Category Archives: Sustainability

New Year, New Team

GLOBUS: A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
1st January 2018

To all our readers, old and new,

First of all, allow me to wish you all a very happy, and prosperous, New Year. I hope that, this time next year, we will be able to look back at one that has well and truly moved on from the relative gloom of 2017.

And what a year it has been! Donald Trump (need I say more?), the advent of Brexit negotiations, escalating tensions in the Middle East, North Africa, and on the Korean Penninsula… and that’s just to skim the surface. As a student of Global Sustainable Development, what perhaps stands out most to me is the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement – an event that, I believe, most in the field have viewed with a feeling of despair.

What I would like to express today, however, is hope. The defiance of all other signatories to the Paris Agreement is, to continue the theme, perhaps the best example of this. We have the tools to fight the problems of our time; with such winds of global change blowing, and with people more than ever before fighting for their rights, their livelihoods, and their world, perhaps now is the time that we will see them used.

It is into such a context that I, and my new GLOBUS team, step into our roles this New Year. I would like to take a moment to thank last year’s team for their work, and to wish them luck as they move on to exciting new parts of their lives – with the majority of the team moving this term and next to Australia or Malaysia, to study at the University of Monash as part of their Global Sustainable Development courses.

This year, we’ve got a huge variety of exciting new projects we’ll be looking to launch. Already, the GLOBUS team is involved in an outreach project with the Sutton Trust, working with a variety of ages on projects examining aspects of food sustainability, championed by staff from the School for Cross-Faculty Studies, the home department of all members of our GLOBUS team. This month, on January 26th, we will be having our landmark online relaunch event, followed up on February 2nd. Both events will see a variety of new content released, so be sure to check in here, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages @GlobusWarwick, to keep up.

Later in the year, we hope to be hosting some all-new events – plans for those are currently in the works, and I’m really looking forward to sharing that news with you all. I would also like to welcome in particular members of our new team from the Liberal Arts degree programme, who we look forward to working with to expand our perspective, and develop further our understanding and programme of content.

If you would like to get involved in writing, or producing other content (podcasts and videos are inbound!), for or with GLOBUS, or you would like to get involved with our GLOBUS team, please do get in touch via the contact form on our ‘About Us’ page, or directly with me at editor@globuswarwick.com.

All that remains for me to do is to thank you all for your continued support of GLOBUS; I hope that you will all enjoy engaging with our publication in the coming year, and find it insightful, stimulating, and most importantly -global.

 

All the best,

171230 Signature

GLOBUS Editor-in-Chief, 2018

Bee-ing a little more critical

 

When I was taking GCSE biology in high school, a less preferred topic of the class was plant reproduction and pollination. A common critique of the subject was that it was dry and slightly irrelevant, because “who needs to know how plants get it on, right?”. I did not relate. Looking back, I realise that the facts around pollination were presented to us in “bits”, as individual packets of neutral scientific information, scattered and divorced from its relationship to humans. Perhaps its perceived irrelevance stemmed from that division, and from our problematic way of conceptualising nature as separate to us.

Clearly, correcting that perception and reorganising the way that we view, study, and treat nature is imperative (which coincidentally, was the takeaway point I got from David Beck’s talk on history and nature). Hence, I will try to reimagine our relationship with pollinators and attempt to show how we can engage in some cheeky GSD.

Alongside being extremely adorable, it is said that bees and other wild pollinators contribute key ecosystem services. According to a 2013 Greenpeace report, they are responsible, either directly or indirectly, for 70% of food humans consume, essentially providing every third mouthful we eat. In addition, their pollination services are provided to us completely free of charge. Without them, agriculture and manual crop pollination would be very expensive indeed. In fact, the British Beekeepers Association estimates the economic value of pollination services by honey bees and bumblebees in the UK to be over £200 million per year!

By now, everyone is well aware that bees, along with many wild pollinators, are declining in numbers. This decline began in the 1900s, but only after 2005 did scientists and activists begin to take note after a steep drop in numbers.  

How do I know all this? Well, aside from being slightly invested in the bee and wild pollinator situation, I also wrote about this in some detail in my policy brief. However, something that strikes me as incorrect, is the constant reference by NGOs and peer reviewed scientific journals to the fact that these species provide us with key ecosystem services. While that is true, these services were not technically meant for humans. It is a service that pollinators would trade with flowering plants in exchange for nectar or pollen. In ecology, this trade-off is called mutualism, where both parties benefit mutually from an interaction. The pollinators provide the plants with a means to disperse their pollen to reproduce, and the plants provide the pollinators with their food resource. Note that nowhere does this biological relationship mention humans – we are behaving like the ecological equivalent of a freeriding third wheel on a date. Yet, we dub it an ecosystem service, and assign an economic value to it based on its significance to our agricultural industry.

Out of all the major threats to pollinators, over half of them are anthropogenic, arguably stemming from our regard of one half of their mutualism as an ecosystem service, an ecosystem in service to humanity, and our lack of consideration of the complex mutually beneficial relationship pollinators share with the pollinated. Especially so, when we look at the issue of insecticides. Most insecticides used within the sector are not localised and have direct and indirect effects on pollinators that tend to spread to different trophic levels through the food chain. These insecticides are normally widely applied to the environment, and combined with monocultural farming practices, they weaken the ecosystem due to the lack of biodiversity, having a ripple effect on nearby ecosystems, ultimately destroying habitats within which wild pollinators reside. There are many variations of insecticides, and an especially dangerous variation is systemic insecticides. Upon use, these chemicals are absorbed and diffused throughout a plant’s vascular system, resulting in high levels of chemical residue on pollen, compromising the main protein source of many pollinators. They are incredibly toxic, and studies show that even a tiny amount has severe physiological effects and impacts on the immune system of bees, making colonies more susceptible to diseases and parasites, such as the Varroa mite. What this fact dump means is that by treating pollination as a service to humans, we have overlooked the simple relationship between pollinator and plant, and so do not take into consideration that chemically altering one to increase agricultural output will affect the other, possibly negatively.

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To give a bit more information, Greenpeace has identified seven systemic insecticides that they urge should be completely eliminated from the environment. Furthermore, it has been confirmed by the EFSA that the risks of those far outweigh the presumed benefits of increased agricultural productivity due to its function in pest control. Out of these seven insecticides, Europe has banned the use of three for two years on flowering crops.

However, a better solution would be to cut back on contemporary chemical and physical intensive agricultural practices altogether, and switch to a more ecologically friendly version of agriculture. There are urgent and immediate steps that need to be taken by governments and international organisations to achieve this, beginning with a revision and removal of government policies and incentives that support this form of agriculture. Us regular folk can help by continuously applying pressure and advocating for what is right, rethinking our relationship with pollinators and the ecosystem, and eventually reconceptualising our entire relationship with nature.

Recently, with the shift towards sustainable development, there has been an emphasis on grassroots bottom-up action, instilling faith in my fellow GSD students, as well as displaying the importance to think global, but act local. Efforts like urban farming are an attempt to scale back from large scale intensive agriculture, as well as address inequalities in the food system. As students, our timetable doesn’t leave much room for us to engage in a bit of self-sustainable farming, however, there are societies, especially within the University of Warwick, that allows us the opportunity to do so, or which at least share the same goals. You have the Warwick Allotment Society (which meets at 2pm every Wednesday at the campus allotment), Warwick Blackout, the Global Sustainable Development SocietyEngineers without Borders, and these are but a few just off the top of my head, but there are many more concerned with giving back and caring for our environments.

In addition to that, I have some ideas and tips, gathered from the Internet, on how to make your garden or home more pollinator friendly and less desolate to the way you inherited it from the previous owners; Gardens in student houses are a bit like a formality, it’s basically there, because it has to be. In my search for a second-year home, I came across many abandoned backyards that could have been used better. Heck, even tossing a few mixed seeds in there would do well to increase the biodiversity in your little ecosystem. It is best to go for flowering plants, as that provides food and habitat for pollinators. Running a quick Google search for pollinator-friendly plants before planting also helps too, and the most expensive seeds add up to about 2 quid. Sunflowers and forget-me-nots are but a few that will brighten up your garden, and a bee’s day!

Pleasant Island No More – A Cautionary Tale from the End of the World

 by Tom Harrison

 

At 21 km2 Nauru is one of the smallest countries in the world. Nestled in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from its nearest neighbour and with a population of around 10,000, it truly is at the end of the earth. The first colonists called it Pleasant Island.

For decades, it had the richest citizens in the world, richer per capita than Finland, Canada and the UK. After gaining independence, the nation boomed on the proceeds from extensive phosphate mining, required as fertilizer across the world. Nauru was described by many as the Kuwait of the South Seas.

Even at the time this came at a cost. The vast open cast mines were inescapable – locals had a saying that if you weren’t looking at the sea, you were looking at a mine. Even today you can’t look across the island without seeing one, and the runoff from the mines still poisons the sea.

But the price of phosphate soared, the inhabitants barely had to work for their wealth, and many could still remember the backbreaking subsistence lives they had led before. No one wanted to return to that time of not knowing if you’d have food the next day.

The people grew lazy, the government grew corrupt, the phosphate ran out.

Even during the good times, they knew it couldn’t last forever. The government set up the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust, but it was horribly mismanaged and many investments failed abysmally; They financed a musical about the life of Leonardo da Vinci, which is considered one of the biggest disasters in the history of London theatre. They built the Nauru Tower in Melbourne, the second tallest building in Australia, but it was never filled.

To the government’s credit, their investments at home were not excessive. They built a hospital and schools, they invested in infrastructure; paved the roads, built sewers and, perhaps most importantly for an island 4,000 km from the Australian mainland, built an airport, cutting the journey time from 20 days to 5 hours. But there was no income tax, no corporation tax, no VAT; the only revenue came from the mines.

Politicians spent millions on excessive overseas travel and the government set up embassies all over the world, at one point employing nearly 10% of the population. Year after year the government blew the budget, believing the phosphate would last for centuries.

By the early 1990s it was becoming increasingly apparent that the country had vastly overestimated its reserves, as all over the island they began to reach the bottom of the mines that were expected to have decades of use left in them. The country had an annual deficit of AUD $10 million on a GDP of AUD $20 million and debts of AUD $240 million. But another very real problem was becoming increasingly apparent, and it was really the most obvious consequence of exporting vast quantities of rock from a small island: they were running out of usable land. The island was literally disappearing from beneath their feet. Nauru had to import almost all the food and over half the population left for a better life in one of their bigger neighbours. As one government minister described it, they were “getting rich in a trash can”.

“One day when

they have salted

their last field,

killed the last

beast and burned

the last tree

these people will

realize you can’t

eat money” –

Unknown

Nauru also had an increasing public health issue. In the course of fifty years the local diet has changed from fish and vegetables to one of high fat, high sugar, heavily processed food, which could survive the long boat ride to the island. This, combined with people moving from the life of a hunter and farmer to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of people who no longer had to work for a living, meant that the people got fat.

It is by far the fattest country in the world. 95% of the people are overweight, which is combined with a culture that views obesity as a sign of wealth. Life expectancy is falling and has been for 38 years. No other country has witnessed such a stark decline.

This is a problem across the Pacific. Small islands only get resupplied roughly once a month, so fresh vegetables aren’t practical, and on the more densely populated islands there isn’t enough land to grow enough food for everyone. This is combined with the infamous ‘lamb flaps problem’; Australia and New Zealand produce vast quantities of lamb, but the primary markets demand leaner cuts, so the cheaper, fattier cuts are sold to the Pacific islanders, leading to a public health crisis, as 8 out of the 15 fattest countries in the world are in the Pacific, all with obesity rates of at least 70%. Many countries have had to bring in laws specifically banning sale of certain cuts of meat, in an effort to save their creaking health care systems.

 

In 2005, things came to a head. Mining had all but ceased, and confronted with a massive public health care bill, Nauru ran out of money. The Nauru Tower was sold off, the island’s only plane was seized, and the country’s main power station was impounded, meaning it could no longer supply the desalination plants, the only source of fresh water on an island with only one, now heavily polluted river.

With the island cut off, without power and running out of food and water, Australia stepped in and saved the country from oblivion. They provided Nauru with aid, paying off its debt.

This came at a heavy cost: the Australians built an immigration detention camp on the old national stadium, initially to house the 438 Afghan refugees rescued in international waters by the crew of MV Tampa but refused entry to Australia. Soon there were over 1,200 asylum seekers living in the tented encampment, part of Australia’s Pacific Solution whereby they will not accept any refugees onto Australian territory, instead housing them in remote camps in camps in Nauru and Manus, a distant island of Papua New Guinea.

 

Brought in by the Howard government with bi-partisan support, the conditions have been compared to a concentration camp; there is almost no healthcare provision, there are regular water shortages and there is no education for the over 300 children held there. Amid hunger strikes, allegations of sexual abuse and stalled promises of closure, the camp erupted into rioting in July of 2013. This was met by a rolling back of the policy by Kevin Rudd’s Labour government, but Julia Glillard’s election saw a return of the policy, with all maritime arrivals being detained indefinitely with no hope of Australian residency, in direct contravention of international law.   

Award winning cartoonist, Ali Dorani has been subject to beatings, starvation and over three years of illegal detention at one of the camps. The fact that this was all after fleeing 7000 miles across the Indian Ocean, from abuses by the Iranian government in a boat no longer than a cricket pitch should be a stain on Australia’s national conscience. Being withheld healthcare and almost bereft of hope, Ali has been on hunger strike since the 31st of January.

He is by no means the only case of abuse. There have been almost innumerous reports of inhumane treatment by Broadspectrum staff, brought in to run the camp on the government’s behalf. There have been allegations of both forced and withheld abortions, at least 20 cases of rape in 2016 alone, and even deaths. To this day, nearly 1,000 people remain unlawfully detained on the island with no end in sight, some detained for as long as eight years, with no idea of their release date.

Aid from Australia now accounts for 90% of Nauru’s economy, almost entirely predicated on the continuation of the euphemistically named ‘Regional Processing Centre’. Nauru’s industrialization and isolation means that it is unlikely that tourism can revive the country’s crippled economy. 40% of the marine life has been destroyed, so fishing can’t help either, and even if it could, the island is so remote that any export would likely be unprofitable. The government attempted to become a tax haven, but international condemnation and threatened sanctions meant they quickly backtracked amid concerns that the Russian mafia laundered AUD $70 million in one year.

 

Nauru is not the only Pacific state dependent on aid; almost all the small islands are dependent on aid to remain afloat – Kiribati, Niue, Tuvalu, Palau; too isolated, too small, too vulnerable, too beautiful. They prompt the question: do humans have to live in every corner of this world?

With the depleted phosphate mines leaving a desolate, near Martian landscape, it is difficult to see how Nauru can get its economy back on track. This monument to unsustainable development is simply too small and too far gone. I believe one day the island will have to be abandoned, left as a warning of human foolishness and greed, a festering wound in the great Pacific.

Nauru. Pleasant Island no more.

Behind the Masks

by Ming Yang

14th December 2016, the flight lands at Beijing International Airport. 4 o’clock in the afternoon, you can barely see anything from far away, not because the sun sets earlier in winter, but because of the smog.

I got my luggage, found my dad, came out of the airport building, and walked to the car park to drive home. After breathing over 10 hours of airplane ‘reserved’ air in an uncomfortable seat, where I am unable to fully stretch my legs (sorry, I can only afford economy class, and sorry, I’m above average height), I took a deep breath without thinking when I stepped outside, expecting fresh air to fill my lungs. Cough. The smell of burning coal and tail gas that’s hiding quietly in the air captured every single corner inside my nose and lungs. Yikes. This is not what I expected. It has been 4 years since I last spent my winter holidays in Beijing, and the last time I was back in Beijing in winter, the condition of the air was nowhere near today’s. Bear in mind that in summertime (and even spring), the smog situation in Beijing is much better, because of longer daylight hours, more sunlight and trees.

© Ming Yang

So, what is happening in Beijing? I don’t want to go into too many practical details about the smog, because it’s complicated. Just a brief overview: most of the air pollution in Beijing comes from coal plants to the south of Beijing, and the source is PM2.5 (fine particulate matter), which is released mainly by the burning of coal. PM2.5 can reduce visibility, and it is very damaging to humans’ health, because it is small enough that it can bypass human mucus and travel to the lungs, and cause all sorts of lung diseases (e.g.: cancer, breathing disorders). Air pollution is severe across different cities in China, not only in Beijing. Outdoor air pollution contributes to the deaths of an estimated 1.6 million people in China every year, equivalent to 4,400 people a day.

I am a person who likes wandering around the streets and staying outdoors the whole day, and I didn’t see how Beijing’s air quality could do me any harm. I just have to wear masks every single day when I am outdoors in Beijing. Mask? Doesn’t seem too bad, right? First day back home, after walking around the city centre and taking the subway back home, I took off my mask and realised it has turned black. And it is the same every day when the concentration of PM2.5 is high and the visibility is low. The masks people wear in Beijing on a daily basis when the smog is bad, are designed to filter out the majority of the damaging substances in the air, in particular PM2.5. And because PM2.5 is actually a solid particle pollutant, it can be seen from the colour of the mask that as you breathe in, it gets stuck to the surface of the mask.

However, we all know that the mask is not the solution to protecting our health, and it is certainly not the solution to better air conditions. In the past, Beijing’s government has temporarily closed schools, factories, construction sites, and limited half of the privately owned cars on the road, when the air condition gets the ‘red alert’, when you can barely see anything far away and PM2.5 concentrations are severe. Through this type of regulations, it takes some pressure off, and the air condition gets better. But a long-term plan is still needed. The Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addressed the problem of air pollution during the China’s National People’s Congress last year, and proposed a Five-Year Plan (FYP) up to 2021 for better air quality. Regulations on limiting industry pollution of PM2.5, for example, is one of the major issues addressed in Li’s speech. Other policies such as an increase in the use of environmentally friendly energy sources, control of vehicle usage, and reduction and cleaner usage of coal are also part of the plan. There is a lot to say, and even more can be done. I hope the government can use its full capacity to work together and efficiently tackle air quality issues.

The majority of people have the impression that Beijing is smoggy 24/7, but I have to say it’s not always like that: the majority of time in Beijing, especially in the summer, the air is fresh and the skies are blue. That is why I love to walk around the city centre, go between old buildings, meet citizens from different backgrounds, and listen to all the stories that are going on behind this never-stopping engine which I call home, Beijing. But with better air quality control, fewer people, including my family (and my dogs), would suffer from health problems arising from air pollution. Air is not someone else’s property, it is free for everyone, and everyone has the right to breathe clean and fresh air. Beijing, the ‘mask-wearing city’, is such an amazing place full of history, diversity and energy. We put the ‘mask’ on her for us, for the sake of development. It is now time, and our responsibility to take that ‘mask’ off, and to remove the obstacle for people to get to know her and discover her beauty.

Marine Pollution – Plastic, not so FANTASTIC…

by Aliya Chojoo

The ocean has always fascinated me. Did it ever occur to you just how deep it might be, or how many living creatures there are in this enormous environment? Indeed, covering 71% of Earth’s surface, the ocean provides us with food and fossil resources, as well as a way of transportation, with shipping being the most popular way of transporting freight. The ocean can also be used for leisure activities, and we, humans are spoiling it by abusing that opportunity…  We are dumping pollutants in the ocean, not only by means of transport used to carry goods and people around, but also by discharging multiple pollutants from land (80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities). And on top of that, we throw our rubbish into the ocean, as a result of which a floating island made out of plastic is now spreading somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

   With the rise of plastic production and consumption, every year 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans[1] and the consequences are dreadful: animals get caught or ingest small plastic objects, causing them to suffer. Indeed, plastic debris kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually, as well as millions of birds and fish. [2]

Can you imagine seeing plastic rubbish on your plate while eating seafood? Pretty disgusting, right? This situation requires reflection regarding our manners when it comes to how we treat the ocean and how can we change it.

Horrified by this vision, I wanted to take action, and decided one morning during my December vacation to do an experiment, and go to a public beach to pick up the rubbish left there.

It was the 2nd of January, and in Mauritius it is a public holiday (together with the 1st). To be honest, I was expecting some litter, as many Mauritians like to spend New Year’s Eve camping on the beach. I took plastic bags, gloves, and started picking up rubbish. To my surprise there was a lot more than I expected, and it was disgusting.  There were a lot of people as well. I started around 7:30am, and less than 10 minutes later a woman came up to me, and asked me if I had an extra pair of gloves, as she wanted to help me clean this mess. I was really glad, and offered her gloves and a plastic bag, and together we continued the cleaning. After 20 minutes, she gave me back the bag, as she was leaving, but told me that she was happy to see youth making this kind of commitment. “I have hope for this country’s future, thank you.” she said.

As I was walking through the beach, I picked up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle caps, plastic bottles and bags, burnt remains of fireworks, and so much more different kinds of rubbish.

During the cleaning, I took care to notice people’s reaction regarding what I was doing; some people showed support by helping me, some thanked me, some gave me encouraging smiles, but the vast majority just watched me with a “what is she doing” look, maybe surprised to see a young person doing this kind of “job”.

After one and a half hours of cleaning, it was getting very hot under the burning sun, and I had to stop. In the end, I collected around 110 litres of rubbish on this public beach. It’s not that much if you had seen how much there was left!

We don’t realise what an opportunity we have to be living on this paradise island that is Mauritius. Locals don’t realise how lucky and blessed they are to have the sea near them. I know some people who would do anything to be this close to the sea. And marine pollution is a growing threat. It’s a shame to see people throwing litter everywhere. Just to give you an idea, plastic bottles take at least 400 years to decompose, cigarette butts 10-12 years, and plastic bags 10-1000 years! We cannot continue to act like that, we need to take action and measures to save the environment. The first one is to educate ourselves, by raising awareness of this threat.

However, a positive measure taken by the Mauritian government is that production and use of plastic bags has stopped since the beginning of 2016 to reduce its impact on the ocean. This is a great start to tackling this global issue.

Local action matters and has global consequences, and it’s up to us to choose whether we want to participate in the preservation or the degradation of our environment.

Let’s work together to preserve our environment and oceans for better living conditions for us, humans, and other living creatures. After all, this planet is all we’ve got, so let’s take better care of it for its future!


[1] Laura Parker. Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain. 13 Feb 2015. National Geographic.
[2] Ocean Crusaders Statistics.

Cultural Sustainability: What is the Role of UNESCO?

 by Luca Niccolai

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an intellectual agency of the United Nations, created in 1945, as a response to international conflict. It is believed that morals and solidarity are needed to achieve peace among nations. Therefore, UNESCO’s aim is to build intercultural understanding through the protection of heritage, and support of cultural diversity. UNESCO also works on improving access to quality education, sharing knowledge and improving scientific research.

UNESCO created the idea of a World Heritage not only to protect sites of outstanding universal value, but also to encourage cultural awareness and communication, believed to be essential bases to achieve sustainable development. Curiously enough, culture does not appear in any of the Millennium Development Goals, and more recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), despite UNESCO being part of the same institution that created them. The only SDG UNESCO’s work could be linked to is Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals, as UNESCO insists on the necessity of common action to achieve sustainable development. The latter is argued to only be achievable through good communication and understanding, hence the importance of culture. The campaign #campaign2015goal has advocated for the inclusion of culture in the SDGs, and over 1,900 signatories including 700 organizations have endorsed their declaration on the inclusion of culture in the SDGs.

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So why is UNESCO’s work on culture important to us?

On their website, UNESCO explains that we must create holistic policies, which must address every aspect of sustainable development. The agency argues that in an interconnected world, intercultural dialogue is essential, as we live together and aim to deliver a common action to achieve sustainable development. Therefore, it is vital to acknowledge our diversity, as not all solutions are appropriate for every situation. Furthermore, UNESCO explains that we live in an uncertain world, and the future of nations depends on our ability to understand each other and on our ability to unite to fight global issues, such as terrorism and climate change. It is undeniable that culture has the power to transform societies. Our cultural heritage, indeed, enriches our everyday life, and represents a source of identity and cohesion. Additionally, UNESCO argues that creativity contributes to building open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. Culture, thus, plays a significant role in bringing nations together to achieve sustainable development, and is an important factor, which needs to be considered when creating policies and allocating assistance.

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How does UNESCO help protect our heritage and foster creativity? The agency created a list of World Heritage in Danger.

UNESCO explains that natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis can threaten World Heritage sites. However, there are currently more human-induced threats, like armed conflict, pollution, uncontrolled urbanization and unchecked tourist development, which cause these sites to be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. A vivid example of human-induced threat to a classified landmark is the Crac des Chevalier in Syria. This 11th-century castle had been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2006, and was used by armed rebels as a shelter during the Syrian Crisis. Then it was bombed by the Syrian Army in 2013. Such armed conflict can have disastrous impacts on landmarks, thus the attempt of the agency to raise international awareness of the issue.

Adding a site to the World Heritage list results in this site being protected by international treaties. Furthermore, if a site happens to be on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Commission is allowed to immediately send assistance from the World Heritage Fund to the endangered property. Furthermore, adding a landmark to this list is a call for joint effort and, thus, alerts the International Community.

UNESCO’s work for culture is extremely important to the promotion and protection of our cultural heritage. Culture and diversity should be largely considered in the decision-making process of policies and assistance, as it plays a significant role in affecting the international response. Moreover, it is arguably one of the most important factors in the achievement of sustainable development.

If you want to learn more on the role of UNESCO regarding culture and heritage, please visit their website: http://en.unesco.org/themes/protecting-our-heritage-and-fostering-creativity

Source: UNESCO

Cultural Sustainability: an Introduction

 by Luca Niccolai

Part 1: France Paves the Way with the Protection of its Cultural Heritage

Imagine you are the last person in the world speaking your language. Imagine you are the only person responsible for keeping an entire culture alive. Unfortunately, I am not being overdramatic – languages are actually disappearing and as that happens, a whole period of history vanishes simultaneously. Culture is defined as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time”. Therefore, culture encompasses all kinds of genres, such as music, art, theater, literature… The list goes on. Culture plays an extremely important role in our world, as it allows our society to maintain the legacy from previous epochs and create a sense of identity. So how does one keep culture alive? Why should our society want to preserve this heritage?

This is an introductory piece to a series of articles about cultural sustainability. In these articles, I will emphasize the importance of protecting and promoting our culture, as it is a significant part of our society. I will attempt to expose the different roles of culture, and the different ways of preserving it.

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You might think that there are other more important issues, which require the attention of the government, such as terrorism, unemployment and economic stagnation, but culture is worth investing in. French President Charles de Gaulle would agree. He, in fact, created the Ministry of Culture in 1959, which was in charge of promoting and protecting the arts in France and abroad. Additionally, the aim of this Ministry was to manage the national archives, and maintain the French identity. De Gaulle’s Minister, André Malraux, managed to get an incredible 1% of the overall state budget dedicated to just the promotion of culture.

“Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the course of centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved” – A. Malraux

The cultural heritage of France is one of the largest in the world and has influenced many other cultures, thus the importance of protecting and promoting it. The only way the government was able to effectively promote and maintain culture in France was to guarantee equal access to it for everyone. Therefore, they opened numerous “maisons de la culture” (art centers) that would host different types of art shows such as plays, art exhibitions and ballet. Furthermore, the Ministry conducted major architectural projects, notably the Grande Arche, the Louvre Pyramid and the Opéra Bastille, that anyone can admire. André Malraux also developed artistic education by opening dance and music conservatories. Moreover, music and cinema are internationally recognized as the most accessible forms of art, hence the creation of music festivals in late June to celebrate the beginning of summer, and the organisation of numerous events such as the Deauville and Cannes festivals, which allow the international public to explore this form of art. Such widespread promotion of culture obviously requires a significant budget, which the French government was willing to give in order to protect and promote the national heritage.

France has made significant efforts regarding culture, and is actively protecting its heritage. Certain cultures are slowly disappearing (I will write about this in another article), thus the promotion and protection of cultural heritage by other countries to match France’s efforts is essential.

I hope I aroused your curiosity with this introduction. Keep an eye on GLOBUS, as more articles about cultural sustainability are to come.

Photo Credits: http://www.fluentu.com
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