March 2010

4 March 2010

Many now fondly remember the days of cheap credit and apparent financial stability in the early 2000s. Those were the days where you would deposit your money and earn a reasonable rate of interest while businesses and individuals could receive a loan to open or expand a business, buy a home, go to university, etc..

The past is indeed a strange place: they do things differently there.

9 March 2010

Is the biodiversity drain speeding up? As Juliette Jowit reports in a recent Guardian, a study by Simon Stuart of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission reveals that humans are driving extinctions ‘faster than new species can evolve’.

That might not surprise some in Madagascar — the California-sized ‘eighth continent’ off Africa’s southeastern coast, and a crucible of species from lemurs to octopus trees. This positively sizzling biodiversity hotspot is in danger of becoming little more than a barren political minefield.

All of which strikes a bleak note in this, the International Year of Biodiversity.

11 March 2010

When it’s done, the global tally could be 50 million. So says the International Labour Organization (ILO) about job losses from this recession.

In richer countries, that has meant growing pressure on central government resources, as formal jobs have been lost and draws on government benefits have increased. Estimates include 8 million jobs lost in the US and 1.3 million in the UK.

In developing countries, people are more likely to juggle several jobs than in the developed world. This means underemployment

15 March 2010

Some might say that archaeology is all about potsherds and old bones. But digging into the past can be a way of uncovering patterns of human behaviour with real relevance for our own time. And recently a group of archaeologists did just that, by unearthing an earlier culture that is an uncomfortable echo of our own.

A study by this University of Cambridge group claims that the Nazca — a people famed for creating the gigantic ‘Nazca Lines’, patterns on a Peruvian desert that can only be seen from a plane — precipitated their own decline through excessive deforestation.

17 March 2010

When arms sales jump by more than a fifth during a global economic downturn, you have to wonder who’s buying, who’s selling and what the implications are for poorer countries.

Richard Norton-Taylor, reporting in the UK Guardian, reports that the average volume of sales of arms — including weapons such as guns, ammunition, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, ships and electronic systems — has increased by 22 per cent over five years compared to the previous five. Demand from South America and Southeast Asia has been particularly high.

23 March 2010

‘Mind-withering stupidity’ is how UK writer George Monbiot characterised the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) decision not to protect bluefin tuna.

The ‘absence of a ban’, he went on to say, ‘ensures that, after one or two more seasons of fishing at current levels, all the jobs and the entire industry are finished forever, along with the magnificent species that supported them’.

26 March 2010

The future sprawls before us — urban sprawl, that is. John Vidal of the UK Guardian says that in 50 years, we could see ‘vast “mega-regions” which may stretch hundreds of miles across countries and be home to more than 100 million people’.

In fact, they’re here already: the gargantuan Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Ghaungzhou conurbation, to take just one example, houses more than 120 million people.

Whether in-migration to these regions is a trickle or a flood (and the downturn has apparently had a mixed effect on migration to cities), the urban pull remains powerful, as the poor chase jobs and escape degraded rural environments or conflict.

30 March 2010

In the global recession, have so called ‘emerging' economies got a toehold in the trade, aid, and investment big-league?