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Global issues: the environment and hunger

This  page attempts to indicate the links between our earth and poor and hungry people. See also Hunger, the environment and climate change 2009

A basic orientation to some key environmental  issues was given by the BBC in its series  Planet under Pressure.  It covers six issues

We will add a seventh issue

  • "overconsumption"

We place overconsumption in quotes to indicate that it is a topic to be discussed, not assumed. Are patterns of consumption, especially in the developing countries, sustainable.  Is there waste or meaningless consumption?  What is the impact on very poor people?

The world's poor people confront all these issues.  They struggle for food.  A very large number live in countries where water is scarce.  Though their energy demand is low, scarcity and high energy prices restrict their energy use, even for basics such as food preparation.  Poor fisherman depend on fish species which are rapidly being depleted; and poor people often live in close proximity to species under threat, and vie with them for resources such as land.  Pollution is a major problem for poor people, for example those in slums and who those who depend on water from polluted rivers.  It is predicted that climate change will threaten coastal areas with flooding, and reduce rainfall in already rain short areas.  Finally, people in developed countries, with their high standards of living, command many more resources and goods than poor people in developing countries, thus, it can be argued, increasing scarcity for poor people.

This report is divided into sections including:

Climate change, global warming  and the effect on poor people

Developed world failing on climate funds pledge, says Bangladeshi minister Fiona Harvey The Guardian January 2, 2012 See Hunger Notes special report Environment and hunger

UN climate talks’ real-world outcome will be determined in Asia Julliet Eilperin Washington Post December 12, 2011  In Durban, Kyoto treaty seems set to meet its end Geoffrey York Globe and Mail December 7, 2011 Climate deal pushed by poorer nations Richard Black BBC News December 1, 2011 EU takes hardline stance at UN climate talks. Tough stand causes consternation among large developing countries, and discord threatens the future of the Kyoto protocol. Fiona Harvey The Guardian November 30, 2011  UN climate talks get underway in South Africa. Kyoto protocol may be extended in weakened form; patchwork measures may provide some progress. Juliet Eilperin Washington Post November 27, 2011 Pope calls for responsible deal in Durban climate change conference Nicole Winfield Huff Post November 27, 2011

World's oceans in shocking deline; experts warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history" Richard Black BBC News June 20, 2011 

Climate talks in Bonn stay deadlocked Martin Khor The Star Online June 20, 2011

Victor Valenzuela selects wheat plants for breeding at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times

Victor Valenzuela selects wheat plants for breeding at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times Times

A warming planet struggles to feed itself Justin Gillis New York Times June 4, 2011

Climate-change aid to developing world difficult to track, report says Brian Vastag Washington Post May 20, 2011

Wikileak cables show race to obtain Arctic resources as ice retreats Meirion Jones and Susan Watts BBC News May 12, 2011

Food prices driven up by global warming, study shows. Scientists warn that farming practices must be adapted to a warmer world and rises in global population. guardian.co.uk May 5, 2011  

Bankok climate talks stall Reuters The Guardian April 7, 2011

Cancún agreement rescues UN credibility but falls far short of saving planet--most significant result was putting off tough decisions until next year's UN summit in South Africa Suzanne Goldenberg Gardian.co.uk December 12, 2010  

A woman washes clothes along a river in Bangladesh. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers - together one of the largest freshwater flows in the world - pass through Bangladesh on their way to the ocean, but the rivers flow from the Himalayas through countries including India and China that, as the snowmelt from the Himalayas declines, are planning dams to conserve water for their own use. This would drastically reduce the water available to Bangladesh. Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

A woman washes clothes along a river in Bangladesh. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers - together one of the largest freshwater flows in the world - pass through Bangladesh on their way to the ocean, but the rivers flow from the Himalayas through countries including India and China that, as the snow melt from the Himalayas declines, are planning dams to conserve water for their own use. This would drastically reduce the water available to Bangladesh, affecting its agriculture. Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

India and China's plans to dam rivers before they flow through Bangladesh could destroy nation’s agriculture IRIN News September 20, 2010  Egypt and thirsty neighbors are at odds over Nile Thanassis Cambanis New York Times September 25, 2010

Climate treaty realities push leaders to focus on key priorities, including preserving tropical forests and helping developing countries with climate change Juliet Eilperin Washington Post April 13, 2010

UN climate talks end without full accord--five big nations including US sign separate agreement Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder New York Times  December 19, 2009 Climate talks stall as poorer nations walk out in protest Andrew C. Revkin and Matthew L. Wald New York Times  December 14, 2009

The Milluni reservoir has receded as glaciers that provide some of Bolivia's water and electricity have melted and disappeared. Photo: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

The Milluni reservoir has receded as glaciers that provide some of Bolivia's water and electricity have melted and disappeared. Photo: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

In Bolivia, climate change threatens glaciers, water supply Elizabeth Rosenthal New York Times  December 8, 2009 

Developed countries at the Copenhagen climate summit were accused of 21st century "carbon colonialism" today over a draft agreement that developing nations say would discriminate against them. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty

Developed countries at the Copenhagen climate summit were accused of 21st century "carbon colonialism" today over a draft agreement that developing nations say would discriminate against them. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty

Copenhagen Summit: wealthy nations accused of 'carbon colonialism'  

The link between undernutrition and climate change  IRIN News December 7, 2009

Developed country consumption ("over-consumption") and its effect on key factors (such as climate change and food prices) and thus on poor people

Can the oceans continue to feed us? Renee Schoof McClatchy Newspapers November 10, 2011

Population growth taxing planet's resources; expanding demands are depleting seas, fresh water and forests Juliet Eilperin Washington Post October 24, 2011

Feeding nine billion people in a  sustainable way will be one of the greatest challenges our civilization has ever faced, new report says Justin Gillis New York Times October 12, 2011 

With the death of forests, a loss of key climate protectors Justin Gillis New York Times October 1, 2011

Scientists call for an end to deep-sea fishing; fish stocks dangerously depleted Juliet Eilperin Washington Post September 6, 2011 See Hunger Notes special report Environment and hunger

In Agbogbloshie, a slum in Accra, the capital of Ghana, adults and children tear away at computers from abroad to get at the precious metals inside. Left, David Akore, 18, and other foragers. At the dump, the machines are dismantled and often burned to extract metals for resale. The equipment in this digital cemetery come mainly from Europe and the United States, sometimes as secondhand donations meant to reduce the "digital divide'' — the disparity in computer access between poor nations and rich. Photo: Pieter Hugo/New York Times

A global graveyard for dead computers in Ghana (Photo slideshow) New York Times  August 15, 2010

I 

Fishermen repair their nets in the Mexican coastal town of Ciudad del Carmen. Thirty-one years after the Ixtoc oil rig explosion and spill, there's not much fishing work. Photo: Chris Granger/Times-Picayune

Ixtoc oil well blowout in Gulf of Mexico: 1979 disaster parallels and lessons Ramon Antonio Vargas New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 4, 2010

 

 Hannah Baage walked through polluted Gio Creek in Kegbara Dere. She said recently, “There is Shell oil on my body.” Photo:Jane Hahn/New York Times More Photos  

Half a world from the Gulf, giant oil spills have occurred every year for the past 50 years in the Niger Delta Adam Nossiter New York Times June 16, 2010

Loggers at Masoala National Park. In the past year, the illicit trade in a scarce species of rosewoods has increased at least 25-fold. Photo: Toby Smith/Reportage by Getty Images

 Loggers at Masoala National Park. In the past year, the illicit trade in a scarce species of rosewoods has increased at least 25-fold. Photo: Toby Smith/Reportage by Getty Images

Shaky rule in Madagascar threatens trees Barry Bearak New York Times May 25, 2010 See Hunger Notes special report: Harmful economic systems

Raimundo Teixeira de Souza held the residents’ card of his stepson who was killed, probably in a land dispute. Teixeira de Souza was forced to sell his land for a pittance to more powerful farmers, who roam this Wild West territory with rifles strapped to their backs.  Photo: André Vieira/New York Times

Raimundo Teixeira de Souza held the residents’ card of his stepson who was killed, probably in a land dispute. Teixeira de Souza was forced to sell his land for a pittance to more powerful farmers, who roam this Wild West territory with rifles strapped to their backs.  Photo: André Vieira/New York Times

Land grabs widespread in lawless Amazon region of Brazil--government now trying to impose greater order Alexi Barrionuevo New York Times  December 26, 2009 Growing demand for soybeans threatens Amazon rainforest Lester R. Brown  Earth Policy Institute January 10, 2010

Other environmental issues in developing countries

Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply BBC News May 19, 2011

Global extinction crisis looms, with one-fifth of all animals now facing extinction, report says Juliet Eilperin  Washington Post October 27, 2010  UN report stresses the value of nature to world's economies, especially to the world's poor people Juliet Eilperin  Washington Post October 20, 2010  See Hunger Notes special report The environment and hunger

The area is home to 6,500 families who are collectively known as the Zabaleen, Cairo's garbage collectors. In the shadow of the Coptic Christian church cut into the sandy rock face, lies Moqattam – or "Garbage City" as it's known – which houses an entire community dedicated to recycling 4,500 tons of rubbish every day from Cairo. Straight from the streets of Egypt's biggest city, the rubbish is collected and delivered in trucks every day before it is apportioned to the area's families for separation. Some families have specialties such as leather, electrics, tin cans or plastic bags. From food to furniture everything is recycled. The whole family participates--fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, all join in to harness someone else's waste into a resource which can keep them clothed and fed.

The area is home to 6,500 families who are collectively known as the Zabaleen, Cairo's garbage collectors. In the shadow of the Coptic Christian church cut into the sandy rock face, lies Moqattam – or "Garbage City" as it's known – which houses an entire community dedicated to recycling 4,500 tons of rubbish every day from Cairo. Straight from the streets of Egypt's biggest city, the rubbish is collected and delivered in trucks every day before it is apportioned to the area's families for separation. Some families have specialties such as leather, electrics, tin cans or plastic bags. From food to furniture everything is recycled. The whole family participates--fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, all join in to harness someone else's waste into a resource which can keep them clothed and fed.

The recycling capital of the world? A poor slum in Cairo where garbage comes to be sorted, and nothing is wasted Donal MacIntyre The Independent October 5, 2010

Pastoralism unraveling in Mongolia due to low wool prices and high number of goats, creating environmental damage Sarah J. Wachter New York Times  December 8, 2009

The Ogiek are traditionally forest dwellers, hunting antelope with homemade bows and harvesting honey. In the past 15 years, because of ill-planned settlement schemes (the government essentially handed out chunks of forest to cronies), 25 percent of the trees in the Mau forest have been wiped out. Photo: Tim Freccia/New York Times

The Ogiek are traditionally forest dwellers, hunting antelope with homemade bows and harvesting honey. In the past 15 years, because of ill-planned settlement schemes (the government essentially handed out chunks of forest to cronies), 25 percent of the trees in the Mau forest have been wiped out. Photo: Tim Freccia/New York Times

Ogiek tribesman may be driven from their ancestral forest home in Kenyan plan  Jeffrey Gettleman New York Times November 14, 2009

A grove of huarango trees sits amid the sand dunes at the edge of Ica, Peru. The trees help balance the arid valley, capturing moisture coming from the west. Nonetheless, villagers are cutting down the last remaining trees.  Photo: Tomas Munita/New York Times

A grove of huarango trees sits amid the sand dunes at the edge of Ica, Peru. The trees help balance the arid valley, capturing moisture coming from the west. Nonetheless, villagers are cutting down the last remaining trees.  Photo: Tomas Munita/New York Times

The ecosystem in Peru is losing a key ally--the huarago tree  Simon Romero New York Times November 7, 2009 Cutting down huarango forests caused the collapse of the Nazca civilization 1500 years ago Jody Bourton BBC News November 2, 2009 

A key environmental but also human welfare issue is genetic diversity of the plants that we depend on for life, and the human impact on these plants. The key world-wide issue is the end or very near end to a vast number of genetic varieties of plants, due to the world market in plant foods such as wheat, corn and potatoes. The problem is  a conflict between ordinary farmers and genetic diversity and the market. Farmers have been growing things for hundreds of years, even  millennium,  in specific locations.  The plants have adapted to these locations, which are more than a variety of tourist destinations, but also include adjustments to soil types and insect and other predators. On the market side, specific characteristics have been selected for, such as high yield,  without sufficient concern for other characteristics which may take several or many years to reveal themselves, such as disease resistance.   The problem is compounded by the insensitivity of the market to such 'hypothetical' or long run dangers, and the fact that in the market, lower cost trumps everything or at least is a very powerful hand, so much so that a few varieties have taken over production of key crops.  If a disease or other problem--think the Irish potato famine--occurs, many people will be in difficulty.

In this chamber and two others, millions of seeds will be protected from natural and man-made disasters. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built to withstand an earthquake or nuclear strike. Photo: John Mcconnico/ AP

In this chamber and two others, millions of seeds will be protected from natural and man-made disasters. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built to withstand an earthquake or nuclear strike. Photo: John Mcconnico/ AP

Earth's future rests on the seeds we save Adrian Higgins Washington Post March 6, 2008

The rate of mangrove loss is higher than the loss of any other forest type. Mangroves protect coastal areas against erosion, cyclones and wind. Mangrove forests provide habitats for many animals like crocodiles and snakes, tigers, deer, otters, dolphins and birds. A wide range of fish and shellfish also depends on these coastal forests. Photo: FAO

The rate of mangrove loss is higher than the loss of any other forest type. Mangroves protect coastal areas against erosion, cyclones and wind. Mangrove forests provide habitats for many animals like crocodiles and snakes, tigers, deer, otters, dolphins and birds. A wide range of fish and shellfish also depends on these coastal forests. Photo: FAO

An alarming 20 percent of mangrove forest area has been destroyed since 1980 Food & Agriculture Organization  February 8, 2008

General

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans John Vidal The Guardian April 10, 2011

Global extinction crisis looms, with one-fifth of all animals now facing extinction, report says Juliet Eilperin  Washington Post October 27, 2010  U.N. report stresses the value of nature to world's economies, especially to the world's poor people Juliet Eilperin  Washington Post October 20, 2010  See Hunger Notes special report

Water, the new oil: The race to buy up our most precious natural resource Newsweek October 8, 2010 

2009 The environment  and hunger  2008 The environment and hunger  Hunger Notes Home Page