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Archive | June, 2012

Are We Sustainable?

As the Rio+20 conference closes, radical change remains necessary, experts tell Al Jazeera.

Renewable energy is helping in countries such as Pakistan, where power outages are common in some areas [EPA]

Hopeful rhetoric had preceded the Rio+20 UN Conference on sustainability.

World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, NGOs, the private sector and other groups met in an attempt to find ways to reduce poverty and increase social equity while ensuring environmental protection.

But they have their work cut out for them.

Resource wars, global warming-driven extreme weather events, poverty, and the disparity between poor and rich are at all time highs and escalating.

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How Many More Fish in the Sea?

Seafood is the primary source of protein for more than one billion people – can they live without it?

As world fishing stocks decline, less sustainable methods of fishing are becoming increasingly common (Reuters)

Worldwide, 90 per cent of large predatory fish stocks are now gone due to overfishing.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 85 per cent of fish stocks are “overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion”.

Speaking on the occasion of International World Biodiversity Day on May 22, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon warned that over-consumption and rampant pollution was threatening the world’s oceans and marine biodiversity.

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Ocean Systems in Peril

How a warming planet is threatening ocean cycles that fuel our atmosphere, food chain, and weather patterns.

Artist Erika Blumenfeld documented the dramatic light expression of bioluminescent dinoflagellates (phytoplankton) at the microscopic scale of the organism (Erika Blumenfeld)

The ocean’s phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, is the planet’s most important organism. They generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe, and are a vital component in the ocean’s food chain.

So when researchers find trouble among phytoplankton, which has dramatic implications for the marine food web and the world’s carbon cycle, we should pay attention.

According to researchers at Canada’s Dalhousie University, phytoplankton populations have dropped 40 per cent since 1950.

Recently published studies have shown that these populations are continuing to fall. Scientists interviewed by Al Jazeera are concerned that our world’s oceans are growing increasingly instable and unhealthy.

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Oceans of Pollution

Scientists and experts are alarmed at amount of plastic debris and growing ‘dead zones’ in the world’s oceans.

Plastic pollution in the oceans has risen alarmingly over the past four decades (EPA)

A drumbeat of recent scientific studies emphasises an increasingly alarming convergence of crises for Earth’s oceans.

The amount of plastic floating in the Pacific Gyre – a massive swirling vortex of rubbish – has increased 100-fold in the past four decades, phytoplankton counts are dropping, over-fishing is causing dramatic decreases in fish populations, decreasing ocean salinity is intensifying weather extremes, and warming oceans are speeding up Antarctic melting.

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