Thursday, June 16, 2005
#@*& hits the fan hard
Worldwide, the area in grain expanded from 590 million hectares (1,457 million acres) in 1950 to its historical peak of 730 million hectares in 1981. By 2004, it had fallen to 670 million hectares. Even as the world?s population continues to grow, the area available for producing grain is shrinking.
Expanding world population cut the grain land area per person in half, from 0.23 hectares (0.57 acres) in 1950 to 0.11 hectares in 2000. This area of just over one tenth of a hectare per person is half the size of a building lot in an affluent U.S. suburb. This halving of grain land area per person makes it more difficult for the world?s farmers to feed the 70 million or more people added each year. If current population projections materialize and if the overall grain land area remains constant, the area per person will shrink to 0.07 hectares in 2050, less than two thirds that in 2000.
Having less cropland per person not only threatens livelihoods; in largely subsistence societies with nutrient-depleted soils, it threatens survival itself. Tensions among people begin to build as land holdings shrink below that needed for survival. .
Water, too, is a source of growing tension. Although much has been said about the conflicts between and among countries over water resources, some of the most bitter disagreements are taking place within countries where needs of local populations are outrunning the sustainable yield of wells. Local water riots are becoming increasingly common in countries like China and India. In the competition between cities and the countryside, cities invariably win, often depriving farmers of their irrigation water and thus their livelihood.
The projected addition to the earth?s population of 3 billion people by 2050, the vast majority of whom will be added in countries where water tables already are falling and wells are going dry, is not a recipe for economic progress and political stability. Continuing population growth in countries already over-pumping their aquifers and draining their rivers dry could lead to acute hydrological poverty, a situation in which people simply do not have enough water to meet their basic needs.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Military Weddings: All Gay and Festive
The Canadian military is marking its first gay wedding.
Two men, who do not want to be identified, exchanged vows in a ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Greenwood in Nova Scotia.
It was the first time the military presided over a same-sex union after introducing guidelines in 2003 dealing with the issue.
The two men, one a sergeant, the other a warrant officer, were married last month by a United Church minister because the base chaplain is Anglican and couldn't officiate.
A spokeswoman with National Defence confirmed it was the first wedding for a gay couple in the military's history. The department's guidelines say same-sex couples must be treated like heterosexuals