Population Matters

Liberia looks to save its rainforests by barcoding trees

Liberia looks to save its rainforests by barcoding trees

Nearly two-thirds of West Africa’s remaining rainforests are in the small but troubled nation of Liberia. That is a small miracle. A decade ago, Liberia’s forests were being stripped bare by warlords to fund a vicious 14-year civil war that left 150,000 dead. In 2003, the United Nations belatedly imposed an embargo on Liberian “logs of war.” Revenues crashed and, coincidentally or not, the war swiftly came to an end.

Now the elected government of Harvard-trained President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed a deal with the European Union to place timber sales on a permanently legal footing. The deal, agreed to this month, makes use of a unique national timber-tracking system that requires every legally harvestable tree and every cut log to carry a barcode that will enable it to be tracked from its origin to its final destination.

But will it tame the illegal loggers? Can Liberia, a poverty-stricken country that relies heavily on the sale of its natural resources, police even such a seemingly foolproof system? If so, could Liberia, as environment groups such as Conservation International suggest, be on the verge of creating a green economic model for the rest of the continent? Or will putting the country’s natural resources back on sale plunge Liberia back into conflict?

The European Union is Liberia’s largest market for timber. Starting in early 2013, the EU will require all companies importing timber to demonstrate that it has been legally harvested. The deal with Liberia will allow the new timber concession holders put in place by Sirleaf to comply with these new regulations.

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/24/rainforest-liberia-logging

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Europe’s largest annual environment conference explores spectrum of resource efficiency

Opening today, Green Week 2011 launches a call for citizens to “use less and live better,” the EC press service announced.

During the conference’s four days, over 3,500 participants will look for ways to use our planet’s resources more sustainably. This year’s Green Week gathers participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, including EU institutions, business and industry, non-governmental organisations, public authorities, the scientific community, academia and the media. Some 30 events are scheduled to take place outside Brussels, including events to come in Slovenia (25-27 May, 2 June) and Poland (11 June). The conference is webstreamed in its entirety.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Resource efficiency isn’t just about constraints and scarcity — it’s a vast array of opportunities for growth and jobs with less waste, a cleaner environment, and better, more sustainable choices for consumers. The scope of this year’s Green Week is a clear demonstration of the reach of environment policy — it really is fundamental to the way we choose to live our lives.”

More: http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n250493

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Ugandan government launches new population policy plan

The government has launched a new population policy action plan that will guide it in addressing challenges of a fast-growing population. The action plan will largely implement what has been outlined in the population policy which was put in place in 2008.

The policy calls for more investment in the growing population, addresses issues of appropriate planning for a rapidly growing population, investing in family planning for child spacing and identifying critical concerns that must be tackled to ensure a quality population, among them poverty, illiteracy, disease and unemployment.

Demographers say Uganda’s population growth rate, currently estimated at 3.2 per cent, is the third fastest growing in the world after Yemen and Niger.

More: http://allafrica.com/stories/201105240066.html

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Population turning point

China’s population grew by less than 1 percent annually in the last decade, but it still remains the world’s largest at 1.37 billion people, according to results of the sixth national population census released in late April.

Figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show China’s population grew 5.84 percent from 2000 to 2010, or 0.57 percent per year.

The nation’s urban population increased 13.6 percent, making up 49.7 percent of the total population. Meanwhile, the population was increasingly getting older. People aged 60 years and older accounted for 13.26 percent of the population, an increase of 2.93 percentage points from 2000.

“The objective of the population census is to have a clear understanding of our national demographic conditions from all kinds of perspectives,” said Ma Jiantang, Director of the NBS.

Ma interpreted some of the figures, saying according to results of the 2010 and 2000 censuses, the urbanization rate in China had risen rapidly. The population of eastern coastal areas also continued to swell, indicating the flow of migrants has much to do with development levels of different regions.

More: http://www.bjreview.com.cn/print/txt/2011-05/23/content_359562.htm

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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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