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Keeping track of our changing environment

Keeping track of our changing environment

Published by UNEP
Website: www.unep.org
2011, 99pp, ISBN 978 9 28073 1903 (Pb), free to download

Facts and figures are the stuff of professional life but, to be meaningful, comparative data is essential, though often lacking. UNEP's timely new publication concisely and graphically presents the data of the mega trends of the 20 years post the first Rio conference, contrasting the dramatic changes that have resulted during that time. Graphs, tables and photographs present aspects of the environment in six major sectors: population and human environment, economy, environmental trends, energy, and industry, and transport and tourism. The largest sector is environmental trends, covering atmosphere, climate change, forests, water, biodiversity, chemicals and waste, natural hazards, governance, agriculture, and fisheries.

Two pairs of aerial photographs, one in the forestry section and the other in energy, contrast the expansion of deforestation in the Amazon in the one case and the expansion of tar sands exploitation in Canada in the other: in both cases the few small and scattered areas two decades ago have now become almost completely contiguous. In the agriculture section, a graph shows how the number of grazing animals has surged, contrasting cattle +6 per cent, buffaloes +23 per cent and goats +45 per cent. Three crops that have expanded in the tropics out of all proportion are sugarcane +30 per cent, soybeans +75 per cent and oilpalm +120 per cent. In fisheries, catches of tuna are up by 35 per cent despite total fish catch flatlining for most of the two decades and recently declining. Such trends are clearly not sustainable.

Very much a reference book, Keeping track of our changing environment will prove an invaluable and accessible source of data that underpins a proper understanding and interpretation of numerous issues confronted daily by readers of New Agriculturist, whether specialist advisor, educator or policymaker. Eye-catching and providing much 'food for thought', UNEP is to be congratulated for conceiving and commissioning this 'must have' publication.

Date published: December 2011


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