Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Sense of 7 Billion People

On the last day of October 2011, the global population of an upstart branch of the primate order will reach 7 billion.
What does it mean?

In itself, not much: Seven billion is just a one-digit flicker from 6,999,999. But the number carries a deep existential weight, symbolizing themes central to humanity’s relationship with the rest of life on Earth.

For context, let’s consider a few other numbers. The first: 10,000. That’s approximately how many Homo sapiens existed 200,000 years ago, the date at which scientists mark the divergence of our species from the rest of Homo genus, of which we are the sole survivors.

From those humble origins, humans — thanks to our smarts, long-distance running skills, verbal ability and skill with plants — proliferated at an almost inconceivable rate.

Some may note that, in a big-picture biological sense, humanity has rivals: In total biomass, ants weigh as much as we do, oceanic krill weigh more than both of us combined, and bacteria dwarf us all. Those are interesting factoids, but they belie a larger point. More

Governments must plan for migration in response to climate change, researchers say

ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2011) — Governments around the world must be prepared for mass migrations caused by rising global temperatures or face the possibility of calamitous results, say University of Florida scientists on a research team reporting in the Oct. 28 edition of Science.

If global temperatures increase by only a few of degrees by 2100, as predicted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people around the world will be forced to migrate. But transplanting populations from one location to another is a complicated proposition that has left millions of people impoverished in recent years. The researchers say that a word of caution is in order and that governments should take care to understand the ramifications of forced migration.

A consortium of 12 scientists from around the world, including two UF researchers, gathered last year at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center to review 50 years of research related to population resettlement following natural disasters or the installation of infrastructure development projects such as dams and pipelines. The group determined that resettlement efforts in the past have left communities in ruin, and that policy makers need to use lessons from the past to protect people who are forced to relocate because of climate change. More

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Israel and Hamas: In the Wake of the Prisoners Exchange

The prisoner swap in which Hamas released Israeli captive Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons suggests that Israel and Hamas recognize each other's unmitigated reality and prerogatives.

The deal was unquestionably motivated by mutually beneficial political calculations made on both sides, including a desire to overshadow President Abbas' efforts to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, to which Hamas and Israel object. Nevertheless, without an outright rejection of terror and recognition that Israel cannot be destroyed, Hamas' growth as a political force will remain limited and potentially mired in failure. Similarly, without Israel recognizing that lasting security is unlikely unless Hamas is included in the political process, efforts to advance a two-state solution will be fruitless.
The growing influences of Egypt and Turkey on Hamas, the Arab Spring and the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative all provide avenues to bridge the gaps between Israel and Hamas. To do so, the Quartet must rethink its three demands on Hamas, (renounce violence, accept Israel's existence and agree to past agreements) which will keep the two-sides mired in a dangerous status quo. Overcoming these obstacles will require new thinking to find a formula that enables each side to save face by altering their positions to move forward in a political process. More

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Water emergencies grip Tuvalu & Tokelau

As governments and aid agencies scramble to deliver desalination plants and bottled water to drought stricken Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Tokelau, other Pacific Island nations - Samoa and the Cook Islands - are preparing for a similar fate.
Is this band-aid approach to solving this problem going to be enough?

Redina Auina, spokeswoman for the Tuvalu Faith Based Youth network, who partner with, is in Tuvalu and describes the feelings of people as they face the reality of less than 5 days of drinkable water in the nations capital, Funafuti --
Experts say the past 12 months have been the second driest in Funafuti's 78 years of records. While we do not make any claims to it being solely a climate change related event, the reality is that the line between what is normal climatic variation and what might be extremes resulting from accelerated climate change is being blurred. This is particularly true for the hydrological cycle, which is sensitive to even subtle variations in the global climate and often results in either too much water, or in our case at the moment, too little. With an intense La Nina weather pattern over much of the Pacific, we’re not likely to see rain for months to come. It’s these kind of extremes that we are told will become our new reality for Tuvalu and the Pacific region as a whole. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

World Food Day, 16 October 2011

Food prices - from crisis to stability

Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the

World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

“FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Monday, October 3, 2011

15 coolest cases biomimicry

Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain. - Leonardo Da Vinci

Biomimicry the practice of developing sustainable human technologies inspired by nature. Sometimes called Biomimetics or Bionics, it's basically biologically inspired engineering.

1. Velcro

The most famous example of biomimicry was the invention of Velcro brand fasteners. Invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who took the idea from the burrs that stuck tenaciously to his dog's hair. Under the microscope he noted the tiny hooks on the end of the burr's spines that caught anything with a loop - such as clothing, hair or animal fur. The 2-part Velcro fastener system uses strips or patches of a hooked material opposite strips or patches of a loose-looped weave of nylon that holds the hooks. Coolest application: Championship Velcro Jumping, first made popular in 1984 by David Letterman. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Film on Climate Refugees Strikes a Chord

During the shooting of his 2010 documentary “Climate Refugees,” the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about

18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.

Click here for film trailer

His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive. (Jeffrey Gettleman’s recent coverage of the Somali refugee crisis in The Times has offered some vivid and disturbing examples, although Somalia’s troubles are also inextricably linked to political turmoil.)

Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?

Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?

By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Food Security and Climate Change: The True Cost of Carbon

With wheat prices surging as major producers are hit by droughts and other extreme weather events, it’s costing everyone more to eat

Writing on page one in the New York Times Justin Gillis recently sounded the alarm on what Lester Brown has been warning us for years: Climate change is threatening our food supply.
With fuel prices down (not much) we’d like to think the economy will settle down. But volatility in markets, food baskets, and weather are rattling many. Indeed, food, feed, and fuel prices are contributing to the growing political instability across the globe.
The summer heat engulfed towns felled by fiendish twisters. The Mighty Mississippi breached shores all along its course after being pounded by heavy rains and nourished by melting snow, the hangover from a brutal winter. The hundred-year floods inundated homes, homesteads, and farms, taking a toll on communities and commodities.

The wide swings in weather were matched by major outlier events. All of us experienced the shifting weather patterns. This is the new norm. And as the climate changes, the extremes are proving especially costly for global food security. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands