On what basis are these newest cornucopian assurances made? In the New York Times piece, for instance, Ellis Erle asserts that after studying the ecology of agriculture in China and talking to archaeologists, he reached the conclusion that technologies have always been able to overcome any anticipated exceedance of carrying capacity. A key corroboration marshaled for this view refers to a retrospective assessment of Chinese farming by archaeologists. It purportedly claims that new and more efficient technologies invariably enabled local farmers to overcome any anticipated exceedance of carrying capacity.
If food security is the criterion, it is particularly ironic that arguments are based on China. Anyone with a teaspoon of historic sensibilities about the country’s environmental history might want to mention its long litany of famines which occurred precisely because carrying capacities were consistently outstripped by a growing population.
Conservative estimates report that China’s most recent food crisis, between 1958 and 1961, led to the starvation of over twenty million people, in part due to the erosion of China’s natural capital. Uncontrolled human fertility led to a depletion of the land’s fertility. Previous famines were worse. Over the years, hundreds of millions died a horrible death of hunger. Their misery should teach a sobering lesson about insouciant disregard for the balance between human numbers and natural resources.
Chinese one-child policy has been tough medicine, and implementation was clearly flawed. But it also prevented the next round of famines that would have taken far more lives had China continued to race forward and became a nation of two billion. Even so, China today still needs to bolster local food supply by attaining lands overseas.
It gives little satisfaction for sustainable population advocates to point out that the past twenty years saw an estimated 200 million hunger-related deaths worldwide. Relatively few occurred in countries where population was stable. The U.N. reports that today one in eight people in the world suffers chronic undernourishment. Almost without exception, they live in developing regions, where most of the planet’s population growth continues apace. If family planning had been energetically promoted years ago, enormous suffering could have been avoided.
Present global trends will lead to a doubling of the world’s urban areas by 2050. That means that cities, mostly in developing countries, will expand from 3 to 6 percent of all-ice free land. It also means that 10 to 15 percent of lands farmed today would be taken out of production. In a perfect world we would have better ways of distributing surplus food to famine stricken regions or promoting land reform to optimize food production. But for the foreseeable future we will be living in a very imperfect world where communities need to take care of themselves and maintain sustainable populations.
Overpopulation is not just about food shortages and human suffering. Ecologists explain that the collapse in global biodiversity is also linked to overpopulation. China, Mexico and Brazil have been singled out as extreme cases of species loss. Brazil’s population grew four fold during the past sixty years; little wonder the Amazon is feeling the pressure. Mexico and China’s growth is comparable.
Israel offers a microcosm of the global situation: A meeting point of three continents, at the middle of the twentieth century, this tiny country was still home to an astonishing assemblage of mammals, birds and reptiles. That’s because in 1949 there were one million people living in Israel. Today there are eight million. The equation is simple: more people means less wildlife. Accordingly, about a third of the country’s 115 indigenous mammal species today are either endangered or critically endangered. The amphibian population is almost entirely extirpated.
Israel has a remarkable program of conservation and its powerful Nature and Parks Authority set aside 25% of the country for reserves. But growing human settlement continues to fragment habitats and undermine the benefits that nature provides. These go far beyond any individual organism. When humans encroach on open spaces, they also lose the free services that nature provides: filters for clean water, protection from hurricanes, natural pollinators, soil integrity and recreational resources. The rapid rise in populations also tends to sabotage basic social services: schools are crowded, medical care overwhelmed, the legal system backed up, transportation gridlock unbearable and accessible housing inadequate. Infrastructure has a very hard keeping up with relentless growth.
Technological Pollyannas suggest that today’s technologies mean that we in the West needn’t be concerned. But of course we should. There are global limits that affect us all. Even Israel, whose ultra-hi-tech agriculture probably yields more “crop per drop” than any other country is only able to produce 45% of the calories required for its growing population.
The good news is that public policy matters and can reduce overpopulation. Many countries, from Bangladesh and Iran to Singapore and Thailand adopted policies that incentify small families, make birth control available, provide better social security and most of all — empower women. The results are remarkable, showing that trend need not be destiny. As population began to stabilize, the drop in undernourished people in Asia and the Pacific went down from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent. The quality of education, housing and health improved as a matter course.
It is time to realize that there is a tradeoff between “quality of life” and “quantity of life.” In a planet with limited resources — sustainable growth is an oxymoron. Of course humanity could all shift to vegan diets, forgo national parks and crowd in a few more billion people, hoping that new levels of efficiency will allow us to survive. But it is well to ask if this really is the kind of world that we want? There is much we can do to reduce the suffering caused by human population growth. But recognizing that overpopulation is a perilous problem constitutes a critical first step.
Lack of faith in the health care law and frustration with the ongoing stagnation of the economy are two of the reasons for the lack of support, but one thing in particular seems to be truly irking the body politic: the complete and utter dysfunction in Washington, D.C.
While many people are frustrated with President Obama’s job performance, it’s nothing compared to the all-out disgust that they have for Congress, and especially Congressional Republicans. Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of the GOP members in Congress and nine out of ten want Congress to avoid a government shutdown.
With this sort of landscape, what’s a president to do with a key decision like whether or not to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline?
If the White House was making the decision solely on the scientific evidence against the project, the pipeline would have been rejected long ago. The nation’s top climate scientists have repeatedly written to the president urging him to reject the project because of the impacts it will have on the climate, not to mention the risk of spills, local air pollution, wildlife impacts, and other problems that come with ramming a 1,700 mile pipeline through the heart of America.
But Keystone XL has become a political decision, and the White House is clearly weighing the electoral implications of the project as the State Department wraps up its final assessment of the pipeline and the decision heads to the President’s desk.
When it comes to politics, the answer on Keystone XL is as clear as the science: reject this pipeline.
The Republicans have seized onto Keystone XL as one of their top priorities and continue to posture and play games in Congress to try and force approval. The latest trick is a bogus attempt to attach pipeline approval to the budget negotiations — because clearly it’s worth shutting down the entire U.S. government so a Canadian company can profit from building an export pipeline that will only create 30 permanent American jobs.
If Obama approved the project now, it would look like he was caving to pressure from Congressional Republicans — the same Congressional Republicans who 75 percent of the country think are taking America in the wrong direction. Approval would make the president look weak-kneed and spineless, just when he’s trying to look more strong and commanding. It would be giving a major handout to the very people who are trying to take him down. And it would show the American people that Democratic leaders would rather play games inside the beltway then stand up for the values they say they believe in — remember, this is the president who said that he would “end the tyranny of oil” and “slow the rise of the oceans” during his administration.
And if caving to Congressional Republicans wasn’t bad enough, a decision to greenlight the pipeline would also look like President Obama was bowing down to pressure from the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a George Bush-style oilman who has transformed our friendly Northern neighbor into more of a petrostate, complete with crackdowns on scientific freedom, attacks on indigenous rights, and pressure campaigns against environmental organizations. Not exactly a progressive leader to be aligning oneself with.
Finally, a Keystone XL approval would be a major give away to the very corporations that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to stymie the president and take down the Democratic party and their allies: the fossil fuel industry. President Obama likes rallying crowds against the Koch Brothers. As it turns out, they have a major stake in Keystone XL and would make huge profits off the project. And since Keystone XL would help dramatically expand tar sands production (why do you think the industry and PM Harper are pushing so hard for it?), the fossil fuel bonanza wouldn’t stop there. Approving the pipeline wouldn’t just pump more carbon into the atmosphere, it would pump more money directly into the pockets of Obama’s greatest enemies.
Keystone XL has emerged as the biggest environmental fight of this generation. Young people have mobilized on hundreds of college campuses across the country to protest the project and the fossil fuel industry that’s promoting it. Last February, over 40,000 people came to Washington, D.C. to push the president to take the nation “Forward on Climate” and stop Keystone XL. To borrow a phrase, the fight against Keystone XL has gotten the climate movement fired up and ready to go.
Whether we’re ready to go work with the president to secure his climate legacy by building out a clean energy economy that can create jobs here in America or whether we’re ready to go get arrested back at the White House and fight tooth and nail to stop Keystone XL even if it gets presidential approval — over 75,000 people have committed to take part in acts of civil disobedience to block the project — is up to the White House.
Keystone XL is a clear test of President Obama’s commitment to his values and to the principles that he ran on. Caving now wouldn’t just be a bad decision for the environment, it would leave a stain on the Presidency and the president himself. We sincerely hope he does the right thing.
Image courtesy of American Express’ Tumblr, a resource that creates and curates content to inspire, motivate and advise people on a range of subjects–covering health/wellness, personal finance, DIY and the new definition of success. This specific Tumblr post was inspired by Laura Vanderkam via Fast Company.
We know, we know, big drinks are bad for you. But even the most vehement drink-size critic can’t really illustrate just how bad. So we decided to take some of the biggest, baddest drinks in town and compare them to food. Because it’s one thing to know that a Double Gulp of Mountain Dew has 193 grams of sugar, and quite another to realize that that’s the same amount in more than two (two!) pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
If you need us, we’ll be chugging water in the corner.
Video by Amber Genuske, Meredith Melnick, Laura Schocker and Rachael Grannell
This is an important conversation for us all to engage in, and experts such as Dr. Charles Czeisler, head of Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine, and others are convinced that the role of corporate America is to lead a social revolution making sleep the third pillar of health. The sleep experts are leading the charge, along with influencers from a variety of industries and communities.
This past May in Cambridge, Mass. I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Harvard Corporate Sleep Summit. Julia Kirby of the Harvard Business Review was present along with myself, our ICAN Board Chair Scott Focht and fellow representatives from Procter & Gamble, Twitter, Sysco, Wal-Mart and Eli Lilly.
The conversation was dynamic and enlightening. So, what if we all “woke up” to the reality that healthy sleep leads to better outcomes, happier lives and a more productive society? What if our employees were not required to be “on 24-7,” but rather alive with energy and fully engaged? Could we have, as a nation, a new competitive advantage if companies across the country took a stand that sleep was the third pillar of health, alongside diet and exercise?
Three years later, I now average six to seven hours of sleep and am working my way to eight. On my personal journey to healthy sleep, I have learned what constitutes unhealthy sleep and the deadly link to heart disease, depression, attention deficit, and so many other physical and emotional issues.
Here are a few facts on how this movement might contribute to a thriving individual, team and organization:
Acute or chronic insomnia affects nearly a quarter of all U.S. workers, resulting in 367 million lost workdays per year and a cost to employers of nearly63.2 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity. (The Fiscal Times, July 2013, “How a bad night’s sleep can ruin your career”)
Lack of sleep affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls innovation, self-control and creativity.
Sleep deprivation affects an employee’s learning, memory, critical problem solving, ethical decision making, creativity and innovation in the workplace. (The Fiscal Times, July 2013, “How a bad night’s sleep can ruin your career”)
Sleep loss can impair judgment, impacts the frontal lobe of the brain and has negative effects on decision-making such as sensitivity to risk-taking, moral reasoning and inhibitions. (Maclean’s, June 2013, “The Sleep Crisis”)
Changing work cultures and constant connection to smartphones and digital devices is wreaking havoc with many Americans’ sleep patterns. (Huffington Post, May 2013, “5 Things You Should Know About Sleep Health in the Workplace)
I first heard the statement “sleep is the new sex” from Marian Salzman, a futurist and trend analyst who spoke at our 2009 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference. In other words, no longer was seeking intimacy at the end of our long day a priority, but rather the deliciousness of uninterrupted sleep.
At that time I hadn’t slept for a year — at least not through the night — and as for sex, well — whatever! I woke up exhausted, feeling burdened by the 3 a.m. endless, often torturous conversations with only myself. Those diatribes meticulously reviewed every single aspect of my life — money, work, relationships, career, family and the minutia of the everyday — all the way through my life until I died. Which, by 6 o’clock in the morning, I was convinced was imminent.
I am here to tell you — a good night’s sleep is better than sex, and if you have healthy sleep, you may once again want sex. The world looks brighter already, doesn’t it?
#alkalinity #alkalinitymovement #7.2 #sevenpointtwo