What’s New May 2009

This page lists changes to this site for May 2009.

See below for other updates and to get notified of changes to the site.

Energy security concerns raise a variety of issues, including geopolitics and power play, as well as practical concerns such as environmental degradation, climate change and sustainable development. This update includes a look at Bolivia, which has half the world’s lithium, a mineral that will power the next generation hybrid and electric cars, while already being used in smaller batteries today. Bolivia is concerned that others will exploit its resources and it will not benefit. This has typically been the case for resource-rich nations, exploited during the colonialism era and in poverty partly as a result of that. A video about this is included in this update.

Biodiversity loss and species extinction is on the increase. It is generally understood that the high species loss rate is in large part due to human activity. This update includes notes on whaling and its impacts on ocean biodiversity (such as reducing fish populations, rather than increasing them for fishermen) and a video looking at the link between human rights and environmental rights.

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. This update includes additional illustrations and notes on these aspects, including an illustration of the nitrogen cycle and updates on the declining bee population and their importance to agriculture.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) recently published new preliminary figures for aid in 2008. It showed official development assistance (ODA) aid from wealthy governments had increased to $119.8 billion, the highest ever. This is roughly 0.3% of GNI of the donor nations. Yet, almost 40 years ago nations promised to reach 0.7% of their GNI. While each year the amount of aid falls quite short of that 0.7% target, the quality and effectiveness of that aid is often questionable, sometimes benefiting the donor more than the recipient due to the types of conditions attached to this aid. This update includes a number of new and updated charts and graphs.

Almost 40 years ago, rich country governments agreed to give 0.7% of their GNI (Gross National Income) as official aid to poor countries for development assistance. The average aid delivered each year has actually been between 0.2 to 0.4%. The shortfall has therefore accumulated to over $3.6 trillion dollars at 2007 prices, while total aid delivered in that same time frame has reached $2.7 trillion. This update includes updated charts and graphs that look into this further.

The Haiti page has been updated to include some of the effects of poverty and environment on each other. Haiti is suffering from the effects of recent hurricanes. The immense poverty and deforestation of much of Haiti has led to massive top soil loss and erosion making it harder for the environment to withstand and recover from hurricanes and flooding. Growing food has also been tougher. On top of that, cheap food imports are undermining whatever local farmers can produce. As more people move to the cities, crime and instability increases. These issues unfortunately repeat themselves in a number of other poor nations. A combination of lack of democracy, outside influence/interference preventing local democracy and development, environmental degradation and poverty all combine make it incredibly difficult to resolve.

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