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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #44
acid rain--while natural rainfall is slightly acidic, atmospheric chemical reactions can turn nitrogen oxides, from high temperature combustion, and sulfur oxides, from burning coal, into dilute nitric and sulfuric acids creating acid rain. This can cause serious damage in both the natural world (to forests, aquatic ecosystems, etc.), and man-made world (to monuments, concrete structures, etc.).
air pollution--refers to contaminants (chiefly chemical and particulate) that human activities directly or indirectly add to the atmosphere that makes it unhealthy for humans and living things. Burning of fossil fuels--particularly for transportation--is a major source of such pollution. While big city smog is an obvious manifestation of local air pollution problems, it also produces regional acid rain and ozone depletion problems, and global climate change. Besides causing and aggravating respiratory problems, air pollution annually kills 2.4 million people worldwide according to World Health Organization estimates. Some of these deaths can be attributed to indoor air pollution, caused by cigarette smoke, outgassing from building materials, cancer causing radon gas entering through foundations, etc.
appropriate (or soft) technology -- technology selected, designed and implemented with the special environmental, cultural, social and economic aspects of the community it is intended for in mind. It typically has little or no significant environmental impact and is well suited to an area since it makes use of what is relatively abundant-- for example, labor in places where people need jobs. Typically it involves devices that are small, relatively simple, inexpensive, decentralized, and that can preserve meaningful experiences or work for people. In contrast high or hard technology typically has much greater environmental impact, tends to replace people with machines, and can involve more technological complexity, equipment capital outlay, etc. Example: Using lots of workers with hand tools to control unwanted brush and growth in a forest -- so that young trees can get more sun and grow better -- would be an appropriate technology solution; using one person flying over a forest in a helicopter spraying a chemical herbicide to kill unwanted growth would be a hard technology way of accomplishing the same thing.
atmosphere--the thin layer of gases that surround the Earth. Near its surface, the atmosphere is composed of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (20%), smaller amounts of water vapor and carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. Thinning with altitude, most of it lies within five miles of the surface, and none above 60 miles.
bads -- the opposite of “goods” as in the economic phrase “goods and services”. In contrast to purchasing goods, people generally seek to avoid or get rid of bads (such as garbage, air pollutants, toxic waste, etc)
biodiversity -- a term that refers to the biological diversity and genetic variation present in an ecosystem -- be it tiny biological community or the whole biosphere. It can be gauged by counting the number of species the ecosystem contains. Preserving biodiversity can be important to the stability of the ecosystem, and may have practical benefits in that little studied or unknown species can be sources of new drugs for medical treatments, food crops, inspiration for engineering design, etc. Besides habitat destruction, and genetic manipulation, humans threaten biodiversity with intentional or unintentional introduction of species not native to an ecosystem (invasive species)-- increasingly a problem with growing tourism and globalization of recent decades.
biofuels--hydrocarbons derived from plants, or plants as processed by animals. They include ethanol from corn / sugarcane, methanol from wood wastes, methane from animal manure, diesel from vegetable oil, etc. While such renewable energy comes in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms, and can be used for heating, cooking, electricity production, etc, most energy experts believe its greatest potential is in using liquid biofuels for transportation. While burning biofuels produces carbon dioxide, living plants associated with biofuel production remove as much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere when alive as they put back into it when burned. Ethanol from corn is increasingly linked with rising food prices and seen as a net energy loser.
biosphere -- the part of the Earth that supports life.
capital -- an economics term referring to accumulated goods and resources (or their value) devoted to the production of other goods or set aside to produce income. Capital can take the form of money, raw materials, buildings, equipment, inventories, etc. While economists have long distinguished between “physical capital” and “human capital”, some have recently extended this scheme to include “natural capital”.
carbon footprint, annual --a measure of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide CO2 released into the atmosphere per year due to one's purchases, resource consumption, fossil fuel energy use (which releases CO2 as a byproduct of combustion), and other relevant environmental impacts. It includes both direct (e.g. gasoline powered auto travel) and indirect (e.g. electricity use from coal-fired power plants). Per capita carbon footprints in affluent countries (in metric tons CO2/ yr person) include: 20 for the USA, 17 for Canada, around 9 for England, Germany, and Japan, and only 6 for France.
centralized vs. decentralized ways to govern, meet energy needs or provide services–to draw this contrast, consider energy installations. Centralized energy installations are characterized by huge facilities for producing energy, require large capital investment, are owned by the government or large corporations, and depend on a complex distribution system to deliver energy to the point of end use. Examples include large 1000 megawatt electric power plants and big oil refineries. Contrast these with decentralized energy installations–characterized by small units for producing energy, owned by individuals, small businesses or communities, relatively little capital investment is required, and they are located where the demand for the energy is. Examples include rooftop solar collectors, and basement natural gas powered cogeneration units for producing electricity, space heat and hot water.
climate change--refers to regional / global changes in climate over the last few decades and, more importantly, in the future. Generally the world is warming--a trend that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) feels is (with 90 to 95% certainty) likely to have (in some part) been caused by human activities: most notably the combustion of fossil fuels leading to an enhanced greenhouse effect. Climate change is most evident in the arctic, where polar ice, glaciers, and permafrost are melting. Computer model projections call for both steadily increasing temperatures and changes / greater variability in regional weather patterns. While humans may be able to adapt to climate change, ecologists are particularly concerned about the ability of many living things to do so. They note that the time scales needed for evolutionary adaptations for larger life forms are typically much longer than the decades / centuries over which this climate change is predicted to over. The result could be widespread ecosystem disruption, extinction of many species, and loss of biodiversity.
climate model feedback loops—there are many conceivable ones, whether or not and the extent to which they actually operate is a challenge to figure out and source of uncertainty. Here are two: 1) Albedo Feedback: Albedo refers to the % incident sunshine that is reflected back from a surface. As global warming increases temperatures, highly reflective polar sea ice melts--replaced by darker ocean water. This lowering of the albedo results in more solar energy absorbed (darker surfaces are better absorbers), higher temperatures, more ice melting, etc.2) Water Vapor Feedback: Increasing temperatures lead to more evaporation, which—since water vapor is a greenhouse gas—traps more reradiated heat, leading to higher temperatures, more evaporation, etc
climate movement--There is widespread concern that current human actions (chiefly use of fossil fuel), unless changed, will lead to catastrophic climate change, While many see the resulting climate movement as a subset of the environmental movement, given its strength and focus many see it as a whole separate social movement.
climate tipping point—a limit which, if exceeded, can result in positive feedback or other effects kicking in and triggering large-scale discontinuities in the global climate system. Climate scientists might argue if we emit more than 500 gigatons carbon dioxide (or greenhouse gas equivalent) we’ll exceed the 1.5o C global warming threshold beyond which changes may be irreversible. At the roughly 40 gigatons per year rate, one could say humanity has 500 / 40 = 12.5 years to cut emissions to zero. Given current realities, many expect the best we can do is limit warming to 3o C. This is dangerous: it greatly increases chances that feedback /tipping pointsè will be triggered. Tipping point areas and concerns are: a) Amazon rain forest frequent droughts, b) Arctic sea ice loss, c) Atlantic circulation slowdown, d) Boreal forest more fires and pests, e) Coral Reef die offs, f) Greenland ice sheet melting, g) Permafrost thawing releases carbon, h) Antarctic ice unstable!
comparative advantage--according to this, a nation should produce and export goods that it can produce at relatively lower costs than other nations.
deforestation--cutting trees and clearing forests, activities having both local and global negative environmental effects. Locally wildlife habit and biodiversity is reduced; globally, since trees absorb carbon dioxide, both the absence of these trees and their burning (as in slash and burn clearing of land for farming operations) leads to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide which aggravates the global warming / climate change problem.
Earth's natural cycles--study of that very complex system, the roughly 8000 miles in diameter spherical planet Earth, is facilitated by considering its numerous subsystems--some of which are naturally conceptualized as cycles of matter moving within and between the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Driven by input of solar energy, especially critical to life is the closed system cycling of six chemicals--providing individual oxygen, water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur cycles. The key to understanding the appearance of the Earth's surface landforms--and operating over a much longer time frame--is the rock cycle.
ecological conscience--a term popularized by Aldo Leopold who connected it with treating the land right--in accordance with his land ethic. More generally it involves feeling obligated to treat the natural habitat where one lives right: 1) not making a mess of it, and 2) not incurring ecological debt.
ecological debt -- refers to irreplaceable resources being consumed or natural cycles disrupted in an impossible or difficult to fix manner by human activities. While people today benefit from the consumption or the activity, the consequences of ecological debt incurred today will be left to future generations to deal with. Examples: hundreds or thousands of years from now people 1) might have to deal with highly radioactive nuclear waste that escapes repositories, a legacy of today’s nuclear generated electricity, 2) will no longer burn fossil fuels to power automobiles, the fossil fuel era will be over, the vast quantity of this huge resource, that it took nature millions of years to produce, having been consumed by human beings in a brief few hundred year period; 3) will suffer through uncomfortably hot summers, contend with incredibly strong hurricanes in coastal areas, and have memories of parts of the world long ago flooded by rising sea levels -- all resulting from the global warming , a legacy of long ago massive burning of fossil fuels and associated release of its carbon dioxide gas / greenhouse effect enhancing byproduct; 4) will live in a much less biologically diverse world--the result of human activity having caused the extinctions of millions of species!
economic growth, basis for--in terms of increasing production output, economic growth can be brought about by increasing production input and / or increasing productivity. At the national level, ways to achieve this include 1) increasing population growth rate (this helps determine eventual labor force growth), 2) investment in economic infrastructure (land, new industrial plants / equipment), 3) investment in human capital, 4) by making technological changes, and 5) by improving the political, and socioeconomic climate. With respect to investment, it is generally thought that if a nation maintains essentially full employment and keeps inflation in check, its rate of economic growth should be directly related to the % of its gross domestic product that is reinvested back in the ways noted above.
economic growth, measuring--the rate of a nation's growth of real gross domestic product per capita is typically used (as a first approximation) to gauge how fast economies are growing and standard of living is increasing. Economic growth per capita is considered high if in the 5% to 10% / year range, 3% to 4% / year is considered moderate / healthy, while 1% to 2% is thought to be rather slow / anemic growth. An economy growing at a per capita rate of 5% / year means that the economic output per person will roughly double in 14 years.
ecosystem -- a self sustaining, interacting natural community of animals, plants, and their physical environment. While matter cycles through such systems, energy moves in one-way (linear) fashion through the associated food chain. At its bottom, plants capture solar energy, are eaten by animals (herbivores and omnivores), who in turn are eaten by other animals (carnivores and omnivores) at the top. These are eaten by microorganisms (decomposers)-- by which time all of the energy that initially flowed into the system will have flowed back out as waste heat. Each living component has a continuing, dynamic relationship with the others. If numbers of species A fall, numbers of species B, which preys upon A, will similarly fall. With less predation of A its numbers begin climbing, and likewise numbers of species B recover as well.
ecovillage--defined by the Ecovillage Network of Canada as "self-identified communities committed to living in an ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually sustainable way." They are often composed of people who prefer living in a decentralized fashion: off centralized power grids, water and sewage systems.
energy balance—the Law of Conservation of Energy—roughly speaking that, for a closed system, the system’s total energy stays the same since it cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another, serves as a starting point for understanding certain systems in terms of energy balance. To simplify things, imagine the systems are closed except for a single energy input. The systems of interest are 1) the Earth, and 2) a human body, and the energy inputs are from solar energy and food intake respectively. As a first approximation, we imagine that for 1) the Earth’s temperature will stay constant if the energy received from the Sun is matched by energy lost to space, and 2) the human body’s weight will stay constant if the calorie intake supplied as the food is converted to energy is matched by the calories burned by the body as it carries out its activities (which for some may include strenuous exercise.) Both of these approximations, while good starting points for approaching two problems of interest—global warming and a person’s dieting to avoid weight gain-- need comment. First, if solar energy received by Earth exceeds what escapes to space the temperature increases. This is what is happening the due to the “enhanced greenhouse effect” as more greenhouse gas--most notably carbon dioxide from humans burning fossil fuel—traps heat energy that otherwise would escape to space. The increase in land temperatures has been slowed given that the oceans are where some of this excess heat ends up—and their temperature is slow to increase given their tremendous mass and capacity for storing heat. Second, if the human body calorie in = calorie out balance is maintained over the long term weight will stay constant, there can be short-term fluctuations. The “calorie out” side of this will be more difficult for dieters to assess given human body metabolism variations (both in the rate and efficiency of mechanisms involved that are unique to the particular person.) and differences in energy storage “sinks” (èweight gain locations.)
engineering design -- the process by which scientific principles, engineering analysis, mathematics, computers, words and pictures are used to produce a plan or design, which, when carried out, will satisfy previously identified and well defined human needs.
environmental impact analysis -- a procedure for 1) collecting information about the proposed development, project or land use and its goals / objectives, 2) identifying possible impacts of its implementation in various areas (mainly environmental, but depending upon the scale of the project also perhaps cultural, economic, social, political, etc), 3) assessing impacts and identifying tradeoffs, 4) formulating, then examining other alternatives to the proposed development, with quantitative models and forecasts, 5) making recommendations including designating a preferred alternative that best meets goals / objectives while minimizing impacts / other concerns , and 6) making plans for monitoring performance. Legislation may require that this be done before certain projects can be carried out on government land.
Environmental / Green Movement--a movement that blossomed in the 1960s-1970s with growing concerns about environmental pollution and manmade destruction of natural beauty. This was greatly aided by passage of numerous environmental laws--such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in the USA. By the start of the 21st century it developed a political dimension with the formation of green parties in many countries, notably in Western Europe.. The chief goal of this movement is the development and maintenance of a sustainable society. It hopes to bring this about democratically by applying ecological wisdom and economic thinking that no longer ignores, but rather heavily factors in the environment. Minimizing pollution, promoting efficient use of natural resources, recycling, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy, protecting biodiversity, and helping affluent western societies transition from wasteful, destructive multinational profit-minded corporate driven consumerism / globalization to more environmentally sound, ethical, socially just, sustainable economies are important goals of this movement.
fossil fuels--the hydrocarbons (derived from ancient plants) stored in coal, oil, and natural gas which can be burned to release energy. Over 85% of society's energy needs are met in this way. While reserves of oil and natural gas are dwindling--some argue that global oil production has peaked and will begin to decline --enough coal exists to power civilization for hundreds more years. Environmentalists hope that most of that coal will remain in the ground: burning all of it--and releasing the greenhouse effect enhancing carbon dioxide gas associated with fossil fuel combustion--will produce unbearable global warming / climate change they argue.
free trade--exists when goods can be exported and imported without tariffs, quotas or other restrictive barriers. Supposedly free trade promotes economic growth by encouraging nations to engage in economic activities in which they have comparative advantage.
global competitiveness index--a measure of how well a nation's economy is positioned with respect to its own economic efficiency / productivity and its ability to attract foreign investment / company infrastructure. Typically based on over hundred different factors, the index is computed annually for over hundred countries by the World Economic Forum after surveying thousands of business executives worldwide.
government involvement in a market economy, indicators of -- There are three areas in which to assess a national government’s involvement and interference in a market economy: 1) by the proportion of GNP that the government directly purchases or produces; 2) by examination of the extent to which the government redistributes income, typically by levying income taxes on most, and making transfer payments to others (such as welfare checks, social security payments, unemployment benefits, for medical costs, etc); 3) by examination of the extent to which the government regulates and supervises many things directly connected with economic life (business, commerce, workplace safety, etc) and others indirectly (travel, entertainment, health, education, science & technology, etc).
greenhouse effect --an
important heat trapping mechanism. It works as follows: The sun’s
visible light readily passes through either glass in a greenhouse or the
Earth’s atmosphere. But upon striking a surface (soil, the ground,
etc) and being absorbed, the energy that is reradiated by this surface
as it heats up is different in wavelength from visible sunlight.
Specifically it is called infrared radiation and has a longer
wavelength. This infrared radiation does not so easily pass back out
through the glass or atmosphere. In the case of the atmosphere, it is
trapped by greenhouse gases -- most notably water vapor and carbon
dioxide. So with more energy coming in from the sun than escapes back to
space, a temperature increase results.
greenhouse effect, enhanced --In the last 100 years human fossil fuel combustion has put extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and enhanced this greenhouse effect. The result has been a slight increase in average global temperature, less than one degree Celsius. With human activities pouring increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the world continues to warm. Based on current trends, computer models project future global warming of one to six more degrees in the next century. Such warming is expected to bring significant global climate change, disrupting both natural ecosystems and human society / comfort. People can keep this projected disruption to a minimum by using fossil fuel energy more efficiently and increasingly switching from it to renewable energy.
greenhouse gases, other–carbon dioxide gets the attention, but humans also put increasing amounts of other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere–notably methane, released in agricultural activities and from pipeline leaks. While not nearly as long-lived as carbon dioxide, it is many times as potent. A big concern is warming of the Arctic will free methane trapped in permafrost–which some feel could be catastrophic!
gross domestic product (GDP) -- the annual market value of a country’s total domestic economic output, including all end goods and services purchased. It is often used to gauge economic well being. Usually a "real" value is provided meaning the effects of inflation are removed. Based on 2018 World Bank figures, total global GDP was around $85 trillion--lead by the USA with around $21 trillion and China with $13.5 trillion.
gross national product -- similar to gross domestic product but also includes foreign economic output, that is it factors in incomes / output associated with its citizens living outside its territory.
human capital -- investment made in people, including improving their productive capabilities and health due to investments in job training, education or medical care.
inflation rate, annual--a measure of how much prices generally increase over one year. At 2% / yr inflation prices would double in 36 years; at 6 %/ yr in 12 years; at 12 % / yr in 6 years.
interest rate, annual--what
it costs someone to borrow a dollar (or unit of currency in general) for
one year. Thus a .07 = 7 % annual interest rate means that it costs $.07
dollars to borrow 1 dollar for one year, or 7 dollars to borrow $100 for
interest, simple vs. compound--interest
refers to compensation paid for the loan of money, typically calculated
by using an interest rate. Thus the simple interest on a deposit (where
the bank is loaned money) of $2000 earning 7% for five years would
be $2000 x .07/yr x 5 yrs = $700.
Compound interest differs from simple interest in that the
principal is not fixed--it is compounded or added to by the interest
earned. This addition takes place over a specified compounding period.
Thus interest on $2000 earning 7% compounded annually for five
years would be ($2000 x .07/yr x 1st year = $140) + ($2140 x .07/yr x
2nd year = $149.80) + ($2289.80 x .07 / yr x 3rd year =$160.29) +
(2450.09 x .07 /yr x 4th year = $171.51) + ($2621.60 x .07 / yr x 5th
year =$183.51) = $805.11.
Most financial arrangements involving loans or deposits involve compound
Most financial arrangements involving loans or deposits involve compound
investment decisions, basis for--typically the key piece of information behind whether to invest in something or not is whether the expected annual rate of return on the investment exceeds the annual interest rate charged for the money borrowed to make the investment or finance the project.
jobs and renewable energy—Driven by environmental concerns and falling costs, use of clean renewable energy has accelerated. With its growth —by 2019 two-thirds of all electricity generating capacity installed worldwide was renewable—has come millions of new jobs. Globally all renewable industries employ roughly eight million workers, with solar photovoltaic and wind energy leading the way. With many countries pledging to be 100% renewable energy powered by 2050 or so—up from a global 2020 average of at most 25%--job prospects are expected to grow accordingly. In the USA, solar and wind jobs approach one million while the number of coal miners has fallen to around 50,000.
leverage—in an economics sense this refers to one’s
ability to borrow money based on one’s wealth.
Basically the wealthier one is, the more money one can
borrow—or the more assets one can control or leverage.
market economy -- a private, free-enterprise system based on independent consumer agents, a price system, and economic forces of supply and demand
when a person, institution,
or large group of people is partly shielded from risk (due to insurance,
prospects of government bailout, safety features, etc.) and acts
differently (is less careful creating a hazard.)
Examples: 1) drivers with airbags drive more recklessly,
confident that if they crash the airbags will protect them; 2) a person
wearing a face mask mingles more closely and more often with people
during a pandemic like corona virus than he or she would without the
face mask; 3) an investor buys non-investment grade (junk) corporate
bonds because of the perception that the company is “too big to
fail” and the government will come to the rescue, if need be, to
prevent that from happening
natural capital -- is to be distinguished from manmade capital
and human capital. Natural capital includes natural resources (air,
water, soil, forests, minerals, fossil fuels, fish, etc) and the
biodiversity of natural living ecosystems (grasslands, wetlands, ocean
coral reefs, etc.)
natural capital -- is to be distinguished from manmade capital and human capital. Natural capital includes natural resources (air, water, soil, forests, minerals, fossil fuels, fish, etc) and the biodiversity of natural living ecosystems (grasslands, wetlands, ocean coral reefs, etc.)
nonrenewable resources--irreplaceable natural resources whose amount--for all practical purposes--is limited. Examples include fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas, etc), iron ore, copper, etc. For the fossil fuel most important to the global economy--oil--speculation abounds as to whether world oil production has already peaked and is about to decline (as pessimists claim), or won't peak for another two decades or so (as optimists believe.) Unless replacements / alternatives can be readily phased in, economic disruption spurred by higher prices for dwindling resources could accompany decline in production of such non-renewable resources.
opportunity cost--an economics concept that puts the cost of resources used in a certain way at the value of what these resources could have brought in or produced if they had instead been used in some alternative way (deemed to be the best). It represents the most highly valued opportunity forfeited when a choice is made.
overshoot and collapse -- a phenomenon often seen by ecologists in studying ecosystems. It occurs when the numbers of a certain species dramatically rise, exceed the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, and then fall suddenly. Their numbers can recover eventually, provided the demands on the environment were not such that the carrying capacity is permanently degraded.
ozone depletion--refers to manmade chemicals--most notably chlorofluorocarbons--that destroy upper atmosphere ozone which shields life on the ground from dangerous ultraviolet radiation. International agreements reached in the early 1990s have apparently helped stabilize such ozone levels and the problem is not viewed with the serious alarm it once was.
pesticides--substances used to kill or control pests: organisms which interfere with human well being or activities (agricultural, in particular). They are classified according to the type of pest they are used on (e.g. insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) While such use of naturally occurring substances goes back thousands of years, the first manmade pesticide to be widely used was the insecticide DDT, developed in 1939. Like DDT, many pesticides can poison humans and damage the environment. By the 1960s--with the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, it was recognized that DDT interferes with bird reproduction. It is now banned in many countries. A new generation of pesticides--some of which are biological agents, instead of manmade chemicals-- promise less environmental impact.
population and family planning--refers to efforts to limit the number of children in a family. The goal of such planning is to insure that all children born 1) are truly wanted, and 2) can be adequately supported and raised to adulthood given the resources available. While implemented at the individual family level, policies can be formulated at the national government level. This has most notably occurred in China, where the "One Child Policy" was adopted in 1979 to address population growth concerns. (This was rescinded in 2015 with reversion to a two child limit.) Family planning services typically focus on promoting and providing access to birth control devices (contraceptive pills, condoms, etc). Where those fail, counseling as to whether to use an abortion clinic's services may be provided. More draconian options include forced sterilization--which has been used in the United States to prevent mentally deficient people from reproducing.
population growth concerns–reportedly since the days of the Babylonians in 1600 BCE–when the human population was thirty-five million–people have worried about the possibility of a growing population exceeding the capability to feed it. Typically the former grows exponentially (1, 2, 4, 8, etc) while the latter increases but arithmetically (1,2,3,4, etc)–as Thomas Malthus pointed out in 1798. A few years later in 1804 the human population reached one billion; by 1927 it had doubled to two billion. The doubling time of 123 years is consistent with an average annual growth rate of around 0.6 % per year. The next doubling to four billion took roughly 47 years, consistent with an average annual growth rate of around 1.5 % per year. The growth rate peaked around 1970 at 2.1 % per year. By 2020 it had fallen to 1.1 % per year, and the human population stood at 7.7 billion people. UN Population Division projections suggest that by 2100 there will be 11.2 billion people. How many people can the planet support? Answers vary. Many environmentalists feel that the current population is excessive and that human activities are altering the global climate and causing dangerous disruptions of natural cycles. Currently enough grain is grown to feed ten billion people a vegetarian diet.
productivity--in economic terms, this refers to production output per unit of input.
protein production, inefficient–the amount of grain (in pounds) that must be fed to animals to produce a given amount of meat / protein (say one pound) varies from an inefficient factor of seven or more for feedlot beef to a more respectable just over two for poultry, to just under two for certain species of (fish farm produced) fish. Given that the modern farming practices behind grain production are highly energy and water intensive (typically 1/2 ton of water is needed to produce one pound of grain), and that around 38% of grain worldwide is fed to animals to produce meat for human consumption, there is a direct link between increases in meat consumption and increases in water, energy–and thus increases in greenhouse gas pollutants (from the fossil fuel energy inputs). According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And University of Chicago researchers have found that the typical American (heavily meat based) diet is respons-ble for an additional 1.5 extra tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse emissions per person per year beyond those associated with a no meat diet. To put this number in perspective, it exceeds the amount of greenhouse pollutants saved by switching from a standard sedan to an energy efficient hybrid vehicle.
to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, this is "a
significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy
lasting more than a few months."
recycling--instead of throwing out / trashing certain materials (newsprint, cardboard, office paper, aluminum cans, plastics, glass, metals, etc.) they are instead taken to a recycling center where they are sold / returned to manufacturers for reuse. The practice saves both non-renewable resources and energy, and can reduce pollution and problems associated with landfills / dumps. Food scraps, leaves, tree trimmings and other biodegradable waste can be recycled--in this case, returned to the ground to enrich the soil--through composting, anaerobic digestion or other processes involving micro-organisms.
regulations, pollution and economic growth—Many pushing economic growth cite unnecessary regulations—especially those for workplace safety, public health, and environmental protection—as burdensome. In the USA, in 2017 the Trump administration claimed over-regulation cut GDP growth by 0.8% / year. Critics charge that such thinking ignores the high toll that such things as increased air and water pollution, etc. would take on the American public if regulations were relaxed. Globally, even with many affluent countries working hard to minimize its effects, outdoor air pollution annually causes 4.2 million premature deaths according to the WHO, and costs a staggering $5 trillion / year in health costs and lost productivity according to the World Bank.
renewable resources -- natural resources which are continually being replaced or replenished by natural processes ultimately driven by solar energy. Examples include wind energy, biofuels, hydropower, forest cover, etc. Using them to meet one's livelihood or other needs is a "pay as you go approach" when compared to meeting such needs by "borrowing" from the limited non-renewable, fossil fuel resources.
Rule of 72—this simple rule can be used to roughly calculate the doubling time for something growing exponentially at a fixed % per year rate. You start with 72 and divide it by the fixed % per year rate. Examples: 1) An investment of $1000 at a 6 % /year fixed rate will take 72 divided by 6 or 12 years to have doubled and become $2000; 2) A country with one million people whose population is growing at roughly 2% / year will need 72 divided by 2 = 36 years before it has grown to two million people
solar photovoltaic electricity—a direct sunlight to electrical energy conversion accomplished by solar energy knocking loose electrons in either silicon or other materials that serve as the basis for collector modules. Typical collectors achieve nearly 20% efficiency. A clean, renewable technology with no moving parts. In recent decades costs of panels have dropped from $15 per watt in 1980 dollars to 20 or 30 cents per watt in 2020 dollars to the point where in many sunny locations it is cheaper than coal-derived electricity. By the end of 2019 solar electricity was meeting about 3% of the world’s total electrical energy demand.
be traced to nuclear fusion reactions occurring 93 million miles away
inside the Sun, in which (light) hydrogen nuclei fuse together to make
helium. Indeed, this
radiant energy directly or indirectly powers life on Earth via the
photosynthesis process, and many of the planet's natural cycles such as
the hydrologic cycle. Astrophysicists
believe the Sun will continue to exist in more or less its current form
for another five billion years--making it essentially an inexhaustible
energy source as far as humans are concerned.
solar energy utilization--Meeting human technological societal energy needs using so-called renewable energy sources involves harnessing today's solar energy, whereas using fossil fuels involves drawing on the solar energy that millions of years ago was captured by the ancient plants. While renewable energy resources such as wind, hydroelectric, wood and other biofuels represent indirect solar energy utilization, it can be used directly either for passive heating or in active systems to produce heat and electricity. Its potential is enormous.
subsidy–a government payment or incentive to businesses or individuals given in an effort to support a sector of the economy or encourage some type of production / consumption activity. Two transportation related examples: 1) at one time USA subsidies to oil and gasoline producers / refiners were such that consumers paid less for a gallon of gasoline than for a gallon of water; 2) electric cars in many countries are more affordable given government rebates of some % of the purchase price. Subsidies can have many effects: subsidies benefiting consumers effectively lower prices; some can lead industries to hiring more labor, exporting more products, expanding, etc. Products not getting subsidies often can’t compete with those which are. From a free market perspective, critics charge that by offering subsidies governments are effectively interfering and “picking winners”-- rather than letting the market do this. Many are not bothered by this charge at all, indeed they instead see subsidies as a tool planners can use to steer an economy in a direction they want it to move.
sustainable development -- a type of development that hopefully allows future generations’ standard of living and quality of life to be at least as good as the present generation.
technology assessment -- a procedure for 1) collecting information about the technology and how it will be used in meeting specified objectives, 2) identifying impacts of its use in various areas (environmental, economic, social, political, etc), 3) assessing impacts and identifying tradeoffs, 4) formulating, then examining alternatives, with quantitative models and forecasts, 5) making recommendations including designating a preferred alternative that best meets objectives while minimizing impacts / other concerns , and 6) making plans for monitoring performance
trade, balance of--the relative comparison between the monetary value of a nation's exports vs. its imports. U.S. exports and imports were last roughly equal in 1991. Since then a trade deficit--which in 2006 reached $764 billion / year has developed.
tree planting to combat climate change--Most trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2 ) using a rather inefficient process, but a select few use an evolutionary more advanced (C4 carbon fixation) one. Whereas most trees absorb just 1.1 to 9.5 metric tons of CO2 per acre per year, a efficient ones (like Empress Splendor trees) pull in over 100! Planting one acre of such trees can capture nearly 1000 tons of CO2 in 10 years—offsetting 50 years of an average American’s greenhouse gas missions —since such folks, at 20 tons per year, would need 50 years to put 1000 tons into the atmosphere. Critics charge tree planting on a global scale would take too long to work—but Empress Splendor trees are fast growing and reach maturity in ten years.
wage and price controls -- regulations on wages and prices (typically limiting their rate of increase) which a government can impose to help combat inflation
wind energy–ultimately derived from uneven solar heating of the atmosphere and resulting circulation patterns, the mechanical energy stored in the wind can be used to drive electrical generators. This is accomplished by attaching propeller blades to the shaft of the generator and mounting it on a tall tower in a windy location, providing a clean, renewable resource to generate electricity. Its use has dramatically increased since 2000 to where, by 2020, it supplied over 5% of all electricity generated worldwide. Costs have dropped by a factor of ten or more in recent decades to the point where in many locations it is cheaper than coal-derived electricity. Given its intermittent nature, one particularly promising possible use of wind derived electricity is to charge electric car batteries.
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