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Posts tagged "economic development"

Sudan, Africa still in famine conditions.  “Famine” 2009 by Radhika Chalasani.


School children use an inflated tire tube to cross a river to go to a public school in Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines, on Oct. 12, 2012. Access to education is a problem in the Philippines, especially in rural areas, but enrollment rates remain relatively high. According to UNICEF, 85% of Filipino children are enrolled in elementary school, though only 62 percent finish high school.

[Credit : Bullit Marquez / AP]

Poaching and illegal trade of endangered animals worth $6 to 8$ billion, and expected to rise as China’s economy continues to advance. This report by Bloomberg eludes to ‘research tiger farms’ are actually cover for a trading infrastructure of illegal tiger parts.

Catholic church accused of illegal poaching. I’ve posted on this a few times, but it’s getting more play. This time from the Guardian. Check it out and reblorg!


A Filipino wildlife official shows seized elephant tusks and dried sea turtles estimated to be worth more than $2m from a shipment that came from Tanzania in 2009. The Philippines has launched an investigation into the alleged involvement of Catholic priests in the illegal trade of African ivory in the country, officials said. Elephant tusks are commonly used in the manufacture of statues, figurines and image replicas of saints | image by Dennis M. Sabangan

Which city has the most green roof acreage in the world?

Greenland’s ice and glaciers are melting fast, exposing ultra-rare minerals and gems deposits like no other on the entire planet. Gold, diamonds, coal, uranium, possibly oil and gas, and rare-earth metals (a very rare mineral-ore used to make cell phones) are among the many riches to be dug up.

A mining boom is about to completely change the island forever. We’re witnessing it right now. Glaciers are melting, exposing rock underneath that is packed with profits.

This means a tidal wave of money is about to crush centuries of culture, tradition, and local community. Many locals can’t wait for it to happen.

These screens are clipped from this fantastic article covering the economic boom Greenland is about to experience due to the big melt. It’s a beautifully shot video. And these pics do not do it justice. Have a look.

After you watch, I’d also like to hear what you think of this situation. Do you think mining in Greenland is a good thing? If you know Scandinavian politics, what of the possible break between Greenland and Denmark? What new goods and services will the natives and locals need in Greenland?? Click here and add your opinion/ask questions/vent/etc. I’ll do my best to answer!

This could be momentous for Greenland, which has long relied on half a billion dollars a year in welfare payments from Denmark, its parent state. Mining profits could help Greenland become economically self sufficient, and may someday even render it the first sovereign nation created by global warming.

Decent overview of what’s happening in Mongolia. From my perspective, it documents the end of a civilization and there’s no way to dial back the wave of massive growth.


In Mongolia, Climate Change and Mining Boom Threaten National Identity

Nearly 40 percent of Mongolians are herders whose livelihoods are irrevocably intertwined with their environment. Herding has been an economic and cultural mainstay of rural life since the days of Genghis Khan. Children as young as five race horses for miles across open grassland in the Naadam, Mongolia’s annual national festival. The winning jockeys are celebrated and the winning horses idolized. Mongolia’s reverence for its nomadic roots extends all the way to its 20-year-old constitution, which enshrines livestock as “national wealth” to be protected by the state. But today, the livelihoods of families reliant on grazing livestock are under threat from a climate that is becoming increasingly harsh and unpredictable. Mongolia is feeling the effects of climate change “perhaps more rapidly than any other place in the world,” proclaimed the vice chairman of parliament this year. Desertification is driving the Gobi Desert to expand by 10,000 square kilometers every year – enough to fit the state of Delaware two times over. Compounded by increasingly harsh winter storms, the changing climate is driving herders to relocate to Ulan Bator and other cities in search of better opportunities. That migration is adding to sprawling slums, cook stove-driven air pollution, and a public health crisis that the president himself has called a “disaster.” These changes are set to have a uniquely powerful impact on a national identity that is interwoven with the herding tradition.

Via NewSecurity

Mongolia currently holds the title for fastest growing economy on earth. Most of its growth is from mining copper, gold, iron, and other metals. Mining companies are pretty much free to dig up the Mongolian Steppes. They also get a free pass to dump their pollution with practically no oversight. Corruption in government is everywhere.

But, Mongolia faces many environmental problems besides pollution (and an upcoming epidemic of cancer - invest in pharmaceuticals people!). Climate change is expected to tear apart the country at its environmental seams.

The country is 80% grasslands. Cattle ranchers depend on these grasses for healthy stocks. But, drought and desertification (healthy land turning into dry desert) is taking hold. Al Jazeera explains the problem much better than I can:

Mongolia faces desertification and climate change, but new ways of managing pasture land could help.

Mongolia is the country of endless plains and eternal blue skies. Eighty per cent of the land area is covered by grassland, giving home to about 35 million horses, cattle, sheep, goats and camels. Half of the country’s population of 2.7 million depends on livestock production, which contributes more than 20 per cent to the country’s GDP. More than these numbers can tell, nomadic pastoralism is a way of life. For centuries, herders have roamed the grasslands “following our animals”, as the herders’ adage goes, building, packing, and rebuilding their traditional gers or tents, to make their living from nature’s bounty.

And, yet, this ancient lifestyle is under threat. A decade ago, herders first observed the impacts of climate change with the increase in severe weather events like storms, droughts and extremely harsh winters, known as zud. The 2010 zud was one of the worst ever, resulting in the death of approximately 8.5 million livestock or 20 per cent of the 2009 national herd. Seven hundred seventy thousand herders were affected, of which 43,500 were left without a single animal; 164,000 lost more than half of their livestock. Herders and the government alike were not prepared and ill-equipped to deal with the consequences despite ample warning.

The 2009 national assessment on climate change in Mongolia summarised a number of major trends: Since 1940, the annual mean temperature has increased by 2.14 degrees Celsius, winter precipitation has increased and warm season precipitation has slightly decreased. Recent research on climate change projections for the rest of the century suggests that winters will become milder and snowy; summer seasons will become warmer; annual precipitation will increase up to 20 per cent; and anomalous climate phenomena, such as extreme winters, will become a common feature. Nomadic livelihoods, which fully depend on the weather, are becoming increasingly vulnerable as a result.

However, increased vulnerability is not only caused by the impacts of climate change. Overgrazing has also played a role in degrading scarce natural resources. Up to 30 per cent of Mongolia’s grassland biomass production has been lost over the past 40 years. At the same time, the Gobi desert, which dominates the southern half of the country, has been steadily expanding north at a pace of 150 km every 20 years. When travelling through central Mongolia, one can easily observe this process firsthand - where a few years ago, there were still pastures and patches of cropland, now only sandy fields remain.

Well worth reading the rest at Al Jazeera

Click to embiggen. At UMass-Amherst, I recall a professor (a one Mr. Dr. Jack Ahern) showing us Massachusetts was deforested not once or twice, but four times in its near 400 year history. Now it’s one of the most forested states (yep!).



Amazing photos of vintage logging industry in the Redwood Forests of California via U of C

Any image of deforestation is synonymous with the construction of contemporary metropolises. What’s most profound about the industrial moguls of the 19th century is that even though they were fierce in the utilization of natural resources that led to a catastrophic decline, they recognized the need for conservation practices and restorative developments.

The Pinchots, millionaires from the wallpaper industry, pushed their son Gifford into forestry. What started as an investment in an industry led to conservation of natural resources, support for academic programs, and further development of infrastructure in the United States. The US Forest Service gave us telephone poles, railroad ties, land for grazing livestock, and timber to fuel construction for modern life.

Yes, it is a tragedy that natural history was destroyed by old logging practices. But we’re lucky enough to be living in an age where more people are understanding the limitations of our landscape. The thing we need to work on now is our frivolous consumption (ie: disposable goods).

(via landscapearchitecture)



By Ben Makuch

Whether it’s Israel maybe pre-emptively striking Iran, Afghanistan spiralling into sectarian violence, Libya becoming home base for Al-Qaeda, or Syria continuing to be the site of a government-led genocide, there’s no shortage of potential dirty wars and ominous harbingers in the Middle East and Central Asia. While everyone is focusing on the recent turmoil in Benghazi, a new kind of conflict is rising in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that could eventually lead to the first water war of the 21st century.

It’s fair to say that when Louise Arbour, the hard-ass former UN prosecutor of war criminal Slobodan Milošević, lists her bets on future wars, the rest of us should take her seriously. In December 2011, writing for Foreign Policy, Arbour predicted Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two obscure Central Asian countries to most westerners, as potential combatants in a war over quickly depleting water resources. Judging bycurrent tensions between the two, she might be right.

Basically the Tajiks, who are already plagued by an Islamic insurgency, plan to build the Rogun dam on the Vakhsh River. The river is a major tributary to the Amudarya—the main water vein for downstream Uzbekistan. While the hydroelectric power from the proposed dam would make the Tajiks rich, it’ll make the Uzbeks thirsty. This has been a problem for Uzbekistan since Stalin’s failed plan for the Transformation of Nature during the 1940s drained the Aral Sea (Uzbekistan’s main water reserve) to irrigate cotton fields.

Pissing off the Uzbeks, however, may not be what the Tajiks want to do. Besides being geopolitical wildcards, Uzbek President Islam Karimov is widely considered a tyrant, ruling over his country’s oil reserves and national wealth since a questionable 1991 election. He’s also a cheap imitation Saddam. And like any delusional dictator, he’s known for his outlandish behavior: like rewriting history books to make himself the spiritual descendant of the warlord Tamerlaneowning a soccer team in the national league (who are conveniently champions nearly every year), and allegedly ordering the assassination of a political dissident hiding in Sweden. Human Rights Watch even accused his regime of systematic torture, including boiling rebels alive.

500 Rhinos are illegally killed (poached) each year for their horns. The horns are imported (illegally) to Asia and sold as medicine. World Wildlife Fund kicked off a new campaign to save these endangered animals. In addition to their habitat shrinking from growing human populations, climate change affects their food sources, and, now, poaching is increasing the chances that they’re doomed to extinction.

"A new report from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, documents the rising rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, detailing issues such as loopholes in sport hunting policy and surging demand for horn in Vietnam.

Vietnamese consumers—the main market for rhino horn—mistakenly believe in rhino horn’s detoxification properties, notes the report. Wealthy users grind up rhino horn and mix the powder with water or alcohol as a hangover cure and general health tonic. The horn is also consumed as a supposed cancer cure by terminally ill patients. Rhino horn traders deliberately target these patients as part of a cruel marketing ploy to increase the profitability of the illicit trade.”


GMOs are a controversial climate adaptation measure. But, drought resistant crops are necessary.

Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell. Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, has received regulatory approval for DroughtGard, a corn variety that contains the first genetically modified trait for drought resistance.

Seed makers, such as Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, and Swiss company Syngenta, are already selling drought-tolerant corn varieties, conceived through conventional breeding.

At stake: a $12-billion U.S. seed market, with corn comprising the bulk of sales. The grain is used in such things as animal feed, ethanol and food. The push is also on to develop soybean, cotton and wheat that can thrive in a world that’s getting hotter and drier.

"Drought is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges for our growers," said Jeff Schussler, senior research manager for Pioneer, the agribusiness arm of DuPont. "We are trying to create products for farmers to be prepared for that."

Their efforts come amid concerns about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the unforeseen consequences of this genetic tinkering. Californians in November will vote on Proposition 37, which would require foods to carry labels if they were genetically modified. The majority of corn seed sold is modified to resist pests and reap higher yields.

Opponents say the label would unnecessarily dampen further development that is intended to feed a growing global population dependent on the U.S., the largest exporter of corn and soybean.

"Trying to create drought-tolerant crops is not going to be easy to do," said Kent Bradford, director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. “We certainly need all the tools [available] to do that, and that includes conventional breeding and adding transgenic traits. We don’t need to stigmatize these approaches.”

Great read via LATimes


Half the size of a football pitch, Migingo Island on Lake Victoria is claimed by both Kenya and Uganda. The population of 131 is made up of mostly fishermen and traders.

Jesco Denzel

More incredible pics here.