Category Archives: Elective Geography

A degree of difference: Living with the consequences of climate change

FILE – This July 4, 2012, file photo provided by Ian Joughin shows surface melt water rushing along the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet through a supra-glacial stream channel, south-west of Ilulissat, Greenland. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s and the acceleration of the melting, especially in Greenland, has ice scientists worried. Michel Jarraud, the secretary-general for the World Meteorological Organization, says the most troubling climate development in 2012 was the melting at the top of the world. (AP Photo/Ian Joughin)

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.

Watch how climate change wreaks havoc on the lives of people living in the Pacific Ocean:

The consequences of Climate Change

High tide regularly floods roads on Kiribati — a common occurrence that may be further exacerbated by sea-level rise caused by the expansion of warmer water and the addition of new water from melting ice. (© Ciril Jazbec)

Sea-level rise

  •  Warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow. As glaciers and the giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise.
  • Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100.
  • Rising sea level is a threat to people who live near the ocean. Some low-lying areas will have more frequent flooding. Very low-lying land and small islands could be submerged completely.
  • Rising sea level can also harm important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests and coral reefs.
  • It increases the risk of damage to homes and buildings from storm surges that accompany tropical cyclones. In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many of these regions.
The Storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused widespread coastal flooding on the New Jersey Coast. US Coast Guard
Hurricane Catarina, a rare South Atlantic tropical cyclone viewed from the International Space Station on March 26, 2004

More frequent extreme weather events

  • e.g. heat waves, flood, drought and tropical cyclones.

    Hurricanes and other tropical storms get their energy from warm ocean water.

    As the top layer of the ocean gets warmer, hurricanes and other tropical storms grow stronger, with faster winds and heavier rain.

    Hurricanes and other storms can cause flooding; damage buildings, roads, and other structures; harm crops; and put people’s lives in danger.

A dzud is an extreme weather phenomenon unique to Mongolia that occurs when large numbers of livestock, mostly cows, sheep and goats, die from starvation or cold.
It usually occurs after a dry summer combines with heavy snowstorms creating an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach the grass.
Over one million livestock died in 2016’s Dzud. The increasing frequency of such extreme low-temperature events creates mass suffering among the livestock herders of Mongolia.
Severe drought affecting hundreds and thousands in Somalia.
Heavy rainfall events will be more common in a much warmer world.
Drought-Fueled Wildfires Burn 7 Million Acres in U.S. including this one in California, USA
For six million years, the Colorado River has carved some of the wildest geological wonders in North America. Today, its waters nourish over 36 million people. But a steady surge of settlers and drastic climate change are threatening the mighty river.
Some 24,000 hectares of farmland have been affected by severe frost in the Mexican state of Sonora.

Lengthened growing season in the higher latitudes

  • With longer growing seasons, fruit production in Eastern Canada, vine production in Europe has increased. More types of crops such as blackberries and maize can be grown in the UK as the growing season lengthens.
  • However, in China, production of fruits such as apples and cherries or nuts such as almonds and walnuts is reduced as these fruits and nuts require cool weather temperature. Similarly, in Canada, the production of wheat is reduced as temperatures increased.
A man in a tractor prepares a field before sowing winter wheat near the village of Moskovskoye, north of Stavropol in southern Russia,. REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko. Every degree of rising in local temperature could result in around 40 million tonnes of global yield reduction in wheat, amounting to a loss of a quarter of current global wheat production.
England’s growing season is a month longer than it was a generation ago

Spread of some insect-borne diseases

  • Heavy rainfall allows mosquitoes to breed and grow rapidly. This results in the spread of malaria and dengue fever. Infected people may lose their lives and the government has to spend a lot of money on healthcare for the sick.
  • The researchers found that both unusually high air temperatures and periods of excessive rainfall create environmental conditions that favour bacterial growth. In dry conditions, river levels decrease, and bacteria accumulate in dangerously high concentrations. During excessive rainfall, flooding can spread bacteria to regions that haven’t previously been infected, resulting in fast-spreading epidemics. Even in the past decade, regions of Africa have seen a re-emergence of the disease due to extreme weather, the team reported.
  • For a more detailed article on the spread of diseases, read this:
A child suffering from malaria lies on a bed at the hospital of Nyarugusu, in the north-west of Tanzania, on June 11, 2015.
Mosquito larvae: Increased rainfall can create stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes breed
Copyright: Flickr/NOAA Photo Library
Officials with the Pan American Health Organization warned about a possible surge in cholera cases because of the widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s cholera outbreak has killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010

Did you know?

Read the full article here:

The Dzud- Mongolia’s increasingly frequent harsh winters after a summer drought decimates livestock and animals:

Leave a reply!

  1. After watching the video above, what are three challenges the Kirabati citizens face because of sea-level rise?
  2. What implications does the lengthening growing season have for countries in the higher latitudes?
  3. What is the link between rising global temperatures and the rise in insect-borne diseases? Explain.

Living in a Greenhouse: A thickening blanket around the Earth

A thick blanket of smoke obscures the land as methane fires rage in a US garbage landfill
What is the greenhouse effect?

A layer of greenhouse gases – primarily water vapour, and including much smaller amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – acts as a thermal blanket for the Earth, absorbing heat and warming the surface to a life-supporting average of 15 degrees Celsius.

An overview of the Greenhouse Effect. From IPPC Working Group 1 contribution, Science of Climate Change, Second Assessment Report 1996

Essentially this process slows the loss of heat to space, keeping the earth’s surface warmer than it would be without the greenhouse gases. Without this “greenhouse” the Earth’s atmosphere would be an average of about 30-35 oC cooler and life as we know it would not exist.

Then what is the enhanced greenhouse effect?

The enhanced greenhouse effect, sometimes referred to as climate change or global warming, is the impact on the climate from the additional heat retained due to the increased amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) that humans have released into the earth’s atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Black smoke from burning of associated gas, releasing Nitrous Oxide into the atmosphere.

On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.

An aerial view of Amazon rainforest burning to clear land for cattle pasture near the city of Novo Progresso, Para state, September 23, 2013. Picture taken on September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce (BRAZIL)
Anthropogenic factors (Human activities) which lead to the enhanced greenhouse effect:
  • Burning of fossil fuels
  • Deforestation 
  • Changing land use (Rice cultivation, cattle ranching, etc)
  • Industrialisation
  • Urbanisation 
Global atmospheric concentrations of four greenhouse gases. From the IPCC 2007 4th Assessment Report
Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect include:
Water vapour. NASA- Clouds as seen from the ISS

Water vapour

  • The most abundant greenhouse gas, water vapour increases as the Earth’s atmosphere warms, but so does the possibility of clouds and precipitation.
This photo shows a heavily logged concession affiliated with Asia Pulp and Paper, or APP, one of the world’s largest papermakers, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, in 2010.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

  •  Carbon dioxide is released through both natural processes such as respiration and volcano eruptions and through human activities such as deforestation, land use changes, and burning fossil fuels.
  •  Carbon oxidation is a process by which carbon in the soil reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere to produce CO². Deforestation exposes soil to sunlight which increases the soil temperature.
  • Humans have thus increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began.
  • To find out about deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, go here:
Cattle release methane as a waste gas. A cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year on average.


  • A hydrocarbon gas produced both through natural sources and human activities, including the decomposition of wastes in landfills, agriculture, and especially rice cultivation.
  • Methane is released when dead leaves and manure decompose rapidly in the rice field due to a high level of moisture in the soil.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock supply chains (e.g. Cattle farming) account for 14.5% of all human-caused GHG releases, according to a report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2013.
  • With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year, global meat production is projected to more than double from  2001 to 2050.
Burning garbage releases methane and other GHGs as firefighters struggle to keep the fires under control.

Nitrous oxide

  • A powerful greenhouse gas produced by soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilisers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.
  • The use of chemical fertilisers increases the amount of nitrous oxide in soil. The nitrous oxide is then released when soil is ploughed or when rain flows through the soil.
  • More fossil fuels are burnt to produce energy for household activities in urban areas such as heating, cooking and lighting.
  • More cars, buses and other transportation on the roads also increase greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Constructing infrastructure and producing construction materials also release Nitrous Oxide into the atmosphere.
A farmer sprays a chemical fertiliser containing nitrogen on a wheat field in southern France. Nitrogen fertilisers are a known source of greenhouse gases.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

  • Synthetic compounds entirely of industrial origin used in a number of applications, but now largely regulated in production and release to the atmosphere by international agreement for their ability to contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.
  • To see how the ozone layer protects us, go here:
  • For a more detailed explanation of protective ozone, go here:
The Hole in the Ozone layer over Antarctica

To understand the consequences of changing the natural composition of atmospheric greenhouse gases, read more here:

Did you know?

What’s it like to have too little or too much of the greenhouse effect? Read below:

Not enough greenhouse effect: The planet Mars has a very thin atmosphere, nearly all carbon dioxide. Because of the low atmospheric pressure, and with little to no methane or water vapour to reinforce the weak greenhouse effect, Mars has a largely frozen surface that shows no evidence of life.


Too much greenhouse effect: The atmosphere of Venus, like Mars, is nearly all carbon dioxide. But Venus has about 300 times as much carbon dioxide in its atmosphere as Earth and Mars do, producing a runaway greenhouse effect and a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead.
A man cuts into lumber trees illegally logged in the Amazon forest

Witness the destruction, the crimes, and the exploitation in the Amazon rainforest:

Transportation is one of the largest sources of US global warming emissions – but cleaner vehicles can help

Is there hope for our cities? These guys think so:

Read the full articles here:

Leave a reply!

  1. After watching the video above (from 2:30 – 4:10), what role do Arctic Ice, Clouds, and Water vapour have on controlling the temperature of the earth?
  2. Compare between the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and the ‘Enhanced Greenhouse Effect’.
  3. Explain how deforestation and changing land use worsen the enhanced greenhouse effect.


Climate Change: How do we know?

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is the term used to describe changes in average weather over time periods ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes may be driven by external forces (i.e. predictable orbital variations or solar variation), result from processes internal to the Earth (i.e. plate tectonics or volcanic activity) or be caused by human activities (anthropogenic) such as global warming.

A volcano erupts in Iceland, spewing Greenhouse Gases into the atmosphere.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

To see how much the global temperature has risen since 1880, read here:

An increase in greenhouse gas levels (global warming) is one of the major impacts that humans have on climate.  These include carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone and halocarbons. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice core samples drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

Every year trees grow a new layer of bark. When you cut through a tree you can see these different layers as rings. The thicker the ring the better the growing conditions were that year. That allows scientists to work out what the temperature, precipitation and carbon dioxide levels are likely to have been for each year.

To understand the greenhouse effect better, go here:

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling

The Republic of Maldives: Vulnerable to sea level rise
Sea level rise
  • Global sea level rose about 17 centimetres (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Texas State Park police officer Thomas Bigham walks across the cracked lake bed of O.C. Fisher Lake Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in San Angelo, Texas. A bacteria called Chromatiaceae has turned the 1-to-2 acres of lake water remaining the colour red. A combination of the long periods of 100 plus degree days and the lack of rain in the drought -stricken region has dried up the lake that once spanned over 5400 acres. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Global temperature rise
  •  All studies show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline, surface temperatures continue to increase.

Globally Warming Oceans Are Killing Coral Reefs, like here in Samoa.

Warming oceans
  •  The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees celsius since 1969.

This July 4, 2012, file photo provided by Ian Joughin shows surface melt water rushing along the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet through a supra-glacial stream channel, south-west of Ilulissat, Greenland. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s and the acceleration of the melting, especially in Greenland, has ice scientists worried. Michel Jarraud, secretary-general for the World Meteorological Organization, says the most troubling climate development in 2012 was the melting at the top of the world. (AP Photo/Ian Joughin)
Shrinking ice sheets
  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA  shows Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometres of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometres of ice between 2002 and 2005.


Warm temperatures and winds drove record declines in sea ice at both polar regions
Declining Arctic sea ice
  • Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.

Carroll Glacier, Alaska. August 1906 and June 21, 2004
Glacial retreat
  • Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

Global warming is linked to extreme weather events.
Extreme events
  •  The number of record high-temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low-temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.

Coral reefs are a major concern in a world of increasing ocean acidification and nutrients.
Ocean acidification
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tonnes per year.

These two natural-color satellite images of the reduction of snow cover in the Sierra Nevada
Decreased snow cover
  • Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.

Did you know?

Understanding global warming and climate change begins young:

How do volcanic eruptions affect the climate? Understand global dimming here:

What do volcanic eruptions mean for the climate?

Calbuco volcano eruption. Credit: Philip Oyarzo Calisto
See how Sunspots and Solar Cycles affect the climate:

Leave a reply!

1. Describe and explain two natural causes of climate change.
2. How has the earth’s climate changed since 1880 and why?
3. Describe how three of the pieces of evidence of climate change will affect you personally.

Learning Journeys: Tourism, Shopping and Culture in Chinatown

Did you know that spaces of fun and entertainment can have elements of geography as well?

By Ms Cheryl Lau

On the 22nd of February, 2H2, 2H3 and 2H4 took a trip to Chinatown to conduct some fieldwork. They were required to draw a land use transect and conduct a bipolar survey of the environment in Chinatown. Of course, it wasn’t all work, work, and work! Our Serangoon StARs had their share of fun exploring Chinatown.

Geography and Shopping in Chinatown

Observe the streets in Chinatown closely and you will notice some streets have more shops catering to tourists (such as Smith Street and Pagoda Street) while others have more shops catering to locals (such as Temple Street). What could be a possible explanation for this?


Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown

Well, one possible reason is that streets with more shops and services catering to tourists tend to be located near the MRT entrance or places of attraction: examples are the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. When people visit these attractions, they can stopover for a bit of shopping at the same time! In fact, one of our students from 2H3 acquired a fake snake from a souvenir shop for $3!


Temple Street, Chinatown

On the other hand, shops catering to locals are often located in less accessible areas which generally receive smaller crowds. Typically, only locals who know what they are looking for will visit these areas. For example, restaurant owners and home chefs would visit Temple Street for its wide array of kitchen equipment. The students seemed convinced that one of the shops selling kitchen equipment – Lau Choy Seng – was opened by a relative of Ms Lau’s. For the record, that is most certainly untrue!

Geography and Culture in Chinatown

“Culture” may seem like a dull and boring word to some. But do you know that the lives and activities of youths may also be considered part of “youth culture”? Youth culture may showcase itself in spaces in various ways, such as places where youth partake in activities (e.g. skateboarding and free-running), places where youths hang out (e.g. McDonald’s) or places where youths leave marks of their presence (e.g. graffiti or sculptures).


Graffiti Art in Chinatown

Of course, since youth culture can manifest itself in spaces, so can the culture of the elderly. For the more observant, you will notice groups of senior citizens sitting in front of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple playing chess and admiring songbirds. Why do they choose to do so in such a populated touristy area? Maybe it’s because some of them may live in the old rental flats nearby, or because their family used to live in Chinatown in the past and they have a strong sense of belonging towards the place. Who knows? Maybe one of our StARs can ask them next time.


Seniors playing chess outside Chinatown’s Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Rounding up…

The Chinatown fieldwork was definitely a fun and fulfilling one for our StARs. If you would like to know more about tourism in Chinatown, there is an interesting case study on Tourism in Singapore’s Chinatown in the Upper Secondary Human Geography textbook. That said, Geography can be found everywhere, not just in places of interest. So stay tuned for the next article on The Serangoon View!

Leave a reply!

  1. What is the impact of the development of tourism on Chinatown?
  2. What are some examples of Youth Culture that you are most interested in? Describe them and the reason for your interest.
  3. How do you think tourism has helped to sustain culture and heritage around the world?

Did you know?

Find out more about Chinatown here:

Singapore is famous as a melting-pot of different cultures and traditions. Find out more here:

Did you know that Singapore is on the UNESCO World Heritage List? Find out more here:

Panic in Sicily as Mount Etna blows in huge eruption on Italy holiday isle

Mount Etna has erupted sparking fear across Sicily as Europe’s biggest and most powerful volcano sends an ash cloud across the holiday isle in Italy.

Italy’s Mount Etna has started spewing lava in what is its second eruption of the year.
Giant fountains of lava could be seen sprouting from the volcano, located on the isle of Sicily, as far away as Catania, around 30 kilometres away, and the resort town of Taormina.

An orange air alert has been issued, meaning that airspace will remain open but authorities will continue to monitor the situation.



Mount Etna is located in Sicily

While civil protection authorities has declared a yellow alert level and, as prescribed by the municipal emergency plan, an ordinance was issued to restrict access to the summit of Etna.

Authorities added that there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities, and expect it to remain that way with the eruption posing little threat to nearby settlements.

At 3,329 metres tall, Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe.


Mount Etna has begun erupting


The eruption could be seen as far away as Catania.

The large volcano began erupting on February 27, and the eruptions are expected to continue for several days.

Strombolian activity at the new south-east crater has gradually intensified, creating a lava flow that quickly reached the base of the mountain.

While in the villages of Zafferana and Linguaglossa, citizens reported seeing clouds of dust fall from the sky after ash caught in an easterly wind.

As the upper-level winds grab the ash from the eruption, they will steer it away from Mount Etna, affecting the weather elsewhere.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys said: ”Over the next several days, the ash will be swept northeastward across far southwestern Italy, which will see the worst effects.


accuweather ash clouds from Etna

“Depending on how long the eruption lasts, the haze could be around for several days.”

From the early hours of this morning, the average amplitude of volcanic tremor – although remaining at high levels – has shown small fluctuations.

But experts say they have not found any significant changes associated with the intensification of the eruptive activity.


Mount etna erupting

The eruption comes a month after Etna first burst this year

This latest eruption is the second this year, and comes just a month after Mount Etna experienced a flurry of activity in late January, which brought 8 months of inactivity to an end.

Schools in nearby towns were evacuated, but only a very small eruption occurred.

Read the original article here:

Leave a reply!

  1. Based on your observations of the volcanic eruption, what kind of volcano is Mt Etna?
  2. What are some of the negative impacts of this eruption on the people in the surrounding region?
  3. What were some of the measure taken by the local officials to mitigate the effects of this eruption?

Did you know?

Mt Etna has a very long history of eruptions, with the first record of eruption as early as 396BC!

Watch the live stream here:

Or an older video here:

Why is the Amazon rainforest important?

 The Amazon forest today

Sawmills that process illegally logged trees from the Amazon rainforest are seen near Rio Pardo, in the district of Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
A tractor works on a wheat plantation on land that used to be virgin Amazon rainforest near the city of Santarem, Para State, April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The Amazon rain forest (R), bordered by deforested land prepared for the planting of soybeans, is pictured in this aerial photo taken over Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
An overview of the houses being built for employees of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, planned to be the world’s third largest, in Pimental, near Altamira in Para state, November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Paulo Santos

The Amazon rainforest has long been recognised as a repository of ecological services not only for local tribes and communities but also for the rest of the world. It is also the only rainforest that we have left in terms of size and diversity.

But as forests burn and global warming worsens, the impact of Amazon deforestation continues to gradually undo the fragile ecological processes that have been refined over millions of years.
Ironically, as rainforest continues to disappear, scientific work from the last two decades has shed light on the critical ties that link the health of rainforests to the rest of the world.
Benxi steel mills blowing smoke over residential buildings. Benxi was for long considered one of the most polluted cities in China.
Air pollution hangs heavily over US cities due to the exhaust from fossil-fuel burning vehicles.
The Greenhouse Effect in simple terms.

Filtering and reprocessing the world’s harmful carbon dioxide output

Trees have hidden attributes that play a key role in reducing pollutant levels. Take carbon dioxide (CO2) for example, a gas emitted from both natural and human sources. Over the last 150 years, humans have been pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the air by burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas – this is a major driver for global climate change.

Deforestation in the Amazon for farmland
Logging causes great deforestation in the Amazon

Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out

Under natural conditions, plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere and absorb it for photosynthesis, an energy-creating process that yields:

  • Oxygen, which is released back into the air
  • Carbon, which allows the plant to grow.

So, without tropical rainforests, the greenhouse effect would likely be even more pronounced, and climate change may possibly get even worse in the future.

To find out more about the Greenhouse Effect, go here:

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest at the Kuikuro territory in the Xingu National Park, Mato Grosso, Brazil, October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Amazon rainforests and carbon dioxide

What forests take from the air, they can also give back. When forests burn, tree carbon matter is released in the form of CO2, which pollutes the atmosphere, and of which there are already excessive quantities.
Where rainforest and savanna once stood, pastures for cattle ranching are now appearing. Pastures teem with termites and cattle, whose metabolic activities also release CO2, although their contribution to atmospheric pollution is under much debate.
With the forests gone, CO2 is no longer transformed through photosynthesis, and the crops that replace forests only absorb a fraction of CO2 compared to rainforests. Along with industrial pollution, rampant deforestation in South America and elsewhere has significantly increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Amazon, Brazil, near the Venezuelan frontier. Tropical rainforest, deforestation. Land which has been systematically deforested and logged then given over to cattle ranching.

The importance of the Amazon rainforest for local and global climate

Tropical forests and woodlands (e.g. savannas) exchange vast amounts of water and energy with the atmosphere and are thought to be important in controlling local and regional climates.

Water released by plants into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration (evaporation and plant transpiration) and to the ocean by the rivers, influences world climate and the circulation of ocean currents. This works as a feedback mechanism, as the process also sustains the regional climate on which it depends.

Transpiration from the Amazon is vital for the water cycle to take place

Find out about the impacts of climate change on the Amazon  

The Amazon rainforest could cure you

What is the connection between the blue-green pills in your bathroom cupboard and the Amazon wildlife? The natural roots of medicine. For millennia, humans have used insects, plants and other organisms in the region for a variety of uses; and that includes agriculture, clothing and, of course, cures for diseases.

The Wasai tree’s Red Roots. Great for kidney health, the root of the Wasai tree is often ground up and prescribed as a diuretic.

Indigenous people such as the Yanomami and other groups of mixed ancestry (e.g. the mestizos of Peru or the Caboclos of Brazil) have perfected the use of chemical compounds found in plants and animals. Knowledge of using these plants is usually held by a medicine man (shaman), who passes on this tradition to an apprentice, a process which has been ongoing for centuries and that forms an integral part of people’s identity.

With rainforests going fast, the continuity of this knowledge for the benefit of future generations is under threat.

Yanomami girl, 1997, Brazil

Untapped potential of the Amazon’s plants

Scientists believe that less than half of 1% of flowering plant species have been studied in detail for their medicinal potential. As the Amazon rainforest biome slowly shrinks in size, so does the richness of wildlife found in its forests, along with the potential use of plants and animals that remain undiscovered.

Brazil nuts: new superfood?

Read the full article here:

Find out more!

In world’s poorest slums, landfills and polluted rivers become a child’s playground

A girl plays with her brother as they search for usable items at junkyard near the Danyingone station in Yangon's suburbs in Myanmar in 2012. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Worldwide, more than 340,000 children under age 5 died from diarrheal diseases in 2013 due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. That’s 1,000 deaths a day, according to the UN’s statistics. What’s more, the No. 1 killer of children between the ages of one month to 5 years, pneumonia, can also be spread through a lack of hygiene.

Although much improvement has been made in the past decade to aid children across the globe, there are still alarming numbers who do not have access to clean water, proper sanitation or even just a way to clean their hands — especially after coming in contact with waste and feces.

“A gram of feces can contain ten million viruses,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, Programme Division at UNICEF. “Many diseases are transmitted by pathogens going from feces to food and fingers and so on, making children ill.”

A boy swims in the polluted waters of the river Sabarmati to dive for offerings thrown in by worshippers in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010. Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters

One of the most basic hygiene problems that haunt developing communities is lack of adequate toilets. Around the world, about 2.5 billion people do not have proper toilets. Among them, 1 billion people defecate in the open — in fields, bushes and bodies of water — putting themselves and their community in danger of fecal-oral diseases, like hepatitis, cholera and dysentery.

Children are especially susceptible to these diseases when their home and “playgrounds” are overrun with rubbish and human waste. In countries throughout Asia, children can be seen swimming in polluted stagnant waters, digging through trash and playing amid toxic substances at landfills.

“When you have children running around barefeet, then coming in contact with excrete, it’s really easy to catch the worms and this of course impacts their development and growth,” said Dr. Aidan Cronin, Chief of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program at UNICEF Indonesia.

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka in 2012. Luxury leather goods sold across the world are produced in a slum area of Bangladesh's capital where workers, including children, are exposed to hazardous chemicals and often injured in horrific accidents. Photo by Andrew Biraj/Reuters

Reuters photographers have been capturing scenes like this for the past decade. But even some of the oldest photos in this series picture grisly scenes that, sadly, are still the reality in urban slums today.

Not only do these conditions promote the spread of deadly childhood diseases, another major health problem that affects children’s lives is stunting, often caused by malnutrition but also by intestinal worms and internal inflammation from fecal-oral contamination.

Stunting has become a huge obstacle for many children’s physical and cognitive growth, ultimately affecting their development and ability to learn. In Indonesia alone, nearly 9 million children suffer from stunting, said Cronin.

A child eats breakfast in a garbage dump, where hundreds of people live and make a living by recycling waste and making charcoal, in the Tondo section of Manila December 9, 2007. Photo by Darren Whiteside/Reuters

In Indonesia, UNICEF have recently launched a campaign called “Tinju Tinja,” which means “punch the poo” in Indonesian, in support of the Government’s five-year plan to have a completely open defecation-free country. In an attempt to engage the urban youth, the campaign has one of the local rock stars, Melanie Subono, literally fighting the “poo monster” as the main image to spearhead the campaign.

“It all starts from acknowledging that [open defecation] is a serious problem,” Cronin said. “The more you engage with communities and work with them with their specific issues, the more sustainable sanitation is.”

Children sitting on a makeshift raft play in a river full of rubbish in a slum area of Jakarta in 2012. Photo by Enny Nuraheni/Reuters

One way to help children is through education and schools, said Dr. Jody Heymann, Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center. A lot of progress has been made to make primary schools free and available for children around the world. In Indonesia, UNICEF works through primary schools to teach kids the importance of sanitation and hygiene by putting in clean toilets, hand washing stations and soap so that the kids can form a habit of cleaning.

“I think when we see [these] images, we should be asking not only ‘why isn’t there a playground? What’s leading them to the dump?’” said Heymann. “But the bigger question of what’s keeping them from being in school, gaining education that would give them lifelong opportunity.”

A boy looks on as he collects recyclable materials at a garbage dump in New Delhi in 2006. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reuters

A boy plays in a polluted river after school at Pluit dam in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 5, 2009. Photo by Beawiharta/Reuters

Sana, a five-year-old girl, plays on a cloth sling hanging from a signalling pole as smoke from a garbage dump rises next to a railway track in Mumbai in 2012. Photo by Vivek Prakash/Reuters

A child living in a slum plays on a swing under a bridge on the bank of Bagmati River in Kathmandu October 17, 2011. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

A child swims in a polluted reservoir in Pingba, southwest China's Guizhou province September 2, 2006. Photo by China Daily/Reuters

A boy plays at a garbage dump where hundreds of people stay and make a living out of recycling waste and making charcoal in Tondo, Manila in 2007. Photo by Darren Whiteside/Reuters

Children play in the fumes of a municipality fumigant sprayer in a slum area in the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri October 5, 2006. Photo by Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

Waste collector Dinesh Mukherjee, 11, watches his friend jump over a puddle of toxic liquid at the Ghazipur landfill in New Delhi November 10, 2011. Photo by Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

A boy swims in the polluted water of the Yamuna River to dive for offerings thrown in by worshippers amidst a dust haze in New Delhi during World Environment Day in 2010. Photo by Reinhard Krause/Reuters

People paddle in the waters of Manila Bay amid garbage during Easter Sunday in Manila April 24, 2011. Photo by Cheryl Ravelo/Reuters

Boys collect coconuts thrown in as offerings by worshippers in the waters of the Sabarmati river after the immersion of idols of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2011. Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters

Children of rag-pickers stand amid a heap of garbage on the outskirts of New Delhi in 2006. Photo by Kamal Kishore/Reuters

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Leave a reply!

  1. Compare the life of children who live in the slums with yours in Singapore. What are the differences?
  2. How can lack of sanitation affect the quality of life of the people living there?
  3. What steps have the governments taken to learn about sanitation and hygiene?

Did you know?

Have you watched the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”? Find out more about the backdrop of this movie.

High quality housing is not always available to everyone. Explore what it’s like to live in the poorer sections of Hong Kong.

Plate Boundaries: an introduction

Based on the work of Society geophysicists Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp, this 1968 map of the ocean floor helped bring the concept of plate tectonics to a wide audience.


There are a few handfuls of major plates and dozens of smaller, or minor, plates. Six of the majors are named for the continents embedded within them, such as the North American, African, and Antarctic plates. Though smaller in size, the minors are no less important when it comes to shaping the Earth. The tiny Juan de Fuca plate is largely responsible for the volcanoes that dot the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The plates make up Earth’s outer shell, called the lithosphere. (This includes the crust and uppermost part of the mantle.) Churning currents in the molten rocks below propel them along like a jumble of conveyor belts in disrepair. Most geologic activity stems from the interplay where the plates meet or divide.

The movement of the plates creates three types of tectonic boundaries: convergent, where plates move into one another; divergent, where plates move apart; and transform, where plates move sideways in relation to each other.

They move at a rate of one to two inches (three to five centimeters) per year.


The Himalayas from above.


Where plates serving landmasses collide, the crust crumples and buckles into mountain ranges. India and Asia crashed about 55 million years ago, slowly giving rise to the Himalaya, the highest mountain system on Earth. As the mash-up continues, the mountains get higher. Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, may be a tiny bit taller tomorrow than it is today.

These convergent boundaries also occur where a plate of ocean dives, in a process called subduction, under a landmass. As the overlying plate lifts up, it also forms mountain ranges. In addition, the diving plate melts and is often spewed out in volcanic eruptions such as those that formed some of the mountains in the Andes of South America.

At ocean-ocean convergences, one plate usually dives beneath the other, forming deep trenches like the Mariana Trench in the North Pacific Ocean, the deepest point on Earth. These types of collisions can also lead to underwater volcanoes that eventually build up into island arcs like Japan.



The Great African Rift Valley.


At divergent boundaries in the oceans, magma from deep in the Earth’s mantle rises toward the surface and pushes apart two or more plates. Mountains and volcanoes rise along the seam. The process renews the ocean floor and widens the giant basins. A single mid-ocean ridge system connects the world’s oceans, making the ridge the longest mountain range in the world.

On land, giant troughs such as the Great Rift Valley in Africa form where plates are tugged apart. If the plates there continue to diverge, millions of years from now eastern Africa will split from the continent to form a new landmass. A mid-ocean ridge would then mark the boundary between the plates.

Mountains and a rift can be seen along the San Andreas Fault.



The San Andreas Fault in California is an example of a transform boundary, where two plates grind past each other along what are called strike-slip faults. These boundaries don’t produce spectacular features like mountains or oceans, but the halting motion often triggers large earthquakes, such as the 1906 one that devastated San Francisco.


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Leave a reply!

  1. What are some of the features formed by the movement of tectonic plates?
  2. Can you name one country that has been formed almost entirely by volcanoes?
  3. Millions of years from now, do you think the African continent will split in two and why?

Did you know?

The Mariana Trench is so deep, it’s frightening! Yet exploration continues despite the dangers lurking beneath the surface.


Some videos about plate movements:

Cholera, Other Illnesses May Spread with Climate Change

L’ARCAHAIE, HAITI – OCTOBER 28: A man suffering from cholera rests in bed at a rural hospital October 28, 2010, in L’Arcahaie, Haiti. Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, has been further unsettled by an outbreak of cholera which has killed at least 300 people so far. The epidemic has affected the central Artibonite and Central Plateau regions with 3,612 cases so far on record. While authorities believe the outbreak is contained, they believe it has not yet peaked. There is also fear that the deadly diarrheal disease could migrate to the sprawling camps for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians displaced by the earthquake. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Infectious-disease specialists are concerned that climate change is contributing to the spread of certain diseases, including the germs that cause cholera and other diarrheal illnesses.

Data now suggest that the locations where certain pathogens are found have changed, said Dr Glenn Morris, the director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. Morris gave a talk here today (Feb. 16) at the Climate & Health Meeting, a gathering of experts from public health organisations, universities and advocacy groups that addressed the health impacts of climate change.

Officials with the Pan American Health Organization warned about a possible surge in cholera cases because of the widespread flooding caused by Matthew. Haiti’s cholera outbreak has killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010

Pathogens tend to live in places that have ideal sets of conditions, Morris said. For example, these bugs may have evolved to function best within certain temperature ranges, he said. And as climate change occurs and global average temperatures rise, researchers are beginning to see some indications that the areas where certain pathogens can live are shifting, he said.

“We are seeing the spread of pathogens to new ecological niches,” Morris said.

And the pathogens that live in water are among scientists’ top concerns, Morris told Live Science.

Temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) of various regions around the world in August 2014.
Credit: NASA

Vibrio and algal blooms

One group of bacteria, called Vibrio species, are particularly well-studied, Morris said. Vibro bacteria are responsible for cholera and other diarrheal diseases. Although cholera can be treated by rehydration according to the World Health Organization, the disease can still be fatal if not treated quickly enough.

Vibrio bacteria live in seawater, and with sea temperatures rising, scientists have recently observed a northward shift in the bacteria’s range, he said. In addition, diseases such as cholera often spread following events like flooding, which may become more common with climate change, Morris said.

Boats going through an algal bloom on Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio.

Other waterborne diseases can come from harmful algal blooms, which are caused by toxic forms of algae, Morris said. Algal blooms have been linked to illnesses such as ciguatera, which people get from eating fish that contain toxins produced by the algae Gambierdiscus Toxicus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another illness linked to harmful algal blooms is amnesic shellfish poisoning, which is caused by eating contaminated shellfish.

Warming seas are breeding cholera-causing bacteria in the north Atlantic, poisoning shellfish and other seafood.

These harmful algal blooms are showing up in places where they previously didn’t occur, including the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Maine, Morris said.

This dead fish suffocated during the massive algae bloom in Lake Erie in 2011.
Toxic algal bloom in California’s Klamath River
An Aedes aegypti mosquito, the chief vector of Zika virus.

But what about mosquitos?

Morris noted that there have also been some concerns about mosquito-borne diseases, because of evidence suggesting that certain species of the insect are moving farther north than they used to. But it’s unclear what impact this will have in the long term, Morris told Live Science. He noted that in developed countries, including U.S., many aspects of homes help protect people against mosquito bites, such as the use of window screens and air conditioning.

While the illnesses Morris noted in his talk are all known diseases, they can still pose public health challenges when they move into parts of the world where they haven’t occurred before, he said.

Mosquito larvae: Increased rainfall can create stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes breed
Copyright: Flickr/NOAA Photo Library

“We’ve always thought about tropical areas as having particularly significant problems with infectious diseases,” but “we’re starting to see some greater indications that those diseases may be creeping up here” in the U.S., he said.

Morris said that the U.S. can handle those diseases, but the bigger concern is that pathogens are always evolving. Microorganisms may be able to change over time, “and increasingly take advantage of conditions that may not have been present before,” he said.

Read the full article here:

Did you know?

Read how extreme weather contributes to the spread of diseases:

A fisherman cups algae-choked water from China’s Chaohu Lake in 2009.
Two people row their way across algae-infested Chaohu Lake, China, in a 2009 picture.
Fingers of sediment and green swirls of algae are visible in Lake Erie on March 21, 2012.

Learn more about Algal blooms:

Leave a reply!

  1. What does the rise in sea temperatures (an effect of climate change) directly affect the health of humans?
  2. Why are temperate countries like the USA starting to be more concerned about mosquito-borne diseases?
  3. Why is eating shellfish becoming riskier with rising sea temperatures?

Iceland: The country that tourism has taken by surprise

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What happens to an economy when a country has a sudden and unexpected influx of tourists? Iceland offers intriguing lessons about the impact on cities, the environment and even food supply.

A girl scoops up a huge dollop of sticky white mud and ladles it into the hands of her friend, who smiles and gasps as it spills back into the water. Dozens of people are here, neck deep in a heated pool of soothing seawater. The late November air temperature is around 0 degrees celcius but the lagoon is like a hot bath. An electronic display at the exit to the changing rooms reads 38 degrees celcius. People apply mud masks and video themselves on smartphones encased in little plastic pouches.


Tourist numbers are increasing

Over the last 20 years, the number of international tourists has risen steadily. In 1995, around 500 million people travelled abroad – last year, around 1.2 billion people did. It is also an increasingly lucrative industry. In 2015, global revenue from tourism was $1.26 trillion – double what it was in 2005. It contributes more than $7 trillion to the global economy and supports one in 11 jobs around the world.


The Blue Lagoon is well known to Iceland’s visitors. The artificial pool, warmed by a nearby geothermal power plant, is particularly arresting at night. Huge clouds of steam billow into the starry black sky above the crowds of British, French, American, Russian and Chinese holidaymakers who have all come here to soak.

(Credit: Getty Images)

The Blue Lagoon has long been one if Iceland’s most popular attractions. The artificial pool is warmed by a nearby geothermal power plant (Credit: Getty Images)

Iceland’s hot pools have long been popular. But the number of people visiting the country has increased dramatically in the last few years. Iceland has a population of just over 330,000. Last year, around 1.7 million tourists came to visit. And the numbers are expected to continue rising. Iceland is experiencing a tourism boom that has taken it by surprise – and the influx is changing the once isolated country in interesting ways.

After the 2008 financial crisis, the value of the Icelandic krona fell heavily. As part of its economic recovery, Iceland made deliberate efforts to attract foreign visitors. But even those responsible for marketing Iceland abroad have been struck by the numbers. “I don’t think anyone could have expected this,” says Inga Hlin Palsdottir at Promote Iceland, a PR organisation for the country.

Iceland is experiencing a tourism boom that has taken it by surprise

What’s going on? In many ways, Iceland provides a snapshot of several shifts going on in the world: a move everywhere towards service industries like tourism, which now supports one in 11 jobs on the planet; fluctuations in national economies that have knock-on effects at home and abroad; and the impact of cheaper and more available air travel.

The uptick in visitors may also partly be down to people’s growing awareness of the country. Iceland has been in the news quite frequently in recent years. There was the financial crisis that broke its banks and sent the country into political turmoil. There were the eruptions of its Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010, which grounded flights across Europe. And last year Iceland’s football team won fans around the world when it reached the quarter-finals in its first ever appearance at the European Championships.

(Credit: Chris Baraniuk)

Iceland has a population of just over 330,000 – last year, around 1.7 million people came to visit (Credit: Chris Baraniuk)

But one of the biggest factors has surely been the growing availability of low cost airline tickets from Europe and the United States. Passenger numbers at Keflavik International airport have grown steadily over the last 10 years. In 2016 alone the number of people passing through the airport leapt by 40%, from nearly five million to nearly seven million.

In 2016 the number of people passing through Keflavik airport jumped by 40%

In particular, Icelandair’s offer of a free stop-off in the country for passengers travelling across the Atlantic has had a big effect, says David Goodger at analysts Oxford Economics. “People are breaking their trip to spend a few nights in Iceland itself,” he says. “They’ve done a very good job at selling into that market.” Other stop-off destinations for flights between Europe and the Far East have pulled the same trick. “It’s what the likes of Dubai and Singapore did very successfully a few years ago.”

The effect of tourist spending is clear, especially in Reykjavik. “Look at this area here,” says Palsdottir, gesturing out of the window of a trendy hotel in Reykjavik’s marina. “During the financial crisis, this was a dead area.”

(Credit: Chris Baraniuk)

Minke whale meat is popular with some tourists – but tourism is not a driving factor in Iceland’s whale-hunting quota, as this sign suggests (Credit: Chris Baraniuk)

(Read the full article here:

Leave a reply!

  1. What are the current tourism trend around the world at the time of this article?
  2. What are some reasons for the rapid growth of tourism in Iceland?
  3. What are some of the possible impacts of this dramatic rise in tourism on Icelanders?(Hint: Read the full article to find out!)

Did you know?


Want to find out more about the volcanic eruption that drew so much attention to Iceland?ökull


South Sudan famine: Eating water lilies to survive

Families caught up in famine hide from marauding gunmen in swamps, survive on little more than lilies.

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The UN needs $4.4BN by the end of March to prevent catastrophic hunger and famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen [AP]
The UN needs $4.4BN by the end of March to prevent catastrophic hunger and famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen [AP]

Thousands of people at the epicentre of a man-made famine in South Sudan emerged from the safety of the swamps this past weekend hoping to receive emergency deliveries of food.

For months now Bol Mol, a 45-year-old former oil field security officer, has struggled to keep his family alive, spearfishing in nearby rivers and marshes while his three wives gather water lilies for food.

They eat once a day if they are lucky, but at least in the swamps they are safe from marauding soldiers.

“Life here is useless,” Mol said, his hand clutching his walking stick as he waited with thousands of others beneath the baking-hot sun at Thonyor in Leer County.

Aid agencies have negotiated with the government and rebel forces to establish a registration centre in the village ahead of food deliveries.

READ MORE: Who’s to blame for South Sudan’s civil war? 

The UN declared a famine in parts of South Sudan a week ago, but the hunger affecting an estimated 100,000 people is not being caused by adverse climate conditions.

More than three years of conflict have disrupted farming, destroyed food stores and forced people to flee recurring attacks. Food shipments have been deliberately blocked and aid workers have been targeted.

It is no coincidence that soaring levels of malnutrition have been found in Leer, a rebel stronghold and the birthplace of opposition leader Riek Machar, whose falling out with President Salva Kiir in December 2013 led to the civil war.

Evidence of the devastating conflict is everywhere: in the burnt walls of schools and clinics, in the ruins of razed homes and public buildings, and in the desolation of the once-thriving market.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 was never fully implemented. As recently as December the members of yet another 56,000 households were forced to flee to the safety of the swamps when yet another government offensive reached the area.

south sudan map famine united nations infographic

The constant need to escape the war means people are unable to plant or harvest crops, and their livestock is often looted by armed men.

With their livelihoods destroyed, people are reduced to gathering wild plants, hunting and waiting for emergency food supplies that come too rarely and are frequently inadequate.

“It is not enough,” Mol said as he waited to register for the next food delivery.

The fighting and the fleeing have interrupted all aspects of life: Mol said his children had not gone to school for the last three years.

“Right now the majority of the people are living in the swamps. If you go there and see the children you can even cry, the situation is too bad,” he said.

READ MORE: Famine declared in part of South Sudan’s Unity state 

Nyangen Chuol, 30, keeps her five children alive with aid agency rations of sorghum supplemented with lilies, coconuts and sometimes fish.

“Before the conflict I lived here in Thonyor but had to move far away to the islands in the swamp for safety,” she said. This weekend’s registration for food deliveries had drawn her back.

Outside the famine’s epicentre in the northern Unity State, there are nearly five million people who also need food handouts, mostly in areas where the fighting has been fiercest.

“The biggest issue has been insecurity in some of these areas which makes it very difficult to access,” said George Fominyen of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Too late for some

Aid workers warn that by the time a famine is declared it is already too late for some, but the declaration has put pressure on the government to open up access, at least for now, and international aid agencies are ratcheting up their efforts.

Ray Ngwen Chek, a 32-year-old waiting for food, said the situation had steadily worsened over the years.

READ MORE: South Sudan’s displaced face hunger 

“Since 2013 we have planted no crops, nothing, we just stay like this. You don’t know what you will survive on tomorrow,” he said.

Hospitals and schools are shut, Chek said, and children, surrounded by conflict and with no other options, “are practising how to carry guns” instead of learning for the future.

Betrayed and neglected by the country’s leaders, the people of Leer struggle to hold out hope for a political solution that would end the conflict.

But Chek is certain of one thing: “Fighting is not a solution”.

Source: News agencies

Leave a reply!

  1. How has the political situation in Sudan affected the food supply of it’s population?
  2. In your opinion, why was drought not the main cause of food shortages in South Sudan?
  3. How and why is food security also a matter of Total Defence in Singapore?

Did you know?

The effects of political conflict are wider than just food shortage. Here’s an infographic that sums it up.


The 15 worst cities for rush hour traffic

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Ford CEO: City congestion is a business issue
Ford CEO: City congestion is a business issue

Plenty of drivers complain about rush hour traffic, but some have more to gripe about than others.

Bangkok has the worst evening rush hour traffic in the world for a second consecutive year, according to GPS manufacturer TomTom.

The results were compiled after TomTom tracked a years-worth of traffic in 390 cities across 48 countries.

Here is the 2017 ranking of cities with the most severe evening rush hour traffic:

  1. Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Mexico City, Mexico
  3. Bucharest, Romania
  4. Jakarta, Indonesia
  5. Moscow, Russia
  6. Chongqing, China
  7. Istanbul, Turkey
  8. St. Petersburg, Russia
  9. Zhuhai, China
  10. Santiago, Chile
  11. Guangzhou, China
  12. Shijiazhuang, China
  13. Shenzhen, China
  14. Los Angeles, U.S.
  15. Beijing, China

TomTom’s senior traffic expert Nick Cohn said that Thailand — and many other big cities at the top of the congestion ranking — have become victims of their own success. Growing economies and surging populations translate into more traffic and commuters.

“It would be a challenge for any city government [to] keep things moving,” he said, noting that as more people have moved to Bangkok’s low-density suburbs, commuter traffic has worsened.

2017 worst traffic
Bangkok, Thailand, has the worst rush hour traffic in the world, according to TomTom.

While Mexico City has the second worst evening rush hour traffic in the world, TomTom considers the Mexican capital to be the world’s worst city for full-day traffic congestion.

“It could be middle of the day or late at night, but it’s just really, really congested,” said Cohn.

“Mexico City has an extensive subway system but it doesn’t extend out to where all the population growth is happening,” he said. “People don’t have a lot of options for getting to work.”

2017 worst traffic
Drivers in Mexico City have to be patient. They have some of the worst rush hour traffic in the world, according to TomTom.

Moscow, which ranks as the fifth worst city for evening rush hour traffic, was higher up the rankings in past years. But congestion has eased a bit since city officials introduced new parking rules.

Cohn said the city now charges for some parking, which “really changed people’s behavior.”

2017 worst traffic
Authorities in Moscow recently introduced paid parking in the city, which helped ease traffic congestion.

Istanbul has also seen a modest easing of traffic congestion because authorities have made a point to provide more real-time traffic data to drivers. This helped people plan their drives and avoid severe traffic jams.

“It’s still terrible but there is a slight decrease,” he said.

2017 worst traffic
Istanbul, Turkey, is known for its extreme traffic congestion.

The only American city in the top 15 is Los Angeles. Its traffic congestion has worsened, but it’s been moving down the ranking over the past few years as other global cities experience more acute traffic problems.

2017 worst traffic
Los Angeles traffic has gotten worse as the city’s economy has improved.

Leave a reply!

1. What are some of the causes of congestion in cities like Mexico City, Mexico?

2. What are some of the methods taken by these cities to ease traffic congestion?

3. What lessons can Singapore learn from these cities and why?

Did you know?

Here are some fun facts about driving in Singapore:

Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of

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Times are good for Fey Wei Dong. A genial, middle-aged businessman based near Shanghai, China, Fey says he is raking in the equivalent of £180,000 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: sand.


Fey often works in a fishing village on Poyang Lake, China’s biggest freshwater lake and a haven for millions of migratory birds and several endangered species. The village is little more than a tiny collection of ramshackle houses and battered wooden docks. It is dwarfed by a flotilla anchored just offshore, of colossal dredges and barges, hulking metal flatboats with cranes jutting from their decks. Fey comes here regularly to buy boatloads of raw sand dredged from Poyang’s bottom. He ships it 300 miles down the Yangtze River and resells it to builders in booming Shanghai who need it to make concrete.



The demand is voracious. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand – the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. Shanghai, China’s financial centre, has exploded in the last 20 years. The city has added 7 million new residents since 2000, raising its population to more than 23 million. In the last decade, Shanghai has built more high-rises than there are in all of New York City, as well as countless miles of roads and other infrastructure. “My sand helped build Shanghai Pudong airport,” Fey brags.

Hundreds of dredgers may be on the lake on any given day, some the size of tipped-over apartment buildings. The biggest can haul in as much as 10,000 tonnes of sand an hour. A recent study estimates that 236m cubic metres of sand are taken out of the lake annually. That makes Poyang the biggest sand mine on the planet, far bigger than the three largest sand mines in the US combined. “I couldn’t believe it when we did the calculations,” says David Shankman, a University of Alabama geographer and one of the study’s authors.


All that dredging, researchers believe, is a key reason why the lake’s water level has dropped dramatically in recent years. So much sand has been scooped out, says Shankman – 30 times more than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers – that the lake’s outflow channel has been drastically deepened and widened, nearly doubling the amount of water that flows into the Yangtze. The lower water levels are translating into declines in water quality and supply to surrounding wetlands. It could be ruinous for the area’s inhabitants, both animal and human.

2592Leave a reply!

The intersection of Poyang Lake and the Yangtze River.
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
Leave a reply!
1. What are some of the reasons for the rapid increase in demand for sand in China?
2. What are some of the environmental impacts on the area around Poyang Lake?
3. What are some of the economic impacts of the residents of Poyang Lake?
Did you know?
Did you know that Singapore is also involved in Sand Harvesting?

Malaysia confirms its Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail stations


The high-speed rail (HSR) project connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will have seven stops in Malaysia, namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya.

While several of the proposed stations had been revealed earlier this year by Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission, they were confirmed yesterday by its chairman, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.

Construction of the line could begin sometime next year, although the actual date has yet to be fixed. When asked about the timeline of the project, Mr Syed Hamid said construction of the rail could start in the third quarter of next year.

With the HSR, commuters can travel between Singapore and KL within 90 minutes. Including time for waiting, transfers and immigration clearance, the total journey could take around 21/2 hours.

Leave a reply!

1. Would you travel to Malaysia more often when this rail line is completed and why?

2. What is your favourite destination for a holiday and why?

3. What effect will this rail line have on Singaporeans? Why?

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Singapore’s First Luxury Pet Hotel

The Wagington, Singapore’s first luxury pet hotel has spacious suites for dogs and cats, a bone-shaped swimming pool, spa and a doggy treadmill.

Leave a reply!

  1. How will having a pet hotel allow pet owners to travel more?
  2. What are the some possible concerns when bringing pets overseas for tours?
  3. What kind of facilities do you think are useful for pet owners?

Did you know?

Pet hotels offer many services for pet owners. Find out more about these services here:

Investigating the world through the Humanities

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