News

    UN Study Warns of State of Earth's Ecosystems

    An unprecedented four-year study initiated by the United Nations has concluded the majority of the planet's ecosystems are being degraded in an unsustainable fashion.

    At the first of nine news conferences being held in various cities around the world Wednesday, some of the 1,300 experts involved in the study warned of the damage that growing demand for resources is having on the Earth's life support systems.

    The researchers, from 95 countries, concluded that 15 of 24 ecosystems are being damaged by such problems as human population growth, global warming and over-logging.

    In the conclusions released Wednesday, the scientists warn the problems could get worse in the next 50 years if dramatic steps are not taken. Among the ecosystems studied were mangrove forests, rainforests and dry-land areas.

    In Tokyo, United Nations Undersecretary Hans van Ginkel said the assessment reveals a consensus of the largest body of social and natural scientists ever assembled to examine the planet's ecosystems.

    "It's not yet extreme, it's not exactly immediately collapse, but we better act before the collapse is there," he said. "And that may be very much a scientists' type of approach. But we have to make clear that the future of humankind is not based on simplistic pictures."

    He called on Asian nations, home to 60 percent of the world's population, to take special note of the conclusions.

    "Much of what it is in the report relates strongly to Asia," he added. "But, at the same time, it's not easy to come up with a one-fits-all solution because almost all the diversity of the world is present in that one continent, as well."

    The study, known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, has resulted in 2,000 pages of scientific data and technical volumes. The first two parts of the study have been released over the past few years.

    There are concerns it could end up gathering dust on bookshelves unless there is a political and grassroots movement to act on its findings.

    The report includes an optimistic note amid the gloomy forecasts. The assessment's co-chairman, Malaysian biologist A.H. Zakri, says much of the damage can be reversed if practices are changed.

    "I would hope that individual governments would take action to take notice of the analysis and try to incorporate them into better policy formulation and management of ecosystems," said Mr. Zakri.

    Mr. Zakri calls on people to speak up about imperiled ecosystems in their areas, to push policy makers to take concrete action.

    Although its organizers hail the assessment as the first to focus on how ecosystem changes affect human well-being, they acknowledge no new research was undertaken and their mandate was not to present new findings.

    Mr. Zakri, director of the U.N. University's Institute of Advanced Studies, said the starkest situation is the desertification of the world's drylands.

    "That's the most urgent and that's the most vulnerable and that's the most disenfranchised of our brothers and sisters," he said. "On a scale of one to 10 I would give it the top mark."

    The third part of the study will be released over the next year. It will include assessments of the Himalayan Hindu Kush, the Laguna Lake Basin in the Philippines, the Arafura and Timor Seas, western China region and Vietnam's Mekong wetlands, as well as several regions within India and Indonesia.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora