In this 54″ video made 13 October 2022 Jesse Ausubel, awarded the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, discusses whether the human species can continue to improve—much like cars, computers, or other technology—or whether our species has reached its peak.
Jesse H. Ausubel joins Jason Spiess on The Crude Life to discuss “Peak Human” and “Peak Humans” in a 34-minute podcast and explore new research showing how humans’ minds and bodies may near their limits and even start on a downward curve. “For 200-250 years humanity has had an incredible run,” Ausubel said. “When you think of your great grandparents, grandparents, parents and you, generally speaking you are going to be better… than they were.”
Journalist/author Robert Bryce interviews Jesse Ausubel about PHE’s work on “peak human” and “peak humans.” The interview covers four dimensions of human performance: the physical (how far and fast can we go?), lifetime (how long can we live and how well?), cognitive (measures of intelligence and learning), and immunity (is our resistance to disease waning?). The podcast was recorded on December 7, 2022. For the audio and transcript, see the Bryce website, and also on YouTube.
Our great friend and colleague, agronomist Paul E. Waggoner, died on 1 November 2022 in Seattle, surrounded by family and friends. Paul’s wrote a crisp memoir of his own life, from Appanoose to Connecticut. Jesse offered a tribute: Thriving Thrift: On the Occasion of Paul Waggoner Appreciation Day, 2013.
Jesse and Paul first met in 1981 during the work of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee for which Paul wrote brilliant far-sighted chapters about “Agriculture and a climate changed by more carbon dioxide” and about “Effects of a carbon dioxide-induced climate change on water supplies in the Western United States.” Jesse and Paul continued contact through the 1980s through the periodic seminars on climate change at Yale by William Nordhaus.
Paul and Jesse also did most of the writing and editing for the section on Adaptation (pp. 499-657) in the 1992 NASEM report “Policy Implications of Global Warming.”
In 1992 Jesse asked Paul the question “How much land can 10 billion people spare for Nature” and this led to a superb, lengthy answer (PE Waggoner. How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature? Task Force Report #121, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, Ames IA 1994) and two decades more work on land-sparing and related issues of intensity of use of resources on land and in the sea. Paul was a universally helpful critic and editor as well as creative researcher and, perhaps most important, our best teacher about actual farming and plants.
Some papers we wrote together:
JH Ausubel, IK Wernick, and PE Waggoner. Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing. Population and Development Review 38 (Supplement): 217–238, 2012
Rautiainen, IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel, PE Kauppi. A National and International Analysis of Changing Forest Density . PLoS ONE 6 (5): 2011
JH Ausubel, DT Crist, and PE Waggoner (eds.). First Census of Marine Life 2010: Highlights of a Decade of Discovery. CoML 2010
JH Ausubel, PE Waggoner. Dematerialization: variety, caution, and persistence . Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105 (35): 12774–12779, 2008 10.1073/pnas.0806099105 D
PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Quandaries of forest area, volume, biomass, and carbon explored with the forest identity . Pp. 13 pp in Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 1011 2007
PE Kauppi, JH Ausubel, J-Y Fang, AS Mather, RA Sedjo, PE Waggoner. Returning forests analyzed with forest identity . Pp. 17574–17579 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 103, 2006 10.1073/pnas.0608343103
JH Ausubel, PE Waggoner, IK Wernick. Foresters and DNA . Pp. 13–31 in Chapter 2 in Landscapes, Genomics and Transgenic Forests pp. 2006 CG Williams (ed), Published by Kluwer, Dordrecht
JH Ausubel, IK Wernick, AM Barret, PE Waggoner. Industrial ecology for leverage to let loose less cadmium. Prog Ind Ecol 3 (6): 522–537, 2006
MY Stoeckle, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Barcoding Life, Illustrated: Goals, rationale, results (PDF). Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) 2005
MY Stoeckle, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Barcoding Life: Ten Reasons (PDF). Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) 2004 Brochure
PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. A Framework for Sustainability Science: A Renovated IPAT Identity (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 99 (12): 7860–7865, 2002 (See also a series of 6 Supplements at https://phe.rockefeller.edu/research/impact/)
PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. How Much Will Feeding More and Wealthier People Encroach on Forests?. Population and Development Review 27 (2): 239–257, 2001
CR Frink, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Nitrogen on the Land: Overcoming the Worries – lifting fertilizer efficiency and preserving land for nonfarming uses Pollution Prevention Review 11 (3): 77–82, 2001
IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. The Forester’s Lever: Industrial Ecology and Wood Products Journal of Forestry 98 (10): 8–14, 2000
CR Frink, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Nitrogen fertilizer: Retrospect and prospect. Pp. 1175–1180 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A vol. 96, 1999
IK Wernick, PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel. Searching for Leverage to Conserve Forests: The Industrial Ecology of Wood Products in the United States Journal of Industrial Ecology 1 (3): 125–145, 1997
PE Waggoner, JH Ausubel, IK Wernick. Lightening the Tread of Population on the Land: American Examples (PDF). Population and Development Review 22 (3): 531-45, 1996
PHE senior research associate Iddo Wernick publishes an op-ed in RealClear Science: Green Technologies Have a Glaring Problem of Scale
Jesse reflects on decarbonization, dematerialization, land-sparing, industrial ecology, industrialization of the oceans, biological traces of fishes and of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Seven Deadly Sins in an 83″ podcast with Robert Bryce, author of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: and A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations.
The Podcast is also on YouTube where you get to see who sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Iddo Wernick, our long-time collaborator Pekka Kauppi, and other forestry experts published Quantifying forest change in the European Union in Nature vol 592 pages E13–E14 (2021). The authors argue that net carbon stored in the EU continues to increase as forest volume accumulates faster than additions to (and fluctuations in) the annual harvest.
For some of our earlier forest work, see PNAS publishes Forests paper and Quandaries of forest area, volume, biomass, and carbon explored with the forest identity.