The Relationship Between The Economy, The Energy and The Environment

An economy is a social system that converts resources into goods, material commodities manufactured for and bought by individuals and businesses and serves, work done for others a s a form of business

All human economies exist within the natural environment and depend on it in vital ways. Economies receive inputs (such as natural resources) from the environment, process these inputs in complex ways that enable human society to function and then discharge outputs (such as waste) into the environment.  The material inputs and the waste-absorbing capacity that the earth can provide to economics are ultimately finite.

Modern economist belonging to the fast-growing  field of  environmental economies  and ecological economics  explicitly  recognize  that human economies are subsets  of the environment  and depend crucially upon it  for natural resources  and ecosystem  services.

Economic activity uses resources from the environment. Natural resources derived from the environment and are what we need to focus on in order to survive, and this brings in the topic of energy.   (1)

 

 

 

Christopher Martenson

PhD, is an American scientist, who studies at Duke University in 1994. Martenson also holds an MBA degree from Cornell University (1998) and is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.However, over the past couple of years, Martenson has stepped away from biological sciences and management to develop an educational video seminar series called The Crash Course based on Neo-Malthusian concepts. The course investigates the ways in which the economy, the environment and energy are interlinked and interact. (2)

The Crash course is basically the lens through which he looks at the world. He starts off by talking about the Deep Water Horizon, a drilling rig incident which took place on April 21st 2010 and was the source of the largest environmental disaster and was also connected to the global financial meltdown, the riots in Greece and the unrest in Spain.

In order to explain the relation between them, he goes on to explain the three E’s- The Economy, The Environment and Energy.  He starts off with The Economy, and mentions the Stock Market peak in 2007 and the following plunge in 2009. The Economy, he says, is the way in which we organize ourselves, and is needed to preserve our standard of living and quality of life. It is also excellent in terms of feedback as it provides rapid feedback through the economy. But without Energy, the economy has no meaning and is nothing without it.

The environment on the other hand has rapidly depleting resources and the next 20 years with be nothing like the last 20 years.  Therefore a change is needed as modelling what we think is about to happen based on the past is not good enough.

An Economist’s View of the World

An economist views the world in terms of growth, and the equation is for exponential growth from the Federal Reserve website.

In order to fully understand exponential growth, however, he believes we need to look into the concept of money. All money is loaned into existence and the main implication of this is that there is always more debt than money. For example if a person has no money and needs $1000 and a banker agrees to loan the person $1000, the person now has a thousand dollars because the money is loaned into existence. In a month, the loan is due plus the interest and the person then loans that interest money and the cycle continues. Therefore there is always more debt than money in the system.

Currently, the US DEBT is $52 trillion, and the total money is $14 trillion. Therefore, they can’t take all the money and pay back the debts because it’s not possible as there is just not enough. The implication of this is the fact that perpetual growth is a requirement of modern banking.

The Economy doesn’t need to grow, it likes to, and so there is a constantly growing debt and there are no historical examples of countries at these levels of growth and were able to get out without printing or entering default- this is a brand new territory.

An economy must grow and this is usually through Exponential Growth. The green is the population in all of human history and the red is the UN’s projections of future population growth. The physical cap forces there to be a difference between being on the flat/steep part due to earth capacity

The issue is that we don’t live in a linear world, we are in fact are dominated by the curves but we think linearly and not exponentially.

It took all of human history till 1960 to reach a 3 billion people population on the planet and only 40 more years to put the next 3 billion people on this planet- clearly not linear growth. And where you are on the curve makes all the difference.

We could go two ways; we could make this a problem or a predicament. Problems have solutions but predicaments only have outcomes.

Moving onto the last E-Energy.

The UK became import dependant again in 2005, this situation suggested that they permanently turned into an energy importer and energy declines in terms of return and quality becomes an issue.

So basically, this can all be summer by the statement that the economy must grow but it is connected to an energy system that can’t grow. We constantly read about the quantity of energy and resources but never about the quality and therefore it is becoming an issue.  (3)

I agree with Martenson and enjoyed watching this, because I do agree with the fact that we do need different solutions to enter this different world and what I really loved about this course was the fact that he ended by saying that he now Felt that he has a higher quality of life living on less things and this is not scary, it is actually hopeful and a message of true empowerment from him and others to the audience and the world.

 

References:

1. Environment, the Science behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, Withgott, Brennan.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Martenson

3. All images and information taken from: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisMartensondotcom

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Exploring Less Economically Developed Countries and Rapid Population Growth Through The Application Of Population Ecology

Population Ecology

“Individuals of the same species inhabiting a particular area make up a population”. (1)

Population Ecology covers the study of population size, density, distribution, growth, sustainability and carrying capacities. For this particular post I would like to concentrate on population growth, carrying capacities and sustainable development. I will begin by introducing each of these terms:

Carrying Capacity: When population growth becomes restrained by limiting factors a population reaches its carrying capacity. (2)

Sustainable Development: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.

Therefore, my blog today will be revolving around my question stated below:

Why Do Less Economically Developed Countries, Challenged In Efficient Resource Usage Continue To Have Accelerated Population Growth?

Article One: (3)

Causes of population growth in LEDCs

  • Limited access to family planning services and education about contraception. Contraception and other methods of family planning may not be culturally or religiously acceptable.
  • Children are a valuable source of labor and income for a family. They can work on the land from a young age and as they get older they can earn money in other jobs.
  • Children can help to care for younger children and elderly family members.
  • High rates of infant mortality (infant deaths) mean that women need to have many children in order to ensure that some survive through to adulthood.
  • It may be traditional or culturally important to have a large family.

LEDCs have a high population-growth rate which means that they have many young dependants. Governments in LEDCs and international bodies and charities are working to reduce birth rates and slow down rates of population growth.

                                                                                                              

 

 

 

Article 2: (4)

Case study: China

In the late 1970s, the Chinese government introduced a number of measures to reduce the country’s birth rate and slow the population growth rate. The most important of the new measures was a one-child policy, which decreed that couples in China could only have one child.

  • In 1950 the rate of population change in China was 1.9 per cent each year. If this doesn’t sound high, consider that a growth rate of only 3 per cent will cause the population of a country to double in less than 24 years!
  • Previous Chinese governments had encouraged people to have a lot of children to increase the country’s workforce. But by the 1970s the government realised that current rates of population growth would soon become unsustainable.

The one-child policy

The one-child policy, established in 1979, meant that each couple was allowed just one child. Benefits included increased access to education for all, plus childcare and healthcare offered to families that followed this rule.

Problems with enforcing the policy:

  • Those who had more than one child didn’t receive these benefits and were fined.
  • The policy was keenly resisted in rural areas, where it was traditional to have large families.
  • In urban areas, the policy has been enforced strictly but remote rural areas have been harder to control.
  • Many people claim that some women, who became pregnant after they had already had a child, were forced to have an abortion and many women were forcibly sterilised. There appears to be evidence to back up these claims.
  • The birth rate in China has fallen since 1979, and the rate of population growth is now 0.7 per cent.
  • There have been negative impacts too – due to a traditional preference for boys, large numbers of female babies have ended up homeless or in orphanages, and in some cases killed. In 2000, it was reported that 90 per cent of foetuses aborted in China were female.
  • As a result, the gender balance of the Chinese population has become distorted. Today it is thought that men outnumber women by more than 60 million.

Impact of the policy

Long-term implications

China’s one-child policy has been somewhat relaxed in recent years. Couples can now apply to have a second child if their first child is a girl, or if both parents are themselves only-children.

While China’s population is now rising more slowly, it still has a very large total population (1.3 billion in 2008) and China faces new problems, including:

  • the falling birth rate – leading to a rise in the relative number of elderly people
  • fewer people of working age to support the growing number of elderly dependants – in the future China could have an ageing population. 

The following a graphs displaying world population growth, concentrating on LEDCs:

1. World Population Growth from: http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/GCSE/AQA/Population/Population%20growth%20graph.bmp                    
2. The UN’s projection of World Population Growth from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/World_population_(UN).svg/300px-World_population_(UN).svg.png                                                                                                                                                       
3. The S and J Curve from:  http://www.emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/biobk/expgrowth.gif                                 

Personally, having lived in two developing countries with rapid population growth rates and incredibly bad resource management and wealth distribution due to corrupt governments and uneven distributions of wealth I can present my own ideas on why I believe that such countries continue to have such high population growth rates.

I believe that most of these are due to cultural reasons; The Philippines and Pakistan are both religious countries. The Philippines is a country that is predominantly Catholic country and Pakistan is a Muslim country, therefore both countries are largely against the usage of contraception. Aside from this, the rural areas are not connected well with the urban areas due to the uneven distribution of wealth and corrupt governments leading to negligence on the improvement of infrastructure in order to provide the rural population with the reach of the same opportunities as the urban populations.

Therefore, due to lack of awareness, education and government corruption and negligence, the populations are not education enough to realize the consequences of rapid population growth in less economically developed countries and cultural barriers prevent them from the usage of contraception.

References:

  1. 1.      Population Ecology, pg 63, Environment: The Science behind the Stories, Withgott, Brennan, Fourth Edition, 2011.
  2. 2.      Population Ecology, pg 67, Environment: The Science behind the Stories, Withgott, Brennan, Fourth Edition, 2011.
  3. 3.      http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/geography/population/managing_population_rev1.shtml
  4. 4.      http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/geography/population/managing_population_rev3.shtml
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Manila, Philippines and Environmental Ethics

 

(1)

 

Some terms that will be explored in this write up.

Environmental Ethics: The application of ethical standards to relationships between people and nonhuman entities is known as environmental ethics. (2)

Environmental Justice: The fair and equitable treatment of all people with respect to environmental policy and practice, regardless of their income, race or ethnicity. (3)

Environmental Economies: Economies that apply the principles of ecology and systems science to the analysis of their economic systems. (4)

Environmental Ethics and Justice and Manila

For the past 10 years I’ve been residing in the Philippines, in the city of Manila which has a population of 11553427 which is 13% of the nation’s population. (5) Therefore the city is overpopulated and due to high rates of corruption and uneven spread of wealth with extremely low opportunities for the poor, the city has incredibly bad and in just distributions of factories and waste dumps with a lot of polluted facilities located around the outskirts which houses the poorest of Manila’s population, mostly unemployed and living below the poverty line.

During the past five years I’ve been working with an organization that has now built a school for a community that cannot escape the unfair placement of the city’s largest dumpsite in an area where the reside and now make a living of off collecting recyclable material, which is not only dangerous to their health but cuts off most of their life opportunities.

(6)

 

After working with this community, I can agree completely with and feel that more importance and awareness of the environmental justice advocates should be provided. The children living in these dumpsites have only recently had the chance to even gain shoes for their feet, meals twice and day and receive very basic education whereas their previous generation have lived in the very waste site and have ended up wasting their lives there. I don’t feel that it’s just for the poor to suffer like so when the upper class citizens of Manila has an endless spectrum of opportunities before them. As a country, working together towards development can only help achieve it and for that there needs to be some basic form of equality. I personally think laws should be passed and regulated very carefully for companies who partake in these dumpsites, I feel that the people living in the dumpsites should be given better job opportunities and the employers that have trapped them in this cycle of an incredibly unhealthy job of collecting recyclable materials from the rubbish should be prevented from doing this to future generations. I also feel like people should watch what their throwing and which companies they are supporting to make sure such unjust acts are not affecting furthermore Filipino communities.

 

Questions that could be asked from different environmentalist’s perspectives

 A Preservationist would ask why a law to prevent further acts of illegal dumping and pollution permitted per company/factory is not passed.

 A Conservationist would ask why education and further opportunities are not provided to the economies present in the area at the moment.

An Environmental justice advocate would  ask why such a dumpsite is still exposed and polluting the environment furthermore along with the communities population’s lives instead of the people being relocated and the site been gotten rid off in an environmentally friendly manner.

A Neoclassical economist would ask whether a small community’s suffering is worth the budget going into research for better dumping methods.

A Ecological economist would ask why actions in favour of more environmentally friendly waste collection have not been taken yet by The Philippines?

I would have to say that I do agree with the quote in my ecology textbook which states that “Poor people and people of colour have suffered more than their share of environmental problems” on page 145. This particular case is a perfect source of proof for this statement. I believe that urgent action should be take and such cases should be completely prevented and abolished from occurring in the future and therefore I would have to fit into the Preservationist category for environmentalists.

For further information on the case used in this assignment http://www.gmanews.tv/story/180157/uk-lawmakers-buy-christmas-gifts-in-community-within-manila-dumpsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. http://www.knowledgerush.com/wiki_image/1/16/Ph_map_manila_large.png retrieved at 9:38pm 10/25/2011
  2. Environment, The Science behind the stories, fourth edition, Withgott, Brennan
  3. Environment, The Science behind the stories, fourth edition, Withgott, Brennan
  4. Environment, The Science behind the stories, fourth edition, Withgott, Brennan
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Manila retrieved at 9:06pm 10/25/2011
  6. http://aast.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/payatas-hillside1.jpg retrieved at 9:40pm 10/25/2011

 

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Ecological Footprint

What is an ‘Ecological Footprint’?

An Ecological Footprint (EF) would be the amount of natural resources needed to fulfil our consumption needs and absorb the wastes generated by us.

The importance of measuring one’s EF is made more evident through the concept of the “Carrying Capacity”. Limiting factors come into play sooner or later, constraining a population physically, chemically and biologically from population growth. The “Carrying Capacity” is therefore the maximum carrying capacity of an environment in relation to population size.

Table 1. EF (hectares per person), their proportion relative to world average, their proportion relative to world area available for selected countries.

 

Country EF (hectares per person) – (data from ecological footprint) Proportion relative to world average Proportion relative to world area available Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita –

(get data from CIA Worldfactbook) ($)

Colombia

1.9

0.612

0.73

9,800
China

1.84

1.84 0.593 7,600
Bangladesh

0.6

0.194 0.3370 1,700
United Arab Emirates

15.99

5.158 8.983 49,600
Uruguay

4.91

1.584 2.758 13,700
Burundi

0.75

0.241 0.4213 300
Australia

8.49

2.787 4.769 41,000
Nepal

1.01

0.3258 0.5674 1,200
Ireland

9.43

3.042 5.297 37,300
World Average

3.1

1.0

(3.1/3.1)

1.74

(3.1/1.78)

leave this cell empty

Pakistan 1.09 0.351 0.612 4,649
Japan 5.94 1.91 3.33 34,000
Greece 5.58 1.80 3.134 29,600
South Africa 4.04 1.30 2.27 1,070
Brazil 2.60 0.84 1.46 10,800
Your personal footprint 17.74 5.72 9.96

leave this cell empty

 

 

 

 

 

Discussing Table 1

 

 

Why do you think the EF for Bangladesh is so small? Why is so large for Australia? Why is so large for the United   Arab Emirates?

 

Bangladesh is a third world country that has a much lower developing rate when compared to Australia, making their GDP much lower as they have less production and consequently less consumption-giving them a lower Ecological Footprint overall.   Australia and UAE however have higher resources as they are first world countries, with GDPs within the $40,000s, as the countries are much richer in resources and consequently have higher incomes and higher consumption leading onto higher production, and higher waste produce-Therefore giving Bangladesh a much lower EF than Australia and UAE.

 

How does GDP affect EFs?  

Looking at Table 1, it is made evident that the higher the GDP the higher the EF for a country, therefore making them directly correlated.

Pakistan’s Ecological Footprint

 

The EF for Pakistan is much higher than the countries biocapacity which therefore means that with resources depleting at such a fast rate, many issues arise in a third world country such as Pakistan. Resource shortages can lead from famine to wars and therefore the country’s development and security are put at risk.

My personal Ecological Footprint

My personal Ecological is 17.4 which is much higher than the average ecological footprint of the country. The reason for this is that most of the country is underdeveloped and therefore consumes less and creates waste. Most of the country lived under poverty too; therefore my EF is much higher than the average EF of a Pakistani. Bangladesh also has a similar average EF to Pakistan and is again a third world country and therefore my EF is higher than that of an average Bangladeshi too. However it matches that of a Kuwaiti and an American only because they are first world country and therefore have much higher production, consumption and therefore waste.

However if everyone on the planet had the same lifestyle as me, we would need 17.74 earths to sustain ourselves, therefore I need cut down my Ecological Footprint too in order to do my part for the planet.

 

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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

Describe why Environmental Science is called an interdisciplinary pursuit.

Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary science as it combines and uses knowledge and techniques from various different sciences such as Chemistry, Biology, Ecology, Geography, and Economics and so on in order to arrive at conclusions.

Interdisciplinary pursuit is crucial to the study of environmental sciences as because it includes both natural and social sciences. Natural sciences study the natural world and social sciences study human interactions and behavior. Therefore natural sciences help us understand the world around us and social sciences help us understand interaction and behavior, and hence the mix is crucial to gaining further knowledge on environmental sciences.

The use of an interdisciplinary pursuit also helps us in fulfilling societies unlimited wants using the limited resources and therefore arriving at more feasible solutions promoting sustainable development for the societies and world that we live in.

– Is your field of study expressed in any of these disciplines? Which ones? Is your field of study a social or natural science? Why?

My field of study- International Relations is a social science as it studies, in essence, the behavior and relations and interactions between nations. The interdisciplinary pursuit is however, crucial to this study as nations want sustainable development and the only way in which that would be possible is too in fact combine natural and social sciences together in order to create feasible options whilst maintaining positive relations and catering to a majority of interests. Integrated approaches aid in providing effective solutions for societies, and therefore makes the interdisciplinary approach crucial and effective in my area of study.

Ref: Enviroment, The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, Withgott, Brennan.

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About me:
I’m in my freshmen year of college at Northeastern University, majoring in International Relations. The purpose of this blog is to educate people about the current ecological issues and provide information on other topics revolving around ecology.
My Blog:
A particular topic that I would love to elaborate on and discuss further this semester would be energy conservation as it has become a topic of great importance with a population leading to 7 billion people with unlimited wants and limited resources.
More About Me:
I was born in Pakistan which is extremely rich in variations of terrains, from the rich resources of Balochistan to holding the 2nd tallest mountain in the world: K2. However, for the past 10 years I’ve been living in an archipelago- The Philippines, which compromises of 7107 islands.

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