Lessons in the "Environment" Category

Climate Change

Recently in Paris UN negotiators met to discuss climate change. Delegates wanted to discuss policies to keep a global temperature rise to below 2°C.

Is such a meeting just a lot of hot air and false promises? The last such meeting two years ago in Warsaw proved to be exactly this! Will the UN negotiators actually negotiate a meaningful policy this time round that all nations in the world will keep? Judge for yourself on this point.

Scientists have warned us that temperatures could rise by 5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The meeting of world leaders in Paris hopes to contain this to below 2°C. They pledged to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

North Sea cod stocks bounce back

New data recently released has shown that cod stocks in the North Sea are now bouncing back from their historical lows due to overfishing in the 1980s and 90s. In 2006, stringent regulations were imposed by the industry to help cod stocks recover. Since then there has been a steady recovery. Today, they are approaching the level of maximum sustainability yield, which is the measurement widely accepted as the gold standard of responsible fishing.

The Green Wall of China

Today, let’s talk about ‘The Green Wall of China’. This is a huge area of land that stretches right across the northern part of China where a great wall of trees has been planted to try to stop the expansion of the Gobi Desert.

Since 1978 the Chinese government has been planting these trees to try to reverse the widespread deforestation that previously took place in China. Recent studies have suggested the project, which is actually called ‘The Three-North Shelter Forest Programme’, has been a success. They found year-on-year the increased vegetation has helped lower the levels of dust storm intensity. By 2050, 100 billion trees will be planted across a tenth of the country.

The Plastic Sea

Today, we are going to talk about the plastic that is in the sea.

In fact, there is a lot of plastic floating around in the sea. Unbelievable amounts of the stuff are now found in all of the world’s oceans. This includes: plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic cigarette ends.

The plastic in the sea is eaten by fish who eat the tiny particles of plastic that are like pieces of confetti. The fish die of starvation as they cannot digest the plastic filling their stomachs.

Category: Environment / Oceans / Plastic

Deadly disease threatens 80 million ash trees

Today, let’s talk about trees, in particular, ash trees. This popular type of tree is found in many forests in Britain, especially in the east of England. The ash tree in Britain is under attack from a killer fungus disease that threatens to wipe out 80 million ash trees across the country. The presence of the new disease begs the question of how much longer the ash tree will be found in significant numbers in Britain.

Category: Nature / Trees / Ash trees

Plastic waste increases in North Pacific

Today let’s talk about the vast increase in plastic waste in the North Pacific. All across the area you will find huge amounts of floating debris. Data, published recently, by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, says the quantity of small plastic fragments floating in the North Pacific has increased a hundred fold over the last 40 years.

Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography documented the big rise when they trawled the waters off California. They were able to compare their plastic “catch” with previous data for the region. The group reported its findings in The Journal of Biology Letters.

Category: Environment / Pacific Ocean / Plastics

The campaign to clean up dog poo

Today’s theme is about dog poo. I mean, there is nothing worse than stepping on some freshly deposited dog poo, is there? Call it what you like; dog fouling, shit, poop, waste or dog crap, it is very annoying when you put your foot in it. Oh, shite…!

Why don’t the owners pick it up and put it in a dog bin? Yes, some people do. They scrape it up using a plastic glove and plastic bag then pop it into a doggie bin. Others walk their dogs, let their dogs crap on the grass then casually walk away as if nothing has happened, leaving the dog faeces to harden.

When challenged the owners simply deny it was their dog that did it. Later some small child might run on the grass. They could pick up a disease from it. This makes some people’s blood boil, to the point where they decide to take action against the dog owners. Some might leave a note on a spike in the dog poo.

Others like Louise Willows recently got so fed up with dog mess in Crouch End, London that she decided to do something about it. She removed the dog mess then left a drawing of a cup cake in a yellow cup in chalk. She also wrote ‘Dog owners please clear up your mess children walk here’. Ironically, she is facing charges for doing this and she had to wash the chalk off!

Category: Environment / Dogs / Dog Poo

Forest loss slows as Asian nations plant

Forest loss across the world has slowed, largely due to a switch from felling to planting in Asia. China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines have all seen their forested areas increase in size. There are also gains in North America and Europe, but forests are being lost in Latin America and Africa driven by rising demand for food and firewood. The findings come in the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) State of the World’s Forests report.

The FAO’s reports formal launch recently at the UN headquarters in New York co-insides with the start of the UN’s International Year of Forests. The initiative aims to raise awareness of conservation among governments and other stakeholders. The FAO is urging governments to explore ways of generating income from forests that do not depend on chopping trees down.

Forests now cover 40m sq km – just less than one third of the earth’s land surface. Although 52,000 sq km were lost between 2000 and 2010, that was a marked improvement on the 83,000 sq km annual figure seen during the previous decade. Europe traditionally has been the region with the biggest increase but now Asia has overtaken it. A net loss in Asia during the period 1990-2000 has been transformed into a net gain in the decade since.

Category: UN / Forests / Conservation

Mangrove loss faster than land-based forests

Mangrove forests are disappearing faster than land-based forests according to a new United Nations report the UN News Service and CNN reported recently. “The World Atlas of Mangroves” says the destruction of the world’s mangrove forests is happening up to four times faster than the land-based forests.

The study commissioned by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) reports that one fifth (around 35,500 square kilometres) of the world’s mangroves - forests straddling both land and sea – have been lost since 1980. The study does however report that the annual destruction has slowed to 0.7% a year. It warns that any further destruction due to coastal development and shrimp farming will result in significant economic and ecological declines.

Studies estimate mangroves generate up to US$9,000 per hectare annually from fishing – much more than the tourism, aquaculture and agriculture which the UN says are the biggest drivers of mangrove loss.

Category: Nature / Mangrove Forests / United Nations

Devastating oil slick hits US coastline

A massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico has now hit several US state coastlines. The slick has been caused by a leaking oil pipeline. It follows a huge explosion aboard the BP (British Petroleum) operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The rig sank on April 22, two days after a huge explosion that killed 11 workers. US President Barack Obama has flown down to see for himself exactly how bad the spill is and to meet the boss of BP. The US President puts the blame firmly on the shoulders of BP who he says will be held personally responsible.

Choppy seas and strong winds have so far hampered the clean-up operation. BP has been severely criticised for under estimating the scale of the crisis. The sheer size of the oil spill threatens the very way of life for people all along the shorelines of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The US state of Louisiana has been hit the hardest, which itself is still battling to recover after hurricane Katrina hit the area in 2005.