Calculating Percentage Change.  This is only peripherally related to AREC 365 subjects, but we do deal frequently with percentage change.    For example, if population of a country  was 1,000,000  in 1995and is 1,350,251 in 2008, then population has grown by 35.0251% during that 13 year period.  But a lot of people don't know how to compute percentage changes.  Here is a television reporter who states:  truck mileage without the device was 9.4 MPG;  truck mileage with the device was 23.2 MPG;  this represents a 61% improvement.  If you are not saying "Hunh??" right now, you should take remedial math.  An improvement of 9.4 to 23.2 is a 100*[(23.2/9.4) - 1] = 146.81% improvement in gas mileage.   (Use common sense to check your calculation:  a 100% improvement would increase it from 9.4 to 18.8,  and the additional 4.4 is about 50% of 9.4, so the 150% (ok 146.81%) looks about right.)   This television reporter re-convinces me that I do need to continue requiring these kinds of calculations in course homeworks.   All students earning college degrees should know how to do this computation.

posted June 10, 2008 at 7:45 p.m.


Quality of Medical Advice in Poor countries.  A recent paper by Jishnu Das, Jeffrey Hammer, and AREC's own Ken Leonard has this disturbing and heartbreaking story: 

In rural Tanzania, Ms M, brings her 9 month old to the local health clinic, carrying the child on her back. When she enters, Dr. K (an Assistant Medical Officer ...) asks her what the problem is. Still standing in front of his desk, she replies that her daughter has a fever. Dr. K fills a prescription for malaria based on this statement, even though he cannot see the child, much less observe her condition. The consultation and medicine are both free and Ms. M leaves the facility with the prescribed medicine. During the exit interview a nurse on our team notes that the child is suffering from severe pneumonia. The health facility has the medicine to treat both malaria and pneumonia. Dr. K is trained in the diagnosis and treatment for these diseases and saw only 25 patients that day. Yet, but for the intervention of the nurse on our research team, the child would have died. Indeed, a survey in rural Tanzania found that 79 percent of children who die of malaria sought care at modern health facilities.

posted June 10, 2008 at 11:00 a.m.

Food Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  Of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food consumption, 83% of the emissions come from food production and only 11% come from transportation,  according to a recent paper by Carnegie Mellon engineers, Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews.  (Link via Tyler Cowen at marginal revolution.)

posted June 10, 2008 at 10:40 a.m.


World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.    USDA's monthly report WASDE was released today.   Total grains production in the world:  The June projection for 2008/09 is 0.15% higher than the May projection.  2008/09 production is projected to be   2.26% higher than the estimated output in 2007/08, and 7.84% higher than the output in 2006/07.  Wheat and rice show steady growth over the three years; course grains (primarily maize) shows a big jump between 2006/07 and 2007/08, and then a slight drop off to 2008/09.  (Context:  US Census projects that world population grows at about 1.15% per year currently.)   Even though crop output per person is expected to increase, crop prices are expected to continue to increase as shown in the table below.  Per capita demand for crops grows, because of (a) increased income per capita;  (b) increased demand for animal products per capita -- related to increased income;  and (c) increased use of crops in biofuel production. 

posted June 10, 2008 at 9:40 a.m.


World Food Blog.   The blog "Stuffed and Starved" is by author Raj Patel (of a book by the same name).  It has some amusing links (pointing out the ominous similarity between maps of Germany showing GM test plots and showing strength of extreme right wing political parties -- does GM food cause Nazism?)  and some serious links (for example, to this collection of news stories and opinion pieces on agriculture in Africa).

posted June 19, 2008 at 7:20 a.m.


Prospects for 2008 crops. New York Times front page story.In a year when global harvests need to be excellent to ease the threat of pervasive food shortages, evidence is mounting that they will be average at best. Some farmers are starting to fear disaster.  American corn and soybean farmers are suffering from too much rain, while Australian wheat farmers have been plagued by drought."

posted June 10, 2008 at 6:20 a.m.