If you go
to Blackheath, London,
today you will witness environmental protestors camping and campaigning to get
those in power to step up their act and stop global warming and climate change.
Another camp gathering is being organised in Bangladesh
to take place in October. Youth delegates pledged to keep global warming
high on the international agenda as the Tunza International Youth Conference on
Climate Change ended on 23 August in Daejeon, Republic
they urged world leaders to seal a meaningful deal in the forthcoming meeting
A five-day 300-mile bicycle tour (Brita Climate Ride) is taking place in New
York, USA next month and will feature expert speakers every night and will
conclude with a rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building (see my previous blog) . The pressure is on, as the much
publicized Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen
in December approaches.
Outside a few parts of the world (largely those once colonies of Great Britain) the game of cricket remains largely a mystery. Even more so, the enigmatically named Ashes, the prize competed for in a Test series between England and Australia. But the Ashes epitomise a sporting rivalry, and often a clash of cultures, between England and Australia that dates back to the 19th century. The biennial Ashes series is named after a small terracotta urn said to contain the remains of a bail symbolising 'the ashes of English cricket' after England's first series defeat on home soil in 1882. The latest 5-match Test series (which ended on Sunday) has resulted, as in 2005, in the Ashes being regained by England after a defeat in the last series in Australia in 2006/07. While Australian sporting fans lick their wounds and the English celebrate, some in Australia are nevertheless trying to find positives in defeat.
Less than 1% of surface water is useable water in rivers,
lakes and ponds; less than 3% is in glaciers and polar ice caps, which means
around 97% of the world’s water is in the sea, is salty and unusable. Over 65% of the cells in our bodies is
water, which means we just cannot live without water; no wonder
water is such a precious resource. In fact, the UN estimated
that by 2025, 50% of the world will be facing a water crisis. Yet many of us seem
to take water availability for granted and waste vast amounts of it while we go
about our daily lives, or do we really take water for granted?
Image: CDC/ James Gathany, Dr. Frank Collins, University of Notre Dame
A couple of weeks ago I came across a news item entitled 'Scientists
report original source of malaria', with a sub-headline to the effect that
it jumped to humans from chimpanzees, possibly through a single mosquito.
Reading the story indicated that it actually referred just to Plasmodium
falciparum malaria, although this is the most important form as it causes
the most serious disease and the great majority of human malaria deaths
(remember that malaria
in the wider sense affects a wide variety of animals and dates back millions of
Artemisinin is currently the most effective drug we have against malaria, a disease which kills a child every 30 secs, and which we in Europe need to remember was only finally eliminated from Europe in the 1950’s….. and with climate change may well be back, and not just in travellers.
Artemisinin works on the parasite and its only current source is the plant Artemisia annua (annual wormwood). Its origins lie in Chinese traditional medicine, and it was first developed as an effective anti-malarial drug by Chinese scientists but this was not widely known until the 1970s.
It has poor bioavailability so is chemically altered to make it more effective; artesunate and artemether being the best known derivatives. These derivatives are then used in combination with other drugs (the combinations are known as ACTs) in order to reduce the chances of the parasite building up resistance.
With the increased demand for artemisinin, obtaining this drug from the plant leaves was becoming a problem.
The UK news services may now be focused on swine flu and the death toll of our soldiers, but food security (access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life) has not gone away. We all have to face up to it. AS I fight the daily battle with wasps…who, in a year when I finally managed to gain a decent crop of both plums and apples, have appeared out of nowhere to get to the fruit first…well, I despair of the wasted fruit, and I gain a little insight into the feelings of small farmers worldwide.
It is estimated that wastage due to pests, diseases and post-harvest spoilage accounts for 40% of the crops we grow. To that you can add all the food thrown away in the developed world because of busy lifestyles or paranoia about sell-by-dates. That buy-one-get-one free offer is not so worthwhile if you really didn’t need the extra one and it gets lost at the back of the fridge.....The UK Government's waste watchdog estimates that 4.1million tonnes of food is thrown away each year, at an average cost of £420 per household. The UK government is having a "Radical rethink on food"!
Food security is not just about providing adequate cheap food, so you can get through the day: it’s about reducing wastage, about growing it locally, about having an income so that you can buy the food if you can’t grow it and its about keeping you healthy. You need the right food …there are people in Afghanistan as I write existing on nothing but tea each day.
Image: IWMI. Groundwater irrigation in West Bengal
Last night, I watched a new BBC documentary on the challenges to food production in a world of changing climate and increasing population. The programme featured growing water shortages in parts of India (where drought has hit again this year), and how Western countries importing food from India were also importing 'virtual water' and potentially exporting hunger.
The vital role of water to food production in Asia is highlighted in a report released this week at 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The report says that without major reforms and innovations in the way water is used for agriculture, many developing nations face the politically risky, and economically difficult, prospect of having to import more than a quarter of the rice, wheat and maize they will need by 2050.
Matt Damon (actor and H2O Africa co-founder) and Gary White (WaterPartners
executive director and co-founder) have announced the launch of a new
organisation – Water.org – which is focused on improving access
to safe water and sanitation in the developing world. Water.org will help the
nearly 890 million people without safe water and the more than 2.5 billion
people without safe sanitation, said the press release.
The Amazon rainforest has been subject to many scientific studies on climate change impacts especially considering its extensive, wide-ranging biodiversity, and huge reserves of carbon and water. At the Copenhagen climate change congress back in April it was suggested that we may already have passed a tipping point and that the Amazon rainforest is on course to progressively dry and lose a large proportion of its forest cover over the next few decades even if greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.
East Africa's wildebeest migration, which crosses the River Mara and brings vast herds of animals into the Maasai Mara game reserve, is one of the great wildlife spectacles of the world. But the migration, and other iconic wildlife attractions including the millions of flamingos that Lake Nakuru in Kenya is famous for, are under threat from the drying up of many of Kenya's rivers. Destruction of the Mau Forest Complex is being blamed, and moves to protect the forest have been hitting the headlines in East Africa over recent weeks.
The Mau Forest Complex, a 400,000 ha montane forest, is the largest forest in Kenya. It also forms the upper catchments of all except one of the main rivers in Kenya east of the Rift Valley, including the Mara River and the three rivers (Njoro, Makalia and Nderit) which feed Lake Nakuru. River Molo, which also has its source in the Mau, no longer finds its way to Lake Baringo, another tourist destination. Lake Natron, fed by River Ewaso Ng'iro, is the breeding ground for flamingoes that are the main attraction at Lake Nakuru.
Low water levels in the River Mara meant that the wildebeest migration was less dramatic this year, while the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is having to spend Sh250,000 a month to provide water for wildlife in the Lake Nakuru National Park. This is the second most visited destination in Kenya, and brings Sh5 billion revenue from tourism according to 2007 estimates.
Kenya Wildlife Service assistant director in charge of Central Rift conservation area, Ms Anne Kahihia, said recently that Lake Nakuru might be extinct in five years. She warned of a looming disaster if destruction of the Mau Forest Complex and other catchment areas was not stopped.