Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Global problems, how could I help?

  1. Nov 18, 2012 #1
    (Okay, I'm suddenly back in a rut right now, but this question is worth asking anyway.)
    I graduated recently and got a job. Now I've got a bit of disposable income, and coincidentally some stability in life. So I dicided that the best place to apply free money and effort would be major global problems. I've identified a number of them that I'd like to be involved in solving, i.e.
    • Overpopulation
    • Massive consumption of energy and resources
      • unsustainable farming
    • Pollution
      • Landfills and waste accumulation
    • Global environmental problems
    , but I've got almost no idea where to start going at them. The one I've got a bit of a clue about is overpopulation. I think one of the good angles is bettering education and learning, because they appear to be negatively correlated with reckless reproduction. Of course, I don't know where I could come in there.

    Anyway, any leads, please? I'd ask you to also keep in mind that I'm from Russia, and not that good or keen on interacting with people in real life, so no "become a politician". I'd like to do my small part, so I could feel like I'm doing something.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2012 #2
    Great to hear.

    Whatever you chose, I would try to ensure as much as possible that the destination of the assets is not disputed. Perhaps for a local project that you could monitor.
  4. Nov 19, 2012 #3
    A good place to start is identifying what are real problems and what have been overhyped.

    People have been saying the Earth has been overpopulated for 200 years now, and they've been wrong wrong wrong all the time. Given that most of the third world is still farming with oxen and plow, I'd say that there's still considerably more room to grow.

    Growing economies inevitably use more resources and more energy. Converting energy into work done is the essential foundation of industrialization. We don't really have a problem with consumption, we have a problem with the artificial strangulation of production. A great book I can recommend is https://www.amazon.com/Power-Hungry...8&qid=1353351247&sr=1-1&keywords=power+hungry which uses cited sources and math to debunk a lot myths about power and power consumption.

    Our farming system is quite a bit more sustainable than you'd think. The state of Iowa today produces more corn than the entire United States in 1948. It's biggest advantage is fantastic efficiency that allows us to get more food per acre and thereby don't have to dedicate nearly as much land to food production. Compare that with slash and burn farming that's still widely practiced in the third world.

    This one actually is a real problem. A good place to start is by getting us off of coal power.

    This one has been hugely overhyped. In reality we're nowhere near running out of landfill space.

    A lot of these are caused by lack of development. A good example in that book I mentioned was in a country in Africa, I don't recall which one. But because the locals are too poor to afford clean burning natural gas or propane, they instead depend on locally produced charcoal. As a result large areas of endangered species' habitat have been destroyed to produce it in the quantities needed. This is what threatens central African primates the most. But it isn't just poverty that causes these problems, it's also poor policy decisions. Denmark for example is supposed to be the renewable energy/conservation wunderkind and yet 80% of it's electricity still comes from coal. For comparison ~80% of China's electricity is produced from coal as well.

    I hope this breakdown helps you find direction.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Nov 19, 2012 #4
    You could take a look at IndieGoGo or Kickstarter, which are "crowdfunding" sites where one person or team attempts to launch a project by getting support from generous people like yourself.

    Some projects are for specific causes (disaster relief, 3rd world education, inexpensive energy), some are for technology (reinventing the light bulb, 3d printers that print organs), and some for personal projects.

    Kickstarter tends to focus more on personal projects while IndieGoGo tends to have more projects devoted for causes.
  6. Nov 19, 2012 #5
    You could try to get involved in local politics and try to raise awareness about the issue.

    One thing that I'v always thought of when I hear about issues like these is to lead by example. Basically meaning make sure you'v got your stuff together first before worrying about other people's issues.
  7. Nov 20, 2012 #6
    @aquitaine: Forgive me if I'm overreacting and misrepresenting, but it appears to me that in several of your points you say that "we don't have a problem here yet, so let's not think about it". I mean if overpopulation, for example, is not a problem yet, it's going to become one, just based on the fact that people are rather happy to starve but reproduce, at least around here. Plus, okay, your journalist against mine, who am I to trust? (Granted, I listened to mine in an audibook version, and couldn't see any sources, but he sounded pretty compelling.) And in fact sources or not sources are mostly useless with me, because I wouldn't be able to make one out from a common newspaper, being a layman (well, or kind of lousy science teacher education in a bit of a lousy Russian university).

    Thanks, OMGCarlos, I'll definitely hang around those sites.

    @Containment: No... I'm not fond of politics, and especially of the local one (maybe interestingly because of what I read about it in American press.)

    But I would recycle with glee, if I knew how. Maybe I should check out some Russian Internet about these issues from time to time.

    Although leading by example kind of doesn't appeal to me. I mean I could see the use of it if I were a famous person, but being green individually kind of appears unsustainable. At least I went through and out the other end of a phase when I wanted to subsist on my own patch of land (that I would continue on after my grandparents would pass on), but I had depression then... Also, (as I can't figure out where the last bit comes in) I think we're all in this together, at least if I mean to live 'till a reasonable age, so there are no other people's issues here.
  8. Nov 20, 2012 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    On a recent podcast, I heard Maria Rodale talk about getting involved in organic gardening as a means to solve the worlds problems. Its healthier for people, healthier for the environment, reduces the use of pesticides and carbon emissions.

    She said everyone who tries to tackle these problems does so while ignoring the others and that the best solution has to incorporate them all in a comprehensive manner.
  9. Nov 21, 2012 #8
    On the othe hand, it demands more effort and intelligence (at least according to Michael Pollan). And according to some site where I tried to confirm what major global issues were, it is indeed much more useful to look after all of them, instead of focusing on a single one at a time, because they are interconnected. I fantasized recently about becoming a programmer to model and predict various approaches at tackling global issues, but I quickly realized that you probably can't do this as a hobby.

    Re: the problem of "pro- and denial-of some global problems". I got an idea today that you can be neutral on controversial issues, but you can't act neutrally on at least this kind of problems. I see the solution as personally deciding what camp you're in, and among the influences on my eventual decision would be great love for the nature in general and wild animals specifically, on this planet. It means I'd rather there were more wild animals than people.
  10. Nov 21, 2012 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    I'd start small like personally and then expand to family, friends and community because basically you're becoming and advocate for how to solve these problems.

    I think thats why Ms Rodale suggested the organic foods approach.

    By buying and eating organic foods and convincing others you create a market where organic farmers thrive better. As more people sign-on you get a shift in farming tech to organic and less pesticides.

    She further ventured that even if the organics came from 1500 miles away it was better for the environment and health to eat organic.

    So anyway, you must take the first step.
  11. Nov 21, 2012 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Cant you begin in your own neighbourhood?
    Or doesn't those people count in your aim to be the Saviour of the World?
  12. Nov 21, 2012 #11
    Hey! ... er. Hey!

    Anyway, well, it might be confusing but I want to Save the World while interacting as little as possible with certain representatives of it (mostly people). In fact, I'd also ideally like my feat to take away as little as possible from my numerous hobbies. Am I making sense?

    On an unrelated note, I guess asking is one way to find out whether local farmers and gardeners selling their produce at a street corner are organic.
  13. Nov 21, 2012 #12


    Staff: Mentor

    Not usually, right now its cheaper for a farmer to grow using pesticides, less work. There are guidelines in the US as to what organic is legally defined as before you can label it organic. Some producers were saying naturally grown hoping consumers would think organic / healthy when in fact pesticides were used.
  14. Nov 23, 2012 #13
    Yes you are overreacting. The problem we have today is that people are too often being whipped up into hysterias by people with political agendas, not to solve any of those problems but rather to advance their agenda.

    People have been claiming "OMG T3H Earth is overpopulated!" for 200 years now. Back in the early 1930's for example, the Earth's population was about 2 billion, yet they claimed the Earth was over populated. They also said the Earth was overpopulated in the early 1800's, are you noticing a pattern here?

    No, this is not a case of your journalist against mine. This is a case of well reasoned arguements supported by evidence against your non-existent evidence. In that book I mentioned every chapter has at least a dozen citations, from such places as the US Department of Energy. If you can't get the print version from your local library then get a used copy from Amazon. I think the ebook version should also have the bibliography, but I'm not sure since I only read the print version.
  15. Nov 23, 2012 #14
    Oh, okay. It'll never hurt to read another book anyway, although I do have some 300 on my wishlist right now.

    Now, say, for some hearsay evidence - aren't real estate prices some indication that there may be too many people per square kilometer of ground, especially, say, in some capitals?

    Plus, I've been hearing here that Russia needs more population, and just because of repetition, I guess, I got to thinking (and not in a cynical way), "needs what for?"

    Also, what I got from my non-evidence-based journalist re: unsustainable farming is that industrial intensive approaches increase soil erosion and pollution... But I'm guessing I can get some second opinions in the book you recommended.
  16. Nov 23, 2012 #15


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

  17. Nov 23, 2012 #16
    @Astronuc: I don't quite get how your suggestion and the links are related. Plus (maybe I am cynical), it appears to me that it would be easier for Eritrean people to move to a less hellish place than do this thing. Speaking of native grasses, they plan to import a non-indigenous Indian cow, and I've been told it's not the greatest thing...
  18. Nov 24, 2012 #17
    It's their home. Same as when Katrina hit -- I would never live in New Orleans out of fear, but people go back and still live there because they're so loyal to it. They also likely wouldn't be welcomed anywhere else because of how many people there are and all the political bs associated with it.

    It's related because you said you wanted to help people. That would help them.
  19. Nov 24, 2012 #18
    Okay, I don't understand why you'd be loyal to a place - it doesn't care, but anyway... I don't have this kind of spare money. I basically could donate $100-200 a month anywhere (I earn... or earned, since I just resigned and am looking for a job with a similar wage... $600-700), and anyway I'm not saving. Maybe I should, but I'm not sure my presence (when all the money is spent on food and traveling expenses) is better than some donations while I'm at home.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook