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Hunger, the environment and climate change

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

Pentagon signals security risks of climate change: terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages Coral Davenport New York Times October 13, 2014  See more environment and hunger stories

Over 300,000 people marched in New York City Saturday September 20, 2014 to protest the slow pace of action against climate change. hoto: Damon Winter/New York Times

Over 300,000 people marched in New York City Saturday September 20, 2014 to protest the slow pace of action against climate change before world leaders gathered at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change.  Photo: Damon Winter/New York Times

UN climate change summit harvests a host of commitments Andrew C. Revkin New York Times September 23, 2014 All over the planet, countries are completely missing their emissions targets Steven Mufson Washington Post September 23, 2014 Taking a call for climate change to the streets Lisa W. Foderaro New York Times September 20, 2014 See more environment and hunger stories

 A farmer standing in his field  in the village of Mabalane in Lesotho’s Hoek District. Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

 A farmer in the village of Mabalane in Lesotho’s Hoek District. Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

How to boost food production in Africa: Smallholder farmers are struggling to adapt to rising temperatures and erratic rains and need better help from governments than they have been getting IRIN News September 15, 2014  See the full report See more development assistance stories See more environment and hunger stories

Momina Ali, 13, has to take a day off from school to search for water. Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN

The race to adapt to climate change Jaspreet Kindra IRIN News July 1, 2014 

Report urges US commitment to addressing impact of climate change on global food security Hunger Notes June 13, 2014 

Climate change deemed growing security threat by military researchers: Climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water, and rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions at risk  Coral Davenport New York Times May 13, 2014 See Hunger Notes special report on environment and hunger

Rising seas (photographs of vulnerable US and international locations) Coral Davenport and photographs by Kadir Van Lohuizen New York Times May 2014

Panel's warning on climate risk: Worst is yet to come Justin Gillis New York Times March 31, 2014

Members of a Bangladesh farming community sitting on the highest land in their community, only a few feet above surrounding water and mud.  Photo: Kadir van Lohuizen/New York Times

Bangladesh, with its low elevation and severe tropical storms, is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. Photo: Kadir van Lohuizen/New York Times

Borrowed time on disappearing land: Facing rising seas, Bangladesh confronts the consequences of climate change Gardiner Harris New York Times March 28, 2014 

State park rangers burned weeds on the exposed lake bed of the Rye Patch Reservoir in Nevada, which was at 3.5 percent capacity amid a drought that has caused the worst water shortage the region has faced in more than a century.

Obama to propose $1 billion to prepare for climate change in US Zachary A Goldfarb and Lenny Bernstein Washington Post February 14, 2014 Severe drought has western US fearing worst Adam Nagourney and Ian Lovett New York Times February 1, 2014 The dust bowl returns to California's Central Valley Blaine Roberts and Ethan J Kytle New York Times February 9, 2014 

A woman and others collecting debris after  post-Typhoon Haiyan Photo: David Swanson/IRIN

Picking up the pieces, post-Typhoon Haiyan Photo: David Swanson/IRIN

Climate-induced migration creates perils, possibilities IRIN News January 20, 2014 

UN says lag in confronting climate woes will be costly Justin Gillis New York Times January 16, 2014

Growing clamor about inequities of climate crisis Stephen Lee Myers and Nicholas Kulish New York Times November 16, 2013

A jolt to complacency on food supply Justin Gillis New York Times November 11, 2013

Wheat in drought conditions. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times

A United Nations panel of scientists says that globally, rising temperatures will make it harder for crops to thrive. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times

Climate change seen posing risk to food supplies Justin Gillis  New York Times November 1, 2013

Will the upcoming Warsaw climate change summit change anything? IRIN News October 7, 2013

Peru’s melting Pastoruri glacier: Twenty-two percent of the surface area of Peruvian glaciers has disappeared in the past 30 years.  Photo: Washington Post

Peru’s melting Pastoruri glacier: Twenty-two percent of the surface area of Peruvian glaciers has disappeared in the past 30 years.  Photo: Washington Post

Humans almost certainly cause global warming, scientific panel says Darryl Fears Washington Post September 27, 2013 

Butterfly decline signals trouble in environment Darryl Fears Washington Post June 30, 2013   Biologists worried by starving migratory birds, seen as tied to climate change Darryl Fears Washington Post June 19, 2013

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2012 Nina Chestney Reuters June 10, 2013

African women holding children.  Photo: IRIN

Studies out of Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Niger show that children born during natural hazards, like droughts or floods, are more likely to be malnourished.  Mothers and infants' lack of access to quality food can permanently damage the growth of the next generation. Photo: IRIN  

A unified approach to climate change and hunger IRIN News April 24, 2013

Indian residents in a district facing a drinking water shortage wait with plastic pots at a community tube well to collect drinking water in Bangalore on October 8, 2012. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

 Indian residents in a district facing a drinking water shortage wait with plastic pots at a community tube well to collect drinking water in Bangalore on October 8, 2012. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

India states fight over river usage Shyamantha Asokan Washington Post April 3, 2013

World Bank chief says global warming threatens the planet and the poorest Howard Schneider Washington Post April 2, 2013

New evaluation suggests black carbon (soot) ranks as second biggest human cause of climate change, with two-thirds the total impact of carbon dioxide Juliet Eilperin Washington Post January 15, 2013  

Climate talks yield commitment to ambitious, but unclear, actions John M Broder New York Times December 8, 2012

US climate aid reaches across globe Juliet Eilperin Washington Post December 2, 2012  

Climate change: A four degree warmer world IRIN News November 20, 2012 

Fears over climate change impact on neglected tropical diseases IRIN News November 5, 2012

Rio sustainable development summit: little progress, 20 years on Richard Black BBC News June 22, 2012  

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 

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

Vast tracts in Paraguay forest being replaced by ranches Simon Romero New York Times March 24, 2012

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

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

Other environmental issues in developing countries

Conservationists visit an area in Copén, Honduras, that was deforested by intruders. Drug trafficking has contributed to threats to the forest.  Photo: Rodrigo Cruz/New York Times

Conservationists visit an area in Copén, Honduras, that was deforested by intruders. Drug trafficking has contributed to threats to the forest.  Photo: Rodrigo Cruz/New York Times  

Lawlessness is undoing effort to save Honduran forests Elizabeth Malkin New York Times February 12, 2014

Akhtar, 68, carries a stack of branches through Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad, Pakistan on January 18.  Photo: Tim Craig/Washington Post

Akhtar, 68, carries a stack of branches through Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad, Pakistan on January 18.  Photo: Tim Craig/Washington Post

Energy shortages force Pakistanis to scavenge for wood, threatening tree canopy Tim Craig Washington Post February 1, 2014 

A farmer worked her land in the shadows of a lead factory in Hengyang, Hunan province, where scholars say soil pollution is especially acute. Photo:Sim Chi Yin/New York Times  

A farmer worked her land in the shadows of a lead factory in Hengyang, Hunan province, where scholars say soil pollution is especially acute. Photo:Sim Chi Yin/New York Times  

Pollution rising, Chinese fear for soil and food Edward Wong New York Times January 1, 2013 

Photo of the Blue Nile being diverted as the first step in building a dam. Photo: AFP

Ethiopia recently started diverting the Blue Nile. The river is a tributary of the Nile, on which Egypt is heavily dependent..  Photo:AFP

Egyptian warning over Ethiopian Nile dam BBC June 10, 2013

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 

2013 Hunger, the environmnent and climate change   Hunger Notes Home Page