Monthly Archives: November 2011

Boom goes the population weasel

Anwar saadat at en.wikipedia
Pin the tail on the hundreds of cities you’ve never heard of, each with more than 1 million people (Wikipedia).

Birthday parties are more fun when they feature a jar full of jelly beans of a certain number that must be guessed. Does it have 50 or 300 or 2,000 jelly beans? Most people are way, way off from the actual number of 253. Visual math has clearly not been vital to the survival of humanity.

Now we are told to visualize 7 billion people, because the planet’s population has reached that milestone. But even one human can hold a lot o’ beans. What’s more, they constantly eat them and procreate more eaters. So now the question becomes: have we filled up earth’s jar? How many more “human beans” can the planet hold before it bursts?

To date, the answer is 7,000,000,000 people and counting. Need some help visualizing that? Imagine a city with 1 million residents (such as Detroit), and multiply that by 7,000. Or take the City of Miami Beach’s population at around 88,000 residents. So the world has the equivalent of 79,500 Miami Beaches.

Still not getting it? I try to imagine 7 billion fires burning at once and lasting for about 65 years each, because each human cooks and drives and lights matches and buys electricity throughout a lifetime. So really we should multiply 7 billion times 24,000, an average number of days a person lives, breathes, and consumes. That number is moving towards unfathomable.

Unfathomable is one way to describe the impact of humans on the planet. Because we can’t see everyone and everything happening around the world, we have trouble appreciating how much pollution we create, even on a daily basis. But there is a new number that we should grasp: 393. That number is shorthand for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, currently calculated at 393 parts per billion.

Historically that is a very high number, and we have been told that 350 may be a manageable level for humans. Hence, the environmental leader Bill McKibben has organized a global movement called Check it out.

We passed the 350 level in 1988, and the addition of greenhouse gases continues to accelerate. That’s a real party pooper. Does anyone know how to play the game “dial back the clock?”

Livestrong, swim with Lance

Lance Armstrong looks strong and skinny, he speaks well, and he projects a humility not expected of a super-human. His hero is his mother, and his accomplishments in the Tour de France are “low on the list” of things he wishes to be remembered for. He’s a father of five and a cancer survivor who praises the women of the breast cancer movement for paving the way to deal with testicular cancer. What a guy.

Today he is in Miami addressing a small conference of the Americas Business Council (abc*) Foundation.


Still going strong after beating cancer in the mid 1990's.

When asked about his lowest moment, he remembers the waiting period after leaving his medical team in Indiana that treated his cancer. Without the constant supervision, he did not know what was happening inside his body. Waiting was the hardest part.

Armstrong is a swimmer, too, and he mentions his daily swimming group in Austin. His first sport was the triathlon. He raced often in Miami and is familiar with the popular cycling route along the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne.

Current athletes and leaders often tell him that they want to start a foundation when they retire, but he tells them to do it now. Use your influence when at its peak.

With all the strange leaders coming out of Texas, it is reassuring that this one, Lance Armstrong, deserves our respect.

Big wet drill, baby, drill

I’ve decided to give up fighting for the environment and let developers wreak whatever havoc they choose. After all, what has ever stopped progress before?

Just kidding. Although I often feel that way, I’m not willing to be silent because we are in slow-motion war with our planet. Oh yeah, war can stop (and spur) progress. So can disease. Take your pick as to which happens first, but I’m placing my bets on a Contagion to remove a few billion people (that’s still less than half!), just as in the movie.

Port o Miami

The Port of Miami prepares for Deep (Throat) Dredge.

Why? Take seven billion paper cuts from seven billion people and you’ve got one bloody planet. Here’s Miami’s current self-cutting: the double expansion of its port. Both an underwater tunnel and a channel dredging project are happening simultaneously (hope they don’t collide!). Click here to see what I really think about it. Surprise — I’m not a complete hater!

The New York Times and Miami Herald have covered these mega projects, but only a handful of local environmentalists are taking it seriously (Here’s the state’s latest take on the tunnel project: 13-0267159-016POMT).

As for the Deep Dredge port project, one guy with a unique view is this spiky-haired scuba diver who has a very cool TED lecture about a rare coral living right in the middle of the port. I hope he can save these little hybrid guys. These half-breeds taught me that corals are “down with the swirl.” I feel sorry that they landed in the pathway of tankers, and I hope they get a new home soon. Save the Coral. Or give up. We have that choice to make.