Voice of the people: Bill Gillmore




Disagrees with Emmerich column on the state of the world


An important element of cognitive thinking, as pointed out by Wikipedia and Mr. Emmerich, is correcting inaccurate thinking.


I would love to imagine that "the world has never been better." I suppose that is to some degree true, what with indoor plumbing, HVAC, modern medical care, dental implants, and, as Mr. Emmerich noted, cell phones. But, I see a global water crisis, nuclear proliferation, the reckless use of our precious antibiotics, and the destruction of millions of acres of farmland by salt from irrigation.



The things Mr. Emmerich lists as hopeful, unfortunately, are either not established, or just wrong. He brings up the Clarion Clipper Zone and its wealth of nodules. There are as many mineral resources there as in the rest of the world, by some estimates. But there are enormous environmental problems with harvesting them. The two current approaches are scraping them up or vacuuming them up. Both of these devastate the sea bottom and threaten sea life from micro-fauna to megafauna. Plus, at 5,000 meters down, either approach is very expensive to do. Plus, every country in the world claims the right to mine Clarion Clipper Zone. (incidentally, the U. S., as usual in International environmental issues, has not ratified the treaty establishing the International Seabed Authority.) I can see warships in the fracture zone's future.


With regard to climate change, our President has done all he can to restore coal as our principal energy source. China is burning more coal than ever before. Mr. Trump has ordered California and like-minded states to abandon their fuel-efficiency standards. He has begun withdrawing us from the Paris Accords on Climate Change. All the wind turbines and solar panels in the world amount to less than 10% of the global energy production. Adding hydroelectric power and biodiesel (which is not really green at all), the global total rises to only 24%.


Warming is already responsible for the destruction of much of Canada's red pine forest, as hard frosts no longer kill the boring beetles that are destroying them. Glaciers supply 69% of the world's fresh water, and they are melting at an alarming rate everywhere. Sea levels are already so high that many waterfront properties in the U.S. are unsellable. Boston is spending billions of dollars to protect the city from rising sea levels.


Malthus wrote that population growth would lead to starvation. But German engineers invented an explosive for World War I that also served as the world's first fertilizer not derived from organic material--ammonium nitrate. World food production exploded (pun intended). Since then, researchers at Mississippi State and other places have improved crop yields by about 2% per year, keeping pace with population growth. Unhappily, the greater the yield, the more water is needed, and water shortages are now a worldwide problem, so starvation once again looms.


As population grows, so does our waste. Currently, more than 10 million acres of farmland are watered with untreated sewage. Plastic pellets may soon cover our oceans. More people means more automobiles, using more gasoline. World recycling systems are overwhelmed and failing economically. You can imagine plenty more waste products yourself.


And the world population is growing, and faster than ever. Calculations predicting when the population of the world will double vary from 63 years to 70 years. It would be wonderful if the pine forests in Mississippi could make up for the loss of pine forests in Canada, or the slash/burn destruction of the Amazon rainforest, or the desertification of large parts of the world, but Mississippi is just not big enough.


Global poverty has declined. Absolute poverty is defined by the U.N. as the severe deprivation of human needs (currently measured as income below $1.90 per day). In the year 1800, over 80% of the world's population lived in absolute poverty. Today, that figure has fallen to 10%. But the rate of poverty just above that, the point at which bare subsistence is possible if the entire family works from dawn to dusk, is still enormous. In the U.S., $11,770 per person per year is the poverty threshold. The last census revealed that 15.1% of the population lived below this threshold. Next year, this information will be updated.


The worldwide median per capita income, according to Gallup, is $2,920. The median household income is very close to $10,000. Interestingly, the worldwide Gross Domestic Product rate per capita, or how much the people produce, is $17,300, or almost six times the per capita income. I wonder where that money goes.


One thing to be thankful for is the success of the protests and political action that resulted in the chlorine and bromine chemicals used in refrigeration and aerosol cans (especially chlorofluorocarbons) being banned. As a result, the size of the ozone hole has shrunk to its smallest annual peak since tracking began in 1982. But this is an anomaly due to warm stratospheric temperatures. It is usually twice as large: eight million square miles. Hardly nothing.


In order for this country to improve, socially or politically, we need accurate thinking. This requires accurate information and truthful reporting. Perhaps, come the New Year, we can resolve for more of that.


Bill Gillmore







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