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It's June. It's World Environment Day on the 5th. It's Bibliozone's environment edition.

Among the most vulnerable. In this edition of Bibliozone, we focus on foresight, environment and Africa.


"Some of the most serious effects of climate change are occurring in countries least prepared to counter them. Many African countries are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change." [Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.]


Abrupt environmental change (and Africa's vulnerability to it) isn't a fantasy. In 2009, a group of scientists - from Stockholm University, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Australian National University, University of Copenhagen and University of Minnesota - identified and quantified a set of planetary boundaries and thresholds which, if crossed, could result in "unacceptable environmental change for humanity."

Humanity has been advised to avoid crossing these planetary boundaries and thresholds.


"We are entering the Anthropocene, a new geological era in which our activities are threatening the Earth's capacity to regulate itself. We are beginning to push the planet out of its current stable Holocene state, the warm period that began about 10,000 years ago and during which agriculture and complex societies, including our own, have developed and flourished. The expanding human enterprise could undermine the resilience of the Holocene state, which would otherwise continue for thousands of years into the future" [Source: Professor Will Steffen, ANU Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.]


The nine interconnected, planetary boundaries described by the group of scientists, among whose ranks were Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Will Steffen, Katherine Richardson, Jonathan Foley and Paul Crutzen (a Nobel Laureate), were:

  • Climate change
  • Stratospheric ozone
  • Land use change
  • Freshwater use
  • Biological diversity
  • Ocean acidification
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans
  • Aerosol loading
  • Chemical pollution

Some of the terms are familiar; others are not. A special edition of Nature offers an accessible description of these boundaries, while a diagram from the Stockholm Resilience Centre is provided (below) and a copy of the scientific article can be accessed here. A video on planetary boundaries is also available in Videophile.


Planetary Boundaries

As we updated our site for June, the world's media were reporting unpublished research out of the International Energy Agency (IEA) that global carbon emissions increased to record levels in 2010. This shocking rise has been described by the IEA's chief economist and one of the foremost experts on climate atmospherics, Faith Birol, as "the worst news on emissions." If the experts are concerned, indifference by the rest of us is a terrible miscalculation.

A recent cover of The Economist illustrates the situation well, while the associated article summarises it: humans have transformed the workings of Earth; now we have to transform the way we think about - and relate to - the planet. We do not have an alternative.

Africa is especially vulnerable to risk of "unacceptable planetary change" and the Anthropocene's uncertainties. This shouldn't be a surprise to those of us living on the continent. Already many of us live out in our daily lives the strong correlation reported between armed conflict and biodiversity hotspots.


"UNEP reports that since the mid-twentieth century more than 90% of major armed conflicts took place in countries that contained biodiversity hotspots and over 80% occurred directly within a hotspot area." [Source: State of the Future Report 2010.]


With this sobering context in mind, our library has texts on a few of the issues identified as planetary boundaries and the contributions of futurists to thinking through these. We encourage you to browse our selection of publications on foresight, environment and Africa.

For those not yet convinced, we suggest you begin with Africa: Atlas of our Changing Environment. It's a great resource, and we recommend that you look through its vivid, visual description of the changes underway on the African continent. The atlas consists of 300 satellite images, 300 photographs, 150 maps, graphs and charts, and is required reading on the topic of Africa and the state of its environments. Be warned: the report is 44 megs in size. Download it now from the UNEP site. Or, if you prefer, watch a video on the Africa Atlas.


FFD environment


Africa and the globe:

  • Climate change and gender justice. Looking at climate change and justice from a gendered perspective. Read more...
  • Water risks. This report looks at the state of water use and sustainability into the future.
  • Development or environment? Scenarios for mindful, holistic solutions that go beyond an either-or approach.
  • Carbon-nation. A report on projected carbon emissions for seven emerging nations.
  • Energy challenges. Some pro-poor considerations for energy use.
  • 2050 and its challenges. Environment degradation is one of the major variables in Africa's future.
  • Thinking about water. Scenarios of alternative investments for water resources.
  • Modelling global water supply. Water challenges in the 21st century.
  • Changes in nature's balance sheet. Four quantitative scenarios are described in this article on ecosystems and biodiversity in Africa and East Asia.
  • From the WWF. An accessible, brief account of the impact of climate change on Africa.
  • Land degradation. A dated but important briefing on land degradation up to 2020.
  • More on malaria. How will climate change impact on malarial transmission in Africa?
  • Green agriculture - is it possible? UNEP argues the case for investing in green farming.
  • Forecasting and comparing predicted emissions and rainfall for most of the current century. Comparative projections for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s for 32 regions.
  • Atmospheric scenarios. A scientifically technical paper outlining and comparing atmospheric scenarios for the globe.

Western Africa:

  • Fisheries, acquaculture and climate change. A report on a workshop held in Dakar, Senegal, plus scenarios for West Africa, climate change and the fisheries and acquacultural resources there. Read more...
  • Environment as a major crisis driver. A report to ECOWAS which includes a focus on environmental drivers of crisis in West Africa.
  • Very vulnerable. Reporting on the vulnerability in West Africa to global climate change.

Eastern Africa:

  • Food security. Horn of Africa food security issues. Read more...
  • Mining and extraction in Tanzania. A popular report on the state of the extractive resource industry in Tanzania.
  • Malaria in the Highlands. Looking at the past, present and future of malaria in the East Africa Highlands.
  • Nairobi's environmental future. Find out about Kenya's capital's environmental outlook.
  • Water and sanitation in Uganda. A monograph of Uganda's progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with special attention on water.

Northern and Central Africa:

  • Water matters in North Africa. A report on water and environmental sustainability in North Africa. Read more...
  • Vulnerability in North Africa.view on how North Africa will be affected by, and must cope with, climatic change impacts on water resources and food production systems.
  • Climate change and finance. A focus on Central Africa and financing for climate change.

Southern Africa:

  • Power to the people. Energy sector policies and the implications for climate change in South Africa. Read more...
  • Managing water resources. How will South Africa manage its water resources sustainably? Read more...
  • Environmental foresight report. A view from and for South Africa.
  • Environmental trends in Southern Africa. Some scenarios for 2015.
  • Climate change scenarios for Zimbabwe. Although dated, an article still worth reading.
  • Climate change and marine biodiversity. Impacts of climate change on South Africa's marine biodiversity are described in this report.
  • Something positive. A report on efforts to establish maritime high schools in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Just added to June's Bibliozone feature

Over the last week, we've expanded the list of publications linked to this month's environmental theme:

  • Food security and agricultural developments over the long-term. A report from the International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Climate change mapped. Vulnerability scenarios from the UNDP.
  • Simulations of climate change. The Hadley Centre's predictions and models for South Africa.
  • Coal and South Africa. The market, investment decisions and policy challenges described in this paper.
  • Mining and the environment. A consideration of some of the impacts of mining and post-closure developments for the environment and economy in South Africa.

Growth opportunity:

We'll update our selection of environmental foresight resources every week throughout the month of June. Be sure to check back regularly.


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