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Forests are essential to our survival and well-being. Forests clean our air, our water, our soil and they regulate our climate, amongst many other things. Trees and forests are not always associated with urban landscapes. However, there too they provide invaluable, often invisible, services. Simply by acting as 'green oasis' in our concrete jungles, they offer recreation and health services for many European citizens.
Global food, energy and water systems appear to be more vulnerable and fragile than was thought a few years ago, due to increased demand for food, and a decreased and unstable supply, according to an EEA analysis. But we can make our food systems more resilient if we rethink what we eat and how we produce it.
One of the main conclusions in EEA's flagship report, SOER 2010, appears obvious: 'environmental challenges are complex and can't be understood in isolation'.
Bisie is the biggest mine in the area. It is located approximately 90 kilometres inside dense forest and reaches 100 metres underground. The mines are often little more than a hole in the ground. Dozens of men and boys crowd each mine and conditions are atrocious.
In August 2007, local health authorities in Italy detected a high number of cases of an unusual illness in Castiglione di Cervia and Castiglione di Ravenna, two small villages divided by a river. Almost 200 people were affected and one elderly man died (Angelini et al., 2007).
Of the 8.2 billion tonnes of materials consumed in EU-27 Member States in 2007, minerals accounted for 52 %, fossil fuels for 23 %, biomass for 21 % and metals for 4 % (SOER 2010)
Key message: A major reason why consumption negatively affects the environment and causes over-use of resources is because the costs to society of environmental and resource degradation are not fully reflected in the prices of goods and services. Many goods are cheap even though they harm the environment, ecosystems or human health. (SOER 2010)
'…the sheer weight of the combined aspirations and lifestyles of 500 million Europeans is just too great. Never mind the legitimate desires of many other billions on our planet to share those lifestyles.... We will need to change the behaviour of European consumers. To work on people's awareness and to influence their habits.' Janez Potočnik, European Union Commissioner for Environment (March 2010).
1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. Forests are home to 300 million people worldwide
In May 2008 a helicopter flew over unexplored parts of the Amazon in Acre State in Brazil, near the country’s border with Peru. Onboard were officials from Funai, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, on a mission to prove the existence of unknown Amazonian tribes who have never been in contact with the outside world. The few aerial pictures Funai has released show startled and intrigued people and their huts but do not reveal any landmarks which could be used to identify the exact location.
Lower speed limits on motorways are generally associated with road safety. But several European countries are now debating whether they also benefit the environment and, if so, how much. There is no simple way of measuring the environmental benefits of lower speed limits but several factors clearly play a key role.
Water is critical for life and is integral to virtually all economic activities, including food production and industry. Not only is clean water a prerequisite for human health and well-being, it provides aquatic habitats that support healthy freshwater ecosystems.
Over the last decades, continuous urban expansion at rates much higher than population growth has resulted in a massive urban footprint on Europe – fragmenting rural space, blocking ecosystem services and increasing the demand for transport and energy.
Soil is the earth's living skin and provides us with essential services for life in our planet: production of food; infiltration and cleansing of water and protection against flooding; habitat for plants; areas for recreation and mental health; micro climate regulation, etc. It is such a crucial resource that it can't be ignored. However, particularly in urban areas, soil is being sealed off with increasing housing and infrastructure.
The renewable energy sector has developed a lot the last ten years — a largely ignored toddler has become a wilful teenager. Decisions that can help it mature further will depend on understanding what has nurtured its growth so far.
Europeans consume more natural resources than Europe’s environment can produce. Our consumption undermines the capacity of European ecosystems to provide goods and services and puts severe strain on the global environment.
Climate change is happening. The current global average temperature is already about 0.7-0.8 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations had stabilized in the year 2000, temperatures are predicted to increase by 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level by the end of the 21st century.
As the source of substantial and rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions, transport must clearly be part of a global agreement to mitigate climate change.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/articles/all-articles or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 31 Mar 2017, 03:04 AM
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