from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.
Jason Plautz writes at The Atlantic that the more the world's population rises, the greater the strain on dwindling resources and the greater the impact on the environment. "And yet the climate-change benefits of family planning have been largely absent from any climate-change or family-planning policy discussions," says Jason Bremner of the Population Reference Bureau. Even as the population passes 7.2 billion and is projected by the United Nations to reach 10.9 billion by the end of the century, policymakers have been unable—or unwilling—to discuss population in tandem with climate change. Why? Because "talking about population control requires walking a tightrope." writes Plautz. "It can all too easily sound like a developed world leader telling people in the developing world that they should stop having children—especially because much of the population boom is coming from regions like sub-Saharan Africa." Just look at what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2009, when as secretary of State she acknowledged the overpopulation issue during a discussion with Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh. Clinton praised another panelist for noting "that it's rather odd to talk about climate change and what we must do to stop and prevent the ill effects without talking about population and family planning."
A 2010 study looked at the link between policies that help women plan pregnancies and family size and global emissions. The researchers predicted that lower population growth could provide benefits equivalent to between 16 and 29 percent of the emissions reduction needed to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius warming by 2050, the warning line set by international scientists. But the benefits also come through easing the reduced resources that could result from climate change. The U.N. IPCC report notes the potential for climate-related food shortages, with fish catches falling anywhere from 40 to 60 percent and wheat and maize taking a hit, as well as extreme droughts. With resources already stretched in some areas, the IPCC laid out the potential for famine, water shortages and pestilence. Still, the link remains a "very sensitive topic," says Karen Hardee, "At the global policy level you can't touch population … but what's been heartening is that over the last few years it's not just us, but people from the countries themselves talking about this."
Moon or Mars? It isn't a mutually exclusive choice but we'd be idiots to ignore the ideal staging post.
NASA engineer, Wingo, makes a detailed, costed argument that the current best-of-breed technology should be directed to the Moon. Specifically, the Saturn program should be continued in preference to SLS. The reason is quite simple. With advances in manufacturing, materials and guidance systems, a known quantity with known corner cases can be made safer and cheaper. (It would also avoid launchpad upgrades and other superfluous costs.)
As a matter of international co-operation, this could be augmented with Russian technology and suchlike. Yes, redundant airlocks or airlock adaptors may be required. However, does it really matter if a substantial structure requires seven payloads or eight payloads? From our current position eight is cheaper and more certain even if seven would be better in the long-term.
What would this structure be? A waystation in high Earth orbit for fueling and crew transfers. Fueling of what? Initially, craft to bootstrap a permanent base on the Moon with solar and nuclear power. Fueling is also needed until there is sufficient infrastructure on the Moon to produce fuel locally. Even then, fuel is required in high Earth orbit for emergencies. Overall, this is a plan to go from zero presence to an economic break-even point and beyond.