Friday, 18 April 2014



Revision suggestion – Try marking all the descriptions on an outline map and annotating it with explanations. Then try doing it again from memory.

NB: Links between illnesses and factors such as age, income, wealth etc are difficult to establish. Remember, just because lots of people in a poor area are ill it doesn’t necessarily mean than they are ill because they are poor or vice versa. It is just a possible reason it does not provide evidence 100%, there could be many other factors involved.

Monday, 14 April 2014




·        Ethiopia is a land-locked country in Eastern Africa. Wadla, in the Amhara region is badly affected
·        One of the least developed and poorest countries in the world with a GDP of $470 per capita
·        Malnutrition is one of the main health problems facing the population; they have also experienced several prolonged and widespread famines and many Ethiopians are chronically hungry.


·        Drought:  is the most commonly given reason for famine is drought, and parts of Ethiopia have unpredictable rainfall that can lead to droughts. e.g. in 2011 the March-May rainy season failed, which was thought to be caused by La Nina, an abnormal cooling of waters in the Pacific Ocean. Wadla is in an arid region and experiences extreme diurnal temperature ranges which can damage crops

·        Poverty: The main factor leading to famine in Ethiopia is poverty. Poor people do not have the resources to deal with shocks, and are more likely to be pushed into unsustainable ways of coping such as selling equipment, sending children out to work or eating less. Wadla is an isolated area with a lack of infrastructure: only 13.5m of road and no electricity, transport, telephone or postal services.

·        Agriculture:. In Ethiopia, individuals do not own land; it is assigned according to the size of a family, and redistributed every few years. Every time land is redistributed it is divided between more people, so each farmer gets less. Lack of investment, and the need for large yields from a small area, leads to land degradation. The average amount of land for a household in Wadla is only 1.1 hectares. Over-exploitation of wood for fuel and timber has led to deforestation while overcrowding means that it is not unusual to graze up to 40 sheep on 0.1 hectare of land. These factors have led to severe soil erosion.

·        Conflict: There have been frequent conflicts in Ethiopia. In the early 1990s, 60% of the national budget was being spent on war. Obviously this reduces the money available to improve agriculture or provide relief for hungry people. The Arab Spring across the Middle East and North Africa led to a decline in the demand for livestock exports from Ethiopia, reducing the incomes of the affected communities

·        Trade: Unequal trading systems also contribute to hunger in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government purchase crops from farmers at low fixed prices. International organisations encourage Ethiopia to produce cash crops to export, which reduces the land available for growing crops. The world price for agricultural exports such as coffee is also very low. In Wadla over 95% of people depend on subsistence farming and there are very few opportunities for formal work. People with little or no land find it especially hard to ensure they have enough food.


·        Malnutrition can severely affect the growth and development of children, 44% of children in Ethiopia are affected by stunting; a word used to describe the diminished physical and mental capacity of children who do not receive enough vitamins and nutrients from an early age. E.g. a 15 year old child may have the mental capacity and height of a 6 year old.  Many children are so badly affected they do not survive.

·        Malnourished people are more susceptible to other infections and more likely to suffer complications.

·        Those who survive have a reduced capacity to contribute to the economy of the country as they are less able to learn new skills and less productive in their work.

·        It has been estimated that the annual value of the loss in productivity that can be attributed to child stunting is 2.9 billion ETB (Ethiopian Birr). Moreover, iodine deficiency, which results in irreversible impairment of intellectual capacities, has been estimated to cost the Ethiopian economy 1.35 billion ETB per year.


·        Charities such as ActionAid work with local people to: provide short term food aid; improve farming methods; provide farmers with loans to buy new equipment and train locals in land conservation.

·        They also train people in other skills e.g. carpentry so they have an alternative income rather than relying on subsistence farming and improve infrastructure to create easier access to markets and food aid.

Discussion point: What is the biggest cause of famine in Ethiopia and can it be overcome?

Sunday, 13 April 2014




·        Poland was admitted to the EU on 1st April 2004 and with this came the right for any citizen of Poland to move and work freely in other EU countries.
·        Polish people are now the 3rd largest minority in the UK.


·        High levels of unemployment – in 2005, 18.5% of those at working age were unemployed in Poland compared to 5.1% in the UK. Annual GDP was £13k in Poland compared to £30k in the UK.
·        Low income for the available jobs, deprived living conditions, poor public services and amenities


·        A typical Polish worker could earn 5 times the sum they could in the UK compared to what they could earn in Poland
·        Plenty of obtainable jobs in the UK due to a skills deficiency
·        The UK was one of only three countries who didn’t put a limit on the number of migrants from A8 countries who could enter the country. (A8 countries are Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia)
·        English is the second language in Poland and so there wasn’t a huge language barrier to overcome
·        Migration to the UK was easy due to cheap flights and travel links


·        ‘Brain drain’ of skilled workers and loss of entrepreneurial spirit may impact on economic development
·        Some regions may suffer a spiral of deterioration that is difficult to get out of
·        Shortage of workers for typically male jobs such as plumbers and firefighters and builders.
·        Marriage rates fall and family structures break down as the population structure becomes imbalanced

·        However, women have found it easier to find employment with less competition from men.
·        Remittances more than doubled from 2004 to 2008
·        There is less pressure on resources and eturning migrants from the UK bring new skills
·        Despite the labour shortages Poland is the only member of the European Union that has not fallen into a recession and that has continued to grow economically. 


·        £2.54bn contributed annually to the UK economy by Eastern Europeans
·        80% of migrants are work-age off-setting the problems of an ageing population
·        Migrant workers helped to prevent inflation and an increase in mortgage costs
·        Migrants are stereotypically hard working, skilled and flexible and take up less desirable jobs or fill gaps in the skilled work-force.
·        Creation of a multicultural society increases tolerance; new local services and good/clothes/music

·        However, much of the money made is sent back home as remittances
·        Increased number of people put pressures on resources such as schools and healthcare
·        Large-scale migration to areas that have not experienced it before have led to tensions and misunderstandings e.g. anti-Polish graffiti and isolated incidents of attacks, especially in N.Ireland.

Discussion point: Do the benefits of migrants to the UK’s ageing economy outweigh the problems?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014



·        The river Kissimmee once meandered for 103 miles through central Florida.
·        Its floodplain, which reached up to 3 miles wide, was regularly inundated with heavy seasonal rain for long periods of time creating a unique and highest diverse ecosystem in North America.
·        In the 1940’s, the River Kissimmee endured prolonged flooding after a series of hurricanes which had severe impacts on the people in the region. So drastic measures were taken by the Central and Southern Florida Project and the Kissimmee was cut and dredged and channelized (from 1960-1971) into a 30 feet deep straightway: the C-38 canal.
·        Although flood control benefits were achieved, it was soon considered to be an ‘ecological disaster as waterfowl numbers fells by 90% and Bald Eagle nesting fell by 75%.
·        In response a restoration project was authorised in 1992, which aims to be completed by 2019.          

·        One aim of this project was to return the river back to its meandering self and thus restore its ecological integrity but another aim of the restoration was to maintain flood protection.
·        The meanders were formed by cutting out the original meander scars into oxbow lakes and then connecting them to the river. The sediment was then used to backfill the canal so the original meandering river could flow naturally.
·        The upper and lower portions of Canal 38 will remain channelized to maintain flood protection benefits, while the middle 22 miles of canal are being replaced with 40 miles of meandering river.
·        The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $500m including the acquisition of 102k acres of floodplain that was previously used for farming/human habitation.

·        Dissolved oxygen levels have increased and sand bars have reformed on the river bed providing new habitats to support greater biodiversity.
·        Flora and fauna such as the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, that disappeared when the system was channelized have returned in great numbers and are now thriving in the newly restored system.
·        The wider Kissimee basin is now protected from flooding by both soft and hard engineering methods. The restored floodplain will store water and decrease lag time naturally whilst the remaining canal & dams allow discharge to be regulated artificially.
·        The river is now important for tourism and education. For example the Riverwoods Field Laboratory hosts ecologists carrying out research and runs eco-tours of the river.

·        The newly restored the floodplain is now open for public recreation such as horse-riding and camping, bird-watching and fishing. 

Discussion point: Was the restoration a good idea for flood protection?

With thanks to Yasmin Karabasic

Tuesday, 8 April 2014




· GDP per capita ~$36 000

· Between December 2013 and February 2014 large areas of the UK experienced an exceptional run of severe winter storms, culminating in serious coastal damage and widespread flooding.


· A series of storms brought extremely heavy and prolonged rainfall with some areas such as Winchester experiencing levels over 300% above average.

· Some studies suggest that anthropogenic Climate Change has increased the intensity and rainfall lvels of Atlantic storms although there is no definitive evidence for this.

· Several rivers including the River Parrett in the Levels and the River Thames in London overflowed their banks, while in other parts of the country such as the village of Hambledon in Hampshire the ground became so saturated that the water table reached the surface.

· The Somerset Levels are only around 8m above sea level and thus is naturally prone to flooding. Man-made drainage and flood defence systems have been practised since Roman times for farming.

· Some have blamed the floods on human management of the area and have even accused the Labour government of ‘deliberately engineering’ the floods. For example, rivers such as the River Parrett had not been dredged since the late 1990s but the Environment Agency claims this would not have prevented the floods and may have worsened flooding downstream.


· Several people were killed by secondary effects; for example a 7 years old boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning as his family tried to clear their home with industrial water pumps.

· Over 7000 homes and 3000 commercial properties across England and Wales were flooded and thousands experienced power cuts. Insurers have estimated a cost of around £40k of repair work per household. However this is small in comparison to the 55 000 homes and businesses flooded in 2007.

· The low-lying Somerset Levels were badly affected with 10% of the 650km2 area submerged.

· Many people have had to take time off work or have been able to get to work, while farmers have struggled with flooded fields and ruins crops. However there could be a benefit for farmers who were unaffected if spoiled produce leads to price rises but it is too early to tell if that will happen.

· Conservationists have reported the deaths of 600 sea birds and 250 seals in the storms while inland hibernating animals were badly affect and 5000 fish were found dead in fields in Oxfordshire after the floods subsided. However, waterfowl have benefited as it has increased the area of their habitat.

· Estimates of economic damage range from £630m ($1b) for insurance and repairs, up to £14b ($23b) (1% of GDP) if you include the losses incurred by businesses in the Thames Valley. However, flood protection companies have benefited, such as Van Heck who has sent more than 20 industrial size pumps to Somerset.


· A large-scale response was initiated involving the military with homes evacuated and 150 rescued in 24 hours along the Thames. However, when Prince Charles visited the SL’s he criticised the government’s slow response with one woman in Somerset being trapped in her home for 13 days.

· £14m has been paid out by the government to help communities recover including £5000 per house.

· Dredging started at the end of March with £5.8m spent on clearing 5 miles of the Tone & Parrett rivers.

· A scheme called ‘Flood Re’ is set to be introduced in 2015 to help people with rising flood insurance.

Discussion point: Could this flooding have been prevented?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Biggest Dam in the World



·    The Three Gorges Dam was built mainly for flood control as the Yangtze River has a history of devastating flooding, e.g. 33 000people were killed in the Hubei province in1954. China is rapidly developing and needs to find more sustainable energy sources than fossil fuels (coal) so it was also built to provide hydro-electric power.

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