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Editorial (November 2009)

Coping with climate change is an ongoing challenge for poor farmers (WRENmedia)
Coping with climate change is an ongoing challenge for poor farmers

With the final round of talks concluded in Barcelona prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, senior negotiators and politicians have concluded that a legally binding treaty is unlikely to be achieved and could be delayed for up to another year. Their statements confirm fears that the division between rich and poor nations is too wide for consensus to be reached and that stalling by the US was a significant issue. What exactly will be achieved when representatives of 192 nations meet in Copenhagen is yet to be seen.

Those who have the most to fear from climate change have perhaps the least knowledge of what may or may not be decided in the coming weeks. Millions affected by drought, floods, and rising temperatures, who do what they can to survive, will be unaware of the political pledges that need to be made in order to secure their future, but are unlikely to be forthcoming.

But despite the negativity and gloom shadowing the Copenhagen summit, proactive and positive work continues to be done to address the challenges at a local level, which should inspire and encourage us. The decrease in quality and quantity of freshwater resources, for example, is a serious challenge facing many communities. However, with improved policies and practices it is possible for communities to not only conserve water but increase crop yields and avoid conflict. In our Focus on water in agriculture, we highlight just a few of the approaches being adopted in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Water, climate change and feeding the world are recurrent themes in the most recent book reviews. Our lead review looks at a 12 book series that comprises the "Sustainability Project" and which again takes a positive approach, setting out practical solutions to the world's ills, on subjects from food and water shortages to over-population and disease.

In her book Climate Change in Africa, Camilla Toulmin tackles the science, politics and policies involved and points to the actions that the world must take to confront climate change. "We face a clear and simple choice," Toulmin says. "Will we design a world that preserves the way of life of the rich, or address the urgent needs of the poor? The choice is ours."

The role of the media as an effective player in agricultural and rural development is often undervalued (WRENmedia)
The role of the media as an effective player in agricultural and rural development is often undervalued

Making that choice wisely demands that decision-makers are well informed. But whose job is it to bring the necessary information into the public arena? Can the mainstream media be expected to fulfil that role, or will the pressure to write stories that sell undermine their objectivity? In Points of view and the podcast you'll find a wide range of responses, offered by participants at a recent forum on the role of the media in agricultural development.

If you have a point of view on this or any other issue featured in New Agriculturist, then please do share your comments or email us with your thoughts. In the meantime, we hope we have provided plenty of food for thought, on behalf of all agriculturists, on how we can create a more sustainable future.

Date published: November 2009


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