27 September 2012

Yet More Reports on Water and Related Issues

Now with some vague sense of organization!

From around the web, twitter, e-mails, etc.
From the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
From International Rivers
From the UK Department for International Development
From the Asian Development Bank

24 September 2012

Monday Infographics: Off the Grid?

In dubious honor of the US House of Representatives, on the occasion of our congresspeople leaving for their campaign and election season autumn recess before passing the 2012 Farm Bill, I've selected this infographic on what it might take for a family of 4 to go "off the grid" and live self-sufficiently. The graphic includes solar generation of electricity (note the small fraction of a rooftop it would take) and the land required to grow veggies and fruits, to raise goats for dairy, and to raise chickens and pigs for meat (if you're still omnivorous, like most of us in the US). The graphic does not include the amount of water required to grow those crops (which varies by location) and tend to those animals, as well as providing for our own daily needs.

This graphic gives some idea of the food "footprint" that supports each of us: about a half-acre (~22k square feet) per person, plus corn (if not bought elsewhere, as noted in the graphic), plus water, plus shelter (with solar panels on the roof), plus what I am sure is a lot of hard work. Much of that work and cost is done by farmers, who provide far more to the economy and our well-being than we recognize.

From Renew Resources Ltd. for 1 Block Off The Grid

17 September 2012

Monday Infographics: Food Security

This week's Monday Infographic comes from Oxfam International, courtesy of Engineering for Change. The human food system has become, to a large extent, truly global. There was a time when just exotic foods and spices were transported across oceans for those willing to pay, but now the most basic of staples are shipped and traded by the ton: corn (maize), wheat, rice, sugar, soy, fruits, etc. Food production depends, of course, on water and climate and seasonal weather cycles. It also depends on markets, governments, and profit-making interests around the world.

Note that this infographic is oriented primarily on African and Asian food production, as for it's source organization. It therefore does not mention the pressures on food production from biofuel requirements and subsidies in the US and Europe. In the globalization of food trade, however, that link with energy has become important and forms just part of what I call the "true nexus" that is becoming more visible and pervasive, and more complicated, in international discussion. I'll save that for another post, however, as I'm still working out how this "true nexus" might best be presented...

From Oxfam International, by way of Engineering for Change.

15 September 2012

Still More Reports on Water and Related Issues

Following on my two previous posts over the past few weeks listing a number of these reports and publications (here and here), I've searched through my bookmarks and e-mails to find a still more for you all. Again, in no particular order, though with a little organization:
I'm sure that I'll have compiled yet another list in a few weeks.

10 September 2012

Monday Infographics: NOAA NCDC Summer Wrap-up

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has released their monthly "State of the Climate" assessment that covers this past summer in the US. Surprisingly, 2011 was hotter overall, though this year's drought across much of the country was driven by record low rainfall across much the High Plains.

I'm working on some writing, and I am back into classes now, so I'll present your infographics without further ado...

Image from the NOAA NCDC "State of the Climate" assessment for August 2012.
Image from the NOAA NCDC "State of the Climate" assessment for August 2012.
Image from the NOAA NCDC "State of the Climate" assessment for August 2012.

04 September 2012

More Reports on Water and Related Issues

Continuing on the list that I posted previously, I've collected still more recent announcements of report releases from public and private sources regarding water and related issues, and wanted to share all of these with you. All of these are available in pdf format for free. In no particular order:
That should be enough for a little while, right?

03 September 2012

Monday Infographics: The Labor of Science

For today, in honor of Labor Day here in America and Labour Day in Canada and many other parts of the world, I thought I would post this infographic on "The PhD's Job Crisis" that came to my attention thanks to Dr. Michael Campana at WaterWired. There have been a couple of these graphic lamentations in the past several months regarding the surplus of doctoral graduates and the dearth of jobs for them, mostly in academia but in public and private positions as well. I remarked on Twitter a while ago that an earlier story on the topic was focused entirely on biotech and biomedical graduates, though many (including the mainstream media, which isn't helping matters) took the story to be true of all sciences. I can certainly see trouble in bio-tech/medical fields, where so many qualified graduates with applicable skills emerge from NIH-funded academic labs to meet either more academic work in university settings, with competition for funding similar to what they just left, or an industry where testing, pharmaceuticals and hospitals are largely private, with a lot of government regulation and oversight and even more cut-throat competition for profit and those billion-dollar patents on the latest and greatest medications or methods. (Those of you reading this who are knowledgeable on that, please correct me as needed.)

Compare and contrast this infographic with a story published on Friday by Slate.com, in which the author argues that seven years of graduate work toward a Ph.D. is certainly worth it, despite the opportunity costs of that time in higher education (and the previously-published criticisms of the graduate education, listed there). I have my own ideas about many of those stories (and their authors) that suggest the time spent in graduate school is far from worth it, but my ideas boil down to this: if things stay the way they are now in academia and elsewhere in professional science, and if your only goal is to maintain the status quo, then sure, things look bad in many places, and a higher degree won't make much difference for one's career opportunities. But there are obvious problems with the status quo (and many of the people who built and maintain it), and things are changing. By the time my daughter enters the workforce, and then I'll retire a few decades later, the pace and scope and methods of research and science will look entirely different from what we have now. Well... allow me to qualify that: they must become different, because if things stay the same as we have now, much of humanity is on an abbreviated course through our future.

Of course, my own path to the Ph.D. has been non-traditional, so I welcome opinions and experiences from others. As for the missed opportunities... I think that I see about once per week, advertised in various places across the 'net (including Dr. Campana's great weekly round-up), open permanent positions for which I will eventually be qualified, with that Ph.D. on which I am working, and likely a post-doc position to add to my professional experience. Of those advertised positions, I think that I see about two per month that make me say "Wow, that would be pretty cool!" But have I really lost those opportunities while I am in graduate school? Not at all, as even now I am doing good and relevant work. Will the need for qualified individuals, those with my knowledge and interests and skills, diminish with time? Given the issues in our physical environment that society (and eventually government) are coming to recognize, I doubt it. For all the good work that is going on now in Earth science, even better work is ahead of us...

PhD Job Crisis
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