This is the first post I wrote in my capacity as UNEP’s blogger for World Environment Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’ll be posting all 5 leading up to and throughout Rio+20.

With the start of 2012 came the news that the world’s tropical rainforests hold 229 billion tons of carbon, which is 20% more than was previously thought.

So it’s a good thing Brazil is making a concerted effort to stop deforestation—with a decrease from 27,000 square kilometres of forest lost in 2004 to 6,451 in 2010.

Worryingly, however, deforestation has recently been on the rise in certain regions of Brazil, which calls for decisive action and innovation.

To that end, in 2011 Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen challenged UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle to a race. The winner would be the one who inspired the most people to launch events in conjunction with 2011’s World Environment…

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  1. The population must go down fast enough to prevent a mass die-off event. The maximum food and water for humans that the planet can produce in 2050 will be at least a third less than today and possibly even less than half. The cumulative effects of AGW, soil losses, water losses, and oil loss/huge expense, will take a heavy toll on yields. If people start to compost more and grow and buy locally more, it will be on the low end. Business as usual until then will be the high end of crop and water loss. The population will be close to 9 billion living on enough food for only 3.5-4.7 billion. If there was some great leader who could say, and people obey, that we need a moratorium an having kids for 20 years, then the natural death rate would reduce the population by at least 50 million per year. Let’s say 60 million per year reduction with almost no births. In 10 years it would reduce .6 billion, in 20 it would reduce 1.2 billion. Then one child families would keep the reduction rate at 20 million per year, so by 2050 there would be roughly 5.4 billion in a world that can only support 4.7 billion in the best case. So 700 million would starve or die of thirst, rather than 8 billion over a period of 20 years or so.
    That is if there was such an edict and new morality and it started immediately. That is about the best mitigation we can hope for. Let us say it was an instant going to one child families with education and free forms of birth control and changes to social systems to provide for the disabled and elderly. Then 38 years of 20 million per year net drop would be 6.3 billion in a world that can support a max of 4.7 billion. There would be more deaths from starvation, 1.6 billion in a short period, and a greater chance of warfare over resources. Still, it would be better than the crash of 8 billion or more in around 20 years, in similar fashion to Easter Island 1150 AD. Warfare, theft, cannibalism, diseases, starvation, all too fast to even bury the remains. Even if the crash were “gentler” and the reduction took 50 years, it would include most of the births in that period, maybe 2 billion more humans, total. The bottom will be at most a billion left, and probably less than half that. Glad we won’t be around, but you can see that by “reduce quickly”, I mean enough to mitigate the crash to something not nearly as bad.


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