This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We're in a Sea of Trouble

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is due out at the end of March, but early versions are already circulating. One headline summarizes the report as follows: Climate Impacts ‘Are Very Evident, They’re Widespread’ And ‘We Are Not Prepared’. This week's Economist takes the climate change news and combines it with a general overview of the situation with the earth's oceans, and produces a pretty scary story.
ABOUT 3 billion people live within 100 miles (160km) of the sea, a number that could double in the next decade as humans flock to coastal cities like gulls. The oceans produce $3 trillion of goods and services each year and untold value for the Earth’s ecology. Life could not exist without these vast water reserves—and, if anything, they are becoming even more important to humans than before.
But these developments are minor compared with vaster forces reshaping the Earth, both on land and at sea. It has long been clear that people are damaging the oceans—witness the melting of the Arctic ice in summer, the spread of oxygen-starved dead zones and the death of coral reefs. Now, the consequences of that damage are starting to be felt onshore.
The article notes that oceans produce half the world's supply of oxygen (in addition to the work of the forests), but climate change may be lowering the ocean's ability to do that. short, the decades of damage wreaked on the oceans are now damaging the terrestrial environment.
The oceans exemplify the “tragedy of the commons”—the depletion of commonly held property by individual users, who harm their own long-term interests as a result.
We are over-fishing the ocean, dumping trash into it, and generally abusing it at will. We can be sure that this will come back to bite us, especially if the jellyfish have anything to say about it...


  1. Hi John, here is some interesting material on pop. growth in Yemen, one of the most quickly growing countries in the world.

  2. One of the more immediate effects of climate change is happening to Lake Mead in Nevada. It is literally drying up!! This is really a serious concern, both for fresh water supplies in the Southwest and the production of electricity. The Colorado River is simply no longer transporting the volume of watr it once was. I was surprised to read very recently that engineers at Las Vegas have devised a plan to cope with the problem of dropping water levels at Lake Mead. And their answer ... dig another water supply pipeline at a lower level under the waterline, so even if the lake level does drop - Las Vegas wont go thirsty. Ohhh - sheer briliiance. So apparently Las Vegas plans to suck the lake dry until literally they are out of water ... then scream for help. I have not seen the timeline projections, but I dont think this water crisis is that far into the future - they might be looking at 15-30 years. Pete, Redondo Beach