Tag Archive: environmental impact

The decade of 2001-2010 saw “unprecedented high-impact climate extremes” across the planet, with floods, droughts and hurricanes killing 370,000 people, a 20 percent increase over the previous decade.

A new UN’s World Meterological Organization report, “The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes” (available here), found that this was the warmest decade for both land and ocean temperature since recordings began in 1850, which lead to rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and land glaciers.

Decisions on flood defenses and dams, for instance, are often based on past experience and not on the likely future. But the past climate is no longer a sufficient guide to the future. We need to anticipate the climate we shall have in the next 50 to 100 years. It’s a huge challenge.

Floods were the most frequent extreme weather event, but droughts affected more people ‘due to their large-scale and long-lasting nature,’ the report found. However, hurricanes, of which there were 500 in the decade, were responsible for nearly half of all natural disaster-related deaths, killing nearly 170,000 people and causing an estimated $380 billion USD in damages.

Extreme flooding occurred in Eastern Europe, India, Africa, Australia and Pakistan. Extreme droughts affected Australia, East Africa and the Amazon Basin. Continue reading

This is a cover article of this month’s The Atlantic. It’s looong but very well researched and argumentative. I don’t agree with all points and find some a bit silly, but it does have other very compelling evidence throughout.

If you have time to kick back, head here for the full read.

Otherwise, these are the highlights:


- An enormous amount of media space has been dedicated to promoting the notion that all processed food, and only processed food, is making us sickly and overweight.

- If the most-influential voices in our food culture today get their way, we will achieve a genuine food revolution. Too bad it would be one tailored to the dubious health fantasies of a small, elite minority. And too bad it would largely exclude the obese masses, who would continue to sicken and die early.

- Despite the best efforts of a small army of wholesome-food heroes, there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population—even in the unlikely case that your typical junk-food eater would be willing and able to break lifelong habits to embrace kale and yellow beets. And many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are, in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King.

Through its growing sway over health-conscious consumers and policy makers, the wholesome-food movement is impeding the progress of the one segment of the food world that is actually positioned to take effective, near-term steps to reverse the obesity trend: the processed-food industry.


I. Michael Pollan Has No Clothes

- The more converts and customers the wholesome-food movement’s purveyors seek, the stronger their incentive to emphasize foods that light up precisely the same pleasure centers as a 3 Musketeers bar.  That just makes wholesome food stealthily obesogenic.

- Because they are energy-intense foods, fat and sugar and other problem carbs trip the pleasure and reward meters placed in our brains by evolution over the millions of years during which starvation was an ever-present threat. We’re born enjoying the stimulating sensations these ingredients provide, and exposure strengthens the associations, ensuring that we come to crave them and, all too often, eat more of them than we should.

- To be sure, many of Big Food’s most popular products are loaded with appalling amounts of fat and sugar and other problem carbs (as well as salt), and the plentitude of these ingredients, exacerbated by large portion sizes, has clearly helped foment the obesity crisis.

- But many of the foods served up and even glorified by the wholesome-food movement are themselves chock full of fat and problem carbs.

- A recent Wall Street Journal article by Ron Rosenbaum explained that “eating basic, earthy, fatty foods isn’t just a supreme experience of the senses—it can actually be good for you,” and that it’s “too easy to conflate eating fatty food with eating industrial, oil-fried junk food.”

Continue reading

It’s World Population Day and as of today, there are over 7 billion of us sharing this planet.

How did we get here?


After rising very slowly for millennia, population figures were just starting to take off in the 1700s. A century and a half later, the world’s population had doubled to more than a billion. It took another century, between WWI and II, to double again to two billion, and the acceleration since then has also been astounding.

Before 1900s, no human had lived through a doubling of the human population, but there are people alive today who have seen it triple (source: NGM).

So, why the sudden surge?

Many things happened, simultaneously and progressively. Society has changed: more medical innovations and preventive care (including sex education, contraceptives and family planning), better transportation means and efficiency (getting medicine and medical personnel to the source of need), and a more ‘connected’ world (dissemination of knowledge and information about medical science) enabled us to stop the spread of communal and contagious diseases, advance health treatments, increase life expectancy (from 35-40 years in 1952 to 65-80 today), and make improvements in gender equality (women gaining access to education and labour force).


Here is one fun quick lecture and a cool visualization of statistical data of the changing world:


By the early 1970s, fertility rates around the world had begun dropping faster than anyone had anticipated. Since then, even though the population growth continued to grow, the population growth rate has fallen by more than 40 percent.

But where are we heading, in terms of population growth projection?

According to Hans Rosling, global health expert and a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontièrs, we have reached peak child. The number of children is not growing any longer in the world. And the world population will stop growing at 10 billion. Here’s how:

Continue reading

It’s 2013 and you’re a global citizen. You are a whole mechanism, requiring your own support system. You live among 7 billion people: that means a consistent and continuous interconnectedness and interdependence of people and resources. Everything we individually and collectively do reflects on our surroundings.

Global population is growing by approximately 70 million each year: that’s 1.3 million people – a city the size of Prague – every WEEK.

As might be expected, there has to be a limit to how many people we can fit on this planet. What is that limit?





Indeed, it seems that we are living in some pretty crowded times: 7 billion is a large number. However, the perception of such volume and sizeability is relative. Apparently, according to National Geographic research, standing shoulder-to-shoulder all 7 billion of us would fill the city of Los Angeles. That’s all! Even throwing a ‘come-one-come-all’ party with room to dance requires a tiny speck of land – 1500 square miles, the total size of Rhode Island. How intimate.

pop concentrated



The buzz word of the 90s, globalization, is a concept that is still ambiguous in terms of what impact it has had on our civilization, as its accelerated force and sweeping power can be perceived both positively and negatively. It enabled us to travel and experience so much more and in the farthest reaches of the planet. This movement of people, for business or leisure has become pivotal in the overall state of communities (in particular, in underdeveloped societies).

Until now, the growth in population and the growth in capitalism have gone hand in hand. Population growth meant more consumers and greater market demand, for the purposes of turning profit. The spread of global markets and the speed and reach of trade propelled growth and changes in all the corners of the world. Continue reading


A must-watch and just awesome!


This is a transcript from a TED talk by Carolyn Steel on the modern global food distribution networks and their evolvement. Architect and author of the book Hungry City, she addresses food’s journey from land to urban table and thence to sewer.

The following are direct quotes from the talk. If you’re not pressed for time, check it out in full on TED.

We take it for granted that if we go into a shop or restaurant, there is going to be food there waiting for us, having magically come from somewhere.

Every day in cities, enough food has to be produced, transported, bought and sold, cooked, eaten, and disposed of, otherwise they would collapse.

As more of us move into cities, more of natural world is being transformed into extraordinary landscapes in order to feed us.

A third of the annual grain crop globally now gets fed to animals rather than to us human animals.

It takes ten times as much grain to feed a human if it’s passed through an animal first – not a very efficient way of feeding us.

Meat and urbanism are rising hand in hand. Six billion hungry carnivores to feed, by 2050.

Nineteen million hectares of rainforest are lost every year to create new arable land.

It takes about 10 calories (fossil fuels) to produce every calorie of food that we consume in the West.

We are producing food at a great cost, but we don’t actually value it. Half of all the food produced in the USA is thrown away.

We are not even managing to feed the planet properly. A billion of us are obese, while a further billion starve.

Continue reading

This is a series of posters by UNEP for today’s World Environment Day campaign

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June 5th is World Environment Day, and this year the theme is food waste: Think.Eat.Save. Check out this series I wrote for UNEP’s Blogging Competition.

Tristram Stuart is an activist on global food systems, an author of the book  Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, and a founder of the Feeding the 5000, an awareness-raising campaign which organizes free public lunches from discarded foods.

He did a talk on TED on the subject of food waste and the global food supply systems. Here are the most fascinating bits if you don’t have time to hear the full talk, otherwise head here.

The following are direct quotes from his presentation:

Most of the food that we throw away is, in fact, fit for human consumption, and that’s only scratching the surface because right the way up the food supply chain, in supermarkets, greengrocers, bakers, in our homes, in factories and farms, we are hemorrhaging out food.

Some supermarkets don’t even want to talk about how much food they are wasting – they lock bins full of food and truck them off to landfill sites.

Freeganism is an exhibition of the injustice of food waste, and the provision of the solution to food waste, which is simply to sit down and eat food, rather than throwing it away.

Food waste is a problem: not rotten stuff, not stuff beyond the pale, but good, fresh, edible food that is being wasted on a colossal scale.

There is no direct data on food waste. It is estimated by taking in the food supply of every single country and comparing it to what is actually likely to be being consumed, based on diet intake surveys, and levels of obesity.

As a country gets richer, it invests more and more in getting more and more surplus into its shops and restaurants. Most European and North American countries grow and produce twice as much food for nutritional requirements of their populations, or twice as much actually required to feed their populations.

Continue reading

Not only does Bhutan stand out from the rest of the world by measuring its Gross National Happiness and by restricting the tourism influx, it is now striving to become the first nation in the world to grow 100% organic whole food.

The nation has an unusual approach to economic development, centred on protecting the environment and focusing on the mental well-being of its citizens, as opposed to the prevalent model elsewhere in the world which sucks the souls of its population by fuelling their never-ending marry-go-round chase of materialistic success. It held a ban on television until 1999 (which, unfortunately, got worse in the new millennium, so maybe that should have held their ground on that), and recently designated a car-free one day of the week in the city centres.

Alright, it is geographically isolated. For more than a thousand years, this tiny speck of land — known by locals as Druk Yul, “land of the thunder dragon” — has survived in splendid isolation, wedged into the mountainous folds between two giants, India and China.

Closed off from the outside world both by geography and deliberate policy, the country had no roads, no electricity, no motor vehicles, no telephones, no postal service – until the 1960s.

With a population of just over 700,000, two-thirds of whom depend on farming in villages dotted around fertile southern plains near India and the soaring Himalayan peaks and deep valleys to the north, it is not the kind of model that can be applied to developed, industrialized, western countries.

Covered in forests, only about 3 percent of the country’s land area is used for growing crops. Chemical use is very low by international standards, with the majority of farmers already organic and reliant on rotting leaves or compost as a natural fertilizer.


Its determination to chart a different path can be seen in its new policy to phase out artificial chemicals in farming in the next 10 years, making its staple foods of wheat and potatoes, as well as its fruits, 100 percent organic.


“Bhutan has decided to go for a green economy in light of the tremendous pressure we are exerting on the planet. If you go for very intensive agriculture it would imply the use of so many chemicals, which is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature.” – officials say.


Another small self-governing nation in the South Pacific, Niue, with a population of only 1,300 is aiming to be 100 percent organic by 2015-2020.


UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says the organic food market and its premium prices are attractive for small countries and territories as they are not competitive on quantity, but they would like to be competitive in quality.


Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements report that the global organics market was estimated to be worth $57 billion in 2010. Bhutan exports rare mushrooms to Japan, vegetables to upmarket hotels in Thailand, its highly-prized apples to India and elsewhere, as well as red rice to the United States.


“Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.”

This is my article that went up on TravelCultureMag.


All the predictions have materialized and there’s no escaping the realization that the face of the world is changing. The Earth is evolving and going through natural cycles, but it is more so apparent that the growth of population and our living habits are influencing this change.

But before you start to cheer for noticeably less precipitation, warmer winters and scorching summers, think about adapting to extreme weather conditions: desertification and rising sea levels, droughts and floods, and the loss of biodiversity (because animal species are not as adaptable to these new patterns).


Ok, maybe you don’t care about the animals. But what about us? We are blaming past generations for not considering the implications of their actions and burdening us with saving the planet, but we are exerting even more pressure on the environment, and the future generation, which doesn’t really have a future, the way things stand now. I envision my children’s children wearing gas masks and living in domed cities. Continue reading


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