Sunday, 31 August 2008

Hurricane worse than Katrina to hit New Orleans

New Orleans residents have been fleeing in their thousands after the city's mayor ordered an evacuation ahead of Hurricane Gustav. In 2005, three-quarters of the city was flooded. More than 1,800 people died. Sarah Debacher, who has lived in New Orleans for 10 years and is preparing to leave her home for the fourth time, told the BBC she was feeling more anxious this time round.
"The failure of the federal levees after Hurricane Katrina meant that we experienced devastation that we shouldn't have experienced.
"We don't know, frankly we don't have a lot of faith in the work that's been done to repair the damage that was caused by those failures and by the storm. So, this time we're feeling very insecure.”
Not everyone agrees that this storm will be as bad as Katrina was, however. Eric Blake, from the US National Hurricane Centre in Florida, told the BBC Mr Nagin (The New Orleans mayor) may have exaggerated the size of the hurricane.
The hurricane has already killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean.
It has swept through Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica over the past week, causing widespread damage. It has strengthened rapidly from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane, and is expected to grow to a Category 5 storm - the maximum on the scale - as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico. Another page on the current evacuation here.

A video from the BBC can be seen here. A reminder – the BBC site on hurricanes is excellent. Visit it here. More on this later.

Why happiness is a postcode lottery

Powys in Wales tops the list of 273 districts, with Edinburgh apparently the most miserable place in Britain.
Eight of the top 10 districts with the highest levels of wellbeing are in Scotland or the north of England. Not such good news for us though as we are number 4 in the least cheerful places apparently. Can you work out why? What makes a place a happy one? If we get time I may discuss this next week. See the Independents article on this here.

1. Edinburgh
2. Cynon Valley and Rhondda
3. Amber Valley and north east Derbyshire
4. Clydesdale; Cumnock and Doon Valley; Kyle and Carrick
5. Swansea
See the BBC info on this here.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Recycling Research

Nice site here to start you off on the recycling task. Help for glass recycling in particular. Click on the labels of: Reduce
Reuse and

Use it up: What Can You Do With Junk Mail?

See this site here:

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Britains use of water

The UK has become the sixth largest net importer of water in the world. Average household water use for washing and drinking in the UK is about 150 litres a person daily, but we consume about 30 times as much in "virtual water"(see below) used in the production of imported food and textiles;
Taking virtual water into account, each of us soaks up 4,645 litres a day;
People in poorer countries typically subsist on 1,000 litres of virtual water a day;
· Different diets have different water footprints. A meat and dairy-based diet consumes about 5,000 litres of virtual water a day while a vegetarian diet uses about 2,000 litres.
What's particularly worrying is that huge amounts of the food and cotton we consume are grown in drier areas of the world where water resources are in short supply.

Virtual water Alternatively called embedded, is water that has been used in the production of food and fibres. Includes resources also for irrigation, processing and packaging of produce.
Water footprint Amount of virtual and visible water used by a country, businesses or individuals.
Green water That which derives directly from rainfall or from the soil. Generally replenished, but climate change will alter patterns of rainfall and there could be a decline in many parts of the world.
Blue water Withdrawn from ground-water or surface reserves. In many areas blue water is being used faster than nature replenishes it.
Read the rest of this interesting article , including what M and S are trying to do. See here.

Bottled v. tap water

Nice video here and an interesting web site to have a look at. Thanks to Tony Cassidy for highlighting this one.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Maps and Google side by side

Great site here that allows you to split screen both the resources above. Try this link to see an example.

Water Issues in Ghana

Ghana Geography Homework – Water Issues

Fairtrade Videos

Reuters Television takes an in-depth look at the benefits of trading cocoa fairly onthe world market, focused on Ghana and interviews members of the Kuapa Kokoo Fair Trade cooperative. Addresses problems in cocoa industry in West Africa including low world prices, and middlemen. Ghana produces fourteen percent of the world's cocoa, yet its farmers receive a small percentage of the revenue made by Western countries when they sell chocolate bars. In a bid to boost their income and cut out the middle man, farmers in Ghana have begun to sell their cocoa in local Coops to make sure it's traded fairly.

Fair trade advert

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Farming controversy.

I don’t have time to write more about this just now but Prince Charles caused a lot of discussion about the use of GM crops this week and the guardian has two good articles for and against their use. See these here and here. The paper has lots of other articles on this if you want a look

Dead Zones

No - nothing to do with a serial killer or anything like that but just as nasty for the environment. A dead zone is defined as “ Waters with little or no oxygen continue to form in coastal areas worldwide thanks to fertilizer washing off agricultural fields and fossil fuel burning.” The experts say the hundreds of sea areas of very low oxygen now affect a combined area the size of New Zealand, and that they pose as great a threat to life in the world's oceans as overfishing and habitat loss. The key solution, they say, is to "keep fertilisers on the land and out of the sea". Changes in the way fertilisers and other pollutants are managed on land have already "virtually eliminated" dead zones from the Mersey and Thames estuaries Ultimately, it may take revolutions in agriculture and transportation, along with the energy of hurricanes to bring life back to dead zones. Find out here what hurricanes have to do with anything and how Hurricane Katrina actually helped the seas off New Orleans and the guardian article here.

Thanks to catholicgauze for highlighting this one from Scientific American. Great blog! Have a look if you can folks

Geology maps

This amazing picture reveals what our world looks like when it is stripped bare - removed of all its plants, topsoil, water and man-made things.
This was shown, along with others at OneGeology - the world's biggest ever geological mapping project. There are lots of interesting maps but I liked this one. Look at the mid Atlantic ridge “screaming” out at us on the left (west!!). Read more here

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Population growth

The Independent has a great article today on population growth and covers a huge amount we introduce at S grade and Higher. Int 2. Read the summary here and the original article if you can because this comes up a lot in exams!
A country's population is determined by three things: how many people are born, how soon they die and how many leave or enter the country.

A leading medical journal recently called for British couples to stop having so many children to 'reduce global warming'. But much of the rest of Europe has a different problem: declining birthrates and ageing populations. A child born today in the UK will be responsible for 150 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a child born in Ethiopia. When Thomas Malthus first published his gloomy Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798 he had others than himself in his sights. Human populations grow exponentially whereas food reproduction expands in a linear fashion (it's the difference in maths between multiplication and addition) so disaster always looms, in the shape of disease, war or famine, to balance the population out. The magic figure for demographers is 2.1 births per couple. That, allowing for the fact that some girls die before they reach child-bearing age, is the figure at which a population replaces itself. In Europe the last time that fertility was above replacement level was in the mid-1960s. But now, for the first time on record, birthrates in southern and eastern Europe have dropped below 1.3 – well below the 1.5 which the United Nations has marked as the crisis point. If things continue the population there will be cut in half in just 45 years. In Italy, one recent survey put it at 1.2. Cities such as Milan and Bologna recorded less than 1, the lowest birthrates anywhere. Things are as bleak in Japan. There the total fertility rate declined by nearly a third between 1975 and 2001, from 1.91 to 1.33. The average family size has remained the same, but there are fewer families. Half of Japanese women have not married by the age of 30, and 20 per cent of them are not marrying ever.
But it is not just the developed world. The birthrate is plummeting in east Asia. China's rate is down from 6.06 to 1.8 and declining. South Korea has slashed government spending on birth control. Singapore is now offering tax rebates to couples with more than two children. Japan is piling money into nurseries and childcare.
There is still rapid population growth in many parts of the world. Birthrates are still very high in Africa. At their peak in the 1970s Kenya had a growth rate of 4.1 per cent, which was doubling its population every 17 years. The rate is down but 11 African countries still have a whopping growth rate of 2.6 per cent a year. Populations in Uganda, Burkina Faso and Congo will treble or more by 2050. And India is set to leapfrog China as the world's most populous nation by 2050 when its population is expected to top 1,750,000,000 people. (China will be 1,400 million, and the third biggest, the United States, around 420 million.)
But in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia birthrates, which declined steadily between 1900 and 1960, are creeping up again. In the UK, despite a rapidly declining population in Scotland, the overall fertility rate is 1.8 and rising. In Holland it is 1.73. Sweden's has risen to 1.9, with the rest of Scandinavia at 1.8.
The usual story is when people are poor they have lots of children. When half your kids die before they grow up and you need to have lots to make sure there is someone to look after you in old age. If it takes one person all day to plough or weed the fields, or fetch the firewood, or find grazing for the goats, or carry the water and pound the grain, then you need a big family. And if there is no contraception available you don't have much choice anyway.
But when you get richer family sizes start dropping. The health of your children improves. You have savings for your old age. Girls go to school, get jobs outside the home, marry and have babies much later. Contraception becomes available. You move to the city where you don't need so many children to do the household chores. Make people richer and the population falls.
Not everyone believes this though. Twenty years ago fertility started to decline in Nepal and Bangladesh when they were still poor. Korea wasn't rich when fertility declined. By contrast the Gulf oil states continued with high birthrates long after they got huge wealth.
There's been an extraordinary change in 20 years and it comes from a combination of factors - It is delaying the age at which women marry. It used to be 14 or 15; now it's 21 or 22. Another factor is the success of NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations]; 20 million households in Bangladesh have access to micro-finance, and in half of them, the money goes to the women. Then there has been education for girls encouraged by programmes that gave cereals to families whose girls went to secondary school and 'cash for education' female stipends." Bangladesh has now surpassed the Millennium Development Goal on education and now has more girls in secondary education than boys.

Low-birth Europe is faced with an ageing population, a pensions crisis, later retirement, changes in work patterns, shrinking cities and a massive looming healthcare cost. Nations of children with no siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles – only parents, grandparents, and perhaps great-grandparents – will face the burden of paying for the care of a massive older generation. Meanwhile high-birth Africa will remain stuck in a vicious circle unless it gets economic growth, agricultural reform, improved world trade terms, infrastructure investment, better health and education systems, more girls into school and a wider availability of family planning.

Baby boom?

Here are some interesting statistics. The 'replacement' fertility rate, to maintain population, is 2.1
Iraq 4.3
UK 1.8
USA 2.1
Afghanistan 7.1
Hong Kong 0.95

What does the future hold?
Read the whole of this excellent article on this here.

Roo burgers fight global warming?

Farming kangaroos instead of sheep and cattle in Australia could cut by almost a quarter the greenhouse gases produced by grazing livestock, which account for 11 percent of the nation's annual emissions, said a new study. Kangaroos produce only small amounts of methane, said the study. However, the study said changing farming in Australia, which is one of the world's top wool and beef producers but sells only small amounts of kangaroo meat for eating, would not be easy. The kangaroo is on Australia's coat of arms,and is seen by many as a national symbol, but farmers see the country's 34 million kangaroos as pests that compete for grazing pastures with sheep and cattle. Transport and energy accounts for the largest amount of emissions, at 69.6 percent, with agriculture creating 15.6 percent. Sheep and cattle alone produce 10.9 percent of emissions. Read the complete article here.

What I didn't read, however was the option of not eating meat at all or at least cutting down. Rant over from the veggie.

Friday, 8 August 2008


08/08/08 is here and that means the opening cermonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics are here. The official Olympics website has an online GIS interactive map of Beijing featuring everything from Olympic sites to churches. The BBC also has a lot od great stuff. Here's a start with this map. Read more about Monkey and also here.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Aral Sea Rescue plan

One of the 20th century's great disasters has been partly reversed, according to a report that claims the waters are rising once more in part of the Aral sea.
The team behind an Aral sea restoration plan claims that the water level in the northern part of the sea in Asia has risen because a dyke has been built and leaking irrigation channels mended. However the scheme only saves a very small bit of what was once the world's fourth largest sea - the new surface area is less than half the total sea in 1960, and studies have concluded some areas cannot be saved. read the complete article here.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Couple of good sites here to start learning about China - just in time for the Olympics.

Colorado River drought

The south-western US is suffering its eighth year of drought. There are concerns that the Colorado River can no longer meet the needs of the tens of millions of people living in major cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The Colorado River starts in the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the north. It travels through the south-western states, towards Mexico and the Pacific ocean.
Two dams were built along the river in the last century. They have caused changes to the plant and animal life of the river.
The lakes behind the dams supply water to agriculture, to industry and to many homes in huge sprawling cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They are simply using too much water.
So too is some of the vegetation along the river. Tamarisk trees - otherwise known as salt-cedars. They drink a tremendous amount. This adds to the problem of water, as now we have our fresh water source being sucked dry by these trees.
Read more and watch a video from the BBC on this topic here.
Great for Higher and Int 2 River Basin Management.

Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic

It is forbidden to die in the Arctic town of Longyearbyen! If you do die then no-one will bury you. At 78 degrees north, it lies on the archipelago of Svalbard, a group of islands between Norway's northern coast and the North Pole.The town's small graveyard stopped accepting new bodies 70 years ago, after it was discovered that the bodies were not decomposing.

School Issues are different here too –

Polar bears
Trips outside the school walls carry a more immediate danger for the children and, for this reason, the teacher carries a gun. There are some other interesting facts here about global warming. Read the BBC article here.

Fiar Trade at work video.

Is this a bit much for S2 pupils?

Maybe I’ll think twice before using this one in class!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Olympics coming soon

One mans view of the Beijing Olympics. A bit old (from 2007) but may be very relevant over the next few weeks. Do you think we will see the real China when the Olympics are televised. Quite frankly I doubt it.

Pollution in Beijing
Beijing is taking drastic measures to improve its air quality in the run-up to the Olympics. In China's capital city, emergency measures are being taken before the Olympics.
The aim is to reduce air pollution so when athletes and tourists arrive for the Olympics, they can see blue sky above the bird's nest stadium. In Beijing the issue is serious, with winds carrying pollution from all over the surrounding region as well as dust from the Gobi desert in spring.
Then there's the effect of sunlight. Nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons can form ozone as long as there's bright sunlight.
Read the longer BBC article here.

100 months

That’s all folks! Look at this one if you’ve got a minute.

……..and related to the title a piece of nonsense here. Bit like “You’ve been framed”

Just while I remember this one. A site on disasters that might be useful for Int 2 or S2. Updates you regulsrly and tells what people haver to do in an emergency situation,. Worth a look.

China after the earthquake

Watch this BBC video on how the people are coping now after the May ‘quake
This video shows how the orphans are coping.