Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Valete Lacus

The UNEP/GRID-Arendal has a number of interesting maps related to poverty and the environment on their website, including this one, of Lake Chad:

(Philippe Rekacewicz (Le Monde diplomatique), February 2006)

An alarming number of seas and lakes around the world are facing the same fate as Lake Chad, including Chapala in Mexico, Israel's Lake Tiberias (aka "the Sea of Galilee") and Lake Faguibine in Mali among many many others.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sustainable Food Security

The UNEP’s recent report, The Environmental Food Crisis, outlines seven ways to improve human food security (I’ve paraphrased here):

1) Implement tougher price regulations to minimize crippling price fluctuations.
2) Remove subsidies from “first generation” biofuels (eg, crops like corn, soy, sugar, etc.) to encourage the use of “higher generation” biofuels (ie, the stuff people were going to toss anyway) to free up land for people food.
3) Stop using valuable cereals and fish in animal food. Use these crops for people instead and let the animals have the “fish discards” and “post-harvest losses”.
4) Support sustainable farmers (ie, those that provide ecosystem services to the community).
5) Increased market access (but not free market access – see point #1).
6) Encourage land use policies that mitigate climate change. Educate people on the effects of population and consumption on food supply.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Profile: King Ashoka

I'm in the midst of watching the visually-stunning PBS documentary The Story of India in which we're told of the 3rd century BC King Ashoka and his progressive governing style. After pillaging the city of Kalinga he regrets his actions and turns to Buddhism. Ashoka's edicts, which were posted throughout his empire on stone pillars, include notable sections on the protection of animals.

Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected... parrots, mainas, //aruna//, ruddy geese, wild ducks, //nandimukhas, gelatas//, bats, queen ants [queen ants!!] ... Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another.

While Buddhism's influence on India waned after Ashoka, his "trademark" symbol was chosen to grace the Indian national flag after independence in 1947. In addition, the first (and at the time, future) vice president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, announced that the green of the flag represents India's "relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sharing the Mekong

Just as Earthscan prepares to publish a new book, Contested Waterscapes in the Mekong Region, news came out this week that water levels in the Mekong River are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. Fishing’s bad, irrigation sources are drying up and cargo ships have been grounded, according to Al Jazeera. In Southeast Asia, anger’s directed at Chinese hydropower projects further up the river while China asserts that climate change is causing the low water.

The Mekong River Commission is the regional body in charge of managing this shared resource, but China’s not a full member (nor, unsurprisingly, is Burma).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Kenya

Kenya stands at an enviable position in terms of the amount of power it gets from renewable energy. And when the massive Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is complete, it will be the largest producer of national-grid fed wind energy in the world. This is big news for a country where only 1 in 5 people has electricity. The project faced some financial setbacks recently, but Spain stepped in to provide a €110 million loan to bolster completion. The project has largely been financed by the African Development Bank and firms in England and the Netherlands who are earning interest on the loans and feed-in tarriffs.