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CTDL 147: Polution, the planet, and feeding the people

Pollution kills, this is not news (though auto pollution “kills” may be news).

High levels of pollution may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people in England from pneumonia in recent years, a study suggests.

[From BBC NEWS | Health | Pneumonia 'linked' to pollution]

China has already passed the US for pollution. Now this might be news. This is a flaw in the Kyoto agreement, and one that makes it very difficult to garner any worldwide pollution progress. “Non-industrialized” nations like China and India (and numerous others) feel they should get the chance to have the economic and standard-of-living benefits of the industrial revolution (a fair argument to make). But if we give them a pass on pollution then we may be “leveling the playing field”, but not actually helping the environment.

China has already overtaken the US as the world’s “biggest polluter”, a report to be published next month says.
The research suggests the country’s greenhouse gas emissions have been underestimated, and probably passed those of the US in 2006-2007.

They warn that unchecked future growth will dwarf any emissions cuts made by rich nations under the Kyoto Protocol.

[From BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China 'now top carbon polluter']

I think some of the “climate change culture” overstates the problems (or at least uses propaganda style rhetoric to try and make their point), but I think there is a legit problem with human impact on the planet. Not that the planet (and life on it) won’t survive, but that we may decimate ourselves inadvertently, and set “us” (people) back several hundred years (or at least decades).

Which leads us to:

The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, has called for aid policies to be refocused to improve agriculture.

[From BBC NEWS | Europe | WTO chief calls for aid rethink]

This is, in my useless opinion, an important philosophical leap. To some end it’s tough to say “let’s put money into infrastructure” when people are dying of starvation now. But the flip-side may be that if we “let” a million people die in the next 5 years by building infrastructure that will then save five million people over the five years following then you’re serving a greater number of people. As a libertarian I don’t think there should be a state enforced imperative to help the starving people of the world, but as an ethical human I think there is a case to be made for a moral imperative to do so.

A UN-sponsored report has called for urgent changes to the way food is produced, as soaring food prices risk driving millions of people to poverty.
The Unesco study recommends better safeguards to protect resources and more sustainable farming practices, such as producing food locally.
More natural and ecological farming techniques should be used, it says.

[From BBC NEWS | Europe | UN calls for farming revolution]

Here’s where we tie the pollution and the planet with the feeding of the people. If we continue to pollute at current levels we’re likely dooming millions of people to slow painful deaths due to pollution influenced diseases and decreased farming yield. If we, in an agriculturally sound country like the US, turn many of our farming resources to “natural alternatives” to oil based energy we’re likewise dooming millions of people to starvation due to increased food prices cause by limited resources.
I don’t have a solution. I realize that my first world lifestyle is largely supported by work done in the third-world to make it possible for me to work in a knowledge based job that affords me money to spend on technology an entertainment instead of eking out an existence largely concerned with feeding my family. This situation is not a sustainable one over too many more generations and I’d like to be a part of a generation that makes some tough decisions so the “interest” on our “debt” isn’t compounded onto our children (or their children).

I’ll finish up with this bit from Boing Boing:

Today’s New York Times has a scary article about food shortages around the world, including heart-breaking slide shows and videos of people digging in dumps for morsels of anything with digestible calories.

In Haiti, vendors are selling flavored mud to starving people.

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.
“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.

[From Starving people in Haiti eating mud - Boing Boing]

I don’t think CFLs and recycled grocery bags are the solution, they’re fine for what they are, but I suspect what they are is largely symbolic. What do you think the real solutions are? What do you think the future will inevitably look like because of where we are today?


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