Population-2050

UN forecast: 2017 = 7.6; 30 = 8.6; 50 = 9.8; 2100 = 11.2. See Pew, better analysis. WB 2019. The Conversation, more critical. Stewart blog most intriguing. Graphs.

Only a few countries, all poor but horrific consequences. Aging pyramids, w consequences. See WB blogs.

Comments

Pop growth (see Ehrlich text) among poorest, so social costs, not growth, will ensue. By def, mortality must increase. Appears not to embed CCIR.

Food-Ag

Beef lobbies hard. See Amazon.

CCIR, food production down, shift in ss and dd geography, but pop levels. Randers not concerned, others are. Much tech at work.

Land grabs, see Klare. Brown re food and ag.

Livelihood plays into this. Bad corp behavior re Monsanto, others.

Oil

What happened to a bedrock assumption of sustainability: Peak Oil? Remember the logic of Die Off? What of King Hubbard’s prediction?

Oil companies among the most sinister of any capitalist industry.

Matrix as Method

Simply, the mapping of capitalism on top of bioregions. The systemic needs of capitalist expansion may conflict with the vibrancy of bioregions and communities. That tension will identify specific arena where the future will be contested, so identify these contests early.

The HotSpots require immediate attention.

Examples:

  1. Long term land lease contracts in the Congo.
  2. The Bolsonaro assault on the Amazon.
  3. The sabotage of the Kurds by President Trump, to the advantage of President Putin.
  4. The dissolution of democracy in the USA.
  5. Hong Kong’s challenge to China.
  6. Brexit: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales.
  7. Most regional areas, many distressed, eg WV re coal.
  8. Siberia melting, releasing methane.

Working Notes: Fire in the Amazon

The Lungs of the Planet are Smoking

In 1516, Sir Thomas More published his classic Utopia, in which sheep devoured people as land devoted to subsistence livelihood was enclosed for pasture land. We face a contemporary dystopia in the Amazon rainforest as fires expanding cattle ranching destroy a precious ecosystem and violates the human rights of indigenous peoples:

“We did not ask if he had seen any monsters, for monsters have ceased to be news. There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey on human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations; but examples of wise social planning are not so easy to find.”

My last post reflected my outrage at the assault on the Brazilian Amazon, as  President Bolsonaro encouraged open conflagration in defiance of those who would protect the Amazon as a treasured ecosystem. An international outcry quickly ensued.

Here, I reflect on the overall situation, preparing remarks for a panel  at Ramapo College on the open burning of the Brazilian Amazon just as climate protests erupt around the world. See my working notes, shared in Google Drive.

My role: explain aspects of the political ecology background.  The event, a sort of teach-in, features my hero, Dr. Eric Weiner, who has worked for decades with native people on ecological restoration with carefully calibrated economic benefits — exactly the way it should be done. Aim at improving livelihood, not pursuing economic growth per se. From Sky News:

Students hold placards during a strike to raise climate change awareness at Cathedral Square in Christchurch, New Zealand

In case you missed it, 2018 was the 4th hottest year since the 1880s, following 2016, 2015, 2017. See State of the Climate, 2018 (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 2019). Let’s not quibble but continue the spunk of Greta Thunberg and the youth whose future is on the line. That is why we are here, at this event and on this page.

Meanwhile, at the U.N., Greta speaks truth to power as the delegations from the USA, China, Russia, and others fail to hear. Greta gets it right, but, as I see it, she is way too optimistic. The flagrant Bolsonaro assault on the Amazon provides a vivid case study of the collision of economic growth and the future of the planet .

The forces that propel climate catastrophe will overwhelm the burgeoning resistance, as I have been saying consistently for over 12 years now: See my 2007 Statement of Concern and 2013 review of positive trends, my utopian speculation, and a visionary website.

China has become a significant investor in infrastructure and industrial expansion in Brazil, thus backing Bolsonaro’s development initiatives and turning against soy farmers in the American Midwest:

Boycotting US soybeans by turning to Brazil’s bumper harvest seems like an ace in the hole for Beijing, since soybeans alone account for 10 per cent of total US exports to China. Moreover, destabilising US agricultural exports could turn the traditionally conservative and soy-dependent American Midwest against the Republican Party in November’s midterm elections.

China is actively expanding its economic footprint in Latin America, undermining the historic role of the USA. I vividly recall as a visitor to New Orleans gazing at the convoys of freighters carrying grain bound for China down the Mississippi, but those days may be over:

In addition to gaining more access to soybeans and other natural resources, China will be flexing its economic power in a country that traditionally has been under U.S. commercial influence. But that influence has been waning in recent years, as has the relationship between the U.S. and China, which remain locked in a months-long trade war that has limited the amount of U.S. soybeans being sold to China. If the trade war between the two superpowers rages on — perhaps even if it doesn’t — China will be looking increasingly to South America, and Brazil in particular, to satisfy its immense demand for soybeans as well as other agricultural products.

Bolsonaro’s term is just starting, but his approval rating has already sunk to 23% after winning 55% in his recent election. As reactionary regimes run roughshod over the future, the time to stand up has come.

Rainforests: From Sink to Source

Consider this recent article from Carbon Brief:

Tropical forests now emit more carbon than they are able to absorb from the atmosphere as a result of the dual effects of deforestation and land degradation, a new study says (my emphasis and link).

Now read the article from The Intercept that reveals Operation Amazon,  Bolsonaro’s militaristic strategy to colonize the Amazon rainforest into a money-making commodity. See Vox article as well. Business Insider examines the infrastructure within Operation Amazon, including the extension of BR-163 and a hydroelectric dam. See historical background paper. View maps and videos of the fires. Mongabay provides data and analysis:

Some Respsonses

Economic pressure against deforestation is building: Principles for Responsible Investment, a group of 230 investors with $16.2 trillion in assets has threatened hundreds of companies “to either meet their commodities supply chain deforestation commitments or risk economic consequences.”

The EU and the South American common market (Mercosur) is on the verge of a historic trade deal that will solidify Brazil’s export market. However, Austria and others threaten to veto the agreement due to the Bolsonaro fires in the Amazon.

Advocates have cited BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, as the major source of capital that destroys the Amazon rainforest:

BlackRock’s investments drive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and its financial backing helps embolden the destructive and violent agenda of President Jair Bolsonaro. We demand you cease financing the continued destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Humanity is counting on you.

The Amazon Fund provides external financing for projects to prevent such abuses as open burning and violation of human rights in the Amazon. Already, Norway and Germany have threatened to withdraw contributions in response to Operation Amazon and Bolsonaro’s attacks on the Amazon.

Activists advocate that Bolsonaro face trial for ecocide at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Note that Bolsonaro’s term is just starting, but his approval rating has already sunk to 23% after winning 55% in his recent election.  I would be happy with an impromptu public trial for ecocide and crimes against humanity.

Follow the fine example of Gabon in the African Congo Basin in its Results-Based Payment Partnership:

The 10-year [$150 million] agreement will reward Gabon – in the form of results-based payments – for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. The agreement will also reward them for the absorption of carbon dioxide by natural forests. It will retroactively honor performance from as far back as 2016. Monies from those and future results will be paid out annually.

Cattle Ranching

Brazil’s cattle population is around 232 million and Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beefFollow the supply chain. Yale School of Forestry offers an article on cattle ranching in the Amazon:

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates. Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one quarter of the global market. Low input cost and easy transportation in rural areas make ranching an attractive economic activity in the forest frontier; low yields and cheap land encourage expansion and deforestation. Approximately 450,000 square kilometers of deforested Amazon in Brazil are now in cattle pasture. Cattle ranching and soy cultivation are often linked as soy replaces cattle pasture, pushing farmers farther into the Amazon.

The Natural Resource Defense Council provides extensive coverage of the encroachment into the Amazon, concluding with an appeal to consumers to boycott beef from Brazil.
Cattle ranching at one steer per hectare encroaches far more than soy: 80% to 10%. Further, as three billion consumers move up the food chain and more beef/person is consumed, the soaring demand for beef could mean an annual withdrawal of rain forest triple the size of New Jersey per year through 2030, as I extrapolate using data from Brown.
Brazil also exports chicken and pork, making Brazil a major source of protein for the growing global middle class consumer. Examine the list of countries that import beef, poultry, and pork from Brazil. See also data on global meat production.
The conversion of rainforest to industrial agriculture could explode. See U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization for report on global meat production and consumption. The rainforest assault reveals the cost to the planet of meat consumption. Adopt a plant-based diet.

Soy Production Expands in Brazil’s Cerrado

Soya cropland lies southeast of the Amazon in the Cerrado savanna, but the expansion of soy farming by large corporations like Cargill, displaces cattle ranching, driving the ranches north into the Amazon. Cargill has been criticized for the corporation’s forest encroachment.

Brazil's Cerrado is a 200m hectare forested savanna © Mighty Earth

Chinese soybean purchasing shift from USA to Brazil was initially as dramatic as advertised. China has recently returned to USA soybean market, with prices depressed. Trace the supply chain for soybean. The US Department of Agriculture has recently issued a report on the soybean trade war.
Long term could involve a major shift in supply to China: One of the five prongs of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative connects China to Kazakhstan for import of soybean to China, escaping all this trade disruption — a typical national response when trade in agriculture staples is interrupted. Starvation is bad for authoritarian regimes (except perhaps North Korea).
China also is actively exploring for niobium (current price: over $42K/metric ton) in northern Brazilian Amazon.  According to the Wall Street Journal, China will help fund road extension to colonize a remote area occupied by Munduruku and by Yanomami people:

Chinese leaders and the country’s state-owned enterprises have, for years, been trying to lock up vital natural resources around the globe, according to Margaret Myers, director of the China and Latin America program of the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue.

Open Burning of the Amazon

“You have to understand that the Amazon is Brazil’s, not yours.”
President Jair Bosnaro

In late August, 2019, the world discovered that Brazil’s duly elected right-wing President Jair Bosnaro had declared open burning in the Amazon, with nearly 3,000 known fires in August (fires are the icon of the warming Earth —- it’s here already). The map from the New York Times provides geographical context.

President Bosnaro declared that protecting the Amazon is an obstacle to economic growth: “Where there is indigenous land, there is wealth underneath,” he proclaimed.

Got that. This is his country, Brazil can enjoy its right to despoil a treasured asset of Life on Earth. They can do it. Too bad, huh! Get used to ecocide. Tell your children that this is freedom in action, economic growth underway, anti-colonial nationalism. No sweat. Not much of a future either. Too bad.

Let the more fortunate colonial hypocrites pontificate about “saving the planet.” The “international community,” a non-being, has not been established to protect Life on Earth, and probably never will. Face it: Game over for Life on Earth. Nice while it lasted.

In September 2008, when the Big Boys melted down the financial arrangements that make the rich even richer, governments bailed them out with trillions, while the perps greedily profited from the assistance. (The G-7 offered Bosnaro $20 mil to help put out the fires.) This is capitalism, which must be protected at all cost, a privilege not extended to Life on Earth. Get real: I can imagine a world without the Amazon, but can’t imagine a world without capitalism — for a few more decades, anyway. “Greed is good.” Life on Earth is dispensable. Get your priorities straight. .

Some links help explain:

  • President Bolsonaro, insulted, angrily refuses outside aid. Rich folks occasionally want to help the “less fortunate.” Go, Dude: Stick it to the meddlers in Brazil’s precious autonomy, especially the French complainer-in-chief who would be a world moral leader — can’t have that in the Age of Trump and his followers such as Bosnaro. Nope.
  • Fires in the Amazon are not new, and have actually been less destructive, but President Jair Bosnaro has withdrawn protections by fiat. The New York Times explains.
  • Environmental workers complain, even write a letter, only to be rebuffed by  President Bolsonaro.
  • But wait! President Bolsonaro will call out the army to save the Amazon. He even said so. A favorite tactic of rulers: Say “Yes,” but do “No.” I would entertain side-bets against any serious action.
  • The New Yorker offers a profile of President Bolsonaro, indicating his disdain for protection of the Amazon.
  • Global Forest Watch provides a superb website track the global assault on forests. Note the losses in the tropics. The mapping tool is extraordinary.
  • Big corporations like Cargill, the food giant, has invaded the Amazon for production of such crops as beef, palm oil, and soy. Note that with Dude Trump’s Trade War (“Easy to win,”), China has abandoned farmers in the USA Bread Basket, sourcing instead in Brazil with long-term contracts and with funding assistance.
  • Extensive media coverage shapes public opinion, sounds the alarm, but may fade soon. The destruction of the Amazon, widespread since the early 1970s, will nevertheless continue

More sources will follow.

Indigenous People Fight Miners

What can be done? Tinkerers with capitalism should realize that “transfer of development rights,” carbon markets and taxes, letter-writing campaign, reasoned arguments, and all the rest, will produce only ironic disdain from those in power. These have all been done before. Instead, support more effective actions — and more will be listed later.

Indigenous people have again fought back, as shown by the New York Times.

Munduruku indigenous tribe members trek through their protected indigenous land that illegal miners had destroyed in search of gold.

As this issue unfolds, I will look for more responses.

A Meme: Mock Trials of the Perps

How about a Nuremberg Trial style (mock) court (elites would never allow the real thing) that holds public trials on Ecocide and Atrocities to Human Rights? Lay out the case and gather responses. Shame the perps. Demand retribution from the plunderers and the kleptocrats (rule by the thieves), even their heirs. Let ’em know that we are watching and will not forget. Stare them down.

Use real courts to claw back their illicit plunder whenever possible. Crowd source a Life on Earth Legal Defense Fund. Outlaw extinction and wanton destruction of life for profit, greed, stupidity, and power. Root out hierarchy and patriarchy, not rain forests.

Do all this publicly: Shame the perps. Let then know that their day will come. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but some day. No more amnesia, we shall never forget you, Dude Bosnaro, Trump and his heirs, and all the others who recklessly destroy what belongs to all future generations of all forms of Life on Earth. This Earth is not exclusively yours, Mr Bosnaro.

Soon.

Discussion

Several readers objected to the strident tone of the first version of this post. I responded with indignation and alarm as I contemplated the increeased burning of the Amazon. I have slightly toned down my alarm and shown a bit more respect for President Bolsonaro: Not only did I misspell his name, but I dubbed him Dude in Charge.  I have made these adjustments but the ire should be directed at the perpetrator of the atrocity, not the messenger.

More, I released the blog to a distribution list too hastily. Wrong move that will not happen again. My apologies.

Frankly, my indignant and alarmist tone reflects the urgency of the overall concern for accelerating plunder of the planet, ecocide. Commodification transforms forests and its human inhabitants, living ecosystems, into items for commerce, including the migration into urban labor pools. The “externalities,” a trivializing distortion, hardly captures the rupture of living processes. The entire discussion of ecocide and erosion of human dignity has been cloaked in polite language that fails to disclose the magnitude of the conditions now intensifying. I have no regrets for the strident tone.

Finally, I regret that my Facebook post garners few likes. My photographs catch more attention. Disappointing. Onward!

Stiglitz on Global Warming

Joseph Stiglitz makes shrewd observations.

profit: tipping point for coal; 2050 report aussie;

nucs gain with carbon price or tax

World Population stabilizing?

World Population: Slowing Growth

I have speculated that economic and population growth will not meet conventional expectations, contributing to a challenge to capitalism to grow. As fertility rates (live births per woman) fall below 2.1, Zero Population Growth is achieved. The slowdown of population growth is big news and deserves some attention. If population slows within a decade or two, capitalism must adapt. How? With what consequences?

Population Trends

When I was born in August, 1945, the world population was just below 2.5 billion. As I write on May 25, 2019, the world population was about 7.6 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Thus the human population tripled during my lifetime, adding another 5 billion humans. Read that sentence again. Grasp its significance for yourself before reading any further. Get it. Only then move on.

Demographers, a cautious lot, follow professional authoritative sources, such as the U.N. The projections of the U.N. predict that the population will hit 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100. Keep in mind that vital statistics (pertaining to births and deaths) are highly reliable.

What Population Growth Means

Population growth underlies economic growth, thus capitalism. Lower population growth suppresses total economic growth, not necessarily growth per capita, however. So consider these effects that are at stake:

Consider: Lower Productivity Times Fewer Workers = Degrowth, Stagnation, Steady State

Thus: Active workers times productivity = economic (monetized) production. I will argue below based on solid authority that both the size of the workforce and its productivity will continue to rise but more slowly than at any time since the period of industrialization (Industrial Revolution in England starting around 1750 and the inauguration of the Anthropocene — a big topic to be considered later. Thus, economic growth will slow, approaching stagnation.

However, it you belong to the ecological camp of Herman Daly, you look forward to the realization of the steady-state economy, or, as others put it, de-growth. This is a dramatic consequence to be digested with deliberation.

This means a larger work force to help the growing aging population (like me, at 73 — but I am at work as I write, just not paid) create a rising dependency rate (I have saved and invested, most have or can not), and provide the future’s consumers (aggregate demand) and workforce. Consumers with adequate income purchase these goods and services. allowing for capitalism to grow, which it must.

In this context, consider this article by demographer and economist Neil Howe appearing in March 29th, 2019, Fortune magazine, a proponent of capitalism, Nations Labor to Increase their Birthrate. He advocates pronatal policies, including a neoliberal subsidy to have children:

“What are countries doing about it? Many governments have taken a neoliberal approach by offering direct financial incentives to families with children, such as tax breaks, housing assistance, or discounts on public services. ”

William Reville argues the same in the Irish Times in March 7th, 2019. He cites evidence that the human population will never rise above 8 billion.

See recent data on fertility rates by country; USA is 2.06, where Zero Population Growth is below 2.1 births per woman.

The size of human population by mid-century may prove critical in the trajectory of capitalism. I will soon spell out the ramifications of these possible trends:

  1. Reductions in the workforce and even worker shortages could occur as population declines or simple ages.
  2. Decline in the worldwide productivity per worker continues.
  3. Shift of capital investment to social overhead capital to mitigate and to forestall the effects of climate catastrophes. Expect interest rates to surge, crowding out private investment.