With Dr. Bradley Layton, Arnold Sherman, and Robert Seidenschwartz.

0:00- introduction of Dr. Layton… 2:30- introduction of Arnie Sherman… 4:30… overview of discussion… 7:00- Arnie on global megacities, and population growth… 10:00- Arnie on pollution and air quality in China… 12:00- Discussion about Montana coal exports to China… 13:45- effects of urban migration… 16:00- why are people moving to urban centers? Discussion about Chinese middle class and command economies… 18:00- Discussion about AMES energy conference… 19:15- general questions from classrooms about Chinese life… 22:30- Chinese exchange student and Arnie discuss life in Montana and China… 25:15- Dr. Layton on bicycle transit… 30:25- Alternative energy and the transportation of the future… 32:50- story about Craig Thomas and the wood-fire filter; innovation in emissions technology… 37:45- Why aren’t there carbon scrubbers in China’s coal factories?… 39:40- Who owns the factories in China?… 40:30- Nuclear energy discussion… 42:45- Where does most of the pollution in China comes from?… 45:30- Mao and Chinese cultural unrest in the past… 48:20- what will it take to change America’s attitude towards bicycles?…50:00- trade-off between the environment and economic growth… 50:50- why don’t we use more alternative energy sources?…

Megacities and Pollution

The rush to major city centers over the course of the last century has been rapid, and countries are struggling to cope.  Some, like China, build massive megacities in the hopes of urbanizing more of their population and fueling greater economic growth, but this urbanization comes at cost.  Air quality in many of these global megacities is horrendous, and we are still grappling with the environmental costs of having so many people packed so densely into city centers.

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“Megacities, not nations, are the world’s dominant, enduring social structures:
Cities are mankind’s most enduring and stable mode of social organization, outlasting all empires and nations over which they have presided. Today cities have become the world’s dominant demographic and economic clusters…

It is not population or territorial size that drives world-city status, but economic weight, proximity to zones of growth, political stability, and attractiveness for foreign capital. In other words, connectivity matters more than size. Cities thus deserve more nuanced treatment on our maps than simply as homogeneous black dots.”
-Parag Kannah, via Quartz

Discussion Questions

What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in urban, suburban, and rural areas?

What do you think cities of the future will look like? Will technological advancement make the megacity a sustainable model?

Can you think of any megacities in the United States? When do major, connected cosmopolitan areas (like much of the central East Coast) become “megacities” in their own right?

Additional Resources

NASA Megacities Project

The World’s Fastest Growing Megacities (Forbes)

Megacities of the World: a glimpse of how we’ll live tomorrow (Christian Science Monitor)

List of the World’s Megacities (Demographia)

Megacities’ explosive growth poses Epic Challenges (CNBC)

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Urbanization, Poverty, and the rise of the Global Middle Class

Coinciding with the rise of global megacities we have seen a remarkable period of progress, with nearly one billion people rising above the global poverty line ($1.25 USD per day) in the last two decades.  Many global economic, political, and technological forces coincided to produce what amounts to a humanitarian miracle, but there is still much work to be done.  Connectivity and proximity to resources allows us to make the most out of our potentials, but the challenges created by global urbanization should not be understated.

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Where we stand:
Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a remarkable achievement, one in five people in developing regions still live on less than $1.25 a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount, plus many people risk slipping back into poverty.

Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
-Via UN Sustainable Development Goals

Discussion Questions

What can developed nations do to help developing nations enter the global economy in a way that is sustainable and equitable?

Can you imagine trying to get by on $1.25 a day? What basic services do you take for granted that would be inaccessible to you if you lived in extreme poverty?

Should all human beings have the right to clean water, shelter, and nutritious food?

Does taking the time to recognize and congratulate ourselves on the progress we’ve made distract from the push for future progress?

Additional Resources

No Poverty: Why it matters (UN)

Poverty and Urbanization (The Joint Urban Studies Center)

Poverty is Urbanizing (The Guardian)

Poverty and Urbanization (The World Bank)

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Innovation and the Future of Energy Consumption

The world is changing. That might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s hard to recognize at any given point in time how massive the changes made over the course of the last few centuries have been. These technological, social, and economic advancements have created opportunities for the impoverished, allowed us to explore the far reaches of our world and our universe, and sustained a population of more than 7 billion human beings on this Earth. But, as we evolve and make life more comfortable for ourselves, we are rapidly changing the conditions on this little planet we call home. What should, can, and must be done in order to allow human beings to create a more just, sustainable society?

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How will the experiment end?
“For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world’s systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible that with all these enormous changes – population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels – concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.”
-Margaret Thatcher(From “Can the World Economy Survive without Fossil Fuels”- The Guardian)

Discussion Questions

To what capacity do we need fossil fuels going forward? Is cheap energy worth irrevocably changing the climate? On the other hand, should we focus on improving the quality of life for the world’s poor using fossil fuels, despite the possible long term consequences?

What do you imagine the energy source of the future to be? Will one type of renewable energy win out over the rest, or will we use many resources in concert?

To what degree are past generations responsible for the issues we face today? To what degree should our generations be held accountable for the mistakes we are making today?

Additional Resources

Today in Energy (US Energy Information Administration)

Energy in 25 Years: Who’s producing, who’s buying (CNBC)

What is our Energy Future? (Forbes)

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