Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Public Brainstorm: Food and Water

December 6, 2012 will be the 10 Years Anniversary event of the Club of Amsterdam.

We are going to promote and discuss ideas, statements, observations and solutions for five areas that are considered key challenges by Schloer Consulting Group. The main characteristics are exponential changes - the primary cause for critical societal and economic crisis. You find an overview of the Public Brainstorm here.

You are invited to contribute here to our public brainstorming session: Public Brainstorm: Food and Water


Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Hardy F. Schloer: “The world will be tested between 2012 and 2025 by more challenges, than it has possibly in its entire existence of human development.

Clearly, I am not discounting here the challenges of the past centuries, as for example the outbreak of the black pest in the dark ages, where there was no medicine or sufficient understanding in how to deal with such far reaching epidemic; or perhaps the two world wars of the last century, that caused more then 80 million death by senseless violence. Neither should one discount the emergence of nuclear technologies or weapons, which posed for the first time in history real and omnipresent danger of destroying the entire planet in a timeframe of only few minutes.

Nevertheless, many real dangerous and catastrophic events are less violent and much less visible. For example, the human discovery of cereals or potatoes enabled human population to grow in exponential pace, and in only the past two centuries of exponential growth to overpopulate the planet in such way, that it is now near impossible to keep vital dynamics of this planet in a sustainable balance. The real problem is ‘us’.

The fact however is, that we do not experience separately a crisis of overpopulation. With it came the systemic faults of money and its creation, which lead to economic breakdown. Exponential overpopulation also caused vastly emerging food, water and farmland shortages, and a predatory and now often violent battle to use the resulting energy shortage in the most profitable ways. Then there is the exponential environmental decay, which poses also accelerating effects on the food, water and farmland problems. Accelerating global warming and its effects come here to mind.

The fact is, that we experience all these climactic disasters concurrently, coming together in one dynamic model, like the proverbial ‘perfect storm’. We are living in the next 20 years in the ‘Age of Final Exponential Change’ where relatively flat growth curves have all begun concurrently to transform into fast and vertical growth that is unsustainable and also complimentary to produce disastrous magnifications to all other here identified problem domains.

To manage this ‘perfect storm’ of complimentary disasters, we must begin to analyze our problems in much more complex and more inclusive models. Unless we begin to think in inclusive and interdisciplinary models, we will not even begin to understand; much less solve these problems.

Understanding is the first step, and it is vitally important. The world, and mostly its politicians and economic leaders are in deep denial about these problems. Misinformation, driven mostly by self-serving dogma, or greed for profit, cement this denial as necessity, to defend specific and selfish goals. However, just as we must look at all our challenges in the context of all concurrent problem domains, we also need the entire human population to come together, and participate in the understanding of this complex situation and also in the definition of solutions.

Ultimately, we will need to do two separate things to solve these problems. First we need to analyze data in an all-inclusive way, using modern supercomputers and cloud computing infrastructures to analyze all available global data and so manage the scientific understanding of the ‘interrelated problem fabric’. Secondly, we must decide on a global level, how we furthermore instruct intelligent supercomputers to search for possible solutions to these problems.

We do not have time anymore, for politicians to ‘play the omni-intelligent rulers’ of our world. We must hurry to find globally acceptable solutions to this perfect storm of apocalyptic problems, because it is the fear in society, that we don’t know where we are going next, that causes global fear, aggression and finally global conflict. To prevent this we must come together, and solve our pretext of sustainability. This will be the first step to begin living together as one human race, in peace, freedom and sustainability.”

October 19, 2012 2:04 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Oebele Bruinsma: “I do not agree with the thesis of H.F. Schloer that 'the world will be tested between 2012 and 2025 by more challenges, than it has possibly in its entire (emphasis mine) existence of human development'. In other words “all hell will brake loose”.

I agree however, that the real problem is “ us”, because we cannot separate between our preconceptions and our observations. Let me explain using the following examples and think back to the successes of recent 'scares' which were intertwined with the quality and quantity of food and water resources.

The Ice Age is coming back (Newsweek, Time, 1970s); our forests will soon be killed by acid rain; western industrial activities being held to blame the Sahel drought; the 'ozone panic' and its repercussions, with Concorde and the Space Shuttle implicated in the 'aerosol wars'. The imminent threat of cancers and cataracts: Punta Arenas on the edge the Antactica ozone hole with sheep and their herdsmen and rabbits as well, going blind. (New York Times, July 1991, Newsweek, December 1991). Now that the ozone fad is behind us, why do we see the same methods used to promote the new bugbears in this case between 2012 and 2025? We do recall the apocalyptic prediction of James Hansen (Nov. 1987) according to which 'the global warming predicted in the next 20 years will make the entire earth warmer than it has been in the past 100.000 years'. Your current thermometer readings in the garden will tell you probably otherwise, at least since 1998.(Daily Mail 13 October 2012) Apparently, we can say or write anything we like, without commitment because the main thing is not to inform but to impress.

Humankind apparently is constantly in the dock, and the accusing finger is pointed, as we pollute too much, cherish our mobility (cars, planes), drive too fast, have a house to ourselves, live energy intensive paths, eat too much and produce too much rubbish; and perhaps doing all these things we breathe too deep in terms of CO2 production.

So, what drives this confusion of preconceptions and observations? A number of things.

The combination of pollution and climate.
Climate has become an excuse and a bugbear. Its future behavior seems to be set in stone, and anybody casting doubts on the predicted warming is thought to be tolerant of pollution, or 'branded as mad, bad or in the pay of the oil industry'(Singer, 2001), as if anybody in her/his right mind would be in favour of foul and un-breathable city air.

Good intentions and (declared and undeclared) interests.
B. Lomborg (2001) list the fears of ecologists: ‘We are defiling our Earth, the fertile topsoil is disappearing, we are paving over nature, destroying the wilderness, decimating the biosphere, and will end up killing ourselves in the process’. No doubt there is much talk of doing good, with generous intent, but is it always tinged with altruism?

Prognostications and realities, theories based on models and on real mechanisms.
Given the chaotic nature of climate, its modeled predictions often mention results at fairly safe dates e.g. the year 2100, to minimize the risk of being found incorrect.

Sensationalism and serious science.
The quest for a science ‘scoop’:e.g. melt of the Artic sea ice, interferes more and more with well-founded facts.”

Oebele Bruinsma is partner at Synmind bv

October 21, 2012 5:06 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Oebele Bruinsma: “Now let’s return to Food and Water

These unfortunate developments over recent years have in my opinion contributed to a great reluctance on the part of many climatologists, ecologists and environmentalists to accept the concept that CO2 could be more beneficial than harmful for plant growth, food production and the overall biosphere including water. Yet the scientific evidence is overwhelming. For instance, Increased atmospheric CO2 enables plant to extract higher levels of iron from the soil (as well as other minerals), while using reduced amounts of water.

By brewing the ‘perfect storm’ of complementary disasters and analyse them with complex super computing models we are following the road of post-normal science; which is often not science but highly paid wishful thinking.

New developments in managing food and water related problems with for instance the role of insects in making the chain of animal protein production to waste disposal very efficient, are not very often included in such computer models.

By sticking to normal science and technology I think humanity will cope with the prognosticated disasters, as we did say from 1950 – 2012.”

Oebele Bruinsma is partner at Synmind bv

October 21, 2012 5:07 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Lisa Santillo: "In response to Oebele Bruinsma, I would like to agree that the unfounded predictions cited are indeed merely sensationalist pieces of journalism that are of no use in aiding society prepare for the future. But I would also like to point out that theses predictions are not based on scientific fact but human supposition arrived at through a flawed analysis based on simplistic models. The world is and has always been a complex system requiring complex thinking structures based on holistic evidence to effectively enlighten and advance civilization.

Today, as the fabric of our interdependence grows and world population reaches new heights, exponential rates of change are dangerously on the rise in all vital areas of our environment. This, as a result amplifies the stresses and risks the future of humanity is forced to face. Today more than ever, the practice of real hard science is crucial and the only way we can hope to discover where the hidden driving forces of our fates originate. Only then can we successfully identify potential impending disaster. Only then can we know where to adjust our course in order to prevent them. Only then can we begin to really understand how our fast paced interconnected global community works and how the choices we make today can make the difference for a sustainable tomorrow.

In this day and age we can no longer permit ourselves to consider global food and water needs with out taking into consideration our current financial strains, or factor in the race to control the earth's last energy reserves, and then adjust to incorporate the application of potential technological advances. This is a task of mammoth proportions that requires the construct of a series of interrelated models. These models require massive loads of interdisciplinary data and imply the consumption of computing power far beyond the one dimensional predictions Mr. Bruinsma's mentions.

HF Schloer proposes an analytical construct where seemingly unrelated and disparate data is merged to reveal relevancies hidden otherwise to the naked human eye, or undetectable to the unenhanced human brain. Through the computational analysis proposed therein, correlating models emerge and evidence points to cause and effect scenarios and amplifications in all the relevant sectors. The result is the filtering out of sound data that permits us to connect the dots and track for example the real cost of food production and distribution in relation to financial speculation, weather patterns, availability of energy, demographic movements, geo-political conflicts, growing demand and the application of new farming technologies.

It is not hard for us to imagine off the top of our heads how the fluctuation of these factors may influence one way or the other food costs and availabilities in the short and long term. But what HF Schloer proposes is the actual indexing and tracking of these factors and the delivery of precise detailed real time statistical measures that demonstrate their intricate workings. These continuous outputs would serve as the beacons of the future because they take out the guesswork and remove the generally flawed suppositions of human perception. These new methods are the only way to ensure sound policy making and strategy building for our collective future."

Lisa Santillo is Research Project Manager at Schloer Consulting Group.

October 22, 2012 12:28 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Hardy F. Schloer: "I did read all your comments. Interesting! Those of you, that think, that these problems are all just go away, if we do nothing, because 50% of them are not true (not scientific) and the other 50% will solve themselves before they become too critical. Well, all of you, that believe this may be in for a very big surprise… and soon.

I don't know how to put this any simpler, or any more polite….

The problem is not the 100s of predictions prophesying the end of the world, coming from all kinds of crazy paranoia groups, or pseudo scientists that could not even understand the plunder they wrote themselves. The problem is also not churches that tell us, that the Revelations in the Bible are about to tell us from the end the world. We know, what to think about them.


The real danger of exponential change is, where a timeline/data correlation is located in the near vertical curve segment of the observed exponential change.
We are living in a world, where more then 74% of our vital indexes (SCG Analysis 2011) have crossed over into the dangerous exponential acceleration point of the curve, as opposed to only about 8% in the 1950s. In only 10 more years we will see likely over 90% of our vital indexes operate in a near vertical rise or decline, depending on what you observe, or what the focal point of your research is.

If this this was just all to complicated for you, then here is a very simple exercise I ask you to do:

Please watch the following lesson by Prof. Dr. Albert A. Bartlett from the University of Colorado:

Watch all of it. Watch it twice, if you have to! Then we can open the discussions again about what exponential changes we want to observe, how they influence each other, and what the mathematical outcome they MUST produce!

Do your homework. Start, what we have started decades ago. So far the predictive analysis of our group has been exactly on target for these decades. We use holistic models, and we strip all the soft data, and assumptive elements (and other nonsense) as much as possible, and only use, what is left: very hard data; hard change-over-time observations (Stochastic Time-Series Data); and continuous error corrective optimization methods and offsetting factors, as new data and facts becomes available. We need such error correction method, since we live in a dynamic world after all, and new information becomes available continuously.

After you done all of this, and use a very complex and inclusive investigation model of the planet (as inclusive as modern supercomputers and cloud computing infrastructures allow you to be) and include as a minimum global and regional models and data of Population, Energy, Environment, Economy, Finance, Logistic, Food and Water into the overall model. Furthermore, lay over all this a sociological probability model of expected human behavior. Now you begin to do useful science!

When you begin to trace all the exponential changes and compile the potential effect corridors in the data, then you will be confronted with a most uncomforting reality: 2012 to 2025 will be very hard to manage, unless we start looking NOW at the real facts and expected futures, and not wishful thinking, or masking such facts by the needs of special interest groups. There is no more time for minority rule of the planet. We need to arrive at consensus of the global community NOW, to prevent a meltdown.

Our politicians are not equipped to deal with these problems. Al they know is, how to get elected. We need to begin to vote for problem-solving strategies, rather then presidents, because this is all that matters from now on."

Hardy F. Schloer, President and CEO, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG

October 22, 2012 2:15 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Oebele Bruinsma: "I agree with Lisa Santillo that sensationalist journalism has (is) playing a role in the cited predictions, but that is to be expected when science is being used for political purpose. Science is about what we find, and not what we want.

Unfortunately for science, the basis for the cited predicted events and developments were in peer-reviewed scientific articles. You just have to google the events its names and you will find sizeable reference lists.

I respectfully disagree with respect to the model part of the argument: By increasing the complexity of the indicated models, feeding on multi-disciplinary data sets does not necessarily yield greater scientific certainty. There are too many degrees of freedom in such models, resulting in great uncertainty and large areas of ignorance. (Degrees of freedom can be roughly defined as independent pieces of information that are allowed (!! Human interference!!) to vary within the model. This often results in highly unlikely scenarios which should not dominate political decision making. This could be circumvented as argued by Santillo and Schloer by improving the models as to address better societal needs (or goals). A lofty idea indeed, but this is based on three dubious assumptions: The models are fit, useful and the best choice for this purpose (Judith Curry Oct 2012)

Using a recent example of such complex models, you guessed it, the Climate models and throwing in the financial issue, the USA has to date spent over 35 b $ on climate science and over 150 b $ on global issues of climate changes with very little to show for.

Complex models work under very defined circumstances( e.g. nuclear fusion) but have great difficulties even in reconstruction of past developments. This is because human interfering is involved or as they say in politics, things happen, or both.

In my opinion, resources would be better used towards a better understanding of the natural drivers changing our food and water resources than on changing sets of badly understood variables and ´cook´ them in models. Without scientific certainties we play with pseudo-science.

As an example of research into natural drivers of food production and water conservation I used just one example with, the for models still unknown variables, insects and their ways to increase food production, without necessarily eating them despite them being an excellent source of protein. Another line is using through LED lights the optimized wavelengths for the various growing and fruitition stages of plants. (Both developed right under our nose here in the Netherlands). In this way one may, not can, improve both quantity, quality and availability required for say 9 billion humans. Models as discussed above are tools, not decision makers.

Oebele Bruinsma is partner at Synmind bv

October 22, 2012 3:40 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Hardy F. Schloer: "I am not sure what the argument of Oebele Bruinsma is here. He is more or less stating the obvious here. Yes, we know, and I fully agree, that there are methods of flawed analysis. Many! So what's the point? That there cannot be any real or useful analysis that is warning us from impending disasters? Or is he saying, that any prediction that points out a potential disaster in the future is wrong by default? I am not sure what Mr. Bruinsma's frame of reference is, or what the agenda is, from which he argues this, but it seems to me, that he frantically suppresses the notion, that we have eminent problems to solve in the next 2 decades, which hold grim potentials in our future. Well, if that is true, then we got nothing to worry about, I guess. Our economy of illicit money creation is perfect, overpopulation is wonderful, pigs can fly, and oil will soon grow on trees, and yes, global warming is just a theory, as Mr. Bush pointed out so eloquently.

Forgive my sarcastic response dear Mr. Bruinsma, but I have some history, just like you might have some history on the other side of the equation. For example, I have gone through a long list of economic predictions I made back in 1998 based on the same type of models I use today. For example, I predicted, that the worthless derivatives in the financial industry would become in size larger then all the money on the planet in existence (now over 1.18 Quadrillion, or about 6 times the total amount of money on the planet), and furthermore destroy our financial system, resulting into a major breakdown of the financial industry beginning in about a decade (2008).

In December of 1998 I was told by a gentlemen, working at the time as financial analyst at Lehman, with an agenda similar to yours, that this forecast is total nonsense, because smart people like Greenspan and Paulson would not make systemic mistakes of that proportion, that put our entire economy at risk. I was told that the debt spiral is designed by genius of the US central bank, to support unlimited growth forever; in the US and in Europe. Well, after 2008 we learned, that the system is not so perfect as advocated, and that we have absolutely no plan, in how to deal with the absorption of these derivatives into the real money economy (eventually a necessary consolidation of empty paper promises with real money) and further, that we have no acceptable exit strategy for our public debt, which will soon become the first domino in this fragile house of cards that we have created over the centuries.

It's no surprise to me. Unfortunately, we lost 14 more years to solve these problems, which became clear already then. I wish I am wrong, and all these conferences about saving the planet are a waste. But I am afraid the reality looks very different."

Hardy F. Schloer, President and CEO, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG

October 22, 2012 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that the use of new technologies, and particularly faster and better computing abilities, is unavoidable. It has been a significant part of our evolution over the past half century and will certainly play even greater roles as we move forward in time.

The reality is that supercomputing is a substantial part of modeling across every critical societal process today - and they're being used all the more successfully every day.

Another reality is that our world is complex and the solutions, in many cases, are equally so.

The unfortunate thing is that as we learn more, we realize there are even more ways to skin that proverbial cat. This provides with a yin/yang scenario - it complicates our decision-making processes knowing our options are greater. This reality REQUIRES that we lean on things more capable of processing data at rates far greater than us humans.

I will state it now - TECHNOLOGY is what will make our existence (all living things) achievable with some level of comfort and hopeful peace.

Let's therefore embrace all that technology can offer and make its use a part of our decision-making processes.

October 23, 2012 9:33 AM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Oebele Bruinsma: "Back to water and models and things. It is clear from a variety of sources (see Club of Amsterdam Journal water/food section introduction) that the era of easy water is ending. To feed the world’s growing and more affluent population, global agriculture will have to double its food production by 2050. Use of water is of course an integral part of that. In 2010 M. Kummu et al published an interesting article in Environmental Research letters nr 5 with the title: “Is physical water scarcity a new phenomenon?”

What was done? The study that they conducted covered the period of time from AD 0 to AD 2005 with the aim to assess global trends evolving in water resources availability over two millennia. Their analysis was carried out for ten different time slices, defined as those times at which the human population of the globe was approximately double the population of the previous time slice, an exercise in exponential growth. Global population data for these analysis were derived from the 5 degree latitude by 5 degree longitude resolution global HYDE dataset, while evaluation of water resources availability over the same period was based on monthly temperature and precipitation output from the climate model ECBilt-CLIO-VECODE.

What was learned? The authors report that “moderate water shortage first appeared around 1800, but it commenced in earnest from about 1900, when 9% of the world population experienced water shortage, of which 2% was under chronic water shortage defined as less than 1000 m³/capita/year”.

Thereafter, from 1960 onwards, they found that “water shortage increased extremely rapidly, with the proportion of global population living under chronic water shortage increasing from 9% (280 million people) in 1960 to 35% (2300 million) in 2005. Currently, they say, “the most widespread water shortage is in South Asia, where 91% of the population experiences some form of water shortage”, while “the most severe shortage is in North Africa and the Middle east, where 77% and 52% of the total population lives under extreme water shortage (less than 500 m³/capita/year), respectively”.

What it means? To alleviate these freshwater shortages, the authors point out that measures have generally been taken to increase water availability, such as building dams and extracting groundwater. But they state that “there are several regions in which such measures are no longer sufficient, as there is simply not enough water available in some regions”. This is further aggravated by increasing population pressure, higher welfare and production of water intensive biofuels. Hence they conclude there will be an increasing need for many non-structural measures to be implemented, of which the most obvious is to increase the efficiency of water use. They furthermore conclude that the characteristic of nearly all plants on earth to enhanced atmospheric CO2 levels, is to grow faster with less water uptake. Which seems to me a little light in the darkening sky. An international research team led by J. Foley (University of Minnesota) has devised a five step plan (2011: Can we feed the world and sustain the planet?). To make a long story short: they propose to improve crop yields, consume less meat, reduce food waste, stop expanding into rainforests, and use fertilizer and water more efficiently. This was known of course for some time.

So what? In an earlier section I mentioned “things happen”. In 2012 a survey of continental Africa huge, and I mean huge aquifers have been found all over the place. Combining potential inputs such as unexpected water from Africa, increasing role of insects in waste disposal and transition to feedstock, more plant production due to improving varieties and less water uptake with intelligent LED lighting solutions and manipulated CO2 environments (in greenhouses) I would respectfully and careful point out to such and other alternative interpretations before drawing conclusions."

Oebele Bruinsma is partner at Synmind bv

October 23, 2012 10:36 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very interesting discussion! I think we all basically agree, that we need "brainy" help by supercomputers and quick scientific progress to solve the incredible and diverse challenges of the very near future. However, I'm relatively optimistic that it's possible.

But what worries me the most - and it seems to be a minor priority to a lot of people - is like some already mentioned: The problem is "us". And we don't seem to be willing to do something about that soon. Even though it might ruin many of the possible problem-solutions we're going to achieve in the next months and years. What we are doing is handing out painkillers to someone, who permanently bumps his head against the wall. Even if we manage to flee into space, make water, energy, breathable air and new organs from poo, whatever (I know we can already do this!), this might all be a waste, if we go on like this.

What we need to focus on as well as on science and technology is education, including a bright focus on ethics and values. (We have the basics, but we allow politicians and managers to break them.) Our value systems all over the world are borked right now. We favor psychopaths. Biopunks turn themselves into psychopaths. Forbes features the leaders of N*stle and Mons*nto (to stay at least a bit on topic) as heroes. Enemies of science candidate as president of the US.

We have to solve this problem at the same time as we´re moving forward with science and technology. Some of you already mentioned the need to come to a (basic!) global consensus on values and goals. Journalism and even initiatives like this brainstorm are great moves. But I feel like we still don't do enough about that. Probably because it seems so "utopian"? Fact is that it's possible. Some options aren't ethical (e.g. using Neuroscience or reverse methods as the biopunk-psychopath-way). Others are drastic and destructive, like a global revolution. But to be true: Is there another escape?

We need a plan for a peaceful global revolution. I'm sorry that I can't come up with a detailed, concrete, constructive idea (I have some, but I don't want this post to explode), but I'm sure we could find one, if we don't treat this topic as a lower priority behind all the scientific and technologic progress. It's one thing without the other. They fuel each other, and maybe we underestimate their synergy.

Long post, short message: We lack some basics, and that's why we can only find short term solutions regarding food, water and enviroment. Again, I'm pretty sure that we will solve these problems. But just to face them again in different clothes.

The human species is about to transform itself, and besides all the huge challenges we have a big and probably unique chance here...

October 30, 2012 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Mathijs van Zutphen said...

We are an urban species, statistically so (with over half the people on the planet dwelling in urban centers), and perhaps intrinsically so… perhaps that is in the end a good thing. With human concentration in a few extensive urban areas, much of the planet can perhaps be left to mother nature, which will give her a chance to recover in many ways, provided of course that we will be able to adopt a sustainable way of subtracting resources from wild nature.

How to feed such population centers?With food prices rising? Foodproduction has been made dependent on oil production. If we are already at the very limits of efficiency in the systems for devivering basic living supplies to urban centers, how can we deal with more population growth? How will we do agriculture when the oil runs out?

Well… as usual, the answer may come from completely unexpected directions. Local resourcefulness has given rise to a whole family of initiatives that is rapidly spreading across the planet and that can be summarized under the term: urban gardening.
Urban environments are already more safe for bee colonies than the countryside. Cities provide more biodiversity and less toxic pesticides for these useful insects. Food can be grown in cities, and it is. And to everyone’s surprise, cities are turning out to be remarkably productive as centers of agricultural production. As industry left the dying city of Detroit, Michigan, it became an innovation center for urban food production. More here:

The battle against desertification is being won, by some very simple ideas and practices, for example in the Loess Plateau in China. As our knowledge about sustainability grows, and finds more and more practical applications in both grassroots and government backed projects, who knows to what degree these initiatives will be an antidote to the forces of despair?
I am not an optimist… but as an innovator I have learned the lesson of nescience. We don’t know what will happen. If we know anything to be true it is: be prepared for surprise…

October 31, 2012 10:37 AM  

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