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Arable Land, Water, and Food

There is a terribly stupid and ignorant meme floating around, thanks to Al Gore and his ilk, that the arable land, that capable of raising crops, is being lost to erosion and rain forest destruction.

Some facts:
1. Rain forest is cut down. It also grows back quite quickly. The concern is certain, limited region, soil types are damaged by drying out and chemically change from a weak soil when soggy into a hard impermeable brick once dried out one time due to calcification and the high iron oxide content. This is mostly a problem in Brazil but not all of Brazil. Everywhere else, the trees come back within 5 years of a field being abandoned following the typical 3 year slash and burn cycle. This is good news. So, while rain forest is cut down and used for agriculture, it doesn't stay that way. Al Gore and his ilk DO NOT report the millions of acres which regrow every year. The loss of biodiversity is more serious, but balancing that against human lives and the fact that you really have no right to tell a bunch of poor people in another country to starve to death so you can enjoy a leaf or mosquito for generations to come. Be reasonable and you'll find others will too. If the loss is so terrible, find a way to preserve specimens for future study, and raise funds to pay for it. If you can't convince liberal rich people your bug is worth $1M research and preservation grant then it really isn't.

2. Old Growth redwoods in Northern California exist, but they are the minority. Most of the big trees in the state are second growth, most growing after the massive harvest following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, used to rebuild lots of houses. Spotted owls have been photographed by zoologists and ornithologists living in various trees, not just old growth redwoods so they're a lot less endangered than originally claimed by Berkeley hippy zealots on summer vacation to terrorize the poor loggers and their families with spiked trees and lawsuits. I am from that region. I don't like hippies. They killed poor people to indulge in selfish violence under the excuse of "saving the Earth".

3. New soil can be made. It has been. The Polderlands of the Netherlands were once salty sandy sea bottom with zero fertility. Human effort gradually changed that within a few generations into the most fertile soil on earth. No, I am not kidding. Physical effort can restore marginal lands back into agricultural production. The reason they are fallow is the world economy has made it uneconomic to bother, and diesel fuel to run the tractors is not free. Electric tractors charged by solar power on a barn would help, since then you'd be reducing costs to wear on the machines which till the earth and labor for the farmer to operate them but that is a reasonable goal for the future.

4. Turning millions of useless SUVs into combines and electric tractors is a good goal for America, particularly since America's main productivity is in agriculture (food), movies, as a release valve for the rest of the world, thus preventing a lot of wars by allowing the discontent to come here and make something of themselves instead of civil wars for the next Boss/Dictator back in their home countries. Without America, there would be a lot more wars, I think.

5. I personally dislike public transit, especially buses. They are needed, however, and I prefer the option of choosing the bus or the motorcycle/scooter/bicycle based on the distance travelled and the weather. Tiny cheap cars are also a valid option, though less efficient and more expensive, they are more convenient too. A small car is 4 times the efficiency of an SUV based on the weight of passengers moved vs weight of the vehicle ratio. Public transit has its perks. For those prone to intoxication they're very nice since there's no DUI for riding the tram, so you can have a nice evening out with friends and stagger home drunk without legal consequence. The pub crawl is made for Tram and bus use. This is just another way to practice freedom in any developed country. It is time to expand public transit, hopefully before significant rise in the price of fuel. Discoveries of oil supplies have turned out to be mostly hot air and bids to increase stock values (Petrobras, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum), attempts which were effective. However, the economics and the claims become more obvious with time as new product fails to appear and fails to deliver any meaningful impact on the oil market itself. The supplies are falling. As voters are prone to ostrich thinking, waiting for someone else to solve the problem, I believe that only sneaky efforts buried in the planning offices of counties across the country will have any real impact on preparation for the day fuel is under mandatory rationing. That day will almost certainly come within the next five years. That is the good news. It could have come in 2008 during the superspike. We got lucky, and the oil companies got cynical in an election year. Next time this happens the price will probably stay high. I encourage everyone reading this to own a bicycle, to have access to a bus schedule (online is fine) and have thought out the time requirements to keep their jobs should rationing suddenly be imposed. Carpooling is a middle step, not an end, btw. It will help a lot when things get tight. Might make the bridge to all electric transit, which is the end of the current Internal Combustion regime.

6. News of a new method for storing electricity in a more formable type of ultracapacitor based on iron and carbon nanotubes means a scalable electric storage method (like a battery but cheaper) is now possible without requiring rare earth elements. Scalable is king, if we have any hope of offering an upgrade path to the third world. They want what we have. If we can figure out a way to sell it to them, at a modest profit, then everybody gains and we won't see wars of retaliation over it against our grandkids. A month ago there was no known solution and civil war over dwindling resources and rare earth elements seemed inevitable... dare I say it? Doomed to happen. However, the game has changed. Provided sufficient charge can be stored and the legal process required to fuse various methods of Photovoltaic solar power can be combined, a viable cheap solar power and battery solution will conquer the main problems to expanding electric power to anyone who wants it, and thus fully develop the world into civilization and have a Taco Bell and Starbucks on every corner.... Or not.

7. World population can be controlled one of two ways: by couples practicing birth control or by killing people. We've mostly been doing the second option because the first is so recently discovered and not yet universally practiced. We CAN increase the carrying capacity of the planet, and provide the needed elbow room to reduce the crowding that causes violence by terraforming unused lands into useful spaces. That requires water. 1% of the earth's land area is city, and those cities contain the great majority of our population, as a species. We can build new cities and develop new farms in new contryside, if we have the food and water to support life presend. Eventually water projects are going to need to be involved with small terraforming of our deserts since they contain valuable soils (no I am not kidding) using careful irrigation. Having spent the last three years reading about the ice age I can tell you that deserts expand and contract and we can artificially expand them like gardens and get them to offer a more reliable food supply, which will reduce the competition for resources by people living on their edges and within them. It won't fix religious differences, but those are a matter for maturity and genocide to resolve, which is not our concern here. In places like the USA and Mexico, deserts are significant landscapes but the fighting over them is absent. Water used carefully has resulted in astounding agriculture, but also pointed out economic and chemical limitations not anticipated during development. We know those things now. More will probably come up too. At some point we're going to be going "Toilet To Tap" and use aggressive desalination of sea water, probably using the vaccuum pump evaporation method at the large scale to provide coastal water, since 90% of the Earth's population lives within 90 miles of the shore. This will increase the salinity of the oceans, however I must point out that during the ice age, with most of the fresh water tied up as ice, salinity must have been much higher then than now and there are still plants and animals swimming around so it will not prove destructive. The salt brine will sink to the ocean basins and probably end up running around. I suspect this is one of the 32 known feedback loops which control the earth's climate. I don't remember them all at the moment. The important thing is we do not have to limit ourselves to natural rainfall as the only way to get water. We have other options. LA will probably be the first BIG city to get water by vacuum desalination. Might make them pay more attention to water pollution too. Desalination at the coastlines with a bit extra for water injection wells to drive the salt incursions back out to sea (which would restore wells along the coast, a major problem these days), combined with irrigation inland would nearly double arable land within 20 years and offer a lot more settlement options for additional population. And nobody would have to be murdered for it either.

8. Open Ocean fish farming offers direct motivation to protect and conserve and manage popular fisheries and species that the world likes to eat instead of stealing off the coasts of poor or undefended nations. Japan can raise its own tuna for its sushi market. Britain can raise its own cod off of Iceland and the Grand Banks in specialized barges running fish feeding and containment setups. It is also an easy way to offer fish protein to the masses, since the yield is high. This is Win-Win, and provides motive to the farmers to extract the plastics from the ocean so they won't contaminate the fish and ruin their value, thus Win-Win-Win over time. The greatest polluters are also the biggest consumers of the fish, again providing motive. No Al Gore babbling necessary.

These are the kinds of realities we face and are already finding solutions to. Even if far too many of our species are twits, the solutions exist, are scalable and a new way of solving problems, where both sides benefit, is starting to bare fruit.