Kew scientists have officially given 110 new species scientific names in the course of 2019, this Guardian article reveals. Among these 102 plants and eight fungi are species that can change medicine. One has the ability to trick our taste buds. Another has been used for centuries to treat arthritis. It has only this year been given a formal scientific name, and seems also to have abilities to combat cancer.
According to the article, “[t]here are almost 400,000 known species of plant, and about 2,000 new species are named every year”. Yet with their habitats being under threat due to a variety of dangers, the world is at risk of losing them before the species are even discovered, registered, named, or measures being taken to protect them.
Reflecting on all the undiscovered species still out there and all the potential they hold, particularly within medicine, should we not do more to protect them from becoming extinct? Should we not rage against the forest fires raging in several parts of the world, whether or not the destruction is deliberate? Should we not protest dam projects that could potentially wipe out an entire species? Should we not reflect around our own and our governments’ values and actions (or inaction), in the hopes of preserving nature?
For two weeks civil servants, activists and some politicians are meeting in Madrid for the 25th summit of the UN’s conference of the parties – COP25. By Friday, 13 December 2019, they will have debated issues concerning the climate – once again. Will it help? Hopefully, but only time will tell. The Guardian has compiled an excellent overview of what to expect before the climate conference started on 2 December. Read it, but also do your own research, for instance on COP25’s own website. For instance, how many did Norway send to Madrid during these two weeks? Did the UK send anyone, or were they too busy campaigning ahead of the general election on 12 December? Has COP25 actually achieved anything now that there are only days left, or are they postponing most things until next year and COP26, since most countries has 2020 as one of their deadlines, whether for attaining the previous targets, set in Copenhagen, or revising the objectives set in the Paris Accord.
Listen to 15 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden address the UN climate plenary in Poland – you are stealing our future
According to the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen, the countries represented are getting close to a climate accord.
Climate change is a topic that the United Nations has taken seriously for decades, having founded the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) already in 1994, initiated during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has existed since 1988. They work “to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies” (https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf).
In December, the IPCC will present to the Katowice Climate Change Conference a Special Report on the effects of a global warming of 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. Read the press release from the IPCC in the link above and make a note of what it says about the difference between a 1- and 2-degree increase compared to pre-industrial levels. Draw upon studies from your other subjects as well and be prepared to discuss the topic in class.
The global sanitation crisis is reflected in the following facts, according to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF):
- Around 60% of the global population – 4.5 billion people – either have no toilet at home or one that doesn’t safely manage excreta.
- 862 million people worldwide still practise open defecation – this means human faeces, on a massive scale, is not being captured or treated.
- 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from faeces.
- One third of schools worldwide do not provide any toilet facilities – a particular problem for girls during menstruation.
- 900 million schoolchildren across the world have no handwashing facilities – a critical barrier in the spread of deadly diseases.
- Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
Sustainable Goal nr. 3: Good Health and Well-Being, is the last of the UN Sustainable Development Goals we will work in-depth with, at least for now.
This goal was one of the most cited ones in August, when you were to choose which goals you found most important.
Start by reading up – what is the actual goal about and what are they focusing on? You will find all this here.
So how is it going? Will we be able to reach this goal by 2030? The latest progress report from the UN is short and informative. In some areas things are going the right way, in others not so much.
Some diseases and epidemics are still causing a lot of problems, such as HIV/AIDS – especially for women in sub-Saharan Africa, Malaria, Ebola – with recent new outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Also, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and air pollution are huge problems and each cause millions of death every year.
Write a blog post including the following:
- After reading the two texts about Goal. 3, linked to here – what do you think are the biggest challenges yet to solve in order for this goal to be reached? Explain your answer.
- Use WHO’s website or other relevant pages you find and look at emergencies. Choose either an area or a disease and do some research – what is going on here? What emergency is being caused by this disease, or what medical emergencies are going on in the area you chose? Read up, and then explain in your own words. Include what is being done, and look up other sources as well to see if you can find more supporting evidence.
- Reflect: based on your new knowledge about a disease, or an area in medical emergency – what would you say is being done to reach goal 3? What would you say is NOT being done, but should be done? Can you think of any challenges that could hinder progress for this goal? Which and why? Can you think of any solutions for these challenges?
Hunger increasing due to climate change, according to a UN report.
It found that 821 million people — one in every nine — were malnourished in 2017, up from 815 million in 2016, putting at risk the UN’s goal of eradicating hunger in the world by 2030.