One of the first agricultural techniques, which is still practiced in many parts of the world, is “slash and burn agriculture.” It’s pretty simple:
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique that involves cutting and burning of trees and plants in forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding.
It works by clearing an area, planting crops until the soil is depleted, and then moving on to the next area. Eventually, one may move back to the original area, after a period of allowing regrowth, but that isn’t always possible. Its use as a successful method depends on having a small population and a lot of land to move to. The problem with it is that it’s not a sustainable method of agriculture. Once you reach a certain population density, or have exhausted the land available, it becomes unsustainable. So, what does that have to do with the economy?
Over a year ago, I talked about the Clean Water Act, and then again about why regulations came into being. In my post about the Clean Water Act, I said the following:
The same arguments that were trotted out in 1967 are in vogue today. It’s “too expensive,”and “too burdensome.” It’s short-term thinking, and it’s sad. There was a time when both parties said “enough!,” and thought that rivers shouldn’t catch on fire. They had the will to do it, and it worked. Maybe it worked too well. Maybe if they could still smell the rivers, their constituents were getting sick with water-borne diseases, and they could watch fires on water, they’d realize that there was a problem.
In just the past few months, there have been a number of incidents which have, again, brought up the need for regulation and enforcement. Besides the chemical spill by the ironically named “Freedom Industries,” West Virginia also had a massive coal slurry spill into the rivers from a company called “Patriot Coal.” In North Carolina, a coal ash spill has contaminated the Dan River, which provides drinking water to two states.
One of the things that amuses me is when I see the typical demographic of Tea Party or “true conservative” Republican Party members. Why does it amuse me? Well, I fall into that demographic as well. I’m in my 50′s, a rural white male. My childhood was spent in rural areas, and today I live in one. We were (and are) hard working, independent, “take care of yourself and your family” people. I had a strong religious background, in fact, many people assumed that when I grew up I’d be a minister. I went to college, joined the military afterward, and after leaving, went to work in the private sector. I even ran my own business for a few years. So “obviously” I should be a conservative Republican, not a liberal Democrat!
The news over the past month has had a number of “disaster” stories, and in early January, there was the chemical spill in West Virginia, which left over 300,000 people without drinking water. In the aftermath of this, there has been a lot of screaming by the affected population, along with a round of finger pointing and denial of responsibility by various elected officials. The sad part? Things like these are predictable. The actual incidents and timing may not be, but that something like this will happen is.
Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy has a post about “A Sleeping Giant.” A little history first. Back in A.D. 79, there was a city called Pompeii. It’s rather famous, because it was buried by a volcanic eruption, by a volcano called Vesuvius.
Since 79 AD, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century, eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929, and 1944. There has been no eruption since 1944
Obviously, not a place people would really want to live in, and definitely would never consider building major cities near, right? Think again.