Who was Wangari Maathai?

Wangari Maathai was a leading light in African conservation and social enterprise, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. She was critical in showing people around the world how positive actions could change the environment and people.

More here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15056502

And here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2011/sep/26/wangari-maathai-kenya?CMP=twt_fd

How will the UK change when its people live to 100?

Recent reports suggest that half the children born in the UK today can expect to live to 100.

This will place different demands on our healthcare, social care and pension systems. But the full extent of the changes are unknown.

Will the UK remain a place where older people are valued or might they come to be viewed as a burden on society? Whatever the outcome, the socail fabric of the UK will change significantly in the coming decades as our population ages.



How does climate change cause migration?

Climate change, whether anthropogenic (man made), natural or both can accelerate processes such as desertification, coastal erosion and flooding. Here are some pictoral examples of where this is happening around the world:


What is “virtual” or “hidden” water?

Virtual water, sometimes known as “embedded” water, is a measure of the amount of “invisible” water required to generate various foodstuffs and products. Many products require a considerable amount more water to create than might be suggested by looking at it. For example, a cup of coffe requires around around 140 litres of water and a cotton T-shirt needs around 2000 litres! This water is needed to grow, wash and process the products and refers to any water required during the product cycle.

You can discover more about the idea of virtual water here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8628832.stm

This is an increasing problem as many countries are effectively “exporting” large quantities of water in products they generate. This is occurring in many parts of the developing world where growing demand for water from increasing populations  and “thirsty” technology is combining with a decline in available water due to previous consumption of reserves, poor management and changing climatic condition.

You can listen to Prof Tony Allan of King’s College London (http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/geography/people/acad/allan/research.html), who developed the concept, talking about the idea here:


From a sustainable development point of view, this metrication of water required to generate the goods and services we consume allows us to create a “water footprint” which shows the impact of individuals, groups and activities on our water supply. You can find more about this here: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/home

How are glaciers in the Himalayas changing?

It’s no surprise that glaciers in the Himalayas are being monitored closely, their seasonal melting provides hundreds of millions of people with water throughout northern India and beyond. If the glaciers melt the supply of water they generate could become unstable, threatening the livelihoods of those who rely on it.

Beyond water supply issues, there are other problems. Lakes are now building up behind the natural moraine dams left by the retreating glaciers. The growth of these proglacial lakes is putting increasing pressure on the dams, sometimes leading to potentially catastrophic collapses, known as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs for short).

Recent research has tried to identify the scale of the problem:


The UN is also involved in the monitoring of potential GLOFs:


A bit more background here:


Here is the UNDP’s assessment of the risk in Nepal:


Who uses nuclear energy?

Many think that nuclear power holds the answer to our future energy needs, with limited impact in terms of climate change. Many countries in the EU are already using nuclear power, you can find out who, here:


This link shows how the use of nuclear energy has grown and changed around the world.

How do wind turbines work?

Some people believe that wind turbines hold the answer to our need for “clean” energy. This is how they work: