›February 20, 2014 // By ECSP Staff
In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.
“Humanity is altering Earth’s life support system. Carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating; greenhouse gas levels are unprecedented in human history,” says a new video summarizing some of the most striking finds of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report. The climate system is changing rapidly, and it is “extremely likely,” the video quotes the IPCC, that humans are the central reason why.
›July 17, 2013 // By ECSP Staff
The original version of this article, by Mike Ives, appeared on Yale Environment 360.
Phan Dinh Duc leans against yellow sacks of freshly harvested rice. It’s a warm spring evening in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, and Duc, a local farmer, is waiting for traders to arrive by truck to purchase his produce and sell it on commodities markets. Beyond him lies a vast checkerboard of rice paddies, each filled with water and bordered by a network of canals and roughly 10-foot-high earthen dikes. They enable year-round rice cultivation in an area where, a half century ago, vast floodplains typically lay fallow for half the year and farmers planted one annual rice crop that grew in tandem with seasonal floods.
“Today we have a golden opportunity to use respectful maternal care to break new ground at the intersection of health and human rights,” said Lynn Freedman, director of the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program and professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia University, at the Wilson Center. [Video Below]
On Building a Better (and More Resilient) World: Complexity, Community, and the Precautionary Principle›
From the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to Superstorm Sandy, the last decade has seen an incredible array of natural disasters. Of course, disasters of all kinds are nothing new, but, thanks to the growing scale and interconnectedness of the human enterprise – and the damage we have done to the natural world – the frequency, scale, and consequences of today’s calamities are truly without precedent.
A well-known Chinese proverb describing the relationship between the central government in Beijing and its people says, “Heaven is high and the emperor is far away” (天高皇帝远, tian gao, huang di yuan). It’s not too far of a stretch to apply the same proverb to the current state of China’s environment sector, where relatively strong pollution control laws are poorly enforced on the ground.
›As reproductive rights advocates reflect on their disappointment with the outcome of last week’s Rio+20 summit, it is encouraging to see that population, health, and environment (PHE) projects – which fundamentally connect women’s health with sustainable development – continue to sprout up around the world. The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) launched their community-supported PHE Project Map in March 2010, and since then, the map has grown to include 76 projects across three continents, and has been viewed more than 82,000 times.
The goal of the map is to show which organizations are doing what PHE work where and when. While the map highlights expected hotspots like Ethiopia, Madagascar, and the Philippines, it also brings into focus countries that may not necessarily come to mind when thinking about PHE – South Africa, Venezuela, and Vietnam being among them. The map is updated on a rolling basis, and has grown substantially during its first two years.
These numbers should offer encouragement to reproductive rights and sustainable development advocates. Even if world leaders are still struggling to integrate these issues into a global development framework, NGOs, local nonprofits, and development agencies across the world are moving full-speed ahead to improve healthcare, strengthen ecosystems, and empower women and men across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
To add a project to the map, contact PRB’s Rachel Yavinksy at email@example.com.
›April 25, 2012 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Richard Cronin, appeared in World Politics Review.
Two decades after the Paris Peace Accord that ended the proxy war in Cambodia, the Mekong Basin has re-emerged as a region of global significance. The rapid infrastructure-led integration of a region some call “Asia’s last frontier” has created tensions between and among China and its five southern neighbors – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Both expanded regional cooperation as well as increased competition for access to the rich resources of the once war-torn region have created serious environmental degradation while endangering food security and other dimensions of human security and even regional stability.
China’s seemingly insatiable demand for raw materials and tropical commodities has made it a fast-growing market for several Mekong countries and an increasingly important regional investor. Economic integration has been boosted by a multibillion dollar network of all-weather roads, bridges, dams, and power lines largely financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that is linking the countries of the Lower Mekong to each other and to China. To date, the ADB’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) cooperative development program has primarily benefited large population centers outside the basin proper in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the same infrastructure that speeds the flow of people and goods to urban centers also facilitates the environmentally unsustainable exploitation of the forests, minerals, water resources, and fisheries that are still the primary source of food and livelihoods to millions of the Mekong’s poorest inhabitants.
No aspect of China’s fast-growing role and influence in the Mekong region is more evident and more problematic than its drive to harness the huge hydroelectric potential of the Upper Mekong through the construction of a massive cascade of eight large- to mega-sized dams on the mainstream of the river in Yunnan Province. The recently completed Xiaowan dam, the fourth in the series, will mainly be used to send electricity to the factories and cities of Guangdong Province, its coastal export manufacturing base some 1,400 kilometers away. China’s Yunnan cascade will have enough operational storage capacity to augment the dry season flow at the border with Myanmar and Laos by 40-70 percent, both to maintain maximum electricity output and facilitate navigation on the river downstream as far as northern Laos for boats of up to 500 tons.
Continue reading in World Politics Review.
Photo Credit: “Xiaowan Dam Site,” courtesy of International Rivers.
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