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Wheat crops in India  (Source: NY Times)
Populations around the Himalayas at risk

recent study in the journal Science shows that the shrinkage of glaciers will cause a lack in water sources for crops, ultimately leading to food shortages for approximately 60 million people living near the Himalayas. This study is one of the first to observe the effect melting glaciers have on the Himalayan river basins, and could possibly further provoke the existing debate that climate change will destroy river basins located mostly in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China and Bhutan.

Dutch scientists Marc Bierkens, Walter Immerzee and Ludovicus Van Beek – who conducted the study and wrote in the journal -- concluded that basins around the Himalayas such as the Indus, Ganges and Brahamaputra depend on the melting glaciers to water their crops, and could see a 19.6 percent decline in their water supply by 2050. 

"We estimate that the food security of 4.5 percent of the total population will be threatened as a result of reduced water availability," the researchers wrote. "The strong need for prioritizing adaptation options and further increasing water productivity is therefore eminent."

This new study largely contrasts the U.N. report in 2007, where the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that hundreds of millions of people were in danger from the receding glaciers. According to the scientists, the reason for the "discrepancy" is that only some basins in this area depend on the glaciers. Others, such as China's Yellow River basin, obtain their water from rainfall and are expected to see a 9.5 percent increase in water supply due to the changing climate altering the pattern of monsoons. 

"We show that it's only certain areas that will be affected," said Bierkens. "The amount of people affected is still large. Every person is one too many but it's much less than was first anticipated."

In addition, the U.N. report included other errors such as the Himalayas disappearing by 2035, when actual data indicates that this will happen by 2350. Client change skeptics attacked this inaccuracy, which in fact, was just a mistake in transposing the numbers. 

Most scientists agree that "glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate as temperatures increase," and that the reason is related to the higher "atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide." Evidence for this appears in the considerable losses seen in glaciers across the Andes, Alaska, the Alps and several other ranges. According to researchers in the United States and Europe, "more than 90 percent of glaciers worldwide are in retreat."

Researchers who did not take part in the study, such as Zhongqin Li, director of the Tianshan Glaciological Station in China, noted that the scientists performing the study disregarded many other basins in central Asia and northwest China which will be affected by the glacial losses. Other glacial experts and scientists warned that "uncertainties and lack of data for the region makes it difficult to say what will happen in the next few decades to the water supply." While many researchers are skeptical of exact numbers in the study, they do agree that there should be a concern for those living in the glacial-dependent basins due to climate change. In addition, problems like pollution, overpopulation and poverty are added stress to the situation.

"The paper teaches us that there's a lot of uncertainty in the future water supply of Asia and within the realm of plausibility are scenarios that may give us concern," said Casey Brown, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts. 

"At present, we know that water concerns are already a certainty - the large and growing populations and high dependence on irrigated agriculture which makes the region vulnerable to present climate variability. 

"This paper is additional motivation to address these present concerns through wise investments in better management of water resources in the region, which for me means forecasts, incentives, efficiency."

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RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By clovell on 6/11/2010 2:36:26 PM , Rating: 5
This is something I've really done a lot of thinking, reading, and soul-searching on, so I wanted to offer my views from a moderate standpoint.

Locally grown produce is about a lot more than touchy-feely stuff. It's about economics and urban planning more than anthing else.

It's a simple concept - You can't have people living in a place where there is no food. If all the food in an area has to be trucked in, that's not especially a good thing. It affects urban planning, makes the area reliant on shipping routes, and probably most important of all, it creates a barrier between the residents and one of their most important daily activities - what they stuff into their face.

Local produce is something we should all try our best to support - without being crazy about it. Example - I live in Chicago. In a couple weeks, farmer's markets will open up through the end of September. I'll go there. I will not buy 30 lbs of tomatoes in September, though, and can them at home - I can buy canned tomatoes just fine in the store when it's snowing outside.

Genetically modified food is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it makes crops easier, faster, bigger, and more efficient. On the other hand, it totally screws with biodiversity. The instant a pest develops just the right mutation, the entire soybean crop of the United States of America could be wiped out. Does that mean we nix genetically modified crops? No, it means we keep conventional crops in the lifecycle, and continue to cross-breed them.

We also continue to question - why is it so important that all the wheat / sugarcane / corn grow to be the same length? Is the mechanical efficency gained at harvest really worth the amount of pesticides, genetically enhanced seeds, and synthetic fertilizers that are used to accomplish that?

No, at the end of the day, it's about being closer to your food than just a label, a trademark, a nutrition fact sheet. It's about being involved - not politically, but conciously.

It's summer - grow something. I think if everyone played some part, however small, in growing their own food - even a jalepeno plant in a small pot (I've 2 of these on the balcony of my 650 sq. ft. apt.), that we would appreciate what we eat that much more. It would go a long way to fighting obesity, inhumane treatment of animals, and promoting local agriculture.

By HalJordan on 6/11/2010 3:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
So, what you are saying is: "Embrace the new, but not at the expense of the old." Right? I can get behind that, and I am definitely not the "touchy-feely" type. Odd that you would mention Jalopeno plants, as I just started to grow two of my own, keep your fingers crossed for me, I don't have much of a green thumb. If all goes well, I'm planning on tomatoes next.

I believe we can inspire more people to shift their patterns based on their pocketbook, rather than ethics alone.

By clovell on 6/14/2010 10:18:04 AM , Rating: 2
I'll keep em crossed for you. I started some seeds back at the end of March, and now I've got 2 Jalepenos, 1 Banana Pepper, 1 California Wonder Bell Pepper, 1 Mariachi Hybrid Pepper, 2 Roma Tomatoes, 1 Tomatillo, and 1 Viva Italia plant - plus a handful of Herbs out on my balcony.

I've really enjoyed it. Starting inside from seeds was a lot of trial & error, but it gave me something to do in those last winter months.

You should give tomatoes a try. Not sure where you live, or if you plan on planting them in the ground (mine are all in pots), but you might start with a determinate species (only grows to a certain length, rather than a continuously long vine). My Romas grew pretty fast (germinated quicker than the Viva Italias), but the Viva Italias can make do with less water (which is helpful if you sometimes forget to water).

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Ammohunt on 6/11/2010 3:54:18 PM , Rating: 2
You lost me at "inhumane treatment of animals" top of the food chain, top of the food chain.

By ClownPuncher on 6/11/2010 3:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
Viruses and the machines from the Matrix feed off of people.

By SPOOFE on 6/13/2010 12:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
You lost me at "inhumane treatment of animals"

Well, clearly you read almost the entirety of his post to get to that part, so he didn't really lose you, did he? :D

By clovell on 6/14/2010 10:19:53 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, a lot of that stuff is really hard to believe until you read up on it or watch a documentary. It's disgusting, though - especially the cattle lots in West Texas & New Mexico.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By JediJeb on 6/11/2010 3:55:45 PM , Rating: 3
We also continue to question - why is it so important that all the wheat / sugarcane / corn grow to be the same length? Is the mechanical efficency gained at harvest really worth the amount of pesticides, genetically enhanced seeds, and synthetic fertilizers that are used to accomplish that?

Not so much mechanical efficiency but overall yield. We use things like Glyphosate resistant corn and soybeans so that we can spray over the crops to kill the weeds and grasses that will take nutrients away from the crop of interest. Otherwise we would have to hire thousands or even millions of more workers to use a hoe to remove those weeds which would greatly increase the cost of these crops.

I am in agreement though that people should learn to grow some of their own food when and if they can. Should the economy take a much more severe downturn than it has already it could be a very useful skill to have. Also it is useful during certain natural disasters that may hinder shipping of food. Just a good skill to know overall and lets people more appreciate the work that goes into providing food for the planet that our farmers do every day.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Spuke on 6/11/10, Rating: 0
RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By JediJeb on 6/11/2010 6:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
I guess we will disagree on some topics though I have agreed with you on others. I just happen to think it is good to learn other things, even if you may not use them extensively in life. I already know farming since I grew up on a farm, but I became a chemist for my career. I have along the way learned to operate heavy equipment, blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking, computer programming, basic first aid, basic tailoring, leather working, automotive repair, and other things. If my vision will allow and I have the time and money I would also like to learn to fly and sail among other things.

Some people like me would like to be able to provide for ourselves in an emergency, at least until we can obtain the services of someone more skilled in the area of need. Growing up the people around me could not hire a professional every time something needed to be done, mostly because there were no professionals anywhere near by. I'm sure people who grew up in a large city were more able to depend on others with the skills needed to do specialized tasks, which is good. I do though tend to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I respect your beliefs in reliance on a diverse society, I hope you can respect my beliefs in self reliance also.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Spuke on 6/11/10, Rating: -1
By JediJeb on 6/14/2010 10:56:57 AM , Rating: 2
I happen to think that everyone should do a mandatory two years in the military.

Though I was never able to serve because of health problems, my father did and I know from his experience that it can be something a person can benefit from. There are the dangers of course but the discipline one gains is very helpful in life. I can not say I have the discipline that my father and grandfather had, but their examples made a strong impression on my live for sure.

By ShaolinSoccer on 6/11/2010 11:51:16 PM , Rating: 1
JediJeb, what you've just wrote is probably one of the best things I have ever read. I wish more people were like you. Crime is getting worse where I live. People are losing morals more and more. I don't know what could solve the problem but if everyone was like you, the world would be a utopia!

By JediJeb on 6/14/2010 10:52:39 AM , Rating: 2
Utopia I think would be too much to ask for. Self reliance only makes the ups and downs easier, it doesn't necessarily fix the dark side of peoples mentality.

By aegisofrime on 6/11/2010 9:17:01 PM , Rating: 1
I would like some clarification on this part

"it creates a barrier between the residents and one of their most important daily activities"

Why is this important? I ask because I live in Singapore, and without question, all of our food is trucked, shipped or flown in. I think we get along fine without seeing some of our food grown in local farmland.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By clovell on 6/14/2010 10:28:07 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know much about Singapore, but here in America, food is processed, fast, and cheap. Most people around here eat with a casual abandon, without ever understanding what's on their plate.

Don't get me wrong - I'd stop at McDonald's before I skipped a meal, but given the choice, I'd choose something different. Call me crazy, but I just think that eating is an intimate activity - that there's a right way and a wrong way to raise and slaughter animals - that there's a certain level of respect that everyone should have for their food that gets lost in the shuffle of modern agriculture.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Suntan on 6/14/2010 12:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
Call me crazy, but I just think that eating is an intimate activity - that there's a right way and a wrong way to raise and slaughter animals - that there's a certain level of respect that everyone should have for their food that gets lost in the shuffle of modern agriculture.

If you think eating is an “intimate” activity, then you’re either doing nasty things with that ear of corn, or else you don’t have your head on straight.

And if it is always the humans that are so barbaric and lacking such respect for the world around them, so out of touch with mother nature and the overall ecosystem, please point out a single species on the planet that has any respect for the food they eat...

Most hunter species elect to crush their prey’s windpipe and slowly suffocate them to death over the span of a few minutes while standing on top of their dying corpses... Does that sound very respectful? Not to mention, have you never seen a documentary where the hunter animal has any qualms about killing and proceeding to eat the offspring of a prey animal while it the meal’s mother stands helplessly out of range watching? Very respectful...

Anyone ever heard about specialization? It is what allowed our ancestors to progress on from crouching in caves and covering themselves in the stinky hides of the animals they just ate. For a refresher, it is basically the notion that the people who know how to do a certain activity the most effectively concentrate on that activity and provide the output for the rest of the society.

Trying to grow all your own food in your back yard or close to your house if you live in an area that does not support it (whether you live in a location where the soil does not support it, or a heavily urbanized area that makes it impractical) is silly and counter to the notion that even early humans knew as folly. The fact that people are able to do it and still survive just points out how comfortable we are as a race, that you can grow your food in a way that makes you happy even though it is inefficient and a waste of land that could be used for more efficiently for other things.

It’s one thing to decide to treat animals humanly before they get slaughtered, it is another thing altogether to think that our food sources should be given “respect” by dialing back the progress we have made by thousands of years.


By clovell on 6/14/2010 2:42:47 PM , Rating: 2
> If you think eating is an “intimate” activity, then you’re either doing nasty things with that ear of corn, or else you don’t have your head on straight.

Suntan, I generally agree with you on a lot of things. Eating involves putting something in your mouth and having it pass through and be absorbed into your body as part of yourself. Idk if it would help you to read my other posts in the thread, but it seems like what I mean when I say "respect" and what you think I mean when I say "respect" are two different things.

There's a lot of people that no longer understand that a chicken has to die for you to have KFC; that a pig is butchered to make bacon for your chesseburger. As a hunter & a fisher, I don't get emotional with every kill or catch. But, I do realize that an animal died for my sustenance, and I give it "respect" - in the midst of gutting, cleaning, breaking it down, and finally cooking and eating it.

It's not something I'm good at explaining, I guess, but at the end of the day, growing something yourself (certainly not everything), or fishing, or hunting (for food, rather than just sport), brings you to a place where that "respect" is more easily understood.

I can't promise that clears it up, but past that I think we're just going to disagree.

By shin0bi272 on 6/12/2010 3:29:31 AM , Rating: 2
I would like to point out that the maize you eat (either on or off the cob) this summer is a genetically engineered product that started out as a grass about ankle high or so and was bred to be the food we eat today through hundreds of years of cultivation. There is also another newer version that students at the university of nebraska are working on to make a more disease resistant version of the stuff because once one stalk goes bad to fungus or rust or beetles there's a good possibility that that entire acre will get infected in a matter of days. So please dont ignore the fact that science has always played a role in food production and pass it off as a "mixed blessing".

One other thing, Organic is BS. A study out of England back in 08 said that they studied the "organic" vs regular food for 50 years and they concluded that organic is nothing more than a label when it comes to the health benefits. In other words its hogwash! Youre paying more money for something that essentially is no better or worse for you than the standard stuff we all bought for years. Taste might be different depending on the type of organic and the type of food youre talking about but for the nutritional value there is no difference. Sorry to burst your bubble bub.

By Cheesew1z69 on 6/12/2010 6:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
I don't believe it's the nutritional value that makes organic

By chemist1 on 6/14/2010 4:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
That British article wasn't a study, it was a review article -- a summary of other published work. It focused principally on vitamin and mineral content, and came to conclusions consistent with that of another large review [Zhao X, et al. (2006), HortTechnology, Vol. 16, No. 3 pp. 449-456,] -- that the vitamin and mineral content of organic and conventionally grown produce is similar. HOWEVER, Zhao also reviewed, in detail, numerous studies assessing phytochemical content (the British study did as well but not, it seemed, as thoroughly). Zhao found that, while more work needs to be done, "the evidence overall seems in favor of enhancement of phytochemical content in organically grown produce." And it's the phytochemicals (e.g., flavinoids) that are thought to provide much of the health-enhancing benefits of fruits and vegetables. Here's more on this from wikipedia (

"The FiBL Institute has been investigating the differences at over 200 farms. It states that "organic products stand out as having higher levels of secondary plant compounds and vitamin C. In the case of milk and meat, the fatty acid profile is often better from a nutritional point of view. As far as carbohydrates and minerals, organic products are no different from conventional products. However, in regard to undesirables such as nitrate and pesticide residues, organic products have a clear advantage. A £12m EU-funded investigation into the difference between organic and ordinary farming published in 2007 found that organic foods have more nutritional value.[43] A recent study found that organically grown produce has double the flavonoids, an important antioxidant.[44]. A 2007 study found that organically grown kiwifruit had more antioxidants than conventional kiwifruit.[45]"

In addition, organic produce may be chemically safer. Some chemical fertilizers are made from industrial waste, and thus contain high levels of cadmium. And, of course, there's the issue of pesticides.

By clovell on 6/14/2010 10:52:36 AM , Rating: 2
The corn you're talking about was cross-bred over a couple centuries? That doesn't sound like anything I'd have a problem with. I'm not ignoring that science is doing a lot of good in agriculture - but it kinda seems like you just ignored my point about biodiversity.

I can buy a Conventional Bell Pepper, and after 10 days in my fridge, I have to toss it. If I buy an Organic one, it can go three weeks. Organic Zucchini cooks up better on the grill. I like having the option - Onions? I go conventional. Garlic? I'm not made of money. But, there is a difference, in terms of taste and water content. Sometimes its negligible, sometimes it's not - but it's always a matter of taste. So, you have a point, but I never really said that Organic was healthier for you. It does rely less on petrochemicals. It does generally promote biodiversity more than conventional crops, which, usually helps in conventional cross-breeding.

So, I'm not really arguing with you here, but just leaning on the other side of the same fence. No bubble burst; no apologies necessary.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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