Over three quarters of the Earth’s land area has been severely degraded, and this figure could increase to 90 per cent by the middle of the century, according to a new report. Human expansion across the planet’s surface diminishes the quality of the land as pollution, soil erosion and drought make it less hospitable to life. If current trends continue hundreds of millions of people could be displaced as local food systems collapse and force them to migrate. Farming is the major contributor to this process, along with the growth of cities and the removal of forests. Though the phenomenon is difficult to assess, a new report produced by the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission estimates an area half the size of the EU is degraded in this way every year. It follows another report by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released in March which concluded worldwide land degradation had reached a … [Read more...] about Crop yields to drop by a tenth by the middle of this century
Global forest resources assessment
Trees in urban areas can lower residents' blood pressure, reduce stress, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being. But did you know they can also save cities money? In the world's megacities, or those with more than 10 million people, every dollar invested in planting a tree results in an average return on investment of $2.25, according to a recent study from researchers led by Theodore Endreny, chair and professor at the College of Environmental Science & Forestry at the State University of New York at Syracuse. That translates into savings of more than $500 million a year for the planet's 10 biggest cities, including reductions of gases and particulates in the air, lower wastewater processing costs, and decreased heating and cooling costs. About "90 percent of that is attributed to health care costs from disease related to particulate matter that gets inhaled into our lungs and causes a whole suite of problems," Endreny said in an interview. Major components of … [Read more...] about How megacities can save megabucks: Plant trees
1 April 2018 Humanitarianism Mass starvation is making a comeback as a weapon of war. To tackle this great evil we must stop talking about food and over-population, and engage with the politics, argues Alex de Waal What would it take to end starvation? A few years ago, this question was moot as famines appeared to have disappeared – or at least to have been confined to Stalinist anachronisms such as North Korea. But with the disturbing resurgence of famine in 2017, the issue becomes salient once more. Famine is a political phenomenon; starvation happens when some (powerful) people inflict it on other (less powerful) people. It’s manmade – and the gendered word is deliberate. It’s also a complex, compound evil – each famine is a vortex where different factors converge and combine. The most commonly proposed formulae for ending famine are destined to fail because they don’t put the politics first. Let me outline four false solutions: namely, … [Read more...] about How can famines be ended?