change, extinctions