For one billion people around the world, the daily effort to grow, buy or sell food is the defining struggle of their lives. This matters to
them, and to all of us.
Consider the daily life of the world’s typical small farmer. She lives in a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or Latin America, and farms a piece of land she does not own. She works all day in a field. If she’s lucky, drought, blight or pests don’t destroy her crops, and she raises enough to feed her family. She may even have some left over to sell. But there’s no road to the nearest market and no one there who can afford to buy from her.
Now let’s consider the life of a young man in a crowded city 100 miles from that farmer. He has no job — or a job that pays pennies. He goes to the market — but the food is rotting, or priced beyond reach. He is hungry, and often angry. She has extra food to sell; he wants to buy it. But that simple transaction can’t take place because of complex forces beyond their control.
Meeting the challenge of global hunger is at the heart of what we call “food security” — empowering the world’s farmers to sow and harvest plentiful crops, effectively care for livestock or catch fish — and then ensuring that the food they produce reaches people most in need.
Food security is not only about food. It represents the convergence of complex issues: droughts and floods caused by climate change, swings in the global economy that affect food prices and threaten the fate of vital infrastructure projects, and spikes in the price of oil that increase transportation costs.
But food security is all about security. Chronic hunger poses a threat to the stability of governments, societies and borders. People who are starving or undernourished, have no incomes and can’t care for their families are left with feelings of hopelessness and despair. That desperation can lead to tension, conflict and even violence. Since 2007, there have been riots over food in more than 60 countries.
The failures of farming in many parts of the world have a powerful impact on the global economy. Farming is the only or primary source of income for more than three-quarters of the world’s poor. When so much of humankind works hard everyday but still can’t support their families, the whole world is held back.
The Obama administration sees chronic hunger as a key priority of our foreign policy. Other countries are joining us in this effort. Major industrialised nations have committed more than $22 billion over three years to spur agriculture-led economic growth. And on September 26, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and i co-hosted a gathering of leaders from more than 130 countries to build international support.
The US approach to food security will be informed by our experience with development. The truth is, we have spent too many years and too much money on development projects that have not yielded lasting results. But we have learned from these efforts. We know that the most effective strategies emanate from those closest to the problems, not foreign governments or institutions thousands of miles away. And we know that development works best when it is seen not as aid but as investment.
Our food security initiative will be guided by five principles, which will help us get to the roots of the problem and pursue lasting change. First, we understand there is no one-size-fits-all model for agriculture. So we will work with partner countries to create and implement their plans. Second, we will address the underlying causes of hunger by investing in everything from better seeds to risk-sharing programmes to protect small farmers. Since the majority of the world’s farmers are women, it’s critical that our investments leverage their ambition and perseverance.
Third, no one entity can eradicate hunger on its own. But if stakeholders work together — coordinating on the country, regional and global levels — our impact can multiply. Fourth, multilateral institutions have the reach and resources that extend beyond any one country. By supporting their efforts, we will benefit from their expertise. Lastly, we pledge long-term commitment and accountability. To prove it, we will invest in monitoring and evaluation tools that will allow the public to see what we have done.
This effort may take years, even decades, before we reach the finish line. But we pledge our full resources and energies. We will maintain our deep commitment to emergency food assistance, to answer the urgent cry for help when tragedies and disasters take their toll — as is happening now in the Horn of Africa, where drought, crop failures and civil war have caused the worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years.
Revitalising global agriculture will not be easy. In fact, it is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive diplomacy and development efforts our country has ever undertaken. But it can be done. It is worth doing. And if we succeed, our future will be more prosperous and more peaceful than our past.
The writer is US secretary of state.
Today is World Food Day.
Parents in some of Africa’s poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough.
A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture. According to the UN food agency, which issued the report, 30 countries now require emergency aid, including 20 in Africa.
The trend continues despite a goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015.
“It’s actually a world emergency that calls for action from both developing and developed countries,” said Otive Igbuzor, the head of international campaigns for ActionAid International.
“We know a child
dies every six seconds of malnutrition,” he said.
Spiraling food prices have added to hardships, especially in the world’s most desperate countries where the poor could barely afford a single daily meal to begin with. The inflated prices — which caused riots across the globe last year — have stabilized but remain comparatively high, especially in the developing world, Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said.
In Somalia, ravaged by violence and anarchy for almost two decades, the monthly expenditure for food and other basic needs for a family of six has risen 85 percent in the past two years, said Grainne Moloney of the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.
On average, such a family spent $171 in September this year, compared with $92 for the same amount of food and other needs in March 2007, said Moloney, a nutrition expert for the Horn of Africa nation.
“Families are cutting out the school, cutting out the clothes. A lot of them are going for cheaper cereals,” said Moloney, adding that despite those desperate measures, one in five children in Somalia is acutely malnourished.
Igbuzor said the trend can be seen in impoverished countries across Africa. In Kenya, herders have seen scores of their animals die and crops have withered because of drought. Today, 3.8 million people in Kenya need food aid, up from 2.5 million earlier in the year.
After worldwide gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year amid escalating food prices and the global financial meltdown, the FAO said in its Wednesday report.
The long-term trend is due largely to reduced aid and private investments
earmarked for agriculture since the mid 1980s, the Rome-based agency said in its State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.
In 1980, 17 per cent of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. That share was down to 3.8 per cent in 2006 and only slightly improved in the last three years, Diouf said.
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) ― Delaware environment officials have approved a $500 million air pollution control project at the Indian River power plant.
NRG, the plant’s owner, says the project approved Wednesday may create 500 construction jobs. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says the project will save $2 billion in health care costs.
The department says the project is expected to reduce air emissions by 75 to 90 percent.
NRG officials say they’re working this year to lower pollutants and the plant’s compliance with DNREC standards is required in 2012.
One of the changes is a mandate to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 60,000 tons per year. Environmental officials say mercury, soot, nitrogen oxide, ammonia and acid gas emissions will be significantly lower after work is completed.
NEW DELHI: Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said that India is soon expected to get an aid of 3 billion dollar from the World Bank
for preparing projects to clean the river Ganga.
Ramesh said this after attending the first meeting of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the national capital.
“We are hopeful of clinching an agreement with the World Bank, as the President of the World Bank will visit India in December. The preliminary indications from the World Bank are very positive,” Ramesh said.
“Discussions between Environment and Forest Ministry and the World Bank are proceeding very rapidly and we are likely to get 3 billion dollars very soon for preparing projects under what is called the project preparation facility under the World Bank,” he added.
The government had earlier constituted NGRBA, under the Environment (Protection) Act as an empowered authority to adopt a new holistic river basin approach to the cleaning of the river Ganga and address the issue of minimum ecological flows, besides pollution abatement works.
The meeting decided that the on-going sewage treatment projects would be put on fast track and states will formulate projects for critical pollution hotspots and major towns near river Ganga and its tributaries by November 30, 2009.
“By 2020 mission the objective is that no untreated municipal sewage and no untreated industrial effluents will be allowed to flow into river Ganga without full treatment,” Ramesh added.
The central and state governments will also provide an estimated Rs 150 billion for the initiative over the next 10 years.
Industrial discharges, sewage, pesticides and the rotting remains of dead bodies have increased pollution levels in the river over the years despite government promises to clean-up country’s most sacred river.
You and your children are sitting in traffic behind a large truck with black fumes spewing from the tailpipe. Ever wonder just what that exhaust is doing to you? To your kids? That black plume is more complex—and more dangerous—than you might think. New research explains why we must do more to clean up the air.
New studies are confirming that not only can that black plume of smoke make you cough and blink, but it can do much worse—it could take months to years off your life. It can harm your children’s lungs—for life. As you stare at that dark and gritty smoke, be aware that you can’t actually see all its dangers.
Spewing out are some of the raw ingredients for ozone and particle pollution, the most widespread and deadly types of air pollution. Scientists keep finding out more about how dangerous they are.
What is Ozone?
Ozone (O3) is an extremely reactive gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. It is the primary ingredient of smog air pollution and is very harmful to breathe. Ozone essentially attacks lung tissue by reacting chemically with it.
News about ozone can be confusing. Some days you hear that ozone levels are too high and other days that we need to prevent ozone depletion. Basically, the ozone layer found high in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) is beneficial because it shields us from much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. However, ozone air pollution at ground level where we can breathe it (in the troposphere) is anything but beneficial. It causes serious health problems.
Where Does Ozone Come From?
What you see coming out of the tailpipe on that truck isn’t ozone, but the raw ingredients for making ozone. Like some types of particle pollution, ozone is formed by chemical reactions in the atmosphere from two gases that do come out of tailpipes, smokestacks and many other sources. These essential raw ingredients for ozone are nitrogen oxides (NOX) and hydrocarbons, also called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are produced primarily when fossil fuels like gasoline or coal are burned or when fossil fuel-based chemicals, such as paints, evaporate. When they come in contact with both heat and sunlight, these molecules combine and form ozone. NOX is emitted from power plants, motor vehicles and other sources of high-heat combustion. VOCs are emitted from motor vehicles, chemical plants, refineries, factories, gas stations, paints and other sources.
The recipe for ozone is simple and, like any recipe, the ingredients must all be present and in the right proportions to make the final product.
NOX + VOC + Heat + Sunlight = Ozone
You may have wondered why “ozone action day” warnings are sometimes followed by recommendations to avoid activities such as mowing your lawn or refilling your gas tank during daylight hours. Lawn mower exhaust and evaporating gasoline vapors turn into ozone in the heat and sun. If you take away the sunlight, then ozone doesn’t form, so refilling your gas tank after dark is better on high ozone days. In the same way, if we reduce the chemical raw ingredients (NOX and VOCs) in the right proportions, ozone doesn’t form. Since we can’t control sunlight and heat, we must reduce the chemical raw ingredients if we want to reduce ozone.
How Ozone Pollution Harms Your Health
Scientists have studied the effects of ozone on health for decades. Time and time again research has confirmed that ozone harms people at levels currently found in the United States. In the last few years, we’ve learned that it can also be deadly.
Breathing ozone may shorten your life
Strong evidence arrived late in 2004, when two large investigations documented that short-term exposure to ozone can shorten lives. Numerous earlier studies had linked short-term exposure to ozone to an increased risk of premature death, so these probes focused directly on that question. One of them looked at 95 cities across the United States over a 14-year period. That study compared the impact of ozone on death patterns during several days after the ozone measurements. Even on days when ozone levels were below the current national standard, the researchers found that the risk of premature death increased with higher levels of ozone. They estimated that over 3,700 deaths annually could be attributed to a 10-parts-per-billion increase in ozone levels.1 Another study, published the same week, looked at 23 European cities and found similar effects on mortality from short-term exposure to ozone.2
Confirmation came in the summer of 2005. EPA commissioned three groups of researchers working independently to review all the research surrounding deaths associated with short-term high levels of ozone. The three teams—at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and New York University—used different approaches and conducted additional research, all published in the journal Epidemiology. All three studies reported a small but robust association between daily ozone levels and increased deaths.3 Writing a commentary on these reviews, David Bates, MD, explained how these premature deaths could occur:
“Ozone is capable of causing inflammation in the lung at lower concentrations than any other gas. Such an effect would be a hazard to anyone with heart failure and pulmonary congestion, and would worsen the function of anyone with advanced lung disease.”4
Groups at risk
Five groups of people are especially vulnerable to the effects of breathing ozone: Children, senior citizens, people who work or exercise outdoors, people with preexisting respiratory disease (e.g., asthma or COPD) and “responders” who are otherwise healthy but have an enhanced reaction to ozone.
Ozone’s effect on an individual’s health can depend on many factors, including whether they are part of a susceptible population group, how much ozone is in the air, how rapidly they breathe and how long they are exposed to the ozone.
Other risks from breathing ozone
Many areas in the United States produce enough ground-level ozone during the summer months to cause health problems that can be felt right away. These immediate problems are:
shortness of breath
chest pain when inhaling deeply
wheezing and coughing
increased susceptibility to respiratory infections
Exposure to ozone increases:
risk of premature mortality;
the risk of asthma attacks;
the need for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to receive medical treatment and to go to the hospital.
Two studies published in 2005 explored ozone’s ability to reduce the lung’s ability to work efficiently, a term called “lung function.” Each study looked at otherwise healthy groups who were exposed to ozone for long periods: outdoor postal workers in Taiwan and college freshmen who were lifelong residents of Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay area. Both studies found that the long exposure to elevated ozone levels had decreased their lung function.6
Short-term exposure to ozone also has been linked to aggravation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).7 Repeated inflammation due to exposure to ozone over a period of years can lead to a chronic “stiffening” of the lungs.
Inhaling ozone may affect the heart as well as the lungs. One new study linked exposure to high ozone levels for as little as one hour to a particular type of cardiac arrhythmia that itself increases the risk of premature death and stroke.8 A French study found that exposure to elevated ozone levels for one to two days increased the risk of heart attacks for middle-aged adults without heart disease.