September 19, 2014

The trails—and everywhere else—will be quite a bit more crowded by the turn of the century.     Photo: furiousmadgeorge/Flickr

World Bracing for Big Baby Boom

Population could reach 12.3 billion by 2100

A new study published in Science says that the global population could reach 12.3 billion by 2100, an increase of 70 percent over the current population of 7.2 billion.

Fourteen researchers from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs extrapolated upon UN data to find an 80 percent probability that the global population will rise to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion within 100 years. 

A 2013 UN population projection using data collected through 2012 predicted a global population of 10.9 billion. However, the researchers behind this new study were skeptical of the 2013 effort’s methodology. In the first study, UN statisticians calculated a range of populations based on whether women worldwide had 0.5 more or fewer children than anticipated and came up with potential populations between 6.2 billion and 15.8 billion.

The 2014 group analyzed the same data but ran population models on a country-by-country basis, accounting for localized trends like ideal family size, education, and access to contraception. The new approach allowed the researchers to say with 95 percent certainty that although growth will likely continue to slow in Asia and South America, Africa’s population alone will swell from 1.1 billion to between 3.1 billion and 5.7 billion.

While such a massive baby boom would tax the planet’s resources, Vaclav Smil, an energy, environment, and food production researcher at the University of Manitoba who is unaffiliated with the study, explained to Wired that population won’t matter as much as “the prevailing levels of consumption.”

Adrian Raftery, a statistician and sociologist at the University of Washington and one of the authers of the new study, told Wired that a “rapidly growing population with [sic] bring challenges, but I think these challenges can be met.”


Patagonia's New York City stores will close on September 21 so employees can attend the People's Climate March.     Photo: Yukiko Matsuoka/Flickr

Patagonia Closes NYC Stores for Climate March

CEO: "We cannot sit idly by"

In advance of what could be the largest climate march in history this Sunday* in New York City, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario announced that the company’s four New York stores will close for much of the day so employees can participate.

This decision throws Patagonia’s support behind the People’s Climate March goal: to create highly visible public pressure for environmental change before the September 23 UN Climate Summit. This year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world leaders to reach a meaningful global agreement on tackling global warming pollution.

“It is the work of this generation to make clear we reject the status quo—a race toward the destruction of our planet and the wild places we play in and love,” Marcario wrote in statement posted on Patagonia’s blog. “We cannot sit idly by … We have to keep the pressure on.”

The march will start on Central Park West at 11:30 a.m. and end on 11th Avenue between 38th and 34th Street. Patagonia’s stores will remain closed until 3 p.m. so the employees can take part. “And I’m looking forward to joining them,” Marcario wrote.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story noted that the march was set to take place Saturday.


Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in El Dorado and Siskiyou as 10 wildfires raged across California this week.     Photo: USFWS Southeast/Flickr

Man Charged with Starting King Fire

Suspect allegedly broke into a home to call 911 as flames grew

A man has been charged with arson after allegedly setting the massive King Fire in California’s El Dorado National Forest. The fire—the largest in El Dorado County in the past 20 years—has grown to more than 76,000 acres, forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

Wayne Huntsman, of Pollock Pines, California, is being held in El Dorado County Jail on $10 million bail. The complaint says that Huntsman “did willfully and maliciously set fire to and burn, and cause to be burned, forest land located in and around Pollock Pines.” He allegedly started the fire on Saturday; it spread from a remote area to a canyon filled with dry brush, where it grew out of control. Huntsman will be charged on Friday with two counts of arson: intentionally setting the fire on forest land (a felony), and causing great bodily injury to an emergency worker as a result of the fire.

Huntsman called 911 right after he allegedly set the fire, but to do so, he allegedly had to break into a home to get access to a phone.

Parts of the El Dorado National Forest remain closed, and nearly 4,500 firefighters—using more than 360 fire engines, 64 dozers, and 15 helicopters—are currently fighting the fire. Laurence Crabtree, U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the El Dorado National Forest, told News 10 that the costs of fighting the fire are upwards of $5 million a day. Even now, it’s only 10 percent contained.

In the midst of a three-year drought and a heat wave that brought temperatures above 100 degrees this week, California is suffering from 10 major wildfires, plus 200 smaller ones that could grow at any time. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

“I can tell you that, hands down, after talking to fire professionals from around the state, that these are unprecedented conditions,” Ken Pimlott, executive director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the New York Times. “California right now is the primary focus in the country for fire activity. We are collectively putting all of our resources into California to fight this.”


OSHA says Wolf Creek Ski Area did not adequately mitigate the danger of an avalanche that killed an employee in March.     Photo: Zach Dischner/Flickr

Wolf Creek Fined in Patroller's Death

Colorado ski area also faces charges

Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area has been fined $14,000 in the death of an on-duty ski patroller by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to a report by the Denver Post.

The patroller, Colin Sutton, was struck by an avalanche in March while researching snow safety conditions outside the resort’s boundaries. He was immediately dug out by fellow patrollers but succumbed to his injuries. The OSHA notification claims the patrollers did not have adequate communication with patrol headquarters while outside the area boundary. 

It’s not the first time OSHA has cited the ski area: After ski patrol director Scott Kay was killed in an in-bounds avalanche in 2010, the administration levied a $17,000 fine, saying the ski area failed to adequately train its patrollers for avalanche work.

According to the Post, the forest service, which owns the land where the ski area operates, has filed five charges against Wolf Creek’s owner, Davey Pitcher, in relation to Sutton’s death. The forest service alleges that Wolf Creek patrollers were not permitted to work out of bounds and that they illegally used explosives for avalanche control on unrelated days. Pitcher has pleaded not guilty to the charges; his trial is set to begin in mid-December.