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Fun in a Careless Consumer Society
I shot the picture with the Inflatable boats floating down the Aare between Thun and Bern last July. I could have done it this year as it repeated exactly the same way during the weekend ... but this time around I want to focus on the dark side of that medal, that is, that the vast majority of these Inflatable boats will only be used once or twice and then be thrown away.

The fun seeking consumers arrive in Thun by train from Bern or further away, then they shop for some variety of an INTEX "made in China" product, an air pump if not included and plenty bottles or cans of beer, of which an untold number will quickly join the fishes.

The past few years the city officials grew tired of seeing these empty boxes left everywhere near the river and in this particularly appreciated boarding spot they took steps. Thun gets to deal with the packaging, Bern with whatever plastic they contained and is no longer wanted. It has been sunny and warm until Sunday evening and what you see here is just from the previous two days.
Thun, June 18th, 2017.
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The slow and inevitable decline of hydro-power
Here is something nobody has talked much about (➊), and yet, our and the next few generations will have to deal with it.
The paper I linked and selected extracts focus on the USA but it can very easily be extended to the rest of the world.
Frequently Asked Questions about Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Contribution and review by the Subcommittee on Sedimentation National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team, April 2017.
➤What was the original plan to manage reservoir sedimentation behind dams?
The original plan to manage sediment in large dams was to account for the volume of sediment anticipated to be trapped and stored in the reservoir for some defined period of time. The period of time is known at the sediment design life, which was typically 50 or 100 years, and many dams are nearing, or even exceeding, their design life.

The original reservoir designs did not include design features or operational plans for removal of the sediment. No provision was made for managing the impacts from sedimentation or maintaining the reservoir benefits over the long-term.

➤Is sedimentation a problem in all regions of the USA?
Yes, reservoirs on natural stream channels in all regions of the USA (and worldwide) will eventually experience sedimentation problems. While the rates of sedimentation can vary greatly from region to region, all reservoirs will fill with sediment over time in the absence of sustainable management.

The most immediate sedimentation problems are evident in small reservoirs in areas of high sediment yield, such as the Coast and Transverse Ranges of California, where a number of dams have filled already, creating the need for expensive sediment stabilization and/or dam removal (Minear and Kondolf, 2009).

➤Is the nation’s capacity to store water decreasing over time?
Yes. White (2001) and Garcia (2008) estimate the average annual reservoir storage capacity loss rate to be 0.2 percent for North America due to reservoir sedimentation. From the reservoir sedimentation database (RESSED) (Gray et al., 2010), the average loss rate of the Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs is 0.19 percent of volume capacity per year.

Meanwhile, according to National Inventory of Dams, the rate of dam construction has decreased rapidly over time since the 1960's. With few federal dams being constructed, and therefore little gain in new reservoir capacity, the nation's ability to store water is decreasing over time as a result of reservoir sedimentation.

This process of reservoir storage loss over time is occurring because new reservoir capacity (through dam construction) is now being added at a much slower rate today than before the 1960’s and because of insignificant efforts to sustainably manage reservoir sediment.
See the full paper here:
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❝Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies.❞
―Isac Asimov, 1988.
I stumbled across a wonderful interview done 30 years ago by Bill Moyers. In this extract Isaac Asimov was voicing his concerns about overpopulation. It is amazing to realize how everything he said is still valid today.
What have we done in this regard during the last three decades? Essentially nothing.
MOYERS: What about, though, the one subject you’ve written so much about, the population explosion, you know, the fact that right now the population of the globe is over four billion. You’ve said that if it –

ASIMOV: It’s over five billion.

MOYERS: Over five billion, yes. You’ve said if it continues at its 2% growth rate a year, it will be what in another-

ASIMOV: Well, actually, it’s down to 1.6%, but with a higher population it’s the same amount in actual numbers: 80 million a year. So that, oh, by the year 2000, it’s going to be perhaps 6.5 billion.

MOYERS: That’s just 12 years from now.

ASIMOV: Yes. Yes, it’s going up very fast.

MOYERS: How many people do you think the earth is able to sustain?

ASIMOV: I don’t think it’s able to sustain the five billion in the long run. So that, I mean, right now, most of the world is living under appalling conditions. And we can’t possibly improve the conditions of everyone. We can’t raise the entire world to the average standard of living in the United States, because I don’t think we have the resources and the ability to distribute well enough for that. We have condemned, right now as it is, most of the world to a miserable starvation-level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up.

MOYERS: But you just can’t say to a woman, “Don’t have children.”

ASIMOV: Well, you know, it’s not so much that. It’s so many people are saying, “Have children.” There is such a pro-natalist attitude in the world. We celebrate Mother’s Day so enthusiastically, we say, “May all your troubles be little ones.” We celebrate additional children. I feel sometimes that if we’d only stop pushing for children, that somehow there’d be fewer of them.

MOYERS: Why did you say that the price of survival is the equality of women?

ASIMOV: Because if women have full ability to enter into all facets of the human condition, if they can enter business, if they can enter religion, science, government, on an equal basis with men, they will be so busy that they won’t feel it as necessary to have a great many children. As long as you have women under conditions where they don’t feel any sense of value, no self-worth except as mothers, except as baby factories, they’ll have a lot of children. Because that’s the only way they can prove they’re worth something.

In general, if you look through the world, the lower the status of women, the higher the birth rate. And the higher the birth rate, the lower the status of women. So that if you could somehow raise the status of women, I am certain the birth rate will fall drastically through the choice of the women themselves.

MOYERS: What do you see happening to the idea of dignity to the human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?

ASIMOV: It’s going to destroy it all. I use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment and there are two bathrooms, then both have what I call freedom of the bathroom, go to the bathroom any time you want to and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And this to my way is ideal. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up, you have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, aren’t you through yet and so on.

And in the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies.

MOYERS: Of course so many people, say the United States is bringing its population under control. That we’re going to have a stable population, we’re not even reproducing ourselves. And what the rest of the world does, we can’t control.

ASIMOV: The population of the United States is still going up. The only time it went up really slowly was during the Great Depression when there were no laws sort of lowering the birth rate. There was just an economic depression, which made people think twice before they had children.

But the United States is doing something else, which is absolutely refusing to help other nations control population. So that our feeling is somehow that it’s enough for us to somehow make sure that the United States is in good shape and what other nations do is their business. It’s not their business, it’s our business, too.

MOYERS: In other words, we can’t exist as a stable economy, in a stable society, if around us is turmoil, chaos?

ASIMOV: Absolutely not. Right now in many nations they’re just destroying the rain forests because they need the firewood, they need the space for farms.

MOYERS: Why should I care about that?

ASIMOV: Because without the rain forests, we’re going to have deserts instead. The food supply will dwindle. As a matter of fact, there’s even the possibility that we’re going to lose all kinds of valuable substances we know nothing about. Those rain forests have an incredible number of species of plants and animals that we know very little about. Some of them may produce chemicals of great importance pharmacologically and medically. Some of the plants, might if properly cultivated be new food sources. And in addition to that, nothing produces the oxygen of the atmosphere with the same intensity that a forest does. Anything that substitutes for it will be producing less oxygen. We’re going to be destroying our atmosphere, too.

MOYERS: You’re how old now?

ASIMOV: Sixty-eight.

MOYERS: You’ve lived through a lot of this century. Have you ever seen human beings think with the perspective you’re calling on them to think now?

ASIMOV: Well, it’s perhaps not important that every human being thinks so. How about the leaders thinking so? How about the opinion-makers thinking so? Ordinary people might follow them. If we didn’t have leaders who are thinking in exactly the opposite way; if we didn’t have people who are shouting hatred and suspicion of foreigners; if we didn’t have people who are shouting that it’s more important to be unfriendly than to be friendly; if we didn’t have people shouting somehow that people inside the country who don’t look exactly the way the rest of us look, that something’s wrong with them. Again, again, it’s almost not necessary for us to do good. It’s only necessary for us to stop doing evil, for goodness sakes.
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The Case for Nuclear Energy
❝For many conservation scientists, nuclear energy is a no-brainer: it is not only very low-pollution, its small land-use footprint means that it leaves more room for nature. By contrast, solar plants require 150 times more land than nuclear.❞

In a well documented talk Shellenberger leaves the ideologies (and the emotions which come with them) aside and gives a cold look at the figures, those which really matter.
Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger |TEDxBerlin:

Here is a fact which is largely unknown. Not unlike Chernobyl before that, the Fukushima disaster of 2011 has caused in the following years a growing and worldwide global environmental disaster through national policy changes resulting in greater pollution, including CO2 emissions. Public opinion turned even more against atomic energy, as impressive as it was frightening, and now anything else would be better.

The reason for that is very simple. Renewable sources could not scale up quickly enough to replace the nuclear plants which were shut down, so dirty sources were favored. That was, and still is today, the case in Germany. In addition we have both a global population increase and more than ever before expecting a reliable supply of electricity to enjoy a modern lifestyle.

Shellenberger didn't have enough time to cover this part but nuclear energy production technology has progressed by both greatly minimizing the risks and the waste. That is another domain where the Chinese are quietly taking the lead.
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Two Hellish Curves
Is that what sustainability looks like? Clearly not!
I keep coming back at those curves, strongly interrelated ones, population and CO2 concentration. Both will largely determine the fate of our species as well as that of countless other species, the collateral damages we cause along with our relentless growth.

In ecosystems energy means food which then can sustain life. From the sun on the surface of our planet, or in caves below ground with the chemical energy from nutrients from above, present in stream flows, through percolation or decompositional material for troglodytes, and finally from those incredible deep sea hydrothermal vents.

The industrial revolution was definitely the stepping milestone for the outburst of our population when we suddenly began to mass produce food and goods as well as considerably improving our health and thus survival.

What these curves should tell us, but only a tiny few will read them that way, is that most of today's population's existence (me and you) owes it to the vast amount of non renewable fossil energy we've turned into CO2 over the last two centuries.

If we dare looking a mere 100 years in the future over this 10'000 years range it is pretty sure the CO2 curve will flatten simply because we will run out of stuff to burn and then photosynthesis will very slowly absorb the excess CO2 again, how long? Well, how long did it take for nature to put it underground in the first place? And then, what about us?
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Putting these truck trailers on the rail is so much better than having a road train of smelly and noisy trucks blacken the alpine valleys between France and Italy.
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Indian Women Carrying Water Jugs on their Heads
A beautiful picture I saw last year at an exhibit dedicated to water.
13'500 villages in Rajasthan do not have access to safe drinking water, surviving solely at the mercy of water tankers sent by the government. These women might be walking to or back from a distribution point. So here, unlike in so many places in the First World, we have an example of a truly crucial usage of oil, the diesel fuel that powers these water tanker trucks.

The below article is dated from 2016 but the situation is likely to repeat every year and, with a warming climate and an increasing population (➊), no getting any better.
➊ This is indirectly suggested by the fact that only women are visible on this picture
❝Every day, women in Ajmer's Baalpur make multiple trips of three kilometres each under scorching sun to the only well which has safe drinking water. They manage to bring back two pots of water in each trip - about 5-7 litres - which is not enough for a family of five.

"I walk three kilometres to fetch water. Sometimes we do three trips in a day. How many pots can I carry in one trip? My children are almost always thirsty and in this situation when we don't have enough for ourselves, can we give water to our animals?" said Shobha.

The Sarpanch of the village said that of the 150 wells in and around the village only 10 have drinking water.

The government says the state has been forced to over exploit ground water which can make the situation worse in the coming future. Ground water levels in 190 of the 236 blocks are either overused or critically short of water.

"We are over exploiting ground water. We withdraw 100 per cent water but recharge only 22 per cent. The government drills a tube well and it goes dry within three years. We install hand pumps that go dry within 8 months," said the state's Public Health minister Kiran Maheshwari.❞
#India, #Rajasthan, Thar Desert,
Photographer unknown
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The Case of Pakistan
Looking at what comes down my stream I don't know why I still seem to be the only one posting - alas less frequently nowadays - about what I consider being by far the biggest existential threat for our own species and most of the rest of the biosphere, that is unchecked population growth.

In this regard Pakistan is on the forefront as can be seen in the data that ➊ compiled in the graphics I uploaded here. To put things in perspective there are 58 countries which growth rate is even higher than that of Pakistan, most of those are in the African continent ➋.

From 37 million in 1950 the country is set to reach 200 million in the course of the next few days ➌. The impacts of such an insane growth are so great that even its prime minister Abbasi is beginning to address the issue. How can the economy of the area provide jobs for everyone, how can the Pakistani soil feeds everyone, those are basic questions where numbers just matter and an US educated Abbasi ➍ has long learned the importance of numbers.

All things considered, nature lovers donating to the WWF are wasting their money. I would give it all to an institution who's really after the root cause of the evil, lethal population pressure through failed family planning ➎.,,,,,
ISLAMABAD: Expressing his concern over unchecked population growth Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi stated that it is a major challenge in ensuring sustainable growth. He reminded that it needs immediate attention of the provincial governments and said that there is a need for greater investment for enhancing access and quality of service delivery in this sector especially for the people of far-flung areas and to integrate these programmes with health service delivery programmes being provided at grass root levels.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi articulated the views in his meeting with a delegation of Population Council headed by its Country Director Dr. Zeba A. Sathar at Prime Minister Office (PMO) on Friday. The delegation included Dr. Ali Mohammad Mir, Director Programmes, Ms. Seemin Ashfaq, Dr. Hamid Mukhtar, senior economist. Dr. Zeba A. Sathar presented an overview of the demography of the country and its impact on economic growth in comparison with other Muslim countries of the world as well as countries in the region.

The Prime Minister assured the delegation that the issue would be taken up with the provincial governments at the platform of Council of Common Interests (CCI) for a consensus-based national strategy.
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Energy or Aesthetic
Further left on this image you will notice another farm roofed with solar panels. I found it to be an ugly sight in these surroundings. There exist better executions but we are still far from achieving the unique visual aspect provided by the slow and largely random biological colonization of clay roofing tiles essentially with mosses and lichens, which color will also slightly change throughout the seasons.
Between Faulensee and Kratigen
March 24th, 2018.
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This is what our oceans must bear with 7 billion of us
Good maps will compile a great deal of data and present it back in a very efficient way.
"Commercial fishing operations covered at last 55 percent of the world's oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land."

So not worrying about how we will feed the naked apes in just a couple of decades must increasingly be the sign of some mental illnesses. Of course this presupposes that one already does not care about the fate of all other species.

From the abstract:
"Although fishing is one of the most widespread activities by which humans harvest natural resources, its global footprint is poorly understood and has never been directly quantified.

We processed 22 billion automatic identification system messages and tracked >70,000 industrial fishing vessels from 2012 to 2016, creating a global dynamic footprint of fishing effort with spatial and temporal resolution two to three orders of magnitude higher than for previous data sets.

Our data show that industrial fishing occurs in >55% of ocean area and has a spatial extent more than four times that of agriculture. We find that global patterns of fishing have surprisingly low sensitivity to short-term economic and environmental variation and a strong response to cultural and political events such as holidays and closures."
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