Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment
is only in its third year of operation but has already established itself as an emerging forum for population, health, and, environment issues, due in no small part to its excellent thrice-a-year publication, Momentum
. The journal is not only chock-full of high production values and impressively nuanced stories on today’s global problems, but is also, amazingly, available for free
Momentum has so far covered issues ranging from food security, gender equity, demographic change, geoengineering, climate change, life without oil, and sustainable development.
Highlights from the latest issue include: “Girl Empower,” by Emily Sohn; “Bomb Squad,” with Paul Ehrlich, Bjørn Lomborg, and Hans Rosling; and “Population Hero,” on the fiscal realities of stabilizing growth rates.
The lead story featured below, “All Consuming,” by David Biello, focuses on the debate over whether consumption or population growth poses a bigger threat to global sustainability.
Two German Shepherds kept as pets in Europe or the U.S. use more resources in a year than the average person living in Bangladesh. The world’s richest 500 million people produce half of global carbon dioxide emissions, while the poorest 3 billion emit just 7 percent. Industrial tree-cutting is now responsible for the majority of the 13 million hectares of forest lost to fire or the blade each year — surpassing the smaller-scale footprints of subsistence farmers who leave behind long, narrow swaths of cleared land, so-called “fish bones.”Continue reading on Momentum.
In fact, urban population growth and agricultural exports drive deforestation more than overall population growth, according to new research from geographer Ruth DeFries of Columbia University and her colleagues. In other words, the increasing urbanization of the developing world — as well as an ongoing increase in consumption in the developed world for products that have an impact on forests, whether furniture, shoe leather, or chicken fed on soy meal — is driving deforestation, rather than containing it as populations leave rural areas to concentrate in booming megalopolises.
So are the world’s environmental ills really a result of the burgeoning number of humans on the planet — growing by more than 150 people a minute and predicted by the United Nations to reach at least 9 billion people by 2050? Or are they more due to the fact that, while human population doubled in the past 50 years, we increased our use of resources fourfold?
Photo Credit: “All Consuming” courtesy of Momentum.