Tuesday, May 13, 2008

population x affluence x technology

We know the problem- the resource limited carrying capacity of the earth is caused by population x affluence x technology which attenuates toward a point of no return.
The evidence is everywhere- reduced snow packs, water shortages, overfished resources, spreading ocean dead zones, bee die offs, pesticide pollution, air pollution, oil wars over scarce resources, depleted soils, struggling infrastructure, polluted air and water.

Removing affluence and technology has a big impact. Africa, 57 countries, 12% worlds population, has less than 3% contribution to world Green House Gases. But if you look at where the GHG originate, Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa, and how, from the production and shipment of resources like oil and gold to the developed world, Africa's contribution to world GHGs is less than 1%. Taking into account deforestation and the mechanics of poverty creation from displacement of indigenous populations still leaves a negligible GHG number. We in the developed not only have a disproportional share of GHG production we are responsible for the third world's footprint in providing resources to us.

Making people work only one day a week would solve the affluence technology disease. But are there other solutions?

Consider another example: ONLY 8M people own cars in India. 350 M can’t afford a bicycle. Yet the demand for fuel for the 8M drivers (and the transfer of critical local resources for roads and infrastructure) added to already fuel tight markets between the US, China, and Europe cause prices to rise four fold. Additional perturbations in the food markets with biofuels cause food riots. Its increasingly likely that the 350M will never partake of the industrial revolution.

Our lifestyle sets a wrong and unfair example on how to install infrastructure worldwide. We need to know how we’ve paid to allow ourselves to produce so much GHG. Adding roads brings cars and unsustainable infrastructure needs to unmanageable slopes while taxing runoff at the sewer plant. Belmont is struggling with these infrastructure issues. On 4/18/08 Thomas Fil supplied council with a model on charging for infrastructure through a Community Facilities District plan.

How do we change it around? Do we use the easement law? What goals, indicators, and measures do we develop that are different from business as usual? Can we use brown fees and green credits to guide affluences uses of technology?

Al Gore condensed the infrastructure problem down to Coal Cars and Buildings. Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in the May 9, 2005 issue of The New Yorker that the longer we wait – and the more infrastructure we build without regard to its affect on emissions – the more daunting the task of keeping CO2 levels from increasing beyond dangerous levels. And McKibben sets the goal post with Project350 where we need to get back to 350 ppb of CO2.

Bill Howard writes in FIDIC 2005 CONFERENCE, WORKSHOP 7: Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure Workshop Introductory Remarks: New approaches to restoring and managing urban environments and infrastructure are appearing everywhere. Concepts like “livable cities,” “urban sustainability,” “green buildings,” and “smart growth” all focus on balancing urban infrastructure, environmental values, quality of life, and economic opportunities.

Sustainability means balancing needs with environmental protection to improve the quality of life for us and for future generations. sustainable development provides a framework under which communities can find the efficient use of resources and infrastructure to protect and enhance the quality of life and strengthen the economy.

Models like STELLA can be used to generate information and promote more informed and balanced decisions via rapid comparison of the performance of alternatives using physical, environmental, and economic metrics.

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