Every day, the world’s population generates enough waste to fill about 14 large soccer stadiums from top to bottom, more than 3.5 million tonnes. That's a lot of trash, from plastic bottles that aren't going anywhere to food scraps and other perishable items decaying and building up greenhouse gases in landfills and trash dumps.
Photo by Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan
Life for people living in the Jalekhali village of the Sathkira District in Bangladesh has not been the same since Cyclone Aila made landfull in 2009. In this coastal village, not only did people suffer in the aftermath of the cyclone, but health effects still linger from salinity intrusion into their ponds and other bodies of water. In addition to an increase incidence of water borne diseases among women and children, the increased intake of salt has resulted in increased prevalence of high blood pressure among pregnant women. The issue not only affects Jalekhali but is prevalent across coastal towns and villages in Bangladesh. In many of these villages the ground well water is also contaminated with arsenic leaving the people with acute shortage of safe drinking water.
Listening to Dr. RK Pachauri deliver the first Robert Goodland Memorial Lecture at the World Bank last month, I could not help thinking of Dumbledore – the very wise headmaster of Hogwarts, the school where the drama in Harry Potter’s life unfolds. If only Pachy, as his friends call him, had Dumbledore’s magical powers, climate change would not be a problem. Alas, he is only human. But a very wise and accomplished one who heads the IPCC that just issued its fifth assessment report on climate change, and that is what he focused his lecture on.
Two things stuck in my mind as I listened to him.
The Global Oceans Action Summit closed not with a call for action as is so typical of conferences these days, but with a series of very real and resourced commitments to shared and urgent action.Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, this summit convened around the consensus goal of healthy oceans, and brought the public and private sectors, civil society actors, local communities and even local Dutch fisherfolk to the table. Diverse groups came together to talk, listen and make commitments.
For those plugged into the climate change conversation, land use and “climate-smart agriculture” (CSA) are hot topics, especially in the lead up to September’s UN Summit on Climate Change.
There is tremendous urgency in moving this agenda forward. We are now beyond discussing whether we need sustainable intensification. To enhance food security in the face of climate change, we will need agriculture systems that are more productive, use inputs more efficiently, and are more resilient to a wide and growing range of risks. This will mean changing the way land, soil, water, and other inputs are managed. But because agriculture varies from place to place, and climate change will impact each location differently, climate-smart agriculture needs to respond to local conditions. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture, but rather a framework to be applied and adapted – a paradigm shift in thinking and action.
On the occasion of the release of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the Mitigation of Climate Change last week, I had an opportunity to hear from some of the leading experts and policymakers and to zoom in on one of CSA's three goals, along with increasing productivity and building resilience: meeting global food needs with lower emissions.
Unfortunately, global agriculture systems have a long way to go before they can be considered sustainable by any reasonable standard. And we are certainly far away from being a sector that has a reduced or low footprint: The way we manage our agricultural landscapes globally produces a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture poses a bigger emissions problem than transport and other sectors that are traditionally viewed as the big emitters.
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami – Triggering engagement in Disaster Risk Management (DRM)
In 2004 December, Sri Lanka faced the worst disaster in its history - the Indian Ocean Tsunami. More than 35,000 people lost their lives and around 5,000 people went missing. At the time of the Tsunami, Sri Lanka did not have a proper legal and institutional mechanism to manage disaster risk. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the Government made very serious efforts to establish a mechanism to avoid dramatic loss of life in future disaster events.
Subsequently, the Disaster Management Act was passed and the National Council for Disaster Management, chaired by the President, was established. A Ministry of Disaster Management (MoDM) was created and charged with the disaster risk management (DRM) portfolio and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) was established July 2005 to implement DRM programs across the country.
With these mechanisms in place, the Government began strengthening disaster preparedness, especially for tsunamis. Three pieces were put in place including: i) development of a tsunami early warning system; ii) implementation of awareness raising programs, from the grassroots to national levels; and, iii) regular evacuation drills were conducted in all coastal villages. The system has proven successful as the DMC issued Tsunami evacuation warnings in September 2007 and April 2014, which resulted in the safe evacuation of coastal communities.
Elephants – in particular the forest elephants of Central Africa – are being poached at unprecedented rates for their valuable ivory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 forest elephants – a whopping 65 percent of the elephant population – have been slaughtered since 2002. Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been hotspots for the killing.
Now you might ask why we should care--an especially appropriate question to ask as we celebrate Earth Day. As humans, we may be attached to charismatic species such as elephants – but will their extinction affect us directly? The answer is yes. The intricate interconnections within ecosystems mean that the disappearance of a species has effects that are never limited to just that particular species. The impact can be broad and deep, affecting other animal and plant species, our water supply, people’s livelihoods, and even – in small ways – the climate.