Significant Figures by Peter Gleick

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One day, sometime around the middle of this century, during the lifetime of people now alive, the population of the planet will be smaller than it was the day before. Global population growth is slowing, will level off, and one remarkable day, decline. This day will mark the dividing line – the definitive transition –…

The Nile River – river of legend – is not just a river in Egypt. It is the lifeblood of 11 different African nations and the longest river in the world, extending over 6,500 kilometers long and draining a watershed of over 3 million square kilometers. The eleven nations that share the Nile are Egypt,…

The planet has passed a disturbing landmark, a marker on a continuing highway to climate disruption. On May 9th, the NOAA and the Mauna Loa observatory reported that atmospheric CO2 levels touched 400 parts per million. Before humans started burning fossil fuels, they were around 280 parts per million.   The last time atmospheric CO2…

The Colorado River, recently named America’s most endangered river, supports millions of people in the American Southwest and northwest Mexico and helps irrigate millions of acres of land. It is shared by seven states in the U.S. and Mexico, through a complex series of legal agreements and treaties. Yet every drop of water on the river…

Bottled Water Tax

Municipalities are trying to find ways of dealing with the scourge of plastic bottles in their garbage, and with falling revenues from many sources. Plastic bottles have become a significant fraction of total garbage volume, and raise collection, handling, and landfill costs when they are not recycled. In 2011, according to NAPCOR (the National Association…

The numbers are in for 2012, and they are shocking. The Beverage Marketing Corporation, which tracks sales and consumption of beverages, is reporting that sales of bottled water grew nearly 7 percent between 2011 and 2012, with consumption reaching a staggering 30.8 gallons per person. And since I (and some of you) consume almost zero…

We live on solid ground, but the truth is, our planet is mostly covered in water. The famous writer Arthur C. Clarke noted this when he said, “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.” Today is Earth Day, when we celebrate the planet, and in particular the functioning ecosystem…

On April 2nd, I posted three iconic graphs showing some of the clear observational evidence that we’re changing the climate. That post produced a substantial, and largely thoughtful response, and a request for more information and data along these lines. Here are three more, along with a bonus fourth, all with a theme of exponential…

Here are three iconic graphs (unfortunately, there are many, many more) showing just some of the clear observational evidence that we’re changing the climate. The first is the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, measured at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. It shows the little ups and downs in concentration that varies with the seasons,…

There’s nothing like spending time in the desert to make one appreciate water. It might seem strange to some that a water wonk like me spends considerable time in the desert. I’ve tried to go down to the vast Southern California desert for some time every year, typically in the spring when the winter cold is receding…