Tuesday, 22 March 2011

World Water Day 2011

So today, 22nd March, is World Water Day. This is an international initiative which grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janerio with the aim of promoting the sustainable use of water and recognising that many people around the world are still without a clean supply of water. This day represents a crucial moment in the fight against the global sanitation and water crisis and a lot of people are getting involved in any way they can to support this day.
Each year the day has a different focus on water in 2010 the campaign was aimed at raising awareness about sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the increasing water quality challenges. The intention was to encourage Governments, organisations and individuals around the globe to actively engage in addressing water quality through clean up operations and pollution prevention techniques and to continue using these methods in everyday life. 
In 2011, the focus is on improving international attention on the issues affecting the impact of rapid urban population growth and the uncertainties this brings in terms of climate change, conflicts and natural disasters. The events of the past week highlight more than ever why this is needed.
According to the UN, half of humanity now live in cities with urban growth in the developing world rapidly growing at an unprecedented rate. Coping with the growing needs of water and sanitation services within cities is one of the most pressing issues of this century.
Many organisations like WaterAid will be getting behind World Water Day and running their own initiatives like The World Walks for Water campaign to not only raise money but also raise awareness of World Water Day.
WaterAid speak on their event: “Millions of people walk 6 kilometres everyday just to collect water for their basic needs. On World Water Day 2011, thousands of people across the globe will walk together for 6 kilometers to demand an end to this crisis“.
If you want to get involved there campaign materials such as posters, t-shirts and banners on the website which you can use to advertise your activates during the 2011 world water day.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Our Prayers Are With Japan…

I don’t really know how to start this post. I think the events in Japan over the last week have left everyone a little bit shell shocked. To see such devastation to communities is terrible and I’m sure everyone would agree.
To explain myself a little bit more on the 11th March a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded and now referred to as the Great Tohoku Earthquake (USGS), hit Japan’s eastern coast. The earthquake was felt by many villages and cities along a 1,300 mile stretch of coastline and violent tremors reached as far away as Tokyo and led to many areas on fire.
The force of the earthquake triggered a seven meter tsunami killing thousands of people within coastal communities in and around the port city of Sendai. Images from this awful disaster show boats, cars and even homes being swept away. A tsunami warning was later put in place for the north and south pacific. Since then the Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed approximately 1900 deaths, 1880 injuries and around 3000 people are missing and it is expected that this will continue to rise.
And if this wasn’t enough, the somewhat 50 aftershocks which were all large enough in themselves to cause devastation, many more than magnitude 6.0, damaged a nuclear power station leading to mass evacuation for fear of possible radiation contamination. The Huffington Post reported that “the Government ordered thousands of residents near a nuclear power plant in Onahama city to move back at least two miles from the plant. The reactor was not leaking radiation but its core remained hot even after a shutdown”. This zone has since been extended to a 12 mile evacuation zone around the facility and approximately 140,000 people living between 12 miles and 19 miles of the facility were told not to leave their homes.
The country is now in short supply of food, water and fuel in some parts of Japan and large areas of the country are still without power and they need our collective help to get through this ordeal.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, has recently called on his country to unite and rebuild as it struggles to cope with the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami. He says Japan is now facing its worst crisis since World War II.
According to the BBC’s Chris Hogg in Toyko “the disaster could yet turn out to be one of the most costly in human history, second only to Hurricane Katrina six years ago”.
I concur with the Huffington Post who suggest that “even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path. The apocalyptic images of surging water and uncontrolled conflagrations broadcast by Japanese TV networks resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.
The UK Government have sent a UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team into the disaster zone to join the search for survivors along with American search and rescue teams.
If you want to help the people affected by this disaster a number of charities including Save the Children and The British Red Cross have launched UK appeals. Save the Children has launched an appeal for £1m to help support and protect the children of Japan in the wake of the disaster and The British Red Cross has also has launched a UK appeal on behalf of the Japanese Red Cross which has been on the ground since the disaster began.

Both of these are brilliant causes:

Save the Children have reported that up to 100,000 children have been displaced because of the earthquake and tsunami. There is the risk that some of these children have become separated from their parents and family members and it is important that support is received. If you choose to donate to this cause your money will be used to provide toys and games in safe havens for children to play and socialize with other young children in a similar situation.

The Japanese Red Cross has been working on the ground since the disaster providing first aid and healthcare and assessing the damage and needs of the communities affected. The Japanese Red Cross have agreed to accept donations from the British Red Cross and as such money will be used to distribute things like blankets to the affected areas.

For a country such as Japan, who are well trained and prepared in earthquake resilience and preparedness measures, a huge majority of the damage was at the result of the tsunami. Very few buildings were badly damaged by the ground shaking because of their engineering resilient structures. A lot of the footage which has been shown over the past few days shows people immediately putting hard hats on and moving away from buildings to areas of open space, however, it was the unprecedented force and severity of the tsunami which has left this country in devastation. This is why they need our help more than ever!
Check out their websites and find out what you can do and most importantly spread the word…

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Earth Hour 2011

The 5th annual Earth Hour event will take place at 8.30 – 9.30 pm (local time) on Saturday 26th March 2011.

Earth Hour is organised by WWF and has almost 5 million supporters and a global networks in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

This event began in a single city in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has since grown into a global symbol of hope and action to protect the one thing that unites us all – the planet. It is now one of the largest environmental awareness events in the world where people from across the world, from all walks of life, turn off their lights and come together in celebration and contemplation. It is important to note that this is an educational campaign based on hope not fear, and the idea that everyone can take personal responsibility for the future of the planet we live on.

This year the message from Earth Hour is to think beyond the hour and what you can change in your daily life that will benefit the planet too. This year Miranda Kerr is the global ambassador for Earth Hour and she has recommended a few things you may want to do in your homes. These include:

  • Reduce food miles by buying food locally;
  • Walking or riding a bike reducing car usage;
  • Use fuel with Ethanol;
  • Turn off lights and use organic or beeswax candles instead;
  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use;
  • Wash in mostly cold water;
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle;
  • Purchase clothes which are ethically made;
  • Compost scraps;
  • Avoid food wastage;
  • Grow your own food;
  • Use less water;

As you can see there are a lot of ideas here and I don’t think it would be impossible to pick one or two of these and start reducing our impact on the environment. More from Miranda Kerr can be read here.

The 2011 commercial is very powerful and will hopefully encourage more people to take action not only during this hour but within their daily lives. The emphasis of the video is to encourage everybody to take action in the hope of making the world a better place. The 2011 commercial can be viewed below and previous commercials can be found don YouTube.

Please check out their website there are some amazing photos of famous landmarks and individuals getting involved in previous years. A couple of my favourite (mainly because they are of London) are below:

London Bridge
© WWF / Jon Freeman

 Big Ben, London
© geoffwilson20
Many of you may ask, whether just an hour will actually make a difference? Well I definitely think so. In my view Earth Hour is about telling people that you are taking action against climate change and willing to change your lifestyle to do so. This is just the first step in many which lets the world know you are trying to make a difference. Think about what you can change to limit your environmental footprint and if you need help recap over some of Miranda Kerr’s suggestions above. Personally, I am going to try and cut out plastic bottled water. Not only will this reduce my waste it also has the added bonus of saving me money.

So switch off your lights and celebrate your love for our planet too! Together our action adds up!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Fine and Mercator Heart Planet Earth Too!

I found these amazing ancient maps on the internet today which I feel sums up my blog title perfectly. What do you think?
'Mappemonde Cordiforme d'Oronce Fine'
As a bit of background 'Mappemonde Cordiforme d'Oronce Fine' was produced in about 1534 however, this map is not in Fine’s astronomy manuscript. Fine was noted for his cordiform or heart-shaped maps of the world (source).
Oronce Fine (1491–1555) was one of the rare French geographers in the Renaissance to prepare maps of the world. As a geographer myself, I find this interpretation of Earth incredible and therefore thought I would share these maps with you all.

Fine's heart-shaped map projection may be his most famous illustration, and was frequently employed by other notable cartographers.

Another impressive historical map is below 'Mercator's Double Cordiform' was produced in 1538 by Gerard Mercator, a Flemish geographer and map publisher (source). Mercator's original map, which is now very rare, was similar to Oronce Fine's world maps published around this time. Mercator also published numerous maps and several globes and atlases. It was his book of world maps, first published in 1595 one year after his death, that introduced the term "atlas" to the world.

'Mercator's Double Cordiform'
Hopefully you find these maps as fascinating as I do…