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Annual Edition: Environment 12/13
1. Population, Human Resources, Health, and the Environment: Getting the Balance Right, Anthony J. McMichael, Environment, January/February 2008
Both the 1987 Brundtland Report and Millennium Development Goals announced in 2000 recognized a clear association between a healthy environment, human well-being, and achieving sustainable relations with our planet. McMichael argues, however, that the key to reaching those goals will depend on finding the right consumption balance between people and global resources.
2. Booms, Busts, and Echoes, David E. Bloom and David Canning, Finance & Development, September 2006
What will influence the future direction of global development? The authors believe massive global demographic changes, and not population growth, will have the greatest influence. This essay reviews some major social/economic issues that demographic transitions will generate in the developing world. Can serious environmental changes be inferred from these predictions as well?
3. Consumer Trends in Three Different "Worlds", Andy Hines, The Futurist, July/August 2008
Futurist Andy Hines reviews a list of consumer trends and examines how they may unfold in three different "worlds" in the next decade. Although the author focuses primarily on the "business implications" of each trend, it is not difficult for the reader to consider the varying global environmental impacts these emerging resource consumption patterns might suggest.
4. The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World, Jack A. Goldstone, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2010
The author believes four population megatrends will have significant political and economic consequences across the globe. However, the impacts will vary between places and peoples and will most likely result in variable environmental consequences. Policy makers must reconsider the old three-world economies paradigm and look at a new one based on changing demographics.
5. It's a Flat World, After All, Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, April 3, 2005
The article summarizes the author's book, The World Is Flat. Friedman believes that certain technological trends are leading globalization and leveling the economic playing field (flattening Richard Florida's socioeconomic topography) via new, technology based geo-economics. However, gaps appearing on the playing field—"ambition," "numbers," and "education"—may present new wrinkles on this flat world.
6. The World Is Spiky, Richard Florida, The Atlantic, October 2005
Professor Florida employs four maps to depict a kind of world socioeconomic topography to refute Thomas Friedman's notion of a "flat world." The author's "spike" maps illustrate the variable geography of population, urban, innovation, and scientist-origin micro-environment locations around the globe. The maps' peaks and valleys suggest anything but a "flat socioeconomic world."
7. Promises and Poverty, Tom Knudson, The Sacramento Bee, September 23, 2007
While companies often market their products by boasting what they do for the environment, the production function of coffee frequently involves the generation of negative socioeconomic–environmental externalities. With this in mind, the author examines the real price of gourmet coffee with a look at Starbucks' eco-friendly approach to coffee production.
8. A User's Guide to the Century, Jeffrey D. Sachs, The National Interest, July/August, 2008
According to the author, the twenty-first century holds a paradox. The "new world order" holds both the promise of shared prosperity and the risk of widespread global conflicts. Jeffrey D. Sachs describes a converging world of technological and economic changes combining with variable global population growth and inequalities of wealth. Such dynamics, the author believes, are threatening the environment and our global stability. However, Sachs offers five guideposts we can follow for constructing future foreign policies that may help us avert disaster.
9. Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century, N. V. Fedoroff et al., Science, February 12, 2010
Environmental experts are becoming increasingly aware of the critical challenge that producing enough food for humanity in the twenty-first century and beyond presents. According to international researchers, new agricultural technologies are available to help meet that challenge. But new attitudes and better alignment of current regulatory polices with scientific knowledge must be addressed.
10. The Politics of Hunger: How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis, Paul Collier, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2008
Noted economist Paul Collier argues that the science of food production is well understood. And, in order to feed the hungry, according to the author, we must attend to three steps: move from small-scale to large-scale farming, loosen constraints on using agricultural science and technology, and drop our obsession with biofuels.
11. Across the Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger, Marc Lacey, The New York Times, April 18, 2008
Increasing food prices are stressing working and middle-income budgets around the world. But when the price of food makes it unaffordable, budgetary stress is replaced by hunger, starvation, and an angry citizenry. Civil conflict and political instability follow. The evidence is already being witnessed in the world's poorest countries.
12. How to Feed 8 Billion People, Lester R. Brown, The Futurist, January/February 2010
Noted environmentalist Lester R. Brown believes global demand for food and diminishing returns of the Green Revolution are leading to an impending food crisis. The author argues that to avoid the crisis, we need to better manage the factors that affect our food production systems: population, climate change, water, soils, and consumption behaviors.
13. Where Oil and Water Do Mix: Environmental Scarcity and Future Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas A. Borer, Parameters, Winter 2004–2005
The authors explain how the concept of "environmental scarcity" is linked to political unrest and can lead to open conflict. They examine the environmental resource of water as a potentially significant variable, which may contribute to future conflicts in regions of water scarcity and highly competitive access (e.g., the Middle East and North Africa).
14. The Big Melt, Brook Larmer, National Geographic, April 2010
Earth's water is often described in environmental science in terms of the "interacting compartments" where it resides. One compartment is glaciers (accessed via melt water), which regions like Asia depend on for agriculture and domestic use. Brook Larmer examines the glacial shrinkage in these areas and the potential for future conflict in the region.
15. The World's Water Challenge, Erik R. Peterson and Rachel A. Posner, Current History, January 2010
Some experts estimate that over the next twenty years, we may see as much as a 40 percent gap between global water demand and available resources. Growing demand, consumption, and climate change will contribute to increasing competition. Despite this situation, the authors see little effort aimed at establishing a value for this resource, which could aid in managing its sustainability.
16. Climate Change, Bill McKibben, Foreign Policy, January/February 2009
The author contends the science of climate change is settled, its underlying dynamics are for all practical purposes clear, and policy choices are obvious. McKibben believes the only obstacles to averting climate catastrophe are lack of political will, wishful thinking, the "blame game," and admitting that it won't be easy. But what's the alternative?
17. The Last Straw, Stephan Faris, Foreign Policy, July/August 2009
Environmentally and economically stressed countries are typically unstable countries; this also makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change disturbances. By some estimates, one in four countries, which include some of the most unstable and volatile, will be at risk for climate change–induced conflict. Pakistan and South Asia provide ready evidence.
18. How to Stop Climate Change: The Easy Way, Mark Lynas, New Statesman, November 8, 2001
What can we do to make a difference, right now, in our carbon consumption? Mark Lynas suggests three easy and effective ways (if done collectively). By looking at the problem in its components, Lynas says it's clear we need to stop debating and start doing, look at the big wins, and use technology.
19. Global Warming Battlefields: How Climate Change Threatens Security, Michael T. Klare, Current History, vol. 106, 2007
Climate change is having and will continue to have variable environmental consequences in different regions of the world and affect different peoples in different ways. The author explores this variability and how it will influence future scenarios of sociocultural conflict, resource competition, metrological instability, and ultimately world peace.
20. Executive Summary from Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, 2010
Concern continues among biologists regarding the urgency to maintain biodiversity. Species loss threatens ecosystems' stability and the future of human well-being. Although world governments agreed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction of biodiversity loss by 2010, this has not happened. Without continued action, the future of human civilization is at stake.
21. When Diversity Vanishes, Don Monroe, Santa Fe Institute Bulletin, Spring 2008
Experts explored the idea of "diversity collapse" in contexts ranging from ecosystems to food systems to socioeconomic systems. They argue that natural and human systems that maintain diversity are better able to respond and adapt to changing environmental conditions and thereby avoid the "tipping point" at which ecosystems and societies can collapse.
22. When Good Lizards Go Bad: Komodo Dragons Take Violent Turn, Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2008
When dragons begin eating children, does this change the rules of "protecting biodiversity"? In this article, multiple species—people, dragons, deer—share the same habitat and compete for resources. But the age-old ecological principal of "resource partitioning" appears to be breaking down. Environmental actors, ethics, and biodiversity compete for limited space.
23. Cry of the Wild, Sharon Begley, Newsweek, August 15, 2007
Hunting is big business. Hunting rare, endangered, protected species can be bigger business. And the status symbolism attached to eating such animals ("bushmeat") has elevated hunting to a global, multibillion dollar business. Author Sharon Begley believes this kind of hunting is not due to subsistence needs, or poverty, but rather to simple profiteering.
24. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005, Island Press.
Human transformation of the Earth has contributed to human well-being advancements. But not everyone has benefited equally. Much advancement has resulted in ecosystem impacts, and to the people who still rely directly on those ecosystems. To ensure future environmental sustainability and quality-of-life for all people, substantial social–economic–political changes will be needed.
25. The Geography of Ecosystem Services, James Boyd, Resources, Fall 2008
James Boyd believes geography matters because nature moves, and the challenge for ecosystem scientists and managers is to "relate cause and effect when the cause-and-effect relationship is spatial." These relationships are referred to as "spatial production functions," involve biophysical and economic components, and can be illustrated with maps and GIS tools.
26. Ecosystem Services: How People Benefit from Nature, Rebecca L. Goldman, Environment, September/October 2010.
How do people benefit from nature? What are ecosystem services? Why are ecosystem services important for sustainable development? How can we encourage governments and industry leaders to implement ecosystems service strategies? Rebecca Goldman addresses these questions and argues that not only are ecosystem services the link between the natural world and people, but that people understanding the connection can translate into new and increased interest in sustainable resource management.
27. Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations, Vaclav Smil, American Scientist, vol. 99, no. 3, May/June 2011
While the world is infatuated with discovering new global energy sources, Professor Smil argues that many ideas are wrought with economic limitations, technical challenges, and exaggerated expectations. Not to mention the cultural, social, and political transition times to make changes. The author concludes: Could we go wrong with a little energy use moderation?
28. Seven Myths about Alternative Energy, Michael Grunwald, Foreign Policy, September/October 2009
In the opinion of award-winning environmental journalist Michael Grunwald, the existence of a "magic key" that will open the door to our oil alternative is largely mythical. Popular proposed alternatives and technological fixes have a lot to prove to a lot of people in a very short time.
29. Half a Tank: The Impending Arrival of Peak Oil, Mark Floegel, Multinational Monitor, January/February 2007
Has oil production "peaked," and when will we run dry? Given the state of petroleum geological technology and economic science, the answers should be a simple matter of mathematics. But if oil companies and nations are keeping some of the numbers to themselves, what then? The author believes we'll know soon enough.
30. It's Still the One, Daniel Yergin, Foreign Policy, September/October 2009
Oil supplies are dwindling, new consumers are emerging around the world, the cast of traders is changing, and new energy sources are evolving. Pulitzer Prize– winning author and chairman of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates believes the shape of our current geopolitical economics of oil is set to also change, perhaps radically.
31. Gas Costs Squeeze Daily Life: Survey Reveals How High Prices Have Pushed Us into New Routines, Judy Keen and Paul Overberg, USA Today, May 9, 2008
A useful microeconomics concept is "demand elasticity," which measures the responsiveness of consumer demand to change in prices. The authors report how record gas prices (2008) prompted Americans to drive less (2008) for the first time in nearly three decades. Has consumer demand snapped back to 2008? Or has Americans' elastic appetite for gas begun to sag?
32. Do Global Attitudes and Behaviors Support Sustainable Development? Anthony A. Leiserowitz, Robert W. Kates, and Thomas M. Parris, Environment, November 2005
Although there appears to be no global-scale survey data identifying peoples' attitudes or preferences for a specific end-state of economic development, there is a vague consensus regarding the sensibility of "sustainability." However, the author argues that achieving sustainability requires that changes in environmental values and attitudes translate into significant behaviors within human societies.
33. The Ethics of Respect for Nature, Paul W. Taylor, Environmental Ethics, Fall 1981
The human-centered (anthropomorphic) attitude toward nature has dominated most Western thought for centuries. However, new ideas about our relationship with nature—like biocentric and ecocentric—began to emerge in the twentieth century. Now, Professor Paul W. Taylor proposes a new approach to viewing our relationship with nature—a life-centered system of ethics.
34. Environmental Justice for All, Leyla Kokmen, Utne Reader, March/April 2008
Can environmental degradation and poverty be battled at the same time? Leyla Kokmen says yes, but it's a delicate balancing act. The author believes today's environmental justice proponents are focusing less on environmental and social degradation cleanup, and instead, being proactive and realizing that "you have to go upstream . . . to stop bad things from happening."
35. Life, Religion and Everything, Laura Sevier, The Ecologist, September 1, 2007
Forty-five years ago Lynn White, Jr. proposed that the historical roots of our ecological crisis could be traced to Christianity. In this article, the author examines the renewed focus by all major religious groups to redefine our relationship with the environment by building a more ethically environmental relationship between God, science, man, and Mother Earth.
36. Consumption, Not Population Is Our Main Environmental Threat, Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360, April 2009
The author argues that by almost any measure, a small proportion of the world's population consumes the majority of the world's resources and is responsible for most of its pollution. The essay encourages the reader to consider the possibility that material consumption behavior, not population, may be our greatest environmental threat.
37. Consumption and Consumerism, Anup Shah, www.globalissues.org
The consumption gap was wider in 1995 than in 2005. But in 2005, the wealthiest 20 percent of the world still accounted for 76.6 percent of total private consumption; the poorest 20 percent just 1.5 percent. The United Nations argues that in 2005, consumption was a leading cause of environmental degradation. Today, the consumption–poverty–inequality environmental nexus is accelerating. In 2012, . . . ?
38. How Much Should a Person Consume? Ramachandra Guha, Global Dialogue, Winter 2002
Guha argues, "There are . . . more than 300 professional environmental historians in the United States . . . and not one has seriously studied the global consequences of the consumer society . . . American Way of Life." The essay examines the answer to the title's question and concludes there are vast inequalities of global consumption.
39. Reversal of Fortune, Bill McKibben, Mother Jones, March 2007
Bill McKibben observes that our single-minded focus on unbridled growth credo is bumping humanity up against profound ecological limits like climate change and resource limits like oil. We have succeeded not in finding more happiness, but rather in degrading our natural capital and some of very things that made us happy originally.
Approaching Environmental Issues Paradigm Worksheet