Tag Archives: world

World population hits 7 billion

World population hits 7 billion on Oct. 31, or thereabouts – latimes.com.

It took only a dozen years for humanity to add another billion people to the planet, reaching the milestone of 7 billion Monday — give or take a few months.

Demographers at the United Nations Population Division set Oct. 31, 2011, as the “symbolic” date for hitting 7 billion, while acknowledging that it’s impossible to know for sure the specific time or day. Using slightly different calculations, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the 7-billion threshold will not be reached until March.

Under any methodology, demographers agree that humanity remains on a steep growth curve, which is likely to keep climbing through the rest of this century. The U.N.’s best estimate is that population will march past 9.3 billion by 2050 and exceed 10.1 billion by the end of the century. It could be far more, if birthrates do not continue to drop as they have in the last half-century.

Nearly all the projected growth this century is expected to occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while the combined populations in Europe, North America and other wealthy industrialized nations will remain relatively flat. Some countries, such as Germany, Russia and Japan, are poised to edge downward, their loss made up mostly by ongoing growth in the United States, which is bolstered by waves of immigrants.

The buildup to Monday’s milestone has briefly turned up the flame on long-simmering debates about growth on a finite planet: Whether a growing population or growing consumption remains the biggest environmental challenge, how best to help lift a billion people out of poverty and misery, whether governments should provide contraception for those who cannot afford it.

The new leader of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, a Nigerian obstetrician-gynecologist, stepped gingerly into the fray. His agency remains a favorite punching bag of antiabortion activists in the United States for its role in supporting family planning clinics in developing countries.

“Instead of asking questions like, ‘Are we too many?’ we should instead be asking, ‘What can I do to make our world better?’ ” wrote Osotimehin in the annual State of the World Population report. The report chronicles disparities between rich nations and poor ones. Poor countries continue to have low education levels and startlingly high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal and child deaths due to complications from childbirth.

“In many parts of the developing world, where population growth is outpacing economic growth, the need for reproductive health services, especially family planning, remains great,” Osotimehin concluded.

Some have used the occasion to celebrate the unrivaled success of the human species. Population grows when births exceed deaths. The 7-billion mark was reached because people are living longer and the number of infant deaths has dropped, because of a more secure food supply and because of advances in sanitation and medicine.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will hold a news conference Monday to mark the date and talk about challenges ahead, particularly how to reduce poverty, invest in the world’s 1.8 billion youth and help countries develop in a sustainable way.

In 1999, his predecessor, Kofi Annan, designated a boy born to refugee parents in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as Baby 6 Billion. He had been plucked from the hundreds of thousands of babies born that day to put a face on global population growth. Adnan Mevic, now 12, has become something of a celebrity.

None of the estimated 382,000 babies born Monday will have such an honor.

There is no word yet on how the United Nations will handle the next milestone, when the globe’s population hits 8 billion — about 14 years from now.

Italy Hits the Iceberg

Italy Hits the Iceberg – By Maurizio Molinari | Foreign Policy.

Perhaps it was already too late for Italy to avoid the financial downgrade that credit-rating agency Moody’s threatened at the beginning of this summer. It’s not as if people didn’t see it coming. Italy’s economy has been battered by rising debt and worsening credit spreads. A default or bailout is every European central banker’s nightmare scenario — it’s the economy “too big to save.” Indeed, as Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti ominously warned in July, “If we don’t act now, then we will be like the Titanic, and even the first-class passengers suffered.” Not to push the analogy, but Italy may have just hit the iceberg. It’s not necessarily sinking, though. The government in Rome can still try to exploit the pressure generated by the current financial crisis to jolt the economy out of its semi-stagnation, launching a bold and comprehensive program of structural reforms to increase productivity and growth, while driving down debt. But does anyone believe that embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi still has the will — or enough political juice — to do it?

Moody’s Oct. 4 decision to downgrade Italy’s sovereign debt to A2 follows a similar decision by Standard & Poor’s on Sept. 19 that knocked the country down to a single A rating; but Moody’s slash of three notches was in some ways more shocking. Both agencies also give Italy a negative outlook, which means that future downgrades are likely. Italy’s high and mighty have reason to worry.

The downgrades are based on three concerns. First is the sharp deterioration of the international economic outlook, particularly in Europe. This is obviously something over which Italy has no control, but which it’s more impacted by than other advanced countries because of its endemic low growth rates. Italy does not have the fiscal space or the flexibility to change monetary or foreign exchange policies to boost growth. Second, and compounding the problem, sluggish growth risks undermining the otherwise good fiscal results achieved by Italy in the past few years, particularly the primary budget surplus. Third is the political component: Growing frictions within the ruling coalition and its slim parliamentary majority have undermined the government’s ability to enact necessary but unpopular measures to front-load fiscal consolidation and break the numerous logjams that hamper growth. And political uncertainty is not going to disappear anytime soon; even if Berlusconi steps down, it is unclear who will be his successor or whether new elections will lead to a more effective government coalition.

Even if Berlusconi and Tremonti did see the Moody’s iceberg coming, it is unlikely that they could have turned the ship of the Italian economy in time to avoid it. This, however, doesn’t mean that they’re above fault. Italy should have taken immediate action to strengthen its economy and to try to distance itself from the contagion of the debt crisis in Greece and the other European peripheral countries. Specifically, Rome should have embraced the stern recommendations issued in early August by European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet and his incoming Italian successor, Mario Draghi, who requested that Italy act with urgency on several fronts, including liberalizing public services and professions, making the labor market more flexible, increasing the retirement age in line with international standards, and streamlining the public administration. These measures, as the ECB urged, should be part of a “comprehensive, bold, and credible strategy of reforms.” Rome gravely nodded and promised to get to work, but the result was more of the same: lots of talking and only marginal improvement.

After some procrastination, the Italian government did push through Parliament a set of measures aimed at having a balanced budget by 2013, a plan that would allow the debt-to-GDP ratio to start to decline from its very high level. But the plan’s effectiveness and credibility have been questioned: Most measures don’t actually cut government spending but rather increase tax revenue, including a much-vaunted program to strengthen tax collection. (We’ll see what comes of that.) In any case, many of the structural reforms and growth-enhancing measures suggested by the ECB are missing.

The predicament that the Italian government now faces is like trying to fix the flaws in the Titanic’s construction as it’s hitting the iceberg: Sound the alarm, save the women and children, plug the holes — and while you’re at it, build more lifeboats, double-plate the hull, and make sure that those rivets aren’t subpar.

Markets are asking Italy to resolve long-standing problems that will take years to redress, even assuming its full commitment to the task. This commitment, however, is severely lacking now and in the foreseeable future. Berlusconi is under fire for nonstop sordid revelations about his private life; the current coalition government lacks any clear candidate to replace him; and the opposition is too fragmented and weak to offer a credible alternative. Even civil society seems unable to offer credible leaders. The only exception to this lack of leadership is the president, Giorgio Napolitano, whose moral authority has grown considerably in recent months but whose powers are strictly limited by the Italian Constitution. Napolitano, however, has never said that he’s eager to assume the premiership.

Under these circumstances, it is unclear who will be able to take those bold, comprehensive actions recommended by the ECB; Tremonti is preparing plans, but the political will to push them forward is lacking. This is due largely to Berlusconi — whose weakened stature makes it nearly impossible for him to take command of a fractious government. Meanwhile, Italy remains exposed to the spillover effects of the debt crisis, though its budgetary situation appears much stronger than those of most European countries. But the Moody’s downgrade doesn’t help. It’s now going to be more difficult — and it cost Italy a lot more — to enter credit markets and reassure bondholders.

To make matters worse, like with the Titanic’s sinking, the Carpathia is too far away to come to Italy’s aid. European leaders have been unable to decide on an effective strategy to cope with the debt crisis and contain its effects. The European Financial Stability Facility (ESFS) that is designed to assist countries dealing with the economic crisis is not yet operational, pending the ratification of the last of the 17 eurozone countries, Slovakia. Even assuming the ESFS does come online in the near future, most serious analysts doubt whether it has adequate resources; only $300 billion would be available to it, and most estimates hold that it will take more than $1 trillion to calm the restive markets.

Still, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. There is no doubt that Italy — as well as a number of other eurozone countries — is navigating through very dangerous seas. But it’s not yet a foregone conclusion that it will go down like the Titanic. That said, if Italy’s politicians think that anyone but themselves will come and save them, then they might want to start taking swimming lessons now.

Could the World Situation Get Any Worse? You Betcha!

From Bad to Worse – By David J. Rothkopf | Foreign Policy.

It is hard to deny. Things are looking bleak. But are they as bad as they could get?

The answer, of course, is no.

Here are 10 things that could happen between now and the end of next year that could make things much worse and why President Obama should consider not running for reelection.

Europe’s debt crisis could deepen
The European Central Bank’s interventions to prop up Spain and Italy could prove inadequate. EU leaders will continue to avoid real structural reform. European banks, now showing a reluctance to lend (akin to their mood immediately after the collapse of Lehman Brothers) could themselves teeter, burdened by the prospects of sovereign debt defaults and a global slow down. Spain and Italy could take a turn for the worse. The rest of the world, preoccupied with their own problems, might be as distracted as are the northern Europeans frustrated with bailing out their feckless southern neighbors.

Tensions tighten
Europe’s economic problems could beget deepening social tensions. Unrest like that seen in the United Kingdom could become more commonplace. With jobs drying up, anti-immigrant violence could grow. Nationalism could feed off these tensions and fuel more steps like Denmark’s move away from the EU’s commitment to open borders among its states.

U.S. recession regression
The United States could officially enter recession. Reduced tax revenues will be one painful consequence of the slow down. Politicians will struggle to reduce debt but find it hard to do so in the near term. The problem will burgeon. Small- and medium-sized communities will default. Several large cities and perhaps one or two significant states will be at risk of being unable to pay their bills. Draconian cutbacks in police and social services will blend with high unemployment and growing inequality to produce social unrest in the United States. Stock markets will continue their slide.

Global contagion
We could enter a global recession. Downturns in the United States and the European Union could feed off of one another and the fragile Japanese economy would almost certainly sink as a result. Credit tightness and political indecisiveness will deepen the gloom.

Inflation hits the BRICs
While emerging markets like China and Brazil might see inflation worries ebb due to the global recession and falling demand for high-priced commodities … they might not. Their currencies could strengthen as established ones falter, making exports more costly at just the wrong moment. Secular growth in demand for commodities may slow declines somewhat reducing the “benefits” of declining demand. Alternatively, or additionally, real estate and financial bubbles might burst in each of these countries as investor doubts grow. Note that Brazil took a particular beating during the recent downward market spike.

Middle East meltdown
Tensions in the Middle East could grow. Palestine’s push for statehood might be followed by massive displays of civic unrest. An Israeli government burdened with economic problems of its own and a little arthritic when it comes to its willingness to show flexibility with its near-neighbors will move too slowly. States elsewhere in the region grappling with their own problems — a more anti-Israel Egypt, Syria, Iran, and others — will fan the flames. Meanwhile, the problems in those states will put the entire region on the edge of an unprecedented meltdown. Thus, even with falling global demand and the recent downturn in oil prices, you could see upward pressure on petroleum as well. Then, Iran announces it has successfully tested a nuclear weapon.

Sub-continental showdown
The government in Pakistan could totter or be decapitated thus heightening fears of even more pronounced Islamist influence and of growing tension with India. Indian markets fall. The Indian government is unable to pursue needed economic reforms. Social unrest might be seen throughout the sub-continent.

Another Eyjafjallajokull
One or more exogenous events of the type that regularly occur without warning — a terror attack, an earthquake, a tsunami, a devastating hurricane or typhoon, the eruption of an Icelandic volcano — could slam a major economy weakening the global situation further.

Expect the unexpected
An unexpected or unexpectedly intense conflict could erupt in the Russian near abroad, in Central Asia, in Turkey, in Africa, or in the Middle East creating even more uncertainty. With economically unsteady and politically hesitant leadership in the world’s most important powers growing instability fueled by rogue opportunists seems increasingly likely.

Some combination of the above could then turn the global recession plus related banking, derivatives and stock-market crises into a depression.

It is undeniable that many of the above developments are not highly likely. But what is striking is just how plausible most of them are. These are the kind of medium-to-low probability outcomes with significant consequences that planners must take into account.  It is also easy to see how further inaction, half-steps, and wrong steps by leaders could make these and other grim turns much more likely.

Such possibilities should not trigger panic. They should however, focus the minds of politicians, bankers, and electorates everywhere. The problem with the leadership failures of the recent past is not just that they have slammed the world economy yet again, it is that they have made the future more dangerous than it was.

My fantasy is that recognizing this, President Obama would do as he once promised he would do, set personal ambition aside and announce he is not running for re-election. Instead, he would say that he wanted to shrug off the straight jacket of political considerations and focus exclusively on finding bi-partisan solutions to America’s problems. Perhaps he would make a bold gesture, like appointing Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson co-secretaries of the Treasury or, at least, give both economic leadership roles on his team. Others in the Democratic Party can focus on 2012 and beyond. There are many qualified to lead. (Who knows, perhaps the next candidate we find can actually have experience with markets and with the rest of the world.) There are certainly plenty of Democrats who stand head and shoulders above the current, feeble array the Republican Party has rolled out, which will only grow more feeble with the likely addition of Rick Perry this weekend. And then Barack Obama, a decent, talented, and gifted man, can fashion a unique legacy for himself, as a public servant who actually thought his first duty was to serve the public.

But, I’ll admit it, that fantasy is less likely to occur than any of the other events I listed above.  And so I will continue to hope for the next best thing: The president and his fellow heads of state and government worldwide begin to govern as though they didn’t care whether they won re-election or not, but instead as though their top priorities was ro

2% of GDP Would Create a Green Economy

Report Says Just 2% of GDP Would Create a Green Economy & Stop Poverty | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World.

In a report released Monday, the United Nations Environment Programme outlined a sustainable public policy and investment plan that said just two-percent of the global domestic product could move the world from fossil fuel dependency to a low carbon economy. Currently, two-percent of the GDP is being spent on unsustainable practices like fossil fuel use, pesticide subsidies, and fisheries. By shifting focus, it is believed that the divergent approach in investment would kick-start a green economy and alleviate global poverty.

The two percent at hand amounts to approximately $1.3 trillion annually. According to the report, there are ten areas that need immediate green investment: small-scale agriculture, energy efficient buildings, eco-friendly fisheries, forestry, green industry, green transportation, improved waste management and recycling, low carbon energy, and sustainable water practices.

“With 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day and with more than two billion people being added to the global population by 2050, it is clear that we must continue to develop and grow our economies,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a press release. “But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in our atmosphere that sustain our economies, and thus, the lives of each and everyone of us.”

If the two percent were put towards green investments, the report says the economy would grow at the same rate, if not faster, than it would under the current conditions — except the growth would be without the risks, shocks, and scarcities increasingly seen in the existing “brown” economy. The report indicates that the initial transition would cause a loss of jobs in some sectors, but it would eventually produce more than enough jobs to make up for any losses. The transition would also be a catalyst for growth in developing countries, where up to 90 percent of the GDP of the poor is linked to the environment or nature capital, like forests and freshwater.

The key to change lies in our governments. The report says that our political leaders need to create public policies that would generate and support a green economy by directing private investments toward green industry. Without the support of the government, any transition to a healthier, greener economy is unlikely.

The full report is available for download here.


The UNEP report reveals how little it would take for us to do the right thing and set us on a green track permanently. By shifting the focus of just two percent of the GDP, we would cut our collective carbon footprint in half, put fossil fuels behind us, and alleviate global poverty. In other words, we’d save the planet.

Via Treehugger

Virtual water cannot remedy freshwater shortage

Virtual water cannot remedy freshwater shortage.

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2011) — The implementation of virtual water into trading deals has been suggested as a realistic solution to solving the global inequality of renewable freshwater, but new research suggests that it may not be as revolutionary as first thought.

In a study published June 7, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers have claimed that virtual water is unlikely to increase water use equality, primarily because the existing amount of virtual water is not large enough to overcome the inequalities that exist.

Lead author David Seekell, of the University of Virginia, said, “Virtual water is unlikely to overcome these constraints because there just isn’t enough to go around.”

80 per cent of humanity currently lives in regions where water security is threatened, meaning that as the global population grows against a finite volume of freshwater, a more equal distribution of water use between countries will be needed.

Virtual water — the amount of water it takes to produce goods or a service — has been suggested as a possible solution to this growing problem by using virtual water values to inform international trade deals.

Most goods carry a virtual water value — for example, producing one kilogram of beef requires 15 thousand litres of water — which can act as a significant tool for addressing a country’s input and output of water.

For example, a trade deal could be struck where products with a high virtual water value, such as oranges, could be exported from countries where there is an efficient and abundant water supply, into a country where the requirement of water to grow that particular product is more of a burden.

This would allow the receiving country to save on water, relieving the pressure on their limited water resources, and allowing the water to be used elsewhere in its infrastructure.

This study, performed by researchers at the University of Virginia, assessed the inequality in water use between countries and examined how different uses, such as industrial, household, and for agricultural products consumed domestically, contributed to the overall inequality.

To do this, the authors compared United Nations statistics on both social and human development statuses with water usage statistics for a range of countries.

Their study concludes that virtual water transfers are not sufficient to equalise water use among nations because water used for agriculture consumed domestically dominates a nation’s water needs and cannot be completely compensated by current volumes of virtual water transfers.

Seekell continued, “Even if it cannot completely equalise water use between countries, virtual water may stand to contribute to this effort if there is increased transfer from high water use to low water use countries, but the danger here is that these transfers effectively prop up populations above the carrying capacity of their natural resources and this could actually erode a population’s long-term resilience to drought or other disasters.

“There are a myriad of political and economic barriers to trade, and because water is not usually a deciding factor in trade decisions, it is unlikely that global trade will ever be viewed as efficient from a water use point of view.”

E.P.A. Considers Risks of Gas FRACKING

–need to check with local groups here.. can we just lend support, reports, and fact-checking on these things??


Published: July 23, 2010

ME: fracking causes human health, widllife health, externality and clearn environemtnal destruction. DUH!!!

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