Fears for food security are dominating talks on and off the platform at the Oxford Farming Conference. With an exploding world population and a 10 per cent drop in yields predicted for every degree rise in global temperatures, this is clearly a crucial challenge. But in rising to it, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Intensifying farming after the second world war, to maximize food production, caused considerable environmental damage, to wild birds, wild places and the quality of fresh water. These and other attributes of the environment are as central to our survival today as our ability to grow food. The environment's various parts store carbon, clean our water and provide a multitude of other ‘ecosystem services’ – benefits to humans from habitats, landscapes and species – all of which must be safeguarded. To do this, farmers’ leaders must very firmly put environmental security alongside food security if we are to have a truly sustainable future. And governments across the world must ensure that the production of biofuels particularly does not destroy habitats such as tropical rainforests, the Cerrado of Brazil and woodlands and wildflower areas at home, that store carbon and allow wildlife to thrive.
Opposition politicians, and those campaigning for office, tend to be strong on promises but less keen to fulfil them when their time comes.
The US presidential campaign is different, however, if the Independent’s assessment of each candidate’ stance on climate change is accurate.
Only Democrat John Edwards and Republican nominee John McCain seem genuine in their talk of action to tackle climate change. Other Republicans are interested only in safeguarding America’s oil supply while Democrat hopeful Hilary Clinton’s plan to cut emissions is less than two months old, despite the length of time she’s been on the campaigning road and despite husband Bill’s apparent vigour for urging others to take action.
US governments are not known for their altruism particularly beyond the country’s shores. The eight presidential candidates need look no further than California, however, where they can learn from one of their own about how to win and retain power carrying a weighty climate change ticket.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his second term as governor, has worked hard to make US laws more sympathetic to the environment. He is tackling oil dependence in his own state and spearheading similar action by 16 other US states.
He wants one million solar roofs installed by 2018, significant improvements in water conservation and has set a target of cutting California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020.
Governor Schwarzenegger says he wants to make California number one in the fight against global warming. America’s next president should want the same for their country, even, in John Edwards’ words, if it is only to grab back the ‘green jobs’ from China and India.
The Independent’s assessment is here http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article3303631.ece
More on Arnie’s policies here http://gov.ca.gov/
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It’s the international year of the frog in 2008, an initiative backed by zoos, aquariums and the World Conservation Union, to draw attention to a fungus putting at risk 500 amphibian species.
As part of the project, the seven remaining wild Dominican mountain chicken frogs have been taken from their Caribbean home to be housed at London Zoo for their own protection. Five years ago, these large frogs were so numerous they were eaten as a delicacy. Then the fungus struck.
It’s fairly unusual for wildlife to be endangered to this extent by something other than man. Habitat loss – for agriculture worldwide and development - is one major cause of wildlife decline, while climate change, if it is not curbed, is set to wreak havoc on wildlife populations globally.
The Amphibian Ark campaign, involving about 500 zoos, will attempt to save frogs, toads and other like creatures and the mountain chicken frog is one of at least 12 species already taken from the wild to keep them alive.
But we can’t do that for every species in trouble. More than 10 per cent of the 10,000-plus bird species are endangered, not to mention plants, insects and mammals. And we can’t assume that high numbers will protect species – the mountain frog succumbed in five years and populations of three species of Asian vulture, all in their millions 15 years ago, have crashed almost to extinction because of a livestock drug.
To give our wildlife its best chance, we must tackle problems early or include consideration of environmental impact before new schemes begin or new drugs are licensed. We should resolve to do this in 2008. We humans will be better off if we do.
Read more here on the plight of the mountain chicken frog.