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The world has fresh water, but it’s full of poison

Images of the typhoon-ravaged Philippines were terribly confronting, vividly conveying what an angry planet can dish up. But amid the destruction and death, an important point was largely missed: the world’s…

A large proportion of India’s Yamuna River is effluent. Ajay Tallam

Images of the typhoon-ravaged Philippines were terribly confronting, vividly conveying what an angry planet can dish up. But amid the destruction and death, an important point was largely missed: the world’s freshwater supplies are being degraded by a seemingly endless sequence of extreme events.

While infrastructures such as dams, sewerage plants, pumps and aqueduct/ stormwater systems can be destroyed by supercharged events, natural disasters can also strike a blow against water security. They can contaminate surface water with fecal matter (bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasites and excreted drug products with a high level of persistence in the environment).

Toxic chemicals are released into soils and waterways from the flooding of polluted surfaces. Industrial containers are punctured, sewerage lines broken, latrines smashed, bodies decay and survivors defecate straight into the morass. Unpicking the pollutants from this witch’s brew becomes an engineering and economic nightmare.

Storm surge (it reached 3m in the Philippines) is yet another headache. And it doesn’t just affect poor countries: we saw it in the wealthy coastal communities of New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Apart from the physical damage to infrastructure, storm surge can leave surface and ground water adulterated by seawater. Stripping this mess of salt alone requires reverse osmosis treatment at incalculable carbon and financial cost. In most cases it doesn’t go ahead because the sheer scale of the remediation effort is prohibitive.

After a disaster such as Typhoon Haiyan, clean water can be very hard to come by. Oxfam International

What should we do? Responses inevitably turn to preventative engineering solutions such as raised groundwater wells or disaster resilient reservoirs. But could a point be approaching where the sheer scale of catastrophes overwhelm even “hardened” buildings and infrastructures? (Whether such modifications could be afforded by developing rural communities is another question entirely.)

Certainly, renowned climate scientist James Hansen and his co-researchers think that we could well reach that point if we burn all our reserves of fossil fuels, observing that the resultant extreme weather would be totally beyond our capacities to adapt to.

These high impact events are being overlain on a situation where, according to one estimate, 1500km3 of global water is degrading every year.

The figures are rubbery, but we do know the number is growing at an exponential rate because of rising population and urbanisation in developing countries. As much as 90% of urban waste water in these places is being discharged to waterways and lakes insufficiently treated or directly untreated. This waste water constitutes a serious threat to human health, diversity of plants and animals, food security and the sustainability of water resources.

Source: WHO/UNICEF Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report.

The gravity of the situation in developing countries is further highlighted by UNICEF and WHO’s World Sanitation Ladder.

Although a general improvement can be seen, these proportions are probably offset by ballooning population growth, especially in Southern Asia and South Eastern Asia where there’s still significant “open defecation” (straight to the ground). And that’s not to mention arsenic contamination of drinking water stemming from over exploitation of groundwater, particularly in Bangladesh.

Such trends in water pollution have caught the attention of businesses, with global energy and minerals forecasting firm Wood Mackenzie worried about “increased depletion of the resource over time, and growing concerns over contamination of dwindling water supplies”.

In fact, many streams are now largely effluent. India’s Yamuna River has no freshwater flow for almost nine months of the year: Delhi impounds water at a barrage constructed at Wazirabad, causing subsequent downstream flows to consist of sewage and other effluent. The oxygen-starved state of the river is evident from masses of rising sludge from the bottom, gas bubbles and floating solids on the surface.

The River Jordan is similarly blighted where extractions by Israel, Jordan (tributary) and Syria (tributary) have shrunk it to a meandering 100km stretch below Lake Kinneret that is mainly made up of effluent.

Blue-green algae blooms affect many Chinese lakes. thewamphyri/Flickr

Then there’s China, where domestic sewage and nutrient leaching from farms have affected waterways and lakes. Recent data showed that nearly two-thirds of 40 freshwater lakes surveyed were eutrophic or de-oxygenated, including the iconic Taihu, Hongze and Caohu lakes.

In all these places an unfathomable cocktail of previous discharges is sequestered in soils, lake sediments and stream banks. Any measure of past prevention would clearly have been better than trying to clean this mess up now.

A more realistic objective is to reduce wastewater at the source while preventing toxic waste streams entering sensitive environments.

Excreted antibiotics and resistant bacteria (aka superbugs), widely found in effluent, can persist in water as resistant bacteria which people can acquire through the food chain. This suggests vast quantities of global wastewater identified by the UN will require exacting treatment if they are to have any hope of being safely reused.

In particular, the explosive use of cheap, generic antibiotics in Asia and India could see them leaving a devastating mark on the environment, possibly leading to a major health crisis.

And, coming full circle, the plague of natural disasters should encourage us to concentrate our minds on toughening up water infrastructures to limit future disruption.

Join the conversation

158 Comments sorted by

    1. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      ",e lcarebeatgicnngt ntfy urchtrgedher". Yeah, Suzy, I wonder which language their spell checker was set to ... <grin>

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  1. John Troughton

    ANU Alumni

    Yes, please correct. "Every drop counts" Start local, separate road water rain (seriously contaminated) from block water rain then treat and recycle block water rain to meet Sydney 202020 group requirements for a green city. Can be done now.

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  2. Emanuele Paletto

    Personal

    Population (growth & numbers) is the problem. In this article the symptom is water quality. The problem is not about meeting requirements of a growing population.

    The solution? Stopping population growth.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Emanuele Paletto

      Correct. Paul Erlich made the same point in "The Population Bomb" (1972?).

      Sadly, his projections have proven too accurate.

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    2. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Yep, and Thomas Malthus, a couple of centuries before that.

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    3. Fred Moore

      Builder

      In reply to Emanuele Paletto

      You can't stop population growth without telling women they are only allowed 1 child per lifetime and passing legislation in EVERY country to enforce it.

      Politically that's like telling the pope he can't give Mass.

      In fact this very forum will delete your posts if you go beyong saying "reduce Population.

      The answer to thisbriddle is to be found in arming.

      Cows and chickens for example:

      Bulls and roosters are no better or worse than cows or chickens. IE they all have equal rights in…

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    4. James Hammond

      Ecologist

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Surely you are having a laugh?

      Not sure exactly what the point of this was, but women would be affected by a 'crash' in the human population as well (due to a rapid drop off of essential resources such as food, water or shelter). Women have a vested (long term) interest in stabilising population and what is needed is to over come the short term benefits (or necessity) of large families, as demonstrated in developing countries.

      Ecological theories and patterns do have relevance to humans, but we operate so differently to most other species that most can't be directly applied.

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    5. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Fred Moore

      If population growth can't be stopped the easy way, voluntarily. It is becoming pretty obvious it will be stopped the hard way, disease, malnutrition and with people fighting over diminishing resources, war.
      It is not a matter of choice whether or not to stop population growth, it is only a matter of choice about how population growth will end up being stopped.

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    6. Mark McGuire

      climate consensus rebel

      In reply to Emanuele Paletto

      Greetings Emanuele. I have good news for you and Jack Arnold. Someone is doing something about it. The environmental pogrom has begun: " Tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money have been spent on a programme that has forcibly sterilised Indian women and men, the Observer has learned. Many have died as a result of botched operations, while others have been left bleeding and in agony. A number of pregnant women selected for sterilisation suffered miscarriages and lost their babies ...poor and little-educated…

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    7. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Reply to Fred Moore( no relative!)
      This is one woman who has been talking the overpopulation card as you put it for about 50 years.
      I worked it out as a child living on a farm. I realised that if a farmer overstocked the land, then soil degradation resulted and sheep starved and so on. I applied this to the planet earth (a very big, but still finite farm as it were) and us humans as the sheep.
      It seems that the latter assessment has sadly proven to be more correct than I had thought.
      When so-called…

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    8. James Hammond

      Ecologist

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      If this is, in fact, true then it is most definitely the wrong way to go about stabilising population growth. Noone here is advocating the violation of human rights; it is about education, free access to contraception and financial incentives for small families.

      This doesn't invalidate the central point of the argument that stabilising population is required to avoid a rapid and nasty 'correction'.

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    9. Fred Moore

      Builder

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Look, if I justly rebutted your claims you would have my post deleted.

      The one thing I can safely rebut is the Two to Tango bit.

      The truth is NOT that it takes two to have a baby. Its that it takes two to make love and only ONE person to HAVE a baby.

      In the words of Prince " You don't have to have a baby to make love and you don't have to make love to have a baby"

      If women don't face the truth of what they are doing to this planet in the name of their unequal EQUALITY they will end up in "economist-made" luxury cages as sure as battery hens.

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    10. Fred Moore

      Builder

      In reply to James Hammond

      "Women have a vested (long term) interest in stabilising population and what is needed is to over come the short term benefits (or necessity) of large families, as demonstrated in developing countries."

      If you believe that its you who are being comical.

      Are you really an ecologist?

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    11. James Hammond

      Ecologist

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Yes mate I really am.

      Are you really suggesting that men would be more adversely affected than women in the event of a resource crash? If so, why? Why would pregnant and lactating women not be more at risk, due to their (generally) higher energy needs?

      You clearly have an axe to grind, but your argument seems to be based on nonsense. What are the links between free trade and gender equality (of opportunity)?

      I stand by the assertion that human men and women both have an equal stake in balancing population against available resources.

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    12. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Mark, PR China has just relaxed a one child policy. It was too rigorously applied in many individual cases of late term pregnancies by bureaucratic minded officials.

      I am reminded that the British media believed that Hitler & the Nazis were a good thing for Germany in the mid 1930s because they provided a buffer against Communist USSR. Indeed, there was even a plot to replace George VI with his abdicated brother Edward VIII after the German victory that Churchill frustrated.

      Unlimited population growth eventually exhausts the resources required to support the population, resulting in catastrophic death of the population, reducing numbers back to the level at which the resources can support that surviving population. This experiment can be done in any flask with bacteria. The rules and results are the same for all vertebrates.

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    13. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Emanuele Paletto

      All those panicking about population growth can calm down.

      We *are* doing something about it. Mostly voluntarily.

      Ongoing population increases are "locked in" by the fact that today's middle age cohorts outnumber our elders, because our elders had high fertility. We in the middle, however, are not in turn producing a generation of children who outnumber us.

      In other words, the world as a whole is now reproducing at or below the replacement level. We have reached "peak child".

      World population will peak this century.

      Fertility rates have fallen over time in every country in the world, and continue to fall in those countries which still have high fertility.

      The fertility rate of half the countries in the world is already below the replacement level.

      Cheer up :-)

      http://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/

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    14. Fred Moore

      Builder

      In reply to James Hammond

      Mate? That spells alpha male ---Yetch.

      Giles Pickford has kindly answered your selective questions:

      "The need for a few people to get even richer than they already are trumps the need to save the planet for them and everyone else."

      The fact you stand by everything which hides this truth isn't even curious. Its just pedestrian Mate!

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    15. James Hammond

      Ecologist

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Giles' comment is astute, but says nothing about your claims that equal treatment and opportunity for women somehow gives them a huge incentive for exponential or unlimited population growth.

      The growth economy and finite resources are indeed at odds. I believe that we can agree on that. All I am saying is that I strongly disagree that women have more to lose than men if population growth is curtailed.

      I'm going to leave it there.

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    16. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Emanuele Paletto

      Whenever we got a discussion on overuse of resources, someone goes on about overpopulation.

      Correct, you've picked it like a nose, but what are we going to do about it? Is waiting for a correction to overpopulation the only thing we can do (ie nothing aka the laissez-faire response of the IPA and associated fat-headed anti-realists).

      Rather, brainpower is applied to the problem, and we find we can transform the ways water is used, then re-used, cleaned up and re-used ad infinitum.

      It requires planning, it requires enlightened self-interest aka communality, everything that is anathema to the scorched-earth brigade (aka Economic Rationalists).

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    17. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Emanuele has not "picked it like a nose".

      For a wealthy person to blame pollution or global warming on population is a way of deflecting blame from those most responsible and most capable of making a difference to those least responsible and utterly incapable of making a difference.

      http://www.monbiot.com/2009/09/29/the-population-myth/

      The "population bomb" has been defused anyway. As of 2007, humanity is reproducing at the replacement rate, and fertility continues to fall.

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    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Thanks for that response Mr Maddox.

      "For a wealthy person to blame pollution or global warming on population is a way of deflecting blame from those most responsible and most capable of making a difference to those least responsible and utterly incapable of making a difference."

      Yes. On this finite planet, the only progress that is sustainable is internal to humanity - we can progress toward sustainability by transforming ourselves, our dealings with each other and our dealings with the world that sustains all of us.

      As we make this progress, we will find that we are consuming less and less of that world - we'll be Future Eaters no longer.

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    19. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Explanatory note: "picking it like a nose" is not intended as praise for perspicacity - I can tell you, well in advance, what you are likely to get if you pick it like a nose.

      I can also tell you the value of the product :-).

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    20. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Lavinia, "cause diseases in those who live in deprived circumstances": drug resistant disease may well begin in deprived circumstances, but it can just as easily infect the wealthy and well-groomed in the 'civilised' world. With luck, it will be this that turns to bite the uncaring wealthy just as hard as the deprived poor.

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    21. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      "it will be stopped the hard way, disease, malnutrition and with people fighting over diminishing resources, war."
      The wars will not diminish population growth. We will just get more people heading for Australia demanding asylum. And there will be plenty of privileged Australian males demanding that these heavy breeders be taken in by Australia and awarded a Western standard of living, without ever being expected to achieve a Western standard of reproductive restraint.

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    22. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Absolutely, Chris. Wars generally lead to spikes in fertility in the years or two afterwards, even in highly developed countries like those of Western Europe, Japan, the USA and Australia which all participated in the post-WWII baby boom. The direst protracted conflicts have left countries like Afghanistan and East Timor with far and away the highest fertility rates in Asia. The solution to the population boom is precisely the subject of the top-level article: sanitation, basic health, etc. But ceasing major conflicts is almost as important, actually. Eliminate child mortality and within a generation, parents no longer hedge their bets by having two new babies for each one lost.

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    23. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Fred Moore

      One kid per person should work well enough. Bu I don't think we can stop greed, short time interests and self-chosen ignorance. By that I mean those convincing themselves that their arguments are 'objective', ignoring the benefits they reap, believing in them.

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    24. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      The urge to have large families has little to do with replacing children lost. If it did, it would happen in wealthy countries too. Children also die in developed countries.
      The post-war baby booms were a case of delayed fertility, not added fertility. There had not only been a war, which temporarily solved Europe's overpopulation problem, but before that there was a depression as well.
      Your claim that war increases fertility isn't supported by facts. I maintain that overpopulation causes poverty and poverty causes conflict. High birth rates increase overpopulation.

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    25. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      The population bomb hasn't been diffused. There is much more to be done in that area.

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    26. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Chris Watson

      "The urge to have large families has little to do with replacing children lost."

      Causally speaking it may as much be a matter of hedging bets as it is of grief, but the statistical correlation is inarguable. Moreover since the 1950s, changes in mortality tend to *precede* changes in fertility (press "play" to see the numbers over time).

      http://www.bit.ly/1c7VK3E

      Child mortality and conflict are also associated. Gapminder doesn't have many years of "battle deaths" stats, so I can't just…

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    27. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Chris Watson

      "The population bomb hasn't been defused. There is much more to be done in that area."

      The current total fertility rate of humanity is *at* the replacement rate and continues to decline.

      There is certainly more to be done in all areas of social development, and it's being done. Low fertility is a natural consequence of such vital achievements as basic sanitation and health care, prevention of preventable child mortality, universal primary education, elimination of child labour exploitation, and education and economic opportunities for women. There is no question that humanity is headed in the right direction.

      http://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/

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    28. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      "the current fertility rate of humanity is 'at' the replacement rate and continues to decline" Good news indeed; because as far as I can see, the water problems and all the related problems discussed on this thread can only be made more difficult to solve if they are interlinked with a constantly rising human birthrate.
      I read somewhere that the earth's population has tripled in the last 100 years. So, probably if it doesn't slow, there will be terrible famines and diseases as nature intervenes.

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    29. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Is your post supposed to be reassuring? Too little reproductive restraint and too late.

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  3. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    The root cause of this entire problem is overpopulation. And yet people as influential as Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy advocate for a bigger population.

    The need for a few people to get even richer than they already are trumps the need to save the planet for them and everyone else.

    There is no hope for any of us, including Murdoch et.al.

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    1. Geoff Clark

      Senior Lecturer at University of Tasmania, School of Architecture and Design

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Emanuele and Giles - I AM WITH YOU ALL THE WAY!!! It is a shame that the majority of the planet isn't.

      In reality, every single problem that we face has its roots in overpopulation. What impresses me is how we cannot get our focus off how this might affect the human race (only)... I would have thought that the most intelligent species on the planet could manage detachment from self interest and realise the necessity of the 'system'. Alas... What are we to do when our LEADERS promote over-over population.

      As I have said many times before - stop looking to science to solve, because it cannot! Apply common sense instead!

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Clark

      I don't think that's correct, climate change is a result of the industrial revolution not population

      population makes it worse and population is a problem but it is definitely and demonstratably not the root cause of all our problems

      it's certainly not the root cause of homophobia, racism, ocean acidification, etc

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Geoff Clark

      Whilst I agree that a growing population is part of the problem and some parts of the world are over populated, other factors are no less important.

      A high population that is highly polluting and relies on unsustainable levels of consumption is very bad for the planet. But it is possible to have a high population and be sustainable. Look at the graphs and tables in this article and they illustrate clearly that it is under-developed infrastructure, ie poor sanitation, untreated waste causing ground water pollution, cutting down of timber which compromises the future etc etc.

      I fear that there are those who play the "population card" as a means of saying nothing can or should be done unless population is reduced.

      This amounts to a rationale for doing nothing when there are MANY measures that can be taken. Problem is the developed world has very limited resources to address some of these measures.

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    4. Chris Daniels

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Indeed Michael, population growth is the Bogeyman of our times and a convenient distraction from the industrialisation/extreme poverty nexus.

      Insightful Swedish statistician Professor Hans Rosling puts things into perspective in a brilliant lecture entitled "Don't Panic" (A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference perhaps?) for the Open University (UK) which aired last Nov 7th on the BBC.

      Below is some info about the show plus a YouTube link (with a different title) to the entire lecture.

      Well worth a view IMO as it puts to rest Malthusian doom & gloom scenarios as well as Paul Ehrlich's hysterical polemics, no doubt useful for selling books...and newspapers. Fear is the go-to in generating consumption and irrational reasoning.

      http://www.open.edu/openlearn/dontpanic

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz_kn45qIvI&list=PLbVGQTEuvt2K0mYgbukDxl2KRWrJAty9j&index=30

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    5. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Splitting hairs Michael. The industrial revolution is a consequence of overpopulation in pastoral England, the enclosure of farms and subsequent eviction of former farm labourers & families resulting in internal migration to cities providing the workforce for the industrial revolution that produces the pollution causing ecological problems ... because the bosses refuse to manufacture in non-polluting ways.

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    6. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      It's not splitting hairs and the industrial revolution was not because of overpopulation; I am reminded of a henry ford quote

      "I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense"

      The worst kind of nonsense

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    7. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Michael Shand

      If one looks at the population growth rate in the UK up to the eighteenth century and compares it with that after the industrial revolution got under way one can see that something happened whereby the reasonably static population of the preceding centuries, sometimes reducing and sometimes increasing, but often seeming to remain pretty stable, began to grow.
      In the late eighteenth early nineteenth century, England was involved in military conflicts on a pretty regular basis. After the Napoleonic…

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    8. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      I hear yah, thanks for the replying, I think you are spot on about most of it.

      I think the main issue comes from having a society that tells people "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as it helps you get through the day"

      When in reality, it really does matter what you believe, it matters whether the population think climate change is a serious threat or not

      It matters if people think there is an invisible hand - be it god or the free market, that will always come and save us, that worrying about the future is pointless because it is pre-determined

      I don't know man, it seems to me we live in a self centered, unenlightened, uncaring, apathetic, close minded and ultimately ignorant society and I don't know what to do about that.

      The most common thing people suggest is to just ignore it, worry about yourself and enjoy the supposed good life - which is ironic cause that's the complaint

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    9. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      The people who advocate bigger populations are those who have observed a correlation between their incomes and total population, and then wrongly assumed that correlation equates to causation.

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    10. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, i find that getting involved in community building activities is something anyone can do to combat the ignorant isolation you describe. Activities that bring people together and offer opportunities to exchange ideas, to learn, to sqee a bigger picture than just their own limited lives, encourages caring - about the environment, others and one's own role in all of these.
      This builds resilience, knowledge and joint actions.
      Of course not everyone is receptive to this, but those who are often gain enjoyment from these activities.

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    11. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Suppose the population of the earth had remained static at the level it was at the year 1900, would we have climate change? If we had had the industrial revolution without the population increase, would we have ocean acidification?

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    12. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I think that overpopulation is one of the causes of discrimination on the basis of race and even religion. When there is plenty for everyone, it is easy to be generous to people who are not members of our own group. But when there are too many people than there are ways to make a living, there is likely to be conflict. When that happens, people will find their allies among those with whom they share a common religion or historical background. This does not make the violence religiously or ethnically based. It is just a matter of 'your' prosperity being a threat to 'our' prosperity.

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    13. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Chris, "Suppose the population of the earth had remained static at the level it was at the year 1900, would we have climate change?" That's a very good question. With a static population, would technology have advanced as far, or as quickly? Would the poor nations of the world have developed to the extent that their middle classes aspired to the standard of living of the developed world? Would per capita consumption have been as high - or even higher? There is no doubt our profligate consumption and greed have fuelled CO₂e emissions, but how bad would emissions have been with a static population? No doubt, capitalism would have driven economic growth at all costs and, with a static population of consumers, that could only be achieved through higher individual consumption, so we might have been up the same creek.

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    14. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Reply to Chris,
      When there is plenty for everyone there ought to be less discrimination and inequality. Unfortunately it doesn't always follow.
      the human species, like our relatives, the chimps, usually have alpha males who want more than they need- of everything. (And the human female counterparts exist as well). However we have bonobo relatives as well, and they are nothing like chimps in this regard!
      What humans have, although with regard to this issue under discussion it is often hard to discern…

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    15. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Thanks for the response Suzy, I am already involved in much community work myself.

      This however does nothing to my concern.

      My concern is not that I am ignorant and sheltered

      My concern is that the vast portion of society and ignorant and sheltered - the fact that we are having debates about climate change in this country should suffice to justify that for now.

      So thanks for the advice, but it doesn't really address my concern

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    16. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Your talking nonsense

      Resoucre scarcity is not the primary cause of most prejudice be it against gays, blacks, muslims, females.

      Pat Robertson isn't hating on the fkn queers because he is hungry, you are just one of many in this new libertarian talking point that blames everything on too many people

      Climate change - too many people
      Racism - too many people
      Sexism - too many people
      Inter-religious war - too many people

      It's very shallow and shows a lack of thought

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    17. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Are you actually claiming that population increase has no effect? Perhaps you are one of those who have a vested interest in population growth. More people means you can sell more stuff at higher prices. Increased demand for housing pushes up the price of housing which benefits those with more than one house.
      Dismissive statements like "everyone blames immigrants for everything" or "everything gets blamed on too many people" are very shallow and show a lack of thought.

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    18. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Chris Watson

      "Are you actually claiming that population increase has no effect? "

      No.....any other questions?

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    1. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Yes, we in Australia are still relatively fortunate in that our population is not yet straining at the seams, although we're getting there. Just look at the health of our rivers, e.g. the Murray-Darling system, already stressed grossly, yet with almost no people living along them, by world standards. Just one quibble about the article: in "bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasites and excreted drug products", at the top, the link to parasites is seriously misleading - not one of those species mentioned (all rare) is transmitted through water!

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    2. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      just watched the video. I agree it is frightening. But two things: the poster obviously had a lot more skills than I do re computer graphics etc. And people like me need to have access to such information from them that can.
      The second thing is that why are w allowing this to occur?
      If we need to stop this, and it seems that many believe it should be stopped, not least of all the farming families that have their land virtually stolen from them, why does it seem that nothing is being done?
      Its university and school hols now. Come on you youngsters. Start protesting. Its your future these monsters are about to destroy.
      And we oldies will do what we can to assist.

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    3. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Oh I don't know - maybe if you don't boil water taken from almost stream in Central Victoria for long enough before drinking it, you will make the acquaintance of blastocystis parasites. Let me tell you, if you do you'll pretty quickly revise your views on what is transmitted via water, even in Oz!

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    1. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, read the comments posted regarding retirement ( the next article).
      They ought to cheer you up, surely?

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  4. John Sayers

    Designer

    well there is some good news.

    Australian researchers claim to have found 500,000 cubic kilometres (500 trillion tons) of freshwater buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa. The water could be accessed using the technology of deepwater oil drilling rigs. The infrastructure of pipelines could be setup to access millions of tons per day.
    .
    I must also mention that the author inferred extreme weather events were increasing, in its latest report the IPCC had Low confidence that extreme weather was increasing. In fact some say tornadoes cyclones and droughts are decreasing.

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  5. Guy Dixon

    Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

    At the core of the problem is how cities are designed to manage water it is wrong. Cities are hard surface environments as the article correctly describes, the effect of rain is therefore to accelerate across the urban landscape and cause local flooding many cases.

    This is why storm water systems are designed as water removal systems, not water capture and harvest systems. We at NINA have developed a new way to manage water in the urban landscape. Rain that falls on roof tops is essentially clean…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Water on roof tops may be cleaner than that which has fallen on to ground surfaces but let us not kid ourselves that roofs in urban areas, especially those near industrial areas or adjacent to major thoroughfares will not be contaminated so there'll still need to be cleaning done.
      Singapore has had for a number of years an effective storm water recycling which if I recall properly works in conjunction with the Singapore River as that is where the most of the city run-off heads to.
      Developing countries and Singapore are both something entirely different to what we have in Australia with main water storages well away from urbanisation.

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    2. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to Greg North

      Every drop counts" as I said,
      Step 1 Start local, separate road water rain (seriously contaminated) from block water rain then treat and recycle block water rain to meet Sydney 202020 group requirements for a green city. Can be done now.
      Then Step 2. Higher value than green water in Step 1, clean up more for grey water and more domestic uses.
      The Step 3. Higher value still, for other uses. Higher value means more can be spent to clean up, all done locally.
      If cost still a problem, the combine with other utilities as per Guy Dixon and NINA. Any comment Peter?

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      I have read about your invention at NINA Guy, and I am very impressed. I hope that you are able to persuade many local government authorities etc to adopt your system. I like the fact that it does not just provide a better way than we have now to harvest and conserve water but also a much better way to incorporate utilities such as power, gas, water, broadband/phone etc.

      Your proposals could be a nation-building project of potentially enormous economic and environmental benefit.

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph (wink) the CSG industry needs 7-24 Megalitres per test hole and there will be thousands of production holes when all the projects are producing, each requiring the same amount of water. Then each frakking exercise will require the same amount of water.

      Now ask yourself,"Who will miss out on water supply when the CSG industry wants to drill for CSG?"

      Please watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaheDvWURsQ

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    5. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Thanks Henry, we are trying to get local councils involved and so far Woollahra Council is interested ina trial and we are in discussions with others. The economic case is very strong and the commercial rates of return support a broad spectrum of investors. My favourite is that rate payers be offered "units" for example if there are 10,000 households in a local government area (LGA) then the cost of a unit is the project cost divided by 10,000 not all will want to take up the units (indicative cost…

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to John Troughton

      On site detention of surface runoff is being installed in new developments, perhaps to reduce flood events.
      But the idea of on site-detention of runoff, if taken further in the form of deep and narrow sealed units (think of a vertical tube), has another potential benefit.
      Such stored water, can also store heat energy derived from renewable sources, it can even access the heat already present in the earth.
      Even cold water can be stored in such a fashion, and in combination with stored hotter water provide the temperature difference to support "heat engines" to provide power.
      And so on.
      So there are multiple incentives for sensibly storing, using and reusing water where people live, rather than using what is essentially the Ancient Roman system of using diverted waterways to provide running water and use the same water to wash waste away.
      Too many people for that system now.

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    7. Nonie Jekabsons

      Tree Spotter at -

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Street trees ameliorate excess storm water, slow the fall, absorb the potential runoff, clean it as it percolates through the ground. They also improve the liveability of urban areas in a myriad of ways I should not have to detail to such an enlightened audience. Directing the "polluted" part of runoff, ie from streets, towards street trees is a common sense solution. In areas where groundwater has been a mainstay of the supply and has been diminishing (ie Perth WA) it is critical that it is replenished and not lost to impermeable surfaces that direct flow elsewhere. Dry toilets, sensible grey water use and we have a lush, liveable city. Simple.

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    8. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to James Hill

      Yes it all seems possible with local community involvement and planning. Needs the Guy Dixon NINA system to provide the platform to integrate the numerous options.

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    9. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to Nonie Jekabsons

      NINA provides a boundary structure for the community blocks that then can allow designs such as permaculture to be integrated and provide additional community services including food. NINA may also provide additional water to supplement the systems that have been designed into permaculture.

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    10. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Hard hydrophobic surfaces, in contrast with natural soft hydrophilic surfaces.

      It's easy enough to design buildings with 30 cm of soil covering the roof, with hydrophilic gardens, and to shade parking areas with trees.

      That leaves roads, which is an acceptable compromise when the overall effect is to produce clouds not thermal updrafts.

      And yes, of course, I agree with your rainfall figures per average block size. Pity more people don't stop and thing for themself just how much clean water they can easily harvest off their own bat, and very economically.

      In Perth, Western Australia, over 90% of precipitation simply runs off, and is gone within about 12 hours. The rest of the system leaks like a sieve, so by the time we work it all out only about 2-3% of precipitation actually reaches household taps as potable clean water.

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  6. Peter Dawson

    Gap Decade

    Has made my day too.

    There are too many people on the planet, but the problem here isn't specifically caused by overpopulation, it's caused by stupidity, poor management, and exploitative economic paradigms. Mostly the latter. Maybe we'll get it right on the next planet they give us to live on.

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Peter Dawson

      I agree that the problem isn't specifically overpopulation but some of the causes you list. There are better ways to manage our environment both here in this country and in the developing world. In the latter the problem is essentially one of lack of funds to install the infrastructure that will help to reduce the problems.

      Whilst the plant would be probably be the better for a lower population it is the resource-intensity and polluting intensity that is in my view an ever bigger problem.

      To focus excessively on population is to advocate no action at all.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Peter Dawson

      If economic paradigms weren't so exploitative, maybe people wouldn't need to over-reproduce?

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    3. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Peter Dawson

      Oh No! Please don't let another beautiful planet get destroyed by human greed and indifference. Cos if we export our political systems, that will surely happen.

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  7. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    There was once the black pklague and in modern times we have flirted with SARS and the various Bird Flu strains.
    One way or another it'd seem we are on a trajectory to kill of the population problem by killing plenty of the population by air or water born pollutants, contamination of both or just shitting in our own nests so to speak, not to mention the odd tsunami, famine or wars be they minor or major that rage because of likely over population, competition for scarce basics of life and of course religion and persecution

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  8. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    "But could a point be approaching where the sheer scale of catastrophes overwhelm even “hardened” buildings and infrastructures"

    Only according to NASA, NOAA, Oxford Uni, MIT, ANU, etc, etc - they have only been telling you all this for decades now

    but keep trying to adapt to this climate change, keep advocating for adaption and see how long that lasts

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  9. Joseph Bernard

    Director

    Hey.. no need to look further than our own fraked backyard.

    estimated 1,500 gig litres of fresh water to be contaminated in CSG drilling
    ( http://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/coal-seam-gas-by-the-numbers/ )

    plus the permanent poisoning of our "great artisan basin" !! Hurray..

    Clean water is more expensive than gas but.. hey frak it .. gas em, and poison the water.. give me my stock options.

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  10. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    Way past time people who live in high rainfall zones learned a thing or two from those who live in arid zones, among whom any sort of water at all is precious and something to care for and care about.

    Seems to me an opportunity for rapid expansion in exports of cheap two-stage solar distilling units, that can be injection molded from recycled plastic probably for a few cents, and sold at retail for a dollar or so.

    Then anyone with any sense at all, who wants to avoid being sick from drinking…

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    1. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Have you considered technology that literally precipitates water out of air and with a passive device? check out australian invention that can adapted to service anywhere..

      http://www.jamesdysonaward.org/Projects/Project.aspx?ID=1722&RegionId=0&Winindex=5

      "
      Development

      The airdrop irrigation system is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution; an innovation bread of comprehensive investigations into rural agricultural environments, developed through working with irrigation manufacturers…

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      An Adelaide (Arid zone?) inventor has done just that, several years back.
      Sorry about the lack of details but it was on the Net, but under the US technical term for solar distillation, which I cannot remember, either.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Right up along the Western Australian coast are remains of passive water collectors well over 100 years old, made from long sheets of corrugated iron under a roof which are aligned to the nightly sea breeze, on which droplets of water condense to trickle down into a concrete cistern.

      Go figure.

      It has been rightly said, but not often enough; there is nothing new under the sun.

      But you have to be frugal about it.

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    4. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "But you have to be frugal about it."

      the only problem is that it is great profits that drive private industry to petition and drive a solution. So Governments will most often only hear about proprietary high cost solutions because they know the government will repay their efforts with lucrative contracts..

      q) How to make a return on effort when proposing a "frugal" but highly effective solution

      like for example Paul Newell's landsmanship and John Linnacre's "Airdrop irrigation concept" ?

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    5. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      What makes what "great profits that drive private industry" a problem, or indeed the "only problem"?

      What makes others being profligate an excuse for me to be profligate and wasteful too?

      No, I disagree. The power of one is enormous.

      Being off generations on the land, in very marginal country with 2-3 good years of 7 to make a go of it and survive the other 4-5 years, and habitually frugal from necessity, there is always that temptation to see oneself rather as "poor", or "deprived" as Mum…

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    6. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I agree that the power of one has enormous “potential”.

      However, one with resources has much more potential than with one with one’s own resource. The odds are much higher for those with money or corporate backing.

      Plus, i totally support "don't sit back whinging about somebody else, teach them better"

      for example may i point out Paul Newell.. Here is one amazing "One" who is making a difference and who has been battling the system for 30 years of His life.. The results of His work is…

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    7. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      So resource yourself, get money and corporate backing. What's so hard about that? We live in a prosperous, well-educated society, under common law.

      In my long experience, I've never met anyone working for any company anywhere, especially higher up in management and better their board of directors, unhappy to listen to sensible argument on how they can improve their performance, their public image, the risks and impacts associated with their operations; any number of issues based on facts and relevance…

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    8. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      re: "I've never met anyone working for any company anywhere, especially higher up in management and better their board of directors, unhappy to listen to sensible argument on how they can improve their performance, their public image"

      Never? if only the world was so perfect.. if only there was no issue with companies accepting the request for labelling of foods that contains GM ingredients.. I would have thought that something as basic to our lives as food, that it would be a very reasonable…

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    9. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Why companies, and Monsanto in particular? Nobody is perfect, the world isn't perfect.

      But that's not what you're on about, is it. It's GM foods, when this topic is clean water.

      Instead of focusing on the discussion, you instead want to talk about your friend, and His work, His Ecology.

      If he is not an academic actually working on campus, associated with and representative of a university, I don't know that he should be an author here, any more than a lot of us. If he is accepted, remind…

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    10. Nonie Jekabsons

      Tree Spotter at -

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "If you want to eat clean food and water... (etc) there is plenty of it ... nobody is stopping you"
      I beg to differ, but would clearly be wasting my breath, in this forum.

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    11. Paul Newell

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Hi Tom
      The difficulty most People have in our present Civilisation is in their common belief in current human understanding of technology, commerce, industry, export of commodities and “Human Logic” rather than “Eco-Logic”.
      I am sorry Tom that we have not been introduced, for I have never heard of you, either. You may not have had the chance yet to edit or proof read Conversations I have contributed to, in the recent past.
      In My long term experience Government and big International Business…

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    12. Paul Newell

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom
      If I am accepted as an Author on The Conversations I will relish questions from anyone, as I do now.
      I only concentrate on Nature doing for FREE at all scales of landscape and not People doing expensively.
      Does all your Money, food and water come from your own living practices Tom, or from government and big international business that have now lost their security, to provide money, food and water?
      Perhaps we need a Democratic Conversation of Committees, over the internet with every one…

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    13. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Yes, thank you, yes let stick to subject of fresh water. Without fresh water we just die, so I guess that the topic is so important that we all should just grow up and face the hard truths about the imperfect human behaviour that we are all party to.
      I am sure you are aware that Thomas Edison had well over a thousand failed attempts to get just one simple light bulb working which is far less complex that our eco system, so I am not sure why anyone would be surprised that there is no simple…

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    14. Paul Newell

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom
      I do not claim any superiority over others, in any way for my work, but I do say that Nature using all the other species than man, is a far better Farmer than man. The whole biological community working together “farmed” (Natural Increase) the land and water systems of the world over the millennia, for human benefit and still will and do, if allowed to.
      I also do not recommend the use of any industrial products or infrastructure for people to farm with. Firstly they are expensive and also only…

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  11. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    On a more positive note, many years ago Chinese researchers found that polluted water placed in to a narrow channel filled with the common water weed water hyacinth, after a certain length, emerged much cleaner, with many of the pollutants being taken up within the plants which are then harvested.
    If these plants are burnt, many pollutants are destroyed, and those such as heavy metals are concentrated in the ash and are no doubt reclaimable.
    Less polluted water produces safer water weeds which…

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to James Hill

      Interesting research James used to extract heavy metals and other valuable water soluble elements.

      Unfortunately there does not appear to be any preliminary trails occurring in Australia for these technologies.

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Yes, Jack, local government tends to be very conservative in Australia.
      When, some years ago, artificial wetlands were proposed in The Byron Shire in response to the sewage treatment needs of an increased summer tourist population, conservative councillors went ape-shit in the local press, complaining loudly to all and sundry about "untested hippy lunacy".
      Unfortunately for them, The National Geographic magazine had, twenty years earlier, written up an article about the very same system having successfully pioneered in the very similar tourist destination of Miami in Florida.
      But it was all hippy nonsense, two decades later in good old local government Australia.
      So preliminary trials in Australia,?
      Might be long wait.

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    3. Paul Newell

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack,
      To my personal knowledge there have been many successful trials, experiments and applications of “these tecknowledgies” for over fifty years. It is called “Restoration Ecology” and naturally restores whole of valley ecosystems from pollutants from urban and rural landscapes but does not employ engineers only all the other species, or use expensive infrastructure, only “naturally Increasing” productive “Eco-Structure”. Nor does “Restoration Ecology” use government services or government funding…

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  12. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    The article gave me another reason to be depressed too!

    But there are macro solutions - like the better city planning, and incentives for population limitation - and micro solutions - like personal solar stills and avoiding investments in frakking (etc).

    If you decided to actually do something about it - a worthwhile New Year's Resolution - talk to your local permaculturist. They already have systems to divert the summer's accumulation of dust off your roof, before you store rainwater…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      Sadly WR all the answers would appear to be in plain sight - well many, the others will surely come, but probably shelved.

      Look at Warsaw - another pathetic waste of money.

      There are solutions falling like rain, but they appear to dry up before they hit the ground.

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  13. Philip Impey

    Architect+Urban Designer

    "what an angry planet can dish up"
    What, is this the revenge of gaia or something?
    How can an inanimate object be assigned human and/or animal emotions?
    You might as well say that the degradation of the planet is a result of humankind's corporate sin- and not just environmental but moral as well.

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    1. Michael Wahren

      Self employed

      In reply to Philip Impey

      Well if you take the capitalist system as the driving force of human development then your last sentence would be absolutely true. The system of Capital which is the one that rules us depends absolutely on never standing still and continually acquiring more with no limits. Thus it should come as no surprise that we are heading for a water crisis with the biggest losers always the poor. Capital it self, as manifested in corporations will be applauding this crisis as it becomes an opportunity to acquire…

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    2. Philip Impey

      Architect+Urban Designer

      In reply to Michael Wahren

      Not sure I agree with the statement "the capitalist system as the driving force of human development".Is the system the driving force or is it humanity's desire for an improvement in their lot the driving force of which capitalism seems the best system to achieve that desire?
      I visited a beach on the NW coast of Sabah (Borneo) after a typhoon in the South China Sea which was covered in human waste (not unlike that in this article's photo) I asked my host where the rubbish originated. He said it…

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    3. Michael Wahren

      Self employed

      In reply to Philip Impey

      I grant you that human desire to improve their lot may very well be the driving force, they have picked the wrong system to do it with. Socialism has never been tried nor Communism. Those systems which called themselves that, it was like an agreement with the west, we call ourselves socialist and all the lefties think we are the good guys, you call your selves capitalists and all the righties think you are the good guys. In reality we are both just in it for the power.
      The system of Capital which…

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Wahren

      Replace the word "Capital" with "debt" and you're getting closer to the problem underlying all this growth, and that is the Biblical sin of usury?

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    5. Michael Wahren

      Self employed

      In reply to James Hill

      Agree. The Capitalist system is one based on debt, so you can interchange the words.

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Wahren

      Some time back a pioneer from the new community at Maleny in QLD turned up to address the local community on their success, particularly the successful setting up of their own credit union.
      I felt the need to remark that the real "capital" behind the credit union's capacity to finance their members, was not the money in their accounts, but tangible wealth producing assets, such as the trees in a productive tropical orchard.
      This is the reality overlooked in all the focus on "capital" and "debt…

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    7. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Philip Impey

      "So is that the result of the capitalist system or the the result of a desire to escape an economic system which didn't fulfill their basic needs?"
      No, it is the result of Filipinos breeding like rabbits. I don't see how any country, capitalist or communist, could provide jobs, housing and education for all their citizens when they continue to multiply at the rate our forefathers did.

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  14. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    Shhh.

    The revolution has been going on for some time now.

    Permaculture has been a world wide phenomenon since 1978. We now have graduates as mayors of local governments, and MPs, and Professors.

    I reckon we're somewhere between the 85th and the 95th monkey stage.

    The crucial thing is that when Joe Blow says "I dunno what to do, can you help me?", We have lots and lots of people who can say "No, not this bureaucratic/fascistic way, this resilient local community way." and demonstrate…

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      Bravo, Warwick.
      Some friends suggested to me some time back to forget politics, because Permaculture was the solution.
      And if you are not part of the solution you must be part of the problem.
      I appreciate all your efforts, true progress.

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    2. Nonie Jekabsons

      Tree Spotter at -

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      Permaculture is no doubt part of the solution, but its delivery must be politic. Grass root solutions grow in community.
      (Permaculture Design Cert. S.A.R.I. 1992).
      Such catastrophes are not the fault of those in the line of fire. They are the result of corporate influences.

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  15. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    Hi James

    People at Maleny like Max Lindegger and Jill Jordan have done some really good work over many years now.

    I liked your comment, but it needs a little expansion, to make an important indeed crucial point. You say that capital is based on a wealth producing asset. As you say, a huge part of our problem today is that credit and its many derivatives have undermined this basic meaning.

    But the key phrase here is "wealth-producing". Underlying that is a belief; that the land…

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  16. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "... reduce wastewater at the source ..." - yes, we humans are the source of the pollution, so fewer of us would mean less pollution. What the world needs now is a war to end all wars, thereby culling the population to more manageable levels. On the other hand, rampant antibiotic resistant infections might do the job just as well. Either way, the mantra of 'growth at all costs' is becoming a hollow echo from the sepulchre. Merry Christmas to the survivors.

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  17. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    Doug commented: "...bite the uncaring wealthy just as hard as the deprived poor."

    I wonder whether this "bite" would be an equal one?

    If you were in a fairly basic struggle to live every day, how much better equipped would you be to deal with something like the recent cyclone in the Philippines, or the collapse of your society by some other means, than those whose wealth has insulated them from any serious struggle all their lives?

    I've just been counselling a young man who has been…

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  18. Jane Middlemist

    citizen

    Re "In particular, the explosive use of cheap, generic antibiotics in Asia and India could see them leaving a devastating mark on the environment, possibly leading to a major health crisis."
    So much of this antibiotic overuse is for farmed animals, possibly causing the antibiotic resistance which puts humans at risk of dying of infections. Not only in Asia but they are used in Australia as well.

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  19. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    The problem is greed, and the way we choose to ignore consequences, wanting our short term profits. And I don't think that will change because we get to a smaller population, even though one might assume the effects of our behavior become less. But then we have the way we can, for example, mass produce a hundred different shampoos, for your consumer pleasure, easy to do using modern technology. We will be even better on it in a decade I suspect :) And that should be weighted in in any scenario.

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    1. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      Define 'greed'.

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    2. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves

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    3. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      Next question: define how much one needs or deserves.

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    4. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Chris Watson

      I'll give you a example on what greed is :)

      Remember when everything started to get 'outsourced'?
      To the East? And here in Sweden, later, to the baltic states. I said then that this was the best help under/newly developed country's could ask for. And looking at it today I was right :) Look at Japan, China, Korea, india etc.

      Now, as I see it the idea there was pure greed, from people searching for short time profits, not protecting my interests, or their nations, although I'm sure they will…

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    5. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      One reason why I define it as 'good' is that I've more or less stopped expecting the western world to do something realistic about global warming. And if we won't, why would developing countries do otherwise? After all, they're walking in our footsteps here, and actually making a better job of it than we did. On the other hand they have better technology available to them, and knowledge, than we had.

      We will have to react though, I'm sure of that, the question is just when?

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    6. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      Yoron

      may i suggest a distinct between greed and a market economy.

      In a balanced market economy, there is an exchange of value.. ie you give me money and you get goods or services.. ie there is a win / win transaction and a balanced/ agreed trade of value.

      Greed on the other hand is a case where I take more value than offered in the transactions. Often this greed is manifested when corporations get workers to become effective slaves for very little reward and then selling those goods at much higher prices, keeping the majority of the money while the workers effectively starves.. That is worse type of greed, especially since it is so unnecessary.

      the result of this greed is that poor stay poor, they are unable to be educated and the unbalance creates tension that then manifests in so many different ways. generally not good because of the ill will created.

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    7. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      It seems to be quite ironic, Joseph, that the truths that you bring to this debate are quite old, with the greedy "rich" being warned thus "What shall it profit a man, that he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul".
      And the observation by Guatama, born a wealthy aristocrat, that all suffering is caused by ambition, especially the ambition to have as much wealth as inherited at birth by the Buddha.
      There appears to be some continued resistance to the various moral messages against greed.
      It is almost as if the poor, and all their suffering, were maintained as an "Example" of what would happen to those who do not, instead "borrow" at interest, to stay out of the "Gutter" reserved for the poor.
      Not a new problem, and never the lessons of the past to be learned?

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    8. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to James Hill

      So JH is there any morality in using the poor as an instrument of morality - saying to the few idle rich and greedy, here are millions and millions of starving people living in poverty ....beware it could be you.

      To be truly blessed you need to be truly poor?

      Just another myth to keep the rich richer and the poor downtrodden.

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    9. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      'myth to keep the rich richer and the poor downtrodden'
      Good point Mr SJR; but also I often wonder if the very rich are just incapable of actually believing that "you can't take it with you…"

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    10. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to James Hill

      James may i suggest that there are lessons for both the rich and poor! I tend to believe that everyone has the power to change their lives if they believe it is so.

      To even entertain the concept gives a person the permission to even try.

      i like to focus on the possibilities for our future and all the past can do is offer lessons.. There are many positive examples if we but take the time to look.

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    11. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Certainly Christ suggested to the poor that they stop measuring their lives by the things that money could buy, using the plumage of a sparrow to guide their "value" system, ie what have they got that they did not have to pay for, and why is of so little value to them.
      It reminds one of the quote about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
      Though the poor do have a point about the value of the "Nothing" that they are forced to deal with, as are the rich also deprived, as you say.

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    12. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, those few rich and greedy do not need to borrow money to survive.
      It is the masses of "middle class" aspirationals, who borrow beyond their means, in order to avoid the welcoming "gutter", who give the few rich and greedy their "Idle" income.
      While business is more disciplined about the use of borrowed funds, usually having some plan to benefit from their application sufficiently to repay the loan, middle class aspirationalists are usually on a "better than the neighbours" binge as they…

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    13. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to James Hill

      Oh well JH there have always been the haves and the have nots, there will always be an ethos of keeping up with the Joneses, always be people borrowing more than they can afford to keep up a lifestyle they definitely can't afford.

      Perhaps that is the way of life, and beyond any moral maxims or religious overtones.

      and..."".So if, you follow the argument, which I doubt,""
      should I take offence or imply that your logic is hard to follow?

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    14. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Capitalism is based on the principle that the market value of labour (wages) is lower than the market value of the goods and services that that labour produces. If employers had to pay their workers the full value of their labour, there would be no profits and no incentive to invest. Capitalism is a system of exploitation and the exploitation level depends on many factors, one of which is the number of people competing for employment. However, you can't blame capitalism for the laws of supply and demand. They have been in operation ever since humans started trading.

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    15. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to James Hill

      So what do you make of the person who is "rich" because of their personal drive, their passion and just plain hard work to achieve what they achieve? or in many cases loose everything and become poor!

      There are also many who are happy not to work, they are happy to just sit and watch, they are happy just to sit and drink or watch a movie.

      These examples are where the difference between a "poor" person and a "rich" person is a reflection of mindset or values..

      so why should we judge poorly those who want to achieve because there are those that do not want to achieve.. I know this is just one perspective but atleast in this country the difference is mainly due to mindset simply because we all have so many options that it is difficult to cry exploitation as the cause.

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    16. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph Bernard wrote:

      >So what do you make of the person who is "rich" because of their personal drive, their passion and just plain hard work to achieve what they achieve?

      The response to this has been written far better by US Senator Elizabeth Warren:

      “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory....Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

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    17. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Yes, some have used the term "Poverty Trance" to describe how some poor people lose their motivation.
      With the implication being that the "Trance" can be somehow broken.
      And we have the example of the extremely competitive business behaviour of Andrew Carnegie ( his secret divulged by his protege Napoleon Hill, in the book "Think and Grow Rich"), balanced by his actively spending all his vast fortune on public charity.
      Then, since we are still in the region of the several days of Christmas, we…

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    18. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      It could be a question of stamina in the following of the argument, Stephen; the argument may be perfectly logical, but not presented in the intellectual currency of the three word slogan, to which we all have been reduced in the deliberately dumbed down world.
      Which political "world" Howard declared to be "the times" which he said suited his brand of politics, aided by Murdoch, and as inherited by his protege Abbott.
      I do tend to allude to "truths" already long established, for which there is…

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    19. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Chris, on that front there was an interesting analysis in one of those Teach Yourself books which came out of WWII, in this case teach yourself management.
      It described the original market system where cottage industries brought home from the Saturday afternoon market the materials upon which the laboured to produce the goods which they sold or traded at the same local market later.
      "Managers" it was argued where "Entrepreneurs", in the original meaning of the word, who visited the cottagers taking…

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    20. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      I agree that we are all inter-dependent and we stand on the shoulders of the giants that stand before us..

      yes, totally agree, the tax system is the mechanism whereby the system is rewarded for its role in delivering an outcome.. Tax system is suppose to pay for infrastructure, health and education which invests into the future and protects us all for our roll in the system.

      the book "a Hitchhiker's guide" describes how a planet decides to rid itself of the useless 30 percent.. It's population soon after dies off because the "Handset sanitizer" is no longer there and everyone dies of some virus caught from phones.. There is an element of truth to this story, because there are so many unsung heroes that do obscure functions that play a critical role to our survival .. Just because we do not see them, does not mean they are not needed.

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    21. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to James Hill

      Yes I agree,

      The challenge moving into the future is to present to our future generations the vision to inspire them to greatness. People need to be able to have a sense of hope that if they try that they will achieve a better life, even if it is to break free from slavery.

      We saw how with the GFC, if there is a in balance in the system, it can fall apart and everyone will lose out.. Those at the top have far much more to lose and so they should be thinking harder than everyone else on how to make it better.

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    22. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Reply to Joseph bernard
      My father would tell me "that is the way it is". Implying I just had to accept it.
      I was bolshie and never agreed with him about this.
      I'm older and a bit wiser, but I still believe in the right to disagree. And the right to question. And the right to be different and do things differently.
      It doesn't mean I have always achieved what I wanted. Or always won the debate. But The what ifs and the thoughts about possibilities are what keep me going.
      And maybe someone's what if might be the game changer.

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    23. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen,
      It is a matter of choice. Always. You can behave decently or not. You can abuse others or not. You can borrow more than you can afford or not.
      Its your choice. Isn't it?

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    24. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Chris Watson

      Reply to Chris,
      What if those who did the work, made the product owned it? Those who grew the food owned the produce?
      they, and they alone could sell it then, if they had excess to their needs. To others who didn't have enough.
      Its pretty basic.
      But it has worked for millennia.
      Modern world economies have chosen an alternative route.
      Those who do the work no longer own the products of their work. We have parasites who live off that work, for their benefit.
      that is the modern capitalist economic system, isn't it?

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    25. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Well said, Lavinia and, I wish, a potential game-changer.
      And what if employees were paid partly with a low but liveable wage and partly with shares in the business/company/farm?
      They would then share in the highs and lows of profits and feel more like "part of" the enterprise and less like "units of labor'. It would create loyalty to the enterprise with a stake in its success or failure.
      Not only better for workers in my opinion but better for "bosses" too.

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    26. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Well, greed is no modern invention, is it? :) Lot's of historical parallels to it. The difference being that as you no longer are isolated from the people by your 'divine right' to own whatever you can lay your grubby hands on, we now find 'aktie bolag' (corporations) instead. By their very construction limiting peoples ability to demand retribution for losses made, internally and externally by those corporations acts. And banks naturally :)

      You want a modern market economy, you will get poisoned water, global warming, injustices, and some rich cats getting extremely loaded with dough. With as little responsibility for their (corporations) actions as possible..

      Take a look around.

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    27. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      "And maybe someone's what if might be the game changer"

      quiet often in life the game changers come from from something different from "norm" of the day..

      This seems to be logical when we consider "if we continue doing exactly the same behaviour and then expect a different outcome?" , could be argued as a sign of madness

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    28. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      "greed is no modern invention, is it?"

      nor is "self-interest".. Both these human characteristics act as drivers.. sometimes for "good" and sometimes "bad"

      The trick is to find positive outcome solutions and then promote, pitch and sell those positive outcome solutions that appeal to both greed and self-interest.

      If someone is greedy and yet solves our climate change issues. Then what is wrong with that? I am happy with the positive climate change outcome and wish the person every success in his/ her greed :)

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    29. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Well, I'm not dreaming. Just looking around at the results of our modern world and free market ideology. It's with that as with those gurus trying to define what makes a world market work. We all know what makes it work, 'self interests' and greed. The idea of corporations speeded up the industrial revolution tremendously, the consequences of those idea is what we live with today.

      We would have gotten there anyway, but at a slower pace, if people were held responsible for their actions. And the world would look better too.

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  20. Jane Middlemist

    citizen

    I sometimes wonder why it was decided (and by whom) to use the ocean as a sewer and sometimes a dump for toxic materials.
    We are land mammals so I would have thought the natural - and maybe less expensive - solution for disposal of waste would be to keep it on the land.

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  21. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    There is no one answer, to the water issue, or any other, really.

    Every little block, every bioregion, has its own unique features that mean different strategies, plans and activities are needed to make it sustainable, and that these will only come out of careful and detailed observation, to harness the ecological processes at work. Trying to control an ecological process is like compressing a spring: it can be done, but as soon as you stop spending the energy to compress it , it bounces back…

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    1. Paul Newell

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      I very much agree with Warwick Rowell.
      The vast majority of people are very confused by modern day life.
      The really big problem all people have is that, at this present time at the end of the Industrial/Export revolution of our world, now in collapse: The vast majority of people, who mainly live in “built up” cities as a “monoculture”, think in an industrial paradigm of thinking (artificial thinking) and also they have lost their nature consciousness from so many generations living in cities where…

      Read more