One of the aspects of sustainability that interests me the most, pertains to the studying of world population numbers overtime. Citing the, United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, humanity reached one billion people on planet earth around 1804. Then in 1927, earth reached two billion humans needing only 120 years to add another 1 billion people. Surprisingly enough however, in another 33 years by 1960 earth reached 3 billion people. This was followed by another 14, 13, and 12 year growth span in 1974, 1987, and 1999 to where the population increased from 3 billion to 6 billion people. This shocking rate of growth would appear to be infinite for individuals looking at population trends in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Due to the study of sustainability and understanding the concept of a carrying capacity however, it becomes clear that this population growth is not an example of exponential growth but rather, very carefully instructed growth that will keep doing adding numbers to the population until the resources of earth are stretched to their limit, and we fail to provide adequate tools necessary to expedite and accompany the increase in population. At this time, we will realize that humanity is growing very specifically and within a very specific range of comfortability.
Daily Archives: October 7, 2018
Decay of Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are vital ecosystems not only for the sea, but for coastlines as well. You may have heard the term “barrier reef”, such as the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Northern Australia. This term is far more important than you might think though. Barrier reefs are just that; barriers. For thousands of years, these barrier reefs have protected coastlines from storms, eroding seashores and sea cliffs and kept beaches stocked with sand. They also kept fish, sea plants and other sunlight- needing animals safe and provided with all the food and habitat that they need to survive. This has also helped coast-dwelling peoples survive sustainably by fishing and harvesting sea plants to eat. However, coral is a complicated creature because it is made up of both a plant and an animal; both of which are dependent on one another for survival. If you have seen coral, I am sure that you have seen coral that is vibrantly colored, and coral that is light tan or even completely white. This is the leading sign of decay in coral.
The term for this decay is coral bleaching. It is the number one killer of coral reefs because once a coral polyp begins the process, it does not grow back and it spreads throughout the entire colony. Coral bleaching is devastating coral reefs and the ecosystems that they support. As I mentioned before, coral is extremely complex. A single coral polyp is made up of 2 components: the animal and the plant. The animal (polyp), which keeps the coral alive and builds its hard, protective outer casing or calyx, is like a tiny little anemone that has tentacles and collects food molecules from the water and brings it into the stomach. The plant part is an algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae is what gives the coral it’s color and zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate. They then use the calcium carbonate to make their protective calyx. Unfortunately, when coral polyps become stressed, by something as small as a snorkeler touching it or something as damaging as dynamite fishing or global warming, it expels the zooxanthellae. The coral then is no longer able to maintain its calyx and loses its healthy color. In these cases, the polyp will always die and it will take its neighbors down with it. Bleaching coral is dying coral and coral is very sensitive; a person can kill an entire colony of coral (approx 150 years of growth), simply by touching it or trying to take it home as a souvenir.
The demise of coral reefs is having a catastrophic effect on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems that they serve and protect. Global warming and the rising water temperatures are the number one cause of coral bleaching. According to a study from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia, the problem is only getting worse.
Live coral populations are declining rapidly and sadly, they will never grow back if we keep polluting the oceans and the climate keeps rising.
With Great Inflation, Comes Great Recession
The 2007-2008 Financial Crisis was a formative event in many of the lives of our generation. Many lost jobs, even homes. The entirety of the American economic structure felt unstable, as though it was on the imminent verge of collapse. Yet, when you look back at the data, it almost seems impossible to miss the inevitability of it all. Let’s take the housing sector, for instance:
The above graph shows the rough correlation between housing prices and inflation. As the graph clearly shows, for much of the late 20th century the value of median family homes closely mirrored the consumer price index. And that is as you would expect: as Americans make more, they can afford more, and when they can afford more, prices go up accordingly.
Yet somehow beginning around the turn of the millennium, perhaps even slightly before that, the value of a median family home began to increase at a rapidly faster pace than did the consumer price index. We see a huge differential form between the two values. Economically speaking, its a bubble. And like the bubbles you used to blow when you were a kid playing in your driveway, bubbles eventually burst.
We see an exponentially increasing value of the median family home, while the consumer price index continues to follow its linearly increasing trend. When the growth becomes unsustainable, when the difference between the two values becomes simply too much for the market to believe any longer, the bubble bursts. There’s a rapid and sudden devaluation of one value to match the other. All of a sudden, a house is worth 1/2 what you thought it was, or 1/2 what you bought it for. It’s an enormous financial windfall, and one prone to produce and fuel a serious economic crisis that affects the nation at large. As we saw in 2007-2008 and the years that followed, that’s just exactly what happened.
A small island off the coast of Japan became famous after videos of visitors being swarmed by rabbits were released online. These videos of dozens of rabbits on this island quickly went viral and begun a long list of rumors to how the rabbits first came to the island. Some say a British couple brought them decades ago, others say the rabbits are offspring of animals that used to be on the island for chemical weapon testing, although experts insists those animals were all euthanized. Although how the rabbits got to the island may be in question, they have managed to increase their population by over 30% in the last 11 years.
The fame of these rabbits brought tourists from all around the world to the island. In 2005 the island had 136,000 visitors which increased to 254,000 in 2015. This is an average increase of 11,800 tourists per year.
In general, the population keeps growing, but in the article I read by national geographic, individual rabbits are suffering. The rabbits are depending greatly on the humans to feed them, however the food tourists usually bring is actually harmful to rabbits in large quantities, like cabbage. Rabbits are also frequently run over by the vehicles on the island and suffer health issues related to human contact.
However, because the people on the island have been able to coexist with these rabbits, Takashi Seki at the Ministry of the Environment says that artificial intervention with these rabbits is “undesirable,” although it will be interesting to see how the increasing rabbit population affects the ecosystem of the island in the next few years.
Population Growth and Decay in Schenectady, NY
According to the World Population Review, Schenectady, New York’s population as of 2017 is estimated to be 65,625 people. In comparison, Schenectady is the 9th largest city in New York, based off of the 2017 US Census Bureau. The review also revealed that the city had a population density of 6080.95 people/mi^2.
Based on information obtained from the American Community Survey, there was an average 2.67 people per household and the median income for households is $41,243. Lastly, 16.2% of families and 21.1% of individuals living in Schenectady are below the federal poverty line, where 38.3% of those under 18 are in poverty, and 10.2% of those 65 years or older.
So the question is how the population has fluctuated over the years. As you can see in the chart below, Schenectady suffered an enormous population decline with a decay rate of -11.01% (roughly 10,000 people). In the years after, the population suffered a slow decrease that may have been caused by the economic decline the city suffered through. Below is a table and chart displaying the growth/decay of our city’s population.
Panther Population in Florida
Florida is a unique state to say the least. It’s a place that’s brimming with various different plants and animals, and has many conservation areas of great beauty such as the everglades. At the same time Florida is also in a constant state of development, as construction of shopping malls, housing, and retirement communities begin to fill up the state. Coupled with this is the large number of tourists and vacationers that come to the state every year seeking sunshine. All of this has impacted the wildlife and ecosystems of the region. One animal that is currently endangered is the Florida panther. Back in the 1970s and 80s when people were less environmentally conscious, the Florida panther population dropped down to around 20 or so. It was estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in 2017 that there were between 120-230 panthers. The panther population has risen thanks to concerted efforts by conservationists to keep the panthers around, however, they are still severely endangered.
For clarity, let’s say that the population was 20 in 1975. Let’s also say that the 2017 population was 180. This is an obvious increase of 160 panthers over 42 years. If we divide 160 by 42 we get the rate of change: 3.81 new panthers every year. If in 1976 there were 23.81 panthers (up from 20 the previous year), then we can divide 23.81/20 for find the growth factor and percentage. The growth factor is 1.1905 and the percentage increase in panthers per year is 19%.
It’s hard to believe that the panther population will soon skyrocket, but with careful study and effort, the population could likely go back up to a steady level. This link highlights some of the dangers panthers face, and partially explains why there are so few of them.
Population Growth and Deforestation in Guatemala
The article that I chose to use looked at population growth and deforestation in Petén Guatemala. The population in 1960 was about 21,000 people and has risen to 600,000 today, which is over a 10% growth each year. This drastic rise in population forced the new citizens to find new land to survive. In Petén, the process of deforestation was designed to meet the new growing populations needs, but this process of removing trees will have a lasting effect on the growing population. This process of relocating people also made it extremely difficult to provide consumer goods, infrastructure, and health services. Without these necessities, families were being hurt due to the massive influx of new people.
Ultimately, the country will run out of room to house these people and will certainly create a rise in deaths. Countries should focus more on feeding their people while working within the natural environment rather than destroying the environment. Soon there will not be any naturally occurring forests and humans will be to blame, hopefully we never get to that point because it may be too late.
Population Growth and Decay Across the U.S.
According to USA Today, the fastest growing city in the United States is The Villages in Florida. In 2010 it had a population of 94,279 people and increased to 125,165 people in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017 the population increased by 30,886 people, or 32.8%, with a growth rate of 1.33. The fastest shrinking city in the country is Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In 2010 it had a population of 100,093 and decreased to 90,963 in 2017, which means the population decreased by 9,130 individuals. This also includes a percent decrease of 9.12% and a decay factor of .91.
In the fastest shrinking cities, such as Pine Bluff, the unemployment rate is greater than the national average. Also, it is possible that the reason some cities are growing faster than others is because of climate change. More specifically, over half of the fastest shrinking cities are in areas that experience harsh winters, while most of the fastest growing cities experience milder weather. This could make some areas more or less desirable to live in and could impact the population of various areas.
Elephant Poaching Decreases African Species
Elephant poaching started at the end of the 20th century and has permanently damaged the overall population of African elephants across the continent’s 18 countries. NPR’s article that was published in the late summer of 2016 recounts the shockingly high decline in elephant population between 2007 and 2014 which all account the illegal poaching for ivory. Many African’s get involved in the poaching industry because it is easy money and not terribly difficult to accomplish. Ivory is then sold to illegal traffickers which are then sold on the Chinese market. The entire industry is murderous and heartless because people ruthlessly kill elephants just for their ivory tusks.
The African elephant population declined 140,000 animals between 2007 and 2014 which took about $7 million dollars to conclude. The great Elephant Census, founded by Paul Allen, searched elephants for three years and which collaborated with Elephants without Borders and other government/non governmental organizations. They were able to record the elephant numbers by meticulously flying a small plane and writing down elephants they saw, making sure not to count those that had already been recorded. Only 352,271 elephants existed after the 7 year period, meaning that in 2007 (adding the 140,000) there were 496,271 elephants. When calculated, this is a 25% decrease in the elephant numbers and which continue to decrease today.
This graph from WWF shows a glimpse of the horrid poaching ramifications. If you’re more interested in this subject there is an awesome and captivating documentary on netflix directed by Leonardo Dicaprio called The Ivory Game on the entire ivory poaching market and the ways in which African organizations strive to capture those involved.
Human Population Growth Rate
During my research for this post, I found a graph on the world population and chose to implement the skills we’ve learned in class for this section. I decided to use the graph as my own new data to work off of. After gathering data from this graph, I found that in the 64 years between 1950 and 2014, the world’s population had increased by 4.76 billion people.
This computed out to be a 187.4% increase during the 64 year period (4.76 billion people [total change] / 2.54 billion people [initial] = 1.874). With this information, I went on to find the growth factor and rate of change.
2.54 billion people + 2.54 billion people x 1.874 = 2.54 billion people (1+1.874) = 2.54 billion people (2.287) = 7.3 billion people
After computing this solution, we can see that the growth factor was 2.287. To find the rate of change, I divided the total change (4.76 billion people) with the total amount of time (64 years), to find an increase of 74 million people per year.
Lastly, I have estimated that the growth of the world’s population between the years 1950 and 2014 was that of exponential growth, rather than linear. I found that the world’s population between 1950 and 2014 increased exponentially at around 1% per year.
1950 1958 1966 1974
2.54 2.92 3.41 4 billion
15% 16.78% 17.3%
380 490 590 million