Tags: collapse*

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  1. Humans may have reached their maximum limits for height, lifespan and physical performance. A recent review suggests humans have biological limitations, and that anthropogenic impacts on the environment — including climate change — could have a deleterious effect on these limits. Published in Frontiers in Physiology, this review is the first of its kind spanning 120 years worth of historical information, while considering the effects of both genetic and environmental parameters.
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  2. Being at home means using more energy by keeping the lights on and watching TV. But it also means less travel, and it means that fewer people are outside operating offices and stores. So overall in 2012, we saved 1,700 trillion British thermal units (BTU) of heat, or 1.8 percent of the national total, according to an analysis published today in the journal Joule. That's about how much energy Kentucky produced in all of 2015. Specifically in 2012, Americans spent one day less traveling and one week less in buildings other than their homes when compared to a decade earlier. The trend of staying indoors is especially strong for those ages 18 to 24: the youths spent 70 percent more time at home than the general population. At the other end of the age spectrum, those 65 and older were the only group that spent more time outside the home compared to 2003. Next, the researchers want to look at energy consumption changes in other countries as a result of lifestyle changes.
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  3. Plastic is polluting our oceans, killing wildlife, and damaging our health, and there are widespread calls to get rid of it. But it isn’t as simple as wishing the pervasive material away.

    If we were to get rid of plastic today, the loss of the primary form of food packaging would make hundreds of thousands of people sick. Millions would be starving or dead within the year. Instead of just focusing on ridding the world of plastic, we need to address the underlying systems that churns it out: a global food production system with deeply skewed priorities driven by consumer demands.

    The way we’re going, a great deal, if not most, of that plastic will end up on landfills, in turtles’ stomachs, or in our bodies.

    to envision a world without plastic would require us to first change the basic fabric of how our societies function.

    A major reason that plastic exists today is because people want affordable and conveniently sourced food on their table. In order to meet this desire, we have developed centralized food supply chains that criss-cross our countries and the oceans. These supply chains are also driven by monoculture crop production, which allows companies economies of scale.

    Beyond serving our own taste buds, plastic is huge part of the battle against malnutrition in the developing world. People in developing countries are less likely to eat enough fruit and vegetables, and according to the World Health Organisation, about 1.7-million deaths worldwide (almost 3% of all deaths) are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. If plastic was not so pervasive for food preservation, more communities could suffer from malnutrition.

    If we want to get rid of plastic—and there are many compelling reasons why we should—we need to change the way food production and transportation works, as well as check our desires to have cheap, convenient foods whenever we want them.

    As long as we have centralized food production, we will have plastic.
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  4. In the city of Kampot in southern Cambodia, the extraction of sand from an estuary on the Praek Tuek Chhu river is increasing and sand extraction is so common in Asia currently that the continent may deplete all of its sand in the not-too-distant future.

    A 2016 investigation revealed that Singapore imported some $752 million in sand from Cambodia. However, Cambodia only reported that they had exported $5.5 million worth of sand to Singapore. The discrepancy between the figures compelled officials in both countries to curb all sand exports in July.

    "It was a systematic fraud," said Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of Mother Nature, an environmental group in Cambodia. "Taxes were evaded for 95 percent of the exports."

    Other countries in Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, have restricted sand exports over the last few years due to environmental damage. In the same vein, India had limited licenses for sand exportation.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-07)
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  5. They conclude that “If Americans reduced their mean beef consumption from the current ~460g per person per week to ~200g per person per week, the US beef industry could become environmentally sustainable by the narrow definition of this paper.” Easy. Just have one weekly burger instead of two.
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  6. "we have run out of world to commodify. And now commodification can only cannibalize its own means of existence, both natural and social." - @mckenziewark
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-28)
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  7. an endlessly growing population is not sustainable, even if they live like peasants.

    That said, overpopulation is not, in my view, the main driver of planetary collapse today. The main driver is capitalism. The human population has roughly tripled since WWII. But our consumption of resources has multiplied many many times greater than population growth: We use something like 6 times as much steel as in 1950, 15 times as much aluminum, thousands of times more plastic and on and on. That ravenous overconsumption of resources, and its associated pollution, is overwhelmingly driven by the requirements of capitalist reproduction, the ceaseless invention of new needs and so on, not by human reproduction. Yes we need to reduce the human population, if only to give other life forms some space and resources. But there are easy ways to do so without using force like the Chinese government. Instead of building grandiose blingfrastructure and space shots to glorify the Communist Party, China’s so-called communists could have prevented their current overpopulation problem if they had spent that money on providing adequate old age pensions and social security so that peasant farmers don’t have to raise multiple kids in the hopes that one or two will live to support them in their old age. Amazingly, this is still the “social security sytem” for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

    So overpopulation is a real problem. But if we don’t overthrow capitalism, Mother Nature is going to solve the overpopulation problem in a hurry, but in a most unpleasant manner. That’s why I don’t concern myself much with the population problem. I don’t mean to ignore it. But I think its very much a secondary driver compared to capitalism.
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  8. Average land use area needed to produce one unit of protein by food type, measured in metres squared (m²) per gram of protein over a crop's annual cycle or theaverage animal's lifetime. Average values are based on a meta-analysis of studies across 742 agricultural systems and over 90 unique foods.
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  9. This report examines using human waste as feedstock in a small-scale bioreactor to produce methane gas for cooking and heating. While the use of biogas produced from livestock manure is commonplace, I am interested in the feasibility of building a household reactor that instead utilizes human waste as its primary input.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-20)
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  10. It turns out the Romans were lucky. The centuries during which the empire was built and flourished are known even to climate scientists as the “Roman Climate Optimum.” From circa 200 BC to AD 150, it was warm, wet, and stable across much of the territory the Romans conquered. In an agricultural economy, these conditions were a major boost to GDP. The population swelled yet still there was enough food to feed everyone.

    But from the middle of the second century, the climate became less reliable. The all-important annual Nile flood became erratic. Droughts and severe cold spells became more common. The Climate Optimum became much less optimal.

    The lesson to be drawn is not, of course, that we shouldn't worry about man-made climate change today, which threatens to be more severe than what the Romans experienced. To the contrary, it shows just how sensitive human societies can be to such change — now amplified in speed and scope by human activity.
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