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Urbanization Has Left the Amazon Burning

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the not-so-hot dept.

Earth 93

pigrabbitbear writes "Farming, logging, and strip mining has long altered much of the Amazon rainforest, with slash-and-burn land-clearing techniques turning large portions of the forest into patchworks of pastures, second-growth forest, and degraded land. Now, rural people are increasingly moving to booming Amazonian cities; paradoxically, the land they're leaving behind is being ravaged by wildfires. A new paper published in PNAS shows that in the Peruvian Amazon, land use changes and depopulation have let large wildfires fly through converted land. It puts a damper on those optimistic that the urbanization of the Amazon may allow parts of the forest to recover, by centralizing populated areas and leaving old converted land to be slowly gobbled up by the encroaching forest."

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Basically... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258249)

We're all fucked. :(

- /dev/phaeton

So That's What Happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258271)

I was wondering what happened to the rainforests. As a kid I was always hearing how we're cutting down the rainforests and they'd all be gone in XX years. We're still losing them :(

Re:So That's What Happened (3, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42258533)

As a kid...they'd all be gone in XX years.

The real problem here is that kids are still being taught Roman numerals.

Re:So That's What Happened (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 2 years ago | (#42259191)

I was wondering what happened to the rainforests. As a kid I was always hearing how we're cutting down the rainforests and they'd all be gone in XX years. We're still losing them :(

What happens to the rain forests? In the short term sad things will happen to the rain forests. In the long term (read: a thousand years or more) nothing remarkable will happen. Even if we keep going the way we are doing today and believe the free market pundits when they tell us it's OK to gingerly go on cutting forests down, polluting, rapaciously depleting resources, driving entire species to extinction and modifying the climate, civilization will eventually collapse, human populations will be drastically reduced and bumped back to the 17th or 18th century if we are lucky. If we are unlucky human kind might become extinct but I find that unlikely since we humans are a pest species that is rather hard to eradicate, not quite as tough as rats or cockroaches but we are still relatively tough. I think that a genetic bottleneck like the one that followed the Toba catastrophe is a more likely worst case scenario and I emphasize worst case. When humans go away or get knocked back into the neolithic the planet's ecosystems will recover, the rain forests will grow back although as more time passes you would find those new forests increasingly unfamiliar since all manner of new species will evolve to replace the ones we killed off.

Re:So That's What Happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260633)

"Pest species." You're adorable.

Re:So That's What Happened (1)

Evtim (1022085) | about 2 years ago | (#42261283)

What do you call it then? Ahh yes, even shallow, commercial entertainment gets it right - "you are not mammals, you are a virus" - as opposed to free market gurus.

To me it is highly symptomatic and very worrying that even such pop-culture items as the Matrix or Star Wars (the bad guy plays “both sides” against each other – that was a stab on GWB/Taliban if I ever saw one). That means that it is common in our culture to expect such behavior from humans. Art, even such commercial art is a reflection of society. Meditate on this you should!

Re:So That's What Happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42270491)

no he isn't.

he's a fucking idiot

Re:So That's What Happened (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42261795)

Global warming indicates species extinction level feedback loop is possible, and in about 400 years.

Re:So That's What Happened (1)

Dyne09 (1305257) | about 2 years ago | (#42259543)

I was a little confused about the direction of this article. Is it saying that we're actually losing more rain-forest per year due to wild fires than we were to deforestation? They draw a link between urbanization and a growth in rural wild fires, but is the net loss more than it was 20 years ago? If there is an % increase in wildfires, what does that mean in context? Maybe they explained it in the video (I couldn't watch it where I was), but all this article is saying is wildfires = bad, which I think we can all agree with.

Most folks don't understand... (5, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42258281)

Amazonian soils are poor. The wealth is in the trees and the plants and animals that live there. Slash and burn and the soil is depleted in just a few years, and there is nothing left for trees to come back to. Add wildfires, erosion, desertification, and accelerating habitat loss and without a concerted effort BY PEOPLE to put things back complete with planting saplings and fertilizing, there isn't much hope for reforestation. The good news is that there are a growing number of displaced aboriginal peoples who would be only too happy to nurture the regrowth of the forest, they would simply need education and resources to do the reforestation.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258689)

Everybody understands. The people who matter just don't care. I guess they would rather eat than save the planet for your kids.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42259107)

Everybody understands. The people who matter just don't care. I guess they would rather eat than save the planet for your kids.

Agreed. It's hypocritical for us to sit here in our 21st century post-industrialist nations and chastise those nations who want to develop themselves out of poverty, when our nations are themselves the product of the worst ecological disasters in recent geological history. For example, there is every reason to believe that the Great Eastern Forest of North America, that area expanding from the Atlantic to the Mississippi river and from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, was just as ecologically diverse as the Amazon up until the 15th century. Arthur Barlowe wrote, upon his exploration of the North Carolina coast, "so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them...in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found."

Slash and burn was regularly used to clear off the land for agriculture and build modern cities, Washington, Atlanta, Manhattan, were built this way. Washington in particular was also built by compacting swamplands, a practice that is illegal today. The entire Southern United States was clear-cut by 1850, an ecological nightmare that was rectified many years later by the planting of longleaf pines, an invasive species that was preferred for its short maturity cycle (20 years). This clear-cutting of the land lead to an economic disaster that may have exacerbated the American Civil War (that, along with slavery, the tool used to clear-cut the forests in the first place). It was only the temperate humid climate that prevented dust bowls from happening, although this did not spare the Great Plains region some 80 years later.

We can be "high and mighty" as we sit in the comfort of our heated homes, protected by our modern technology in a society that got rich from exploiting the environment and the poor, but it would be hypocritical. Who are we to judge what other nations do in their development?

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0, Flamebait)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42260191)

I have to point out that the deforestation of the eastern forests was done by the native Americans-- just in case someone wants to turn this into another "hate whitey" diatribe.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42265347)

I have to point out, TO THE IGNORANT SLASHDOT HIVE MIND, that the deforestation of the eastern forests was done by the native Americans!

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

okor (1848382) | about 2 years ago | (#42260261)

Insightful and informative. Thanks.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (2)

the biologist (1659443) | about 2 years ago | (#42263197)

There are not good reasons to think the northern areas were as diverse as the Amazon up until the 15th century and there are VERY good reasons to expect the more northern forests to be depleted relative to the Amazon.

The amazon has tree types which were common before the Chicxulub impactor, which resulted in a splashing of material up and over most of North America. Much of living things on North America were wiped out at this time. For much of the continent in the times after the impact, the largest land vertebrates were turtles who rode out the devastation under water/ground. Fungus was one of the most common life forms after the impact, as all the trees/etc died and rotted.

The periodic cycles of glaciation experienced by the northern hemisphere continents have a dramatic impact on tree species diversity. When the ice comes south, no trees survive under it. When the ice moves north, the more weedy tree species which can rapidly spread north come to represent more of the population. Every cycle depletes the population of tree (and other) species in the region.

The environment of the Amazon has been MUCH more stable over the long-term, allowing species counts to increase to the maximum allowable by evolutionarily found niches, without the periodic reductions seen in North America. If the impactor had landed slightly differently than it did, we would see a reduced diversity in the Amazon compared to what we have, but the diversity would still be higher than in North America with its periodic glaciations.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263631)

So now that we know better we can't try and help others avoid the same mistakes? Are you truly suggesting that the best course of action is to do nothing in the hopes that somehow two wrongs will make a right? Sound like White guilt to me.

Honestly the solution to this is to help poorer countries do the right thing, using our wealth instead of having the whole world run on ill gotten gains.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42264535)

Tu quoque.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42270233)

One problem is that the forest is being ravaged by a few rich nations (usually not even to the advantage of the nation being ravaged) for instance Japan is one of the major causes of tropical deforestation on the planet. The next is that greedy industrialists rape the forest for mineral wealth, often murdering indigenous populations and leaving environmental devastation. Much of this is the work of multinational criminals for purely profit based motives. Sometimes the only nationals that get any value from these transactions are bribed government officials.

Another critical problem is that these forests represent critical biodiversity, environmental wealth for the entire planet (they don't call the rain forests the lungs of the planet for nothing.) Letting any one group of people destroy a global resource of such critical importance is more than unconscionable. Its tantamount to an act of war. Consider this hypothetical. There are two countries and a critical river ones first through one then the other. The upstream nation decides to dam the river and use it fully for energy, agriculture, and to water its people in the desert to the exclusion of those downstream. Those down stream begin to suffer, horribly. Are the folks downstream justified in declaring war on those upstream? Consider now that the remaining global rain forest is vital for processing carbon and generating oxygen in our atmosphere, and the death of the forest assures serious global impact and a degraded global environment. Do global police organization have justification to say to that nation cease and desist, you threaten the welfare of millions outside you borders. Now,what about multinational corporations? Playing duck and weave to avoid regulation and environmental accountability.

This is a complex problem and it will certainly impact all of us... in fact, it already has.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (5, Interesting)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 2 years ago | (#42258721)

It's a paradox most people don't understand very well. My country, Portugal, is a very good example.

Massive migrations from the countryside started in the 60s because of widespread poverty in rural areas. Our agriculture was not productive enough to feed everybody and the dictatorship never bothered to develop it. Land was either abandoned or misused for monoculture of eucalyptus and pines for the production of paper. As most people now live in cramped cities on the coast, the rural areas away from the sea have extremely low population densities. Paradoxically, instead of this allowing the wild life to recover, it leads to massive wildfires, soil erosion and desertification. The original woods were cut down centuries ago and will not grow again without human intervention.

Of course, everybody talks about desertification, but no action is actually taken. It would involve very big State intervention, and land owners don't want that, even when they don't give a flying fuck about the land they own. I know people that inherited pieces of land, they won't go there ever, they won't use it for agriculture, they won't associate with their neighbours to make the costs of maintenance lower, they won't allow the State to take over their land. They just have it planted with pines or eucalyptus and sit on their hands for years waiting to reap the benefits. But they don't do any maintenance. When a fire consumes all the trees, they just say "Oh, bad luck. Who gives a fuck?".

When all my country becomes a barren desert, maybe those in power will bother.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (3, Interesting)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#42258917)

The solution is actually very easy: heavy taxation on improductive lands, while of course considering reforestation efforts as a productive activity.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (4, Interesting)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 2 years ago | (#42259141)

That would be nice, but it's quite the opposite that happens. With the stupidity of European Common Agriculture Policy, If you have enough land you can live off subsidies without actually producing anything.

The same issue happens with housing. We have enough high-quality houses for everybody, but many are empty. In our capital Lisbon alone, there are 50.000 empty houses because wealthy people use them as investments and don't want to bother to rent them. They just let them sit there empty, hoping their price increases to make a profit. Meanwhile, millions of new apartments have been built in completely chaotic suburbs around the city. Fortunately the current crisis killed the construction fever, but the empty houses are still empty.

Every time anyone proposes the same fix you proposed he is violently attacked as a "delusional communist". While private property is kept as an absolute value over the common good, there will be no way to fix this. The politicians won't do anything because they're in the pockets of rich proprietors and real-estate speculators. Rentist parasites leaching on the rest of society, in the name of Free Market, Freedom of Enterprise and the Sanctity of Private Property. Ironic, isn't it?

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42259439)

I agree (AC from above). Brazil in particular does not have control over its land. This can be seen in city slums (favelas) and rural encampments. Often the local councillor will be a landowner, and will give himself authority to expand his holding.

In cases where another (but less powerful) landowner has high quality land. An unscrupulous landowner may pay indigenous (Indians if you will) people to move onto competitors land, and will continue to pay a monthly stipend until rights are granted to the indigenous people (they have special protections) to live there, at which point the indigenous sell the land to the new guy.
Rinse.
Repeat.

Those who are uncooperative will find their cattle killed/houses raised, and sometimes people killed.

There is not much law in the Amazon region. The law of the jungle perhaps, but nothing civilised.

Having said that. The average Jose is the nicest guy you could meet. Just don't mock his football team.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42260247)

You note that the European Common Agriculture Policy is impeding progress, yet blame it on the "free market"? It was short-sighted individuals who caused this mess, but clearly the socialist policies aren't fixing it. And tossing away the right to own property in the interest of the "common good" would be rash and cause long-term hardship. If you have great ideas for saving this land, why don't you draw up some plans, organize, and lobby for the government to purchase these neglected lands through a more democratic process of eminent domain?

Re:Most folks don't understand... (4, Insightful)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 2 years ago | (#42261173)

You note that the European Common Agriculture Policy is impeding progress, yet blame it on the "free market"? It was short-sighted individuals who caused this mess, but clearly the socialist policies aren't fixing it.

Giving subsidies to useless rich fucks who happen to own a lot of land, while small owners are left in the cold is now Socialism? Oh fuck, I must have read the wrong books, then. But it sure is Free Market all the way, because the corollary to the neoliberal theories is that only the rich can suck on State's tits, all the others can't because that'd be Communism and promoting laziness.

And tossing away the right to own property in the interest of the "common good" would be rash and cause long-term hardship.

When exactly did I suggest that? Can't you guys see any colour besides black and white?

If you have great ideas for saving this land, why don't you draw up some plans, organize, and lobby for the government to purchase these neglected lands through a more democratic process of eminent domain?

Who says I don't? Who says they give a fuck? Money talks louder, dude.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42265329)

Giving subsidies to useless rich fucks who happen to own a lot of land, while small owners are left in the cold is now Socialism?

It certainly isn't capitalism. Government influencing the real estate market, and propping up the property rights of once group over another, is an example of misuse of state power. Don't give the state power to subsidize anyone, and they'll be forced to sell their useless land.

Can't you guys see any colour besides black and white?

What guys?

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 2 years ago | (#42271411)

Giving subsidies to useless rich fucks who happen to own a lot of land, while small owners are left in the cold is now Socialism?

It certainly isn't capitalism.

In my country, the ruling classes have been destroying all the social benefits we conquered with the 74 revolution, in the name of "competition" and "market freedom". The State has been selling its assets at bargain price to capitalist friends. Many state services have already been transferred to private hands. They're talking about privatising what's left of it, like water, public TV, Social Security, education and health care. In all the cases, these privatisations involve the sale of a public service at shit-cheap price to a big monopolist corporation. The corporation then runs it for profit, providing a shitty service and getting huge pays by... the State (?!?) to keep the thing running. At the same time, the ruling classes point out the unemployed, the retired, the sick, the civil servants, etc. as leaches that place an unbearable burden on the public budget.

Meanwhile, our agriculture and fisheries were completely destroyed, our industry disappeared. Most of the companies in our stock exchange are near-monopolies that feed on the (public) budget and make big (private) profits, and banks (that are all on life support, right now, fed by... guess who).

Maybe it's not Capitalism. What is it, then?

Government influencing the real estate market, and propping up the property rights of once group over another, is an example of misuse of state power. Don't give the state power to subsidize anyone, and they'll be forced to sell their useless land.

The system being gamed to give money to friends in high places, that's just criminally wrong, and must end. The State giving up any intervention, leaving it all to the law of the jungle, will produce the same results. The big sharks will eat all the small fish and then use their huge power to game the system so they end up getting public money anyway.

Take a look at the current economic situation worldwide. The developed Capitalist countries' States gave up the control of the economy, and they're facing huge debts. In the emerging economies, the State has an iron hand on the economy. Leaving all the economy to the private sector paradoxically leads to more and more public debt, because almighty corporations won't stop at nothing to make more money. Taking it from the State is the easiest way, both in the form of tax avoiding, public contracts or subsidies.

Can't you guys see any colour besides black and white?

What guys?

Every time these issues are discussed with right-wing people (as I assume you are) they end up using the straw-man attack. I'm not proposing to end the right to private property, as you implied!

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42265295)

I love how my rather CENTRIST idea of lobbying for the use of eminent domain is somehow not left-wing enough for Slashdot moderators.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (5, Informative)

Clsid (564627) | about 2 years ago | (#42260421)

I live in Venezuela, and while we might be portrayed in the media as "delusional communists", that land issue was largely solved by government take over of improductive lands. Everybody that had land, either urban or rural got so scared that they got their stuff together and either sold what they weren't going to use or started making the ranches productive as hell. Same deal with urban land that was just there waiting to collect a big check when an area developed. I personally have relatives that were doing just that and after the National Guard started asking around who the owners of those plots were, they now have a nice car wash, a very small shopping center, a burger place and they are planning to build some homes in the remaining area.

Call me a convert, because after watching all of this happen in less than 5 years, especially in a Latin American country, I really have to ask myself about the supposedly sacred value of private property.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260761)

I'd say it's pretty sacred, seeing as how the threat of losing it got people moving. Having said that the "use it or lose it" threat DOES seem pretty useful.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (4, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 2 years ago | (#42261087)

I live in Venezuela, and while we might be portrayed in the media as "delusional communists", that land issue was largely solved by government take over of improductive lands.

The reality is, in both capitalist and communist countries, when important resources are being squandered and wasted by their owners, and where the existing system of commerce cannot resolve the situation, it falls to the government to nationalise and reallocate those resources. People--in particular resource owners--don't like to admit to it, but that's how the world has to work if we are to avoid the "desertification" of entire economies.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262531)

I live in Venezuela, and while we might be portrayed in the media as "delusional communists", that land issue was largely solved by government take over of improductive lands. Everybody that had land, either urban or rural got so scared that they...

And you wonder why you're called delusional communists.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

Clsid (564627) | about 2 years ago | (#42284383)

Yup, and after seeing what's going on in Spain, damn proud about it too even if I'm not a communist.

We had the same issue they are having with banks and you can read how it was solved here without the population having to pay for it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_banking_crisis_of_2009-2010 [wikipedia.org]

And I have accounts on both private and state banks. Private banks are really good with online banking, ATMs, while state banks are better when you actually have to purchase a car, a house. Kind of like an advanced credit union if you will.

But the government has failed miserably when it comes to crime and even keeping a good national electrical service in an oil exporting country. So go figure.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42259369)

Excellent post.

As a European living in Brazil it is valuable to be able to refer to cases such as this when the issue comes up.

But unfortunately, I believe short term-materialism will triumph over well considered, long-term enrichment.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 2 years ago | (#42261775)

The people in power are only going to whine when their gravy train dries up.

Until then they're laughing all the way to the bank.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 2 years ago | (#42261981)

, but no action is actually taken.

Not entirely true: http://www.tamera.org/index.php?id=916&L=0 [tamera.org] But you are right that only some individuals seem to care...

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42269147)

There are techniques for reforestation that don't require state intervention. A friend of mine, Tony Rinaudo, worked for some decades in Niger and saw vast areas reforested through what he calls Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. You can hear him talk about it on Youtube or flip through this slide deck.

http://www.slideshare.net/agroforestry/farmer-managed-natural-regeneration-a-personal-journey-beatingfamine

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

alphatel (1450715) | about 2 years ago | (#42258741)

Best of luck changing things. Fines and arrests are frequently made for the processing of illegal lumber at small plants, the largest clearing houses are those owned by government officials, either as developers or loggers. The "people" are doing what they are told or at least paying for it. Those in charge escape all prosecution.

For more on this and other plights of our changing world,. check out Urbanization [imdb.com] (yes it's on Netflix)

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42261875)

Urbanization is what I call a FUDumentary. along with fast food nations and Gasland.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#42263115)

The forest will eventually regrow, unless they're salting the earth the same process that allowed the forest to once grow there will happen again. Watch any nature show on volcanoes and you'll realize how resilient life is, even on lava that's barely cooled you'll have first wave species growing so long as there is water available. The process might not be as fast as some people want it to be, but it's pretty much inevitable.

Re:Most folks don't understand... (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#42264003)

The difference you're missing is that with lava you have massively enriched soil.

With deforestation you get exact opposite.

Essentially you apply fauna-based "lava equals wiping of all I see as important", while flora based point of view is "look at all these new rich minerals in top soil to grow off!"

Re:Most folks don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42264519)

Not necessarily. In wet areas like the Amazon soil nutrients are washed away in short order. The only large reserve of nutrients in many of these areas is in the biomass; nutrient-poor ecosystems can be pretty efficient in nutrient cycling. A working rainforest ecosystem may only need a small influx of nutrients (ie wind borne dust) to maintain itself. If you cut down and burn the forest, you lose that existing nutrient pool; some of it goes up in smoke, and the rest gets leached away. That leaves you with only whatever inputs you get from elsewhere. It may take thousands of years to reaccumulate the materials required to support the original biomass (which, in terms of human timescales, means never).

Lava isn't a good example in this case. Volcanic material is about as nutrient rich as you can get. It's easy for plants to get going. This is more like trying to grow your houseplants in a bucket of sand.

In before both the activists & relativists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258353)

With topics such as this i think it's worth stressing that yes, this is a problem. And yes it is everyone's problem. However, it's still Tragedy of the commons and humans have always and will keep doing everything in their power to put food on the table.

I don't think you can understand this point if you've never been both poor and 'educated' in evironmental sciences, as the latter are kind of overrepresented by the well-off. As long as we don't take into account the 'why', the 'what' of 'how' won't matter, and that is such a shame.

There's a simple solution (3, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#42258653)

Stop people having so many damn kids. Less people = less food required = less land needed. But even now women having endless kids are seen as heroes by even educated people. Until humanity realises that it can't keep on reproducing exponentially then these problems will never be solved.

And don't any even attempt to use the worn out argument about how agricultural production has kept up with population growth. Sure it has - as long as you ignore the almost total destruction of the natural enviroment where it occurs. Pesticides, fertilizer runoff, stripped forests , farting cows, soil loss etc etc

Re:There's a simple solution (4, Interesting)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42258831)

Stop people having so many damn kids.

Unfortunately that just isn't practically feasible. You need between 4 and 9 people working and paying between 10% and 20% of their production in taxes or something similar so as to enough goods and services for the retired. Why is that? Well, if the amount one pays up is 10% of his produced goods/services, that means she gets to keep about 90% of his produced goods/services on which to live (exchanging them with other people by way of money, but money is only an abstract number people use to exchange actually livable-on goods and services, which is why I'm saying "goods/services" all the time). So, assuming that person will need to keep receiving the same amount of goods/services after retirement, she'll need someone to come and provide her those same "90% of a produced goods/services", meaning 9 working people each giving up 10% of their own produced goods/services.

Before social security the way you had to do it was straightforward: get 10 kids and they'll provide you the needed goods/services once you cannot work anymore. Nowadays, with social security, this simple, direct relationship, is hidden from the common folk, who just don't notice it. But the need for 4 to 9 people working for each retiree remains, which on a low 1-children-per-couple society means there's a permanent need of 3 to 8 "other someones" for each retiree, which gets filled by immigrants and/or native (and usually poor) huge-families. That's a hack solution though. Once the other people-supplying countries rise on their living standards and their people start having less children, it stops working. And then basically bad solutions remain, with a single good one:

a) "paying" less and less (i.e., providing less actual goods/services) to retirees, thus reducing their actual standard of living;

b) rising real taxes (not the nominal ones that affect only abstract "money" numbers, but actual taxes on actually produced goods/services) more and more to keep paying them what they need, thus reducing their actual standard of living;

c) move tons of people from their current, not-actually-directly-useful goods/services production, back into doing stuff that people really need, thus reducing their actual standard of living;

d) engage on old style "loot and plunder" wars so as to acquire more actual goods (not services in this case) than you can produce, so as to give your people a higher standard of living than they would be able to develop;

e) go back to having lots of babies per couple, thus depleting natural resource even faster;

f) rise the age of retirement so as to keep the proportion stable, what only works if most people take care to actually die at some reasonable age that doesn't stress the balance, otherwise this will become a hack solution too;

And so on and so forth.

There's a possible good solution, which is to invest HEAVILY in robotics, and by proxy EVEN MORE heavily in sustainable energy sources to power them, so that we can at some point replace the currently required exponent growth of goods/services-producing people with tons upon tons of goods/services-producing robots.

That's the only one that will actually allow for a globally-sustainable low birth rate. Everything else will get us into a bad ending.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 2 years ago | (#42259603)

"There's a possible good solution, which is to invest HEAVILY in robotics, and by proxy EVEN MORE heavily in sustainable energy sources to power them, so that we can at some point replace the currently required exponent growth of goods/services-producing people with tons upon tons of goods/services-producing robots."

Yes, with the added implication that those robots are nationalized/ controlled by the state/ heavily taxed such that their production benefits the people. That is: socialized. Of which I am in favor, but it's a total pipe dream in a place like the USA (capitalists would rather "poison pill" us before relinquishing control).

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#42259645)

posting to undo accidental ``Flamebait'' mod --- mea culpa

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42259931)

Yes, with the added implication that those robots are nationalized/ controlled by the state/ heavily taxed such that their production benefits the people.

Not necessarily. A fully robotized / low birth rate world would be, for all practical purposes, basically non-scarce, specially if fusion power happens. At the extreme you'd be able to have everyone not interested in doing anything useful sitting in their robot-built homes getting perma-high with their robot-farmed drug of choice. And on top of that a minority of non-drug addicted folk going around doing their mostly creative stuff, commercially or not. A government going out of its way to carefully control this second group would just be messing for messing's sake, with no actual good reason behind it. As for the first, yes, I think it might be needed, but even so most of everything would be automated, including robots repairing other robots, so any required interference would be minimal anyway.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 2 years ago | (#42260887)

Yea, right. Look around you how the massive improvements in productivity (industrial, agricultural, etc) is distributed... Does it look like it's split evenly among everyone ? No: a very few CEO/owners of a few large companies reap all the benefits and charge 'what the market can bear' on everyone. What makes you think that this method would change with the advent of robots ? You'd have to pay everything you _can_ to benefit from those robots, even if their production and running costs are minimal.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42261075)

Look around you how the massive improvements in productivity (industrial, agricultural, etc) is distributed... Does it look like it's split evenly among everyone?

No, but why should it be? The fact a modern day beggar lives better than a Middle Ages king, with more food, more health, more clothes, more shoes, more transportation and basically more of everything compared to the latter, except for a title and a castle, is more than good enough. Equality is a false goal. The true goal is the improvement of humanity's base level. As long as it's pushing up, I'm contented.

Re:There's a simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262109)

there are a few kingly benefits you left off.... power, servants, social respect by the general public. A begger has none of these things and is largely powerless and cast off. Those things do mean something, you know.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42262519)

there are a few kingly benefits you left off.... power, servants, social respect by the general public. A begger has none of these things and is largely powerless and cast off. Those things do mean something, you know.

True, but in a socialist setting, which is what the OP proposes, you'd have neither power nor servants either, so that wouldn't change. The remaining detail would be social respect, but that one can be lost if the person violates the explicit or implicit rules of any social setting. So, maybe we wouldn't have beggars proper, but we'd have social cast offs of some kind or another all the same.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 2 years ago | (#42278397)

"At the extreme you'd be able to have everyone not interested in doing anything useful sitting in their robot-built homes..."

This is the techie BS about giving everyone 10-hour work weeks that has come up empty for over a century now. If Mr. X owns a house-building robot, why would he have it build Ms. Y a house for free?

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42281955)

This is the techie BS about giving everyone 10-hour work weeks that has come up empty for over a century now.

No, it hasn't. If you're okay in getting a good living standard by the standards of 100 years ago, you can get it by working about that much. Now, if you want a good living standard by the current standards, you'll have to work quite a bit more than that to achieve it.

If Mr. X owns a house-building robot, why would he have it build Ms. Y a house for free?

You're looking at it in the short term. What I envision is a long term scenario in which house-building robots are a dime a dozen, as is everything else because no hard labor is done by human anymore, not even the hard labor of repairing defective robots, given they repair themselves and keep building more and more of themselves with asteroid-mined metal and such. The more offer there is (and one that grows exponentially at that), in a scenario where demand doesn't increase, the cheaper the price, until it reaches the point where it becomes, for all practical purposes, basically zero.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42262019)

Why government controlled?
They would have to be taxed to provide revenue stream, and support a system for displaced worker, which would be millions of people.
But production of item would become cheaper,and more local.

I can't see a reason why a private farmer couldn't have a automated picking machine that drops the crop off at the automated cleaning and packing machine, then gets moved by the automated forklift into an automated truck.

I also see a day where swarms of small automated bots replace pesticides, anti fungal, and weed killers.

Re:There's a simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42266257)

Unions will never allow you to take jobs away from "hard working" Americans to give you your robots. I for one welcome our new robotic overlords.

Re:There's a simple solution (2)

ethanms (319039) | about 2 years ago | (#42261295)

Unfortunately that just isn't practically feasible. You need between 4 and 9 people working and paying between 10% and 20% of their production in taxes or something similar so as to enough goods and services for the retired.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like you assume no one saves for their own retirement during their working career?

I'm mid-career and on target (assuming no major financial or government upsets) to retire and require zero assistance or payback from the government.

Re:There's a simple solution (2)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42261623)

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like you assume no one saves for their own retirement during their working career?

At any moment the total mount of money in the world, no matter what the number is, equals the total amount of goods and services available (this isn't exactly so due to marginal utility, but it's a good enough approximation for our purposes). In other words, possessing a certain amount of "money" means only that you have access to a certain percentage of the total currently existing amount of goods and services, not to an absolute amount of goods and services, that is, that the "1" in a "$1" bill means that it gives you access to "1 / worldwide_total_money" of "worldwide_existing_goods_and_services". Consequently, if the total amount of goods and services available becomes smaller due to there having less and less people around producing goods and services, then your $1 becomes able to purchase proportionally less. Similarly, it the total amount of money increases, but the total amount of goods and services doesn't, then that $1 also becomes able to purchase proportionally less.

So, for your saved money for retirement to retain its purchasing power, two things must absolutely be avoided: the government creating money at a higher speed than that of the worldwide output of goods and services and/or said output decreasing on its own. And the later is precisely what happens when we have less than 4 to 9 people working for each retiree: you drop this proportion, you drop the amount of goods and services; you drop the amount of goods and services, you drop the amount of goods and services that any given amount of money, saved or not, can purchase.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42262101)

a very large piece of the population is at poverty level and still works full time. So saving for retirement means no food.
There are many reasons why we have SS, and they are good reason founded in practicality.

I know someone who had a retirement saved and it was wiped clean during the collapse. It was in a fund that was not supposed to be used for loans. Unknown to him, it was. Now he's got SS and health problem he can't pay for, and is near retirement age.
A few years ago there were several interviews with many people in that same boat.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42261931)

Wow, I have never seen a completely misunderstanding of social security laid out so nicely.

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42261899)

" But even now women having endless kids are seen as heroes by even educated people. "
no they aren't.
and we don't reproduce exponentially.

Re:There's a simple solution (3, Informative)

g8oz (144003) | about 2 years ago | (#42262149)

Not to interfere with your soapbox rant, but the birth rate in Brazil is declining, dramatically. It is actually lower than that of the U.S now.

The most common phrase used by Brazilian women on the subject of children is "the factory is closed".

Re:There's a simple solution (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42264953)

Stop people having so many damn kids.

There are two known ways of doing this. One is China's way, which has resulted in its own problems, and the other is to raise the standard of living. If your second child dies in infacy from cholera, you're likely to wind up with a dozen. But if you're in North America or Europe or any other advanced place, birthrate drops naturally.

AND STATE & LOCAL SALES TAX HAS DESTROYED IT ! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258395)

I am not going to Amazon anymore !! Ever !! Burn !! Baby !! Burn !!

Curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258471)

Were there no wildfires before the "rural people" fled to the cities?

And isn't fire good for regrowth of forests?

I don't think you know what that word means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258477)

Slowly. As in "not done in time for the next quarterly report".

Fire is not necessarily bad. (3, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42258511)

One of the things that have causes wildfire problems in the developed world is the perception that fire is bad and all fires must be put out. This has led to build up of fuel and hotter fires. Left alone forests will burn; usually started by lightning strikes. The thing is that the larger trees survive just fine. Their bark protects them and the fire clears out the brush and returns the nutrients to the soil. There are even trees that need fire to grow. The cone of a lodgepole pine needs the heat of a fire to open and release their seeds. If enough brush build up the fire gets hot enough to burn through the bark and the trees die.

All the article states is that there are a large number of big fires. So what? All that means is that a large area is charred at one time. Charring is not necessarily bad; it clean out smaller and weaker plants to allow room for larger plants to grow. Those are good things when trying to grow a forest. It also cuts back undergrowth so that animals have freedom to move among the trees.The questions that need to be asked are as follows;
1. Is there an erosion issue?
2. Are the fires killing the small trees that could eventually become the forest?
3. Are fires keeping the brush and grasses down so the trees can get a start?

Perhaps the fires are a good thing in that they might allow larger plants to dominate and grow the forest faster. It appears no studies have been done on the effects of the fire; just that fires are happening.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about 2 years ago | (#42258833)

The article actually does state the fires are bad:
"Aside from clearing pristine forest and eliminating habitats for native species, the burning of such huge quantities of plant material pumps out massive amounts of carbon in to the atmosphere, and floods the soil with minerals and nutrients that are quickly washed away. It takes a long time for essential nutrients to be fixed in a rainforest, and releasing them all at once means pastures are viable for a few years before going totally bare."

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#42259135)

Well, at least one of those is bunk. This is all taking place on cleared land, so the growth being burnt is new growth. The carbon it's "pumping out" into the atmosphere is carbon that it captured from the atmosphere recently. Carbon is a cycle; the only sort of carbon emission that matters is carbon that upsets that cycle - usually, from long-term sequestered sources, like fossil fuels and old-growth forests.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42261791)

That comment was in the context of intentionally creating large fires to clear virgin forest to create pasture. I agree that that is a bad practice. The rest of the article is about fires on already cleared and abandoned land. That is a different issue and has little to do with the initial clearing. Here is a quote stating what the subject of the article really is;

By showing that abandoned farmland is more susceptible to destructive fires, the team hopes that local governments will put more emphasis on repurposing old land rather than clearing the new.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (2)

bogjobber (880402) | about 2 years ago | (#42259255)

As far as I know (I am not a biologist) wildfires are relatively rare in rainforests. They definitely have not evolved to use fire in the same way forests in arid areas have.

Also, as the article states, these wildfires are not occurring in the old growth forest, they are occurring in cleared land. I imagine any study of the natural fire system is not particularly useful in this case. There aren't any mature trees there to char, it's all low-lying stuff.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42263583)

That is true but the cleared land is no longer a rain forest and should no be expected to react like a rain forest. There are no studies on the effect of fires on cleared land that was formerly rainforest. The article is based on the assumption that, since burning in a rainforest is bad (a proven fact), burning in land that was formerly rain forest is also bad. That has yet be be proven. It might be bad and it might be good; there is no data to prove either hypothesis.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#42260001)

Here in Australia there is a subtle difference between a brush fire and a bush fire. A brush fire can help forests grow and indeed some species of trees can't germinate without it. A bushfire can kill a human with radiant heat from 200 meters away and melt a cars windscreen, it can have a column of smoke up to 15km high and can create it's own local weather, which incidentally is why they are sometimes called fire storms. Australia is currently getting the rain from the El-Nina phenomena and S.America is getting the dry. Rain forests don't normally have brush fires let alone bush fires, they are normally wet underfoot because they largely create their own rain.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42263659)

All true but here are a couple of differences;
1. The fires are not in the rainforest but on land that was cleared and therefore no longer rainforest.
2. The article states "big fires". That could mean a number of different things. It could be hot fires as you describe bush fires which will kill everything. It could also mean a low intensity fire that covers a large area and only burns grasses leaving small trees to thrive.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262095)

All true, except that is a rainforest. Rainforest doesn't have fires because it is perpetually wet - it rains and trees suck up all the moisture and release it, day in and day out. Unless of course people cut down enough trees that rainforest climate changes where it no longer rains every day.

Yes, it is the trees that make the rainforest what it is. You remove the trees, you end up with no forest and no rain. You end up with a desert. To get a rainforest, you need a complete or near complete canopy of trees. Start poking holes and you end up with lots of moisture leakage and drying ground.

Well, at least it was good while it lasted. Brazil, the new Sahara in 2100? I'm sure they'll try to blame it on Global Warming or El Ninia or some other horseshit, but they are making their own bed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13449792 [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20408238 [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17448581 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42264283)

Actually the fires are burning in areas that were cleared and are therefore no longer rainforest. They have cut down enough trees to change the climate. Look at the video. The sky is blue and no rain. It does not rain every day on the cleared land.

The links posted are not relevant to the article as they are about deforestation, an issue, but the article is about fires on already deforested lands. That is a different issue

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263935)

While you've offered a cute bit of 8th grade biology based on coniferous forests, but it has little to do with rainforest ecology.

Re:Fire is not necessarily bad. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#42270051)

When the big trees have been cleared it is no longer a rain forest and should not be treated as such..

Am I the only one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258513)

Who thought this was about Amazon.com losing business because of a high concentration of local businesses in urban areas..

Re:Am I the only one.. (1)

neminem (561346) | about 2 years ago | (#42261591)

I thought it was going to be about Amazon.com decentralizing their office buildings to more rural areas because the cost of living and working would be cheaper there.

What's paradoxical about it? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42258525)

paradoxically, the land they're leaving behind is being ravaged by wildfires.

Is that really paradoxical? Was everyone expecting it to return to rainforest gracefully?

Nonsense (-1, Flamebait)

omb (759389) | about 2 years ago | (#42258551)

Amazonian soils are poor. The wealth is in the trees and the plants and animals that live there, NO most soil is good and regrowth after a natural eg Lightening fire is rapid. It is exactly the opposite of what you say, I have to have a 10m strip plowed each other year to keep to keep foretst out and my plants in outside Manaus.

It is essential to burn out brush in any forest management scheme as you should know due to the un-controled fires you now have in California and Collerado now you no longer do regular controled burns.

If you Greenie bums got out of the metrosexual city centres of both Left coasts ans learned about land management thing would be a lot better, lear or STFU

MFG, omb

Re:Nonsense (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42258887)

You forgot something - California and Colorado are far, far drier than Amazon. Natural fires are expected in the two first, but not in the later. It's not uncommon raining 2.5m there.

And about the 10m strip plowed, well, let's say what grows in isn't the forest as a whole, but just "pioneer" plants, not the forest.

What Amazon? (1)

Hexact (22921) | about 2 years ago | (#42259197)

I couldn't understand the title...until I read the first two lines of the blurb. It's THE Amazon NOT Amazon dot com!

Re:What Amazon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260419)

Irate customers complaining their goods were swiped from the apartment building foyer after being dropped off by UPS.

on the other hand (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#42259631)

Its cloud offering is pretty good.

Re:on the other hand (1)

AngryDill (740460) | about 2 years ago | (#42260323)

Yes, but it's too bad the Amazon's reckless growth caused them to Kindle a Fire.

-a.d.-

Tipping point? (1)

Gablar (971731) | about 2 years ago | (#42260673)

Sounds to me like we have reach a tipping point where the "Rain" part of the rain forest is not enough to overcome the intense heat from the tropical sun. If that is the case we are royally fracked.

They wanna be like you worldrulers in NY & LA (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#42260727)

Non-urbanization left millions of lives burning AkA needlessly foreshortened, for anyone who's actually tracking outcomes.

The footprint of mines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261609)

The footprint of mines is miniscule when compared with pretty much any other land use, including settlement and urbanization. As long as the tailings dams aren't shoddily built, my guess is that all those evil open pit mines (or 'strip mines' as the Orwellian enviro-fundies like to call them) have less effect on the rainforest than even one decent-sized amazonian city.

So, before Man... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#42261895)

...how did the amazonian forests deal with wildfires?

A depressing subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262121)

We wage wars over our prosperity, but not over our long term survival. So what will happen when all the oxygen producing forests are gone?

At least the fires will stop then!

AGW: Why is this never brought up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263891)

Why is it that every time AGW gets discussed, this never comes up? It seems to me that massive deforestation would have a huge impact on global CO2 levels, but the discussion always seems to completely ignore the issue and focuses completely on emissions. I'm not saying that emissions aren't a problem, but why doesn't the deforestation aspect also come up in the debate?

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