dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food' (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Saturday, March 11, 2023, 17:46 (460 days ago)

We must live in a balance with our giant ecosystem in which we are top predators. We can damage our food supply, and we can over pollute:


"For any living organism, the recipe for success is simple: gather the resources that allow you to survive and thrive, avoid predators and toxic environments, and then reproduce in a fashion so that your offspring have a chance to survive and reproduce as well.


"However, simply following that recipe, generation upon generation, can often lead to an unintended consequence: the depletion of necessary resources and the build-up of waste products that result from completed metabolic processes. Over long enough timescales or with large enough populations, this can transform a once-plentiful environment that possessed favorable conditions for that organism to survive and thrive into a resource-depleted, pollution-rich environment. This transformation renders that ecosystem, all of a sudden, uninhabitable to the organisms that have survived there for so long.

"With more than 8 billion humans now inhabiting planet Earth, we’re at risk of doing precisely this to the one environment that unites us all: the biosphere of our world itself. Our long-term survival now hinges on our ability to act collectively for the good of our distant descendants. Otherwise, we’ll prove ourselves, in the end, no smarter than a simple colony of yeast cells, which routinely poison themselves to extinction if left to their own devices.


"...as cyanobacteria continued to survive and thrive for hundreds of millions of years, they gradually began to transform Earth’s atmosphere by adding oxygen into the mix. As the oxygen accumulated, it oxidized surface minerals (like iron) and contributed to the decomposition of deceased life forms, but as the cyanobacteria continued to thrive and grow in population, they began to pollute Earth’s atmosphere with this new waste product: O2.


"This time period, where oxygen was first produced in great abundance on Earth, is known as the Great Oxygenation Event, which eventually led to an incredible mass extinction that killed over 80% of living species on Earth. The reason for this? Most organisms living at that time were anaerobic in nature, and oxygen was toxic to those life forms. The methane in the atmosphere became oxidized, and eventually methane levels dropped to only trace amounts. The new atmosphere, with a reduced greenhouse effect, caused Earth’s temperature to drop, leading to a series of extreme glaciation events, and a condition known as “snowball Earth” where possibly the entire planet’s surface was covered in ices and snows.


"As human beings, with over 8 billion of us on planet Earth at present, we now find ourselves in a very analogous situation to both the early cyanobacteria from over 2 billion years ago and the yeast cells one would culture within a nutrient-rich broth in a petri dish. It isn’t that we’re in danger of transforming our planet into an uninhabitable hellscape, as nothing we’ve done or are in the process of doing is going to have a catastrophic effect of that magnitude. However, there are a number of ways that we’re polluting, destroying, or depleting our environment in ways that not only are non-renewable and unsustainable,


"we should be prepared. After all, unlike yeast, cyanobacteria, or any other species that’s impacted its environment due to its collective, accumulated actions, we can not only detect and quantify the effects we’re having, but can choose to change our action at any time.

Siegel lists crises: "Today, however, we teeter on the brink of a number of crises: Loss of wild habitats, climate change, oceanic overexploitation, and flooding the Earth with too many satillites, where light pollution, the sky brightness from reflected satellite light, the damage to ground-based and space-based astronomy, atmospheric pollution from deorbiting satellites, and the risk of Kessler syndrome — rendering low-Earth orbit impassable and full of debris — remain real, worsening risks.


"The path we’ll choose, collectively, depends on what our species’ answer is to the titular question of this article: Is humanity dumber than a colony of yeast cells? Sure, if you go by the Doomsday Clock, it might seem like we’re already a lost cause, destined to drive ourselves over the edge of the cliff and into the abyss below. But as increasing numbers of people, particularly young people, awaken to the dangers of inaction on all of these fronts, our desire for long-term self-preservation just might win out in the end. Our future is in our hands, but it will take all of us, working together, to create the one we both desire and require."

Comment: dhw does not understand how my form of God views this. He foresaw our burgeoning population but provided us with the means of solving the problems. He needn't step in. Evolution is over.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Monday, March 27, 2023, 19:19 (444 days ago) @ David Turell

Our huge population depends on more than just food:


"The global population will peak at 8.6 billion in 2050 and decline to 7 billion by 2100 if current trends continue. That is the projection of a model developed as part of an initiative from the Club of Rome non-profit organisation, and it is 2 to 3 billion less in 2100 than other recent forecasts.

"This Earth4All model, created to explore which policies would deliver the most good for the majority of people, also suggests that if the world invested in a “Giant Leap” to reduce poverty and inequality, the world population would peak at around 8.5 billion people in 2040 and decline to 6 billion by the end of the century.


“'The population is not the only part,” says Collste. “It’s what people do, how they do it and how much they do it.”

“'The population is not the only part,” says Collste. “It’s what people do, how they do it and how much they do it.”


"The Earth4All model is more complex and includes environmental, economic and social factors – such as food production, income, taxes, energy and inequality – and the feedback loops between these factors. It also incorporates the expected impacts of global warming and uses GDP per person as a proxy for educational attainment and access to contraceptives.


"To achieve its faster Giant Leap decline in the total number of people, the Club of Rome initiative is calling for a push to improve well-being for everyone on the planet.

"This would involve: reducing poverty by investing trillions of dollars in green jobs and cancelling debt; reducing inequality by raising taxes on richer people; improving gender equality by ensuring more women get a better education; promoting diets that are healthier and greener; and electrifying everything that can be electrified and generating that electricity from renewable sources."

Comment: support of such a large population is much more than the isolated problem of food. It is the limited water supply at this time as well as the problems listed in this study. It what God gave to us in the huge bush of life and what we can do for each other.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Monday, March 27, 2023, 19:58 (444 days ago) @ David Turell

How animal populations affect the Earth:


"Climate change research has emphasised the importance of vast forests and seagrass meadows as the most efficient way of storing carbon. But bison, elephants, whales, sharks and other massive wild animals also store carbon in their bodies while promoting tree and seagrass growth, preventing carbon-releasing wildfires and packing down ice and soil to keep carbon in the ground, says Oswald Schmitz at Yale University.

“'There’s been scepticism in the scientific community that animals matter, because if you just do the accounting, they’d say animals don’t make up much of the carbon on the planet, so they can’t be important,” he says. “What we’re doing is connecting the dots, showing that animals – despite their lack of abundance – have an outsized role, because of the multiplier effects that they create.”


"He and his colleagues reviewed data from previous publications about the environmental effects – including dispersing seeds, trampling, carbon cycling, feeding behaviour, hunting behaviour and methane production – of dozens of kinds of wild animals.

"They determined that we could theoretically meet the planet’s carbon reduction goals by protecting six groups of animals and expanding another three. The populations of reef sharks, grey wolves, wildebeest, sea otters, musk oxen and ocean fish need to be maintained at current levels. We would also need populations of at least 500,000 African forest elephants, 2 million American bison and 188,000 baleen whales in the Southern Ocean. Collectively, these populations could help capture approximately 6.41 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide annually, says Schmitz.

"Herbivores consume plants that compete with trees for resources, pack down carbon-rich soil as well as ice in the permafrost, maintain grasslands that might otherwise lead to wildfires, and promote new tree growth through seed dispersal, while storing large amounts of carbon in their own bodies for decades.

"Whales encourage populations of carbon-capturing phytoplankton at the sea surface through their breath and faeces, and then send massive amounts of carbon deep to the sea floor when they die. Predators, meanwhile, control populations of animals that might otherwise endanger carbon-storing plants on the land and sea if left unchecked."

Comment: the interlocking feedback systems shows us it is not just 'humans plus food' but a multiplicity of related factors. God provided us with a huge bush of life for food, but it is up to us to manage the rest.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Friday, June 23, 2023, 17:57 (356 days ago) @ David Turell

More bad news:


"Across the world, rainforests are becoming savanna or farmland, savanna is drying out and turning into desert, and icy tundra is thawing.

"Indeed, scientific studies have now recorded "regime shifts" like these in more than 20 different types of ecosystems where tipping points have been passed. Across the world, more than 20 percent of ecosystems are in danger of shifting or collapsing into something different.


"This means an ecosystem collapse that we might previously have expected to avoid until late this century could happen as soon as in the next few decades. That's the gloomy conclusion of our latest research, published in Nature Sustainability.


"...one collapsing ecosystem could have a knock-on effect on neighboring ecosystems through successive feedback loops: an "ecological doom-loop" scenario, with catastrophic consequences.


"The key characteristic of each model is the presence of feedback mechanisms, which help to keep the system balanced and stable when stresses are sufficiently weak to be absorbed. For example, fishers on Lake Chilika tend to prefer catching adult fish while the fish stock is abundant. So long as enough adults are left to breed, this can be stable.

"However, when stresses can no longer be absorbed, the ecosystem abruptly passes a point of no return – the tipping point – and collapses. In Chilika, this might occur when fishers increase the catch of juvenile fish during shortages, which further undermines the renewal of the fish stock.

"We used the software to model more than 70,000 different simulations. Across all four models, the combinations of stress and extreme events brought forward the date of a predicted tipping point by between 30 percent and 80 percent.


"...even if we believe we are managing ecosystems sustainably by keeping the main stress levels constant – for example, by regulating fish catches – we had better keep an eye out for new stresses and extreme events.


"...We found the speed at which stress is applied is vital to understanding system collapse,


"There is no way to restore collapsed ecosystems within any reasonable timeframe. There are no ecological bailouts. In the financial vernacular, we will just have to take the hit."

Comment: dhw presents his 'humans plus food' as a way of laughing at my approach to God desiring humans and supplying a huge bush of life. These warning from humans tells us God must have known the problems that could arise and gave us a huge food supply. He also gave us the brains to accept control and manage it properly. Evolution is over and we are in charge. These warnings mean we are trying, but maybe not enough.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 20:17 (289 days ago) @ David Turell
edited by David Turell, Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 20:22

A new review study:


"The global decline of pollinators endangers the reproduction of 90% of wild plants and the yield of 85% of the most important crops globally, thereby contributing to 35% of overall crop production. Recent estimates of global values of crop pollination range from US$195 billion to US$387 billion annually. Although data on regionally important crops are often lacking, pollination services are essential for food security, in particular for the 2 billion smallholders with their <2 ha farms, representing 83% of the global agricultural population.3 Many of these smallholders are malnourished and live in developing countries, while pollinator-dependent crops provide vital micronutrients to human health. Yield gaps on small fields with less than 2 ha can be much better closed by enhanced flower visitation than those of large farms. Agroforestry is among the most pollinator-friendly agroecosystems, often operated by smallholders and providing diverse resources on a small scale. The still-limited research focus on tropical smallholders and their locally grown crops has led to a presumed underestimation of biotic pollination services for crops and many other plants that are of essential importance for subsistence communities.2 New techniques to improve ecological intensification are needed, with a focus on smart farming for crop production, largely independent from agrochemicals and benefitting also further ecological processes such as biotic pest regulation, soil fertility, and nutrient cycling.


"Small populations in both plants and pollinators are extremely vulnerable to ecosystem changes, to the extent that maintaining or restoring degraded populations can be incredibly challenging. Huang et al. focus on this poorly studied topic of plant-reward-pollinator feedbacks and their potential to induce extinction cascades and community-wide collapse in plant-pollinator networks, endangering global food security". (my bold)

Comment: the loss of pollinators is a potential disaster. This article describes some possible remedies. The series of articles I have presented show how tight the supply of food is for eight million-plus and growing human population. I view this as representing a goal for God as He designed the system of evolution that produced us. As we are now tending to outgrow our food supply, dhw reminds us folk are starving, so he recognizes the problem. But he denies God had this goal. Not surprising.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Wednesday, September 13, 2023, 19:14 (274 days ago) @ David Turell

Latest review:


"Humans are now consuming over a quarter of the biomass produced each year by plants on land, leaving too little for wildlife and putting at risk the biosphere on which all life on Earth depends. To keep the planet in a suitable state for civilisation, we should be using no more than a tenth of plant biomass for our food and fuel, researchers say.


"The researchers have now decided to measure it in terms of how much of the biomass produced by photosynthesis is being appropriated by humans, or is no longer happening, relative to pre-industrial levels. Plant biomass is the basis of food chains, so if we take it, the life that depended on it dies out.

"The study estimates that plants on land produced 56 gigatonnes of biomass a year, as measured by its carbon content, in pre-industrial times, and that through farming, logging, the grazing of domestic animals and so on, people now take 17 gigatonnes per year, or around 30 per cent of pre-industrial levels. Today, plants produce an estimated 66 gigatonnes of biomass a year due to higher carbon dioxide levels, and would produce even more if not for land degradation, meaning that our current consumption sits at around 26 per cent.


“'I think it is a good, first-order metric,” says Timothy Searchinger at Princeton University. “Anyone claiming we really can acceptably use more of the world’s plant production to meet additional demands created by policy should have the strong burden of proof about how and why that’s OK.”

"Growing demand for food and wood alone means the proportion of biomass we appropriate is likely to increase in the coming decades, says Searchinger. And some proposals for growing crops for energy and capturing the carbon would double our use, he says.


"So far, however, ocean acidification remains within safe limits, as do the levels of aerosols released into the atmosphere. And while we were once destroying the ozone layer to a dangerous extent, we are now back in the safe operating zone.

"There are interactions between all these nine aspects of the planetary system that we need to take into account to ensure efforts to solve one problem don’t make another worse, says Richardson. “Unfortunately, our legal and political system hasn’t gotten there yet.'”

Comment: this articled shows how we dominate the planet and how we use much of the bush of life for our purposes, food supply and otherwise.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Monday, October 30, 2023, 18:48 (227 days ago) @ David Turell

There are more cells on Earth than stars:


From bacteria to blue whales, the number of cells in living things exceeds the estimated number of sand grains on Earth by a factor of a trillion. It’s 1 million times larger than all the stars in the universe. And the number of cells that have ever lived is 10 orders of magnitude larger still, according to new estimates researchers reported last week in Current Biology.


Peter Crockford, a geologist at Carleton University, and his colleagues began their inventory by combining existing estimates of the number of microbes currently in the ocean, soil, and Earth’s subsurface with the number of cells in larger organisms. The result was the number of cells alive today. That number—an eye-popping 10^30 cells, the majority of them cyanobacteria—was the starting point for calculating the total number of cells that have ever lived.


The key to that calculation was primary productivity, the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the carbon-based compounds that fuel all of life. Those compounds—sugars and starches for example—move up the food chain: Plants and photosynthesizing microbes are eaten by other organisms, which in turn are eaten by even bigger organisms. All of these die and are consumed and broken down by insects and microbes. Those consumers return CO2 to the atmosphere as they breathe and die, completing the carbon cycle. (my bold)

To understand how primary productivity has changed over Earth’s geologic history, Crockford and colleagues combed the scientific literature for estimates of the numbers and types of photosynthesizing organisms at different points in time and how much “food” they produced. Knowing the primary productivity of modern cells, the researchers then were able to wind the clock back to calculate how many cells would have been required to sustain past levels of productivity. They adjusted the calculation based on factors such as when different lifeforms evolved and how ice ages dampened the activity of those organisms. (my bold)


Putting all the math together, somewhere between 1039 and 1040 cells have ever lived. Together, those photosynthesizers have cycled through all of Earth’s carbon about 100 times. And the researchers’ calculations suggest these numbers are approaching an upper limit. Earth simply doesn’t have the resources to support more than 10^41 cells, they say.

Comment: note the emphasis on food. Note my bolds. Life can't live without it. So, it is not just human food, but everyone's to dhw's surprise.

dhw's obsession with 'humans plus food'; current studies

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 16:09 (183 days ago) @ David Turell

Larger forms in species are disappearing, affecting food supply:


"Current ecosystems are often characterized by an absence of large animals. This downsizing of nature is part of the ongoing biodiversity crisis and involves the loss of larger species as well as the larger individuals within a species, both of which can be linked to historic and ongoing harvesting practices by humans. Such signatures of human activity can be traced back for millennia, which makes it difficult to infer the potential role of larger animals in intact ecosystems. Model simulations suggest that larger animals could have major influences on population dynamics, ecosystem functioning, and resilience to environmental change, and therefore they should be the focus of biodiversity restoration programs. For instance, large predators may impose strong top-down control and prevent destabilizing grazer outbreaks and even promote genetic diversity at lower trophic levels. Large animals could also play a particularly important role in connecting ecosystems.

"Here, we describe the role of large female Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), which are comparable in body size to those typically reported in archaeological studies of cod bones dating back at least one millennium, in connecting coastal spawning sites. The Atlantic cod is a potentially dominant predator in North Atlantic coastal ecosystems, and individuals can grow to reach a body length well beyond 1 m. However, cod is also a prized catch in fisheries, and many populations have been seriously overfished, in some cases collapsed to a state where recovery is expected to be slow or even unlikely.


"Our study suggests that the contribution of large female fish to population productivity and stability may go beyond what is already recognized from their high-reproductive-energy output. From a population perspective, a network of spawning sites can indeed act to stabilize overall recruitment of broadcast spawning fish through a connectivity portfolio effect in which some sites are successful in some years, whereas other sites are successful in other years. Similarly, for Atlantic cod, the exact location where the pelagic eggs are spawned will influence in which habitats the juveniles eventually settle for growth and survival. There is evidence for spatial asynchrony in recruitment and juvenile growth of cod occurring on a scale of only a few tens of kilometers, including our study region, suggesting that what stands out as the most favorable spawning site varies temporally.


"For northern cod found off Newfoundland and Labrador, the egg contribution from older females (≥10 years of age) has declined from an estimated 30 to 40% in the 1960s to a negligible level in more recent postcollapse years. To restore a safe operating space for fisheries, strategies for maintaining the full potential of fish spawning habitat use, set by ecological and evolutionary constraints, should be integrated into management and conservation plans. To that end, a widely supported recommendation for rebuilding size and age structures is to implement slot-size limits in fisheries and fully protected marine reserves connected by seascape movement corridors.

"The mobility expressed by large female cod during the spawning season shows that these fish can play an important role in facilitating connectivity among spawning habitats. Management actions directed toward rebuilding fish life histories could therefore be a meaningful way of improving overall population resilience. Even though the populations of cod in mid- and northern Norway are harvested and far from pristine (59), the continued existence of some very large individuals presents a valuable glimpse of what fully expressed and naturally adapted life histories may add in terms of movement behavior diversity. Unless the genetic basis for such life histories and behaviors has also been eroded by fisheries (48, 60), our finding offers a positive perspective for conservation programs aimed at rebuilding more severely depleted populations and species."

Comment: it is my position after analyzing evolution from the standpoint that God created the process, the goal was to produce large-brained humans with a vast tree/bush of life for their required food supply. How delicate the balance is between a massive human population of over eight billion and growing, is shown by this study. Since evolution has ended in the current situation, it is what God planned and expected, although I assume He hopes we learn to handle the problem properly, not the current case.

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