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no rain, no grain

The world is one poor harvest away from chaos

An Indian woman sifts grain from a previous harvest. Water shortages could drastically affect this year's harvest.Photo: World BankIn early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had reached an all-time high in December, exceeding the previous record set during the 2007-08 price surge. Even more alarming, on Feb. 3, the FAO announced that the December record had been broken in January as prices climbed an additional 3 percent. Will this rise in food prices continue in the months ahead? In all likelihood, we will see further rises that will take the world …


The only kids are alright

The only kids are alright: Good reasons to consider stopping at one child

This only kid is A-OK.Photo: Omar GurnahSnooki of MTV's Jersey Shore is immature, whiny, and self-involved -- in other words, your typical reality-show star. But a New York Times article about her improbable rise to fame pinpoints one of her less typical qualities: "Not surprisingly, Snooki is an only child," writes Cathy Horyn. Ouch. Harshing on the only kids. Surely many other immature, whiny, and self-involved reality-show participants have siblings, but nobody's pointing that out. This is just the sort of groundless prejudice that Bill McKibben set out to counter when he wrote the book Maybe One: A Case for …

Read more: Living, Population


The parent trap

Care about population? About women? Then you should care that GOP is taking aim at family planning

Deficit-peacock Republicans in the House don't want to make any cuts at all to the budgets of the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security, but they're delighted to completely eliminate funding for a family-planning program that serves low-income Americans. No matter that the move would actually increase long-term costs to taxpayers. The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday unveiled a list of proposed spending cuts for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, including zeroing out $327 million in funding for the Title X family-planning program. As Politico explains, "Started in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, Title X is …

Read more: Politics, Population


revolution is in the air

Why do states break down?

They can't stop what's coming.Photo: Al Jazeera EnglishUprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and across the Middle East at the start of 2011 have reminded the world just how politically fragile some countries are. But the focus of international politics has been shifting for some time now. After a half-century of forming new states from former colonies and from the breakup of the Soviet Union, the international community is today faced with the opposite situation: the disintegration of states. As an article in Foreign Policy observes, “Failed states have made a remarkable odyssey from the periphery to the very center of global …



Pre-Valentine’s live chat with Ask Umbra and TreeShagger

Even in French, they still taste like chalk. Photo: KatLevPhotoIn a live chat today, Grist's Ask Umbra and TreeShagger answered all of your Valentine's Day questions about sustainable love, dating, and (oh yeah!) sex. Did you miss the chat? Have no fear, dear, a replay is available below: 


Pop culture

8 things you can do about population

As we zoom toward 7 billion, population growth is looking ever more hairy and daunting. The big-picture solution is empowering women everywhere and making sure they have the tools, knowledge, and support to control the size of their families, but that's not something an average person can tackle on a lunch break. Of course you can (and you should) badger your congresspeople to fund family planning, both abroad and at home, and donate to nonprofits that work on these issues. But what can we do ourselves, in our own lives and communities? Here are a few ideas. Add your own …

Read more: Childfree, Living, Population


Radio daze

I talk population and 7 billion on Green Patriot Radio

Photo: K.G.PhotosThis week I got the chance to talk about my recent post "2011: The year we’ll hit 7 billion" on Green Patriot Radio with host David Steinman. We hit on all sorts of juicy topics, from immigration to China's one-child policy to childfree living. Listen here; my segment starts at 12:12.

Read more: Living, Population


7 billion for all mankind

2011: The year we’ll hit 7 billion

Sometime in the latter half of this year, the world population will hit a new milestone: 7 billion people. Already? Didn't we just hit 6 billion? Yep, a mere dozen years ago -- and that's probably the last time you heard much about population. It takes a big, round number with lots of zeroes to get MSM attention. So in 2011, expect to hear the P word a lot more than you did in 2010, and a lot more than you will in 2012. National Geographic is kicking off the action with a cover story and photo essay. It's projected …

Read more: Living, Population