Letters to the Editor
December 2014

The article in the September issue of Population Connection was very interesting to us, as we visited that region in 2010. Unfortunately, the article failed to tell why Tonle Sap is Cambodia’s “beating heart,” or the nature of its connection with the Mekong River.

Tonle Sap fills and empties annually, the reason for calling it a “beating heart.” The flooding is a result of seasonal flooding by the Mekong, whose waters back up along the tributary river that joins it to Tonle Sap. At its fullest, the area of the lake is four times as great as it is at low water.

The receding waters provide natural irrigation for rice fields surrounding the lake at different elevations successively through the growing season, providing much of Cambodia’s staple rice supply. The great flow back and forth from the Mekong, with its varied fish population and nursery sources for the lake’s migratory fish, is a major reason for the productivity of Tonle Sap. Most of these benefits to agriculture, to the fishery, and to wildlife would be lost if the Mekong dams, proposed by Cambodia’s upstream neighbors and Chinese engineers, are built.

The trees and shrubs that are flooded annually around the lake are not mangroves, as the article states. Mangroves are a feature of marine shores, while Tonle Sap is a fresh-water lake. These flood-adapted trees afford nesting habitat for such a wide variety and large number of migratory waterfowl that an International Biosphere Reserve has been established at the head of Tonle Sap.

Michael and Jane Marsh
Seattle, Washington

Many thanks for having the distinction of being the first organization I have seen that has the brains/guts/foresight to tackle what would seem to be one of the most important issues underlying such a vast range of world difficulty.

Sherrie Lieber Pasarell
Bronx, New York

A week ago or so, Rush Limbaugh claimed that global population is not a problem related to the global climate change issue, and he provided supporting “evidence.”

Rush said that if the current 7+ billion people were housed at the same density as in NYC, everyone could fit into the state of Texas. So there’s no real problem about numbers of people…land outside of TX would of course be needed to grow food. Number of people per se is not related to climate change…if, as Rush claims, the latter is even happening.

After seeing an aerial view of NYC in our local newspaper, and taking that and superimposing that over the boundaries of Texas, it would seem the 7 billion people would very likely soon exhibit an extreme form of “road rage” and start killing one another off. (To a degree, this might already be happening.)

Psychologists using experimental lab rat setups have shown this is what happens with reproducing rat populations, even when given all the food and water the rats needed [but not space] … the crowdedness triggers the rats going mad … eating each other’s [and their own] ears, tails, and noses off!

I advocate that global human population numbers do need to be placed in the climate change solution equation.

Jim Habeck
Professor Emeritus, Ecology, University of Montana
Missoula, Montana

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