26 June 2010

cosmic coincidence

[click image]


Old Uncle Dave and I were just talking about the long list of head exploders, and immediately I came across this short synopsis, this CliffsNotes version of the matter:
✘ Food. Two billion people, mostly poor, depend on fish and other wild foods for protein. They “have collapsed or are in steep decline” forcing use of more costly animal proteins. The UN calls the global food crisis a “silent tsunami.” Food prices rise making it worse for the 2.7 billion living below poverty levels on two dollars a day. In “The End of Plenty,” National Geographic warns that even a new “green revolution” of “synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, supercharged by genetically engineered seeds” may fail. Why? A joint World Bank/UN study “concluded that the immense production increases brought about by science and technology the past 30 years have failed to improve food access for many of the world’s poor.” Meanwhile, a Time cover story warns that America’s “addiction to meat” has led to farming that’s “destructive of the soil, the environment and us.”

✘ Water: “Most of the world’s freshwater in rivers and lakes is already being used for irrigation, domestic and industrial water,” transportation, fisheries and recreation. Water problems destroyed many earlier civilizations: “Today over a million people lack access to reliable safe drinking water.” British International Development Minister recently warned that two-thirds of the world will live in water-stressed countries by 2015. Water will trade like oil futures as wars are fought over water and other basic essentials noted earlier in Fortune’s analysis of the Pentagon report predicting that warfare will define human life in this scenario of the near future.

✘ Farmland: Crop soils are “being carried away by water and wind erosion at rates between 10 to 40 times the rates of soil formation,” much higher in forests where soil-erosion rate is “between 500 and 10,000 times” replacement rate. And this is increasing in today’s new age of the 100,000-acre mega-fires.

✘ Forests: We are destroying natural habitats and rain forests at an accelerating rate. Half the world’s original forests have been converted to urban developments. A quarter of what remains will be converted in the next fifty years.

✘ Toxic chemicals: Often our solutions create more problems than they solve. For example, industries “manufacture or release into the air, soil, oceans, lakes, and rivers many toxic chemicals” that break down slowly or not at all. Consider the deadly impact of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, detergents, plastics … the list is endless.

✘ Energy resources: Oil, natural gas and coal. Pimco manages $747 billion: equity, bonds and commodity funds. Manager Bill Gross recently described a “significant break” in the world’s “growth pattern.” He’s even betting we’re past the “peak oil” tipping point, heading down. Consumer shopping will continue declining as economies grow very slowly in the future and “corporate profits will be static.” In a recent issue of Foreign Policy Journal warns of the “7 Myths About Alternative Energy.” Are biofuels, solar and nuclear the “major ticket?” No, “they’re not,” never will be.

✘ Solar energy: Sunlight’s not unlimited. We’re already using “half of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity” and we will reach the max by mid-century. In “Plundering the Amazon,” Bloomberg Markets magazine warned that Alcoa, Cargill and other companies “have bypassed laws designed to prevent destruction of the world’s largest rain forest … robbing the earth of its best shield against global warming.” Free market capitalism may be the enemy of survival.

✘ Ozone layer. “Human activities produce gases that escape into the atmosphere” where they can destroy the protective ozone or absorb and reduce solar energy.

✘ Diversity. “A significant fraction of wild species, populations and genetic diversity has been lost, and at present rates, a large percent of the rest will disappear in half century.”

✘ Alien species. Transferring species to lands where they’re not native can have unintended and catastrophic effects, “preying on, parasitizing, infecting or out-competing” native animals and plants that lack evolutionary resistance.


Unfortunately, history tells us that cautious leaders are myopic, driven more by self-interest and nationalism than courage and long-term thinking. Eventually they’re caught off-guard and their worlds collapse, fast. They only respond to crises. And yes, out of crisis may come opportunity. And as Nobel economist Milton Friedman put it in his classic, Capitalism and Freedom: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change” because in the aftermath of crisis “the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” Too many, however, delay and respond to crises with too little, too late.
That last line is the operator, here, dudes.


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