Population Matters

In Chicago, prep under way for wet, steamy future

In Chicago, prep under way for wet, steamy future

The Windy City is preparing for a heat wave — a permanent one.

Climate scientists have told city planners that, based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century.

So, Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future. Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal as well as the addition of vegetation to the roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.

“Cities adapt or they go away,” said Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment. “Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways but also in slow, pervasive ways. We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it. We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going.”

More: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/illinois/article_bf5e0168-84d5-11e0-ad1e-001a4bcf6878.html

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Scientists say Earth faces mass extinction

Life on Earth is hurtling toward extinction levels comparable to those following the dinosaur-erasing asteroid impact of 65 million years ago, propelled forward by human activities, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

If current extinction rates continue unabated, Earth could lose three-quarters of its species as soon as three centuries from now, the researchers said.

“That’s a geological eye blink,” said Nicholas Matzke, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and author of a paper describing the doom-and-gloom scenario. “Once you lose species, you don’t get them back. It takes millions of years to rebound from a mass extinction event.”

And while that might seem far off, species already are disappearing on a global scale. In recent history, we’ve lost the dodo bird, the passenger pigeon, the Javan tiger, the Japanese sea lion, and now, maybe the Eastern cougar — declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this spring. Amphibians, mammals, plants, fish — none are immune.

More: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/23/2317665/scientists-say-earth-faces-mass.html

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India’s unwanted girls

India’s 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven — activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi explores what has led to this crisis.

Kulwant has three daughters aged 24, 23 and 20 and a son who is 16.

In the years between the birth of her third daughter and her son, Kulwant became pregnant three times. Each time, she says, she was forced to abort the foetus by her family after ultrasound tests confirmed that they were girls.

“My mother-in-law taunted me for giving birth to girls. She said her son would divorce me if I didn’t bear a son.”

Kulwant still has vivid memories of the first abortion. “The baby was nearly five months old. She was beautiful. I miss her, and the others we killed,” she says, breaking down, wiping away her tears.

Until her son was born, Kulwant’s daily life consisted of beatings and abuse from her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Once, she says, they even attempted to set her on fire.

“They were angry. They didn’t want girls in the family. They wanted boys so they could get fat dowries,” she says.

India outlawed dowries in 1961, but the practice remains rampant and the value of dowries is constantly growing, affecting rich and poor alike.

Kulwant’s husband died three years after the birth of their son. “It was the curse of the daughters we killed. That’s why he died so young,” she says.

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13264301

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Arctic ice still thinning

Year-old ice floating on the Beaufort Sea is 20 to 30 centimeters thinner this year than in the last two, new aircraft- and satellite-based analyses find. On May 6, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, completed a six-week stint flying the polar skies from Alaska to Norway with a host of sensors. An electromagnetic ice-thickness gauge, towed 15 meters above the sea surface, found that Beaufort ice north of Alaska and Canada was 1.4 meters thick. That’s 18 percent thinner than in 2009, meaning the ice probably will not survive this coming summer, concludes AWI’s Stefan Hendricks.

More: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/74605/title/News_in_Brief_EarthEnvironment

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Global population aging rapidly

The impact of global aging trends was examined by experts from both the U.S. and Japan during the Healthy Aging Summit recently held at the University of Southern California’s Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center.

The summit, open to the public, brought together leading gerontologists, representatives from the Japanese American community as well as a public policy expert from Japan. The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro presented the event in partnership with the USC Davis School of Gerontology with the support of Consul General Junichi Ihara.

Sponsors included the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Aratani Foundation.

Some 21.5 percent of Japanese Americans, about one in five, are over age 65, a rate that is slightly higher than Japan’s 19.5 percent but significantly greater than the United States’ overall 12.5 percent, or about one in eight.

The U.S. is gradually but steadily approaching the older population levels found in Japan and among America’s Nikkei.

Eileen Crimmins, Ph.D., AARP Chair of Gerontology at USC, stated that, as life expectancy increases and the post-World War II Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) pass through, the U.S.’ older population will rise at an unprecedented rate. She pointed to advances in scientific research, widespread education about health, and fewer births as key factors in the rise in the number of older adults.

As the U.S. population ages, the retirement age will have to be raised, Dr. Crimmins added. “We will keep people in the work force longer.”

More: http://rafu.com/news/2011/05/aging-sansei-part-2/

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Reuse of graves ‘needed to prevent crisis’

In one of the UK’s biggest, most historic cemeteries on the edge of Epping Forest, headstones and memorials stretch across 200 acres. And it is full. With no prospect that people will stop dying, managers have had to take bold measures.

At the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, they reuse old graves. Campaigners say this could be the solution to a nationwide shortage of burial space.

Hundreds of families were contacted about private graves which had not been used for more than 75 years, and which were known to have depth for at least two more burials.

More than 30 of the plots have since been chosen by people for their final resting place. On one historic grave, the memorial even has one set of names on its reverse side — dating from 1902 and 1908 — and a fresh name on the front. In another corner of the site, remains have been dug up from more than 1,000 public graves so new plots can be created; 360 have already been used.

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13357909

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President Patil calls for awareness on global environment change

Emphasizing that with urbanization emerging as one of the most significant drivers of global environment change, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today said that those living in concrete dominated city environments cannot afford to remain apathetic or indifferent to the mounting degradation of our natural eco-systems.

President Patil, who inaugurated a one day seminar at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on the universalisation of the environmental initiative already in practice in the President’s Estate — ‘Roshni’, in her inaugural speech said: “The need to foster the spirit of ‘Roshni’ is necessary, as the impact of environmental degradation is clearly apparent today, whether it is the rise in the global temperatures; haphazard weather patterns; depletion of the ozone layer; change in the sea-levels or the growing spate of natural catastrophes.”

Expressing satisfaction about the ‘Roshni’ initiative, President Patil said: “From a humble start, today it encompasses a shelf of 13 activities. As Roshni spread its wings, we felt the need to institutionalize ‘Roshni’ as a regular environmental management system. We have in place an Environment Policy for the Estate.”

“All activities which impact environment have been put to audit, and our environmental practices have been subjected to external validation. We crossed the first milestone in 2010 when we received the ISO 14001 certification. Carbon-emission reduction is also being monitored, and carbon footprint reduction potential is being analyzed to show the way forward,” she added.

More: http://www.dailyindia.com/show/440596.php

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Tony Burke sets out Sustainable Population Strategy

Australian sustainable population minister Tony Burke spoke to the Express on Friday about the Australian Government’s sustainable population strategy and what it will mean for communities like Canterbury-Bankstown.

The Sustainable Australia report, which was released at a housing industry conference on May 13, seeks to cap population growth in capital cities in favour of boosts in regional centres.

Mr Burke, who is also the Federal Labor Watson MP, described the strategy as a great initiative for working people living in outer suburbs of big cities.

“People in our community regularly face long commutes to and from work,” Mr Burke said when asked about potential impacts for the area of Watson. “We have communities where there are not enough workers and communities where there are not enough jobs a locally targeted approach to addressing population growth and change is needed.”

He said the strategy’s focus is on alleviating pressures in overstretched areas by supporting more local jobs, rather than setting “arbitrary” population targets.

“Population change is not just about growth and the size of our population. It is about the skills and needs of our population, how we live and where we live,” he said.

More: http://express.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tony-burke-sets-out-sustainable-population-strategy/

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Brazil to create cabinet post to address deforestation

Brazilian Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira announced yesterday the creation of a cabinet post responsible for monitoring and addressing the deforestation crisis affecting Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The cabinet post will be filled by government specialists as well as by members of the Environmental Ministry and representatives from the states which have registered the highest levels of deforestation. According to satellite imagery, deforestation of the Amazon has increased from 103 square kilometers (64 square miles) in March-April 2010 to 593 square kilometers (368 square miles) this year — an almost 600 percent increase in one year. Minister Teixeira called the figures “alarming” while noting the concern as a main reason for establishing the cabinet position.

The increase in deforestation is occurring mostly in Mato Grosso state where nearly 25 percent of Brazil’s soybean harvest is produced. Experts say that increased demand for soy and cattle are key factors in farmers’ decisions to clear more forests from their lands. However, activists like Greenpeace’s Maricio Astrini believe the deforestation is due more to a lack of significant legal protections and penalties for land-clearing activities.

More: http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2538

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Study: population rise threatens Southern forests

Growing populations and increased urbanization could reduce the 200 million acres of forestland in the South by about 10 percent over the next 50 years, according to a U.S. Forest Service study released Tuesday.

The multiyear study looks at the impact a variety of factors will have on the future of forests in 13 states stretching from Texas to Virginia.

“The diversity in Southern forests is unparalleled in North America,” said Dave Wear, the project leader on the report. But that diversity and the home it provides to a variety of wildlife is threatened by a combination of four primary factors: population, climate change, timber markets and invasive species.

But population growth and the ensuing urbanization are expected to reduce the amount of forestland in the South by as much as 23 million acres — about the size of the state of South Carolina — and stress other resources that forests depend on for survival.

“The growing population reduces the capability of forestry agencies to manage forests,” Wear said. About 90 percent of the region’s forestland is owned by companies and individuals, and the rest is owned and managed by U.S. or local government agencies.

More: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9N9BGOO0.htm

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