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Laws needed to restore wildlife and increase access to nature

FEWER than one in ten children play regularly in wild places, campaigners warned as they called for new laws to restore wildlife and increase access to nature.

If every household in England had good access to quality green spaces, it could save an estimated £2.1bn in healthcare costs, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts said.

But the UK’s natural environment is in decline, while inactivity and obesity are escalating, towns, villages and cities are facing a growing risk of flooding, and the economy is using the natural world unsustainably, the wildlife groups warned.

The economy, communities, education and well-being are all inextricably linked with a healthy natural environment and people’s quality of life will suffer if action is not taken to boost nature, they said.

The RSPB and Wildlife Trusts are calling for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act, which would commit to restoring nature in England within a generation.

New laws would include targets for increasing populations of key species by ten per cent and ensuring that 80 per cent of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are in good condition by 2040.

The Act would also put a duty on national and local authorities to increase the extent and quality of natural green spaces in all settlements and to ensure all households have access to nature.

A green paper from the conservation groups also calls for the creation of a Natural Capital Committee or Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise new laws for their environmental impact and ensure that nature is properly valued.

The green paper highlights the need for nature, warning that the most deprived communities are 10 times less likely to live in the greenest areas. Fewer than one in ten children play regularly in wild places compared with almost half a generation ago.

The physical fitness of children is declining by up to nine per cent a decade, physical inactivity costs the economy £20bn a year and mental health issues affect one in four people, with the costs of mental health problems soaring to more than £100bn.

But accessible green space is good for mental and physical health, boosting exercise and reducing stress. Nature near home is particularly important for children, helping them cope with stressful life events and increasing cognitive function and attention spans.

However nature is struggling, with 60 per cent of studied species declining in the last 50 years and habitats vanishing.

Campaigner and author Dr Tony Juniper, who is backing the call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act, said: “For too long we’ve become used to seeing nature as a ‘nice to have’, a luxury we can afford in the good times. Even worse, we have recently been told that looking after nature gets in the way of growth and competitiveness.

“All this is plain wrong. Nature is neither an optional extra nor a barrier to development. Healthy nature is a vital prerequisite for our long-term health, wealth and security.”

Steve Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ director, England, said: “The green paper provides powerful and irresistible arguments for why we need urgent change.

“If we look after the natural environment, it will look after us and it can help solve some of society’s most expensive problems.

“We need new and visionary legislation to underpin the needs of 21st century society in building a better relationship with nature – for people and wildlife.”

Martin Harper, conservation director for the RSPB, said: “We know that nature is good for us but we also know that nature is in trouble and that our children rarely play in natural places.

“In this green paper, we demonstrate that our national wealth and our national health depend on action to protect nature, and so do many of our most wonderful species and habitats.

“That’s why the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are challenging all political parties to introduce a Nature and Wellbeing Act in the next Parliament – only by valuing, protecting and connecting people with our natural world will government achieve its social and economic plans.”

Liberal Democrat Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: “This is the latest welcome step in the RSPB and Wildlife Trust’s strong record of campaigning to improve access to good quality natural spaces.

“Liberal Democrats want everyone to have access to nature, which is why we will introduce a Nature Act in the next parliament to improve access to nature and a raft of other measures to build a stronger, greener economy and a fairer, greener society.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We absolutely recognise how important the natural environment is to people’s quality of life.

“That is why we have supported the planting of over eight million trees, invested £88m to improve our rivers – with water quality improving – and established 12 new Nature Improvement Areas to encourage species and habitats to grow.

“We are now expanding England’s woodland cover at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the 14th century – giving families the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.”

Article source: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/NEWS/11564689.Laws_needed_to_restore_wildlife_and_increase_access_to_nature/?ref=rss

Call for laws to restore wildlife

Fewer than one in 10 children play regularly in wild places, campaigners warned as they called for new laws to restore wildlife and increase access to nature.

If every household in England had good access to quality green spaces, it could save an estimated £2.1 billion in healthcare costs, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts said.

But the UK’s natural environment is in decline, while inactivity and obesity are escalating, towns, villages and cities are facing a growing risk of flooding, and the economy is using the natural world unsustainably, the wildlife groups warned.

The economy, communities, education and well-being are all inextricably linked with a healthy natural environment and people’s quality of life will suffer if action is not taken to boost nature, they said.

The RSPB and Wildlife Trusts are calling for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act, which would commit to restoring nature in England within a generation.

New laws would include targets for increasing populations of key species by 10% and ensuring that 80% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are in good condition by 2040.

The Act would also put a duty on national and local authorities to increase the extent and quality of natural green spaces in all settlements and to ensure all households have access to nature.

A green paper from the conservation groups also calls for the creation of a Natural Capital Committee or Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise new laws for their environmental impact and ensure that nature is properly valued.

The green paper highlights the need for nature, warning that the most deprived communities are 10 times less likely to live in the greenest areas. Fewer than one in 10 children play regularly in wild places compared with almost half a generation ago.

The physical fitness of children is declining by up to 9% a decade, physical inactivity costs the economy £20 billion a year and mental health issues affect one in four people, with the costs of mental health problems soaring to more than £100 billion.

But accessible green space is good for mental and physical health, boosting exercise and reducing stress. Nature near home is particularly important for children, helping them cope with stressful life events and increasing cognitive function and attention spans.

However nature is struggling, with 60% of studied species declining in the last 50 years and habitats vanishing.

Campaigner and author Dr Tony Juniper, who is backing the call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act, said: “For too long we’ve become used to seeing nature as a ‘nice to have’, a luxury we can afford in the good times. Even worse, we have recently been told that looking after nature gets in the way of growth and competitiveness.

“All this is plain wrong. Nature is neither an optional extra nor a barrier to development. Healthy nature is a vital prerequisite for our long-term health, wealth and security.”

Steve Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ director, England, said: “The green paper provides powerful and irresistible arguments for why we need urgent change.

“If we look after the natural environment, it will look after us and it can help solve some of society’s most expensive problems.

“We need new and visionary legislation to underpin the needs of 21st century society in building a better relationship with nature – for people and wildlife.”

Martin Harper, conservation director for the RSPB, said: “We know that nature is good for us but we also know that nature is in trouble and that our children rarely play in natural places.

“In this green paper, we demonstrate that our national wealth and our national health depend on action to protect nature, and so do many of our most wonderful species and habitats.

“That’s why the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are challenging all political parties to introduce a Nature and Wellbeing Act in the next Parliament – only by valuing, protecting and connecting people with our natural world will government achieve its social and economic plans.”

Liberal Democrat Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: “T his is the latest welcome step in the RSPB and Wildlife Trust’s strong record of campaigning to improve access to good quality natural spaces.

“Liberal Democrats want everyone to have access to nature, which is why we will introduce a Nature Act in the next parliament to improve access to nature and a raft of other measures to build a stronger, greener economy and a fairer, greener society.”

Article source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/call-laws-restore-wildlife-000147706.html

Nature high for Conservation Week

Conservation Week presents the perfect time for families to explore and enjoy the outdoors, discovering hidden treasures such as the gondola-accessed interactive nature trails on the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha at Skyline Rotorua.

The theme for this year’s Conservation Week (1-9 November) is ‘Discover the world where you live’ and Skyline Rotorua are encouraging visitors to take the opportunity to enjoy Mt Ngongotaha’s native flora and fauna, spot some of Rotorua’s landmarks and ‘meet’ some new furry friends on the attraction’s interactive nature trails.

Skyline Rotorua general manager Bruce Thomasen says the trails encourage visitors to engage with nature, including exploring ‘Weta Hotels’ – a safe, dark and moist atmosphere for large New Zealand cave weta – an environment the native critters love.

“The weta access their ‘hotel’ via the back panels and visitors using our trails can open the front door and look inside, catching a rare glimpse of a weta’s dwelling. Children love lifting the flap and learning about a creature that can only be found in New Zealand – weta outlived the dinosaurs and are more primitive than the tuatara.”

Another interactive panel includes a hands-on wind-up grinder that generates native New Zealand bird noises and visitors can also ‘meet’ the four-legged members of the Skyline family – sheep, alpaca and deer.

The trails include a number of looking-holes that highlight some of Rotorua’s well-known landmarks, providing information on local history and a picturesque backdrop for family photos.

“Parents and their children are enjoying the chance to learn more about Mt Ngongotaha and the surrounds. Local history is mixed in with fun through the interactive ‘touch and feel’ nature of the signage,” says Mr Thomasen.

He says the introduction of the animals and nature trails are in-keeping with Skyline’s commitment to sustainability management and the environment.

“More than 15,000 native trees have been planted on-site and we have installed feeding troughs in the trees to encourage birdlife to the area. We have also created a wetland from storm water run-off and recycled paper.

“Skyline has more than 90 acres of land and one of the key reasons for having the livestock in the paddock is to keep the grass down. Prior to their arrival the paddocks had to be mowed constantly, with the steep terrain proving difficult. On the other hand, they have also added another fun family experience that is proving popular with both domestic and international visitors alike.”

Skyline Rotorua is a founding member and current silver sponsor of the Rotorua Sustainable Tourism Charter and holder of a Qualmark Enviro-Gold Award.

Article source: https://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/local/25384054/nature-high-for-conservation-week/

India’s ethos of harmony with nature can help environment, UN told

United Nations, Oct 28 (IANS) In the age of globalisation India’s ethos of harmony with nature can help find solutions for a world struggling to balance the needs of development and the environment, Amit Narang, a counsellor at the Indian Mission said Monday.

“The Indian ethos of harmony with nature, of treating nature’s bounties as sacred, of seeking a dialogue with nature rather than seeking to dominate it, has special relevance in today’s day and age,” he told a UN General Assembly (UNGA) committee that deals with economic and financial matters during a discussion on globalization and interdependence.

Narang referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the UNGA last month extolling yoga’s relevance for the globalized world, in particular for the environment. “The holistic approach to life that yoga fosters could contribute not only to an improvement in quality of life but also greater harmony between people and between man and nature,” Narang said.

He asserted that the nation’s wisdom of millennia emphasised a “culture of frugality, of doing more with less, of taking only as much as required from nature and of no wastage.” It was “particularly relevant for today’s world struggling to manage global commons and achieve sustainable development,” he said.

Globalisation required a free flow ideas and embracing the good ones from all over, he said, adding that India “as a millennia old civilization and with its multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual social ethos and a pluralistic, democratic polity, has a lot to contribute to enrich the global discourse of ideas.”

On other issues impacting globalisation, Narang called for liberalising movement of temporary workers across nations, he said. “Such liberalization would permit mutually beneficial solutions, matching the demand for specialists in developed countries with the availability of such talent in developing countries.”

At the same time, he said international coordination was needed to tackle “irregular migration” which had “serious security implications” and also had led to people trafficking.

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Article source: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=272949

Even Worldwide Pandemic Can’t Cull Unsustainable Human Population

Environmental scientists for the most part agree that the human population is growing at an unsustainable rate, to the point that even fertility restrictions and a worldwide pandemic couldn’t solve the problem, according to new research.

There are currently more than seven billion people on Earth. And despite the United Nation’s (UN) belief that humanity would level off, so to speak, a report published just last month shows that the 21st century may get a lot more crowded than previously thought. The global population will continue to grow to a whopping 11 billion people by the time the year 2100 rolls around.

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With this latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the hope of a “quick fix” for environmental problems is shattered, as stringent fertility restrictions or a catastrophic mass mortality would not even bring about large enough change this century to solve issues of global sustainability.

“Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14 percent of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today – that’s a sobering statistic,” ecologist and professor Corey Bradshaw, from the University of Adelaide, who co-led the study, said in a statement. “This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment.”

Family Matters

In the study, Bradshaw and co-author Professor Barry Brook examined several hypothetical scenarios, such as declining fertility and mass casualties, to see what impact these would have on subsequent population growth rates.

Family planning and birth control, for instance, could be implemented via education programs to try to curb our growing numbers; it worked in China. The country’s one-child policy, beginning in 1979, limited families to a single child. The plan – while also leading to a gender imbalance – helped avert 400 million births.

However, “even one-child policies imposed worldwide would still likely result in [5 billion] to 10 billion people by 2100,” Bradshaw said in the statement.

In another scenario, the researchers wanted to see what would happen if two billion people died over the course of a five-year period in the mid-21st century, for example, by a war or pandemic. They calculated the world’s population would still grow to 8.5 billion by 2100.

“We were surprised that a five-year WWIII scenario mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the First and Second World Wars combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century,” Brook added.

Although the researchers don’t plan on starting a third World War or releasing some catastrophic disease, the results don’t deter them from trying fertility reduction efforts, which are obviously more realistic, and ethical. The duo says it could still lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed by mid-century, which is better than nothing.

Unfortunately, most of us alive today would not reap the benefits of this type of family planning.

“Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning,” Brooks said, “but people alive today will not.”

Feed the World

Forget about finding room for all these people, these growing numbers will place more stress on Earth’s resources, which will struggle to keep up.

Scientists worry about the conversion of forests for agriculture, the rise of urbanization, the impacts on wildlife, pollution, and climate change, according to BBC News. In addition, perhaps most importantly, how can we expect to feed the world as it gets bigger and bigger and consumption rates increase?

When we think about threats to our environment, we picture power plants and deforestation, not our dinner plates. But our need for food, National Geographic reports, poses one of the biggest dangers to our planet.

Our hunger for beef, for example, is already taking a toll on wildlife, habitat and the climate. Nature World News previously reported that by eating less or no meat (that’s not to say you have to become a vegetarian), we can simultaneously get healthier and protect the planet.

But if current trends continue and demands for products like meat and dairy increase, the global food supply may not meet future demand. We would have to double the amount of crops we grow by 2050.

“For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy,” Fred Davies, senior science advisor for the US Agency for International Development’s bureau of food security, said in a press release.

To rise to the challenge, humanity would have to develop more efficient technologies for harvesting crops, according to Davies.

But increasing agricultural practices poses its own problems. National Geographic says that the practice is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, “emitting more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes combined.” Methane and nitrous oxide are released from cattle and rice farms and fertilized fields, respectively, while the infamous carbon dioxide gas builds up in the atmosphere as forests are cut down to make room for farm land.

More than a third of recent deforestation can be tied to production of beef, soy, palm oil and timber alone.

What Does the Future Hold?

Based on UN estimates, India will boast the most people of any country in the future, with its numbers peaking around 2070 and declining to around 1.5 or 1.6 billion by 2100. But Africa is going to see a population explosion. The population in that region could quadruple, from less than one billion to nearly four billion, the report says, mostly because fertility is falling there much more slowly compared to other countries.

All these numbers and figures may be staggering, but scientists maintain an optimistic outlook.

“These are not predictions,” John Wilmoth, head of the UN Population Division, told National Geographic. “These are projections of what will happen if current trends continue. There is still an opportunity to intervene.”

“Society’s efforts towards sustainability would be directed more productively towards reducing our impact as much as possible through technological and social innovation,” Bradshaw concluded.

Article source: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/9909/20141028/even-worldwide-pandemic-cant-cull-unsustainable-human-population.htm

Salt Poisoning Costs Agriculture $27 Billion Every Year

Imagine once healthy farmland rich with the signs of life reduced to a barren wasteland. Even as you walk across it, a strange white crust crunches under your feet, reminding you of the root of the problem: salt. A team of international experts has now found that salt poisoning costs the world an additional 2,000 hectares of agricultural soil every day, and while some of this is natural, a large part can be blamed on irrigation.

Salt is naturally present in most soil already. However, if left to accumulate with the help of irrigation, increasingly high levels of salt can cut crop yields by 15 to 70 percent, and eventually render entire swaths of farmland unusable.

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Now, a new agriculture assessment from the United Nations has found that salt poisoning is affecting more than a fifth of the world’s irrigated soil, and is leading to a gradual loss in productive farmland.

The study, described in the journal Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration, was based on data compiled in an international effort by researchers from Canada, Jordan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Paying special attention to instances of salt poisoning among irrigated cropland, agricultural and economic experts found that salt poisoning is costing the world a whopping $27.3 billion (USD) in lost crop production. (Scroll to read on…)

“There are other cost implications such as employment losses, increase in human and animal health problems, and treatment costs, infrastructure deterioration (including roads, railways, and buildings), losses on property values of farms with degraded land, and the social cost of farm businesses,” the researchers added. “In addition, there could be associated environmental costs as these lands emit more carbon thus contribute to global warming.”

With these indirect factors considered, that $27.3 billion is but a drop in the bucket of salt poisoning costs, especially as the world’s reliance on irrigation continues to grow. However, a “salt apocalypse” is not upon the world’s farmers just yet.

The authors found that bringing salt-damaged farmlands back into use with the help of trusted chemicals such as gypsum could help. Improving the maintenance and quality of irritation systems to cut down deposited salinity is another option.

The study also acknowledges that these solutions are costly and sometimes even impossible. Most regions that employ strictly irrigated farmland do so because of their lack of regular precipitation in the first place, which makes the regular flushing of accumulating salt a difficult task.

However, the authors are quick to add that “salt-affected lands are a valuable resource that cannot be neglected nor easily abandoned.”

“To feed the world’s anticipated nine billion people by 2050, and with little new productive land available, it’s a case of all lands needed on deck,” principal author Manzoor Qadir said in a statement. “We can’t afford not to restore the productivity of salt-affected lands.”

Article source: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/9908/20141028/salt-poisoning-costs-agriculture-27-billion-year.htm

Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders Network Presents Inaugural Legacy Award to Local Outdoor Champions

Natural Leaders Legacy Camp 2014

I’m proud to partner with the Natural Leaders Network and continue this important conversation about connecting more young people in the Latino community to outdoor activities

Kennewick, Wash. (PRWEB) October 28, 2014

The Natural Leaders Network, a program of the Children Nature Network, continues to build momentum around the need for increased diversity in the outdoors. In partnership with The REI Foundation and Senator Patty Murray, they will host a reception to celebrate the honorees of the inaugural Legacy Award in the Tri-cities area. This award pays tribute to three diverse millennial leaders who are engaging their community in outdoor recreation and conservation, which addresses the decline of diversity among outdoor participants and conservationists.

Contreras, Hernandez-Osorio, and Lazaro were chosen by an esteemed panel including Martin Valadez, board member and past president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Leonor de Maldonado, Director Columbia Basin College’s High School Academy, and Martin LeBlanc, Senior Vice President of External Affairs from Bainbridge Island based IslandWood. This event will highlight the work being done by these organizations, as well as positive outcomes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund projects in the Tri-Cities area.

“This is a great opportunity for Latino youth to develop their leadership skills while enjoying and learning more about the outdoors,” said Valadez, “As the Latino population grows it’s important for us to prepare our youth to take on leadership roles and to learn how to protect and enjoy the environment.”

The presentation of this award follows other notable events in 2014, including a Congressional Briefing with the office of Senator Patty Murray in Washington D.C., designed to address the existing challenges facing the conservation community, and specifically, the lack of diversity of park users and outdoor enthusiasts, during Great Outdoors America Week in June.

“I’m proud to partner with the Natural Leaders Network and continue this important conversation about connecting more young people in the Latino community to outdoor activities, and to all of the educational and professional opportunities our great outdoors has to offer,” said Senator Murray. “The leaders we’re recognizing today have already done an enormous amount to support this effort, and I look forward to working with them to encourage families and communities across Washington state to enjoy our beautiful public lands.”

“Our students are thrilled to be receiving this recognition. We find that our students consistently demonstrate courage and perseverance in overcoming obstacles. It is an honor that our Latino youth have this opportunity to hone their leadership skills in order to take on their role as community leaders who will promote the protection, enjoyment, and conservation of our natural resources.” said Leonor Maldonado, Director of Columbia Basin College High School Academy.

As the largest and fastest growing demographic group in the country, trends indicate a growing opportunity for Latinos to help contribute to many of the conservation and outdoor recreation challenges we face. For instance, in this year’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Top line Participation Report, authored by the Outdoor Foundation, young outdoor enthusiasts were slightly more diverse in 2013 than they were in 2012, thanks to increased Hispanic participation. In fact, Hispanic participation increased from eight percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2013.

“We applaud these award winners for their leadership to inspire their peers, family and community to make recreating outside part of everyday life. Simple encouragement and an open invitation to join a loved one or friend in a natural setting is a very powerful step,” said Marc Berejka, REI director of Government and Community Affairs. “The REI Foundation is a proud supporter of Natural Leaders Network and the Children Nature Network.”

“Engaging the Latino community is key to closing the diversity gap in the conservation and outdoor recreation fields,” said Juan Martinez, Director of the Natural Leaders Network. “We want to take this opportunity to recognize the existing leaders who are already doing this work on the ground, and highlight their accomplishments with the hope of inspiring others in their community to do the same,” he said.

(To follow conversation on Twitter, please use #LegacyAward2014.)

About The Children Nature Network:

Since it’s founding in 2006, the Children Nature Network has been advocating for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well being through direct experiences in nature. CNN’s vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. CNN provides a wide range of research and user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. For more information, visit childrenandnature.org.


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Article source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12266739.htm