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 An elephant in the room? 
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In history plague and famine were the mechanisms of returning balance to nature - over-use of the resources due to over population caused generated these factors automatically.
I wrote the above, as an aside, in the "What defines terrorism" thread.

But it is a subject that has been in my mind for some time. Though not "voting" for famine and plague and having compassion for those suffering from such disasters a part of my says that we may bring even worse on ourselves by attempting to eradicate such things without sufficient resources to give the sufferers the means of self-sustaining a decent level of life.

Perhaps solutions do exist - but they would probably mean that almost every armed conflict in the world would need to cease and the expenditure on those diverted entirely to the means of ensuring sustainability. If I read things correctly the major problem, in Africa at least, is a lack of water. It is possible to build huge, floating solar stills with solar, wind and water powered pumps to deliver the water to the land. These can also act as fish farms, floating docks etc. They would cost a lot to build, but in comparison to the cost of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan?

In a cold hard light it could be considered that money poured into plague and famine areas that do not bring about a permanent solution are wasted and will only extend such recurring events until the rest of the world is unable or unwilling to dip into their pockets - since they will be feeling the bite of a world of seriously restricted resources themselves. With energy prices rising and salaries, at best, remaining static we are feeling the first nibbles.

Climate change will not improve matters of course.

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August 5th, 2011, 10:01 am
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Plague and famine are alive and well. Nature does keep things from going too far out-of-bounds and Anthro Glob Wrming is just another mediator.

Carrying capacity is nature's control over local populations. While it's not a "waste" to help those who are starving, it is a temporary fix that might allow population to increase and create even more misery. Global problems are difficult, if not impossible, to solve in a world with many competing governments. Add to that, the fractures within each of those governments - our species has a long journey ahead.


August 5th, 2011, 2:20 pm
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While it's not a "waste" to help those who are starving, it is a temporary fix that might allow population to increase and create even more misery.
That's the elephant, stardust.

Hypothetical situation:
You have a thousand pounds that you want to "invest" in charity in the best way for the human race. do you -
a) buy a load of grain and save the lives of a thousand people for one week
or
b) buy some sustainable tech and invest in education to save the lives of one hundred people for ........ ?

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August 5th, 2011, 2:48 pm
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Dave B wrote:
Quote:
While it's not a "waste" to help those who are starving, it is a temporary fix that might allow population to increase and create even more misery.
That's the elephant, stardust.

Hypothetical situation:
You have a thousand pounds that you want to "invest" in charity in the best way for the human race. do you -
a) buy a load of grain and save the lives of a thousand people for one week
or
b) buy some sustainable tech and invest in education to save the lives of one hundred people for ........ ?


b, unless your real motivation is to make a sad TV commercial that makes you and your church look saintly. :wink:


August 5th, 2011, 3:31 pm
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I am inclined to agree with you David B.

For a long time I've lamented the shortsightedness and parochialism of the human race when it comes to thinking about the consequences of our actions. I concede that the nature of the world doesn't lend itself to making reliable predictions about the future and that with the benefit of hindsight it's easy to judge the decisions of others harshly but I don't believe that this excuses human population growth in areas of the world which are unable to sustain populations either due to insufficient resources arising from political upheaval of a lack of local resource availability, or living a life-style which consumes a vast amount of resources far beyond what is reasonable.

Fundamentally I believe it's a problem of a lack of communication and common direction between individuals, which is exacerbated by the massively different standards of living which serves to further reduce any common ground between individuals. I don't believe that this is going to change anytime soon and by supporting those individuals who aren't able to support themselves we are simply creating a bigger problem than already exists and also creating a culture of dependency which is difficult to escape from because it reaches the point where a group of individuals are no longer able to support themselves even if they did have the means and technology to start attempting to do so.

A suitable analogy is one which is depressingly common in the UK where unemployed people living on benefits, especially those with large families, cannot make the transition to employment because the combination of associated circumstances (Often poor education, few skills and little work experience) mean that they aren't able to find work which pays sufficient wages to support their family without also being subsidised by the state and currently such subsidies are often limited or overly complicated to claim. Such individuals are genuinly financially better off living off state benefits than they are going to work. I believe that we are on the way to or already have assisted in countries reaching the point that even with development they would be unable to sustain themselves without considerable international aid.

The solution that springs to mind is one which has been proposed in part by my own government to deal with unemployment. That is individuls continue to claim benefits when they start working until their income is sufficiently high that they no longer need to be subsidised by the state in order to support themselves. There is an obvious flaw to this given that as mentioned above some families and countries will never have sufficient income to support their family size or population without external support therefore it's neccesary for countries to reduce their populations to sustainable levels respective to their income and for individuals to be educated in familiy planning so that even if those initially helped still require benefits to support their family successive generations will avoid having larger families than they can support.

Of course impliment this strategy at the level of country or the individual is a massive and difficult undertaking but in my opinion ultimately worth the effort in the long run.

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October 12th, 2011, 7:32 pm
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Quote:
Hypothetical situation:
You have a thousand pounds that you want to "invest" in charity in the best way for the human race. do you -
a) buy a load of grain and save the lives of a thousand people for one week
or
b) buy some sustainable tech and invest in education to save the lives of one hundred people for ........ ?

Actually you may have to do both. If you do b) only, the people could well starve to death before it serves any purpose.

It all depends on what sort of problem you are trying to fix. If a flood or earthquake means people are starving NOW then you don't start by building them schools. Conversely, if the problem is that a population has grown so it is barely sustainable on its available resources you should adopt long term strategies.


October 12th, 2011, 8:02 pm
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keithprosser2 wrote:
Quote:
Hypothetical situation:
You have a thousand pounds that you want to "invest" in charity in the best way for the human race. do you -
a) buy a load of grain and save the lives of a thousand people for one week
or
b) buy some sustainable tech and invest in education to save the lives of one hundred people for ........ ?

Actually you may have to do both. If you do b) only, the people could well starve to death before it serves any purpose.

It all depends on what sort of problem you are trying to fix. If a flood or earthquake means people are starving NOW then you don't start by building them schools. Conversely, if the problem is that a population has grown so it is barely sustainable on its available resources you should adopt long term strategies.

I agree that there are contingencies where only certain kinds of aid are appropriate, but the problem will not be solved unless the "world government" looks 20 years ahead and plans for that - but political lives are short and politics rules all (except that bit ruled by the bankers & speculators).

The trouble is, Keith, the elephant might say that you have to allow a percentage of any population, that is taking more resources out of their land than can ever be put back in in the foreseeable future, to die. It is the land that has to survive and be nurtured or the problem spreads out from the dead centre. The elephant may require population reduction in order to maintain a future viable population.

It often feels to me that we are losing the battle with what sustainable technology and techniques we are able to install. And virtually destroying the production in a country that was once the most productive in Africa, Zimbabwe, for "traditional political" purposes does not help. Africa is going to have to cast tradition and tribalism etc. aside before it, or any one else, will be able to solve the problems there. We feed the thousands, but where are they going to go and live in the future in order to feed themselves? If their home lands are not drought ridden they are often blighted with men with machine guns and machetes.

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October 12th, 2011, 9:23 pm
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I wish I had the brains to work out the patterns in these things!

Skyfrog, you have the right of some of it IMHO. There are some who do not have a job and really do want to work, and some of those are (comparative) youngsters that I know. But in our road we also have several families, living entirely on benefits, that produce a kid every year in order to keep qualifying (or so the mother is not forced to look for a job.)

There are also many who have a job, or worked all their lives and are now pensioners, who cannot afford the large TVs and other goodies that some of those benefit drawers seem able to afford - not to mention the cable/satellite connections, computers, games consoles, cars (one family has two and a scooter) etc. Yet because my friend's son was working (as a temp at a very low wage) his partner was refused any benefits at all when she graduated from uni - they barely covered their bills. Luckily she now has a job, but as a care worker in a home for the disabled she does not get a big wage. At least now they can eat and keep the car because the lad would have lost his job if he did not have that - no chance of public transport for his work journey.

But his employers want to get rid of him, especially since, with the new legislation, he will have to have the same pay and working conditions as all the others. Unless they reduce his hours . . . Thing is, in his first six months there, he saved them £40k by being very tight with the customers. That's about three times his salary. But his job is still in danger day by day.

Sorry folks, that got a bit :offtopic: but its get right on my tits!

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October 12th, 2011, 9:41 pm
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Dave
no chance of public transport for his work journey.
Shame he's not the child of Catholic parents and needing to get 20 miles to a Catholic school, then of course the council (me and thee as tax payers) would pay for it, mad world. (the song will now play in your head for hours, sorry) :)

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October 12th, 2011, 10:48 pm
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The way forward for these scroungers, if they only had the nous, is to get a few millionaires to pay them to be unofficial advisors to some narrow-minded Reaganite twat.
i promise I will return to my very nice previous self at some point. Meanwhile i beg your collective indulgence!


October 12th, 2011, 11:34 pm
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MY apologies, Trickle. The heat of the moment caused me to to make the mistake of replying to "Skyfrog" when I should have replied to you! Ooops! :redface:

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October 13th, 2011, 8:26 am
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The trouble is, Keith, the elephant might say that you have to allow a percentage of any population, that is taking more resources out of their land than can ever be put back in in the foreseeable future, to die.


In my post I was specifically addressing the hypothetical a) or b) options presented. I don't see that Thundril and I really disagree about the 'big picture'.

Since life arose, there have been disasters that decimate or wipe out populations. I think as we enter what I call the 'post-plenty-world' we may see more of them affecting our own species. One thing that is different now from most of humankinds history is that we have much less flexibility to move. Small bands of hunter-gatherers can up-sticks at the drop of a hat (or loin-cloth), but modern man is tied to fixed settlements, to town and cities, and markets. Before the only barriers to movement were natural ones, like mountain ranges and oceans. Now we have national boundaries, which are normally rigorously defended.

There are many reason why Africa seems to suffer more than its fair share of calamities. I think an important one is that Africa found itself suddenly thrust into the modern world in just a few generations. In Europe and Asia the changes took place much more slowly, over hundreds or thousands of years. A 21st century African cannot go to his grand-parent for advice - the world is so different now from then it might as well be a different planet. You may not have much in common with your grand-dad, but at least he would know what a factory, a job and money were!

Such a big subject. But following Fermat, I do have a solution, but the box for this post is too small to contain it.


October 13th, 2011, 8:29 am
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I agree with much of what you say, Keith, but it is the fact that, in times past, the natural disasters, including disease and adding famine to the list, had the effect of reducing the population - probably to level that the land could sustain. In so many ways we are breaking that pattern and the resulting "burden" has both a critical and chronic potential for problems.

I am not advocating turning our back on the problem. I seem to remember reading or hearing that it would take a fraction of what the US spent fouling up Iraq to solve most of Africa's problems. But we will never solve the problem of erratic rains and similar phenomena, whether or not they are caused by man-made climate change.

It may be a case where we have to "bite the ecological bullet" and use whatever productive land there is for sustainable agriculture, not slash & burn, and keep the animals in well protected and maintained parks just for tourism (which can earn a lot of money.) Of course tribal disputes, corruption, nepotism, dictatorship etc. would have to become things of the past but we can do little about that without being accused of interfering in their national affairs . I for one are fed up with news about aid cash lining pockets of already rich people in Africa (or anywhere else come to that matter.)

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October 13th, 2011, 8:43 am
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I haven't got time right now for a long reply, but I'd like to recommend this TED talk by Hans Rosling (there are a couple more by him, too, which are well worth watching). This may give you more information and, I hope, food for thought. :)


October 13th, 2011, 9:55 am
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It may be a case where we have to "bite the ecological bullet" and use whatever productive land there is for sustainable agriculture, not slash & burn, and keep the animals in well protected and maintained parks just for tourism


It's a question of who you you're asking to bite what bullet. I can't see Africa as bigger version of Longleat for rich tourists working! To an extent, people do feel that the problems of Africa are of their own making and are tempted to wash their hands of it. But a starving kid in Mogadishu isn't suffering from problems of his own making. And a teenager in the US or UK with his X-Box, mobile phone and possibly even his own car has done very little to merit his advantage.

The accidents of history which put me from the UK at an advantage to someone born in a Kampala slum are irrelevant - the fact is that here and now it is us in (or from!) the west who can help, and the one's in Africa who need it. I don't mean that means Africa has a blank cheque and we have to bankrupt ourselves helping whenever the rains fail, but it seems to me we should share some of our good luck with those that lost out on the lottery of history.


October 13th, 2011, 10:46 am
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I accept your points on Game Park Africa - I was mainly thinking about the need for the continent to feed itself. But, on the point, how many square miles of Africa feed us in Europe and how many square miles have the Chinese bought to ensure they have a place to grow their food? There was a mention some time ago that a lot more marginal land in Africa could be utilised by growing the traditional food crops, developed over thousands of years to grow in such conditions. But, they want their share of "modern" food. Even the Chinese do, there was a temporary crisis in the durum wheat supplies because the Chinese discovered pasta and bought up most of the commodity futures! Personally I prefer Chinese noodles to spaghetti.

There are so many branches to this problem and I wonder if simply throwing money at it will solve many of them. But there is, according to what I have heard and read, more than enough money going to waste in the world to start the process. It would need an incredible degree of co-operation between the African states because I doubt that it could be done piece meal.

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October 13th, 2011, 5:40 pm
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