climate_change_in_bangladeshWithin the scientific community, it is a foregone conclusion that developing coastal nations with lowland geography are the most susceptible to impending climatic changes. Bangladesh has recently begun to see these effects with sea levels rising and more frequent and intensified weather conditions. Being situated in Southeast Asia, the country is already susceptible to monsoons, landslides, hurricanes and natural flooding. These factors present an alarming set of natural environmental implications.

This is especially true for a country where a quarter of the land area is less than 7 feet above sea level. Bangladeshi scientists have estimated that by 2050, 17 percent of the country area will have been submerged. This would displace roughly 18 million people and, in turn, significantly cut the country’s food supply.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and underdeveloped countries in the world. The country has roughly a fifth of the land area of France and contains a population of about 166 Million. This has resulted in an incredibly high population density at 755 persons per km. This set of circumstances poses a serious problem for almost all current climate projections and estimates.

The overpopulation has also caused a great strain upon the country’s remaining fertile lands. Bangladesh lies in the Ganges River Delta which is made up of over 230 rivers and streams. Approximately 55 percent of the country’s low lying geography is arable land, making agriculture one of Bangladesh’s biggest industries. Currently, 45 percent of the country’s workforce lives in and relies upon a suddenly shrinking agriculture industry.

As flooding increases and sea levels rise, there is simply not enough arable land to sustain a country of over 160 million people. The country’s economy is mostly agrarian-based and many residents are subsistence farmers. The floods have completely destroyed many of the county’s rice crops which are a staple of the Bangladeshi diet and crucial for many farmers’ livelihoods.

Historical data shows that floods have increased in frequency, intensity and duration since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. This past summer, flooding in Northern Bangladesh left half a million people displaced and homeless. The two main rivers of Bangladesh, the Meghna and the Brahmaputra, rose to dangerous levels and completely flooded 14 of the country’s 64 districts. Being displaced from their homes, people sought refuge in makeshift shelters, and in some cases, schools.

In response to these conditions, Bangladesh has initiated a National Plan of Action and National Climate Change Strategy. The programs have begun a process of dredging rivers, raising levees and pumping water to compensate for increased flood conditions. The programs have also focused on creating early warning systems and have built over 2,500 concrete storm shelters. Almost 6,000 km of embankments have been constructed in efforts to combat heightened flood conditions. Additionally, 200 flood shelters have been built as well as almost 5,000 km of drainage channels meant to redirect the flow of floods.

These measures have made a significant impact on short term disaster safety. In 1970, before any sort of emergency response infrastructure, Cyclone Bhola killed an estimated 550,000 Bangladeshis. This stands in comparison to 200 casualties during Cyclone Aila in 2009. While the latter was still a disaster of immense proportions, the disaster preparedness and response measures were clearly evident and effective in terms of saving lives.

In 2013, emergency measures were once again tested when tropical storm Mahasen broke Bangladeshi shores. An estimated one million people from 13 coastal districts were evacuated north to shelters and fortified locations. This was accomplished through a procedure of government alerts, notifications and by collaboration of thousands of volunteers.

A statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs read, “While tropical storm Mahasen reached the coastline of Bangladesh on Thursday weaker than anticipated, the preparedness work undertaken by the Government and humanitarian partners saved countless lives.” This provides further evidence that the disaster mitigation protocols have been effective.

However, being a developing nation in an increasingly dangerous climate, Bangladesh is still relying upon developed countries and NGOs to jointly make changes in both emissions standards and practices. Acute response tactics can certainly provide temporary solutions for saving lives and crops, but measures with a long term focus are necessary for a solution to a much greater global issue.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: BBC, New York Times, United Nations Environmental Programme, Science Direct
Photo: Oxfam

Poverty_in_ManilaThe United Nations ranks any income less than one U.S. dollar and 25 cents as impoverished. For many people in Manila, their income is less than the equivalent of 76 cents in the U.S. per day. Not only do 27.6 million Filipinos live below the poverty line, 12.2 million live below the subsistence level—meaning they are barely making it by on the minimum standard of living.

Infrastructure in Manila has improved since Benigno Aquino became president in 2010; however, inequalities in the city still exist. The 586 slums are put at additional risk when natural disasters strike. On Nov. 14, 2013,  the effects of a typhoon killed 6,000 people and left many homeless.

The Philippines also has one of the highest birth rates in Southeast Asia. The average population for a Manila slum is 75,000-80,000 people per square mile. It is theorized that Filipinos do not believe in or are not educated about contraception. Families generally have 10-12 children, making adequate resources hard to come by.

Most Manila citizens get their food from agriculture—also the city’s main source of income—but some of the poorest find food in the garbage. There is even a word for the food scrapped up from the trash: “pagpag.” Under these conditions, Manila is widespread with disease and illness.

While the government is aware of the problems and has claimed they will work on it, citizens still feel that they are not doing enough. Most aid comes from outside sources and organizations from other countries. There are many factors contributing to the poverty in Manila. Without major intervention, conditions will only continue to get worse for the people of Manila.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: CNN,  Mission Ministries Philippines,  News Statesman
Photo: Zimbio

pathfinder_international
Clarence Gamble was born in 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio and proceeded to attend a slew of universities including the likes of Princeton and Harvard University, where at the latter he received his M.D. degree. Following, he became heavily involved in birth control organizations and research. He worked alongside Planned Parenthood and initiated projects to study population growth in countries such as India and Japan.

In 1957, Gamble founded the Pathfinder Fund, an organization dedicated to providing a wider audience of people with access to safe, efficient and helpful reproductive health services. The fund is donation-based, which came into play as early as the 1960s. In fact in the 1960s the USAID and Office of Population donated $10 million to the organization, thus proving the government’s support of the discussed issues.

Pathfinder was already operating globally in the 60’s and 70’s opening offices in Latin America, Indonesia, Egypt, Chile, the Philippines and actively participating in population schemes in various African countries. Over the decades, the Pathfinder Fund continued to grow and, by the 90’s, it was the Pathfinder International.

In 1996, Pathfinder won the UN Population Award, an award given to someone who has raised awareness of population issues and solutions. And more recently in the 2000’s Pathfinder began the African Youth Alliance program aimed toward people 10-24 years of age in African countries like Botswana and Ghana. It was formed in order to assist with reproductive health.

Nowadays, Pathfinder International continues their hunt for better sexual and reproductive health care for all. They have six main focus areas: Adolescents, HIV/AIDS, Contraception and Family Planning, Advocacy, Abortion and Maternal and Newborn Health.

For example of their comprehensive care, as part of their abortion focus, Pathfinder not only supports a woman’s right to an abortion, but also advocates for safe abortions and rigorous post-abortion care. The organization accomplishes this in a number of ways one being through legislation, and another by funding an expanded number of professionals who can provide the medical and psychological services needed.

Another focus area, the Contraception and Family Planning focus, is also a worldwide project for Pathfinder. Over the years, Pathfinder has involved itself in over 100 countries attempting to integrate family planning concepts and to provide contraception to those in need of it. Above all people need to be educated, and Pathfinder does their best to also take on that responsibility.

Pathfinder International encourages the public to do its part as well. People can host fundraisers and events of that nature to provide contraceptives to people. One of the easiest ways to support the cause is for people to use their voices. People can become a part of their advocacy network or even start a conversation about reproductive health on a public forum. And lastly, Americans can vote for legislation to continue this type of focus. In an ever-growing population, it is important to be as conscious as possible of the world’s sexual and reproductive health.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: Pathfinder International, Harvard Library

Iranian_Population_Increase
As the rest of the world begins to tackle the growing population problem and the threat humans have to the environment, Iran pushes forward with a goal in mind to increase the country’s population.

Hovering around 77 million citizens, Iran is no small country. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently announced on his website that he wishes to “strengthen national identity” with this proposed Iranian population increase.

He also blamed Western culture for the rise in contraception usage and stated that the country should avoid these “undesirable aspects.”

The inherent expectation to come of this campaign is the reduction in access to contraceptive health, damaging the future of women’s rights as well as public health in Iran. Contraception was only introduced to Iran in the 1980s, and its likely disappearance will surely not be taken lightly. Not only will the population increase with no access to contraceptives, but so will the rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Contraceptives have long held more function than simply birth control.

Groups such as the AIDS Research Center at Tehran University have recognized the dangerous path this campaign is heading toward. Without complete access to contraception, educators will not be able to teach community members ways to practice safe sex and prevent the spread of AIDS.

This population policy does not address the needs of the modern Iranian citizen as represented in the reformist group. Those in poverty who struggle to support a small family will face great hardships if they have restricted control over the size of their family.

Iranian reformists are concerned with the future of the country under this new ruling due to its potential impact on women’s equality.

Many believe Iran is taking steps backward with this course of action, shying away from progressive women’s rights. Women’s rights in Iran have seen dismal support and this does little to eradicate that.

Since 1986, the population of Iran has fallen about 2 percent, which may play a part in the government’s decision to incite this new ruling for Iranian population increase. However, according to the World Population Review, Iran’s population is already on the road to rapid increase, with a majority of the population being held in the younger generations and immigrants from surrounding countries. It’s possible that with this new decree, the population will shoot up at alarming rates and threaten the stability of the country.

-Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NY Times World Population Review, Khamenei
Photo: LA Times

slum_africa_boy
A milestone was reached in 2007 – for the first year ever, more people were living in cities than in the country. Forbes magazine estimated that by 2030, around 5 billion of the world’s 8.1 billion people would live in cities. Of those 5 billion, an estimated 2 billion will live in slums in Africa and Asia.

The UN reports that slum children in Sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to suffer from respiratory and water-born illnesses than their rural peers. Additionally, women living in slums are more likely to contract HIV than women in more rural areas. Most lack at least one of the following five basic needs, with some households lacking three or more: durable walls, a secure lease or title, adequate living space, clean water, and working toilets.

Many of the people living in slums are squatters – those lacking legal title to their land and without legal and political rights. Without such rights, there is little incentive for people to invest in their homes or communities. One way to grapple with urban poverty is to promote policies that help squatters attain rights, but in order to do so, the government under which the slum exists must function well enough to enforce such policies.

The infrastructure of these ever-growing cities – roads, public transport, water systems, sanitation, and electricity – cannot keep up with the growing population. Similarly, natural or man-made disasters cannot be managed well because of a lack of emergency resources for all inhabitants.

The education of children is also a problem, as children living in slums are less likely to be enrolled in school than their rural peers. With little economic opportunity and educational opportunity, slums like these are ripe for developing criminal organizations and even militant movements.

Organizations like UN Habitat are working to combat the dangers of growing urban poverty.

City planning, infrastructure development, and participatory slum upgrading are top priority while also focusing on urban legislation, risk management, gender, and youth. Also important is building capacity for organizations and governments that are trying to make a difference.

If unaddressed, there is a danger that our world could soon be dealing with “failed cities” in the same way that it deals with failed states. Mega cities, those with more than 10 million inhabitants, are on the rise across the developing world, and will likely reach 20 million by 2020. Challenges continue to increase and, if left unaddressed, could be detrimental to the global community as a whole.

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: Forbes, UN Habitat
Photo: Wikipedia

fossil_fuel_industry
The United Nations warned on March 22 that increases in energy production through tar sands and fracking for natural gas may serve as a considerable threat to freshwater supplies.

Intensive consumption of freshwater supplies has already caused a concern for water scarcity. Moreover, the global population is expected to rise to eight billion people by the spring of 2024. In the 20th century alone, the world’s population increased from 1.64 billion to 6 billion. To make matters worse, the environmental concerns of a changing climate also make freshwater access more volatile.

The 2014 World Water Development Report on Water and Energy also reported that serious tension between power generation from the fossil fuel industry and environmental considerations will only get worse as time progresses. By 2050, water demand is expected to increase by 55%; however, water use for energy production (through fossil fuel exploitation) is set to increase 20% by 2035.

The report stated that, “Water is used, in varying quantities and ways, in every step of fossil-fuel extraction and processing.” Considering the changes in society coming into the 21st century, the fossil fuel industry has become outdated. Apart from being economically viable in some regards, the pressure that the industry places on the environment goes on to extend to other areas of society, which has sparked considerable public opposition.

For these reasons, the United Nations and most environmental groups assert that a decline in the fossil fuel industry and growth of the renewable energy industry will be necessary for the human race to sustain itself.

Sustainability is becoming more and more necessary over time, and with the expansion of environmentally damaging entities, such as the fossil fuel industry, the problem of climate change might be exacerbated and water resources could become more scarce. Only 3% of all of the water on Earth is from freshwater sources and currently, nearly 1.2 billion people live in areas faced with freshwater scarcity. This number will continue to grow with continued use of large amounts of freshwater within industrial processes.

According to the World Water Development Report, “40[%] of the global population is projected to be living in areas of severe water stress through 2050.”

The issue raises substantial concern for our energy needs. Although our need for energy supply is growing, environmental risks produced by the fossil fuel industry place humanity in a tough position. Though the fossil fuel industry has become considerably active in the political process to be able to sustain itself, the world insists on sustaining the environment moving into the 21st century.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: Common Dreams, Pacific Institute, United Nations, World Odometers
Photo: Money and Markets

Poverty in Sierra Leone
Poverty in Sierra Leone is alive and well. Freetown, the capital and largest city in Sierra Leone, was founded in 1787. It was known as the “Province of Freedom” because it was a British crown colony and the principal base for the suppression of the slave trade. The Maroons were the original settlers, consisting of 1,200 newly freed slaves from Nova Scotia. In 1800, a rebellion of Jamaican slaves escaped and moved to Freetown.

The British Empire’s abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was mostly due to the efforts of William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharpe and Lord Mansfield. They founded a naval base in Freetown in order to patrol against the illegal slave ships that still existed, fining every British ship found with a slave onboard.

Sierra Leone was officially named a crown colony in 1808. In 1833 British Parliament passed the Emancipation Act, which abolished slavery. As a result, over 50,000 freed slaves settled in Freetown by 1855. Their descendants, known as the Krios, now live in a multi-ethnic country. Krio is a widely spoken language throughout the country that some ethnic groups speak, though English is the official language.

Since Sierra Leone gained independence from the British in 1961, the country has experienced many economic, political and social challenges. A rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front plotted to overthrow the Joseph Momoh Government, causing a devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002.

The extreme brutality of this conflict caused over two million people to be displaced and resulted in more than 50,000 casualties. The war ended as a result of a U.N. peacekeeping and British military intervention. The country has made tremendous advancements in establishing a good government and keeping peace and security since the war ended.

Three years after the war ended, Sierra Leone was considered the poorest country in the world. Today, it is ranked at 177 out of 184 countries on the Human Development Index. This minor improvement is partly due to the assistance of international donors. Officials say Sierra Leone is on its way toward securing macroeconomic stability through democratization and stabilization, but large populations of youth who are former combatants are still unemployed, threatening the peace and stability of the country.

More than 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population presently lives in poverty. Many people are living under the poverty line at less than $1.25 per day. The literacy rate is only 41 percent and 70 percent of young people in Sierra Leone are unemployed or underemployed as a result. The poorest people live in the Northern and Southern provinces of the country and consist mostly of landless people, particularly women in rural households.

The civil war and social unrest of previous years caused a severe economic decline that virtually destroyed the physical and social infrastructure of the country, leading to widespread poverty.  Sierra Leone’s development depends on consolidating peace, democracy and increasing its economic growth.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Global Finance, UNDP, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Justinsandefur.org

Vertical Farms
As developing countries slowly modernize, a whole new set of challenges await them. One of those challenges is increased urbanization.

Urbanization is a symptom of modernity that is usually accompanied by a decrease in overall poverty.

As countries implement 21st century medical care and sanitation systems, populations have increased in well-being and life span, which can result in overpopulated cities. As cities become more and more populated, resources will become more scarce. This is especially true for food availability.

Luckily, a new brand of farming is coming to fruition that will help address the problems associated with increased urban populations; it’s called vertical farming.

Vertical farming removes the farms from traditional fields and places them in warehouses several stories high. This allows producers to place farms directly in the cities and away from the drought and disease that normally threatens reliable crop yields. Utilizing hydroponic water systems and LED lighting, the farms provide the ideal environment for plant growth. The LED lights further allow the farmers to dial in the specific spectrum of light ideal to that plant. Fluorescent lights were initially used but proved to be too inefficient.

As LED lights have become more cost effective, they have created the ideal environment for vertical farms. Farmers are even able to program the light to change throughout the day, mimicking the movement and intensity of the actual sun.

The efficiency of LED lights is not where it could be, however. Many farms currently use lights that operate at about 28% efficiency though engineers are developing LEDs that operate at 68% efficiency.

For example, in the Netherlands, engineers at Phillips have successfully created an LED that operates at 150% efficiency.

The beauty of vertical farms is their ability to be greener, more cost efficient and sustainable. Imagine a world where India has vast swaths of its cities dedicated to vertical farming; the amount of relief that could provide to impoverished individuals is staggering.

An example of vertical farming’s potential can be found in Scranton Pennsylvania. Soon, it will have the world’s largest vertical farm composed of a single story building with racks consisting of six levels. The farm will be able to house 17 million plants.

When one considers the challenges urbanization will bring to developing nations, vertical farming presents itself as a panacea.

The U.N. predicts that by the year 2050, there will be 6.25 billion people living in cities. As such, food production will have to increase 70% globally to sustain 2.3 billion people.

The U.N. also predicts that reliance on traditional, “resource-intensive” agricultural products will continue to grow, consisting mainly of livestock and dairy products.

Vertical farms present an opportunity for the world community to truly address hunger. With billions of people expected to occupy world cities in the coming decades, the demand for food will only increase. Vertical farms growing food locally, in a sustainable environment has a chance to provide food for millions who otherwise would go hungry.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: BBC, New Scientist, World Bank
Photo: Amazon

kenyan_refugee_camps
Kenya in recent decades has become a place of refuge for people from all countries in Africa. Nonetheless, this past week, Asman Kamama, the Chairman of the Kenyan Administration and National Security Committee, stated that Kenya would attempt to close all its refugee camps within the next two years. This goal, however, depends upon the stability and improvements made within the countries where the refugees are coming from, particularly Somalia. Of Kenya’s 592, 219 refugees, 476,635 (80%) of these refugees are Somalis.

Groups from Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda also compromise the population of Kenyan refugee camps. As a result of the mass amount of refugees, the populations in refugee camps have swollen and strained the resources available. For example, Dadaab refugee camp, located in Kenya, is ranked the largest refugee camp in the world.

However, the United Nations has denied that an effort has been made to close the Somali refugee camps in Kenya. Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Refugee Agency, stated that the United Nations does not believe “that there is any order for the refugee camps in Kenya to be closed.” McKinsey added, “The Kenyan government and the Kenyan people have been very generous to the refugees over the years, and we certainly have every reason to expect that will continue to be the case.”

The fate of refugees in Kenya is yet to be seen. If Kenya does close the refugee camps, Kamama explained that the return of these refugees will be peaceful and smooth.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: VOA News, All Africa

Photo: Womens News Network

geospatial_worldpop_asia
Led by the University of Southampton, a team of researches have launched an online project, WorldPop, to map detailed population information of countries all over the globe.

With funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the website aims to provide open access to global demographic data which can be used to help combat challenges such as poverty, public health, food security and sustainable urban development. It combines country-specific data from national statistic services to construct detailed population distribution maps. Satellite imagery is also used to provide information on density, land cover and transportation networks.

“Our maps and data are helping charities, policy-makers, governments and researchers to make decisions which affect the quality of people’s lives. These could be as diverse as predicting the spread of infectious diseases, planning the development of transport systems or distributing vital aid to disaster zones,” said geographer at Southampton Dr. Andy Tatem, leader of the project.  “For example, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with devastating effect, international organizations were able to download information about population density from our website to help with estimating impact and delivering aid efforts.”

Each country possesses its own summary page that users can view high resolution maps showing population numbers, age distributions, births, pregnancies, rates of poverty and urban growth.. Currently, WorldPop provides free data for Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Researches now plan to expand the project to cover all continents of the world and stress that datasets are regularly updated as necessary.

“The global human population is growing by over 80 million a year, and is projected to reach the 10 billion mark within 50 years. The vast majority of this growth is expected to be concentrated in low income countries, and primarily in urban areas. The effects of such rapid growth are well documented, with the economies, environment and health of nations all undergoing significant change,” said Tatem.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Health Canal, Geospatial World, University of Southampton
Photo: WorldPop