Monday, July 13, 2009

Headlines – The Week Beginning July 13, 2009 – Lucky One-Three?

By Paul K. Haeder

We have some quick news to add to the discussion about global tipping points – ecological, economic and all things related to how we plan to organize in a world where the rivets on the engine propelling economic growth at any cost are beginning to pop on the fossil fuel boiler.

July 11, 2009 passed uneventfully as World Population Day spearheaded by the United Nations Population Fund. We are ticking away past 6.8 billion people on earth --

Yet we hardly ever discuss the power of empowering women in developing countries by investing in their health and education for their children. Crises in the family start with women not getting access to decent education, or not getting children in school and not getting drugs to people living with AIDS and not getting more expanded HIV prevention. Heck, just getting to millions in developing countries better bed nets to prevent malaria would be a huge step toward human security, which equals ecological security and working toward the so-called American “homeland security.” We need to have better programs to delivery immunizations to children.

Read these points from the World Population Day headquarters:

ICPD issues and the Financial Crisis

Why the financial crisis matters?

Ø Government budgets may be stripped of funds during a recession, and women and children are likely to be most affected by crisis

Ø Investments in health infrastructure, water and sanitation are likely to be cut back when budgets dwindle

Ø Effective multi-sectoral collaboration may come under strain

Ø Sexual and reproductive health services will likely suffer as health expenditures are cut back, although each dollar invested in reducing unmet need for contraceptive services will avoid about $2-4 in expenditures on maternal and newborn health

Ø In times of economic hardship, women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to take recourse to abortion, including unsafe abortion

Ø Women’s income generating activities may be imperiled as credit dries up and as women lose jobs both in the formal and informal sectors

Ø Children’s wellbeing can be dramatically impacted when women’s livelihoods suffer, and when their access to family planning services and health services is restricted

Ø Migrant workers are amongst the first to be laid off which effects families dependent on remittances

Ø Adolescents are likely to be more severely hit by a contraction in labor demand

Ø Countries may reduce budgets for their censuses, surveys and data administration, with the risk of lowering the standards of data analysis and harming development planning


· Initial estimates indicate that without interventions, current poverty will increase. Past crises have taught us that women are being disproportionally affected, which in turn inversely impacts their children and communities. As aggregate demand and exports plummet, credit markets tighten, employment opportunities deteriorate and remittances drop. Food price shocks cause further loss of employment in export-oriented industries, decline in lending, which affects the poorest microcredit borrowers, most of whom are women.

· Women already represent 70% of the world’s absolute poor. Growing poverty will also impede improvement in the ICPD indicators, specifically the ability of men and women to realize health and educational gains. The global financial crisis will limit governments’ tax revenues and budgets. As people’s situation worsens, demand for government services is likely to increase from the middle class, which may have the effect of crowding out the poor in the line for assistance.

· Decreases in per capita gross domestic product are strongly associated with infant mortality.

A one percent contraction in per capita GDP is associated with an increase in infant mortality of between 0.18 and 0.44 deaths per thousand children born. More than one million excess deaths have occurred in the developing world from 1980-2004 in countries experiencing economic contractions of 10% or greater.

· Poverty is a major determinant of the lack of access to health services, including reproductive health services and information. For example, use of contraception by poor women is linked to the overall degree of poverty in the woman's country. Moreover, poor women are less likely to use contraception than middle-income women within countries.

· In a time of crisis, funding for sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and prevention of HIV, unwanted pregnancies and preventative care in general, are often first to be discontinued. In the time of narrowing national budgets, there is a risk that family planning services, pre- and post-natal services may be perceived as non-essential and dropped as a result.

· Dropping pre-natal and post-natal services can potentially lead to increased newborn death and maternal disability. A decline in post-partum visits, which are commonly used as the opportunity to provide family planning services, may cause increased unwanted pregnancies and ensuing unsafe abortions.

· Women are also suffering from the tightening of microfinance lending and decreasing access to microcredit. They make up the majority of microfinance clients (85% of the poorest 93 million clients of microfinance institutions in 2006) and as credit dries up their earnings from micro-businesses will drop. This in turns means less income for them, less decision-making power, decreased capability to allocate resources towards health services or health fees, and nutrition both for them and their children.

· It has been documented during other crises, for example in Latin America in the 1990s, that boys and girls benefit from positive shocks to per capita GDP in a similar way, but negative shocks are much more harmful to girls than boys. Explanations for this vary, but it could be due to family’s preferences to allocate food and medications to boys over girls.

Forget Shorter Showers?

We have to tip our hat to Derrick Jensen for his brave Orion Magazine piece, “Forget Shorter Showers.” We’ look at some of the underpinnings of what Jensen says in this piece, including looking at Kirkpatrick Sales work. We’ve already looked at those Energy Wedges and the background to deep ecology and what the ecological footprint is and how the Genuine Progress Index differs from our GDP rating, and we’ve already posted a review of Ted Trainer’s book, Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society. Kirkpatrick Sale is an interesting voice to discuss and debate.

Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption—residential, by private car, and so on—is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Jensen’s piece is now hitting and other websites. Here at PacifiCAD blog we will look at some of those reaction on the Orion web site where more than 150 people have responded to Jensen’s dark piece. It’s clear to me that some of those voices are hyper defensive about Jensen’s main thesis that we have to stop the consumer culture from the top down, by stopping the huge stealing of earth’s resources by corporations. Acts of individual simplicity or going green or even looking at intentional communities and transition communities won’t cut it, won’t bring down the earth’s vulnerability and the tipping points pushing humanity – and other species – toward collapse. He doesn’t fight simple living as a way to make one’s small world safer and less consumer-driven, He just sees it as flawed as a political act. A) Humans can actually help the Earth. We aren’t individually just this species that inevitably harms the landbase. B) Don’t blame the individual and those who are powerless for the environmental destruction. It’s the corporation and the system it has created that can stop the destructive nature of each corporation's system.

“Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.”

C) We need to re-appropriate the idea of citizenship instead of buying into the corporations’ marketing of us as consumers. We have many ways to alter the flawed system or abolish it, according to Jensen. D) Every act in an industrial economy is destructive, he believes, so we have to question the intellectual, moral, economic and physical infrastructure. Read Jensen’s piece and be prepared for other blogs.

Three Stories on Democracy Now that Point to Flaws

Zoos Close, Liver Transplant Program Cut, Science Classes Axed

Goldman Sachs makes Profits Out of this Roof

Again, we have to question the so-called government bailout – and here at PacifiCAD, we are looking toward a community that is growing educated youth -- to truly get a grounding on sustainability, green technology, and paradigm shift from a carbon based to carbonless society. So, Goldman Sachs is doing well with $28 billion in taxpayer-backed low interest loans – 68 percent increase in the stock’s value? Yet, in Washington State and California and other states, we have a huge rip in the fabrics of health care, unemployment benefits, education and dozens of other areas that are in place to protect the health, safety and good and welfare of the public – citizens, the reason corporations can even blink or maintain themselves. Washington State’s higher education budgets have been stripped daily. The result is massive inefficiency, degradation, despair: larger class sizes, fewer classes, fewer faculty, less of everything -- from lights being turned off at night, less paper, fewer mail deliveries, cut hours and programs, to such vital programs as child care, financial aid, counseling. And one company, Goldman Sachs, benefits from the hardship of financial collapse? There will be $18 billion in compensation and benefits? Some people, including Bill Gates, view this as a crime.

So we have U of Calif. at Davis shutting down its liver transplant program? Science and music classes cut at UC Santa Cruz? And Goldman Sachs gets what from a controversial government bailout?

Look, IBM, Autodesk, PacifiCAD and thousands of other businesses and corporations, large and small, will not be able to sustain themselves without education, without critical thinkers coming into the workforce. It seems to be a no-brainer that we embark upon a massive retooling, redesign and retrofit of our education systems in the USA. Make them better, more available, and constant engines of change. Hire more teachers and planners in education and build better schools that serve the respective communities on a hundred different new levels. The American Association of Community Colleges, with 1,200 member schools, sees this crisis in every state:

"The state of Washington, for example, has experienced the highest budget cut for the community colleges that they've ever had," Norma Kent, head of AACC, says. "The state of California is in very dire straits that you hear about every day. And they've projected that they may turn away as many as 200,000 students this year." Now we see caps on enrollment at state universities, and Community Colleges exist because they’ve been the “open-door policy” schools that are fluid and bend quickly with economic and regional needs. They are now being called upon to take up the slack – for example, Florida’s 11 public universities, for example, have imposed caps on freshman enrollment. So where do they go? Community colleges, which have already seen massive cuts in their budgets in every state of the Union.

Then, of course, the fallout touches the world of zoos – the last repository of species protection in many regards, plus a place where citizens can take time to understand the natural world, and it’s place in their own futures, and what species means to the planet. So, maybe 200 animals might be euthanized because the State of Massachusetts can’t fund two zoos – Franklin Park and Stone zoos? Are these emblematic stories, the tip of the iceberg allusions to a country faced with obvious solution, choices, and safety nets but without the political and corporate will to change?

Again, the positive here is that these stories are being covered. Check out Democracy Now for these stories and daily headlines – low power media and TV and other media carry Democracy Now.

Growth Busting?

Dave Gardner’s “Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity” will be discussed in future blogs. We’ll compare it to “End of Suburbia” and other films on peak resources, including “Flow” and “Thirst” and “Food Inc.”

Finally, we see in today’s National Public Radio a story on Flint, Michigan, and retreating cities, which we covered Friday in the PacifiCAD blog -- 8

Jane Jacobs' City-Thinking Need Only Apply

Dan Kildee, the Genesee County treasurer, is in the news again with this morning's "Morning Edition" feature on shrinking cities. It’s a complex issue, but we know that planners have to grapple with shrinking budgets and shrinking populations. It’s the entire planning palette we have to work with – failing infrastructure, sprawl, green zones, abandoned properties, gentrification, white flight, off-shoring of industries, death of the rust belt, displaced people, the idea of home and community of place versus community of the corporation, economic development, transportation, retrofitting, etc . Check it out at:

Read the Brookings Institution’s work on shrinking neighborhoods. Here are some findings in a report you can get downloaded as a pdf.

· Middle-income neighborhoods as a proportion of all metropolitan neighborhoods declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000. This dramatic decline far outpaced the corresponding drop in the proportion of metropolitan families earning middle incomes, from 28 percent in 1970 to 22 percent in 2000.

· Between 1970 and 2000, lower-income families became more likely to live in lower-income neighborhoods, and higher-income families in higher-income neighborhoods. Only 37 percent of lower-income families lived in middle-income neighborhoods in 2000, down from 55 percent in 1970.

· The proportion of neighborhoods that were middle-income shrank faster than the proportion of families that were middle-income in each of 12 large metropolitan areas examined. Among the 12 metro areas, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Baltimore, and Philadelphia experienced much more dramatic declines in middle-income neighborhoods than San Antonio and Louisville.

· Only 23 percent of central-city neighborhoods in the 12 large metropolitan areas had a middle-income profile in 2000, down from 45 percent in 1970. A majority of families (52 percent) and neighborhoods (60 percent) in these cities had low or very low incomes relative to their metropolitan area median in 2000.

· A much larger proportion—44 percent—of suburban neighborhoods in the 12 metropolitan areas had a middle-income profile in 2000. Yet this proportion fell over the 30-year period, too, from 64 percent in 1970, accompanying a smaller decline in suburban middle-income families. Suburban middle-income neighborhoods were replaced in roughly equal measure by low-income and very high-income neighborhoods.


From the NPR report today, Brookings Institution’s Alan Mallach discuss this idea of whether a smaller city will be stronger.

"Alan Mallach, an urban planner with the Brookings Institution, says the debate in Flint is similar to debates in a number of other Rust Belt cities. He argues that shrinking cities is politically fraught, but he says Flint and other cities like it may have no other choice.

‘There are certainly thousands of properties that need to be demolished — they're not fit for human habitation. But it doesn't follow that the other residents on the block want to move to some other place. I don't think any city has figured out how to do this yet.’

Given the pain of urban renewal policies of the 1960s, which decimated many inner-city neighborhoods, Mallach says it's understandable that residents would be suspicious of grand government plans like this.”

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