How do you feed the Whole Earth After the Apocalypse?

❝ How might government prepare for a worst-case scenario?

This is a question Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, began to think about while working on providing low-cost drinking water to the developing world. He found the prospect of disaster terrifying. “This would make us no better off than the dinosaurs, despite all of our technical progress,” he told me. “Humanity is too smart for that.”…

❝ Pearce partnered with David Denkenberger, a research associate at the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. They looked around for detailed existing solutions and found just one: storing lots of food. But that, the two engineers realized, would probably feed the global population for a year or less.

So they developed a set of solutions that they believe would provide five years of food for the Earth’s population, and published a book about it called Feeding Everyone No Matter What. I spoke to Pearce to find out some of the very gooey ways we might survive the apocalypse.

What kinds of disasters do you think about?

❝ Let me take the most likely one: the nuclear winter case…As the world went dark, you’d have a couple of the more hearty crops survive — the trees would last a little while. But our standard crops? Your wheat, your rice, your corn? That’s all dead…As those crops fail, you’ll start to get hungry; you’ll start going into your stored food supplies…There’s no good outcome there. That darkness will basically stay for around five years, until it starts to rain out of the atmosphere and then we’ll slowly but surely get more and more sunlight and start to rejuvenate agriculture again.

❝ There are many things that you can eat that we don’t normally consider food, particularly in the west. Leaves are one of them. You can eat leaves. You just have to be careful about how you do it. Leaves are high in fiber and we can’t digest any more than half of it, but if you chew the leaves and spit out the fiber you can draw out nutrients from it. Or you can make teas…and it goes from there.

From mushrooms to insects, stuff living in the oceans to bacteria, all get their share of providing subsistence for us superior mammals. An interesting read. Especially the bits about items already accepted as food – just not in Dallas.

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High school math kills Trump’s infrastructure plan


Always ready to help a fellow New Yorker

❝ In his address to Congress…President Donald Trump once again brought up his support for a large infrastructure package. And there’s good reason for this: It’s not nearly as polarizing as most other parts of his agenda and would stimulate economic growth in a way that would benefit blue-collar workers who were key to his election. But like much of his agenda, it’s short on details, and the labor-market math doesn’t add up.

❝ Here’s the napkin version. The trillion-dollar package being discussed is understood to be $100 billion of spending per year for 10 years. Leave aside the fact that infrastructure spending is notoriously messy and slow, as environmental delays and other project-specific concerns make it hard to spend the money as fast as a policymaker or economist would like. The labor question alone shows that this vision is impossible.

❝ There are currently 6.8 million construction employees in the U.S. Annualized construction spending in the U.S. at the end of 2016 was $1.18 trillion. Dividing the two, we see that one construction worker supports around $175,000 in construction spending. (This doesn’t mean that construction workers make $175,000 per year — that figure accounts for other labor-supporting projects and building materials.)

One more simple calculation shows the daunting labor needs. If one construction worker can support $175,000 worth of construction projects, then $100 billion in spending each year would require an additional 570,000 construction workers, which doesn’t take into account truck drivers, project managers, environmental specialists, and all other support staff needed to complete projects. Perhaps infrastructure spending, which comprises 25 percent of all construction spending, is a little less labor-intensive than other types of construction spending. Maybe the shrewd administrative talent of this White House could generate some labor efficiencies. That still probably means 400,000 or 500,000 construction workers needed, not 50,000.

❝ How realistic is construction employment growth of 570,000 workers? It hasn’t happened since 1946. Even the peak of the housing bubble generated only one brief year-over-year increase of 500,000 construction workers.

The infrastructure proposal is among Trump’s most politically viable, but economics will kill it.

RTFA for the rest of the gory details. Trump is not only incompetent to develop and lead our nation into a construction project of national importance — he isn’t cunning enough to seek out advice and structural leadership from any of the talent we have in abundance in the GOUSA.

In opioid withdrawal – and no help in sight

A patient receives prescription opioids after an accident — and no support from his physicians as he weans himself off.

❝ No one will be surprised to hear that I was angry. Angry at myself, angry at my doctors, angry at the medical community. Just — angry. I had been hit by a van and undergone five surgeries, yet the worst part of the experience was my month in withdrawal hell. How could it be that my doctor’s best tapering advice led to that experience? And how could it be that not one of my more than ten doctors could help?

Sad, but, true. A tale worth reading. Worth understanding what happens in a nation where healthcare is considered privilege rather than right. How priorities are – and aren’t – established.

Thanks, Danny Blanchflower

Golden showers? Russia knows nothing about America’s sex habits

❝ Dear Vlad,

You don’t mind if I call you, Vlad, do you? I wanted to write you about your close relationship with our president-elect, Donald J. Trump.

❝ I read recently that your intelligence agents had collected some “compromising and salacious personal information” on The Donald. A memo about this was said to be generated by a former agent of MI-6, one of Britain’s premier spook agencies, so our US news media has taken this allegation seriously.

But, really, golden showers? You say the “perverted sexual acts” worthy of blackmailing a US president consisted of renting a hotel room in Moscow where Trump hired some prostitutes to “perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him” on the bed that president and Mrs. Obama supposedly slept in?

❝ Vlad, by your own admission in an interview with Bloomberg News, you clearly have no understanding of American culture or domestic political life…

❝ This is a country that endorses gay marriage. It celebrates the freedom of choosing your own gender. One of our most decorated male athletes at the age of 66 decided he was in fact she and ended up on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset. We are having so much oral sex that throat cancer rates among men have shot up. Our young people publicly declare themselves to be polyamorous (Vlad, that means they sleep with lots of different people, with consent). Way back in the 1990s one of our most popular female vocalists released a coffee-table book called Sex that showed bondage, full nudity, scenes with a dog, and scenes from a New York sex club…

If the best dirt you’ve got on a our highest elected official is he hired a bunch of girls to pee on a bed, we’ve got nothing to worry about. You don’t understand freedom and democracy enough to upset it.

❝ Sincerely,

Joe Q. Public

Vlad mistakenly accepts the hypocrisy so beloved of our priests, pundits and politicians as somehow representative of what private life may decide is participatory sport in bedrooms ranging from home grown to Trumpkins. Tain’t so.

Sad milestone: the first bumblebee declared an endangered species


Click to enlargeAlamy

❝ For the first time in the United States, a species of bumblebee is endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday on its website that the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction.” Over the past two decades, the bumblebee’s population has declined 87 percent…

❝ The news comes just a few months after the first ever bees were declared endangered in the U.S. In September, seven species of Hawaiian bees, including the yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus anthracinus), received protection under the Endangered Species Act…

The threats facing those seven species are similar to the ones that have depleted rusty patched bumblebee populations: loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, pesticides, and climate change. This is a big deal not only for bees but for humans, too—after all, bees pollinate a lot of our food.

❝ “Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rusty patched bumblebee profile. “The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.”…

Once spread across half the U.S., rusty patched bumblebees are now found in only 13 states.

You might hope that even an mostly urban realtor like Donald Trump had learned something of the critical role bees and other pollinators play in our food chain. Hope being the operative word. I see little or no display of any such understanding or comprehension.

Phwooosh!

❝ An asteroid roughly the size of a 10-story building gave Earth a particularly close pass Monday morning.

Asteroid 2017 AG13 came within half the distance from Earth to the moon as it buzzed by early Monday morning at 4:47 a.m. PT. The fly-by happened shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered the space rock on Saturday…

…In real terms, Earth had well over a 100,000-mile (161,000 kilometer) buffer of distance.

❝ 2017 AG13 isn’t so big it would have meant an extinction-level event had it been a direct hit. But if a good size chunk of it made it through Earth’s upper atmosphere near a populated area, there might have been damage like we saw in 2013 when a bolide collided with the atmosphere over the Russian city Chelyabinsk. In that event, a fireball streaked over the city, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process.

❝ The asteroid is about 11 to 34 meters across, according to the Slooh Observatory, and moving very fast relative to Earth at 16 kilometers per second. That speed, coupled with 2017 AG13’s dim brightness level, made it difficult to spot with telescopes.

Cue theme from Twilight Zone.