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Seeds of hope

November 6, 2015

In 2008, some 860,000 seeds from nearly every one of the world’s countries were deposited in an underground vault carved into an Arctic mountainside. The Global Seed Vault, in remote Svalbard, 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole, was designed to protect the world’s crops from the worst natural disasters, nuclear war, and pandemic diseases. Even if the electricity supply to the storage system were to be cut, the vault would remain frozen and the seeds protected for another 200 years.

Why the elaborate precautions? This vault contains something far more precious than everything inside Fort Knox: our food.

As global diets start to look the same, we increasingly rely on few crop varieties, causing previous staples to become forgotten. Nowadays, wheat is popular across the globe, whereas millets have fallen out of favour. Already, the world has lost some 75 percent of crop varieties Read more…


What migrant crisis?

October 29, 2015

As Europe panics over the biggest migration of people since the end of the Second World War, responses have ranged from hostility and rapid barrier construction in the eastern bloc to official welcome in Germany and the Nordic countries. The public attitude has likewise varied from acts of aggression to generosity, including offers to house those arriving from war-torn Syria. In Britain, typically, one of the most prominent public debates has been over semantics, including whether public broadcasters should refer to the masses of people arriving on its borders as “refugees” or “migrants”—the latter having achieved an increasingly negative connotation in recent decades.

It’s easy to forget that humans are a migratory species. Read more…

Wisdom of crowds

October 26, 2015

I’m often asked what difference individuals can make in the face of global climate change? How can we influence the greenhouse gas emissions of nations, particularly when some of the world’s biggest corporations are involved in energy production? Despite the proclamations of green activists, the scale of the problem can be pretty disempowering.

And yet, communities and individuals are indeed having a surprisingly powerful influence on how their electricity is generated and are proving an important part of the global move toward renewable energy.

Producing sufficient reliable energy without exacerbating climate change Read more…

Peak kid

October 21, 2015

The world has reached peak child, according to the latest data United Nations Population Division. The number of children under 15 has levelled off at two billion and will remain there, perhaps falling by the end of the century. The global population is still growing—we added one billion people over the past 12 years—but at a slower pace. Current estimates predict a stable population of around 11 billion or less by 2100, perhaps followed by a decline.

Most growth is and will continue to be in Africa, with Nigeria overtaking the United States as the world’s third most populous country, home to 413 million people before mid-century. The United States is continuing to grow, however, even as it slips into fourth place. India will surpass China as soon as 2022, with China peaking at 1.4 billion by 2028. India will peak at 1.75 billion sometime after 2050. By the end of the century, the world’s population will be roughly: one billion in Europe, one billion in the Americas, four billion in Africa, five billion in Asia.

So what explains the continued rise in population even as the number of children stays the same? Read more…

Holiday fever

October 12, 2015

If you went on vacation this year, you might well have concluded that the world is becoming a more crowded place. It is, especially where you went. Tourist hotspots are overflowing with visitors.

Yes, the global population is increasing, but global tourism is growing at four times the rate. There were more than a billion tourists in 2014—out of a global population of some seven billion people—and the first four months of this year alone saw a 4-percent rise on last year’s numbers. Half a billion international tourists were expected for the May-August period this year.

That’s a lot of people, mostly heading to a few attractions. Europe is the number one destination, with more than 500 million visiting at the beginning of the year, the most numerous among them now Chinese rather than American. The sheer numbers of people Read more…

Meet the Author

October 12, 2015

I was interviewed about my book by the BBC’s Nick Higham last week – you can watch it here.

And there was an interview with me in The Pool, on BBC online, and in Wired.

I won the prize!

September 25, 2015

ADVENTURES IN THE ANTHROPOCENE: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made has won the Royal Society Science Book of the year award!


I was shocked and utterly delighted to have won, especially as I am the first woman to have done so in the prize’s 28-year history. It’s received some great media attention, and a lovely new review, so hopefully people will buy my book and learn more about the remarkable people I found living with dramatic change around the planet at this extraordinary time. I will try to post articles about the book and the prize here: today I was talking about it with Professor Brian Cox on the One Show on BBC 1 television, I  spoke to the BBC’s Jon Amos, and I was on the Guardian podcast:

It has been an often gruelling journey, lengthy research and writing project to get here, so I want to thank all the people who have supported the book and this blog over the past few years. You are much appreciated!