Our place on Earth - July 3
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How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?
Carl Haub, Population Reference Bureu
The question of how many people have ever lived on Earth is a perennial one among information calls to PRB. One reason the question keeps coming up is that somewhere, at some time back in the 1970s, a now-forgotten writer made the statement that 75 percent of the people who had ever been born were alive at that moment.
This factoid has had a long shelf life, even though a bit of reflection would show how unlikely it is. For this "estimate" to be true would mean either that births in the 20th century far, far outnumbered those in the past or that there were an extraordinary number of extremely old people living in the 1970s.
If this estimate were true, it would indeed make an impressive case for the rapid pace of population growth in this century. But if we judge the idea that three-fourths of people who ever lived are alive today to be a ridiculous statement, have demographers come up with a better estimate? What might be a reasonable estimate of the actual percentage? ..
An old article, but worth re-visiting. -LJ and BA
Human greed takes lion's share of solar energy
Chee Chee Leung, Sydney Morning Herald
HUMANS are just one of the millions of species on Earth, but we use up almost a quarter of the sun's energy captured by plants - the most of any species.
The human dominance of this natural resource is affecting other species, reducing the amount of energy available to them by almost 10 per cent, scientists report.
Researchers said the findings showed humans were using "a remarkable share" of the earth's plant productivity "to meet the needs and wants of one species".
They also warned that the increased use of biofuels - such as ethanol and canola - should be viewed cautiously, given the potential for further pressure on ecosystems.
The scientists, from Austria and Germany, who publish their results today in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed data on land use, agriculture and forestry from 161 countries, representing 97 per cent of the world's land mass.
This showed humans used 24 per cent of the energy that was captured by plants. More than half of this was due to the harvesting of crops or other plants.
(3 July 2007)
Empty plates tomorrow
Sally Williams, Western Mail (Wales)
A WELSH economist has given an apocalyptic warning that Wales and the rich West face a potentially catastrophic famine, as energy reserves run out.
Dr Patricia Dodd Racher, who lives in Porthyrhyd, Carmarthenshire, says that a "lethal cocktail" of climactic change, multinational corporate power and fuel shortages herald the end of the "cheap food era" over the coming decades.
For a year she studied key environmental pointers and the big players in food production, including the oil, transport and agro chemical/seed industries for her book, Empty Plates Tomorrow.
She found that oil production probably peaked between 2002 and 2004, way before the predicted 2010. And the growing of bio-fuels is helping put up the cost of farmland and making food crops more expensive.
... "So we can expect to see food prices rising very sharply, especially when you factor in climate change and the heat, floods and storms which will make life difficult for farmers.
"In Cuba they already had to deal with a shortage of oil and gas and the products made from them such as fertilisers and pesticides.
"Now they use bicycles to get around and many urban farms there are farmed by organic methods to grow crops.
"We need to increase the number of people working on the land more than tenfold for our food needs, but farmers in Wales are leaving the industry.
...Dr Racher, 61, is married to Patrick Racher, a photographer. They have three adult children and three grandchildren.
She graduated in geography with social anthropology from the London School of Economics. A journalist who has worked for Farmers' Weekly and British Farmer & Stockbreeder, she has studied business analysis and economic forecasting for almost 20 years.
Empty Plates Tomorrow is published in paperback by Trafford and costs Â£9.95 from bookshops or online from Amazon.co.uk.
(3 July 2007)