Search Results: A Plan for the Nations

The Legacy of Lima?

At Yale University October 14th, Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, suggested that – along lines of what is now being termed New Zealand’s approach – the way towards a climate change treaty involves creating fluid parameters on a nation-by-nation basis. Said Stern, if countries come together and work through it according to the […]

It’s Personal: Why leaders don’t turn climate knowledge into action

There is an abundance of profitable business opportunity to be found in addressing sustainability issues. These stand out against the difficulties we face implementing effective change. Globally, the World Bank recently found that tackling climate change would help to grow the world’s economy by US$1.8 to 2.6 trillion a year. Private sector investors argue for […]

If I had a hammer

Currently, we are seeing that the behavior Homo sapiens is not really much different from the other species that occupy our planet.  When overcrowded and with short resources, fighting, malnutrition and disease erupt.  Self-centered, rather than group, behavior dominates.  We listen to a few (economists and religious zealots) who promise that a better future awaits.  We […]

The Occluded Mirror: A Question of True Transparency

So it is now “official”: we can expect to see no stabilization of the human population by 2100. By that time, we are likely to number 11 billion, with at least a meager likelihood of our having hit 13 billion. “Meager” has always boded ill in terms of scientific projections. Our worst nightmares – whether […]

Population, Climate Change, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

“The prevention of unintended and unwanted pregnancies plays a crucial role with respect to climate change mitigation, particularly in developed nations that have large carbon footprints, but even in the developing world, the prevention of unplanned pregnancies can make a significant contribution to reducing projected levels of carbon emissions.”

Can Earth’s and Society’s Systems Meet the Needs of 10 Billion People?

Summary of a Workshop The Earth’s population, currently 7.2 billion, is expected to rise at a rapid rate over the next 40 years. Current projections state that the Earth will need to support 9.6 billion people by the year 2050, a figure that climbs to nearly 11 billion by 2100 (United Nations, 2012). At the […]

Not Yet?

The summer 2014 issue of CALIFORNIA, the magazine of the University of California Alumni Association, was touted as the “Apocalypse Issue.” It contained articles, mostly excellent, on a series of potential California and global problems: asteroid collision, epidemics, extinction, climate disruption and earthquake.  In stark contrast, though, was a summary article, “Apocalypse Later” by Brendan […]

Dodging Extinction

Power, Food, Money and the Future of Life on Earth Paleobiologist Anthony D. Barnosky weaves together evidence from the deep past and the present to alert us to the looming Sixth Mass Extinction and to offer a practical, hopeful plan for avoiding it. Writing from the front lines of extinction research, Barnosky tells the overarching […]

Economists’ Growth Insanity

 Virtually every economist rejects the concept of limiting growth – by which they normally mean growth in GDP.  As Larry Summers, famous as a major cause of the recent U.S. financial disaster, once stated, “The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error, and one that, were […]

How Should We Look at the Chances of Climate Catastrophe?

Is it ironic or predictable that Harvard’s President, Drew Faust, would enter into a Faustian bargain over climate change and the University’s investments in carbon-intensive companies? Let’s suppose that, by pure chance, it turns out that there is a 90% probability that the climate denier campaign paid for or organized by those companies is correct […]

Scientists: Are we all the same?

Science is defined simply as discovery, explanation and presentation (see my earlier post entitled Science explained), but what exactly are scientists? What’s their connection to Science? How important are they? Scientists all have a direct connection with science, but may be categorised on the basis of whether they carry out scientific research, and thus develop […]

British birth rate leaps by 18% in a decade

British women are having significantly more children than a decade ago, with birth rates for mothers in England and Wales up by 18 per cent, official figures show. Improvements in fertility treatments allowing people to start families later and a growing population of second generation migrants are amongst possible explanations for the rise.

Humanity’s Gamble (II)

Our apparently robust civilization is facing a prospect of global breakdown as major support systems begin to crumble.  Locked into a centuries-long course of growth and expansion, humanity has taken over the planet’s land surface and assaulted the oceans, denying more and more living space and resources to other life-forms.  Natural resources needed to support […]

Moral Negligence

 Do Canada’s stance on climate change and the nation’s current economic development plan constitute moral negligence? It was several days before media reports and commentary on the havoc caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines finally began to acknowledge a possible connection to anthropogenic climate change. While no single hyper-storm can be positively attributed to human […]

Global Dash of Folly

Individuals have been raising alarm about the impacts of humanity on its life-support systems as far back as George Perkins Marsh in the 1800s and even Plato BCE.  But the scientific community only began to give organized voice to environmental concerns in the United States in the late 1960s with the National Academy of Sciences […]

Population and “Natural” Disasters

Think of all the “natural disasters” with which we’re afflicted: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, storm surges, hurricanes, cyclones, and so on.  And note that the impacts of such events are almost always worse if the human population affected is large.  Typhoon Haiyan’s severity in 2013 was likely population related because the huge population of Homo sapiens […]

Yasuni Drilling: Ethical Failure and Gross Stupidity

When a large oil deposit – almost a billion barrels — was discovered under Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park in the Amazon, it seemed to foretell yet another disaster for Earth’s disappearing plants and animals.  The Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinia (ITT) area of Yasuni is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, a world Biosphere Reserve supporting more tree species in each […]

A Confused Statistician

Hans Rosling has been making a splash lately telling people his five pieces of good news that should “upgrade their world view” (  One is that “Fast population growth is coming to an end.”  Globally, that may be true, but it is not happening soon, and it certainly isn’t true for countries like Nigeria, Zambia, […]

Population Statistics: What Should We Make of Them?

Recently the United Nations has published a revised estimate of the size of future human populations, projecting a rise from almost 7.2 billion people now to 9.6 billion around 2050.  How seriously should we take this?  The first context in which we might consider these numbers is that of humanity’s ecological footprint.  Our footprint is […]

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