AWOL Newswire: December 2011


The Seven Billion Club

The United Nations Population Fund stated the world’s population reached seven billion people on Halloween of 2011. Such a milestone marks both an awesome occasion for the celebration of humankind and a chilling indicator of the global need for food, water and shelter. Despite these concerns, on November 3, NPR blogger Bill Chappell explained that many other species have reached seven billion, and are reportedly doing quite fine. For example, there are 18.6 billion chickens recorded ruffling their feathers on the face of the earth. Marine fish don’t even have a population, but we know that somewhere between eight hundred million and two billion tons of fish populate the world’s oceans. The next time you feel guilty squishing an ant, don’t fret; ten billion billion ants populate the planet (that’s not a typo—literally, ten billion billion). Humans are number nine on the list, edged out by termites, whose global tonnage outweighs the entire human population by over one hundred million tons. Let’s not forget the global bacteria population of four quadrillion quadrillion, or one trillion tons worth of microscopic organisms living everywhere around us. Perhaps, then, doomsday-ers might be well served to consider the context of the human population before condemning humanity to apocalyptic overpopulation. Instead, we should be proud of our achievement, joining the “Seven Billion Club” as one of the more (but hardly the most) populous species on the planet.

-Zac Deibel

More Money, More Problems

The proportion of graduates with debt in 2010 in Washington DC is 96 percent, according to a report called the Project on Student Debt. American University’s Class of 2010 graduated, on average, in $36,206 of debt. The national average for college students who had student loans was $25,250, which is up 5 percent from the previous year. According to the report, about two-thirds of the most recent graduating class graduated with student debt. American University intends to raise their tuition by 3.8 percent for next year, according to the 2012–2013 budget plan. Washington DC ranks number 17  nationally among students with the most debt.

-Kelcie Pegher

Global Climate Threat

After acknowledging in 2009 that global climate change poses a national security threat, the Defense Department’s science panel recently urged the CIA to reveal its classified climate research to the public, according to a recent report by The Guardian. The increase of greenhouse gasses directly influences the economic, political and social conditions of countries—particularly in the third world—within the international security purview of the US. The report even suggests creating an independent federal agency—a move that would circumvent the CIA’s cagey communication. This year’s array of abnormal weather patterns, hurricanes and drought makes the withheld CIA information especially pertinent, as scientists and university researchers continue digging for more information.

Alex Burchfield

Red Red Wine

Despite assertions that red wine strengthens the heart, a new study suggests that drinking may be just as bad as it’s cracked up to be. In a study of 10,000 nurses, researchers found that women who drank alcohol regularly had a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who stayed sober. For women who drink every day, that means the cancer risk is about 15% greater than nondrinkers. The extra risk increased to 50% in women who averaged more than 30 drinks a week. More troubling: the risk is associated with long-term drinking habits, not drinking heavily over a few months. The study also shows no difference in risk among different kinds of alcohol. Scientists theorize that alcohol may boost the level of hormones like estrogen in the blood, which could raise the risk of cancer. There’s no evidence, however, that drinking less than three times a week had any adverse affects on breast cancer risk. So raise a glass for heart health, but not too many for breast cancer risk.

Lori McCue