(United Nations Environmental Programme)
Topic 1: Land Degradation and Sustainable Agriculture
(Topic CHANGED from Cleaning Up Space)
As we enter the twenty-first century the environment has become a major
topic of debate. One of the biggest crises is the issue of sustainable
agriculture. Over the past century the agricultural industry has changed
a great deal. No longer is the farmer simply providing for himself and
perhaps a minority of the population who live in cities. Now farmers
are producing more for other people than their own families. In their
zest to feed the world the soil has become overtaxed, and over-fertilized,
the groundwater has become polluted by fertilizers and pesticides, and
aquifers have been depleted. Steps must be taken to reverse these actions
as well as provide for future generations to be able to grow crops.
One of the major focuses of sustainable agriculture is on water usage
and conservation. Poor irrigation has led to droughts, salinization
of ground water, and erosion. Attempts are being made to implement the
planting of drought-tolerant crops, and using reduced-volume irrigation.
Another problem is finding different methods of fertilization and combating
pesticides. The use of fertilizers has led to overproduction of the
land and the degradation of the soils nutrients. Likewise pesticides
over the years have poisoned land and wildlife.
The major obstacle to implementing policies to support sustainable agriculture
is the cost. Development of better irrigation techniques and then implementing
them costs a great deal of money. Likewise switching crops or decreasing
the amount produced on a plot of land results in a lot of costs on the
farmers. Developing programs to research more effective agricultural
methods as well as programs to teach farmers how to use these new methods.
Funding for the implementation of sustainable agriculture is another
obstacle that needs to be tackled.
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Topic 2: Implementing the Kyoto Accords
The Kyoto Accords, or Kyoto Protocol, was adopted as the third meeting
of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC).
The convention was first formed in 1992 to deal with the issues surrounding
global warming. The main issues being the recognition of the problem,
possible solutions to the problem, and possible funding for those solutions.
Specifically, the Kyoto Protocol contains the additions and amendments
agreed upon in Kyoto in December 1997, all which centered around the
reduction of emissions in developed countries. The document calls for
all the developed members to reduce their emissions levels to 5% below
those of 1990 by between the years 2008-2012.
As of September 9, 2000, 84 countries have signed the protocol, but
only 29 have ratified it. Before the protocol can become legally binding,
55 countries must ratify it within their own countries. 55% of those
must be from the developed countries that bear the bulk of the burden
to reduce emissions. Once those numbers are reached, the protocol will
go in effect 90 days later.
But problems still exist with the protocol in its current form. Although
it calls for reduction of emission, the exact manner with which to accomplish
that has yet to be defined. Furthermore, the protocol itself needs further
refining to be considered a completely legal and viable document. One
of these problems lies in the mechanism stated within the protocol for
the possible financial strain of meeting the standard. Although it sets
out three mechanisms that deal with a credit system for meeting standards
or helping other countries meet standard, the specifics of those programs
are not yet defined.
Topic 3: Nuclear Reactor Safety
The Chernobyl incident looms large in the minds of environmentalists
as an example of the
ultimate disaster. Yet there are many countries either just beginning
to use or trying to run under-funded
reactors that pose similar risks. As critical source of energy worldwide,
how can these technologies be
properly used for civil means? Many nations react strongly to this issue
due to the dual use
nature of some nuclear technology for the creation of weapons of mass