Two new reports offer useful tools for thinking about the future, both focused on the United States and both needed.
The first report, Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health, Settlements and Welfare comes out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and details the ways in which climate change may exacerbate a number of problems we don't usually think of as environmental. Among their findings were these key impacts:
* Heat: Almost every part of the country will experience higher average temperatures, but the impacts of increased heat will be particularly acute in urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest and across many areas of the West. The rapidly aging U.S. population as well as children and the poor will be particularly vulnerable to health impacts, such as cardio-vascular and pulmonary disease as well as higher death rates. * Extreme Weather: More intense storms, such as those that have led to severe flooding in the Midwest, will have costly impacts on individual health and welfare, as well as government services, infrastructure and economies. In other regions drought will tax water supplies in the rapidly growing west, increase threats of wildfire and damage weather-related economies such as agriculture, fishing and recreation. * Health: Climate change will significantly worsen the health threats associated with heat and air pollution; elevate the incidence of food-, water- and vector-borne disease and have costly impacts on public health systems. Some of these adverse impacts will not be avoidable, even with efforts to adapt to them. * Quality of Life: Climate change will affect the livelihoods and lifestyle of Americans. These disruptions will affect everything from economic prosperity to the way people play and their faith in government. * The West: The West is a “critical crossroads” for climate change. Its rapidly growing population will face scarcity of water, more wildfires, coastal flooding and costly disruptions to its resource-based economies.
The second report, The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 is the work of the American Human Development Project, a multidisciplinary effort to apply for the first time the same kind of holistic thinking about human health and welfare which is becoming coming commonplace in other nations. As Amartya Sen says in the foreword:
“We get in this report not only an evaluation of what the limitations of human development are in the United States, but also how the relative place of America has been slipping in comparison with other countries over recent years. In the skilled hands of Sarah Burd-Sharps, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins, the contrasts within the country - related to region, race, class, and other important distinctions - receive powerful investigation and exposure. In these growing gaps we can also see one of the most important aspects of the souring of the American Dream, which is so much under discussion today."
Taken together, the two reports are sobering, sure, but they also offer hope that we here in the U.S. are actually beginning to grapple with the magnitude of our challenges.
The z-index of the first image needs to be boosted a bit (the west coast is covered by a bird at the moment!;-)
By only indicating the range from 0.94 - 0.97, the second graph on 'human development' is a bit misleading. The actual difference between the top twelve is only 0.02. Is this significant?
Letter to the Editor
Chapel Hill (NC) Newspaper
July 29, 2008
What purpose do bigger families serve?
We in the town of Chapel Hill are implicated in a daunting global threat, a colossal problem that appears to involve every citizen on the planet. No one is to blame for this human-driven predicament; yet all of us could be enjoined by the requirements of practical reality to humanely and voluntarily take responsible, self-limiting action to meet the challenge, I suppose.
Please note that annual birthrates of newborns in the human community are rising precipitously in the United States as well as in many other countries worldwide. For example, more than 4.3 million newborns joined the American family in 2007. That is more births than occurred in 1957 at the height of the post-WWII baby boom. Would someone please point out what advantages the American family derives from such rapid growth in its population numbers? The total number of human births last year exceeded the highest annual number of births ever achieved in the United States. How much longer can the United States sustain the momentum bound up in the skyrocketing growth of the human population? How long can the frangible ecosystems and finite resources of Earth be reasonably expected to sustain the human species, given the determination of people in most countries, not to regulate the growth of human numbers?
Many capable scientists are validating the projection that the human population on Earth could increase from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in the next 42 years. That is a 40 percent increase in our global population. Given its current and anticipated growth, it appears to me that the human species may well ravage the Earth between now and 2050 unless meaningful individual and collective efforts are made to slow the growth of human numbers.
Perhaps someone will kindly explain how much longer a planet with the relatively small size and make-up of Earth can be sensibly expected to support the well-established and easily discernable over-consumption, overproduction and overpopulation behaviors of the family of humanity.
-- Steven Earl Salmony, Chapel Hill
I try to live more eco and have become a vegetarian.
I would like to also pass on freecycle.org. It's a National website going global that you choose your neighborhood group and then can post all the items that you want to discard or recycle to others who may want them. You can post for what you need as well.
It works beautifully.
Thank you for this wonderfully informative site.