A plan to save civilization
This coming week, I’m in Taiwan but through the magic of auto-posts, ThinkingShift lives on. I hope to take heaps of shots with my new plastic fantastic Superheadz Pink Dress camera.
But today I’m bringing you a slide presentation you need to look at. Awhile back I told you about Lester Brown, the American environmentalist. His website, Earth Policy Institute, has just published a slideshow called Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Plan B refers to the response to the environmental challenges our planet now faces. The major challenges, as I’ve blogged about many times, are food insecurity and climate change. Here’s a summary of the slide show:
- Earth’s average temperature will rise 1.1-6.4˚C (33.98 ºF-43.52 ºF) during the 21st century;
- we are already outpacing these predictions;
- crop yields drop by 10% for every 1˚C rise in temperature;
- in an effort to ensure their own food security, some affluent food importing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea have begun buying or leasing land abroad to grow their own food. If you don’t believe that rich dude countries are leasing foreign land, then check out this – Pakistan is having a hissy fit that Saudi Arabia is planning to lease 202,342.8 hectares of farmland in Pakistan. I would have thought Pakistan had enough hungry people without leasing out precious land. And Libya is planning to grow wheat on 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) in Ukraine ;
- historians have argued long and hard that the fall of the Roman Empire was due to food shortages and skirmishes over access to food (along with the Sumerian and Mayan civilisations). The fall of our own civilisation will be due to food shortages and battles over water. I’m now seeing articles about future water wars. My own view is that we’ll see the rise of water privateers. Here’s just one example I can give you of how the poor in developing countries (not to mention you and me) will get shafted by the privatisation of water. Water is going to be the oil of the 21st Century. Private companies will buy rights to water. Two French companies – Suez Lyonnaise des eaux and Vivendi Environnement – are the ones I think we need to watch. Just search for these two companies on the internet – go ahead, it will freak you out to find that these two companies alone supply water to 230 million people around the world (and this includes the US).
The slide show offers up some responses (Plan B):
- a worldwide switch to highly-efficient lighting would cut electricity use 12%, equivalent to closing 705 coal-fired power plants;
- the wind potential in North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas alone could satisfy U.S. energy needs.
There are heaps of ideas in the slide show to save the planet and our civilisation. There are also a ton of facts that will freak you out such as:
- soaring food prices – from mid-2006 to mid-2008, world grain and soybean prices tripled;
- since 1981, oil extraction has exceeded new discoveries by a widening margin. Most of the easily recovered oil is already pumped;
- between 1950 and 2000, world water use tripled. Some 70% of water use is for irrigation. Over-extraction is leading to disappearing lakes and rivers failing to reach the sea. Aquifer depletion is causing water tables to fall and wells to go dry;
- massive Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are melting at accelerating rates. Together hold enough water to raise sea level 12 meters (39 feet). A 10-meter rise in sea level today would inundate coastal areas home to more than 600 million people.