Archive for April, 2008
Wired has a great article on the “era of peak water”. The author, Matthew Power, makes an argument for the need of more and better data:
One barrier to better management of water resources is simply lack of data â€” where the water is, where it’s going, how much is being used and for what purposes, how much might be saved by doing things differently. In this way, the water problem is largely an information problem. The information we can assemble has a huge bearing on how we cope with a world at peak water.
The article investigates the problem of water scarcity by looking at three case studies:
Chandler, Arizona, in the US South-West dessert, where Intel currently has three chip plants running. And chip plants need a lot and very clean water. Of course, Intel will always have more money than the average water needing person.
London, UK, where Thames Water, a private water-supply company, needs to deal with old and leaking pipe networks
Australia, “the most arid continent after Antarctica”, where droughts have catastrophic effect on rice farming. Of course you might ask, why try to grow rice in an arid region?
On top of agriculture, industry, and human needs, all of which grow on a global scale, the impacts of climate changing towards more extreme conditions effects the water supply at all those three sites negatively and severely.
Food production is related to water because food does not grow without water. Since a little while rising food prices are on my radar screen. At first I thought, wow finally somebody (the UN and media covering the story, MSNBC, f.ex.) is talking about it. Then I saw another hockey stick curve, and those sure attract attention, not only since Al Gore’s talk. Then I saw this news-site, telling me how food is rationed in the US. This was the point when I decided to dig a little deeper — why is food getting more expensive?
(from the Economist)
I found this really great german blog post, including great answers and links to other resources, where Don Dahlmann asks
Can somebody explain to me why on a global scale food is getting a) short and b) expensive right now? I’ve googled a bit, but I didn’t find a thing that would have helped me to understand. What’s behind this? Creating artificial shortages by companies with the goal of increase profits? An ecologic problem?
The funny thing is, you can read all those great resources, but I can still not find the real reason, or a real reason for that matter.
- It seems to me if it was just population growth and hence more people eating more meat (“western standard”), then the cost increase for wheat would have been not that abrupt.
- I also don’t think that the single reason for cost increase is farmers converting their crops to “bio-fuel”, because I think this is a western (US, and Europe to some extent) phenomenon, and prices also increase in other food-producing countries.
- Is it a water distribution problem? Generally, there is enough water in the US and Europe for farming. Granted, some of the farming practices in the US (Mid-West or California) are not vastly sustainable, but generally there is water.
- Is it a climate change phenomenon — were there any severely bad harvests on a global scale last year (due to extreme weather conditions happening)?
- The food-companies are mentioned sometimes, but are also not linked conclusively to the recent cost-increase.
All in all, there seem to be a variety of reasons. Has the sum of all of them been enough to reach the “tipping point”? But, it seems to me, we are missing something! So I’m asking the same question as Don did, again: What is it?
Update [2008-05-18]: Here is the official explanation of the UN
This is a little movie of a water-balloon exploding after somebody stuck a needle into it. The cool thing: it’s filmed at 2000 frames per second!
The legendary red books, also known as the IAHS publication series, can be accessed now online as pdfs, free of charge. Check out [this article in volume 297]! 😉
The Independent reports how Barcelona is “importing” drinking water with ships. This is a first to me!
Seems like the Independent is onto very novel stories: it also reports that the major of a Russian town of 70,000 suggests abandoning it and settling at a new place — the current location is just too polluted
Der Lobby-Verband der deutschen Braunkohle-Branche DEBRIV hat einen renommierten US-Klimaexperten ohne dessen Wissen fÃ¼r seine Anzeigenkampagne “Braunkohle. Was liegt nÃ¤her?” genutzt.
read more | digg story
Emissions caps are not enough, say advocates of radically new technologies.
China, India and other developing nations march headlong into the modern world of cars and electric consumption on their way to becoming the dominant producer of greenhouse gases for decades to come.
read more | digg story