News round up February 2015

A selection of geographical stories that have made the headlines this month.

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  1. Tootling back to the village

    With Chinese New Year comes the well documented chunyun: the migration of people from all over China to join family members for celebrating the spring festival. It is estimated that this is the single biggest annual migration of people in the world, with this year 2.9 billion people travelling for the same purpose. While in the past this movement has largely been one from urban to rural areas the reverse is starting to be seen as China sees a general rise in income drip down to all socio-economic sections of the country.
  2. Angry Tories want to rip up approval for 15 wind farms

    Fifteen new onshore wind farms are planned as part of a £315 million renewable energy project in the UK. The plans, which were part of a total of twenty seven new projects awarded as part of the government’s renewable auction, have not passed without criticism. Solar, deemed to be one of the cheapest renewable energy sources has lost out in the auction and there has been further disapproval of the geographical spread of the projects around the UK.
  3. Here’s what scientists think is buried deep within the Earth’s core

    Researchers from the USA and China have put together evidence that suggests that within the inner core of the Earth is a further inner core that helps govern the Earth’s magnetic field. A mass of crystals inside this ball do not line up with those around it, suggesting the presence of an inner sphere with potentially different properties. It was found by measuring seismic waves and to what extent they became disorientated around the core.
  4. ‘Calamity’ warning as cyclones hit Australia coastline

    Australia has been simultaneously hit by two powerful cyclones. Marcia, the first, hit the Queensland coast near Yeppoon and made its way south with category five, 300kmph winds destroying some homes and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Shortly afterwards Cyclone Lam swept through Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory sparking the mass evacuation of many aboriginal communities. Higher than normal tides and flash flooding have caused widespread damage along both coastlines.
  5. Drug resistant malaria poised to cross into India

    A seeming resistance to a vital malaria drug, artemisinin, has sparked fears as the disease has spread unregulated through Burma and into the western states of India. The last time malaria was found to be resistant to the antimalarial drug of choice at the time (chloroquine in 2004), 1.6 million people died from the disease. A wider variety of drug use would have helped stop the spread but with Burma spending US$20 per head a year on healthcare (the sixth lowest value in the world), the cheapest and easiest available drugs were used.
  6. New bike and pedestrian Thames bridge designs

    A new pedestrian and cycling only bridge is set to be built across the Thames in London. The £40 million project is seeking an artistic design for the structure as well as sustainable building credentials and practical use of the spaces either side of the river. The plans represent further moves to make London a flagship cycling capital and wider ideas to see the city as a softer and less pressurised place to live. Already nine percent of Londoners use bicycles for all or part of their commute compared to only two percent nationally.
  7. Hundreds feared dead after boats sink off Italy

    At least two hundred migrants were feared dead after the two boats they were travelling in capsized and sank in the Mediterranean. The migrants who were attempting to cross from Libya to Italy struck trouble in the extreme sea conditions, leaving many stranded in water that was barely above 0°C. This event highlights the dangers migrants face in making this journey as well as the diplomatic problems authorities have in dealing with their increased numbers and growing rehabilitation costs.
  8. UK needs an ambassador to the Arctic to shape its future, say Lords

    A report by the House of Lords states a strong case for the need for an ambassador in the Arctic circle. The pace of change in the region means we need to play a greater role in its preservation, its services (such as fossil fuel extraction and new shipping routes) as well as the impacts melting ice will have on fish stocks. In the same manner in which the Antarctic is subject to international cooperation, the report suggests that now is the time to mirror this in the Arctic before it becomes a playing field for geopolitical tensions.
  9. The women suffering for your Valentine’s Day flowers

    A predominantly female workforce in countries such as Colombia and Kenya come into the spotlight as this report looks at the labour behind producing Valentine's Day bouquets. Long hours and poor pay keep the international trade in flowers profitable. A typical woman in the Colombian flower industry earns £175 a month – money that does not reach half of her outgoings. Many are also victims of health problems specifically associated with the trade such as wrist damage by cutting large numbers of flowers.
  10. How do US cities get rid of snow?

    The recent heavy snowfalls in the USA have raised questions about how best to deal with the excess snow once it has been ploughed up and off the roads. Car parks and empty spaces are for the most part used in times of snowfall but these filled quickly, leaving authorities scratching their heads. The possibility of dumping snow into the oceans was raised but the high levels of oil and debris ploughed up with the snow would make this a serious breach of pollution laws. Instead industrial show melters that use sixty gallons of diesel and hour may have to be deployed if natural melting does not soon occur.
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