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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

Pope Francis, in sweeping encyclical, calls for swift action on climate change Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein New York Times June 18, 2015 Read the encyclical letter (English)  See more hunger and the environment stories

 6 graphs explain the world's top ten emitters Mengpin Ge, Johannes Friedrich and Thomas Damassa World Resources Institute November 25, 2014 

Climate change probably worsened the drought that preceded Syria's uprising, a new study suggests. Here, a refugee camp is seen in Syria near the Turkish border town of Cilvegozu. Photo: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)

Climate change probably worsened the drought that caused severe crop failure that preceded Syria's uprising, a new study suggests. Here, a refugee camp is seen in Syria near the Turkish border town of Cilvegozu. Photo: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

Is Syria conflict a case study for climate change and hunger-related conflict? Geoffrey Mohan Los Angeles Times March 4, 2015  See full report

Global warming will cut wheat yields, research shows Fiona Harvey The Guardian December 23, 2014

UN panel issues its starkest warning yet on the dangers of global warming. Failure to reduce emissions could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, major flooding and mass extinctions, panel says. Justin Gillis New York Times November 2, 2014 

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

Agriculture and cattle ranching threatening global rainforests Vanessa Dezem Bloomberg News May 21, 2015

Mandating food insecurity: The global impacts of rising biofuel mandates and targets Timothy A. Wise and Emily Cole Global Development and Environmental Institute at Tufts University March 4, 2015

New report urges Western governments to reconsider reliance on biofuels Justin Gillis New York Times January 28, 2015  Access World Resources Institute report  

Peruvian National Police burn an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. Photo: Dominic Bracco II/Prime for The Washington Post

Peruvian National Police burn an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. After years of turning a blind eye to nearly 40,000 illegal miners in the Madre de Dios region, officials are moving to halt environmental damage. Photo: Dominic Bracco II/Prime for The Washington Post

South American commodity boom drives deforestation and land conflicts Nick Miroff Washington Post January 1, 2015 See HN special report Hunger, the environment and climate change

Other environmental issues in developing countries

Diet can be the single biggest driver of environmental degradation The Daily Star (Lebanon) July 6, 2014  

New NASA data show how the world is running out of water Todd C. Frankel Washington Post June 16, 2015 Decade of drought: a global tour of seven recent water crises. With a chronic overuse of resources, it only takes a few bad rainfalls or poor management decisions to plunge a region into crisis. Charles Iceland The Guardian June 12, 2015

Inner Mongolian sheepherders, with alunminum smelter in the background. Photo: Gilles Sabrie/Washington PostI

A few years after the smelter, seen in the background,  opened, herders in the area said that their sheep began falling sick, with jaws so painful that they could not eat. Soon, thousands of their animals had died. When they complained, the government simply arrested five of their leaders and forced the others to resettle in the nearby city of Holingol, demolishing their original homes.  Photo: Gilles Sabrie/Washington Post

In China’s Inner Mongolia, mining spells misery for traditional herders Simon Denyer Washington Post April 7, 2015  Chinese riot police crush grasslands protest over chemical pollution Simon Denyer Washington Post April 6, 2015

Greenhouses grow greenhouses. As far as the eye can see, greenhouses cover the landscape in Almeria, Spain.

Greenhouses grow greenhouses. As far as the eye can see, greenhouses cover the landscape in Almeria, Spain. ‘We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire – a crackpot machine – that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate.’ Edward Abbey Photo: Yann Arthus Bertrand 

Overpopulation, overconsumption—in pictures. How do you raise awareness about population explosion? One group thought that the simplest way would be to show peopleThe Guardian April 1, 2015

A fisherman holds his catch near the shores of a seaside village outside of Karachi.  Photo: Max Becherer/Polaris Images for The Washington Post

A fisherman holds his catch near the shores of a seaside village outside of Karachi. Fishermen of the village say they are getting sicker and the fish are dying off. Photo: Max Becherer/Polaris Images for The Washington Post

On the shores of the Arabian Sea, pollution erodes a way of life Tim Craig Washington Post March 15, 2015 With pollinator declines, millions at risk of malnutrition Seed Daily January 28, 2015   See research article Do pollinators contribute to nutritional health? PLoSONE April 2014

We’ve killed off half the world’s animals since 1970 Christopher Ingraham Washington Post September 30, 2014

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

General

2014 Hunger, the environmnent and climate change   Hunger Notes Home Page