Lebanon Drought, Nigerian Schoolgirls, Weirdest Museums

Opposition forces have evacuated a ruined Homs.
Opposition forces have evacuated a ruined Homs.

Members of self-defense groups in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol told news agency Interfax that Kiev’s law enforcement units had opened fire as they attempted to storm a building belonging to the city’s police and detained officers who had disobeyed orders from Kiev. According to RT, unconfirmed reports suggested that at least one person had been killed. This comes as Ukrainians and Russians are celebrating the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, a holiday known as Victory Day.

The events in Mariupol are likely to lead to more accusations from both sides. On Twitter, Marcus Papadopoulos, editor of UK-based magazine Politics First, wrote, “What Kiev's forces are doing in Mariupol today, of all days, is the ultimate offence to the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. Sickening.” Earlier today in a television address, Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said, “The country's leadership has received information about dark plans by Russian saboteurs and their mercenaries." He urged the population to “stay away from large gatherings,” The Moscow Times reported.

Speaking at a military parade on Moscow’s Red Square, Vladimir Putin highlighted the “iron will of the Soviet people,” saying that it was the USSR “which chased the Nazis to their lair, achieved their full and final destruction, won at the cost of millions of victims and terrible hardships.” But his speech also seemed to take a swing at Ukraine’s leadership, which Moscow believed allowed the rise of neo-Nazis and fascists. Read more from Reuters.

British newspaper The Independent, meanwhile, published an exclusive report showing that G7 leaders are soon expected to sign an “emergency response plan” to assist Ukraine over the coming winter if Russia restricts gas supplies.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told the audience at the World Economic Forum in the capital of Abuja that his country “will conquer the terrorists” of Boko Haram, adding that their abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls three weeks ago “will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria.” This comes as a global campaign entitled “Bring Back Our Girls” is gaining momentum.

Some voices are, however, denouncing the side effects of the campaign. For example, the founder of the website Compare Afrique argues that “the United States military loves your hashtags because it gives them legitimacy to encroach and grow their military presence in Africa.”

Meanwhile, a former mediator who participated in talks with Boko Haram told The Daily Telegraph that the Islamist group might be seeking to exchange the girls for jailed fighters. “If you look at the fact that these girls have already been in captivity for some three weeks, then it is possible to detect a conciliatory tone in this statement from Shekau – he is not saying he is going to kill the girls,” Shehu Sani said.

According to the Financial Times, Apple is about to acquire headphone manufacturer Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. What would be the California-based company's largest-ever deal could be announced as early as next week.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, now rebel leader Riek Machar, will meet in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to negotiate an end to the months-long conflict. According to Sudan Tribune, sources from the Ethiopian government said formation of a transitional government and power sharing would also be on the agenda. A recent UN report showed that one million people had been displaced because of the conflict and that five million were in need of aid.


Thailand’s anti-government protests leader Suthep Thaugsuban launched today what he described as the “final all-out battle” against the country’s government, as protesters gathered in numbers in Bangkok and tried to occupy TV stations, The Nation reports. The police fired tear gas at the protesters, who want the whole government to resign and the upcoming elections to be postponed, just days after an order from the Constitutional Court dismissed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and part of her cabinet.

A 32-year-old construction worker died after being electrocuted at the Arena Pantanal in Brazil, one of the 12 stadiums where the FIFA World Cup will take place starting next month, O Globo reports. Muhammad Ali Maciel Afonso is the eighth worker to have died during the construction of the venues, even as Brazil launched a last-minute rush to ensure that everything is ready for the competition’s kick-off on June 12.

People in Lebanon are bracing themselves to face a very difficult summer after winter brought only half of last year’s rainfall, making it the country’s driest since 1932, AFP reports. But the situation could become much worse because Lebanon’s population has doubled since then, a problem further exacerbated by the large number of Syrian refugees. “This year, we will have to pump up water from below ground, but if this drought continues next year, there’ll only be 5% of that groundwater left,” a farmer told the news agency.

Looking for original visits for your next big trip? From India’s Toilet Museum to Amsterdam’s chilling collection of torture devices, Worldcrunch brings you the world’s 14 weirdest and most WTF museums.

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Feed The Future

COP26 Should Mark A Turning Point In Solving The Climate Crisis

Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.

A new dawn?

If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.

The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.

Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.

This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.

It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."

In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.

Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.

Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.

But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.

In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.

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