- Global Land Grab
- Fossil Fuels
- Rare Earth Metals
- Supersized Earth
- Endangered Cultures
28/03/17 - Soil microbes hold key to climate puzzle Scientific studies cast new light on the complex role soil microbes play in affecting ecosystems, atmospheric carbon levels and the climate. Climate scientists puzzled by the traffic of carbon between soil and air may have to think more deeply about the role played by soil microbes − the planet’s smallest inhabitants.
01/11/15 - Spread of drylands will hit poorer nations hardest If global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the outlook for at least half the inhabited planet looks arid. By 2100, according to new research, at least half − and perhaps as much as 56% − of the land surface of the planet will be classified as dryland. Dryland, to a geographer, is not desert: it is terrain on which rain certainly falls, but rainfall is balanced by evaporation and transpiration through plant tissues. That is, dryland offers a precarious living to a sparse population. It doesn’t take much – overgrazing, erosion, ambitious cropping − to tip the balance and turn the land into desert.
06/01/15 - Interview with Dr Elaine Ingham (1 hr 52mins), keynote speaker at the 2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference about the importance of the Soil Food Web including simple methods to protect the microbiology of the soil. Avoidance of whole-field tillage, permanent low-growing ground cover plants between rows. Use of composts and compost teas. Increase of organic matter from typically 1% in soils depleted by modern agriculture to over 30% as found in natural forest soils. No crop rotation required to avoid disease. No chemicals and no GMOs required to feed the growing population. Understanding of difference in growth of fungi and bacteria in soil carbon sequestration.
07/06/13 - Peak soil: industrial civilisation is on the verge of eating itself New research on land, oil, bees and climate change points to imminent global food crisis without urgent action
This animated film tells the reality of soil resources around the world, covering the issues of degradation, urbanization, land grabbing and overexploitation; the film offers options to make the way we manage our soils more sustainable. For more information visit globalsoilweek.org
Return to top
06/01/13 - Screened as part of the BBC's Why Poverty? 75% of Mali's population are farmers, but rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing Mali's land in order to turn large areas into agribusiness farms. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism. As Mali experiences a military coup, the developers are scared off - but can Mali's farmers combat food shortages and escape poverty on their own terms?
06/03/13 - Indian Land Grab in Africa: Sputnik Kilambi More than 80 Indian companies have acquired immense swathes of arable land in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Mozambique to grow food crops as well as sugarcane and palm oil, both raw stock for biofuel.
21/02/13 - Land grabbing for biofuels must stop Zainab Kamara is one of several thousand farmers in Sierra Leone whose lands have been taken over by the Swiss company Addax Bioenergy for a 10,000 hectare sugar cane plantation to produce ethanol for export to Europe.
11/06/12 - Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab Food cannot be grown without water. In Africa, one in three people endure water scarcity and climate change will make things worse. Building on Africa’s highly sophisticated indigenous water management systems could help resolve this growing crisis, but these very systems are being destroyed by large-scale land grabs amidst claims that Africa's water is abundant, under-utilised and ready to be harnessed for export-oriented agriculture. GRAIN looks behind the current scramble for land in Africa to reveal a global struggle for what is increasingly seen as a commodity more precious than gold or oil: water.
25/02/12 - BBC World Service Africa Debate - Is 'land grabbing' good for Africa? (55 mins) The investors include some of the world's largest food, financial and car companies. The issue described as "land grabbing" by its critics has been particularly contentious in sub-Saharan Africa because land there is considered central to identity, food security and livelihoods. Ethiopia, South Sudan, Mozambique, Liberia, the DRC and Sierra Leone have all signed sizeable land deals with foreign investors. The host governments and investors say that these investments will lead to economic development; promising employment, infrastructure and social services. However human rights groups argue that the main beneficiaries of "land grabs" are the foreign investors, because most of them produce commodities for export. They argue that the land deals are not done transparently, hence creating a breeding ground for corruption.
24/02/12 - BBC News Africa - In pictures: Land leasing or land grabbing? In the last few years, large-scale acquisitions of farmland in Africa, Latin America and Asia have made headlines across the world. In Africa, countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, DR Congo and Sierra Leone have all signed major land deals with foreign investors. But how do they affect local people?
08/11/11 - Hedge funds 'grabbing land' in Africa Hedge funds are behind "land grabs" in Africa to boost their profits in the food and biofuel sectors, a US think-tank says. In a report, the Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts. It said the acquisitions had displaced millions of small farmers. Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets, the report said. They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers. "This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat than terrorism," the report said.
04/05/11 - VIDEO: Planet for Sale - Food crisis and the global land grab (54 mins)Return to top
08/08/16 - RADIO: Crossing Continents: Going Hungry in Venezuela (28 mins) Oil-rich Venezuela is struggling to feed its own people as a result of a spiralling economic and political crisis which has brought the country to its knees. Vladimir Hernandez returns to his home country where thousands queue for many hours in order to buy even the most basic of food stuffs. Malnutrition and starvation, unthinkable only a few years ago, are becoming a reality for some communities and particularly the poor.
10/03/13 - RADIO: BBC Food Programme: Forest foods, Africa's secret ingredients Sheila Dillon explores Africa's forest foods, both an emergency larder and source of wonderful flavours. With the support of Comic Relief and funds raised through Red Nose Day work is underway to tap into the potential of this neglected food source. From Shea butter to Maringa, Sheila tastes her way through this story with Tony Hill of the charity Tree Aid, and Malcolm Riley, "the African Chef", whose cooking career started in Zambia. On the menu, prawns stir-fried in an ingredient from the baobab tree, and as Malcolm explains, it's "modern African cuisine".
07/02/11 - Failure to act on crop shortages fuelling political instability, experts warn Soaring prices for staples is thought to have been one of the factors contributing to unrest in Egypt and Tunisia.
01/10/09 - VIDEO: Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities. Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world. Food is a shared necessity -- but also a shared way of thinking, argues Carolyn Steel. Looking at food networks offers an unusual and illuminating way to explore how cities evolved.
17/08/09 - TV: BBC Future of Food George Alagiah travels the world to reveal a growing global food crisis that could affect the planet in the years ahead. With food riots on three continents recently, and unprededented competition for food due to population growth and changing diets, the series alerts viewers to a looming problem and looks for solutions.Return to top
11/02/15 - Tracking progress against deforestation - the Forest 500 It's hard to imagine there are only 500 actors who control the global trade in deforestation but it's true. The Forest 500, a new ranking from Global Canopy Programme, assesses publicly available policies from companies, governments and investors and ranks them according to how they are contributing to deforestation. From governments – who in some cases allow deforestation, and in others enforce the rules to prevent it – to companies producing, trading or using the commodities responsible for deforestation, and to the investors who bankroll it all, the Forest 500 gives us a snapshot of how deforestation is being traded globally.
07/10/14 - RADIO: Shared Planet: Mahogany (28 mins) Beautiful and durable, mahogany has been highly prized and traded internationally for centuries. Reaching the impressive height of 60 meters or more they are true giants of the forest. Selective logging of mahogany was unchecked across much of its range until international agreements restricted its trade. But has this been enough?
23/09/14 - VIDEO: Sunset over Selungo (30 mins) For centuries, the Penan people have lived in the jungle of northern Borneo, the largest island in Asia. Now they are fighting to defend their rainforest home. Their culture and identity rely on it. A film by Ross Harrison.
24/05/13 - VIDEO: Sumatra, Indonesia: the rainforest's last stand. The rainforest of Sumatra in Indonesia is steadily being turned into a giant industrial plantation that can neither support the wildlife that lives there nor the native human population. Environmental groups estimate that at the current rate of deforestation, the natural rainforest will be all but gone within 20 years, and little is being done to stop it. John Vidal witnesses the struggle for survival of one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems on Earth.
03/04/13 - Amazon tribe threatens to declare war amid row over Brazilian dam project. Munduruku leaders hit out at 'betrayal' after government pushes on with dam construction without community's consent.
13/02/13 - Hungry For Energy, Brazil Builds Monster Dams In The Amazon Already Latin America's biggest economy, Brazil envisions a future requiring massive amounts of electrical power for its expanding industries and growing cities. The response has been a construction boom that will install dozens of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon and that's generating plenty of controversy, particularly from environmentalists.
22/04/12 - VIDEO: Loggers strip trees from Amazonian tribe's territory. Undercover investigators film loggers taking huge tree trunks out of the territory of the Awá tribe. According to Survival International, they are the world's most threatened tribe, with their homes being destroyed by industrial projects and cattle ranching. The 355 Awá, who live in four communities in Maranhão state, are fully dependent on the forest.
11/04/11 - VIDEO: Cerrado deforestation. The Cerrado, a savannah that covers more than one-fifth of Brazil, has experienced ongoing deforestation due to the expansion of soy agriculture, led by demand for soybean to produce feed for factory-farmed animals.17/10/09 - VIDEO: Heart of Brazil: The People of the Xingu. Flying Rivers explains that the rainforest corridor of sequential evaporation and rainfall actively takes the water south and enables the land south of the Amazon in southern Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uraguay to be agriculturally productive.
31/05/09 - VIDEO: Greenpeace tracks beef and leather to Amazon deforestation. A three-year survey by Greenpeace shows that western demand for beef and leather and an increase in cattle ranching is leading to intensified deforestation in the Amazon
24/01/17 - Five Things to Know About California’s Drought After Big Storms California has been hit with multiple large storms in the last month that have brought above-average snow and rainfall to most of the state. Here’s a look at what that means for the state’s more than five-year drought.Current Conditions of Californian Drought, Drought Watch
22/10/16 - Bolivian glaciers melt at alarming rate A new study mapping the effects of dwindling glaciers on people living in Bolivia reveals rapid shrinkage and potentially dangerous glacial lakes. Between 1986 and 2014 – one human generation – the glaciers of Bolivia shrank by 43%, according to new research. This presents a problem in the long term for more than 2 million people who rely on glacial meltwater supply in the dry season, and immediate danger in the short term for thousands who might live below precarious glacial lakes.
08/10/15 - Britain's water crisis Overuse, pollution and climate change are threatening the survival of the river Ouse in East Sussex. But this is not just a local crisis, the water supply for the whole of Britain is in jeopardy.
06/08/15 - RADIO: In Business - The Californian Drought (30 mins) California has some of the world's most productive agricultural land. It puts fruit and vegetables on America's tables and exports huge amount of produce too; nearly all of the almonds we consume come from here. But the state is also endured a severe drought, now into its fourth year. Farm land is being fallowed, farm workers are losing their jobs and thousands of wells are drying up. Some farmers believe that this year is the tipping point. If rain does not fall in the winter, they'll be out of business next year. But other farmers have had some of their best years during these testing times. Peter Day explores what happens when water becomes the most valuable commodity there is.
20/05/15 - BBC VIDEO: California drought: Farms v households (6 mins) Lack of winter snow means California is now in its fourth year of drought.
20/05/15 - Nestle bottled water operations spark protests amid California drought Petition carrying 500,000 signatures delivered to Sacramento and Los Angeles water bottling facilities as state suffers through fourth straight year of drought
13/05/15 - Drought tightens grip on Queensland as record 80% of state succumbs Total area drought declared is 80.35% of state, eclipsing the previous record of 79.01% in March 2014 – during the same drought
25/01/15 - Brazil drought: It's a really dry January in the South American country, with rainfall is at its lowest level since 1930 Last week, the country’s politicians called upon divine intervention to end a historic shortage. “God is Brazilian,” said Eduardo Braga, mines and energy minister. “He will make it rain.” Even those within São Paulo’s water company Sabesp are hoping for a miracle to prevent the reservoirs from drying up completely within five months, after the lowest rainfall since 1930.
07/11/14 - BBC VIDEO: 'Brazil drought is linked to Amazon deforestation' Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo, is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Now, a leading climatologist and earth scientist has told the BBC that there is a direct link between deforestation in the Amazon and the record drought.
05/09/14 - Brazil drought crisis leads to rationing and tensions This year, the rain fronts that are normally carried south from the humid Amazon have largely failed to materialise and temperatures have been higher than usual, prompting the authorities to scrabble to tap new sources and reduce demand. "It has been a terrible year. The last rainy season was drier than the dry season," Mauro Arce, São Paulo's water resources secretary, told the Guardian.
12/03/13 - RADIO: Roger Law and the Chinese Curiosities(15 mins) He ends up in Beijing, making a visit to the city's 'Tap Water' museum to find out what's on display. He experiences the pollution of the public water supply which is why everyone drinks bottled water.
23/01/13 - Massive melting of Andes glaciers Glaciers are retreating everywhere in the tropical Andes, but the melting is more pronounced for small glaciers at low altitudes. The regular seasonal melting of glaciers has provided much of the local water supply to cities, farmers and for hydropower. The hundreds of thousands of inhabitants in the Santa River valley in Peru could be most affected. Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. "Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season."
11/06/12 - Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab A look behind the current scramble for land in Africa to reveal a global struggle for what is increasingly seen as a commodity more precious than gold or oil: water.
26/02/12 - Almeria on the Costa del Sol (Costa del Polythene) in Spain is where 25% of tomatoes sold in Britain come from, we are the third biggest export market after France and Germany. The crops are grown continuously from October to July, with production peaks in December-January when tomato, cucumber, green beans, and pepper are harvested, and then again in May-June when melons are in season. Tomatoes and sweet pepper represent the greatest crop area, followed by melons. Greenhouse production has a requirement of 800-1000 mm water per year in a region that receives just 200 mm of annual rainfall. Effectively this means that Spanish water is being exported along with the tomatoes.
10/08/11 - China's growing water crisis China said that more than 24 million people were short of drinking water in 2010 because of a crippling drought, the worst to hit the country in a century.
20/02/11 - What does the Arab world do when its water runs out? Water usage in north Africa and the Middle East is unsustainable and shortages are likely to lead to further instability – unless governments take action to solve the impending crisis.
02/08/10 - Just deserts Sun, sea, sangria and sand. Too much sand. As desertification continues to be a problem for southern Spain, Ian Clover investigates what can be done to halt the march of the desert.
01/08/08 - WWF Report UK Water Footprint: the impact of the UK’s food and fibre consumption on global water resources The UK is now the sixth largest net importer of water in the world.
14/03/05 - Himalayan glaciers 'melting fast' Himalayan glaciers regulate the water supply to the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze and Yellow rivers. Hundreds of millions of people throughout China and the Indian subcontinent - most of whom live far from the Himalayas - rely on water supplied from these rivers.
20/10/04 - The world's water hotspots From disappearing lakes and dwindling rivers to military threats over shared resources, water is a cause for deep concern in many parts of the world.
15/02/04 - This parched earth Water makes up 70 per cent of the surface of the globe (and the same proportion of the human body). That sounds like a lot of water. Unfortunately, however, only 3 per cent is fresh. The vast majority of that is locked in the polar icecaps or too deep underground to reach. Less than 1 per cent of all water is fresh and 'accessible'.
05/03/13 - RADIO: BBC Costing the Earth - Electrifying Africa: Beyond the Grid Micro-solar lamps are now lighting parts of Africa that the grid cannot reach. Tom Heap investigates how the solar spread is emulating the wide reach of mobile phones in Africa. There are currently over 100 million kerosene lamps across Africa that are the main source of light in parts of the continent that are either off-grid or where people cannot afford to hook-up to the electricity grid. These lights are polluting, dangerous and expensive. Burning a kerosene light in a small room produces the same detrimental effect as smoking two packets of cigarettes. They are a fire hazard and they can cost as much as 15% of an average salary to fuel in some parts of the continent. Tom heap sets out to discover if a small desktop solar lamp that costs a fraction of the running expenses of a kerosene lamp can improve the health of millions of people and help to lift Africa out of poverty.
1931 - "We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." Thomas Edison in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone
29/09/15 - Alaska divided as Shell halts Arctic drilling: heartbreaking news or a miracle? The company’s exit has ‘lifted a burden’ on villagers who depend on marine mammal meat, says one Alaska Native, but a state representative bemoans the decision after residents ‘stood on the cusp of another boom’.
Easily exploited fossil fuels are running out, but rather than the supply declining and conservation measures taking effect to reduce demand, energy companies and governments are fast exploiting the more unconventional gas supplies at considerable environmental costs and continuing adverse effects on climate change. Shale gas in the UK
The most productive farming region in New South Wales, the Liverpool Plains are currently being threatened by the extraction of coal seam gas. According to the Australian Energy Regulator, assuming that gas use keeps increasing at the current rate of 4 per cent per year until 2025, conventional gas in the Eastern Gas Market will last for nine years, while CSG will last for 27 years.
Promised Land - 2013 fictional film starring Matt Damon about a big natural gas corporation trying to pursuade a small farming community in economic decline to sell off their drilling rights for extracting subterranean shale gas by fracking.
In early 2013, Japan became the first country to successfully extract natural frozen gas from deposits of icy methane hydrate buried in the ocean floor. According to experts, the amount of carbon stored in these types of gas deposits across the globe is staggering.
Gasland - 2010 documentary film about fracking in USA and the problems that have arisen.
Local Hero - 1983 iconic fictional film based in Scotland, an oil man from America comes to a beautiful Scottish village in order to buy and dynamite it for an oil refinery and who is then overcome by the magic and beauty of the village itself.
Return to top
12/07/16 - Gold’s hidden climate footprintThe lure of mining for precious metals in South America and Europe is creating new carbon emissions not controlled by international agreement. The collapse of the Soviet Union left Bulgaria achieving in the 1990s what the rest of the world is working hard to manage in the 2020s, a reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions of more than 45%. But while a lot of inefficient mines and smelting plants have closed, the rump of the minerals industry survived. It is now expanding again, destroying pristine forests and wildlife and raising questions about Europe’s policy of transporting ore across the globe for smelting and refining. Vast quantities of raw material are transported by ship, but the emissions caused are not counted because shipping is not covered by the Paris Agreement of last December.
01/04/13 - How much gold is there in the world? Up to now gold has never gone away - it has always been recycled. "All the gold that has been mined throughout history is still in existence in the above-ground stock. That means that if you have a gold watch, some of the gold in that watch could have been mined by the Romans 2,000 years ago," says James Turk. The way gold is being used in the technology industry, however, is different - the British Geological Survey states that about 12% of current world gold production finds its way to this sector, where it is often used in such small quantities, in each individual product, that it may no longer be economical to recycle it. In short, gold may be being "consumed" for the first time.
28/03/13 - RADIO: Crossing Continents: Mongolia's Mining Boom (28 mins) The Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia's freezing Gobi Desert is one of the the world's biggest - extracting a vast seam of copper, gold and silver the size of Manhattan. It's turned this country of camel and yak herders into the world's fastest growing economy. Fancy boutiques, top-end car dealerships and coffee shops are springing up across the capital.
Uyuni in Bolivia. 'It is one of the most impressive sights in the world, bringing time to a standstill. The Salar de Uyuni in south-western Bolivia, is now one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world at an elevation of 3,656 metres (11,995 ft) above mean sea level. Salar de Uyuni is one of the most coveted sources in the world thanks to new technologies. The mountain hosts 140 million tonnes of lithium, over half of the world's supply' Photograph: Javier Arcenillas
19/12/12 - Two Advances Point Toward a Cheaper Electric-Car Battery Lithium-sulfide batteries could store far more energy than lithium-ion ones.
14/08/12 - Lithium shortage strains battery supply
11/01/13 - US to build $120m rare earth research institute The US wants to reduce its dependency on China, which produces more than 95% of the world's rare earth elements, and address local shortages.
13/09/12 = Ford reduces the use of rare earth metals in lithium-ion batteries for hybrids Many manufacturers who are heavily into battery production, and usage are doing all they can to reduce their need for rare earth metals. China has the majority of the world supply of rare earth metals and has been increasing its grip on the materials to drive prices up. Ford has announced that its new lithium-ion batteries were designed to reduce the use of rare earth metals.
06/12/11 - Rare earth metal shortage a 'ticking time-bomb' Publication of the report comes several weeks after China's biggest producer of rare earths suspended production for one month in order to stimulate the market.
15/12/10 - U.S. Called Vulnerable to Rare Earth Shortages The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range of green products — from to to giant .
26/03/10 - Rare Earth and Lithium Supplies Cloud Renewables Rare earths refer to some 17 elements found in Earth’s crust by themselves or combined with other chemicals. Some are scarce and others abundant, but in most every case Rare Earths create risk in the renewable energy supply chain under an “energy security” standard.
TV: BBC Supersized Earth traces the spectacular story of how humans have transformed our world in a generation. In this awe-inspiring three-part series, Dallas Campbell travels the globe, visiting the world's largest and most ambitious engineering projects, exploring the power of human ingenuity and the making of the modern world.
28/11/12 - Episode 2 - The Way We Move Dallas explores how we can travel further and faster than ever before - and how our desire to shrink the world is inspiring some of the most extraordinary engineering projects on the planet.
05/12/12 - Episode 3 - Food, Fire and Water Dallas examines what it takes to keep seven billion humans alive with food, energy and water. 40% of the Earth's surface is now devoted to growing food.
VIDEO: Sunset over Selungo (30 mins) For centuries, the Penan people have lived in the jungle of northern Borneo, the largest island in Asia. Now they are fighting to defend their rainforest home. Their culture and identity rely on it. Film by Ross Harrison released September 2014.
VIDEO: Wade Davis on Endangered Cultures With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world's indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate along with their knowledge and skills.