Mark Hurych

This conversation is closed.

Imagine a scenario this century that is very bleak for agriculture. What do you think we should do to address humanity's thrivability?

Suppose two things:
Suppose that the food producing carrying capacity (the number of people that can be fed from arable land) of the Earth within this century becomes less than one billion due to climate change, what do you think we should do to address thrivability? Suppose that you had all the necessary resources to act. For full credit, apply empathy, logic, and self-integrating system properties. Yes, this might be on the final exam.

talks:
Jeremy Rifkin,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

Paul Gilding,
http://paulgilding.com/pauls-blog/my-talk-at-ted-2012-now-available.html

Ray Kurzweil,
http://www.ted.com/talks/ray_kurzweil_on_how_technology_will_transform_us.html

Michelle Holliday,
http://waltsearch.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/michelle-hollidays-ted-talk-on-thrivability-the-future-of-humanity/

Closing Statement from Mark Hurych

Thanks to everyone that participated. I apologize to anyone who might have felt slighted.

The answer I got here is that people are on many different islands of being about humanity's current reality. We all have hopes and fears but our paradigms I've found are unexpectedly different. Our perspectives and priorities sometimes don't even seem to have common ground.

I very much want to find that common ground, across cultures, across the globe, across everything that separates and isolates us. One way I plan to address this yearning is by tuning my questions to be more inclusive and collective.

I feel that art does this, pulls us together and gives us common ground, even across language barriers and across time. I want to be good. This sounds so strange but I want to be a good ancestor. I don't see myself as an artist but I would very much like to do something for the greater good the way a composer or an artist might leave behind an inspiring artifact.

Peace.

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    Lejan .

    • +2
    Dec 29 2012: I found this BBC documentary by Rebecca Hosking quite alarming and she did change my view on the future of our current food production:

    A Farm For The Future
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3sxMByA1R0
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      Dec 29 2012: Thanks for your input. (I'll dig up an extra credit question about boundary conditions where you get to answer, "Well, isn't that obvious.") I will look into your "A Farm For The Future" source. I wonder how many people have seen the "Meatrix" video. Funny and informative.
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      Dec 30 2012: OMG, Lejan. Spot on. Cool. Far out. Yes. The clip and ideas promoted i it are the basis for Permaculture and other practices of horticulture that are designed to promote life and diversity in the soil, thereby building natural capital. I'm going to follow up on the references and links associated with BBC clip, On the downside, uh, it wasn't that obvious. Not really.
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        Lejan .

        • +1
        Dec 31 2012: Hi Mark,
        it wasn't that obvious to me either before I stumbled across Rebecca Hosking. Actually I was surprised that I did not see this dangerous connection between fossil fuels and food production before her documentary by myself, so I was speechless in more than just one aspect of her story...

        There is another interesting BBC documentary about agriculture, actually ancient agriculture and what we could learn from it. It is about 'Terra preta' or 'black soil' which was found in the Amazonian area as silent relicts of a once flourishing indigenous society:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Os-ujelkgw

        This video gets a bit slowly to the point and consist out of two parts with a pause in between. At time 49:16 the second part begins and 'dives' much deeper into the topic, whereas the first part focus more on the historical context.

        As you seem to be interested in agriculture and in case you have not heard about 'Tera preta' before, this might give you some additional ideas, especially as it is quite compatible with the presented solutions by Rebecca Hosking.

        Wikipedia gives some additional information about it:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

        I found the 'Meatrix' video some while ago and I think it is a good way to make some people understand what they are eating. As I grew up in a quite sensitive environment on this topic, the video didn't tell me anything new, yet many people may get to think a bit deeper into it and hopefully act upon it in making their choices...
  • Dec 29 2012: When things get bleak people tend to individualize. For example; in WW II families grew thier own small garden plots. Then they would share/trade with neighbors. They would give it other advise on how to make things last longer and nothing was wasted. It's survival and respect for each other at its best.
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      Dec 31 2012: Before things actually get bleak but while the predictions are considered as a possibility, what would you do to avert them? Would you grow a garden for food? Would you promote this idea? What other ideas do you have?
      • Jan 2 2013: Yes, incourage the growing of food. Also, since the 1920's food distribution has always been a problem. We grow and throwaway more food then we can consume, even today. So, this needs to be addressed. Some mentioned that it takes time to grow food, but many plants that are out there have never been used for human consumsion (sic). I have traveled the world and believe me cultural differences has created various appetites for unusual items. For example; grubs, insects, certain grasses and plants such as dandilion (in your own back yard). People will find and eat things they never would have thought about. History has proven that.
  • Dec 29 2012: The cause of this problem wouldn't matter, nor would anyone care. The break point which could cause this dire situation would trump everything.

    Imagine the information age world is going from seven billion plus toward one billion people on a downhill slide.

    A situation that would result in this kind of drastic reduction in human population numbers would appear to be the end of the world. Cooperative behavior would not disappear, but would likely give away to our more cunning and aggressive side in the battle to survive.

    Spaceship earth could take on a new reality none of us would want to contemplate. Individual or group efforts no matter how thoughtfully considered and employed to restore faith would go unnoticed. Just maintaining basic law and order could be impossible in some areas as gangs go wild in the cities creating their own new world order.

    Food and ammunition would disappear from retail outlets as people would grab what they could despite efforts to lessen the panic. Businesses would likely disappear to black markets and barter systems. Who knows what would happen nationally.

    At the very least, or perhaps best, much of the world would be under emergency rule to maintain as much order as possible to weather the crisis. It well may be our best hope to recapture a retrievable stable human niche and retain some civility in the process.

    I hope I didn't sound to negative - this is just a theoretical exercise, right?
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      Dec 31 2012: "The cause of this problem wouldn't matter, nor would anyone care." I care. As well, I think that the ONLY way to address any problem is by understanding what it is and what its causes are. I do not like contemplating gloomy scenarios as they might play out. However, I do want to anticipate that we can alter the outcomes.
      • Jan 1 2013: Hi Mark,

        Incidentally, I care too, otherwise I wouldn't be so active on TED. I share your concern about our well being on spaceship earth. Keep up the good work.

        My preferred approach to our existing and pending environmental problems is best addressed by cutting tax deductions for those having children. Also the efforts to assist family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancies is important. I liked what Melinda Gates in her TED Talk had to say on this subject.

        I see this as more an issue of idealism than education. I think the world is grossly overpopulated and we are paying an accelerating negative environmental price for that reality.

        On the other hand, it is likely we could continue to sustain more and more people by the talents and application of our education systems. For example, we can genetically modify fish, plants, etc., to be larger to better feed the multitudes despite the harm to wild fisheries, native plants, etc. Engineers can mitigate global warming by doing - who knows what. And on and on it goes. All the while talk show radio will explain to the masses why these commercial operations are a godsend.

        I am not a purist. I appreciate technology, economics, politics, etc., but I don't worship these things.
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    Lejan .

    • +1
    Dec 29 2012: Well, isn't that obvious?

    Ok, I have to admit that the worst grades I ever got started with exactly this phrase, yet I do not claim to be capable of learning ... :o)

    So let's see what's left in my 'memory box' about nature and eco-systems in general and to take those fragments to hopefully get another 'just passed' in my long, long row of all the others ...

    Nature has no favorite species, and the 'battle of life' no final and lasting winner - and this probably nowhere in this Universe. Yet back and 'down to earth'...

    The thriving of any species is strictly tight to a basic set of constant and dynamic boundary conditions, which are undeniable, indisputable and 'value-free' in their intrinsic nature and given by 'nature' herself.

    As a whole, the Eco-sphere is a constantly changing and dynamic equilibrium, equipped with several latency buffers for 'cause & effect' events as well as 'real time' consequences. As there is no favorable state of this dynamic equilibrium to be in, seen from nature herself, the survival of any species comes without any guarantee...

    In the given scenario, the ' food producing carrying capacity' will dynamically influence the 'number of people' who will be able to survive on it and as 'we' are less likely to accept close people to die of starvation, we would do better to adjust 'our' population on purpose and 'in advance' to the given capacity, to avoid any further and tragic widespread deaths, which was the 'intro' of this scenario anyway and would therefore be a 'landmark' within the collective memory of those surviving it ...

    The number of the population + a safety margin for poor harvests, would be determined by an average 'output' of a biological and 'closed-cycled' agriculture, in which no dependency on limited resources would add another risk for a another and worldwide food shortage.

    A sustainable population of our species, would probably be found by iteration, as the complexity of the whole system is beyond our understanding.
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    Dec 27 2012: My assertion is that we are already playing some kind of Russian roulette with our planet. I'm not content with any one answer unless it fundamentally eliminates the danger.  Even one "bullet" is one too many. It's been said already that the harmful change of our air and climate will continue for some time even if we completely stopped emitting CO2 now.  All answers and all people must work together. We must all put on our thinking caps as inhabitants of our one and only home planet. No one person can break this bundle of sticks problem but by sharing the effort it is a snap. Seven billion human brothers and sisters can and should be involved. How creative and effective we could be by making this effort together.
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      Dec 28 2012: Never before did so little people die from violence, hunger and extreme weather events (procentually, worldwide), never did we live so long and healthy lives, twice as long as in the beginning of the 20th century (which is true for almost any country, bar Zimbabwe and North Korea), never did we produce so much food and energy per capita. Never before could half of the world population be considered middle class, as is now.
      Deforestation is declining, rapidly, worldwide. In de developed world forests are increasing, the UK has more forest now than in any time in the past 500 years, air and water quality are improving in the west, animals (wolfs, bears, whales, storks, beavers etc) are returning. And renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world.
      Far from accidently destroying ourselves, the Earth we are molding to fit our needs is proving to be increasingly kind to us.
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        Dec 28 2012: Here is the comment on Mr. Spectors talk I cited earlier.
        Dec 18 2012: Genetically modified food is a great idea, it's the Monsanto's of the world that are effing things up! When upwards of 90% of the genetically modified food in NA is modified to be herbicide resistant it's a gross misuse of the technology! I can't even begin to get into the problems these crops are creating for the ecosystems they are planted in to the tactics of Monsanto and the ownership of the crops. I had many problems with this talk, Dr. Paul Kratka eloquently mentions some of them below. If I didn't know better I would think that someone was paying Mr. Specter for these comments!?!
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        Dec 28 2012: No vilification is intended here. I just mean to say that SOME GM does harm instead of good in the long run, in terms of questionable safety or depleted natural capital.
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      Dec 28 2012: I agree with you. It's very hard to believe we're commiting several kinds of harmful actions against the beautiful and nice blue planet that it's our Home. We must bue more conscious and respectful for our Home. (sorry for my bad English). I'd like to encourage everybody for caring better that wonderful Home.
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        Dec 29 2012: Thank you for your participation, and for struggling past English grammar. This nice blue planet is called Earth but I often wonder why we don't call it Ocean.

        Creo que nuestros esfuerzos deben de involucrar cada ser humano en el sentido de que nos damos cuenta que este es nuestro planeta, nuestro hogar, y somos familia. Civizacion de empatia se llama. Creo que es un buen idea. mil gracias
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          Dec 29 2012: Yes, I really think so. Sometimes giving a walk by the sea side, enjoying the wonderful sun we can see here in Spain, it's easy to feel oneself like (only a) part of this complex world and then, at the same time, you can feel that nobody has the right for damaging it anyway, and we all have the obligation for caring it. It's not our private property, it's also of the animals, plants... One ought to feel guilty making something harmful against the environment.

          Oh, your Spanish is very good. Congratulations.
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      Dec 31 2012: The first thing needing attention is the ?50% or so who don't really care. They have to purpose or meaning in their lives, no goals, and no prevalent system of values to encourage them to modify their behavior. Our governments and institutions have proven themselves impotent and slovenly; if it's every one for him or her self why bother? The first thing WE need to do is stop voting, stop shopping and give God a little CPR!
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        Dec 31 2012: Enter "Empathic Civilization" with its inclusion and openness. Movements in this direction tend to be lateral instead of vertical. Viral spread of an idea (meme) is more powerful in the long run because it is making management teams obsolete.
  • Dec 26 2012: Everything does not depend upon money.
    People have been brainwashed into thinking it does.
    Money does nothing. Nothing costs money.
    Everything costs people. It's people who do things, not money.
    Changing that thinking paradigm might help because everyone knows this or can quickly know it when it becomes more common place to believe and speak in this way.

    Global warming probably cannot be stopped unless we humans simply stop. Stop doing what we are doing and realize what is really important. But we keep thinking we must continue doing what we are doing which is what has caused all this to begin with. For instance, if we cleaned up the oceans, but stopped fishing completely for 10 years and we also stopped any and all activity in and on the oceans, they might just heal themselves. We cannot heal them. We can only clean our garbage up. We could work en masse to begin cleaning up the planet for those who will or might survive.
    What is important is our survival, meaning everyone, as much as is possible. That requires helping one another to survive rather than competing as we have been trained into doing, and realizing all that we don't need - we don't need.
    Survival is a sharp enough edge to cut away all the B.S. we have bought into and "bought" is the apropo word.
    Buying is consuming. It isn't managing, it isn't economy, meaning economizing, meaning eliminating waste.
    That right there is a huge change in thinking and that is where it has to begin.
    The juggernaut of our demise needs to be stopped now but regarding my ocean idea, many will say, "You can't just stop fishing or using the oceans! That's ridiculous!" Is it? No, it isn't. If we don't stop, everything will stop. It's really simple.

    Things don't "get done" because of money.
    Things "don't get done" because of money.

    Taking the management of resources out of the hands of those who misuse and mismanage them for money (profit)
    would be a great start
    The resources of the earth belong to everyone, not to any "one".
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      Dec 27 2012: Simply stop. Yes, that's true. The rest of the biota would thrive without us. Yet we have done the calculation that one tenth of one percent of the sun's energy that hits our planet would be enough for everyone's energy needs. Solar energy is a good replacement for hydrocarbons. A world wide grid is possible and a practical solution for dayside Earth to share with nightside Earth. No fish zones on 20 to 50% of the continental shelf oceans would return most fish populations within 15 years. Solar powered desalinization plants could generate fresh water. Biochar soil enrichment could allow food crop production with a negative carbon footprint. Mycelium cultivation could remediate the biodiversity of old growth forests. Alternate currencies and economies could make every human rich immediately. Urban planning for density could bring population down. Online systems for global thrivability could test, store, and communicate the best ideas.
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      Dec 27 2012: Stopping won't do, calculations by the IPCC show that even if we would not emit any CO2 from now on, climates would still change dramatically.

      We should do quite the opposite, we should assume full responsibility. Embrace all technological options, go into geo engineering.
      We are as Gods, and have to get good at it - Stewart Brand


      And everybody knows it's about people, money is just an inventive mechanism to put value on people. 70% of the money spent by an average company, goes to wages.
      And considering that on a free market the price of anything is determined by supply and demand, the fact that nothing has gotten so expensive as people, means that people are more scarce and more valued than ever.
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        Dec 31 2012: If we are as gods, then stopping and reversing CO2 venting seems to be one legitimate way to address the climate crisis. I look to the collective will of people, rather than coercive policy.
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    W. Ying

    • +1
    Dec 24 2012: I believe:
    To really thrive, we should make clear which the goal of our life is:

    (1) To keep our DNA alive?
    or
    (2) To make money?

    To do (1), we can save about 90% of our resources and energy.
    To do (2), we can never be satisfied and will certainly go to SELF-EXTINCTION.


    (For SELF-EXTINCTION, see the 1st article, points 1-3, 14, at https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D&id=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D%21283&sc=documents)
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      Dec 25 2012: DNA, Mr. W. Ying.
      幸福人生 = Happiness in life 

      There is an idea that this is relatively easy to attain. I feel that this is true and an important insight for individual persons. I mean thriving as the opposite of sickly or frail. "Thrivability" is a newer word, its implications are that "sustainability" is too weak or not really inclusive enough. So when I hear about sustainability I think about babies' health. Somehow just sustaining life doesn't seem adequate.
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        Dec 26 2012: Yes!
        I love your creation of “thrivability” very much because it lets me feel happy and safe.
        I hate the word “sustainability”, which makes me nervous.
        Thanks!
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    Jan 6 2013: Climate Crisis Metaphor 
    Any conceptual aid may be misleading in some ways and helpful in other ways. I hope to bring out some helpful aspects here. 

    A sinking house-boat is my model for the climate crisis. We are all in the same boat. Some of us become concerned about keeping our reserved seat and changing our socks to keep our feet dry (rebuild after Sandy or Katrina). Some of us want to distract ourselves to feel better, to sing songs and hold hands (environmentalists who quit, political leaders distracting constituents).  Some of us spread the word about bailing (educators/bloggers). Some speculate about what tipping points will or won't do (climate model scientists). agricultural revolutionaries (Permaculture, mega-gardening, hydroponics, agro-forestry) 

    Some search inner space, some look to outer space.
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    Jan 3 2013: How about "Contraction and Convergence" or equalizing and minimizing a carbon allotment for each human on the planet...
    Any opinions?
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      Jan 4 2013: It is very hard to imagine that minimizing our per capita carbon output would be optimal for our well being.
    • Jan 5 2013: C&C [or "Contraction and Convergence"] is one part of an integrated four part concept-constitution.

      The first 'domain' of this is 'Contraction and Concentrations'. Here, simply put, the question is what global total of future emissions is consistent with a safe and stable concentration outcome and thus achieving compliance with the objective of the UN Climate Treaty [UNFCCC].

      Then - Domain two "Contraction and Convergence" and domain three "Contraction and Conversion" options are computed as a function of the result obtained in the first domain calculation.

      The overall result is then tested against Domain four "Damages and Growth". This means the whole exercise is about "Precaution" and "Prevention" and analysing to ensure that we are 'doing enough soon enough' to make it worth the effort [as doing too little too late is obviously not].

      What is optimal is achieving UNFCCC-compliance.

      What is not optimal or ever going to be, is continually trying to achieve UNFCCC-compliance based on keeping the cart of growth in front of the horse or prevention, as a way of sustaining confusion and indecision by provoking conflicting ideological opinions about urgency and equity.

      http://www.gci.org.uk/CBAT.html
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    Jan 2 2013: Firstly I believe global warming is just a natural trend, and if any man made activity has an effect on it the massive amount of asphalt roads and parking lots would be the source. Think about it mile after mile of solar powered heaters vs a inert gas? The CO2 theory is just a scam.

    But there are real possibilities that would cause a major "shift" in agriculture, off the top of my head; a mega-volcano like yellow stone erupting or the magnetic poles flipping. Besides the obvious switching of land crops that would take place, underground farm fields is now possible with the advancements in solar power and full spectrum lighting. Also with the great possibilities that sea grown crops and ranching has, it makes a bleak scenario extremely unlikely.
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      Jan 3 2013: lol Ok, you caught me. I'm part of a big scam. CO2 is not building up from human activity. Even if it's building up it doesn't really affect the heat budget by radiative forcing as reported by the IPCC. They all lied. And the amount of radiative forcing by CO2 is not 1.6 watts per square meter, since it was peer reviewed by the co-conspirators. I'm so ashamed. I guess the only honorable thing to do is give back the millions that Al Gore and Bill Gates bribed me with to run this subversive conversation. What was I thinking?
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        Jan 3 2013: Funny, to see you ridiculizing conspiracy thinking, whilst you yourself wondered whether Michael Specter was being paid for having his opinion.


        CO2 doubling causes roughly a 1.1 -1.2 degrees raise
        http://rationaloptimist.com/blog/low-climate-sensitivity.aspx

        The rest of the estimated increase is driven by models, that used to be high in sensitivity and with lots of positive feedback loops, but were notoriously unreliable.

        Recent evidence points to low sensitivity and lukewarm warming.
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        Jan 3 2013: Interesting, I posted in hopes to calm you fear of a bleak agriculture future and you read it as a clam that you are part of the scam. Totally dismissing the possibility asphalt roads may be a greater factor.

        I did acknowledge that there are indisputable possibilities that would cause a major "shift" in agriculture and proposed areas in which that would be possible expand agriculture.
        I did this in hopes of having a productive conversation; for example (as someone knowledgeable about biospheres) you could have replied why or why not growing crop with solar power full spectrum lighting would work.

        If I had gotten a proper TED reply I could have replied back with something about how it would even keep the day/night cycle and even seasonal lighting changes would automatically be done, with the lighting being solar powered.
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          Jan 3 2013: My intention is to encourage creative practical thinking. I do not mean to incite fear. I do not mean to incite anger either. I admit that conduct this inquiry with certain assumptions and suppositions. Unspoken and unmentioned is my supposition the participants in this discussion would intend to be helpful, not to me personally to the climate crisis. If you truly don't believe that humans have a role to play in addressing this issue I can accept that. My "lol" was just an honest response. I meant no disrespect, and certainly meant no vilification. If you don't believe that human activity is causing global warming, then I don't think you'll have anything helpful to offer since we aren't recognizing the same causal relationships.
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          Jan 4 2013: How can you calm him with your reply, as you lack any authority to make claims, nor do you post any external sources that back you up?
          We can't hardly hold any random scientific fantasizing we hear on internet for the truth.

          All scientific claims I read, do point on CO2 causing rising temperatures. But, as I state in the post above, temperatures might not rise as much as was long claimed.

          ps. How do flipping magnetic poles cause agricultural shifts?
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    Jan 2 2013: I believe the answer lies in changing what we eat. Farming today requires land to create the grains to feed animals that we then over consume.

    Change to a plant based diet, and grow the foods for people.

    Plant the Moringa oleifera, or Drumstick Tree and Sugar Palms as explained so well in TED talks here to provide the proper nutrition on the land we have.
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      Jan 3 2013: What. Are you saying I need to diet? Can you see me? Seriously, I only heard about the Sugar Palms from the orangutan preserves in Borneo. I understand it can be tapped for sugar without destroying the tree. This sounds excellent. I find that Moringa trees may be a good insurance against loss. It can also be harvested without destroying the tree. And it grows back quickly.

      I still tend to think that we can mitigate the worst of climate change before it peaks.
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    Jan 1 2013: Best wishes to you and your loved ones for 2013 Mark and everyone else on TED. Had a similar conversation with a friend about this. We were debating the impact of logistics on food distribution. In the U.K, over the last three years we have had increased rainfall due to (non-tech term) 'buckled jet stream'. All the root crops have rotted in the ground and plants like tomatoes have suffered from the excessive attentions of fungus and insects. However every cloud has a silver lining and some birds managed to get two lots of chicks produced so it mopped up some of excess insects. My friend pointed out that at some point, somewhere there is sufficient crops to feed the local population plus sell the extra. It is all in the movement of the food and at the moment petrol is very expensive. BTW I realise living in UK we are incredibly lucky. So once again a complex situation in 3000 characters. Do worry about 'dark' stores and the implications of centralised purchasing when majority of population so time-poor they only shop on-line. Very worried UK govt talking about introducing food tokens to stop people on benefits buying cigarettes and booze. Logistics - big fan of 'just in time' management but food takes at least three months to grow and in the case of meat at least a year at this latitude. Old skills like bottling and preserving not taught here for at least three generations, city kids don't even know what an animal looks like as the meat is presented on a polystyrene tray and actually buying any meat other than sausages getting really expensive. Try to grow my own at local allotments but essentially a population that is time poor does not have enough time to service their food supply. Fascinating debate thank you so much.
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      Jan 2 2013: CO2 blankets Earth and keeps too much heat in. This change in average temperature may cause some very bad things globally in this century (perhaps a lowered carrying capacity due to loss of arable land). It's hard to tell what will hurt us worst or first, but it will probably hurt us badly. We are the ones pumping CO2 into the air in the first place. We have to figure out effective ways of doing things differently so we can have a safer future for the planet. We are not that good at helping each other really. We are not comfortable with change in general. If this were easy, it wouldn't be worth asking.

      Happy New Year to you, Elizabeth Muncey. Best wishes to you and yours.
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    Dec 31 2012: To so many of these comments and ideas I'd want to add my original question: And what do you think we should do? I didn't ask "why do you think we are already doing everything right?" Nor did I ask "why do you think we're doomed." So to iterate: What do you think we should do? How do you think we can make this planet a better place, while considering the supposition that certain predictions may be accurate, as scary as they are?
    • Jan 1 2013: Easy answer Mark, hard to practice. If you want to have enough food for everyone, you need less everyones. No politician will admit that though, and individuals all want to do whatever they want, and have as many children as they want, so really, what can you do about it? Look at our reactions to China's one child policy. Many Americans I talk to think it is barbaric and horrible that a society would dare try to control the population. So, if populations just keep increasing, while resources keep diminishing, a lot more people are going to starve, simple as that. Last year, the world grew less food than it consumed. That can't go on forever obviously. What we COULD do, is to think about sustainability not in terms of buying shade tree grown coffee, but as not having too many children for the resources we have. But again, most people think it is in the constitution somewhere that they should have as many kids as they want. So, the real question is how to change peoples' minds.
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        Jan 1 2013: Everyone is seven billion.
        And I still want to know what you think we should do now. Getting more food might help. Having a lower birthrate might help. Reversing CO2 venting to the atmosphere might help. Geo-engineering to lower global temperature might help. Finding ways to bond as a species team might help. Alternate sources of energy might help.
        And education, particularly zero to five-years-old creativity and such might help change people's minds together.
        What other possibilities are there?
        There are political solutions, educational solutions, empathic solutions, collective intelligence solutions, technical solutions, business solutions, economic solutions...

        But again, there are 7 billion of us with each a different perspective about what can most effectively be done first.

        So the real question is: what do you have to bring to the table? Easy answers? Ain't no free lunch!
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        Jan 2 2013: I would be interested to hear your explanation on the fact that we produce the most per capita food now than ever before. And more energy per capita than ever.
        Far from diminishing resources, more people mean more resources available per person. Practically all resources are more affordable now than ever, thus less scarce. (In fact the only resource that has consistently become more expensive (and thus scarcer) are people)


        It is not ' if populations just keep increasing, while resources keep diminishing, a lot more people are going to starve, simple as that', That's lazy thinking, dogmatic and with no scientific justification whatsoever. The more people we are, the more we all have, and you lot never seem to understand why.

        And you should be ashamed hailing a policy that invoked the Chinese (poor) people to throw millions of baby girls into the dustbin, only seconds after their births, with mothers screaming for their new born; with hardly any noticable difference in birthrates in comparison with other Asian countries that did not have a 1 child policy (see Hans Rosling).
        It is perhaps the greatest genocide in recent history. And you defend it, because you are (erroneously) under the impression that those babies will take a piece of your pie. Sickening.
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          Jan 2 2013: We produce more food per capita now than ever. Check. True. We provide more energy per capita now than ever. Check. True.

          All that increase in energy use comes with the price everyone pays: the unpredictable tipping points of global warming. This includes a reduced carrying capacity of the planet.

          Also true that a reduction in population would slow the approach of these unknowable tipping points or positive feedback dangers. It is one very cruel but possible means of avoiding the dangers. As drastic as it is, I would compare it to the need to diet in order to lose weight by eating 3 fewer donuts from your daily dozen.

          See http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html for more on balancing a zero carbon equation.

          CO2 = P x S x E x C

          He didn't consider negative carbon footprints for biochar soil enrichment and reforestation.
        • Jan 4 2013: Victor, have you also noticed there was a huge drought and that the world actually produced less food than it consumed this year? How long do you think that can go on? Also, I ask you to read about peak oil. Our entire economic system is based on oil and sorry to say, it is a limited resource. The North Sea, Alaska, and even some of the gulf states production is sinking and they are having to pump a lot more water just to get those numbers (water, another limited resource). People in China and India are wanting to live like Americans, so where is all that oil going to come from? Also, if there is such a glut of energy, why is oil 5 times the cost of what it was 10 years ago?

          You illustrate the problem perfectly. No one wants to think about controlling the population and say it is evil to even think of such a thing. So, that is why nothing will ever be solved. By the way, actually read about the one child policy in China. It is not about killing girls, or killing anyone.
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    Dec 31 2012: False choices abound here. Choosing "clean air" does not slow down CO2 vent. Choosing self preservation does not help ameliorate global problems. Choosing not to go to war does not build empathic civilization.
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    Dec 30 2012: Make a similar but stricter one child policy
    • Dec 31 2012: I never understood why some people choose a one child policy over eating less meat. Does eating meat 5, 6 or even 7 days per week really mean that much to people?
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      Dec 31 2012: Joshua and John, policy changes are part of the solution. Rather than stricter in the sense of more sticks and carrots, perhaps more allowance for intrinsic motivations of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Promoting ecologically sound policy solutions for foods other than meat might also be worthy of pursuit for the greater good. Too many people present their ideas as "either/or" paths. Let's do more and/and.
      • Jan 1 2013: Of course, however a one child policy is much more drastic and doesn't necessarily have more effect than simply eating less meat (which could be accomplished through awareness campaigns, cutting subsidies, increasing animal welfare requirements and introducing a tax on meat). Growing food for livestock takes up about 2/3 of all agriculture and only 1 in 17 of the calories in these plants is stored in the meat. So a reduction in meat consumption of just 25% will yield over 15% more calories for humanity without an expansion of agriculture, that's enough food to feed another 1 billion people on top of the 7 billion we already have.

        @below

        I'm not sure urban gardens actually reduce net energy use, but those other options might, there is also a lot to gain by switching staple foods, for example potatoes are more efficient than rice. Much of the energy use comes from shipping food around the world because somewhere else farmrs work for less, which is the real problem: if there wasn't such a divide between rich and poor countries much more food would be grown locally.

        Btw, may I congratulate on the quality of this topic: it's really refreshing to have one that's 99 posts long and intelligently discusses real problems in a civil manner with no loonies.
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          Jan 2 2013: I agree on your logic of reducing meat consumption. How about another comparison, and maybe a step with more leverage: For every 1 calorie of food produced, we use 10 calories of energy in the form of fuel. Since it is that fuel which vents CO2 and causes the problem of blanketed warming, why not shift less energy intensive means of production such as agroforestry, mega-gardening, hydroponics, urban gardens on roof and wall, Permaculture, etc. That way we produce more food with less expenditure of energy, keeping it local and reduced livestock.

          I'm looking for ideas that might increase our "leverage."
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    Dec 29 2012: Given the current global population of 7+billion, your scenario of a global carrying capacity of 1 billion would mean the premature death of 6/7th of the world's population – by starvation or war - since one generates the other.

    Given that death by starvation or violence is horrible to contemplate, it would be responsible to reduce our population naturally by reducing the birth rate so as to manage a reduction in global population in an organised and equitable way. High taxes and / or removal of social benefits for those with big families (3 or more children), balanced with extra financial and social rewards for those who choose to have one or no children. Don't ask me how we acheive this as a globally agreed policy!

    The entire global population would need to revert to a mostly vegetarian diet, growing whatever crops grow well locally. New foods such as eating insects (Locusts) would become necessary since they are nutritional and can be farmed easily and quickly. Traditional meat such as beef and pork would need to be drastically reduced as they are resource hungry.

    Since CO2 is “food” for growing plants domestic and office hydroponic systems will become common – saving on food transportation and taking advantage of vertical space and indoor micro-climates.

    This answer is certainly NOT in creating more and more genetically modified crops. The well predicted Monsanto mess has resulted in the development of super weeds resistant to Round-UP.
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      Jan 2 2013: As with any tool, say an ax for example, we can use it well and safely when we take enough care to do things right. There are also sick or careless human possibilities for its use.

      Of course GM and nuclear power are potentially hazardous on a much larger scale, but they may hold the benefits we need to make it as a species.

      We could "revert" to a veggie diet without much harm, only inconvenience. This is why I asked the question: To see what people think of as too dangerous or appropriate solutions.

      CO2 is food for plants and promotes growth, but long before then it is blanketing and collecting heat from the sun which is the major cause of the climate crisis in the first place. It's invisible. The effects are huge and carry great momentum, making warming very hard to stop, but since it's spread out it's also hard to measure accurately. Argo buoys are among the best. See http://wo.jcommops.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Argo

      Death by starvation is not given. It is predicted. Agreement on any policy is tricky, yes. Note the resources we have globally to wage war on each other. The kind of threat in the prediction we are pondering would be more devastating than nuclear war, Yet as gruesome as all-out war is, we continue to support its possibility. Isn't that a curious thought?
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    Dec 29 2012: Re: "we should collectively become architects of our future."
    Some of us will and some won't. You're suggesting the "we," meaning all, can gain a sufficient awareness about non linear matters. This remains to be seen. The alternative is a tipping point where a substantial influence can be applied by the some who can.

    Re: "Collective intelligence itself is a field of study"
    Without getting into a discussion of how we might gain a pre-frontal cortex for a "group mind", we are left with "collective unconsciousness." At best change of this type is generations away, and my best guess is that it would be achieve through a new social narrative, like "Avatar", and with video games along the lines that Jane McGonigal is suggesting.
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      Jan 2 2013: Clay Shirky in Cognitive Surplus
      "Humans are fundamentally individual, but we are also fundamentally social. Every one of us has a rational mind; we can make individual assessments and decisions. We also have an emotional mind; we can enter into deep bonds with other people that transcend our individual intellects."
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        Jan 3 2013: Shirky also says, ""Free cultures get what they celebrate." While "we can also celebrate and support and reward the people trying to use cognitive surplus to create civic value," we are, I fear, to distracted and self oriented to accomplish much of anything. i.e. Occupy World St. and the Arab Spring.

        ""My simple idea is that what's happened is, the real 21st century around us isn't so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding rationally to a world which we understand and recognize, but which no longer exists." Eddie Obeng
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    Dec 29 2012: There is a principle called the "logistic grow curve." Simply put, animals populations increase when conditions are favorable, and decrease when the available resources become limited.

    "The logistic equation (sometimes called the Verhulst model or logistic growth curve) is a model of population growth first published by Pierre Verhulst (1845, 1847). The model is continuous in time, but a modification of the continuous equation to a discrete quadratic recurrence equation known as the logistic map is also widely used.

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/LogisticEquation.html

    "The Verhulst equation was published after Verhulst had read Thomas Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population. Verhulst derived his logistic equation to describe the self-limiting growth of a biological population. The equation is also sometimes called the Verhulst-Pearl equation following its rediscovery in 1920. Alfred J. Lotka derived the equation again in 1925, calling it the law of population growth."

    also see: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Logistic_growth

    For those that care to understand the complexity of the problem, see:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etxZnljT__M
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      Dec 29 2012: I believe we are talking about similar trends albeit with different elements involved. Peak oil and peak farm land reflect peak population in concept. A logistic growth curve seems to work with all other variables set. The issue is not that the carrying capacity is low now, but rather will be held low by a change that turns once arable land into desert. The tree line moves north at some speed as well, but I understand that the over-all effect is a reduction of available land for growing food. I do not mean to suggest that we should welcome a wiped out world population, but rather that we should collectively become architects of our future. Collective intelligence itself is a field of study and an appropriate tool, as is geo-engineering, and alternate economies.
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    Dec 28 2012: The transcrip of the first video looks like it was run through a bad translator. My video card is going out so I have no other way to watch the vid right now.Second video no transcript available. Couldn't get any of them to play and there are no good transcripts.

    This is typical of the forge ahead screw everybody else mentality that is going to and is bringing our society down. It's sad to see it here.
  • Dec 28 2012: 1) drastically reduce meat production (this is the most important part)

    2) adopt more efficient crops (potatoes over rice)

    3) change packaging strategies so that it becomes more likely all the contents get used

    4) build systems that filter phosphorous from rivers and other farmland drains.
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      Dec 29 2012: I think I would heartily endorse each recommendation but I would like to add a caveat to 4). A phosphorous filter might be designed into the system that draws on waste phosphorous to form useful forms to return to soil instead of being bound for landfill. Phosphorous in the form of phosphates need to be balanced in water and soil ecosystems.
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    Dec 27 2012: Very on topic, peak farmland is here:
    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/peak-farmland-is-here.aspx

    Start of the piece:
    It's a brave scientist who dares to announce the turning point of a trend, the top of a graph. A paper published this week does just that, persuasively arguing that a centurieslong trend is about to reverse: the use of land for farming. The authors write: "We are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for Nature."
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      Dec 27 2012: Congratulations. Doing more with less is a welcome benefit but quantity must follow quality when we consider human health and natural capital. Increase quality of life and profits will follow, but not necessarily the other way around.
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        Dec 27 2012: I do reckon quality will increase.

        But when we talk about carrying capacity of planet Earth, we are talking about the capacity of planet Earth to feed the people organic strawberries, Champagne and organic Tenderloin Steaks then?
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        Dec 28 2012: That's why he will then later in the book argue among things, we have to use GMO (to overcome the carrying capacity).

        Nice quoting mechanism, I did not know that was possible.
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      Dec 27 2012: Our increased reliance on hydrocarbons to feed the machines of agriculture is at the root of our climate crisis dilemma. The loss of arable land in the hypothetical scenario I'm supposing is caused by CO2 blanketing the Earth and accelerating desertification.
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        Dec 27 2012: Again, baby with the bathwater,
        Embrace the positive effects of using HC's (which predominantly is not machinery, but fertilizers) and battle the externalities.
        That is the only way, any other option involves a lot of dying.
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          Dec 27 2012: OK I didn't mean we stop growing food because of our diesel powered machines we use to do it. But yes, local food and phase out practices that put most CO2 to atmosphere. Even switching from livestock feed to people feed would be an improvement.
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    Dec 27 2012: We need not do more than embrace science in our food production.

    Our food production, per capita and per acre, has been growing since the dawn of time, why? Because our knowledge has been growing since the dawn of time. Our production is foremost a function of our knowledge, and not of any physical parameters, such as soil quality or climate.
    Future food production will continue to grow, if we not let our technology angst, or sentiments, such as GM fear, or irrational reverence to organic food, hamper our capabilities.

    See also:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_specter_the_danger_of_science_denial.html
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      Dec 27 2012: For the dustbowls and Monsantos of this world, using output per acre may be shortsighted. Comments on December 18 and 11, 2012, reiterate this thought.
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        Dec 27 2012: I can't find comments from 18 and 11th of December.
        But to discard output increase to negative externalities is throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
        Increase the output, battle environmental damage (as dustbowls) and monopolies.

        Fact is, hunger is in steep decline the past decades, something impossible without an increase in yield.

        Btw, I thought you read Whole Earth Discipline; How can you not be convinced that GM holds great promise?
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          Dec 28 2012: Promise and peril are present together. Mr. Brand does not address loss of biodiversity adequately. I like transitioning with small nuke power plants. I don't share his enthusiasm for geoengineering nor GM.
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    Dec 26 2012: Thanks for clarifying your question, Mark. I guess I'm the wrong person to ask. I usually try to work more on very small, specific problems, it is hard for me to work on really big, vast problems. For example, something I might work on is that if I see someone has painted graffiti in my neighborhood, I'll call the city to ask them to send their unit to paint it out. In my mind, this makes life better for the people right in my neighborhood because they don't have to look at the ugly graffiti. In general I think the world would be better if more people worked on small, local problems like this.

    I still think one thing you could do to reduce global warming is drink more milk. As I said, I looked at a study that compared twenty foods for how much global warming they produced in their production and distribution, and milk produced the least. For me here in Glendale that makes sense, Glendale being on the edge of Los Angeles, because milk is the food that is produced most locally, most of our milk here comes from the Ontario-Pomona-Chino area about fifty miles east of Los Angeles. When the food is produced locally, it doesn't have to be transported as far in trucks to markets, and thus you don't get as much of the truck emissions, which contribute to global warming. I would guess that most of your milk down there in El Centro comes from that same Ontario-Pomona-Chino area, and that for your area also milk is the food that is produced the most locally to you. Do you produce any other kind of food down there in abundance?
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      Dec 27 2012: We produce alfalfa and care for livestock mostly. I think that could be left alone and turn Salton Sea into a cornucopia of sea food. My proposal is here:
      http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/18/planId/1000913
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        Dec 31 2012: Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, to revitalize the Salton Sea. I remember being there as a kid and it smelled really bad. I saw a rather excellent film, "Little Birds," a fictional story set around the Salton Sea and Los Angeles. You'd probably enjoy it.

        Surfing the Net, I see that there are many beef feedlots in the Imperial Valley, but almost no dairies. Since the beef is being finished right there locally, you ought to get excellent beef in your local markets. Do you eat beef? How is it around there?

        The dairies around Chino-Pomona-Ontario are still some of your closest major food producers here in Southern California, so I still maintain that by drinking more milk you would be reducing global warming since the milk wouldn't have to be transported as far as other foods.

        What about Mexico? What foods are coming into the Imperial Valley from Mexico?
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          Jan 1 2013: There used to be dairies in Imperial Valley. We have excellent sweet onion, asparagus, Sudan Grass, and some specialty crops as well as sheep and cattle. Each animal requires fossil fuel for alfalfa transport, fertilize, spray for insects and transport of products for sale, but I personally don't eat red meat nor eggs nor dairy products. I seldom eat meat of any kind myself, with seafood and turkey or chicken once or twice a month.

          Mexico gets almost no irrigation water from the Colorado River because the water is mostly directed through the canal system north of the border. Mexico raises cattle from birth to feedlot age and they transport here. Half dozen years ago I tasted excellent steaks served in restaurants here.

          I know most people have a real appetite for meat, but I think we would be better off (health and ecology) with eating habits closer to vegan. Rather than telling people what to eat, I think we should do a better job at calculating the natural capital we use, including the petroleum needed to produce things and bring them to market.
  • Dec 26 2012: A few ways to keep a population from starving due to a climatic change would be to understand the basic possibility of a extinction level event. Depending on a plethora of ideas that this may happen I would focus on self preservation before the mass population could be helped. For me I would need to create a vacuum sealed chamber with the exact GPS mapping grid of every location found on the surface of planet earth. Also taking in to consideration the polar magnetic fields as well as the sun and moons data with trajectory, mass, and many spectrums of waves that contribute growth on this planet. I would needso much data collected from gamma waves radio waves and all sorts of interferencewith star and planet relevance toward our solar systems. After collecting all the data I would then collect every chemical element and finding a way to replicate each one. I would then concentrate on the outer shell to maximize longevity in space with respects toward installing defencive mechanisms to combat against any unwanted outer interference. Inside this chamber would be a core energy gadge that could demonstrate the charictoristics of complete bio/cyborg organisms to generate a substantial ammount of energy that can produce more energy that was used in its creation as well as its longevity of time (mortality) then after I created this perpetual energy use it to replicate all extra energy toward building homogenized home made 100% pure seeds, eggs, and embryos, that can live in a fully functional environment peaceably with respects toward the circle of life. As more of these living organisms grow still fighting for survival there will always be a Shepard watching over all of its creatures with only 1 goal toward life it'self witch is preserving life on this planet earth with dedication toward treatment of all species as equal except all humans have dominion over all except total extinction. The first thing to do to build a remedy to this question "believe 1 way must be correct"
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      Dec 27 2012: 42
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      Dec 27 2012: I believe there are at minimum 42 ways to solve any problem. Divergent thinking such as yours is very valuable for finding solutions where no one else is looking.
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    Dec 25 2012: Mark, I'm not clear what your question is. Are you asking how we can use empathy now to try to reduce the effect of global warming? Or are you asking how we could use empathy after six billion people have died to try to make life better for the people who remain?

    I'm still going to say that I really don't believe we're looking at our agricultural abilities going down to where we can only feed a billion people. I would only believe that when I hear a lot of experts saying it, and so far I haven't heard any.

    If you want to reduce global warming, one way you can do it is to drink more milk. I was looking at a study that compared twenty foods for how much global warming they produced in their production and distribution, and milk produced the least global warming.
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      Dec 26 2012: ?? 
      Greg, I'm not sure what my question is. I'd like to know what if anything might be done by our species to reduce the probability of these dystopian scenarios. I anticipate that we would have to quickly do something unusually cooperative. 
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    Dec 25 2012: OK. I am the ghost of humanity yet to come. (I'm referencing the story "A Christmas Carol.") As I point my bony finger at our doom, as Charles Dickens might suggest, I mean to encourage us to be better people. My proposition is that we must become more human. Foresight and empathy should not be outdated.
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    Dec 24 2012: Mark, the scenario seems strange to me because it is so catastrophic, so monumental, and I haven't heard anyone else besides you say that climate change could reduce our ability to provide food to where we could only feed a billion people. And from what I can see, you're not an expert. Do you really believe we might come to a state in this century where we would only be able to feed a billion people? What is your evidence for this?

    Thinking of the planet as a closed system is not strange to me. Thinking of human habits as a threat to the biosphere is not strange to me. Fantasizing about all of us working together to fix things is not strange to me. But when you paint a scenario that nobody else is painting, that is strange, meaning hard to understand.

    If it really came to where we could only feed a billion people, it's hard to know what would happen. I would certainly imagine people would stop having children, that population control would become extremely important. Probably some people would search for a solution to find a way to produce more food. Probably a lot of people would fight over food, go to war over food. Some people would give up the fight and just let themselves starve to death.

    Well, it could be a good question. Let's say you and someone else were locked in a room for two weeks with only enough food for one, so that whichever of you doesn't get the food will die. Would you fight for the food, or would you let the other person have it and accept dying yourself?
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      Dec 25 2012: "Does it matter what is causing global warming? No. What matters is that whatever the cause, within little more than 15 years, 28% of the earth's population will be starving/thirsting to death." (quote from TED Lover) 

      I strongly disagree with the idea that causes don't matter. And to be fair, I took this quote out of its context. But the catastrophe painted is very commonly associated with the climate crisis, extinction episodes, and the loss of natural system services. My point here is that we need to see that if our actions as a species matters for this century, we should be focussing our collaborative and creative efforts on addressing these problems now while we can still be effective. 
  • Dec 24 2012: Okay, I see your point now - You want to stop this scenario now. I hope that you are right. However, as time passes I get less optimistic and idealistic about my fellow man. About 10% are really irresponsible and even scary. Look what happened to Abel, Jesus, Gandhi, Michael Collins, Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton,Dr. Marat, Danton,Robispiere, Louis XVI, Marie A, Julius C., etc. It's not just your enemies; It might be your friends. Even Thomas Jefferson disappoints me. There's still Washington, John Adams, and Sam Adams to contemplate as good guys. Have a beer before you ponder this much more.
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      Gail .

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      Dec 24 2012: Conduct an honest study Washington & John Adams (using documentary evidence including letters to family and friends and congress) and they will become more tarnished than you can now imagine. Certainly not the good guys!!!!! I don't know Sam Adam's biography.
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    Dec 23 2012: https://kindle.amazon.com/post/TjqkKFw3SmK79iaVNDdaLw
    Stewart Brand in "Whole Earth Discipline," Bill Gates in his TED talk about the climate crisis equation, and Jorgen Randers in "2052" all speak of the kinds of combined effects CO2 and feedback loops will have future ecological conditions. I'm not trying to write a screenplay here, but I am trying to exercise our creativity and empathic potential.
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    Dec 23 2012: I think we should continue to do what we have been doing. Most seem to be in agreement that we should survive.
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    Dec 23 2012: I wonder if our thrivability is compromised by globalization?

    Should we reconsider the advantages of the smaller, intimate, local scale? Are the indigenous and the vernacular more appropriate to a sense of community and the the likelihood of survivability, let alone thrivability? Would our relationship with the land be more reverential than exploitative?

    Local communities, local businesses, local produce, the consumption of seasonal crops produced locally etc, would have several effects: Life would be harder but in a positive, healthier, hands-on sense. Relationships with other people would become mutually empathic (they would have to be, for fear of upsetting supportive neighbours). Our numbers would be more likely to self-regulate.

    Implementing such social changes towards 'the local' would be difficult if not impossible, as the technonlogy we use for sustaining global networks and economies cannot be disinvented, and neither I suspect will be the discouragement of the will to use it.

    But will our hand be forced in this direction by the finite nature of the very substance that fuels globalization?

    I think it will, and it will be a very painful, bumpy ride.
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      Dec 23 2012: Hi Allan Macdougall:
      Personally, I have two very different perspectives associated with globalization. →
      It can mean using fossil fuel (hence, CO2 vent) to transport goods that bind economic ties. / It can also mean using networked communication of friendships that bind empathic social ties.

      Organic food locavores and survival gardeners do both seem to have their strengths for doing good. Perhaps there are others that more accurately represent your ideas of local economics.
      But the energy regime (fossil fuel), not traders promoting long-distance commerce, is to blame I think for ruining climate sustainability.

      As for the forced hand, I think now is the time to act before hands are forced. That is, if such negative forecasts have any predictive value. Still, even struggling democracies measure their success by the extent of self-determination at hand. My intent is to have people consider possibilities formerly unimagined: supposing, imagining, creating a thriving future for all.
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        Dec 24 2012: Mark, you say we should act now before the hand is forced. Assuming the negative forecasts do have predictive value, how should we act now, without force of any kind, to achieve collective remedial action?

        Is a collectivist approach impossible, given that it seems to be immune to intelligent reasoning from individuals and specialists who do actually have the courage to consider possibilities formerly unimagined? I agree with the theory of what you are saying - but the practice...?

        I also agree with TED Lover about impending fiscal collapse - and given that everything depends on money, what else will collapse along with it?

        This is not doom-mongering. It is an attempted search for reality.
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          Dec 29 2012: Sorry I missed an opportunity to respond earlier to this entry. By force I think you mean the sticks and carrots of policy. I meant to have people suppose, within the context of answering this conversation question, that we have already somehow determined that the ugly scenario is very likely unless we change something of our current practices. So my question is what do you think we should do collectively, as a species, in order to affect the best possible outcome for the whole of humanity. I did not want people confined to economics alone or engineering alone or farming practices alone. Does that help?
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      Gail .

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      Dec 24 2012: I believe that our fiscal paradigm is headed for inevitable collapse. Money is such a cruel task master.
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        Dec 31 2012: Agreed. Alternative currencies and alternative economic structures are needed.
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    Dec 23 2012: Well, your scenario seems pretty strange, more like something in a story than anything that's going to happen in reality. If anything like that really happened in reality, the events would partially depend on whether it happened suddenly or gradually, as you can deal with things better if you have more time. So if you really think something like that is going to happen, do you think it will happen suddenly, or gradually?

    But also, do you really believe anything like that is going to happen in reality? What is your evidence? Why would you ask if you don't believe it's going to happen in reality? Are you writing a story, and you need ideas?


    Another pretty good talk on this subject is Jonathon Foley: The Other Inconvenient Truth.
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      Dec 23 2012: Mr. Greg Dahlen, Of course the scenario is strange. Thinking of the planet as a closed system is strange. Thinking of human habits as a threat to the biosphere is strange. And maybe, fantasizing about all of us working together to fix things is strange. But that’s the essense of the question. What could we do, together, empathically, logically, and systematically?
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      Dec 29 2012: Jonathan Froley makes excellent connections between ag practices and other global problems besides starvation. As you mentioned, he bears that out in http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_foley_the_other_inconvenient_truth.html
  • Dec 23 2012: If I understand your comment - Your scenario just killed sic(6) billion people or probably more. This is not unreasonable - sadly - This can be done with livestock -overgrazing,etc. Look at the Sahara Remember the famous pentagon shaped ranch in North Africa that can be identified by its greenness from space. A five year rotation schedule. Okay, this happens with animals Why not people if they fail to exercise moral restraint? Population in countries does not always grow.
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      Dec 23 2012: Mr. George Lockwood, I didn’t mean to start the scenario with 6 billion dead. Rather I meant to start the scenario now. Let’s suppose or pretend for a moment that a 5 degree Celsius rise in temperature this century might cause the loss of arable land on the globe to that extent. While supposing that that projected scenario is possible, my fantasy is to also suppose that we can actually cause a reversal of the parameters that will lead to that scenario. Mr. Gates proposes that a zero carbon footprint is the most reasonable parameter to affect change for the better. I certainly don’t mean that it would be appropriate to wait for a loss of population. As farfetched a fantasy as it might be, what I really would like to explore is the possibility of a NEGATIVE carbon footprint, and somehow reversing the atmospheric blanketing effects of CO2.
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    Dec 23 2012: I fantasize about finding ways to bring tech and empathy and resources together. Hence the TED talk list.