The Azimuth Project
World on the Edge (Rev #5)


This page is about the following book, which is freely available in PDF form:

This book sometimes refers to an older book, Plan B which is also free in PDF form.


The book is separated in three major parts: the problems, the consequences, the response (Plan B).

Problem 2: Falling water tables and shrinking harvests

Some excerpts:

The overpumping of aquifers for irrigation temporarily inflates food production, creating a food production bubble.

40 percent of the world grain harvest comes from irrigated land.

There are two sources of irrigation water: underground water and surface water. Most underground water comes from aquifers that are regularly replenished with rainfall; these can be pumped indefinitely as long as water extraction does not exceed recharge. But a distinct minority of aquifers are fossil aquifers—containing water put down eons ago.

Overpumping in the North China Plain suggests that some 130 million Chinese are being fed with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water. Farmers in this region are pumping from two aquifers: the so-called shallow aquifer, which is rechargeable but largely depleted, and the deep fossil aquifer. A little-noticed groundwater survey done a decade ago by the Geological Environment Monitoring Institute (GEMI) in Beijing reported that under Hebei Province, in the heart of the North China Plain, the average level of the deep aquifer dropped 2.9 meters (nearly 10 feet) in 2000.

In countries where virtually all water is spoken for, as in North Africa and the Middle East, cities can typically get more water only by taking it from irrigation. Countries then import grain to offset the loss of grain production. Since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain, importing grain is the most efficient way to import water.


Harnessing wind, solar and geothermal energy

The author claims that:

A strong, efficient national grid will reduce generating capacity needs, lower consumer costs, and cut carbon emissions. Since no two wind farms have identical wind profiles, each one added to the grid makes wind a more stable source of electricity. With the prospect of thousands of wind farms spread from coast to coast and a national grid, wind becomes a stable source of energy, part of baseload power.

For this claim he cites Archer and Jacobson 2007, which is controversial, as explained in Wind power.

Note: In Without the Hot Air, David MacKay offers some solutions to deal with the intermittency of wind power.

category: plans