THE ECONOMIST: Northern China’s Water Problems

The subject of water scarcity and pollution in China, as related to its huge population and rapid industrialization, is an important one.

China is using up water at an unsustainable rate, and polluting it badly, as well. According to THE ECONOMIST, the World Bank estimates that China’s water problems are impacting its GDP growth by an estimated 2.3 percent (mostly health-related), and water scarcity is also threatening energy growth, which further threatens its GDP growth.

This ECONOMIST interview suggests the country of China needs fewer dams and more water pricing. It needs to stop building huge cities in the desert areas of the North, and it needs to encourage water conservation. Furthermore, if it wishes to invest in huge water engineering projects, it should direct some of that money and energy into water treatment and sewer projects, which it has not done very well to date.

Four-fifths of China’s water is in the south, notably the Yangzi river basin. Half the people and two-thirds of the farmland are in the north, including the Yellow River basin. Beijing has the sort of water scarcity usually associated with Saudi Arabia: just 100 cubic metres per person a year. The water table under the capital has dropped by 300 metres (nearly 1,000 feet) since the 1970s.

SOURCE: All dried up

TED Talk: Jason Pontin on Technology’s Role in Solving Future Problems

Jason Pontin: Can technology solve our big problems?

In this ten-minute TED talk, Jason Pontin, MIT Technology Review editor-in-chief, looks at the future of technology. Using the term “accelerative thrust,” he is optimistic about technology’s ability to solve today’s problems which face humanity, including “feeding the world.”

Personally, whether or not technology can “save us” is my biggest looming question. I, too, am optimistic about that possibility on most days, for the short term, anyway, providing we can solve our energy fix and advance in our cooperation of working together as human beings.

Pontin goes into the reasons that we don’t solve big problems: sometimes we don’t want to; because our political systems fail; sometimes the problems aren’t technological e.g. famines are usually political crises; or, because we don’t really understand the problem.

“Hard problems are hard,” he says.

3 Picks: France Farmer Suicides, Henlights, Indoor Cropping

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Male farmers in France are 20 percent more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population: A new report says that financial pressures and social isolation are the leading causes. According to figures from France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, revenue from farming fell by 23.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 and a further 35.3 percent between 2008 and 2009. Livestock farmers have been hit the worst.

2) Increasing Egg Production On Small Farms: A Solution To The International Food Crisis? By Abigail Wick.In Berlin on September 20-22, the 2013 Thought for Food Global Summit (TFF) convened thought leaders from 25 countries, including venture capitalists, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and university students to address the international food crisis from a wide array of disciplines, with the aim of generating collaborative, actionable strategies to feed the planet. … The winning team, from the University of California at Davis, introduced Henlights. A small, solar-powered LED light designed to be hung in chicken coops, Henlight can be used to stimulate increased egg production during darker winter months, when egg production naturally declines. A technique already use in large-scale egg production, Henlight makes this practice affordable for small-scale and family farms.

3) Optimism About the Future of Indoor Food Production: By Tess Riley. Hydroponics and LED lights used in indoor greenhouses, though the systems are expensive to build, have the potential to greatly increase vegetable yields, and protect plants from unpredictable weather. The increasing use of renewables as heat and energy sources in these systems is the way forward.

BONUS: Photos from Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” on the 2013 harvest from around the world.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.