Population Matters

Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost sixfold, new data suggests.

Satellite images show deforestation increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011, Brazil’s space research institute says. Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil.

The news comes shortly before a vote on new forest protection rules.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the figures were “alarming” and announced the setting up of a “crisis cabinet” in response to the news.

“Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July,” the minister told a news conference.

Analysts say the new figures have taken the government by surprise.

Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years. However, the latest data shows a 27% jump in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011.

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13449792

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Extinction rates ‘overestimated’, says study

Current extinction rate projections may be overestimating the role of habitat loss on species, a study suggests.

Current methods are too simplistic and fail to take into account the full complexity of what influences species numbers, researchers observed. Writing in the journal Nature, they said present figures overestimated rates by up to 160%, and called for updated, more accurate calculations. But they did add that habitat loss was still the main threat to biodiversity.

Co-authors Professor Stephen Hubbell, from the University of California Los Angeles, and Professor Fangliang He, from Sun Yat-sen University, China, said existing mathematical models were flawed.

“The most widely used indirect method is to estimate extinction rates by reversing the species-area accumulation curve, extrapolating backwards to smaller areas to calculate expected species loss,” they wrote. “Estimates based on this method are almost always much higher than actually observed.”

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13438610

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MIT study: biofuels not necessarily greenest choice

Biomass used to make biofuels must be carefully sourced, or the biofuels they produce may be no greener than conventional jet fuel. That’s according to a study that was published this week in the online version of Environmental Science and Technology and was conducted by a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the nearly four-year study, researchers conducted a life cycle analysis on 14 diesel and jet fuel sources made from feedstocks, and identified the key factors that make a difference in whether a biofuel is truly an environmental improvement over conventional jet fuel.

The team was led by James Hillman, principal research engineer, and a professor at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.

More: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20062268-54.html

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Australian government releases population strategy

The Australian Government has released its first population strategy which focuses on boosting growth in regional areas and alleviating pressures in the outer suburbs of cities.

The report — Sustainable Australia, Sustainable Communities — does not set a population target, saying adopting one would limit the Government’s ability to use the migration program to deal with skills gaps and labour shortages. The report says a balance must be struck between the principles of economic sustainability, making communities livable and environmental sustainability.

One proposal is to create more jobs outside major CBDs.

The Population Minister Tony Burke says the Government is aiming to encourage business hubs in the outer suburbs and regional areas so people can find employment closer to home. He cited the example of Springfield near Brisbane as an example of a self-contained community away from the inner-city, and said the National Broadband Network is integral to the new strategy.

Mr. Burke says the strategy centres on where and how people live, rather than population targets or caps.

More: http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/stories/201105/3216572.htm?desktop.

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Rising resource use threatens future growth, warns UN

The world is set to consume three times more natural resources than current rates by the middle of the century, according to a United Nations report. It predicts that humanity will annually use about 140 billion tonnes of fossil fuels, minerals and ores by 2050. The authors call for resource consumption to be “decoupled” from economic growth, and producers to do “more with less”. Growth in population and prosperity are the main drivers, they observe.

The report is the latest in a series by the UN Environment Programme’s (Unep) International Resources Panel.

“Decoupling makes sense on all the economic, social and environmental dials, ” said Unep executive director Achim Steiner. “People believe environmental ‘bads’ are the price we must pay for economic ‘goods’. However, we cannot and need not continue to act as if this trade-off is inevitable.”

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13376416

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UN conference says population of world’s poorest nations expected to double by 2050

The United Nations says the population of the world’s poorest nations is expected to double to 1.7 billion by 2050.

U.N. officials attending a conference in Istanbul Tuesday said that the increase would place more strain on essential services such as health and education.

The officials added that 60 percent of the population of these “least-developed” countries is under the age of 25, and that youth can become an engine of economic growth with the right opportunities or face a slide into deep poverty.

Thousands of delegates have gathered for the conference, which seeks ways to help the 48 countries in the least-developed category. Most of the countries are in Africa.

More: http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5gasbzUYddUWtjPjjUoaPwH8ZCosw?docId=6806799

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Population growth stirs worries about stress on region’s water supply

When Colin Cavill began planning the 325-unit Enso Atlanta apartments near Grant Park three years ago, water was at the top of his mind. Simply put: the metro’s area’s supply is limited, and he didn’t want to make matters worse. So Cavill — who says his company, Capital 33, wanted to “help reduce our footprint” — developed the complex as a green project. Toilets and faucets are low-flow, shower heads are water-efficient, and a cistern collects water for the landscaping.

Cavill’s efforts may need to be become the norm as the state struggles with its limited water supply, experts say.

More: http://www.ajc.com/news/population-growth-stirs-worries-940812.html?cxtype=rss_news_128746

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Population stabilisation fundamental to health

Population Matters today called for population stabilisation to be seen as a major contribution to world health.  The focus of World Health Day 2011 (7th April) is combating antimicrobial resistance, whereby microorganisms develop resistance to antimicrobial treatments, rendering existing medicines ineffective.

This has a number of causes but today’s rapid population growth is a significant contributory factor:

  • Strains of disease resistant to medicines are spread more widely and more quickly by urban over-crowding, close proximity of humans with animals and large scale migration.
  • Rapid population growth helps to keep countries poor, which hinders efforts to improve the suboptimal healthcare practices which are one of the principal causes of the development of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Limited availability of food, clean water, sanitation and shelter increases the vulnerability to disease.

More generally, limited resources, environmental overexploitation and the impact of climate change will pose an increasing threat to wellbeing as the world population continues to grow.

Reproductive health conditions are one of the most common causes of death worldwide amongst women of childbearing age. Universal access to family planning can both significantly improve individual health and create better conditions for health generally through promoting population stabilisation.  It is one of the UN Millennium Development Goals where progress has been most limited and should form a central part of all overall health strategies.

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World Water Day 2011

The level of access to fresh water and sanitation is one of the great divides in the world today. Although access to safe water is improving, one in four urban dwellers in the developing world still does not have piped water at home. The result is, at best, greater cost and inconvenience and, at worst, greater incidence of often fatal diseases such as cholera, malaria and diarrhoea through dependence on polluted or unsafe water.

The answer is massive investment in drinking water and sanitation infrastructure. To achieve this, both the countries involved and the international community will have to find the funds. However, funding isn’t the only issue. The numbers of people living in the urban areas of developing countries is increasing by 5 million people a month. The bulk of the additional two billion people expected by 2050 will be living in such urban areas. Rapid population growth is making an improved water supply, like all attempts to improve living standards, harder to achieve.

However, the problem with water goes beyond domestic supply. This increase in the domestic demand for water is competing with water for agriculture and for maintaining natural river systems, adversely affecting riverine wildlife. Meanwhile, global industrialisation is increasing demand for manufacturing purposes. Agriculture is the largest consumer of water and this need is also rising as changing diets and population growth increase the demand for food, and as biofuel production develops to replace falling natural energy resources. Much of the agriculture around the world now depends on natural underground water reservoirs which are being depleted. Elsewhere, it depends on glacier runoff in the dry season, runoff that is ultimately threatened by climate change.

Progress on supplying enough water to meet growing demand is being made in plugging leaks and in desalination technology, though the latter is expensive and energy intensive. But, ultimately, there is only so much fresh water available in the places people live.

Population growth is slowing gradually. The question is whether we can accelerate that slowdown through better family planning and choosing smaller families to ensure that water supplies and living standards generally continue to improve rather than getting worse.

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