[PLUG-TALK] Expansion, growth, the world, and time

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Wed Mar 23 13:01:13 PDT 2011

On Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 10:42:53PM -0700, Michael M. Moore wrote:
> "Two weeks ago, the scientific journal PLoS Medicine published a study 
> that sought to define the relationship between economic growth and the 
> pervasive problem of undernourished Indian children.  In India, 25-50% 
> of the deaths of children between 6 months and 5 years old are due to 
> inadequate food intake.  This slow, sustained starvation causes stunted 
> growth and puts children at greater risk for infection and disease.
> "The primary policy tool to combat chronic childhood undernutrition has 
> been economic development, but despite two decades of booming growth, 
> the average calorie intake in India has actually declined.  Indeed, the 
> authors found that there was no link between economic growth and 
> childhood undernutrition; stagnant or thriving, the status of a state’s 
> economy had no effect on its number of underweight children." [1]

Ah - look carefully at that study, and what it does NOT include - 
actual calories, birthrate patterns, and mobility.  The Mumbai slums
are not full of the grandchildren of previous Mumbai slum dwellers.
They are mostly immigrants from poor regions in the countryside. 
The previous slum dwellers are living in the high rises.  Interesting
things happen to compartmentalized data when the compartments are
leaky.  That is why an immigrant can move from Guatemala to the US
and get a 10x bump in income, while simultaneously lowering the per
capita GNP of both countries.  The "capita" changes, so the process
is not "adiabatic."

The graph in figure 3 shows an 8% decline in underweight and a 6%
decline in stunting between 1992 and 2005.  The population increased
from 883 million to 1095 million over that same period.  That's not
what Malthus would expect. 

So overall, India is doing something right, most especially allowing
its citizens to move towards opportunity.  That same process occurred
a generation earlier in Hong Kong.  

>  We know -- we have known for decades -- that our environment is 
> capable of producing more than enough food for every human being alive, 
> yet people still starve, even in a country like India that has seen so 
> much economic growth.  We already have the technology to feed everybody, 
> we have the resources, we don't need to invent, develop, expand or code 
> anything.  What we lack is the will to make it happen.

The data in the article was about "underweight, stunting, and wasting",
not about starvation.  The article points at a Unicef page, which 
focuses on low birth weight, disease, and uneducated parents, which
correlate to poverty, not calories per se, and have a tail effect. 
If you were born small, or survived a wasting disease, moving out of
poverty will not completely mask the effect of your medical history.

The article did not measure calories.  Like you, they just assumed
the cause given the effect.  Malnutrition is endemic in America,
too, though associated with a surplus of calories.  Like here,
the people in India are bombarded with ads for crap food, such
as artificial baby formula, which is expensive and unhealthy.  

> I have to wonder what makes you so sure "They Will Get Energy" when they 
> can't even get enough food, despite the existence of abundant supplies.

I was at a meeting of Indian energy ministers last November - I got
it from them.  And from Stewart Brand.  And from a friend who runs
a solar energy company near Bangalore.  The people of India are not
the spiritless, whiny mopes I find around here.  They aren't paragons
of virtue, but they are dedicated to building their country, they
have made great progress, they are making the right moves, and I
expect them to make more.

> Based on current and historical behavior, I would guess it's likelier 
> that roughly 1 billion of those people in the U.S. or whatever country 
> or region ascends to superpower status in the centuries ahead will soak 
> up far more than 10 kilowatts each, leaving whatever is left over for 
> the other 9 billion in the rest of the world. 

Could you point me at that history?  The supply of medicine, water,
food, and energy is increasing rapidly in most parts of the world.
There are regions where it isn't - Haiti, parts of Africa - but overall
things are getting better.  How does your income compare to your
immigrant ancestors?   Mine were freezing in cramped tiny houses
in Sweden, and they were the /upper/ working class.

That is why it is essential to Kill Your TV.  Regardless of whether
it is cartoons or the six o'clock news, that machine is there for
only one reason - to make you agitated and Consume More Crap.  If
you are worrying, rather than building a better future for the 
world, the agitators have succeeded.

Your posting is couched in the assumption that there is a finite pie
and "we" are taking too much of it.  The associated assumption is
that if "we" give "our" resources to "them", they will do better.

Ever since I was in high school, I have heard the story "we are only
X percent of the world, yet we consume Y percent of the resources".
And every time I hear that, the ratio Y/X decreases.  One can rail
about the injustice.  Or one can observe that the usable resources
are going up, and going up faster where we aren't.  After that, the
important question is whether our involvement (interference?) with
the growth of other nations helps or hinders them?  Kipling's
"white man's burden" AKA "What these people need is a honky" is
a questionable assumption.

The Indian energy ministers were here to study the political aspects
of the Bonneville Power Administration, to see if there were lessons
they could apply to sharing the Brahmaputra.  The Americans in the
room wanted to talk about solar panels and pumped hydro storage.
India's Tehri pumped hydro dam in India is one of the world's largest,
and they already deploy a lot of village scale solar.  They did not
need our advice on that.  However, India is a young, loosely bound
democracy, and they wanted to see how a 200 year old democracy
manages inter-state rivalries.  I imagine they left more confused
than when they arrived.

> usually leave me wondering whether anyone is taking a good hard look at 
> their own habits.

Tell us about yours.  I spent $1000 and two weeks insulating the
attic of the house we just bought.  We do the walls after we pay
taxes.  My firewall computer consumes 4 watts, and replaced one
that drew 20 watts.  I've replaced most of the lights with T8
electronic ballast long-tube fluorescents, with zone switches,
and hope to add DALI individual fixture control over the next
few years.  That's not to brag, but to say that there are options,
and they are action oriented, not worry oriented.  Let's share
techniques; perhaps suggestions for good urban walking shoes.

> Here's another old chestnut (translated):  the more things change, the 
> more they stay the same.

Ah - "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".  Interesting words
from a country that has seriously improved governance, wealth,
energy production, and distribution of income in the last 200
years.  A more correct phrase might be "The more things change,
the more people don't notice".

Please do read Ridley's "Rational Optimist".  Also Brand's "Whole
Earth Discipline."  You might also skim Herman's "The Idea of
Decline in Western History".  Things have seemingly been going
to hell for millenia. 

The difference between perception and the actual facts is due
to mobility.  The people improving the world, for themselves
and others, are too busy to write history, a passtime reserved
for those with too much spare time and too much to lose.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993
KLIC --- Keith Lofstrom Integrated Circuits --- "Your Ideas in Silicon"
Design Contracting in Bipolar and CMOS - Analog, Digital, and Scan ICs

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