Monday, August 18, 2008

Three Interesting Stories

Once again, I have been to one of my favourite sites “” ( and have decided to share three of the stories that are making headlines in Europe.

Our world is indeed a global village and what happens in one corner of the planet will soon find its way to the other corners eventually. No one is safe from what their global neighbours are doing – good or bad. And that brings me to the first story.

Europe’s Pine May Be Wiped Out, say Experts.

Europe’s pine forests are at risk from the nematode bug. This bugs literally swarms through a pine tree’s pulpy interior interfering with and; eventually, cutting off the tree's sap supply. Two species of pine are known to be susceptible: the Maritime pine (which makes up almost a quarter of Portugal’s forests) and Scots pine (the most widespread pine species in Europe often used as Christmas trees). Frighteningly, here in North American, it has been reported on Austrian and White pines also.

Tens of thousands of trees have already died in Portugal and experts fear that this disease could spread further. “Pine Wilt Disease” has become out of control in the south-west portion of Europe. Pine Wilt was first detected in the Setúbal region, south of Lisbon, in 1999, when 340,000 trees died in two years. In the 1970’s, Japan’s enormous pine forests were totally destroyed by the pine nematode bug.

The symptoms of Pine Wilt are: trees wilt and die rapidly usually within a short period of time although trees may occasionally survive for more than a year; needles turn yellow/brown and remain attached to the tree; needles initially show a light grayish-green discolouration before turning yellow/brown; foliage decreases and resin production is reduced. The disease may or may not progress uniformly through a tree.

Pine Wilt disease has been described as “out of control” in Europe. Strict restrictions on the export of Portuguese pine have been laid down. Roddie Burgess, head of the Plant Health Service for the British government’s Forestry Commission says: “Given the scale of the problem…it’s going to be very difficult to get on top of this”.

A UN Report States That Millions World Wide Are Eating Food Grown With Contaminated Water.

A major study was done in 53 world cities looking into the quality of water used in the agricultural fields of the world. Urban farms in 80% of cities survey were found to be using untreated waste water. That’s at least 200 million people globally who daily risk their health by eating food grown using untreated waste water, some of which may be contaminated with heavy metals and raw sewage.

However the report goes on to state that by using waste water, farmers provided vital food for quickly-growing cities at a time of unprecedented water shortages and the worst food crisis in 30 years. The UN study which was backed by the IMWI (International Water Management Institute) said that surprisingly the use of waste water to grow foods was not confined to the poorest countries. It is prevalent in many mid-income countries as well.

A report launched at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden found the practice “widespread and practically inevitable”.

"As long as developing countries lack suitable transport to deliver large quantities of perishable produce to urban areas, urban agriculture will remain important. In the face of water scarcity generally and a lack of access to clean water, urban farmers will have no alternative except to use … polluted water", write the authors.

Few third-world countries have official guidelines regarding agriculture and the use of waste water. For those that do have some guidelines, monitoring and enforcement may not be realistic and; therefore, very rarely enforced. Officials in these countries tend to turn a “blind eye” making it “unofficially tolerated.”

Earlier this year (2008) WHO (the World Health Organization) stated that both a global environmental and health crisis were waiting to happen with more than 200 million tonnes of human waste a year being dumped untreated into water systems. This will expose hundreds of millions of people to disease.

Nepalese Guides May Lose Jobs Due To Commercial Development

I have always thought of Tibet and Nepal as two pristine cultures that would never change. How wrong I was!! It seems that the powerful sound of a dollar to be made can be heard even in the Himalayas.

There is very real risk that one of the world’s classic mountain-trekking routes is at risk of obliteration from plans to bring golf and skiing package tourism to the mountain range.

The Annapurna circuit, which was only opened to backpackers in 1977, will be competing with a new road running through the heart of the Himalayas. This road will allow free movement of buses, taxis, motorbikes and tractors into areas they were previously unable to reach.

This desecration of the landscape is to connect the mountain resort of Manang to Nepal’s national transport network. Manang is currently reachable by foot or air only. Wildlife and plants will be destroyed. The air will become more polluted as will the water and other natural resources. There will also be a human price to pay – many of the native guides and porters will lose their jobs and be unable to support their families.

However, tourism chiefs in Nepal are eager to replace their traditional “trekker with no money” with a new generation of tourist. They will be actively wooing the wealthier clientele seeking adventure holidays that include such things as heli-skiing and paragliding.

Aditya Baral, Nepal's senior foreign affairs adviser, has been quoted as saying: "After the construction of the road ... the number of trekkers will be reduced. We have a trade-off here between economic development and infrastructure and the effect on tourism and the environment. We need to create alternative attractions to just trekking."

Baral, who is also a former public relations director at the Nepal tourism board, went on to say "We are trying to create man-made tourism attractions, like theme parks, adrenaline sports like bungee jumping and rafting."

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project group has legitimate fears. They state that benefits from such activities as heli-skiing and golf "will mainly go to a few specialized tour operators and some more expensive hotels.” It further stated “Although there will be some trick-down (of profits), for the majority of the local people these activities will have little effect on alleviating poverty”.


Kathi said...

Here in the Southern US, we had Post Oak Beetles (I think they were called) that destroyed pine and other trees. This may go hand in hand with what is happening to frogs (our canaries in the mine), globally.

Let's see what cool videos you've found for us today!

Kathi said...

I don't see any separate place to comment on the videos, so will post here. I'm really enjoying them!

Wondering why you put up the VW ones. They just announced they are building a manufacturing plant here in Chattanooga. It's the biggest news/economic impact happening in Chat's history.

Kathi said...


Fun addition of the game! If anyone doesn't like the music playing, one way to make it stop is to click "play" until game opens then click the little music icon on the lower right to turn off the music.