By Dr. Charles Owubah
Today is World Food Day, a time to reflect on the foundational role that food plays in our lives, communities, and cultures. We cannot live without food.
While safe and nutritious food is an essential right, sadly, two billion people go without. After decades of progress, world hunger is on the rise again. From 2018 to 2019, 10 million more people became undernourished because of climate change and conflict, and COVID-19 is further exacerbating this crisis. The UN's World Food Program says more people may die from hunger due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.
On the bright side, new innovations for dealing with hunger offer hope in these ominous times. At Action Against Hunger, we are working on innovations that never-before could have been imagined, such as artificial intelligence to help herders in the Sahel find food for livestock and real-time data on global hunger. These and other programs will enable the planet's poorest communities to more easily predict and prevent hunger and are a needed source of progress toward the UN's Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.
Artificial Intelligence to Help Herders Feed Livestock
With support from The World Bank, we are using AI and tele-detection technology to help herders in West Africa find food and water for their goats, sheep and other livestock. Across Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal, the Pastoral Early Warning System (PEWS) lets herders know — via local radio, SMS, and bulletins in local languages — where to find fodder for their herds, as well as market prices and animal disease trends. In many of these nations, livestock farming accounts for 40% of the agricultural GDP, making it a lynchpin of the economy and culture. The information, which they receive every 10 days, helps them navigate droughts, heatwaves, bushfires, and even closures due to COVID-19, reaching approximately 100,000 people.
First Real-Time View of Global Hunger
Right now, most of the world's malnutrition data lives in spreadsheets and reams of paper. We're in the middle of creating a new app and database to provide the first real-time view of world hunger. Currently in development, "SMART+" will be an all-in-one digital tool to log data when children are screened for malnutrition and provide an aggregate view, down to the "postal code" level. The goal is to detect food emergencies earlier and improve coordination among governments and agencies so that aid can get to people quicker.
Treating Life-Threatening Hunger at Home
COVID-19 has prevented many families from traveling to faraway hospitals for treatment of malnutrition. We have been able to fill in this critical need for urgent care by training health workers and volunteers to treat malnourished children at home. This is not only more convenient and less expensive for families, but also eases the burden on clinics, which are already stretched thin in the midst of a global pandemic.
Even better, it's more effective. Research shows that 95% of malnourished children treated locally by community health workers recovered from malnutrition, compared with 88% of those who were treated in health centers. These findings prompted the country of Mali to change its entire national health system to reflect this new approach, and now several other countries are following their lead.
Growing Plants Without Soil
In Ethiopia's Waghimra region, which borders the Sahel, climate change is exacerbating unpredictable rainfall and recurring droughts. More than 90% of families depend on farming or herding, and they now face historically large livestock losses and rising levels of malnutrition. In response, we introduced hydroponics, an innovative way to grow plants without soil. Grass sprouts from a simple raised bed built with wood and plastic and is watered with a nutrient-rich mineral solution that produces richer fodder. This feed nourishes livestock that become healthier, expanding herds and milk production. In turn, farmers can better feed their families and have more to sell, earning income and strengthening local markets. Compared to traditional, soil-based methods, hydroponics uses less water and can produce higher yields in as little as seven days, rather than months.
Every day thousands of children still die from hunger. In fact, when a child younger than five dies, nearly half the time, hunger is to blame. This isn't inevitable. Innovations abound — both high- and low-tech — that continue to offer hope.
This World Food Day, let's pause to remember that hunger is predictable and preventable, and we all can take action. Solutions exist, and we must continue to support the world's most vulnerable until everyone has food to eat.
Dr. Charles Owubah, is the CEO of Action Against Hunger.
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
Where would you go if, say, a flood devastated the city you live in? Millions of people around the world have been forced to answer this question. In 2017, 68.5 million people were displaced — more than at any point in human history, according to the Brookings Institute. More than one-third of those were uprooted by sudden weather events, including floods, forest fires and intense storms. A 2018 report from the World Bank, which focused on three regions — Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America — found that without tangible climate action, more than 143 million people in just these three areas will be forced to move to escape the impacts of climate change by 2050.
But more than 1 billion people worldwide will live in countries with insufficient infrastructure to withstand climate change by 2050. The Pacific Islands are expected to be affected especially hard. Sea level there is already rising at almost 0.5 inches per year. Eight islands have already been submerged and two more are close to vanishing. By the year 2100, experts fear 48 more islands in the Pacific will be completely underwater.
So what about the people who live there? What do we call these people who will be displaced? It's actually complicated. It's difficult to determine what category these migrants should fall under because no global definition exists. Why does that matter? Without a standard method of classification, there's no way to track how many people are affected or displaced by an environmental or climate event. So the most commonly used term is "environmental refugee."
Experts credit the term and its definition to UN Environment Program (UNEP) researcher Essam El-Hinnawi, who in 1985 wrote the United Nations report titled "Environmental Refugees." El-Hinnawi defined environmental refugees as:
... those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life.
This working definition has been the baseline for current debate.
But according to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, a refugee "is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion" [source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. Environmental refugees do not legally fall under this status.
Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, deforestation, land degradation, rising sea levels, floods, more frequent and more extreme storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, food insecurity and famine.
The September 2020 Ecological Threat Register Report, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:
- Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa
- Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)
- Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements
- Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean
- India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress
The report also suggests that developed countries like the United States and regions like Europe are not immune. "The European refugee crisis in the wake of wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015 saw 2 million people flee to Europe and highlights the link between rapid population shifts with political turbulence and social unrest." Developed countries including Sweden, Norway, Ireland face little to no threat, the report found.
Climate change does not impact all people and all parts of the world in the same way. While floods ravage some areas, deserts are spreading in others. Desertification and depleted resources, including shortages of water and fertile land, are long-term consequences of climate change. But one of the biggest threats will be food insecurity.
"Ecological threats and climate change pose serious challenges to global peacefulness," Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace said in the in the 2020 Ecological Threat Report. "Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. In the absence of action civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase. COVID-19 is already exposing gaps in the global food chain."
The report suggests global demand for food will increase by 50 percent by 2050. That means if there's no increase in food supply, many people could starve or be forced to flee in search of food. Currently, more than 2 billion people around the world are already food insecure.
When faced with the decision to flee, most people want to stay in their own country or region. Leaving a country requires money and could mean leaving behind family; simply relocating from a rural to urban area in search of work and resources may be easier. Plus, the chance to return and resettle back home is unlikely if a family leaves their country entirely. In instances when an area is temporarily inhabitable, like after a destructive hurricane, returning home may be an option. But when coastlines — or entire islands — are underwater, the possibility of going home is out of the question.
The future impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect the world's poorest but will also pressure countries around the globe through mass migration of refugees. Adaptation and resilience will be the key to reducing displacement risk — both temporary and permanent — in the forms of early warning systems and flood-defense infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and drought-resistant crops, as well as other protections.
This story originally appeared in HowStuffWorks and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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The sprawling size and sunny days of Texas make it one of the top states for solar energy. If you live in the Lone Star State and are interested in switching to a solar energy system, you may be wondering: What's the average solar panel cost in Texas?
In this article, we'll discuss the cost of solar panels in Texas, what factors affect pricing, Texas' solar incentives and more. Of course, the only way to know for sure how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof is to receive a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you. You can get started by filling out the quick form below.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Texas?
Thanks to the growing investment in renewable energy technology statewide, homeowners now enjoy a below-average cost of solar in Texas. Based on market research and data from top brands, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Texas to be $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is especially valuable when you take into account the unpredictable Texas energy rates.
Here's how that average calculates into the cost of the most common sizes of home solar panel systems:
|Size of Solar Panel System||Texas Solar Panel Cost||Cost After Federal Tax Credit|
Though this data reflects the statewide averages, you'll need to contact a solar installer near you to get an accurate quote for your home. Savvy customers will get free quotes from multiple companies and compare them to the state averages to make sure they receive the best value possible. Bear in mind that the biggest providers of solar won't always have the best prices.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in Texas?
The main factor determining the cost of solar panel installations in Texas is the homeowner's energy needs. No two homes are the same, and installation costs will look far different for a home needing a basic 5kW system and a home needing 10kW with backup power capabilities. The solar financing and installation company a homeowner chooses will also affect a customer's overall solar costs in Texas. Here's how each factor comes into play:
Similar to phones, cars and other technology, solar products and system costs vary greatly based on their quality, scale and included features. Some customers may be satisfied with a modest array of affordable solar panels and inverters, while others may opt for a system with premium panels, full-home backup power and cutting-edge energy monitoring technology.
The overall cost of solar depends significantly on how a customer chooses to finance their system. The three most common solar financing options include paying in cash, taking out a solar loan and solar leasing.
- The most economical way to purchase solar, an upfront cash purchase provides the best long-term return on investment and the lowest overall cost.
- Customers can choose to take out a solar loan to purchase the system outright and make monthly payments to repay the loan. The typical payback period for a solar loan averages around 10 years. Systems purchased with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Signing a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) allows a solar customer to rent solar panels from a company or third party. Though requiring the least amount of money upfront, solar leases provide the least amount of overall value. Also, solar leases aren't eligible for the federal tax credit, as the homeowner doesn't actually own the system.
Solar Installation Company
Texas has seen some of the strongest solar energy market growth over the last few years, and the SEIA reports that there are now nearly 600 solar companies based in Texas, and each is looking to expand its market share.
Price ranges can differ significantly based on the installer. Larger solar providers like Sunrun offer the advantage of solar leases and quick installations. Local providers, on the other hand, provide more personalization and competitive prices to undercut the biggest national companies.
Because of this, it's wise to get quotes from a few local and national installers and compare rates — because of the stiff competition between companies, you could end up saving several thousand dollars.
Texas Solar Incentives
For the most part, Texas taxes are administered by local governments. As a result, the state doesn't offer a large number of statewide solar-related policies, and incentives will depend more on the locality in which you live.
However, all homeowners in the state remain eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and there are some statewide local property tax exemptions for both photovoltaic solar and wind-powered renewable energy systems. Let's walk through how to find what incentives are available to you.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
All Texans can claim the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for PV solar panels and energy storage systems. By claiming the ITC on your tax returns, the policy allows you to deduct 26% of the total cost of the solar system from the taxes you owe the federal government.
The tax credit is available to both residential and commercial system owners who have installed solar panels at any point since 2006. The credit is worth 26% through the end of 2022 and will drop to 22% in 2023. It is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless congress extends it.
Net Metering Policies in Texas
Net metering programs allow customers to sell unused solar energy back to their local utility company in exchange for credits that can be cashed in when panels aren't producing energy. Due to the energy bill savings, this incentive can greatly reduce the solar investment payback period.
As is true with most of Texas' solar rebates and incentives, there is not one net metering program that is offered throughout the entire state. Rather, your eligibility will depend on the policy of your local utility company or municipality. Most utilities in the state have a net metering policy, including American Electric Power (AEP), CPS Energy, Green Mountain Energy, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy in Dallas and more.
The rate at which your local utility will compensate for this excess energy will depend on your local policy, so we encourage you to look into the policy offered by your utility company.
Local Solar Rebates in Texas
In addition to identifying your local net metering program, look into any local rebates available to you. Homeowners who live in the top cities for solar in Texas, like Austin, San Marcos or Sunset Valley might have more luck than customers in other areas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has a full list of local rebates, solar loan programs and more.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cost Texas
Is it worth going solar in Texas?
Long, sunny days and below-average solar installation costs make Texas one of the best states in the U.S. for generating energy with solar panels. The ample sunshine provides more than enough energy for most families, serving up huge benefits to homes in Texas equipped with solar panels.
How much does it cost to install solar panels in Texas?
As of 2021, the average cost of solar panels in Texas is $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is slightly below the national average due to the resource availability in Texas, current energy costs and the state's available sunlight. The best way to assess how much solar would cost you is to consult local providers near you for a free estimate.
Do solar panels increase home value in Texas?
Solar panels increase home value everywhere, but mostly in areas with generous net metering policies and solar rebates. As such, the proportion at which solar panels increase home value in Texas corresponds with the areas with the most solar-friendly policies.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,500 sq foot house?
Though knowing the size of a house is helpful in determining how many solar panels could fit on its roof, the energy use of the house is the more important factor in determining solar panel cost in Texas. The higher your energy use, the greater your solar needs will be.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
By Alejandro Argumedo
August 9 is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples – a celebration of the uniqueness of the traditions of Quechua, Huli, Zapotec, and thousands of other cultures, but also of the universality of potatoes, bananas, beans, and the rest of the foods that nourish the world. These crops did not arise out of thin air. They were domesticated over thousands of years, and continue to be nurtured, by Indigenous people. On this day we give thanks to these cultures for the diversity of our food.
Yes, even in a globalized world and food system. Most diversity in crops – and livestock – is still found in the regions where they have been around longest, adapting to climatic extremes, pests, and diseases through millennia interaction with human cultures – as we have weathered our own storms and pandemics. Known as primary regions of crop and livestock diversity, these places are central to the present and future viability of food systems. They are also the homelands of many Indigenous peoples.
For centuries, crop diversity has enriched the world, but has been taken out of the hands of Indigenous people in doing so. That story is only beginning to shift as the rest of the world starts to give Indigenous farmers the respect they are due. Community initiatives like the Parque de la Papa (Potato Park), in the primary region of potato diversity in the Andes of Peru, are connecting with worldwide conservation efforts on the farmers' own terms.
Six Quechua communities established the Parque to ensure the survival of the thousands of traditional potato cultivars they grow. They then co-designed a unique agreement with the International Potato Center genebank in Lima and the nonprofit Asociacion ANDES to return 410 native potato varieties to the Parque communities. Scientists had collected these from the region's communities since the 1960s, but many had disappeared from farmers' fields in the recent decades. That first agreement led to more collaborative research and monitoring, and today the Parque's diversity is conserved in farmers' fields, in new community seedbanks, in the CIP genebank in Lima, and, as a final safety backup, 7,000 miles north in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – where the Indigenous farmers who deposited them still retain their rights over their seeds.
Indigenous farmers and cooks in the primary regions of diversity are resilient. They know all about getting through trying times. Through it all, they have persisted: through loss of access to land and other resources; through industrialization, subsidies, and trade agreements that undermine rural livelihoods; through civil strife and political neglect. Often working in places of extreme topography, they have faced the most severe impacts of the climate catastrophe. This year they have been struck disproportionally, sometimes threatened in their very existence, by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some countries, legislation finally respects their rights to traditional knowledge and livelihoods. Yet a larger transformation is still needed – to redress injustices, secure access to land, and generate a greater range of opportunities in food and agriculture.
I believe that a key agent of this transformation will be a global network that is already beginning to unite stewards of food traditions in primary regions of diversity. The potential is clear in the direct connections that Indigenous communities are making with chefs, civil society, and commercial endeavors to create – together – market opportunities for agriculturally resilient and nutritious local foods. It is encouraging that consumers are increasingly showing a willingness to try diverse foods, while recognizing the work of farming communities. A boom in community-based development and wider marketing of products made with local crop and livestock diversity is a small sign of the big shift coming.
Another emerging opportunity for Indigenous communities is the increased capacity to learn from the successes and challenges of others. While communities in primary regions of diversity often maintain a broad menu of domesticated and wild species, their food systems generally center on a few key species. Potatoes and quinoa in parts of the Andes; maize and beans in Mesoamerica; bananas and tubers in the highlands of Papua New Guinea: such emblematic foods can be pillars around which to co-organize global networks of custodians of agricultural biodiversity, building on existing networks of small-scale and Indigenous farmers. One such effort is hosted by the International Network for Mountain Indigenous Peoples. Inspired by the Parque de la Papa, it now includes communities in Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Tajikistan, each organized around different emblematic Indigenous crops. With time, the initial focus on relatively "charismatic" crops can be leveraged to benefit other, less well-known species and their stewards, too.
I draw hope and excitement from seeing Indigenous communities achieve recognition in local, national, and international policy arenas, and watching them strengthen their work by seeking out collaborations based on mutual respect. That kind of collaboration can reach across dramatically different scales, from farmers' fields, homes, and tables, to community actions like local seedbanks, to the large public genebanks that make crop conservation a global effort, and a global good. Meanwhile, redressing the imbalances that disadvantage Indigenous communities, and undervalue the diversity they generate and maintain, will mean reframing this diversity and its engendering biocultural processes as central community assets.
Celebrating Indigenous people on August 9 is not just about having a party; it helps keeps diversity and community on their feet as globalization shifts the ground from under us all.
Alejandro Argumedo is Director of Programs and Andes Amazon Lead of Swift Foundation (www.swiftfoundation.org); he is a recognized indigenous peoples' food rights activist currently acting as the international coordinator of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP).
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By Gianna-Carina Grün
While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.
What's the Current Global Trend?
The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section reported zero new cases both this week (past seven days) and the week before.
Currently, that is the case for 14 out of 209 countries and territories.
How Has the Covid-19 Trend Evolved Over the Past Weeks?
The situation has improved slightly: 87 countries report more cases this week than last week.
What Is the Current Covid-19 Trend in My Country?
Based on the newly reported case numbers – which can reflect local outbreaks as well as country-wide spread – in the past 14 days, countries and territories classify as follows:
More than twice as many new cases this week as last week:
- Asia: Cyprus, Philippines, Vietnam
- Africa: Benin, Djibouti, Gambia
- Americas: Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Turks and Caicos islands, US Virgin Islands
- Europe: Estonia, Finland, Greece, Jersey, Malta, Norway
- Oceania: Guam, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea
More new cases this week than last week:
- Asia: India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Singapore, Syria, Timor Leste, Turkey, Uzbekistan
- Africa: Angola, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe
- Americas: Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
- Europe: Albania, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
- Oceania: Australia
About the same number of new cases in both weeks (no change or plus/minus seven cases):
- Asia: Bhutan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand
- Africa: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mali, Uganda
- Americas: Bermuda, Curacao, Nicaragua, Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
- Europe: Gibraltar, Monaco
- Oceania: Northern Mariana Islands
Fewer new cases this week than last week:
- Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
- Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Zambia
- Americas: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, United States of America, Uruguay
- Europe: Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Faroe Islands, Hungary, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia
Less than half as many new cases as last week:
- Asia: Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Oman, Sri Lanka
- Africa: Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Cote dIvoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Mauritania, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia
- Americas: Antigua and Barbuda, Greenland, Grenada, Saint Lucia
- Europe: Liechtenstein
Zero new cases this week as well as last week:
- Asia: Brunei Darussalam
- Africa: Tanzania, Western Sahara
- Americas: Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Europe: Guernsey, Holy See, Isle of Man
- Oceania: Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia
These charts and this article are updated every Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (UTC/GMT).
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Sonya Angelica Diehn
Dams are often touted as environmentally friendly. Although they do represent a renewable source of energy, a closer look reveals that they are far from green. DW lays out the biggest environmental problems of mega-dams.
1. Dams Alter Ecosystems
Water is life — and since dams block water, that impacts life downstream, both for ecosystems and people. In the case of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being built in Ethiopia and is set to be Africa's largest source of hydroelectric power, Egypt is concerned it will receive less water for things like agriculture.
Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. Emilio Moran, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams.
"Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river."
And ecosystems may have adapted to natural flooding, which dams take away.
Mega-dams also often have a large footprint on land upstream. Aside from displacing human communities, flooding to create a reservoir also kills plants, and leaves animals to drown or find new homes. Reservoirs can also further fragment valuable habitat and cut off migratory corridors.
2. Dams Reduce Biodiversity and Cause Extinction
Aquatic species, particularly fish, are vulnerable to the impacts of dams. Moran says the Itaipu Dam, which was constructed on the border between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, resulted in a 70 percent loss of biodiversity.
"On the Tucuruí Dam that was built in the 80s in the Amazon," he added, "there was a 60% drop in productivity of fish."
Many fish species rely on the ability to move about freely in a river, be it to seek food or return to where they were born. Migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported a 99% drop in catches of sturgeon and paddlefish — both of which are migratory — over a period of three decades. Overfishing and river alteration were cited as major threats to the species' survival.
A 2018 study predicted that fish stocks on Asia's Mekong River could drop by 40% as a result of dam projects – with consequences not only for biodiversity, but for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on those fish.
The stakes for biodiversity are particularly high for animals threatened with extinction. And not only for aquatic species. The Tapanuli orangutan — the Earth's rarest ape, with only 500 individuals left — could finally be pushed to the brink if a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra, Indonesia, is completed. Dams can literally snuff out species.
3. Dams Contribute to Climate Change (and Are Affected by It)
As reservoirs fill, upstream forests are flooded, eliminating their function as carbon sinks. As the drowned vegetation decomposes, decaying plants in manmade reservoirs release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That makes reservoirs sources of emissions — particularly those in tropical forests, where there is dense growth. It's estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from dams amount to about a billion tons annually, making it a significant global source.
And as the climate changes, more frequent and prolonged drought means dams will capture less water, resulting in lower electricity production. Countries dependent on hydropower will be especially vulnerable as temperatures keep rising.
Moran described a vicious circle, for example in Brazil, which gets 60 to 70% of its energy from hydropower: "If you wipe out half the rainforest, there will a loss of half the rainfall. And then there won't be enough water to provide the amount of power from those dams," he explained.
4. Dams Reduce Water Quality
Manmade reservoirs trap fertilizers that run into the water from surrounding land. In addition, in some developing countries, sewage flows directly into the reservoirs. This kind of pollution can result in algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, making it acidic and potentially harmful to people and animals.
Still water in large manmade lakes is warm at the top and cold at the bottom, which can also affect water quality. While warm water promotes the growth of harmful algae, the cold water that is often released through turbines from the bottom of a reservoir may contain damagingly high mineral concentrations.
In some cases, water in manmade reservoirs is of such bad quality that it is not even fit to drink.
5. Dams Waste Water
Since more surface area of the water gets exposed to the sun, reservoirs result in much more evaporation than the natural flow of the river before that dam existed. It's estimated at least 7% of the total amount of freshwater needed for human activities evaporates from the world's reservoirs every year.
This effect is made worse in hot regions, Moran pointed out. "Certainly if you had a reservoir in a tropical area with high temperatures, there is going to be a lot of evaporation," he said. And big reservoirs "are, of course, evaporating constantly."
Reservoirs are also a haven for invasive plant species, and weed-covered reservoir banks can lead to evapotranspiration — or the transfer of water from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. Such evapotranspiration amounts to six times more than the evaporation from the water's surface. And there is even evidence that dams increase water use and promote water waste by creating a false sense of water security.
In the face of dwindling global freshwater resources, some question whether dams should be reconsidered.
So What Are the Alternatives?
The evidence is damning. But if mega-dams have so many harmful environmental effects, what are the alternatives? Although some green groups point to small hydropower as being more ecologically sound, Moran is skeptical. "A dam is a dam - it's blocking the fish, it's blocking the sediment."
He pointed to the need to consider not just how to maximize energy production, but also maintain ecological productivity. One option he cited is the use of in-stream turbines.
And many environment advocates agree that other renewable energies such as solar and wind can provide clean electricity at a far lower environmental cost.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- Planned Mega-Dam Threatens Fish Populations and Food Security ... ›
- Dams Cause Climate Change, They Are Not Clean Energy - EcoWatch ›
- Mega-Dam Projects Will Force Tens of Thousands of People From ... ›
- Heavier Precipitation Is Straining U.S. Dams and Levees - EcoWatch ›
East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.
The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that Ethiopia and Somalia had not seen a swarm this bad in 25 years, while Kenya was facing its largest infestation in 70 years, BBC News reported.
"Vulnerable families that were already dealing with food shortages now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told Kenya's Capital News.
Over 11 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia & Somalia already suffer from acute food insecurity. #Locusts are threate… https://t.co/Mr046yiLvp— FAO (@FAO)1579872683.0
The desert locust swarm came across the Red Sea from Yemen and was encouraged by heavy rains in late 2019, according to BBC News. The UN was already warning that the infestation could spread from Ethiopia in November. Some farmers in the country's Amhara region lost 100 percent of their crops, and a swarm forced an Ethiopian passenger plane off course in December.
Locusts can travel 93 miles a day, and each adult can eat its weight in food in the same time span. A small swarm can eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in 24 hours, The Associated Press reported, and the locusts have already infested around 172,973 acres of land in Kenya.
"The speed of the pests' spread and the size of the infestations are so far beyond the norm that they have stretched the capacities of local and national authorities to the limit," the FAO said, according to BBC News.
The unusual size of the swarms is connected to the climate crisis, The Associated Press explained further:
Heavy rains in East Africa made 2019 one of the region's wettest years on record, said Nairobi-based climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker. He blamed rapidly warming waters in the Indian Ocean off Africa's eastern coast, which also spawned an unusual number of strong tropical cyclones off Africa last year.
Heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures are favorable conditions for locust breeding and in this case the conditions have become "exceptional," he said.
Rainy conditions expected in March could cause the locust swarms to grow by a factor of 500 before drier weather is expected in June, the UN said.
Now, authorities are working to control the infestation by spraying pesticides from the air. The UN funneled $10 million towards the spraying Wednesday, but said that $70 million was needed to spray sufficiently.
"This one, ai! This is huge," Kipkoech Tale, a migratory pest control specialist with the Kenyan agriculture ministry, told The Associated Press. "I'm talking about over 20 swarms that we have sprayed. We still have more. And more are coming."
By Danielle Nierenberg and Maya Osman-Krinsky
In the United States, over 2,000 acres of agricultural land are sold every day for housing or commercial development, according to the American Farmland Trust. This has especially affected Black farmers who, since 1920, have seen nearly a 90 percent decline in land ownership, according to the U.S. Census.
Over the past decade, as many as 200 million hectares of land have undergone large-scale transactions internationally, according to a study by Oregon State University. These transactions, taking the form of land grabs or corporate consolidation of agriculture, often deteriorate the economic livelihood and food security of small farmers and communities reliant on these lands for sustenance, as reported by the Oakland Institute. When communities control their own farmland, residents can invest in sustainable and affordable agriculture, which helps to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, according to the World Bank.
Many organizations around the world are fighting to help communities regain control of their land and livelihoods. Food Tank is highlighting 19 organizations combating land grabs and protecting land for farmers.
1. Alaska Farmland Trust (United States)
One in five Alaskans is considered food insecure, and over 95 percent of the food consumed by Alaskans is imported from the contiguous U.S., according to the Alaska Farmland Trust Corporation (AFTC). AFTC was created in 2005 to support the existing farms in Alaska's Mat-Su valley and safeguard farmland against development. AFTC aims to protect 5,700 acres of farmland in the next 50 years to ensure productive farms, ranches, and forests for generations of Alaskan farmers to come.
2. American Farmland Trust (United States)
Since its inception in 1980, the American Farmland Trust (AFT) has worked to protect farmland from development and promote sound farming practices. AFT leads the conservation agriculture movement by combining on-the-ground projects with research and advocacy. AFT also created the No Farms No Food message, which aims to connect the food we eat to the farms that grow it. The organization has protected millions of acres of farmland from commercial development while helping tens of thousands of farmers adopt better farming practices.
3. Anera (Middle East)
Since 1968, Anera has worked to provide emergency relief and sustainable long-term aid to refugee communities in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. In 1985, they began a decade-long agricultural development project to help Palestinian farmers reclaim hundreds of acres of land. This project continues to grow in the West Bank, giving loans to thousands of farmers and encouraging sustainable projects to combat food insecurity and water scarcity.
4. Bangladesh Krishok Federation (Bangladesh)
The Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF) was established in 1990 as a grassroots peasants' rights organization. Since before its founding, BKF has organized landless people to fight for policy reform by demonstrating, organizing, providing legal aid, and working with the government to negotiate fair land deals. BKF and its women-led counterpart, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (BKS), work in tandem to secure rights for peasants, farmers, and the 112 million landless people in Bangladesh.
5. Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (Cambodia)
The Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC) addresses land rights issues for Cambodian farmers through community organizing and policy negotiation. CCFC's No Land No Life Campaign tackles forced evictions and unjust legislation by mobilizing small farmers to speak out against Cambodian authorities on land tenure and human rights issues. CCFC has been a platform for over 6,800 farming families condemning forced evictions and exploitative commercial farming.
6. Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (United States)
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a non-profit cooperative association of black farmers and landowners. The Federation builds support for public policies and credit unions that help Black and family farmers expand and protect their landholdings in the South. They also hold annual events and workshops centered around education, forestry, and racial equity in food systems.
7. Food First Information and Action Network International (International)
Food First Information and Action Network International (FIAN) was the first international human rights organization with a specific focus on adequate food and nutrition. FIAN fights for land and natural resources by holding corporations and governments accountable for violations of people's right to food. FIAN aims to secure people's access to land rights while advocating for gender, economic, agricultural, and legal equality worldwide. In 2019, FIAN's right-to-food activism reached 60 countries.
8. Friends of the Earth International (International)
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is a grassroots network mobilizing for climate justice, human rights, food sovereignty, and gender justice. Across its 73 member groups, FoEI supports campaigns defending peasant farming against large-scale industrial land grabs. Most recently, Justiça Ambiental, a FoEI member group, worked with a Mozambican village fighting to reclaim their stolen land.
9. GRAIN (International)
GRAIN is an international non-profit organization that advocates for community-controlled and biodiverse food systems. Using research and public awareness outreach campaigns, GRAIN supports small farmers in their efforts to combat corporate land deals and land grabs. In 2019, GRAIN supported struggles for land in Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Cameroon, Cambodia, and Brazil.
10. Grupo Semillas (Colombia)
Corporación Grupo Semillas is an environmentalist NGO that backs Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and peasant organizations in Colombia. Grupo Semillas supports land tenure and reclamation efforts in their Tierras y territorios division, which focuses on pushing back against agribusiness and land monopolies. Through partnering with other regional organizations, Grupo Semillas conducts and disseminates research about land rights, food sovereignty, and biodiversity to Colombia's marginalized populations.
11. Hawai’ian Islands Land Trust (Hawai’i)
The Hawai'ian Islands Land Trust (HILT) takes a holistic approach to land conservation through conservation easements. HILT comprises four Hawai'ian land trusts, all of which aim to conserve Hawai'ian farms, ranches, watersheds, forests, and historical landscapes. HILT has protected over 18,000 acres of Hawai'ian land through land acquisition and protection initiatives and policy advocacy.
12. Institute for Poverty Land, and Agrarian Studies (South Africa)
The Institute for Poverty, Land, and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) is an organization dedicated to researching land grabbing in Africa. PLAAS uses its research and policy engagement to highlight how food systems can both perpetuate and alleviate poverty. Since its founding in 1995, PLAAS has published reports calling for a restructuring of agro-food systems to aid marginalized communities harmed by parasitic land deals.
13. La Via Campesina (International)
La Via Campesina (LVC) is an international peasant's rights movement fighting for food sovereignty, climate justice, and territory rights. LVC leads a global campaign for agrarian reform by defending food sovereignty and asserting peasant farmers' rights to seeds. LVC has covered land access efforts in Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, Andalusia, and Ethiopia, carrying out nearly 50 activities across different continents in 2019 alone.
14. Namati (International)
Namati is a legal empowerment organization that seeks to tackle problems of land, environmental, health, and citizenship justice. The organization employs paralegals who work directly with communities; with nearly 20,000 community partners, Namati reaches over 350,000 people directly. Namati's initiatives in Kenya, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone support smallholder farmers struggling to navigate administrative processes and land grab disputes.
15. National Black Farmers Association (United States)
The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) was founded in 1995 to represent Black farmers in the U.S. They focus efforts on civil rights, land retention, access to loans, education and agricultural training, and economic development. NBFA's work has impacted tens of thousands of farmers since its inception, fighting for food sovereignty, land rights, and an end to hunger.
16. National Black Food & Justice Alliance (United States)
The National Black Food & Justice Alliance (NBFJA) is a coalition of Black-led organizations that is working toward Black land and food sovereignty and self-determining food economies. Building off a long legacy of Black food security efforts in the U.S., NBFJA is combating anti-Blackness and inequities in the food system by building visibility of Black-led efforts, creating an organized framework around food and land issues impacting Black people, engaging in direct action, and building togetherness space.
17. Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa)
Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (PLANT) is a platform that confronts the marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Brazilian Amazonia and Sub-Saharan Africa. PLANT works with their local partners on hands-on projects, public policy, and research and analysis. PLANT supports food sovereignty, condemns land grabs, and seeks to center indigenous voices in global decision-making about ecological justice.
18. Peconic Land Trust (United States)
The Peconic Land Trust (PLT) partners with landowners, communities, and organizations in Suffolk County to conserve Long Island's working farms. PLT is working on several local projects on Long Island, including land conservation legislation and community conservation campaigns. Since 1983, they have protected over 13,000 acres of land and secured millions of dollars for land protection.
19. South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (United States)
South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (SSCFLT) is a Washington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving affordable farmland. SSCFLT brings together local farmers, agriculture preservation advocates, affordable housing advocates, and active citizens to form a community land trust. SSCFLT works to reduce landowning costs for farmers and demonstrate sustainable farming practices in community farm environments.
20. Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (United States)
Iowa is losing 25 acres of farmland each day to development and imports more than 90 percent of their food from out of state, but the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) is fighting to change this. They believe that through the state's farming landscape, economy, and food supply, they can build more resilient communities in Iowa. SILT is working to create affordable land access for Iowa's farmers and protect land for sustainable food farming to rebuild the the state's rural economy and mitigate climate change.
By Jessica Corbett
While much of the world focuses on the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1.6 million people across the globe, East Africa is battling the worst invasion of desert locusts in decades — a months-long "scourge of biblical proportions" that experts warn could get worse with a larger second wave already arriving in parts of the region.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which is shepherding the global response to the region's locust crisis, "estimates that locust numbers could grow another 20 times during the upcoming rainy season unless control activities are stepped up," U.N. News reported Thursday.
A Wednesday update from FAO's Locust Watch service warned:
The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as hopper bands and an increasing number of new swarms form in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and Somalia. This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the beginning of the long rains and the planting season. Although ground and aerial control operations are in progress, widespread rains that fell in late March will allow the new swarms to mostly remain, mature and lay eggs while a few swarms could move from Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. During May, the eggs will hatch into hopper bands that will form new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the start of the harvest.
The massive swarms, as Common Dreams has reported, are partly fueled by the climate crisis and have affected Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The pests have also been spotted in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan and India.
The main method of battling locust swarms — which each can devour enough food to feed 35,000 people in a day — is the spraying of pesticides. Concerns are mounting that locust eradication efforts in the region will be increasingly hampered by pandemic-related travel restrictions and supplies problems.
“Parts of Africa were already threatened by another kind of plague, the biggest locust outbreak some countries had… https://t.co/lrQlLrBZFE— Jonathan Lemire (@Jonathan Lemire)1586517820.0
"Suppliers of motorized sprayers and pesticides are facing major challenges with limited airfreight options to facilitate delivery," Cyril Ferrand, FAO's resilience team leader for East Africa, told EARTHER on March 30. "Purchased orders were placed [a] few weeks ago and pesticides expected last week in Kenya have been delayed by 10 days."
Ferrand said in a statement Thursday that "there is no significant slowdown" in efforts to stop the swarms across the region so far "because all the affected countries working with FAO consider desert locusts a national priority."
"While lockdown is becoming a reality, people engaged in the fight against the upsurge are still allowed to conduct surveillance, and air and ground control operations," he said. "The biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is the supply of pesticides and we have delays because global air freight has been reduced significantly."
"Our absolute priority is to prevent a breakdown in pesticide stocks in each country," Ferrand added. "That would be dramatic for rural populations whose livelihoods and food security depend on the success of our control campaign."
The fight against desert locusts in East Africa goes on despite #COVID19 restrictions, @UN's @FAOnews says, the age… https://t.co/RWb6mYgsYa— UN News (@UN News)1586498400.0
FAO has secured about $111.1 million of the $153.2 million it has requested to tackle the locust crisis and is supporting surveillance and pesticide application in 10 nations.
The U.N. agency continues to raise concerns about how locusts could impact the collective 20 million people already enduring food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania — as well as an additional 15 million people in war-torn Yemen.
This is the worst locust invasion that Kenya has seen in 70 years. Quartz Africa reported Friday on current conditions in the country, where hoppers have been maturing into adults over the past month after hatching in February and early March:
These swarms are still immature, and take up to four weeks before they are ready to lay eggs. Kenya is more than halfway through this maturation cycle, and the new generation of locust swarms are expected to begin laying eggs within the week.
In Kenya, the locust maturation is coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. Farmers have been sowing crops of maize, beans, sorghum, barley, and millet during March and April, in hopes that a favorable rainy season will allow for abundant growth during late April and May. With the locust swarms gaining size and strength, experts fear that up to 100% of farmers' budding crops could be consumed, leaving some communities with nothing to harvest.
"The concern at the moment is that the desert locust will eat under-emerging plants," Ferrand told Quartz. "This very soft, green material, biomass leaves, rangeland, is, of course, the favorite food for the desert locusts."
As for the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in China late last year, Africa has reported 562 deaths and nearly 11,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Al Jazeera, which are relatively low figures compared with other affected regions. However, the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that some African nations could see a significant spike in cases in the coming weeks.
"During the last four days, we can see that the numbers have already doubled," Michel Yao, the WHO Africa program manager for emergency response, said Thursday. "If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon."
As Ferrand said in his March conversation with EARTHER: "How do we respond to the needs of the European countries and North American countries as well as the humanitarian and development assistance that is still so necessary in the continent of Africa? ... This is the challenge that we will have to face in 2020."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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- Ethiopia to Plant 5 Billion Tree Seedlings in 2020 ›
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About 353 million trees were planted in a single day in Ethiopia on Monday, setting a new world record for seedling plantings, as CNN reported.
The record-setting day is part of a wider "green legacy" initiative started by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office. The campaign wants every Ethiopian to plant 40 seedlings during the rainy season, which runs from May to October. In the end, the country will have 4 billion indigenous trees to help mitigate the effects of the global climate crisis.
Ethiopia is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and has suffered from recurrent droughts and deforestation. According the UN figures, Ethiopia's forest coverage dropped from 35 percent a century ago to just 4 percent in the 2000s, as the Guardian reported.
While 80 percent of Ethiopia's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, extensive farming has increased Ethiopia's vulnerability to land degradation, soil erosion and flooding, according to CNN.
Bekele Benti, a bus driver in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa who has witnessed the effects of deforestation, participated in the tree plantings.
"As a bus driver, with frequent trips across the country, I have witnessed the extent of deforestation in different parts of Ethiopia," Benti told Xinhua. "It's really frustrating to see forest-covered areas turned to be bare lands within a few years."
The Green Legacy project "is an ambitious undertaking to become a green society by planting various types of eco-friendly seedling to combat environmental degradation and, a national platform that will be used for various societal green activities," according to the prime minister's official website.
The initial plan for Monday was to plant 200 million trees, which would shatter the record for a single day planting, set in India in 2017 when 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees. To facilitate the planting, many government offices were closed and civil servants were given the day off to take part in the planting, as CNN reported.
After the 12-hour period ended, the Prime Minister posted to Twitter that Ethiopia had far exceeded its goal. A total of 353,633,660 tree seedlings had been planted, the country's minster for innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted, as CNN reported.
Abiy took part in the planting, making appearances that included stops in Addis Ababa, Arba Minch and Wolaita Sodo. More than 400 staff from the United Nations planted trees, along with staff from the African Union, and various foreign embassies in Ethiopia, according to the BBC.
Ethiopian Airlines was one of several corporate entities to join the effort. "Environmental sustainability is one of our corporate philosophies," said the airline, which shared pictures of its executives planting trees near airplanes, according to the Africa Times.
The move to plant so many trees comes in the wake of a recent study that planting 500 billion trees could remove one-fourth of the carbon in the atmosphere, as EcoWatch reported.
Planting Billions of Trees Is the 'Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,' Study Finds https://t.co/Qv5u6ZRnEL— Ibrahim Thiaw (@ibrahimthiaw) July 28, 2019
- Amazon Deforestation Rate Hits 3 Football Fields Per Minute, Data ... ›
- Ethiopia to Plant 5 Billion Tree Seedlings in 2020 ›
Food is the cornerstone of the holiday season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions, and great flavors.
From figgy pudding to fruit cake, many foods may bring on the holiday cheer — or a foul taste in your mouth. Depending on where you live, foods that are considered a normal part of the holiday feast to some may seem downright strange to others.
Here are 15 unique holiday foods enjoyed around the world.
1. Bûche de Noël (France)
Also known as Yule log, bûche de Noël is a sweet dessert served in France during the Christmas season.
Though there are many variations, one of the most common types is made with heavy cream, cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. It's commonly decorated with icing sugar and fruit.
Bûche de Noël commemorates the tradition of cutting and burning a specially selected log known as the Yule log. This pagan tradition was introduced to the Christian holiday many centuries ago.
Most enjoy this dessert between Christmas Eve (December 24th) and New Year (January 1st).
2. Shuba (Russia)
While most countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Russia is one of the few countries that celebrates this holiday on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox Julian calendar.
Colloquially known as "herring under a fur coat," shuba is a popular dish served during the holiday season in Russia. Its main ingredients include pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions.
The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that resembles a warm winter coat.
While this may seem like an unconventional dish, it's an excellent source of protein, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and B.
3. Yebeg Wot (Ethiopia)
Similarly to Ethiopia's national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season.
Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices.
Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread.
This dish is a rich source of protein, carbs, and antioxidants.
4. Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)
If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru's spiced hot chocolate a try.
This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg.
In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón.
5. Mince Pie (England)
Also known as mincemeat or Christmas pie, mince pie is a widely popular and historical holiday dessert.
Despite its name, most modern mincemeat pies are meatless. Traditionally, mince pies were made of shredded beef or mutton, suet, dried fruit, and spices.
However, most varieties today simply consist of pastry dough, dried apples and raisins, distilled spirits, vegetable shortening, and a spice mixture containing nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
Interestingly, the pies used to be oblongly shaped to represent a manger, although most mince pies served today are circular.
6. Bibingka (Philippines)
During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines.
Bibingka consists of rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish.
This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simbáng Gabi — a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas.
In fact, it's common to have food stations set up outside of church for churchgoers to buy bibingka and other popular sweets, such as steamed rice cakes known as puto bumbong. Many enjoy these treats with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
7. Butter Tarts (Canada)
While a typical Canadian diet is similar to that of a typical U.S. diet, it has a few classic treats of its own.
Butter tarts are a Canadian dessert that's served during many holidays, but mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They're small pastries with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple or corn syrup, eggs, and sometimes walnuts and raisins. Enjoy these tarts with a cup of coffee for the ultimate treat.
8. Latkes (Israel)
During Hanukkah, latkes are a delicious staple on most dinner plates. In Hebrew, the dish is known as levivot.
Fried in hot oil, latkes are symbolic of the oil that, according to a text that serves as the central source of Jewish religious law, lit the menorah for 8 days despite only having enough oil for 1 day.
Made of the simplest of ingredients, you can make latkes with shredded potato and onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs or matzo. Deep fry it in hot oil, and you have yourself some delicious latkes.
Other popular Hanukkah treats include sufganiyot (jelly donuts), challah (braided bread), and beef brisket.
9. Hangikjöt (Iceland)
Served during Christmas, hangikjöt is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods.
It translates to "hung meat" and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor.
Hangikjöt is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white béchamel sauce, and side of pickled red cabbage.
10. Bahn Chung (Vietnam)
Bahn chung is a beloved rice cake enjoyed during Tết (Vietnamese New Year).
This dish is made using sticky rice, pork, mung beans, green onions, fish sauce, and spices like salt and pepper.
In addition to its great flavor, it's placed in front of family altars to pay tribute to ancestors and prayers for the upcoming year.
11. Pasteles (Puerto Rico)
Pasteles are a classic Christmas dish in Puerto Rico.
Making pasteles requires time and patience. The inner portion of the pasteles consists of a mixture of ground pork and an adobo blended spice sauce. The outer portion is made using a special masa dough made of grated green bananas, yautía, and spices.
After allowing the dough to sit for a few hours, the masa is placed on banana leaves, the pork filling is added, and it's wrapped.
Traditional Puertorican pasteles are boiled in hot water and served with rice, meat, fish, pigeon peas, and hot sauce for a delicious holiday feast.
12. Eggnog (United States)
Eggnog isn't a holiday treat around the world. In fact, it's mostly enjoyed in the United States and Canada.
This drink is made from milk, cream, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and sugar, resulting in a creamy, smooth texture.
Most people enjoy eggnog as an alcoholic beverage by adding rum, bourbon, or brandy.
13. Kutia (Ukraine)
Kutia is a traditional Christmas Eve dish that is popular among members of the Ukranian Orthodox Church. As part of the Julian calendar, Christmas Eve falls on January 6th.
It's usually the first dish served as part of Sviata Vecheria — a 12-dish vegetarian feast to commemorate the 12 apostles.
Made from cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and honey, this dish is packed with nutrition, which is an important focus of this Ukranian feast. In fact, this dish is so important to the meal that all guests are expected to have at least one spoonful.
However, it's customary to wait until the first star in the sky appears before digging in.
14. Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
Also known as Jansson's Temptation, this casserole dish is made from potatoes, onions, heavy cream, breadcrumbs, and sprats — a small, oily fish similar to sardines.
It's usually accompanied by a smorgasbord of food known as the "julbord," which translates to "Yule table" or "Christmas table." It's enjoyed with foods like baked ham, meatballs, fish, boiled potatoes, cheeses, and various cooked vegetables.
The origin of its name is controversial, though many believe it originated from a popular opera singer known as Pelle Janzon.
15. Christmas Cake (Global)
Christmas cake is a popular dessert around the world.
It's a type of fruit cake made of flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and brandy. Traditional Christmas cake is made at least 2 months ahead to allow adequate time to slowly "feed" the cake with brandy every 2 weeks. Finally, it's topped with a marzipan icing.
While it's mostly known as a British dessert, many countries serve Christmas cake during the holiday season. In fact, South Koreans are well-known for their beautiful, artistic Christmas cake decorations.
The Bottom Line
Many cultures celebrate the holiday season for different reasons. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year, food plays a central role in celebrations around the world.
From savory main dishes to sweet desserts, each culture brings a unique twist to this jolly season.
With the holidays just around the corner, remember to enjoy all the delicious food and memories they will bring.
In a move roundly decried by public health experts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as his administration investigates the international body's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump claimed the agency trusted the information coming out of China in the early days of the outbreak too easily, but his actions come as he tries to deflect criticism of his own response to the pandemic that has sickened more than 600,000 in the U.S. and claimed nearly 25,000 U.S. lives. His announcement also follows a weekend that saw the U.S. death toll rise to become the highest in the world, as well as the release of a major New York Times investigation revealing Trump implemented social distancing measures weeks after his own health experts thought they were necessary. More Americans now disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus than approve, The New York Times pointed out.
"It is a transparent attempt to shift blame for the U.S. administration's own failings," Center for Global Development senior policy fellow and former U.S. Agency for International Development disaster relief head Jeremy Konyndyk told Science of Trump's decision to pause funding. He also said the freeze "leaves the U.S. and the world less safe."
President @realDonaldTrump is halting funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to asses… https://t.co/tbxfP81TuT— The White House (@The White House)1586904611.0
During a White House press briefing Tuesday, Trump claimed that WHO's early missteps had proven fatal.
"So much death has been caused by their mistakes," the president told reporters.
One of his major criticisms is that the agency accepted Chinese accounts of the virus too readily. But The New York Times pointed out that Trump himself praised the Chinese response in January while he was negotiating a trade deal with the country.
"China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," he tweeted Jan. 24. "It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!'
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts an… https://t.co/Gv3NQQlQCh— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1579900695.0
Other countries have raised concerns about the speed with which WHO responded to the virus. For example, the agency did accept the news from China in mid-January that the virus did not pass from person to person. But it also gave out warnings during that month about the new illness.
A senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, Dr. Amesh Adalja, told Reuters that while WHO may have made some errors, it still was doing vital work to control the spread of the new disease.
"It's not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing," he said.
Even other members of the administration agree. Trump made his announcement despite the opposition of top health officials, who were concerned it would hamper international efforts to fight the virus that causes COVID-19., an anonymous official told Reuters.
The U.S. is the country that contributes most to WHO. In 2019, it gave more than $400 million, around 15 percent of the agency's budget. Its funding pause comes as the agency is appealing for more than a billion in extra funds to fight the virus.
Trump said he expects his review to take 60 to 90 days, but it comes as WHO is working to fight the virus in less developed countries who are less prepared to cope with its spread. On Tuesday, the first WHO "solidarity flight" took off from Ethiopia carrying essential health supplies to African countries, Science pointed out.
"WHO is in the middle of supporting global surveillance efforts and scale-up of testing and response in low- and middle-income countries around the world," Georgetown University global health researcher Matthew Kavanaugh told Science. "Hobbling that response is not just unjust, it's incredibly bad for U.S. public health at a moment when we have all learned painfully how easily this virus moves from abroad to U.S. shores."
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A number of factors, including climate change and poor water management, are worsening water scarcity, which coupled with other social problems like rising inequality and ethnic tensions, are threatening conflict between states and within states.
Charles Iceland, director of global and national water initiatives at the World Resources Institute, spoke to DW about disputes over the essential resource and how it can be avoided, as well as the new Water, Peace and Security (WPS) tool that forecasts where water disputes are likely over the next 12 months, and how they might be avoided.
DW: What is a water conflict and what does it look like?
Charles Iceland: In many places throughout the world, there's just more and more demand for water with respect to what's available. Sometimes the conflicts are nonviolent — like in Australia or California where people go through the legal system or they work their issues out without violence. But in a lot of places, the problem is grave enough and the ability to resolve the problem is not well developed. So you can see the wrestling over these scarce resources develop in violent ways.
Where would you say are the regions and countries in which water, water scarcity, water quality are playing a role in conflict?
Populations are growing very quickly in sub-Saharan Africa — going up fourfold between 1960 and today. Resources have either stayed the same or you have a reduction in resources, because of climate change or because desertification is reducing arable land. So you have a lot of violent conflicts between these smallholder farmers and pastoralists wrestling over scarce land and water resources. We've seen over the past couple of years pastoralists massacring farming communities and retribution by farming communities.
We're also seeing a lot of violent conflict play out in the Middle East. So, for example, in Iraq, a lot of the demonstrations that led to the prime minister's resignation a few months ago. But part of the grievances entailed lack of services, which included lack of access to clean water and lack of access to electricity. They're getting sick. About a year and a half ago, 120,000 people in Basra had to be hospitalized because they were drinking contaminated water.
And it's [water scarcity] is also a problem in places like Iran, Afghanistan and India. So those are some of the hotspots.
So it could be an interstate conflict, but it could be intrastate as well between various stakeholders in society?
When you have violent conflict, it usually plays out at a subnational level. While you have international conflicts over water, those are rarely resolved through violence. So, for example, we have India and Pakistan wrestling over water in the Indus. We have Iraq and Turkey wrestling over water in the Tigris and Euphrates. We have Egypt and Ethiopia wrestling over water and in the Blue Nile Basin. The parties try as much as they can to resolve the issues in a nonviolent way through diplomacy.
Will we see a future of water wars and water as the new oil?
Both, like a lot of metaphors, are not really accurate. Wars are rarely fought over water as a single issue. Rather, we see the problem as a threat multiplier. So it's one issue in the background. If you have other issues leading to instability, maybe problems between ethnic groups or anything could trigger violence, the background of having water scarcity, has destabilized the society and made it less able to resolve problems amicably.
How much of a role does climate change play in water scarcity or water quality?
We have trouble attributing any particular drought or flood to climate change, but we are seeing very dramatic increases in the incidence and severity of drought in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. So we're having a general decline in rainfall in some of these areas. In some of these areas the amount of rainfall stays the same but you have very large intermittent drought and flood periods. That's what's been predicted by climate change experts.
What other factors can lead to water scarcity?
The management of water resources is a critical factor. So people, in theory might have enough water in some places, but they're mismanaging it. They're losing water. They are polluting the water. And then there are upstream, downstream issues. There are many instances where the upstream users are accessing water, but downstream users suffer because they're getting less water.
What exactly is the Water Peace and Security tool?
We're a consortium of nine organizations in the U.S. and Europe that are working together to both try to identify hotspots of water insecurity and then try to help local people and the global community do something about this to either avoid conflict or minimize the impacts of conflict. So we've developed a machine learning-based model that tries to predict where conflict might break out in the next 12 months. We're using a number of factors — political, economic, social, demographic — that might point at imminent conflict. And to that group of indicators, we add water and food insecurity indicators. We try to identify these hotspots, whether they are water-related conflicts and what are the drivers of the conflict.
How can you resolve a water conflict?
There are lots of examples on the subnational and international levels where either global or national entities have brought competing [water] users together.
A very good example of this was in 1960 — the World Bank brought the governments of India and Pakistan together to develop a treaty that divided up the water in the Indus River Basin. That treaty has come under pressure recently but it's still been able to keep India and Pakistan from having problems boil over — at least to date.
Jennifer Collins conducted the interview, which has been shortened and edited for clarity.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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