Numbers of birds at risk of extinction rise

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) rare breeding birds panel have increased the number of birds on its list of the rarest birds in the UK to nearly 100.  The list is in its 40th year, and in that time, a number of native breeding species have been named extinct or at risk of extinction within the UK.

Bad and changing weather and losses of habitat, especially as farming practices change, are considered the main causes of the changes.  The population of some types of bird continue to plunge at an alarming rate. For example, the numbers of known turtle doves are halving every six years.

Improving the health of our soil

The United States loses 1.7 billion tons of topsoil every year, largely due to crops that must be replanted annually, stripping soil of plant cover, nutrients and biodiversity.  Sixty-nine per cent of global crops are annual cereals, linseed and legumes.

The Land Institute is suggesting a change in agricultural practices to return to a more diverse method of farming that includes crops of perennials.  Rather than rely on the monoculture crops that must be replanted every year, perennial crops would help prevent soil erosion and improve the overall health of the soil.  Researchers have discovered food forests that have fed communities for centuries and are still viable and active.

Is momentum truly building to end sexual violence against women and girls?

A number of events, actions and campaigns in 2014 seem to be joining together to create a feeling of possibility that violence, and the threat of violence, against women and girls will finally be taken seriously as a crime against a woman’s basic human rights.

Most (all?) women carry some variation of fear with them at all times; mine is when walking alone in the dark.  Half the population should not have to bear the burden of a near-constant fear for their safety.

A few of the events, reports, movements and news pieces that have caught my eye this year include:

  • #EndSWHack – this was part of the first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict event held in London in June 2014. Participants worked in small teams to create technology-based ways to support the Summit’s goals.
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women, says women who have experienced sexual violence in conflict must get reparations, including psychological support, to help get their lives back on track.
  • Horrifying report from the UN revealing that one in 10 girls will be raped or sexually abused before they reach the age of 20.

How women navigate the road to higher office

Political Parity‘s May 2014 research report, Shifting Gears, examine reasons behind the continued dearth of women in political office, and particularly, in senior positions.  Researchers asked, “Are women uninterested, unwilling or uncertain?  Is the political system unresponsive and impenetrable?”

And this comes at a time when recent figures from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reveal that at the current rate of change, women won’t achieve political parity with men until 2121.  Far too late!


Improving physical health of people with serious mental illness

Many medications used to help manage severe, long-term mental ill-health have serious side-effects.  And in situations where emergency care may be needed, long-term physical health can seem a distant concern.  However, with people with mental ill-health dying, on average, 15 to 20 years before the general population, much more needs to be done to change that statistic.

In the UK, the NHS is looking to Bondi Beach, Australia, for a potential solution.  A lifestyle intervention programme, Keeping the Body in Mind, was developed for mental health patients and covers what foods to eat for optimum health, where to buy the ingredients, how to cook and sessions with a dietician and access to a gym.

Professor Katherine Samaras, one of the creators of the programme, said “It was relatively cheap and of course this early investment in health offsets the cost of treating heart disease and diabetes.”

At present we know only that the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity. George Orwell