The people of Earth really love their cities

Photo credit: Citylab

World Population split in half

Half the World Lives on 1% of Its Land, Mapped

In the simple map above lies a stark spatial imbalance: half the people in the world cram into just 1 percent of the Earth’s surface (in yellow), and the other half sprawl across the remaining 99 percent (in black).

Data viz extraordinaire Max Galka created this map using NASA’s gridded population data, which counts the global population within each nine-square-mile patch of Earth, instead of within each each district, state, or country border. Out of the 28 million total cells, the ones with a population over 8,000 are colored in yellow. That means each yellow cell has a population density of about 900 people per square mile—“roughly the same population density as the state of Massachusetts,” Galka writes in the accompanying blog post. The black regions, meanwhile, reflect sparser population clusters.

Take this close-up of South and East Asia. The region in this image alone contains about 46 percent of the world’s population, which isn’t all that surprising considering India and China are the two most populous countries in the world.

Asia’s densest spots are mostly concentrated in the inland urban areas. Europe, on the other hand, is nowhere as dense as Asia but has its population hotspots sprinkled more uniformly across its area:

Read the full article: Citylab


Combating urban desertification: Trees and Health App


Tool shows where cities need trees most

by Megan Treacy

Urban tree mapping has become a popular thing and for good reason. Studies have shown that not only does living near trees make our bodies healthier thanks to cleaning the air around us, but they also make us happier and less stressed. They also cut down on the heat island effect and provide needed shade for kids and older people. These are all things that city leaders would want for their residents.

A new urban tree mapping tool called Trees and Health App, developed by researchers at Portland State University and funded by the U.S. Forest Service, not only maps the distribution of tree coverage around cities, but lets city planners (and anyone else for that matter) dive deeper into the data to see which neighborhoods on a micro level need trees most to best plan tree planting projects.


Read the full article: Treehugger

From farm to boda-boda

Photo credit: CIAT Blog

Can the entrepreneurial spirit of young people be harnessed to encourage them to turn to agriculture? Credit: Georgina Smith / CIAT 

Farms without farmers?

The effect of drought

Photo credit: Kevin Straight

A Natural Southern California Landscape with an Aqueduct Visible in the Distance

Dessication and Civilization


Rain is necessary; for water is the medium of life, more important even than the light of the sun; the unintelligible whim of the elements may condemn to dessication regions which once flourished with empire and industry, like Nineveh or Babylon, or may help to swift strength and wealth cities apparently off the main line of transport and communication, like those of Great Britain or Puget Sound. – Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage

Years ago, when I was still an engineering undergraduate, my Hydrology professor predicted that World War III would be fought not over oil or ideology but over fresh water. That was back in the 1990’s and global warming was only an academic theory, barely mentioned in the mainstream media. Usable water, though, was already running out. Throughout the 20th century technology had allowed exponential population growth in many of the most arid regions of the world, such as North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and the American Southwest.

Now accelerating climate change, along with an additional two decades of population growth, is making the situation much worse. The other day I read an article in the Irish Times  that reported on the current drought in the Southwestern region of the the US–the worst in a thousand years. The issue affects me deeply and personally since I live in Southern California. I have only to drive up Interstate 5 so see miles and miles of dry wasteland in an area once famous for its groves of nut trees. I will not attempt to explain the Byzantine world of California water politics. Suffice it to say that without enough water to go around, most of it has been allocated to Los Angeles and other municipalities. Farmers have been forced to cut down groves of trees that took years to establish.

I spent my last few days off tearing out the dead brown grass of our front yard and replacing it with stones, a project many of our neighbors have already completed. I capped off most of my sprinklers, leaving only a couple of heads to drip water on small beds of desert plants at the corners. As watering restrictions become more Draconian, I may not even be allowed to run those.

Read the full story:

Saving Earth or Saving Profits (Google Alert / Mailstrom)

Read at : Google Alert / desertification

Saving Earth or Saving Profits


From an article in December’s Socialist Standardtranslated from a leaflet distributed by socialists in France.
The environment is not under threat from industrial production as such, but from this in the service of profit-seeking

All forms of vegetable and animal life are part of a network of relations called an “ecosystem” in ecology. Normally this system is self-regulating to the extent that, if an imbalance develops, this is rectified spontaneously, either by the restoration of the previous balance or by the establishment of a new balance. The problem is that there’s been the industrial revolution: the pollution of water and the ground due to the massive disposal of toxic or non-recyclable wastes and to the use in intensive agriculture of chemical fertilisers, nitrates and pesticides; the pollution of the oceans due to the increase of maritime traffic, the flow from polluted rivers, the shipwreck of oil tankers (70 alone in 1996!), the discharge of toxic, chemical and radioactive waste, desludging at sea, etc; overfishing; the pollution of the air due to the massive use of fossil fuels, the development of the individual motor car, and the clearance by fire of forests (despite these being the lungs of the planet!); industrial accidents (Seveso (1996), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), Toulouse (2001)); the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2) by petrol vehicles and factories, deforestation, leading to global warming and its consequences (rise in the sea level due to the melting of the icepack and of polar and continental glaciers, floods, desertification, storms); acid rain; extinction of living species; introduction of GM organisms; storage of nuclear waste; expansion of towns (where now more than half the world’s population live).

And for a good reason! No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the snag because competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. Attempts at international cooperation have already been made: the League of Nations, then the UN, for example, were set up to “maintain” peace. But the 20th century saw the most devastating and murderous wars in history! Continue reading “Saving Earth or Saving Profits (Google Alert / Mailstrom)”

Water is a human right : let’s save it (Technorati / ucantalk2mom)

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Water – will we soon be thirsty? 

I love water – love to drink it, love to soak in it, love to look at it – love it. For several years I’ve been buying bottled water because I want to avoid flouride – BUT – it seems I’ve been duped. Using bottled water may be the worst thing a water-lover can do. I’m posting three brief notes about water from a website called Man, Woman, Canoe – water privitization, water purifiers. I’m also going to change habits and get a water filter that filters out flouride. Another informative website is WHRnet Issue – Women and Water Privatization. Continue reading “Water is a human right : let’s save it (Technorati / ucantalk2mom)”

Survival of pastoralism in Africa (Technorati / Masabahouse / IRIN)

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“ONE LINK” – AFRICA: Can pastoralism survive in the 21st century? (IRIN)

ISIOLO, 13 July 2007 (IRIN) – Pastoralism is under threat – from climate change, shifting global markets and increased competition for land and other natural resources – even though it generates substantial income in areas where conventional farming is not possible. Those who believe that pastoralism – based primarily on raising livestock in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) – can last into the 21st century, argue that increased urbanisation will mean a greater demand for livestock products – and hence, a greater role for pastoralists. Those who do not regard pastoralism as a viable long-term lifestyle argue that globalisation, increasing competition for land resources due to population growth, and climatic factors such as desertification and prolonged droughts in ASAL areas, mitigate against its survival.

Either way, at least 40 percent of Africa’s land mass is dedicated to pastoralism, with significant variations among countries. In Kenya, for example, government statistics indicate that pastoral areas occupy at least 80 percent of the land mass, home to about 10 million people and 90 percent of the country’s wildlife.

For the full report, read on…

Family gardens, school gardens, roofs, balconies and windowsills for the hungry (Willem / About: Gardening)

Today, I received the new “About : Gardening” with interesting contributions of Marie IANNOTTI. My attention was immediately drawn to a message entitled “Plant A Row for the Hungry” (PAR).

Indeed, I have been spending the major part of my life combating desertification and alleviating poverty for the benefit of the rural people in the drylands. I always have tried to convince people to start this combat with programs and projects to eradicate malnutrition and hunger. There is a simple reason for that : no one can work with an empty stomach, every malnourished child is weaker for all kinds of diseases (see the fantastic programs of UNICEF).

Teach the hungry people how to grow their own food (vegetables and fruits) and you see the positive social effects within the shortest time.

For many years, we have been constructing community gardens, family gardens and school gardens in the drylands of developing countries. It can also be done, and even more easily, in the developed world. Two-three months later, the local people and children were eating the vegetables they had grown. What’s the kind of key we used to open that door to their “new way of life” ? It’s quite simple : we were teaching them first how to combine their traditional agricultural methods with cost-effective modern technologies (water harvesting, water stockage, keeping the soil moistened for a longer period with less water or water use efficiency, stockage of nutrients in the soil to limit leaching, enhancement of microbiological activity in the soil, choice of drought resistant varieties, even marketing their produce, etc.). It took us only a few days of teaching the local women, children and technicians or teachers. That’s capacity building to obtain almost immediate, but sustainable results.

These results are really remarkable : instead of spending millions or billions on huge programs or projects, it suffices to eradicate hunger by setting up small-scale projects of family gardens and school gardens. Forget about the large-scale projects, submerging the local people and leaving them disappointed when the aid stops. I have seen a good number of failures. We know the lessons learned. Let’s keep it small, so that they can handle it with their own capacities and skills when the project stops !

Healthy people are in a better position to take care of their own standards of living. Hungry people don’t have the force to react upon the deficiencies. So, first teach them how to produce their own food. Don’t leave them dependent on truckloads of food coming from others (international organisations, national aid programs, NGOs, etc.). It has been shown for decades that huge food aid programs are not sustainable. Yes, we have to help when famine shows up. No, we cannot let those people starve. But we should do more than offering them food alone : we should also learn them how to grow crops, even in the most difficult circumstances, e.g. in all the refugee camps of this world. That’s where applied science and technology are coming in, to be combined with successful traditional methods, based upon indigenous knowledge and local experience. It all depends upon the cost-effectiveness of such a combination. And such good combinations undeniably exist !

I have seen many times little stars twinkling in the eyes of people and children when they showed me proudly their first carrots, beetroots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and cabbages in their little family garden or school garden, only a few square meter big. For me, that’s combating hunger, that’s combating desertification, that’s sustainable development of the poorest, not only in the drylands, but everywhere, even on the smallest open spaces in the cities, even in containers on all the windowsills : see therefore my other weblog

It would be a nice way to make all the cities completely green : from rooftops to basements, from balconies to window ledges, not only with ornamental plants, but in the first place with vegetables and fruit trees. Why would vegetables and fruit trees be less beautiful than exotic ornamentals ? Don’t we see the beauty of our crops anymore, or don’t we want to see it ?

Green cities, green drylands ? Only a dream ? Absolutely not ! But we cannot wait for the hungry themselves to take initiatives (think at the new wave : guerilla gardening). All depends on the goodwill of all of us. Thus, let us start small, for small is so beautiful. And so are family gardens and school gardens, green roofs, green balconies, green windowsills, green walls, green parking lots, etc., etc., etc.

In the meanwhile, I am sincerely wishing PAR (see below) a lot of success !

Willem Continue reading “Family gardens, school gardens, roofs, balconies and windowsills for the hungry (Willem / About: Gardening)”

Pastoralism in Africa (Google Alert / East African)

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Google Alert for desertification

The East African – Nationmedia

Africa needs a common policy on pastoralism

Special Correspondent

African countries will soon be required to embrace a common policy on pastoralism to reduce rural poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Faced with challenges such as climatic change and conflicts, agricultural experts in Africa are concerned that the survival of pastoralism as a livelihood will depend on a comprehensive livestock development policy designed to increase productivity. Such a policy must also promote market access and ensure sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment. Consultations are currently going on among various organs of the African Union (AU) to formulate a pastoral policy for Africa to be adopted by the AU heads of state summit in July 2008. It should then lead to legislation. Continue reading “Pastoralism in Africa (Google Alert / East African)”

Worldwide urbanization, salination and desertification (Google Alert – Peakfood)

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Google Alert for desertification


They don’t make Land anymore

July 20th, 2007 by JohnEven though there is still some relatively small areas of underused land in parts of the old Soviet Union and elsewhere, worldwide we are losing vast areas to desertification, salination and the paving over for new housing, industry roads and other transport infrastructure. Most unused land in the world is either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry,  too steep or too rocky. With rapid urbanisation happening in most parts of the world, it’s mainly using up flat, fertile land on coastal plains or near rivers. Cities are rarely built in deserts or on mountain sides. China’s population is expected to stabilize at 1.6 billion by 2030 and by then the urban population will have increased by 350 million to 880 million. Analysts from Investec say that to house these people will need almost 50 cities the size of greater London It is hard to imagine the loss of good agricultural land this will cause, but similar urbanisation is taking place in India and the rest of the world. Continue reading “Worldwide urbanization, salination and desertification (Google Alert – Peakfood)”

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