Migration, Sir Duncan, instant spouses and inflight Barry Manilow: final impressions of the Philippines

October 1, 2012

Building Active Citizenship and Accountability in Asia: case studies from Vietnam and India

October 1, 2012

Jobs WDR out today; BRICs and pieces; UK aid fight; climate change -> US drought; grabbing Cambodia; post-2015 circus; high level panel-ology; a renewable Dr Strangelove: links I liked

October 1, 2012
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The World Development Report 2013 (the World Bank’s flagship publication) is on jobs and is launched today. My backgrounder here. India rural v urban popPlease send links to any decent reviews/critiques.

Some nice BRICS and pieces in the Economist this week: India is reaching peak peasant: rural v urban population to 2050 (see chart). Plus interactive graphic on India’s economic stats by state, (GDP per cap, growth, pop). Finally, the tale of Li Peng, a (successful) grassroots rural activist in China.

Where are we at on the increasingly heated UK aid debate? The ODI’s Andy Norton summarizes and links; the Guardian digs out the data and gives some more background on the rows. Lots at stake here.

The US drought has been made 20 times more likely by climate change. Tom Mitchell on the attribution revolution.

Cambodia is in the grip of a land-grabbing crisis that has seen more than 2m hectares (5m acres) of land transferred mostly from subsistence farmers to agribusiness. A chilling Global Witness infographic shows it spreading.

Claire Melamed tries to make sense of the Post-2015 circus

Alex Evans lists the 5 types of people you find on high level panels (what a networker!)

This guy is either about to save the planet, or will turn out to be deluded and/or evil. Mike Cheiky of Cool Planet Energy Systems, describes a new generation of biofuels that allows you to use the food parts of food plants (like sorghum, corn) direct for food, then take the rest – 75% of the plant – as stems, stalks etc – and put it through a new-tech ‘biomass fractionator’ (Ooooh!)  to produce abundant fuel (gasoline). The residue (biochar) is long term sequestered carbon that can transform barren soils. Mike says he can solve global warming and get 100 million people out of poverty – and has the investors to back it (Google to start, then Conoco, BP, NRG, General Electric). Mike also has some of the best science-speak around (he should write scripts for Dr Who) – ‘’sub nano meter quantum wells’ anyone? No power and politics of course, this is a tech ubergeek after all. Do people know anything about this? [h/t John Magrath]

2 comments

  1. A fascinating aspect of the US drought is just how little damage it did – relatively!! – to the US corn crop. The Christian Science Monitor says today’s corn is 3 times more drought tolerant than varities from the 1930s, most of that improvement coming out of crop breeding in the last 20 years. As a result these corn breeds might have diminished potential crop losses by a quarter this year. As one farmer is quoted as saying: “Considering what it went through this summer, the extreme heat and lack of rain, it still amazes me that it was able to produce as much as it has”. Food for thought for a warmer world….. See http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0925/Why-Midwest-drought-could-have-been-much-worse-for-some-corn-farmers/(page)/2

  2. Clever presentation, but a lot of doubts:

    Land and water: 1% Earth’s land to fuel all the world’s cars? I doubt it a lot – he didn’t mention water for a start, how do you sustainably create water supplies on marginal land? So I worry that this is an excuse for cutting down humid forest, he doesn’t seem too keen on trees.

    Thermodynamics – what is the energy gain of the system? The corn to ethanol system we know creates roughly the same energy as it takes to make it. Yes, efficient use of by-products can improve this, but I really doubt by the amount that he implies. So far there is no effective, energy efficient cellulosic plant in existence.

    So he needs to convincingly show energy gained/lost for each arrow of his loop. And include more loops – a major problem is the internal energy consumed, i.e. the energy used throughout the system which would have to be considered as a closed system: so all the energy used by farmers, (their food to live on, send their kids to school, power their tellies etc.) and all the process loops (collect the corn stover (by hand or ethanol driven tractors?) truck it to factories, truck it to cities, pump the water etc. etc.) would have to be included in the calculations.

    It turns out to be very difficult to set the boundaries of this system – e.g. should you include the energy costs of mining and the making the steel and plastics to make the tractors and the cars that will use the fuel – answer is yes if this is to be truly sustainable for the long term. He’s rather conveniently forgotten all this.

    Get Profs. Giampietro, Charlie Hall, or Ted Patzek to do a guest blog? These are some of the rather few skeptical (Popperian) very smart scientists who are never invited to industry talks like this one. Follow the money Duncan!

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