Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot writes that we shouldn't let distractions about population divert our attention from the role the wealthiest and most privileged few have played in causing (and profiting from) our climate breakdown.

- Kate Kelly writes that private capital is once again wringing massive returns out of others' misery, this time due to the collapse of shopping malls.

- Jose-Luis Jimenez discusses the need to act on the growing evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through aerosols which can linger in the air for hours.

- Tehseen Lahda points out the importance of offering multiple layers of protection - including physical distancing - to minimize the risk of reopening schools. And Laura Sciarpelletti reports on the expert consensus that Saskatchewan should be using its federal education funding on masks and ventilation needs which have been left unaddressed by the provincial government.

- Meanwhile, Meera Karunananthan writes about the pernicious effect of "nice white parents" whose attempts to set up special advantages for their own children draw resources away from the basic needs of less privileged families. And Caroline Alphonso takes note of the especially unfair reliance on fund-raising to deal with the health consequences of COVID-19. 

- Finally, Geoff Dembicki writes about Seth Klein's new book on the opportunity to respond to an emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic with meaningful improvements in our society.

[Edit: added link.]


  1. Monbiot is wrong to dismiss concerns about overpopulation as racist. A new report in Nature Sustainability uses InterPol data showing that 30 to 50 per cent of annual water supply is being stolen and water shortages are going to impact the most overpopulated regions hardest.

    Canada has vastly more water than China which has 40 times our population. Much of its water supply is contaminated by industry and agriculture. China is water insecure. India has been struggling to cope with water smugglers who did illegal wells that are draining farming regions of the water they need for food production and cities and towns of water needed for cooking and hygiene. Now Africa's population is poised to explode even as its water resources implode.

    To argue, as Monbiot does, that we can't discuss overpopulation is quite stupid. Ask Camilo Mora who runs the excellent climate lab at the University of Hawaii. He grew up impoverished in Colombia. He witnessed what food insecurity leads to and he's reluctantly spoken out about the disaster we turn our heads to.

    Overpopulation and overconsumption, together with the worsening contamination of our soils, our water and our atmosphere are not stand alone problems. They are, in combination, the existential threat. As Jared Diamond writes in his book, "Collapse," with threats like these you either deal with all of them or you'll succeed in resolving none.

    At the moment, four water insecure nations also have nuclear arsenals - India, Pakistan, China and Israel. What is their nuclear threshold when it comes to competition for water? No country in the world could expect to remain immune to that danger. Again, none of this makes it through Monbiot's ideological blinders.

    1. Monbiot doesn't say that concerns about overpopulation are all racist, only that they're excessive from an environmental standpoint and easily used to feed racist positions.

      And while he doesn't deal with water specifically in the column, I'd see that fitting into the category of problems which arise at least as much out of distribution and use issues than population alone. Growing pollution, contamination and theft of water are no more supportable if they're being carried out within a stable population than an expanding one - and pointing the finger at population totals (and particularly the most vulnerable people included in them) only serves to let the bad actors contributing the most to the problem off the hook.