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Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Earth suffers as we gobble up resources

Illustration: Population and energy consumption

Bungling clichés and biofuels (Review)

WE NEED to read carefully the following bookmarked article published in the New Scientist (July 7, 2007, p.15), for that any publication that shows concerns for the Earth, people or life.
I emphasise some of the words/phrases used by the author. And also examine the article with reference to the graph illustrated above in the following comment.

Earth suffers as we gobble up resources (New Scientist, July 7, 2008)

ALMOST one-quarter of nature's resources are being gobbled up by a single species, and it's not difficult to guess which one. Based on figures for the year 2000, the most recent available, humans appropriate 24 per cent of the Earth's production capacity that would otherwise have gone to nature.

The result is a gradual depletion of species and habitats as we take more of their resources for ourselves. Things could get even worse if we grow more plants like palm oil and rapeseed for biofuels to ease our reliance on fossil fuels.

That is the message from a team led by Helmut Haberl of Klagenfurt University in Vienna, Austria. Haberl and colleagues analysed UN Food and Agriculture Organization data on agricultural land use in 161 countries covering 97.4 per cent of farmland.

By comparing carbon consumption through human activity with the amount of carbon consumed overall, Haberl's team found that humans use some 15.6 trillion kilograms of carbon annually. Half was soaked up by growing crops. Another 7 per cent went up in smoke as fires lit by humans, and the rest was used up in a variety of other ways related to industrialisation, such as transport (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Haberl says that the Earth can just about cope if we meet future needs by producing food more efficiently. This could be done by intensifying agriculture on roughly the same amount of land as we use now. But we're asking for trouble, he says, if we expand production of biofuels, as the only fertile land available is tropical rainforests.

"If we want full-scale replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels, this would have dramatic implications for ecosystems," says Haberl. He warns that some projections foresee four or fivefold increases in biofuel production. "This would at least double the overall amount of biomass harvested, which is about 30 per cent above ground at present, but would increase to 40 or 50 per cent to meet these biofuel targets," he says.

This would mean clearing what remains of the world's rainforests in countries such as Brazil and Argentina. As well as wiping out thousands of species, this would have devastating effects on the climate, he says. Unlike farmland, forests help to seed rainfall because they have high evaporation rates.

"The less evaporation there is, the less rainfall there is and the whole system dries up," he says.

Source Citation:Coghlan, Andy. "Earth suffers as we gobble up resources.(This week: International news and exclusives)(more biofuels would result in depletion of species and habitats )." New Scientist 195.2611 (July 7, 2007): 15(1). British Council Journals Database. Gale. British Council - India. 29 Dec. 2007 .
Gale Document Number:A166276086

Who is responsible?

Para 1:
Key Words: 1. ‘a single species’, i.e. humans; why accuse entire human population on the planet, when the so-called advance or industrial societies, whether in the First World or the Third World counties, is gobbling the resources of the Earth for their greed for power and profit?

2. ‘Earth’s productive capacity’; as if the Earth is a giant industrial enterprise in imitation, like ‘other’ human societies now westernised, of the omnipotent industrial society of the West!
3. ‘nature’ (last word of the 1st Para). Where is it? What is it?

Para 2:

Perhaps by ‘nature’ the author means ‘species’ and ‘habitats’ that are depleting. Does that also include other humans in the Third World and the Fourth world, who being weaker sections, face and are subjected to exploitation, oppression, displacement for development from their habitats, joblessness, hunger (for food), starvation, diseases, and deaths and suicides caused, either directly or by proxy now or in the past by the powerful and the advance societies?

Key words: ‘we’, ‘bio fuels’, ‘fossil fuels' and ‘our reliance’.
Who are refereed to as ‘we’ and ‘our’? The article does not mention the wars that going on against humans and the insects. The illustration in the article shows a harvester machine in an immensely large farm, or mechanised farming, which is practiced in the developed countries. However the undeveloped societies use human and animal energies, and least fossil fuel energy, in farming.

Para 3:
Typically this comes down upon ‘agricultural land use’, as if ‘we’ sustain on the synthetic foods manufactured in the labs and industries.

Para 4:

Key word: ‘carbon consumption’. According to an expert quoted, ‘half (50%) of it is soaked up growing crops…and 7% went up in the smoke as fires lit by the humans. Compare this statement with the graph of energy consumption above. It will be clear where do the finite resources and fossil fuels vanish; namely, to add and expand insatiable want to produce enormous wealth and the waste, which cannot be recycled.

Rest of the article mentions expert opinions and hypotheses, but both the author and the experts fail to advice, who should do what. The author could have started straight with ‘biofuels’, but bungles up the needs and the wants, and the clichés, and typically avoids the inevitable conclusions.

It is not easy to get over the mindset (or mind block) and go beyond the rationale or logic. Which scientist/s would daresay anything at the cost of financial, or even physical, security? It may create a worst situation than the Inquisitions in the Middle Ages of Europe.

Whatever issue one may begin with holistic approach to land, waters and the living beings one would reach at an inevitable conclusion: “Stop all further industrial development and production. Divert all the research to carry post-mortems of all the crimes by the industrial civilisation upon other societies, other humans and the living beings, and be prepared for the payback time.”

Remigius de Souza

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