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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: The World in 2099

The World in 2099 
Dr. C.S. Mahrok
Smith Publicity

Who is Dr. C. S. Mahrok and why should I care?  Mahrok is a mechanical engineer with a PhD in therodynamics and whose writing bases its conclusions on UN and government documents, which in theory should decrease bias, so that, encouragingly, the author may not have an ax to grind.  This surmise is supported not only by the author’s cautious and judicious phrasing of his statements but also by his frequent use of mentioning ideas of both proponents and opponents in any controversial topic--an increasingly rare trait in today’s rampant hyperbolic politics.  Speaking of the author’s style, this reader also commends the author’s accessible, non-academic style.  While he remains factual, the wording does not dip into the convoluted.

Mahrok opens his book with the state of the world at present and a quick review of the Industrial Revolution, which presumably impacts his predictions.  Although Mahrok predicts that mineral supplies should carry us through fifty years, he proposes that deeper and wider exploration is required.  He states and supports his idea that, while exploration needs to be environmentally based, under-educated opponents have exaggerated its detrimental impact.

Recycling has been around since Plato.  While some products may be economically and energy difficult to recycle (i.e. lumber), Mahrok lists several minerals and plastics that can be usefully recycled--both as increasing usable minerals and as decreasing environmental impact.  But cost estimates are dependent on who’s counting and how.  For instance, some are not environmentalists because more forests are maintained due to logging, but environmentalists say that these forests are often not as biologically diverse.  Recycling proponents say that it produces jobs, but opponents say that such jobs pay little for poor conditions.

Oil, coal and gas are the cheapest sources of energy; they are also limited and coal can produce much pollution.  Hydrogen, wind, sun, geothermal, and other alternative energies will need to be tapped.  Biomass is renewable but releases carbon dioxide.  Hydrogen as a source of energy needs infrastructure.  Mechanical and thermal energy from the ocean needs more research.  Wind's drawback is consistency and birds.  Nuclear energy has newer models of reactors are more efficient and produce less radioactive waste, but each has drawbacks, such as molten sodium which is reactive, but new methods can prevent meltdowns.

Agriculture has changed from subsistence to greater and greater crop yields.  Sustainability has become an important aspect.  Forty percent of the world's farm soils face degradation.  Many insects have resistance to insecticides.  Water resources are stretched by agriculture practices.  Livestock consume 70% of crops and produce most of the global warming gasses.  Organic farming may require more labor, forcing a shift from urban to rural areas.

Fresh water resources grow increasingly more scarce.  Agriculture uses much of fresh water resources.  Much of the water used comes from seepage which distorts our view of how much water is available. Many golf courses, often accused of using too much water, use treated effluent water, which doesn't impact fresh water resources.  Widespread water pollution through sewage and agriculture run-off.  While some high profile people claim water will be source of future wars, so far most countries sharing water do so peacefully.  Access to clean water has gone from 30% in 1970 to 79% in 2004.

Also covered are forests, climate, World Trade Organization (including controversy), overpopulation (largely positive projections), the adequate availability of nutrients, the crisis of fisheries (extensive background provided, discussing coral reefs, littoral areas, and thermohaline currents).

While informative and refreshingly low in bias, the title suggests more spotting future trends rather than showing the strengths and weaknesses of the world's resources.  Mahrok does discuss future possibilities  but these are rare.  The book resources include not only an extensive index, maps and pictures but also many hyperlinks to information online to broaden the reader's understanding.  The World in 2099 is your one-stop information fount about our current and future ecological concerns.

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