Free public transport in London is the only way to save our environment


Paris has a long-standing reputation as the home of free thinkers and this week the city took the inspired step of making its public transport free of charge during a desperately high spike in air pollution.

In London, our own pollution spike recently led to warnings to keep babies away from traffic-heavy roads and to avoid strenuous exercise. Joggers and vulnerable people are choking in London’s dirty air, which also worsens heart and lung conditions and can cause asthma.With London also blanketed by a thick layer of brown air mainly caused by cars, vans and lorries, free public transport is one solution.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already taken some short-term measures to tackle pollution, such as erecting signs advising people not to drive and to walk, cycle or take public transport instead. He also deployed signs telling drivers stopped at traffic lights to switch off their engines to protect the health of drivers in vehicles behind them. It is an often overlooked fact that air pollution exposure is often higher inside cars than it is out on the streets.

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Real Christmas Trees Or Fake Ones — Which Are Better For The Planet?


The Christmas tree: it’s a quintessential part of the holiday season. But it turns out not all festive trees are made equal, at least not when it comes to environmental friendliness.

So, which is better for the planet — a freshly cut tree or a fake one?

The short answer, which may come as a surprise to some, is a real tree. But it’s actually more complicated than that. It ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including how far you drive to get your evergreen and how you dispose of it at the end of the holidays and, if you choose an artificial tree, how long you end up using it.

Here’s an explainer on how to make the more Earth-friendly choice this Christmas season:

  1. If you choose an artificial tree, you need to use it for a very long time
  2. Most fake trees are made from toxic, non-recyclable materials
  3. If you’re going to buy artificial, choose domestic
  4. Similarly, if you’re buying a real tree, go local
  5. Real Christmas trees are grown specifically for that purpose
  6. Christmas tree farms can serve as a habitat for local wildlife
  7. Real trees can be composted or recycled

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Climate change could drive 122m more people into extreme poverty by 2030


Up to 122 million more people worldwide could be living in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change and its impacts on small-scale farmers’ incomes, a major UN report warned on Monday.

Climate change is “a major and growing threat to global food security”, said the report, warning that it could increase the global population living in extreme poverty by between 35 and 122 million by 2030, with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa among the hardest hit.

The 2016 State of Food and Agriculture report, published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), calls for “deep transformations in agriculture and food systems” and for the world’s half-billion small-scale farms to receive particular support. The report warns that without “widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated”.

There is, it says, “no doubt that climate change will affect the agriculture sectors and food security and that its negative impact will become more severe as it accelerates. In some particularly vulnerable places, such as small islands or in areas affected by large-scale extreme weather and climate events, the impact could be catastrophic.”

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Madagascar drought: 330,000 people ‘one step from famine’, UN warns


The severe drought afflicting southern Madagascar has left 330,000 people on the brink of famine, a senior UN official has warned.

Three successive years of failed rains have left the island nation wrestling with crop failure and a chronic lack of food and clean drinking water, with agencies warning last month that nearly 850,000 people are experiencing “alarming” hunger levels.

“Three hundred and thirty thousand are on the verge of a food security catastrophe, next step being famine,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies and rehabilitation at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“People go from one lean season to the next, resorting to negative coping strategies. People are eating anything to fill their stomachs, selling most of their belongings, cattle and land. It shows the severity of the situation and the need for us to act.” Farmers talk of the earth changing; of failed rains and crops, and barren land. Meanwhile, agencies are fighting a desperate rearguard action. Unicef, the UN children’s agency, reports growing demand for the high-calorie, peanut-based paste used to combat severe acute malnutrition.

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Quick facts: What you need to know about global hunger


Hunger is more than missing a meal. It’s a debilitating crisis that has almost one billion people in its grip.

Families struggling with chronic food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition don’t consistently have the food their minds and bodies need to function, which then prevents them from having the resources to improve their lives. It’s a perilous cycle that passes hunger from one generation to the next.

Around the world, 842 million people do not have enough of the food they need to live an active, healthy life. People suffering from chronic hunger are plagued with recurring illness, developmental disabilities and low productivity. They are often forced to use all their limited physical and financial resources just to put food on the table.

The highest number of malnourished people, 553 million, live in Asia and the Pacific, in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. In sub-Saharan Africa, 227 million people face hunger in arid countries like Ethiopia, Niger and Mali. And 47 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, in places like Guatemala and Haiti, are struggling to find enough to eat.

The majority of these hungry families live in rural areas where they widely depend on agriculture to survive.

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2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016. Almost all the hungry people, 780 million, live in developing countries, representing 12.9 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries.

The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, which saw a 42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people between 1990–92 and 2012–14. Despite this progress, about one in eight people, or 13.5 percent of the overall population, remain chronically undernourished in these regions, down from 23.4 percent in 1990–92. As the most populous region in the world, Asia is home to two out of three of the world’s undernourished people.

Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition. Black et al (2013) estimate that undernutrition in the aggregate—including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding—is a cause of 3·1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths in 2011 (Black et al. 2013). Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body’s ability to convert food into usable nutrients.

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Importance and Value of Trees

Since the beginning, trees have furnished us with two of life’s essentials, food and oxygen. As we evolved, they provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine, and tools. Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles.

Trees are an important part of every community. Our streets, parks, playgrounds and backyards are lined with trees that create a peaceful, aesthetically pleasing environment. Trees increase our quality of life by bringing natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban settings. We gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends. Many neighborhoods are also the home of very old trees that serve as historic landmarks and a great source of town pride.

Using trees in cities to deflect the sunlight reduces the heat island effect caused by pavement and commercial buildings.

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Does more trees reduce flooding impact?


The UK has seen record rainfall in December 2015, and that rainfall has been followed by record flooding. Wider society is increasingly threatened by flooding, while the water environment remains seriously impacted by a range of human pressures, including diffuse water pollution. There is strong evidence to support woodland creation in appropriate locations to help manage these issues.

Forests and woodlands are well suited to the purpose and, due to their ongoing management, are more likely to be resilient in the face of a changing climate and pests and disease.

They can offer significant benefits to the water environment, as well as safeguarding and growing investment and jobs in the UK forestry industry, securing domestic timber supplies, reducing imports and capturing more carbon.

Opportunity mapping by Forest Research is helping to identify, map and target areas where woodland creation can maximise water benefits and minimise risks. Linking this to information on species suitability and potential productivity can show where planting productive woodlands will deliver the greatest benefits. This can be applied across a range of scales, from assessing opportunities for planting at a strategic regional or river basin level down to the practical farm scale.

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This Antarctic glacier is cracking from the inside out and that’s bad news for all of us


A massive glacier at the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is cracking from the inside out at accelerating speed. That’s alarming because this glacier — and others — function like corks in a bottle: they keep the ice from flowing into the sea, which would raise sea levels by several feet.

The glacier, which is described in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, is called Pine Island Glacier. In 2015, a 224-square-mile iceberg broke off from the glacier. After studying satellite images before and after the event, researchers at Ohio State University found that in 2013, a rift formed at the base of the ice shelf, 20 miles inland. The rift worked its way up for two years until it caused the iceberg to break off.

Icebergs do separate from ice sheets in the Antarctic on a fairly regular basis. This one, though, is special. It confirmed what glaciologists have long been suspecting: that the ice shelf is weakening. But it also shows that the ice retreat is happening farther inland than scientists had previously observed.

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Morally and legally, the UK government has failed us on air pollution


No less than 17 years have passed since new rules were approved in the UK to save thousands of lives by limiting deadly air pollution in our towns and cities.

Pollution is the “invisible killer” because, for the most part, it goes unseen. Its impact on human health and the planet is why those laws were necessary. Yet disgracefully – and illegally – we are still subjected to excruciatingly dirty air. Conditions are sometimes so poor that you notice it in your nostrils or lungs. Those days, when the air feels thick with fumes, you may be under the impression that it’s just one vehicle with a bad exhaust in front of you which is to blame. It’s generally not.

Pollution is right there with you when you’re puffing as you cycle through the park on a summer’s day, or when you’re chatting with friends on a visit to the shops on a Saturday morning, or when you’re taking your child to school.

Why are you and I are still inhaling unlawful levels of nitrogen dioxide nearly 20 years after it should have been cleaned up?

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