from the world's big
Bad Math: Excess Food and Starving People
Joel Cohen: I wrote a book in 1995 called How Many People Can The Earth Support, and I made a real effort to find every scientifically, allegedly scientifically-based estimate of how many people the earth can support and I found 66. After I published the book, naturally I found a few more, but they didn't change the conclusions. In the last half century, the estimates ranged of how many people the earth can support, ranged from less than 1 billion to more than a trillion, which is a thousand billions. They can't all be right. What's going on? They make different assumptions. They make different assumptions about the average level of well being that people will want to have, and the distribution of well being. And about how we will settle our differences, whether we'll settle them by peaceful negotiation, or by violent methods and what kinds of economies will we have? Will we trade or will we not trade? And what kinds of families will we have? Who will take care of young people and who will take care of old people? And what kind of an environment do we want? They make assumptions about whether we want parking lots or parks. Jaguars with a small J or Jaguars with a big J. You know, what do we want? Tin cans with wheels or are we going to walk, are we going to take a bike? So they make very different assumptions and I don't think is a question that's completely specified, it's not a science question. And the numbers that are given are too often political numbers, they're numbers intended to persuade you that we have too many people or we could have a lot more people and we don't have enough people.
I really don't, having spent four years writing that book, I now think that we should pay much more attention to the quality of life of the people who we have now and the quality of life for the children that we're going to have in the next year and 5 years and 20 years. And so I've shifted my emphasis from trying to answer a question that's not well formulated in the first place, to what can we do to improve life for ourselves and for the children, and especially for the billion people who are chronically hungry now. It's amazing to me—so you ask about how many people can the earth support? Last year, we grew enough grain to feed decently between 9 and 11 billion people, okay? We have under 7 billion, and of those, 1 billion are chronically hungry, they're not getting enough. How is it possible? We're growing 9 to 11, we've got a billion hungry people. We're only 7 billion altogether, how does that work? For every 3 kilograms of grain that goes into a human mouth, we put 2 kilograms of grain into an animal mouth. And we have put animals in the queue for food ahead of a billion people. And the reason is, the billion people are poor. They got no money and they're economically invisible because the price of food doesn't take account of hunger. Especially children. They've got no, they don't have it. And so they are hungry, we've got a billion hungry people and we're feeding 40% of the consumed grain to animals, not to mention the one-sixth that goes into the machines. So I think we've got a problem, when we put machines and animals ahead of people.
Question: How can we stop wasting so much food?
Joel Cohen: Well, I don't know that it's wasted. The people who are getting rich are demanding the meat, they want, in the economic sense, they're buying meat, they want it. And the farmers are supplying where there's demand. What I think we need to do is take several steps to break the cycle of poverty so that the people who are poor can also get grain or meat or whatever they want. I mean, if they've vegetarian, fine, let them eat vegetables. If they want meat, let them buy meat. But part of the problem is that meat consumers in rich countries have no idea of the environmental impacts of eating meat. So the price of meat does not reflect the real costs in terms of well being for the earth. It does not reflect the land degradation due to over-grazing. It does not reflect the water pollution, it does not reflect the greenhouse gas emission that affects everybody whether you eat meat or not. So the prices do not incorporate the real cost. The price of meat doesn't incorporate the health risks. The infectious diseases, the e-coli infections, the salmonella. You know, there was just another food recall in the New York Times yesterday because of salmonella. It doesn't reflect the losses of species.
So the first thing I would do is get the prices of meat to reflect all of the costs and I think that would be a signal of what's in, to the consumer, and the other thing is to provide the consumers in the west with information. What are the consequences of eating meat? But that's not enough, because there's a whole billion people who are outside of the price system and for them, I think we need three kinds of interventions. You ask what to do? Here are three things I think we should do. There are about 200 million women in the world who have an un-met need for contraception. That means if you ask them, do you want to have another child and they say no, and are you having intercourse and exposed to the risk of conception and they say yes, they have an un-met need for contraception. There are about 200 million. It would cost about $4 billion to fix that problem. That is not a big deal, we could fix that.
The second thing, and we should be educating teenage boys and girls about contraception before they become parents. Secondly, we should have nutrition education for pregnant women, for parents, and for teenagers, how to make a whole protein out of whatever your local food is. Rice and beans, it’s a great combination, it gives you a complete protein, but in Liberia, a lot of people eat just the polished white rice because that’s the upper class food, and beans is cheap food and they consider that not dignity. This is where culture comes in, eating poor people’s food is not dignified, as a result, they get malnutrition. But if we could teach people to make whole protein from whatever is locally available, by nutrition education, that would be a big step.
And the third thing is, as a temporary measure, we need to provide good diets to pregnant women, lactating women and their offspring, and infants up to the age of three, because that's when their brains are being laid down and give them a start to get out of this trap of poverty. The poverty makes them have bad diets and the bad diets stunts their mental and physical growth and that keeps them in poverty. So there are some specific things that we can do to get out of this bind.
Scientific estimates of Earth’s maximum capacity range in the thousands of billions, but here’s some troubling numbers we have confirmed: Earth’s 6.8 billion residents produce enough food to feed between 9 and 11 billion, yet 1 billion go hungry. How can we change this?
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>