Environment and Ecology

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22 March 2010

World Water Day - 2010Water is the source of life and the link that binds all living beings on this planet. It is connected directly to all our United Nations goals: improved maternal and child health and life expectancy, women’s empowerment, food security, sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Recognition of these links led to the declaration of 2005-2015 as the International Decade for Action “Water for Life”.

Our indispensable water resources have proven themselves to be greatly resilient, but they are increasingly vulnerable and threatened. Our growing population’s need for water for food, raw materials and energy is increasingly competing with nature’s own demands for water to sustain already imperiled ecosystems and the services on which we depend. Day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural wastes into the world’s water systems. Clean water has become scarce and will become even scarcer with the onset of climate change. And the poor continue to suffer first and most from pollution, water shortages and the lack of adequate sanitation.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day, “Clean Water for a Healthy World”, emphasizes that both the quality and the quantity of water resources are at risk. More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential.

The world has the know-how to solve these challenges and become better stewards of our water resources. Water is central to all our development goals. As we mark the mid-point of the International Decade for Action, and look forward to this year’s MDG Summit, let us protect and sustainably manage our waters for the poor, the vulnerable and for all life on Earth.


World Water Day Co-ordination

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is coordinating the organization of the World Water Day 2010 campaign on behalf of UN-Water and in collaboration with FAO, UNDP, UNECE, UNICEF, UNESCO, UN-Habitat, WHO, and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication as well as with partner organizations such as International Water Association, World Wide Fund for Nature and World Water Council.


Interconnections, Relationships, and Environmental Wholes: A Phenomenological Ecology of Natural and Built Worlds

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Ecology of Natural and Built Worlds

Ecology, both as a science and as a world view, emphasizes the study of relationships, interconnections, and environmental wholes that are different from the sum of their environmental parts. “Special qualities emerge out of interactions and collectivities,” writes intellectual historian Donald Worster (1994, p. 22), in his Nature’s Economy, a history of ecological ideas in the Western world. [1]

The central question I address here is this: What do the relationships, interconnections, and environmental wholes of ecology become in a phenomenological perspective? [2] To examine this question, I consider one phenomenon from the natural world—color—and one phenomenon from the humanmade world—lively urban places. I think it important to offer an example from both natural and human worlds because a “phenomenological ecology,” as it might be called, must be responsive to all lived relationships and interconnections, examining and describing the ways that things, living forms, people, events, situations and worlds come together to make environmental and human wholes (Riegner 1993, p. 211-12; Seamon 1993, p. 16). [3]

By “lively urban places,” I refer to city neighborhoods and districts that provide easy access for pedestrians and generate, just by being what they are, chance face-to-face encounters, sidewalk life, and a sense of taken-for-granted safety because many people are present. To discuss a phenomenology of lively urban places, I turn to my own work on the bodily dimensions of environmental experience and action, especially as the lived body comes to know its everyday environment through the regularity and routine of extended time-space patterns contributing to the transformation of physical space into lived place.


GIS and Space Syntax: An Analysis of Accessibility to Urban Green Areas in Doha District of Dammam Metropolitan Area

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GIS and TransportationIsmaila Abubakar
Department of City and Regional Planning
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
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Yusuf A. Aina
Department of City and Regional Planning
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
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Accessibility as a relative nearness of one place to another indicates easiness of reaching destination from origin. As a spatial analytic measure, it plays a vital role for decision makers in deciding where to locate public facilities or amenities so as to maximise their usability. More accessible public facilities like parks and open spaces improve social cohesion and interaction as more people patronise them. Better accessibility to facilities also ensures economic efficiency in the use of such facilities because when they service more people, they would be more cost effective. One of such places where the location of green areas is meant to serve the above-mentioned purposes is Doha district in Saudi Arabia.

Doha is a new district in Dammam metropolitan region of Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. It is designed in grid-iron pattern with some organised green areas in contrast with the old traditional organic settlements. The District is planned by Saudi Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) to serve as a model to the new and traditional settlements in the country. The green areas include parks and open spaces serving as public recreation centres. But are they accessible to their intended beneficiaries?


Village Tours - Architectural Guided Tours of Southern Europe

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Village Tours

Village Habitat DesignEducation has always been one of the missions of Village Habitat Design. They have produced video, written, and speak at conferences across the country and the world. Now, through Village Tours, LLC, principals from Village Habitat Design are leading 10-day programs in Italy and France including a bicycle tour of the Dordogne Valley in France.

The concept for the trips is to spend 10 days in a truly beautiful place, enjoy good food and drink and conversation, and get some fresh inspiration for what sustainable development can be, guided by leaders in the profession.

On the trip participants:

  • Spend a week in a historic home [a castle in Italy]
  • Enjoy seeing some of the charming old villages of Tuscany or Provence off the beaten tourist track
  • Get some inspiration for how to use some of those good old ideas in your own projects here in the USA
  • Have a guide the whole time
  • Get a tax deduction

The Ecovillage at Findhorn

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Findhorn Ecovillage

• is at the heart of the largest single intentional community in the UK
• links the spiritual, social, ecological and economic domains
Living Machine at Findhorn• a pioneering ecovillage since 1985
• a major centre of adult education serving 9,000 visitors a year from over 50 countries
• ecological footprint is half the national (UK) average
• 55 ecologically-benign buildings
• 4 wind turbines
biological Living Machine sewage treatment system
• UK's oldest and largest Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) system
• numerous solar water heating systems
• comprehensive recycling scheme
• publisher of UK's first technical guide to ecological housing
• own bank and community currency

Barrel House at FindhornThe Findhorn Ecovillage is a tangible demonstration of the links between the spiritual, social, ecological and economic aspects of life and is a synthesis of the very best of current thinking on human habitats. It is a constantly evolving model used as a teaching resource by a number of university and school groups as well as by professional organisations and municipalities worldwide.

We are a founder member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) a non-profit organisation that links together a highly diverse worldwide movement of autonomous ecovillages and related projects, and we work with intergovernmental agencies both educationally and in the creation of policy guidance for sustainable development and delivery of village-scale sustainability programmes.

Preliminary results of the ecological footprint study for the Findhorn Ecovillage confirms what we have guessed for some time that ecovillages tread significantly more lightly on the Earth.

The Findhorn Foundation Ecovillage Project has received Best Practice designation from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). 


Action to support Asia’s environment

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Asia has a diverse environment which is under growing pressure from population growth, economic development and climate change. The region now faces a number of challenges including deforestation, desertification and loss of biodiversity, meanwhile, inter-related issues, such as air and water pollution, waste management and rapid urbanisation also crowd the environment agenda.

Environment - Asia

The EU is committed to helping Asia protect its environment and to finding a sustainable future for the region’s growing economies. Environmental problems are rarely contained within national borders, which is why the EU has developed an approach to deal with them at regional level.

 EC programmes in the environmental field

The Commission’s Regional Strategy Paper for EU-Asia Cooperation  (2007-2013) has identified the environment as a sector in need of major support. Funding of about €102 million has been allocated for the strategy’s first four years, to be spent on implementing two programmes in Asia: SWITCH Asia which focuses on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and FLEGT Asia which promotes sustainable forest management.


Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM)

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EcosystemsAn Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) is one that provides a comprehensive framework for living resource decision making. In contrast to individual species or single issue management, EAM considers a wider range of relevant ecological, environmental, and human factors bearing on societal choices regarding resource use.

NOAA defines EAM as a geographically specified, adaptive approach that takes account of ecosystem knowledge and uncertainties, considers multiple external influences, and strives to balance diverse societal objectives. Implementation will need to be incremental and collaborative. NOAA recognizes that transition to and implementation of an ecosystem approach to management needs to be incremental and collaborative.

NOAA's Seven Characteristics of EAM:

  1. Geographically Specified Areas
  2. Adaptive Management
  3. Takes Account of Ecosystem Knowledge & Uncertainty
  4. Strives to Balance Diverse Societal Objectives
  5. Considers Multiple External Influences
  6. Incremental
  7. Collaborative

Geographically Specified Areas

Geographically Specified Areas - Place and issue based, with appropriate boundaries defined by the scope of the problem, area of influence, and the potential area over which solutions may be applied.

EAM is inherently linked to a place. Yet resource management often crosses traditional political boundaries and is influenced by ecosystem drivers, such as oceanographic and climatic conditions, and socioeconomic factors. Due to the dynamic nature of the environment, boundaries may be "fuzzy" or imprecise at times, but they help to provide a framework for the implementation of EAM by focusing us on the place and the issue. To be credible and fully accepted, boundaries should be established so that they are appropriate to the issue being addressed and identified through an open process. Ultimately, boundaries form the basis for scientific investigation and collaborative management strategies.


Nature's Services: Ecosystems Are More Than Wildlife Habitat

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An ecosystem is a geographically specified system of organisms, including humans, their environment, and the processes that control their dynamics.

When you step outside, whether heading for your car or for a walk around the block, you expect to be able to breathe the air. When planting flowers in the window box or tomatoes in the raised bed in your backyard, you expect those plants to grow, flower, and produce seeds or fruit. When perusing the grocery shelves, you expect to find fresh produce, and affordable fish and meat. When you turn on the tap, you expect to be able to drink the water.

Ecosystem services are the processes through which natural ecosystems, and the plants, animals and microbes that live in those environments, sustain human life. Ecosystem services produce goods, timber, and fibers, medicines and fuels. Ecosystem services even conduct life-support activities, like filtering water and recycling all kinds of wastes. The natural services that for millennia have purified the water and air, supported the growth and reproduction of food plants, controlled pests, and even moderated the weather and its impacts are declining rapidly. Land clearing for agriculture, industry and mining, and development is affecting ecosystems worldwide. As habitats become fragmented, with only pockets left here and there, the services those natural systems provide become less effective.

Tom Lovejoy, Chief Biodiversity Advisor, The World Bank, says other natural services, like waste decomposition and flood control, are often overlooked. Technology may duplicate these services temporarily, but it's doubtful that technological advances will be able to continually compensate for the large-scale loss of natural services. Although it is difficult to put a price tag on a wetland, forest, or river, the "price" for failing to protect or nurture these natural services could be daunting. As we populate the planet, nature's services will become even more essential to humans and worthy of protection from even those who never leave the cities.


TURKISH Prime Minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is winner of the inaugural Rafik Hariri-UN-HABITAT Memorial Award

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Rafik Hariri

The late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

TURKISH Prime Minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A seven member international jury found Mr. Erdogan deserving of the award because of his “excellent achievement and commendable conduct in the area of leadership, statesmanship and good governance”.

Announcing this in Nairobi today, the chairperson of the jury, former UN Under Secretary General, Ms Mervat Tallawy said the jury was unanimous in recognizing Mr. Erdogan’s outstanding achievements during his tenure as Mayor of Istanbul between 1994 and 1997.

“It was under his steady leadership and stewardship as host of the second UN Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat II, during which the habitat agenda was passed, with the noble goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world,” she said.


The GreenBuilding Programme

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GreenBuilding LogoIn 2004, the European Commission initiated the GreenBuilding Programme (GBP). This programme aims at improving the energy efficiency and expanding the integration of renewable energies in non-residential buildings in Europe on a voluntary basis. The programme addresses owners of non-residential buildings to realise cost-effective measures which enhance the energy efficiency of their buildings in one or more technical disciplines.

European Commission in the context of the EIE ProgrammeIn a pilot phase in the years 2005-2006, the GreenBuilding infrastructure was set up in ten European countries. In each participating country so called National Contact Points weres established for aiding organisations, which  consider a participation in the GreenBuilding Projekt. The successful work is now being continued in a 2nd phase - called GreenBuildinPlus - that started December 2007. The GreenBuilding project is supported by the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy Europe Programme.

On this central project website, information will be updated and amanded continuously. Furthermore, you will find links to the websites of the ten National Contact Points and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The GreenBuilding Programme

In its Green Paper on Energy Efficiency, the European Commission (EC) identified the building sector as an area, where important improvements in energy efficiency can be realised. According to the Green Paper, the building sector accounts for more than 40% of the final energy demand in Europe. At the same time, improved heating and cooling of buildings constitutes one of the largest potentials for energy savings. Such savings would also improve the energy supply security and the EU’s competitiveness, while creating jobs and raising the quality of life in buildings.


Generation E

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National Wildlife Federation Releases New Report - November 2009

Report: Generation EStudents Leading for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future

By Christina Erickson and David J. Eagan, with a foreword by Julian Keniry

35 ways students are creating a sustainable future at U.S. colleges and universities - cutting carbon emissions, saving resources and equipping the coming generation for a green energy economy.

This 70 page, example-rich guide is a timely, best-practices report on exemplary student-led sustainability activities and programs at schools around the U.S. Like other guides in the NWF Campus Ecology Climate and Sustainability Series, it features dozens of examples from postsecondary institutions of all types; public and private, urban and rural, large and small. More than 160 campuses from 46 states plus the District of Columbia are included, along with photos, graphics, links to related resources and an extensive endnotes section so readers can learn more about specific campus projects. As an illustrated “idea-book,” it shows students, faculty and staff a wide range of project possibilities, encouraging them to engage with their campus and community in ways that make real reductions in their school's carbon footprint and also foster the technical and intellectual skills needed in the future green economy.



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The green guide for muslims

A Muslim Green Guide to help households reduce climate change has been published jointly by UK Lifemakers Foundation and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), with the charity, Muslim Hands, meeting production costs. This booklet explains the impact of climate change using Islamic references and also explains why Muslims must do their bit for the environment.

The Green Guide is unique in that it is a simple, practical handbook that looks at different aspects of the household and suggests changes from an Islamic prospective that can have a big impact on climate change. These include decisions about domestic food, water, laundry, heating, electricity, transport and recycling. Also at the end of the 20 page booklet is a green checklist that gives households something positive to aim towards.

The booklet had been printed in time for Ramadan, the month in which Muslims are most reflective of their actions.

Download the Green Guide >


Deep Ecology

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Ecological and Psychological Study

Deep Ecology is defined as:

  • a philosophy based on our sacred relationship with Earth and all beings
  • an international movement for a viable future
  • a path for self realisation
  • a compass for daily action

Deep Ecology Supports:

  • continuing inquiry into the appropriate human roles on our planet
  • root cause analysis of unsustainable practices
  • reduction of human consumption
  • conservation and restoration of ecosystems
  • a life of committed action for Earth

Arne Naess’s original definition of ecosophy is:

"By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities."


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