Monthly Archives: November 2012

Global Problem in Oil Production

Global Problem in Oil Production

There is a global crisis affecting each and every one of us in the future: oil production levels around the world are at their peaks. Exxon Mobil Petroleum Company published a chart demonstrating that oil production for non-OPEC countries will peak at mid 2010s and start decreasing after that. The International Energy Agency also predicted that oil production had peaked in 2006.  Oil production in the North Sea has peaked since 1999. The Daqing oil field in China will most likely peak within the next two years. If the global oil consumption continues its current trend, OPEC countries are required to produce additional 19 million barrels per day to compensate for the decrease in oil production from non-OPEC countries. Since OPEC countries do not publically address information in regarding to their oil production, it is difficult to judge whether or not they are able to do so. However, many experts believe OPEC countries are producing oil at nearly their peak production level (Drum).

In 1956, Shell geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that the oil production in the United States would peak by 1970. His prediction proved to be accurate; the oil production in the U.S peaked during 1970. The current oil production in the United States is half of the oil production in the 1970s (Drum).

The fundamental difficulty in maintaining peak oil production lies at the technical aspect of oil extraction. Unlike a cup of water, in which a person may suck water out of a straw in a constant speed until the water hits the bottom of the cup, oil extraction is more like drilling holes into styrofoams. When a driller first penetrates the foam, crude oil rushes out in high pressure. These high quality pressurized oil is easily extracted at a very fast speed. However, as more oil is being extracted, the pressure in the foam decreases, and crude oil no longer bursts out in high quantities. In fact, as pressure decreases inside these foam-like oil pools, underground water may potentially leak in and contaminate the oil. In other words, the more oil that we extract, the harder and slower it is for us to extract the same quality of oil at a constant speed (Drum).

The issue of declining oil production extends beyond giving up your sports cars with poor fuel economies. Dropping oil production may cause potential economic recessions in the future, such as causing instability in oil prices. There are some economists who argue that spikes in oil prices may cause economic recessions. Of course, not all global recessions are cause by oil price spikes. However, there is strong evidence to note the correlation between spikes in oil prices and economic recessions. There have been 4 major spikes in oil prices in the past 35 years in which oil prices rose 50% in less than 18 months: 1973, 1979-81, 1989-90, and 1999-2000. During those time frames, there were also 4 economic recessions that occurred, in 1974-5, 1980-82, 1991, and 2001. Although there are many arguments from various sides explaining the main causes of economic recessions, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between oil price spikes and economic recessions (Drum).

So far we have identified the limit of oil production levels as the main cause of potential catastrophic consequences that may occur if don’t take actions near the future. In the past, if there are wars or political instability near the regions close to OPEC countries, oil production levels drop, and the global economy goes into panic mode as countries scramble to find solutions to maintain their oil consumptions. During those instances, Saudi Arabia usually bumps up its production level in order to maintain global oil production levels. A stable oil production level is strongly correlated to a stable global economy. However, the days in which Saudi Arabia heroic interventions may potentially be a thing of the past. As experts generally predict, OPEC countries are producing oil at near peak levels. In other words, there is not enough extra oil for Saudi Arabia to pump out if the global political economy turns sour in the future (Drum).

Now that we have addressed the main problem with global oil production, how do we ease our dependency in oil? There are a couple potential ways to ease this problem.

First, we can lower oil production levels. It is the simplest and most straightforward way to slower the process of oil extraction. However, it will be hard for anyone used to the life we have now to adjust to the life with decreased oil consumption. The US government has set Corporate Average Fuel Economy, CAFE as a standard for all cars to have certain levels of fuel efficiency. The UK, on the other hand, prefers high taxes on gasoline.  At a taxation rate of $3.40/gallon, the UK has the highest gas taxation in the world. Other Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Korean also install high gas taxes in order to persuade the public the ride mass transportations that save fuel.  However, most politicians and businessmen especially wouldn’t welcome an idea that might potentially anger the public. Also, as I mentioned earlier, lower production level may potentially cause oil prices spikes, which is highly correlated to economic recession. In a day in which everyone is being exposed to the aftermaths of the recent mortgage crisis, no one wants to risk going through that again (Drum).

Secondly, we can increase exploration in frontier oil fields. Frontier oils are polar and deepwater oils that researchers believe to contain ample resources. However, technological researches in those areas are not as mature as other traditional means of oil extraction. The cost/reward ratio of producing frontier oil is also higher than current extraction methods. In the past, Kazakhstan has successfully extracted frontier oil at significant production levels. However, other places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Caspian Sea have not reached expectation (Drum).

All solutions mentioned so far have either focused on slowing down oil production, or change different extraction methods and locations. However, these suggestions only serve as short-term solutions to a big problem. If someone is experiencing a cold, a doctor may give the patient medications that soothe cold symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and running nose. However, decreasing symptoms only makes the patient feel better, it does not get to the main cause of cold symptoms. If the doctor prescribes antibiotics instead, this achieves the goal of killing off bacteria, which is the main cause of a cold. Using the same analogy, if we need to have a long- term plan in dealing with the oil crisis, we need to tackle the main problems that cause us to have such high oil consumption. Based on the report “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management” created by US Department of Energy, the main use of oil is in transportation. Due to that reason, it is crucial that we find ways to decrease our dependency on oil in transportation vehicles (Drum).

One way to achieve maximize every drop of oil we extract is to increase the fuel efficiencies of cars. This solution is already popular in the automotive industry, as anyone can witness the craze in car brands to present new models with better fuel efficiencies. Almost everyone who is interested in getting a car now asks the question “how many miles per gallon can this car do”? 40 years ago all anyone cared was the size of engine cylinders. Consumers nowadays not only have options to buy cars with efficient fuel economies, they can also choose form a wide variety of cars with hybrid engines. Hybrid cars save gas by fusing electronic batteries with traditional engines. Although each hybrid engine has it’s own way of operating, the basic idea of how a hybrid engine works is that the car uses traditional fuel to start the engine. For example, Toyota Prius, once the engine starts, the car propels using electronic batteries to run its engine. Unless the car reaches above certain speeds, the Prius continues to only take power from its battery.
Consumers find hybrid cars attractive because they see hybrid cars as the perfect combination of saving gas, yet retaining the engine smoothness of traditional fuel injection methods. There are also other alternative fuel sources like ethanol fuel. These types of biofuels are mainly additives for traditional gasoline. Countries like Brazil and the United States have invested in these types of fuels.

However, if we want to completely cut off oil dependency, we need to increase our investments in electric cars. Electric cars differ from hybrid cars in that electric cars have the capability to run completely on battery without the use of any traditional fuel. Usually this is about the time when younger car enthusiasts start yawning out of boredom due to the traditional stereotype of electric cars being extremely slow and dorky looking. This stereotype, however, no longer holds true, as more and more sports car companies come up with electric-powered versions of their fast supercars.

ABB, a business specialized in power and automation technologies, recently published a list of high end electric cars that shatter land records for the fastest electric cars on the planet. Take the Telsa Roaster for example, this electric auto-beast has the capability to go up to 125 miles an hour. The Audi R8 e-tron also goes up to 154 miles an hour. Of course, the price tags of these monsters are out of range for the average American looking to save some gas money. However, the future holds bright for hybrid and electric cars as car companies continue to look for cheaper methods to provide non-oil dependent cars with speeds that consumers are satisfied with. As more research is put into electric and hybrid cars, prices of these automobiles will drop (ABB).

So far I have paid attention to transportation vehicles from an individual perspective. There are also steps governments can take to ease our oil consumption. Governments around the world need to start educating their citizens to get in the habit of riding public transportations. Countries in Europe and Asia have focused extensively on constructing subway and railway systems that provide a safe, fast, and efficient way of transporting large numbers of people from destination to destination while saving gas at the same time. The United States, on the other hand, have mostly stuck to its highway system. One only need to drive in a major US highway to notice the abundance of cars with only one driver per car. Not only this cause major blockage during rush hours, it also wastes a lot of fuel in the process. Critics point out that the geographical factors in the United States does not allow railroad or subway transportation to operate at a financially efficient way. They are right, most cities in the US excluding a few concentrated areas in the northeast, are dispersed evenly with long distances from one place to another. Subways, which thrive in carrying large amounts of people in short distances with multiple stops, simply isn’t the best solution for a spread out country like the U.S. Therefore, United States may be better off focusing on hybrid and electric cars in the mean time. For long-term planning, however, municipal governments around cities in the US might consider future city planning to revolve around methods that utilize public transportation in a cost and fuel-efficient way.

There are, however, critics that argue against peak oil theory as demonstrated in Hubbert’s study. Other people like the president of Royal Dutch Shell’s U.S. operations John Hofmeister says that the theory regarding peak oil production overly focuses on Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Christoph Ruhl, chief economist of BP further states that the problem with oil is with its price, not availability.  In terms of peak oil production, he found no evidence to suggest that such trend is occurring.  Daniel Yergin of CERA, Cambridge Energy Research Associates also consur with Ruhl’s argument (Ruhl).

Despite all potential solutions listed above, the truth is that fuels, no matter if its traditional crude oil or advanced electric or biofuel, will cost more in the future than they do in the past. The days of buying V8 American muscle cars without regards to their fuel economy are long gone. As oil production levels drop around the globe, gas prices will rise, plane tickets will skyrocket, and large engine cars will go into extinction. If we want to save ourselves from long-term catastrophic effects of extracting oil at our current speed, we must find ways to combat the trend of drying oil fields by decreasing our dependency on traditional oil.

All Sources from:

Dr. Christoph Ruhls study-http://www.euractiv.com/de/energie/bp-preisschwankungen-wahrscheinlich-zunehmen/article-175931
ABB. 2012. “12 insanely hot electric and hybrid cars of 2012.”
http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/9eb9d7ffad753a5fc12579ba0039652a.aspx
Drum, Kevin. 2005. “Political Animal.” Washington Monthly.
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_05/006380.php

Syriana “What are they thinking?”

Often times the best way to address an issue is to show a movie that amplifies the underlying issues in the real world.  This short video clip is taken from the move Syriana, which depicts a story of political and business corruption between advanced countries like the U.S and China and a fictional oil producing country in the Middle East.  It serves as a nice introduction to the topic of “Oil.”  In this clip, Prince Nasir, the foreign minister of the emirate, thanked the U.S for its past efforts in aiding the oil producing country stand on its feet economically.  However, he was furious that when his country tried to lessen its dependency on oil production and foreign companies, by investing in economic infrastructures, setting up a independent government and oil exchange, and giving women rights to vote, advanced countries like the U.S step it to anything that might lessen the United States financial control in the emirate.

I think this clip demonstrates some of the potential drawbacks of globalization.  I think globalization has benefits.  Take this movie for example, due to the U.S’s investment in the country, citizens of the emirate have higher qualities of life compared to before.  Prince Nasir and his family have the oil money to own collections of Range Rovers with fully trained bodyguards.  Prince Nasir’s brother also gets to buy private boats and spend hotel rooms costing up to 50k a night.

However, from an Anti-Globalization perspective, all these financial benefits come at an expense.  By reeking financial rewards of a luxurious lifestyle, princes in the emirate are bound by the United State’s control.  The U.S has a military base in the region. USA flexes its political muscle by trying to gain oil-drilling rights in the country through means of corruption and bribery.  In the end, Prince Nasir and his team were bombarded by American missile in order to stop his plan to give away drilling rights to China.  Ironically, Prince Nasir was killed by the same country that granted him all the financial benefits of globalization.

To me it is like selling my soul to the devil.  The devil grants me anything I want: sports cars, women, houses, watches.  However, in return, I will listen to whatever the devil tells me to do.  Am I really better off? Is globalization, especially in situations relating to oil, truly beneficial?

Although in this instance, I agree with the Anti-globalization perspective, I don’t think there is much oil producing countries can do about it.  The U.S is too politically and economically strong for any developing country to resist aid and foreign investments from.  However, it is important to recognize what needs to be done, and not get lose focus from all the luxurious lifestyles.  The main focus of developing countries, as it is for the emirate in this movie, is to accept foreign investment, but at the same time seek ways to decrease dependency from advanced economies.  Obviously, advanced countries do not like to lose political and economical control in countries that are in allegiance with them, but developing economies must find ways to stand up on their own.

“Syriana” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4IdWUzrcJM

OVERFISHING: THE BASICS

Fish have been a food source for humans since the very beginnings of our species. It is the 3rd major source of food for humans, after grain and meat, and in coastal areas, especially Asia and Africa, fish accounts for all animal protein consumed. In the olden days, people used to use small, wooden fishing boats, single fishing poles, and manually use nets to catch fish. Now, however, technological advances have provided us with gasoline-powered fishing ships and mile-long nets to catch as many fish as possible. Human population growth and the popularity of fish delicacies have heavily contributed to this increased demand for fish.

A fishery is a commercially harvestable population of fish within a particular ecological region. Examples include the salmon fishery of Alaska and the tuna fishery of the eastern Pacific Ocean.

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Overfishing is defined as catching more fish than the ecosystem is able to naturally reproduce. Fishers are working harder and catching less fish as a result of overfishing. Overfishing causes problems such as resource depletion, the extinction of whole species , and the upset of entire marine and terrestrial ecosystems. By catching too many fish now, we gain food in the short term, but we lose this food source in the future. From a human-centric view, if overfishing continues, one of the largest protein sources will disappear, exacerbating the food shortage crisis. When the fish from a fishery disappear from overfishing, the fishers of that specific fishery lose their jobs.

From a more ecological standpoint, just like what the European sailors did with the dodo bird in the 17th century, we will drive certain species of fish to extinction. This is a very big deal because the extinction and even the decreased population of fish will cause huge imbalances to the ecosystem. Take a typical food chain in the oceans.

https://i1.wp.com/images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/183/marine-food-chain-image_18329.jpg

By overfishing tuna, for example, we rid a certain ecosystem of a top predator, or level 4 organism. We leave the fish below that in the 3rd level without a major predator. Without this population control mechanism, the level 3 fish thrive and overpopulate. Because these fish also need food, they feed on the level 2 organisms. The increased pressure on the level 2 organisms cause a depopulation. The level 3 fish population, as a result, also decreases. This snowballing effect leaves even more species of fish on the verge of extinction. This also further lowers the amount of fish that we can catch, eat, and sell on the market.

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Sources:

1) http://overfishing.org/pages/Overfishing_in_one_minute.php?w=pages

2) http://see-the-sea.org

3) http://nationalgeographic.com

4) http://endoftheline.com/blog/archives/427

Overfishing- the Consequences

Here is a quick preview of the End of Line documentary that informs viewers of the negative effects of overfishing.

INSTANCES OF OVERFISHING

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CANADA

The most well-known example of the detrimental effects of overfishing is the collapse of the Atlantic northwest cod fishery. For 500 years, the economy of Canada’s eastern coast had depended on the northern cod fisheries. In the summer of 1992, Canada declared a moratorium, a suspension, on the Northern Cod fishery because the Northern Cod biomass had fell to 1% of its earlier level due to mismanagement. “The collapse of the Northern Cod fishery marked a profound change in the ecological, economic and socio-cultural structure of Atlantic Canada.” Because the economy depended on the fishery, many lost their jobs and the supply of northern cod in that area diminished significantly. To this day the fishery is still closed, allowing the cod to attempt to repopulate.

In around the 1950s, technological advances allowed fishers to increase the volume of their catch by increasing the area and the depth at which they fished. Many fish caught were not the northwest cod, but other non-commercial fish that were important ecologically. This bycatch further disrupted the ecosystem by removing predator and prey species.

Not only did the people of the region lose their jobs, they also lost entire businesses, investments in the form of fishing boats, and part of their cultural identity.

A study by CBC News in the summer of 2011 indicated that the northern cod fishery may recover in the future, suggesting major changes to marine ecosystems may be reversed with time and government regulation. Thus, it is not too late to save many of the fisheries.

THE GLOBALIZATION OF SUSHI

Ever since sushi became popular in the United States, the demand for fish has increased dramatically. East Asian cuisine has always featured fish, but the popularity of sushi in other parts of the world have caused bluefin tuna, a central ingredient in popular sushi rolls, to become so overfished that even Japan, the world’s primary market for fresh tuna, needs to import the fish to satisfy domestic demand. While the world economy does benefit from this increase in trade among nations, this short-term gain is still only temporary. Furthermore the fact that even Japan must import fish points out that overfishing is a global problem.

THE SHIFT TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

While developed countries have technological advances to make fishing “easier” (in quotes because now it is even harder to catch fish due to the problems caused by these advances), developing countries like Senegal still use traditional fishing, a low-technology approach, low initial investment and a large workforce. Because of their traditional fishing methods, they have not depleted their fish stock and thus the European Union and other developed countries had started to turn to their fisheries.

“According to Oceana, the fishing companies of the lobby known as the G-10 (Pescanoca, Freimae, Pescapuerta,…) register most of their vessels in developing countries like Namibia, Senegal and Mozambique, which are lacking in scientist assessments, fishing management or controls like the ones require in Europe. The most revealing point about the agreements between the European Union and Senegal is that they don’t impose catch fees in order to preserve stocks.  Spain is the biggest consumer of hake from Namibia, receiving 61 percent of the countries entire hake exports.

Almost 77 percent of the world consumption of fish comes from developing countries.  80 percent of the fish caught in 2006 came from the developing world and were consumed in the rich world.”4

Overfishing in developing countries only exacerbates the food crisis. As fish become scarce, the prices rise. The people in developing countries are mostly peasants and nearly all of their income already goes to paying for food. If the price rises even just a little bit, they often cannot afford to buy the food. Neoliberalism, which refers to free trade, open markets, and deregulation, does not apply to food. Food cannot function unregulated. The best way to regulate fish would be to put quotas on the amount of fish allowed to be caught. In this way, the governments of developing countries will not need to subsidize the fish prices, which would indubitably cost more than their treasuries can afford. In most cases, the government cannot or will not subsidize and regulate the prices, and riots and protests will increase in these areas.

Sources:

1) Hamilton, Lawrence, et al. “Above and Below the Water: Social/Ecological Transformation in Northwest Newfoundland.” Population and Environment 25.3 (2004): 195-215.

2) Gien, Lan. “Land and Sea Connection: The East Coast Fishery Closure, Unemployment and Health.” Canadian Journal of Public Health 91.2 (2000): 121-124.

3) http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/news/story/2011/07/27/science-cod-ecosystem-reverse-recover.html

4) http://www.oceansentry.org/lang-en/overfishing/campaign.html

TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS AND THE NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

This cute yet subtly depressing cartoon illustrates one of the effects of overfishing

This cute yet subtly depressing cartoon illustrates one of the effects of overfishing

Overfishing is commonly explained by the tragedy of the commons, which is the tendency of a shared, limited resource to become depleted because people act from self-interest for short-term gain. Fish are not confined to a certain region, such as within national borders, and thus do not belong to any one individual or country. Even if one country limits its catch, others are likely to make up the difference.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a major global authority on overfishing. Its main goal in the overfishing problem is to collect, analyze, and disperse data to all countries and encourage intensive cooperation among them. “The focus in modern fisheries management is mainly on economic control through the control of fishing capacity, fishing effort, and the allocation of catch quotas and […] access to resources.” While the FAO cannot declare laws and reinforce compliance with them, it is a legitimate source of data and it provides trends and analyses for other organizations and NGOs to use to inform the mass public and to push for legislation to protect fisheries. It diminished uncertainty so fisheries know when their stock is at dangerously low levels.

Similarly, the Save Our Seas Foundation, located in Switzerland, supplies generous contributions of both financial, practical and scientific support to facilitate marine research and conservation projects around the world. One of the biggest obstacles to limiting overfishing has been the number of unknown factors of the oceans. It is difficult to tell how robust a certain year’s fish stock will be and how beneficial or harmful some fisheries are. By providing scientific support, the task of managing overfishing will be much easier.

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In this day and age, branding is extremely important to a business. Many people pay a little more for fair-trade chocolate because it makes them feel better to know that workers who made the chocolate were treated fairly. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a social enterprise, also utilizes this branding technique. It places the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring label on boats and fisheries that comply with the fishing quota allowed. By using this method that makes it easier for consumers to purchase fish without contributing to the overfishing problem, the EDF has created a new way to help save the environment.

Sources:

1) http://www.fao.org/index_en.htm

2) http://saveourseas.com

3) http://edf.org

4) http://tamara-hawk.deviantart.com/art/Overfishing-196885697

SOLUTIONS

Possibly the best solution to overfishing is to decrease the demand for fish. By spreading information about the detrimental effects of overfishing, more people may stop eating fish. This is extremely unlikely, however, as fish is a main dietary staple in many parts of the world. Thus, there are several other possible solutions to the overfishing problem.

AQUACULTURE

Global harvest of aquatic organisms in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as reported by the FAO

Global harvest of aquatic organisms in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as reported by the FAO

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms. It constructs aquatic ecosystem by stocking organisms, feeding them, and protecting them from diseases and predators. This alleviates human-caused pressure on overexploited fisheries. However some scientists are concerned about the environmental problems it creates, such as the clean water needed to be pumped in and the waste water pumped out, the fish escaping and spreading diseases and creating competition for the wild fish. Overall though, this method seems promising.

INDIVIDUAL TRANSFERABLE QUOTAS AND ALASKA

The rapid decline of the salmon from 1940-1970 exemplified the problems overfishing can cause. In 1973, fishery managers introduced the system of individual transferable quotas (ITQ), also known as catch shares. At the starts of the salmon season, fishery managers establish a total allowable catch and distribute or sell these quotas to individual fishers and fishing companies. Fishers with ITQs have a secure right to catch their allotted quota, so there is no need for bigger boats or better equipment to outcompete others. If they cannot catch enough to remain economically viable, the fishers can sell all or part of their quota to another fisher. ITQs work for varying sizes. In Alaska, most of these ITQs were sold to small, family-run fishing operations. In New Zealand, ITQs are used effectively to control overfishing by large fishing companies.

 

Sources:

1) Friedland, Andrew J., Rick Relyea, and David Courard-Hauri. Environmental Science: Foundations and Applications. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and, 2012. Print.

2) http://faostat.fao.org/site/629/default.aspx

WHAT COUNTRIES NEED TO DO

Ecologists and other scientists have determined that the maximum sustainable yield is one half of the carrying capacity of an ecosystem. The maximum sustainable yield of a renewable resource is the maximum amount that can be harvested without compromising future availability of that resource. It is difficult to calculate and evaluate the effect of the harvest on reproduction rates because these are analyzed after a fishing season. However, because of the tragedy of the commons theory, everyone will act in their own self-interests, which is maximizing the amount of fish they catch, if they are not regulated and held responsible for their actions. Environmental policies must be passed in order to save these fish.

The United States has passed some bills to prevent or reverse the effects of overfishing. The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act would give more leeway to the current 10-year rebuilding period for overfished areas. The current legislation, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, sets that time limit and other restrictions to prevent overfishing. The European Union has punished France, Portugal, and Spain, the biggest EU culprits in overfishing, with deeper fish quota cuts.

One of the most urgent things that need to be done is preventing Western companies from going to developing countries and overfishing in those fisheries. International cooperation is crucial for this to happen. Countries must all agree to a certain intake quota of fish and prevent their companies from exceeding that limit.

Some countries believe that bluefin tuna, once the most common and popular species in the world, should be listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.  This proposal was recently rejected by the Mediterranean countries, amongst which includes Spain. In order to allow overfished fish populations to replenish, we must give them a chance to repopulate by relieving them of the human-pressure of fishing. Once again, everyone must apply the resource conservation ethic and do what is best for the whole world.

Sources:

1) http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2011/05/17/2162555/officials-backing-fishermen.html#storylink=cpy

2) http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/eu-fish-quotas-idUSL6E8J1AVN20120801

3) http://spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/olo6thedition/07–Feature%20Article%201.pdf

4) http://www.oceansentry.org/lang-en/overfishing/campaign.html

WHAT YOU CAN DO

When you do not have political power or a wide sphere of influence, it seems hard to actually make a difference. However, there are several ways to get involved. One is through the market and consumer power. A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world have compiled lists of fish to eat and fish to avoid, based on their endangerment level.

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Another easy way to help stop overfishing is to inform others. Encourage family members and friends to use the “good fish guides.” Write to a legislator about your concerns. Sign a petition. Do a project on overfishing. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another and the best way to stop overfishing and protect fish, our ecosystems, and our markets is to spread knowledge.

Sources:

1) http://overfishing.org/pages/guide_to_good_fish.php?w=pages

2) http://www.coastalliving.com

Solution&Debate: Increasing Foreign Aid on Water to Improve Water Availability

Many international organizations and charities are involved in water-related aid programs, including the World Bank, the European Union, and UN agencies. The United Nations declared 2013 as the “International Year of Water Cooperation,” but for any chance of cooperation, the United States must continue foreign aid to improve reliable access water. Most of the organizations funding support come through grants and loans. Moreover, there are many bilateral arrangements between developed and developing world countries. Over the last few years, there were an average total annual aid budget of $3.5 billion for water-related projects, with bilateral arrangements contributing the lion’s share ($2.25 billion). The World Bank was the largest single donor ($1.9 billion). It mainly works with African, Caribbean and Pacific developing countries, and helps to define and to implement water policies focusing on sustainable water management. These institutions provide grant aid or loans for development projects, support bilateral programs and transfer knowledge and technology.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) has estimated that $180 billion per year is necessary in order to ensure adequate water supplies (water treatment, supply infrastructure and irrigation) in developing countries. This is a doubled amount of the present level of investment. Many developing countries clearly do not have the resources or money to cover these costs. Moreover, there is no single aid government or agency that can provide all funds.[1]

Foreign aid and assistance to improve access to water is both a strategic investment and a moral imperative. However, some argue that aid makes the countries more dependent. Even though drinking water is a basic human need, helping those countries with money make them weaker and consequently, they won’t become self-reliant and will be more dependent on funds.

There are some empirical data shows that aid on water is positive. In the Journal on Globalization and Health report (2011), they researched the relationship between official development assistance and changes in access to water sanitation. The result shows that the aid was effective since the establishment of the MDG (Millennium Development Goals). Countries receiving official assistance are 4 to 18 times more likely to have access to improved water supply than countries without aids.

Although aid is not an ultimate cure or solution in developing countries, cutting aid would cause more harm. Thus, there needs to be further cooperations among countries and organizations so that the developing countries can have a sustainable access to clean water. [2]