May 26, 2011

United Nations braces for increased disaster risks

In a new report presented during a recent four-day United Nations conference on disaster risk reduction, the risk of economic loss to disaster was found to be increasing faster than the rate of economic growth. In developed countries, the risk of loss due to floods had increased by 160% in the past three decades, while the incidence of tropical cyclone-related disasters tripled over the past four decades, spanning even more countries.

The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction also emphasized that climate change was linked to the intensifying pattern of destructive extreme weather events, which globally now cost over US$1.5 trillion.

During the conference in Geneva, Switzerland, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made reference to the multiple recent tragedies that struck Japan through a quake, tsunami, and nuclear accident as he warned that no country is immune from either natural or human-caused disasters.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (M): Disasters caused by natural hazards are taking a heavy toll on communities everywhere, in countries rich and poor. They are outpacing our ability to respond.

Tricia Holly-Davis – Director of Sustainability, Willis Group (F): The 10-year average of economic losses since 2000 totaled US$110 billion, and insured losses of US$35 billion. That figure has already doubled so far this year. With Japan and now what we’re seeing in the States, it will have well more than doubled.

VOICE: Conference delegates, including private sector leaders, discussed the need to invest more in minimizing disaster impacts, especially through early warning preparedness and prevention measures.

Margareta Wahlstrom – Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (F): Honestly, there are no natural disasters. All disasters are man-made, because of the way we create our society, the way we build cities, and the way of hazards that are known.

VOICE: With statistics showing that about half of all people killed or affected by catastrophes being children, child activists also attended the meeting to urge governments to take action for their safety.

Tricia – Child activist (F): We, the children, are most vulnerable. If disasters like tropical cyclones, flash floods, tidal waves, drought, volcanic eruption, and many more strike, then classes have to be suspended, starving of children, some of them are left homeless and even death of these child victims.

VOICE: Our appreciation, United Nations and all concerned participants of this global conference for disaster risk reduction. May our proper concerted efforts address the root of all disasters to ensure ours and future generations can live in peace and protection.

Dubai plans to set aside 10% of land for nature conservation

In accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity signed by 192 member countries, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates announces plans to set aside 10% of her total land for nature conservation by 2014.

May 25, 2011

Rivers in the UK at their lowest-ever recorded levels

According to a report from the UK's Center of Ecology and Hydrology, rivers were at their lowest-ever recorded levels at the end of April, with the month itself the hottest in 350 years and land in England and Wales the driestin half a century.

Leopard sharks found lifeless on the shores of California

Since April, about 50 leopard sharks have been found lifeless on the shores of California, USA due to massive internal bleeding, with the cause of this fatal condition as yet unknown, although some suggest that it is due to toxic chemical runoff.

More protection for the nearly extinct bluefin tuna

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society President and founder Paul Watson announces the group's intentions to protect the nearly extinct bluefin tuna off the coast of Libya by monitoring activities in the region, in accordance with a European Union fishing moratorium there. Supreme Master Ching Hai is donating US$20,000 in added support to this noble work.

Sizzling sun sears state of Chhattisgarh and Orissa in the India

Temperatures in the Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa reach scorching records of up to 45 degrees Celsius with at least six sunstroke deaths suspected as people are advised to stay indoors and stop work during midday hours.

Two small islets sinking in the Gulf of Mannar

Experts report that the recent sinking of the two small islets of Poomarichan and Villanguchalli in the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka, in an area known for its diverse flora and fauna, is the result of illegal coral reef mining as well as rising sea levels caused by global warming.

First ever green community house in Vietnam

The first ever green community house, a spacious 95 square meters built from eco-friendly materials, opens in Long Thới village of Nhà Bè district in Âu Lạc (Vietnam), with its low cost and sustainability, making it ideal as a model for other less fortunate locales.

Dramatic decline in sockeye salmon in Canada's Fraser River

Following a dramatic decline in sockeye salmon in Canada's Fraser River, with only one million returning in 2009 to start families instead of an expected 10 million, a US$25 million federal inquiry has been commissioned to study causes that could include climate change.

May 23, 2011

Mexican president wins UN environmental prize

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) presents Mexican President Felipe Calderón with the 2011 Champions of the Earth prize for his exemplary leadership in addressing climate change at both global and national levels.

Yangtze River at lowest levels in five decades

With drought decreasing water levels in China's Yangtze River to their lowest in five decades, officials are forced to close sections of the waterway from shipping, despite its vital contribution to the economy of many cities.

Thirty one endangered dolphins were found dead in the Crimean Peninsula in Southern Ukraine

Thirty-one endangered dolphins have been found sadly perished with damaged or missing fins along the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine, where experts believe that fishing nets were the cause of the incident.

Baltic Sea is heading towards collapse

Releasing never-before-seen photos of the Baltic seabed that show shocking destruction from overfishing, international marine conservation organization Oceana calls for a ban on bottom trawling and dredging, to allow biodiversity to recover.

May 20, 2011

Drought raises concerns in both Europe and Cuba

With some of the warmest temperatures and driest spring conditions in decades, concerns of European farmers are being raised as wheat, corn and other crops are threatened.

In France, the nation's Nuclear Safety Authority is studying plans to ensure that nuclear power plants depending upon the Loire and Rhône Rivers have adequate water to cool the plants' reactors.

Meanwhile, transport companies using the Rhine and the River Danube in both Austria and Germany have reduced ship cargo weights due to waters having dropped to their lowest levels in 100 years.

Meanwhile across the ocean in Cuba, a drought that is the worst in 50 years has left over 100,000 people in the city of Havana reliant on water being delivered by trucks, with access to running water allowed only for a few hours each day.

The eastern province of Las Tunas has also been severely affected, with over 220 communities requiring outside water sources as firefighters also cope with dozens of blazes that have ignited because of the drought.

We pray for easing of the dry conditions and the blessing of gentle rain across both Cuba and Europe. May such conditions be eased as we all join in caring more conscientiously for our shared Earthly abode.

Videoconference with Supreme Master Ching Hai and Supreme Master Television staff, Los Angeles, California, USA – January 1, 2011

Supreme Master Ching Hai: As you know already from scientific news reports, we have tens of thousands of people hungry due to the Amazon drought. Also, such a severe, they call “mega-drought,” usually occurs only once in many decades, or century. Now, the latest one is only several years ago, five years ago, scientists say that droughts related to global warming are very different from normal droughts.

They are more permanent, more severe, and irreversible. Trees die, not only the oldest ones, but of all ages, even the young ones, and all sizes. Regions most vulnerable are the US Southwest, southeast Asia, eastern South America, Western Australia, southern Europe, southern Africa, and northern Africa. And if we continue to live our lives the way most people do right now, it will get worse and worse.

Karma (retribution) changes so fast because we create new patterns of karma (retribution) all the time and that, in turn, affects the weather, and the weather affects us, of course. And all this are due to the consequences of the way we live our lives. Not benevolent enough.

MSNBC presents expert warnings about some of the world’s most famous natural areas

US-based news channel MSNBC presents expert warnings about some of the world’s most famous natural areas, including Congo Basin tropical rainforests, the Belize barrier reef, the Everglades in the USA, as well as flora and fauna as far away as the North and South poles, all of which could disappear by 2050 due to human destruction and global warming.

Taichung City Council members encourage more plant-based fare to help ease global warming

Taichung City Council members in Central Formosa (Taiwan) call for an initiative to encourage more plant-based fare along with opting to ride bicycles and being more frugal to help ease global warming.

May 18, 2011

Sustainable water practices should be put into place now

A new report from the US Department of the Interior warns that sustainable water practices should be put into place now, to cope with climate change effects that are forecast to cause not only elevated temperatures but severely reduced water levels in eight major river basins across the United States.

First commercial offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea

German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially opens the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, which is expected to generate enough power for 50,000 homes, with plans to construct three more.

Vatican science panel calls attention to the threat of glacial decline

In "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene," commissioned by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, some of the world’s leading climate and glacier scientists list many cases of glacial decline around the world, linking them to the global warming caused by human activities.

May 16, 2011

US scientists call on the nation's Congress for more studies about the safety of hydraulic fracturing

US scientists call on the nation's Congress for more studies about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, a method to increase the extraction of natural gas by using dangerous chemicals that can contaminate drinking water and air and have been linked with fatal cancers and kidney failure.

Bulgaria ban on sturgeon fishing in the Danube River

On the country’s side of the Danube River, the Bulgarian government imposes a one-year ban on the catching of sturgeon, a critically endangered fish facing extinction from overfishing for its eggs consumed by humans as caviar.

Climate change could increase more severe thunderstorms and tornados

After the US southeast reported 272 tornadoes in a two-day period last week, international newspaper USA Today cites two peer-reviewed studies concluding that climate change conditions are likely to continue increasing the incidence of severe thunderstorms and tornados.

May 10, 2011

Largest natural water body in Âu Lạc (Vietnam) at risk of disappearing

Experts warn that Ba Bể Lake, the largest natural water body in Âu Lạc (Vietnam), formed some 200 million years ago, is at risk of disappearing in just decades due to the threats imposed by a nearby mine and its diversion of fresh streams and pollution of the water being returned to the lake.

National Geographic magazine shows how rising sea levels due to climate change in Bangladesh

An article in the May 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine shows how rising sea levels due to climate change are forcing adaptations among the 164 million residents of Bangladesh, including the establishment of schools on boats and families moving dozens of times due to flooding.

Scientists discover ocean organisms that eat plastic waste

Evaluating plastic debris in the North Atlantic Ocean’s Sargasso Sea, where the material tends to accumulate due to currents, researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, USA discovered via electron microscopes the presence of bacteria in the plastic.

These microorganisms appear to live in pits in the plastic and feed on it as well, while at the same time, do not appear in the surrounding seaweed or sea water. Their presence may help explain why the amount of plastic in the ocean appears not to be growing. The researchers plan further studies to determine if consumption of the plastic toxins causes any challenges further up the food chain.

Our appreciation, Woods Hole scientists for sharing the discovery of these beneficial microbes. Let us act in harmony with such a marvelous gift from nature to return the Earth to a more pristine and sustainable state.

Raising concerns about the environmental impact after the explosion of a gas well in Pennsylvania, USA

After the explosion of a gas well in Pennsylvania, USA, which was being drilled using the hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” method, residents raise concerns about the environmental impact of the incident, which leaked thousands of gallons of toxic chemical-filled drilling fluid into the area's soil and water table.

May 6, 2011

Millions of people across the Horn of Africa need food aid

United Nations humanitarian agencies are calling for increased humanitarian assistance for the millions of people across the Horn of Africa who are suffering from severe food and water shortages due to failed harvests caused by the worst drought in 30 years.

Climate change in Guatemala damaging harvests

With effects ranging from prolonged droughts to heavy rains, climate change in Guatemala has damaged the harvests of millions of less fortunate farmers, prompting the government to declare a nationwide “nutritional risk alert.”

May 5, 2011

An extreme drought persists, intensifies in Texas, USA until midsummer

An extreme drought in Texas, USA, the worst in 45 years, which has fueled more than 800 wildfires to burn across an estimated 1.5 million acres since January, is forecast to continue and possibly intensify until midsummer.

Mangroves are an important bulkhead against climate change

Saying that the wetland trees shield from storm surges as well as store large amounts of carbon, a study by the US Forest Service highlights the need to conserve coastal mangrove forests which have declined by up to 50% in the last five decades.

May 4, 2011

Level of China's largest lake at record low

Home to hundreds of species of aquatic and land animals as well as some half a million migratory birds, China's Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater body in the country, has dropped to 9.5 meters, which is 4 meters lower than any other point in history.

New York Mayor announces plans to end the use of heavy oils for heating buildings

New York City, USA Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces plans to end the use of heavy oils for heating buildings by 2030 in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the city’s air quality.

May 2, 2011

Livestock raising a major source of dangerous nitrogen pollution

Excessive amounts of nitrogen in the environment are costing up to €320 billion per year in damage to Europe's environment and human health, according to a major study just conducted by 200 experts from 21 countries.

The costs of this nitrogen pollution, which originates largely from livestock manure and synthetic fertilizers, represent more than double the benefits of the continent’s agriculture sector.

Nitrogen runoff in rivers and streams causes algal growths that suffocate aquatic and marine life as well as disturb delicate ecosystems. Lead author, Dr. Mark Sutton of the UK's Center of Ecology and Hydrology, also pointed out that 85% of the nitrogen in crops is actually consumed by livestock; only 15% is used to feed humans directly.

This, combined with the excessive nitrogen from livestock manure highlights a need to reduce meat intake. Dr. Sutton and colleagues, we are grateful for your work that underscores the dangers of nitrogen pollution and livestock raising. May humanity quickly adopt lifestyles that preserve and protect all beings on our planetary home.

Over 50% of Brazil’s Cerrado wilderness has been lost due to cattle farming

The Independent of the UK reports that over 50% of Brazil’s Cerrado wilderness has been lost due to cattle farming and related agriculture, such as soy bean farms being planted to feed livestock in Europe and China, with World Wildlife Fund encouraging reducing meat consumption to protect the environment.