50 Environment News Stories from 2014
In 2014, EUROGEO (the European Association of Geographers) completed 35 years of operation. This is the latest of a series of blog posts celebrating this anniversary by looking back at 2014 from the monthly newsletter of the association. This blog explores some of the environmental geography stories. Subscribe to the EUROGEO newsletter
A number of articles in 2014 related to the adoption of environmental policy and subsequent decision making - at the local, national or even international scales. Lobbying involves giving views and information to decision-makers in order to influence them toward the action you want.
The article Whose role is it to lobby? considered the delicate position of scientists in advocating particular policies. To whom should ‘scientific’ messages be addressed and what the appropriate level to deal with concerns?
The scale of environmental issues and role of transnational organisations was highlighted in Connect green revolution science to the UN and World Urban forum - Finding a place for cities in the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals”.
The positive nature of decision making was featured in EU to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, Global leaders tackle growing strain on natural resources and the 6 Lessons Brazilian Cities Learned from Greenhouse Gas Inventories. But the restrictive nature of political actions in preventing the publication of scientific results came to light in Scientist silencing in Canada continues for federally-funded research, as responsible, ethical approaches are called for.
The relationships between citizen participation, empowerment and environmental issues were raised as new geo-media tools were developed in Europe (Help tackle European marine litter problem by collecting data with the EEA app) and in China (Chinese environmental group develops app to shame air polluting factories). Perhaps these provide models for the future of engagement in the processes of democratic participation in a broad range of environmental issues.
Stories dealt with the complexity of specific environmental problems, for instance the future production of fossil fuels where Germany plans to bulldoze towns for brown coal and Poland hosts both the UN climate change conference AND an international coal summit, where research confirms Black carbon is worse for global warming than previously thought.
Important messages were given about the potential of the oceans (Seas and oceans can provide solutions to ‘societal challenges’) and environmental impacts of plastic (Choking the Oceans With Plastic). Analysis of the problems and likely future perspectives are alarming (What are the sources and impacts of marine litter?) as more than a trillion bits of plastic may be released into the ocean over the next 10 years. It is clear that educating about our oceans has never been so important (How our oceans are creeping back into geography classrooms).
Environmental pollution in Chinese cities featured strongly in several news items especially in Urbanization and catastrophic levels of pollution, Beijing is so smoggy China now televises sunrises on giant TV screens and China faces $176bn bill to clean up air pollution. The question about whether the impact of policy can reduce pollution was raised in Can China’s Air Pollution Action Plan Slow Down New Coal Power Development?. Does development have to go hand in hand with increased pollution?
Reporting on the environment is increasingly related to technological advances that lead to socially acceptable innovative paths towards sustainability. Monitoring and measuring impact was described in Mapping Calgary’s Wasted Heat and in mitigation as Brazil uses satellite imagery to reduce illegal deforestation.
Several articles considered environmental innovation in developing new products, efficiencies or process design, focusing on the technological aspects, for instance in India (building solar canals to produce energy while slowing water loss), the Sahel region (learning to reap benefits of shade) and the River Severn, UK (Balanced Technology Approach to Energy).
Live data and real-time science was featured in Air pollution around the world mapped by city and Lifemapper shows where Earths organisms live today and might go tomorrow.
An awareness of the environmental consequences of potential social, economic, and technological changes was a regular feature in 2014, especially in making an effort to anticipate future environmental issues and plan strategically to avoid problems, rather than responding to them after the fact.
Forward-looking perspectives, considering future actions and planning for an uncertain environmental future included environmental legacy (Brazil has world’s weirdest carbon footprint but the future is uncertain), energy debates (The future offshore is wind), rainforest (Can oil save the Ecuador rainforest?), climate (Scientists and aid experts plan for a warmer future) and Antarctica (Six Priorities for Antarctic science).
All 50 selected Environmental Geography stories are available at http://eurogeography.eu/eurogeo-newsletter/news-2014-environment.html