Archivo de la categoría: Opinión


Fashion – David Bowie

Fast Fashion Pollution and Climate Change

‘Fast Fashion’ is a term used to define a highly profitable and exploitative business model that is “based on copying and replicating high end fashion designs”. The clothes are mass-produced, with workers often working in inhumane conditions, and are purposefully designed to be frail with a limited lifespan as designs change quickly and are cheap to produce. They are also consumed at a higher rate and so the expectations for the clothes’ lifespan decrease, leading to multiple ethical and sustainable issues. Fast fashion pollution creates not only long-term and potentially irreversible environmental damage, but exacerbate the effects of climate change. 

Fast fashion is fast in more ways than one. The rise of fast fashion is intertwined with the rise of social media and influencer culture. Consumer demand and tastes have become insatiable and ever-changing, leading to fast fashion companies rushing to reproduce items whenever an influencer posts a photo wearing a new outfit. However, they are not simply reacting to consumer demand but are also creating it. The clothes produced by these companies are purposefully not made to last; a strategy known as planned obsolescence. Due to fast changing trends, producers respond by manufacturing clothes more and more rapidly, which means that designs are not well stress-tested and cheap synthetic fabrics are used to keep costs low. With its reliance on unsustainable plastic fabrics, the industry’s enormous water usage, and the unethical treatment of its workers, the rise of fast fashion has had devastating consequences on the world. 

Fast Fashion and Climate Change 

Fashion and its supply chain is the third largest polluting industry, after food and construction. It emitted 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, releasing 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, more than the shipping and the aviation industry combined. If it continues at the same pace, the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to increase by more than 50% by the year 2030.  These emissions come from the processes along the industry’s supply chain, from the raw materials to production and processing to transport and shipping. 

Fast Fashion Pollution

Due to how affordable fast fashion clothing is and how quickly trends come and go, the substantial increase in clothing consumption has led to a substantial increase in textile production. Global per capita production of textile increased from 5.9kg per year to 13kg per year from 1975 to 2018. Global consumption of apparel has risen to an approximate 62 million tonnes per year and is projected to further reach 102 million tonnes by the year 2030. As a result, fast fashion brands are producing twice the amount of clothes today than in the year 2000. This dramatic increase in production has also caused an increase in both pre- and post-production textile waste. Due to the number of cut outs for the clothing, a large number of materials get wasted as they cannot be used any further, with one study predicting that 15% of fabric used in garment manufacturing is wasted. Post-production, 60% of approximately 150 million garments produced globally in 2012 were discarded just a few years after production. Despite such high rates of textile waste, textile recycling remains too low, with 57% of all discarded clothing ending up in landfills, which poses multiple public health and environmental dangers as toxic substances including methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, are released when landfills are burned. 

Fibre production – which uses multiple pesticides, herbicides, and much more which can leach into the soil and reduce fertility, biodiversity, and cause much more harm to the natural environment – and textile manufacturing – which uses chemicals during spinning, weaving, and other processes – bring about toxic substances are a cause for concern even before the garment even has a chance to be sold. Not only does this fast fashion pollution lead to high environmental negative impacts from the chemicals, but it also creates an unsafe environment and increases risk of health issues for factory workers, cotton farmers, and even the consumers. Furthermore, the synthetic materials that are used are the primary reason for microplastics entering the oceans, usually through the water used in washing machines, accounting for 35% of all microplastics. To lower the price and produce clothing items for cheap, polyester is a popular material choice, which consists of plastic and releases a larger amount of carbon emissions than cotton. Not only is plastic slow to degrade in the ocean, it also creates a toxic substance when it degrades, which is harmful for marine life and marine ecosystems. These microplastics also end up in the human food chain, causing negative health effects. 

The fashion industry also uses large quantities of water; in fact, consuming one tenth of all the water used industrially to clean products and run factories, totalling 79 billion cubic metres in 2015. Currently, 44 trillion litres of water is used annually for irrigation, 95% of which is used for cotton production. It was estimated that 20% of water loss suffered by the Aral Sea was caused due to cotton demand and consumption in the EU. Furthermore, the textiles and fashion industry has caused a 7% decrease in local groundwater and drinking water globally, and especially in water stressed manufacturing countries such as India and China. 

Developing countries bear the burden of these environmental impacts from fast fashion pollution, while most of the consumption is done in the developed countries. Textile production occurs largely in developing countries due to cheap manufacturing and labour costs, and lax environmental regulations as compared to the developed countries. At the end of the cycle, the waste would be shipped back. However, this practice has reduced due to many countries banning the import of waste, including textile waste. 

It is essential for the textile and fashion industry to mitigate its environmental impacts caused by excessive water usage, release of toxins into the environment, and large amounts of waste generated. On an individual level, consumers can help by reducing their consumption of fast fashion, as it is more important for this industry to ultimately completely abandon the fast fashion business model, which, at its core, promotes overproduction and overconsumption, consequently also leading to high amounts of material waste. 


The environmental costs of fast fashion

New season, new styles, buy more, buy cheap, move on, throw away: the pollution, waste, and emissions of fast fashion are fueling the triple planetary crisis.

The annual Black Friday sales on 25 November are a reminder of the need to rethink what is bought, what is thrown away, and what it costs the planet.

Sustainable fashion and circularity in the textiles value chain are possible, yet this century the world’s consumers are buying more clothes and wearing them for less time than ever before, discarding garments as fast as trends shift.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is spearheading an initiative towards a zero waste world. As part of this ambitious outlook, UNEP has partnered with Kenyan spoken word poet Beatrice Kariuki to shed light on high-impact sectors where consumers can make a real difference.

“We need circular industries where old looks are made new,” Kariuki says in the video. “Less packaging, more reuse. Threads that last.”

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a UNEP partner, has estimated that a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfill or incinerated every second. Meanwhile, it is estimated that people are buying 60 per cent more clothes and wearing them for half as long.

Plastic fibres are polluting the oceans, the wastewater, toxic dyes, and the exploitation of underpaid workers. Fast fashion is big business, and while the environmental costs are rising, experts say there is another way: a circular economy for textiles.

At this month’s UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Egypt, UNEP and the non-profit Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) held an event on ‘Circular Systems for a Net Positive Fashion Industry’, which drew industry leaders to discuss routes towards a circular economy for the industry, with less waste, less pollution, more reuse, and more recycling.

Now, UNEP and GFA are spearheading a consultation across the fashion industry to define a path towards becoming net-positive—meaning an industry that gives back more to the world than it takes out. UNEP is also producing a roadmap towards sustainability and circularity in the textile value chain and working on shifting the narrative of the sector, looking at the role of consumption with a guideline to sustainable fashion communication.

The fast fashion business model of quick turnover, high volume, cheap prices is under pressure from consumers who are demanding change. They want resilient garments from a sustainable industry, a goal supported by the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion.

A prominent example of how the garment industry can embrace the principles of a circular economy is the US outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, winner of a UN Champion of the Earth award in 2019.

Patagonia has gone further still, announcing earlier this year that it would transform into a charitable trust with all profits from its US$1.5 billion in annual sales going towards climate change, making the planet its only shareholder. There are many others in the industry also making important changes.

This week, UNEP organized a timely webinar titled, ‘Shifting the Fashion Narrative: Rethinking aspiration in a world of overconsumption,’ available to watch here.

To fight the pervasive impact of pollution on society, UNEP launched #BeatPollution, a strategy for rapid, large-scale and coordinated action against air, land and water pollution. The strategy highlights the impact of pollution on climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and human health. Through science-based messaging, the campaign showcases how transitioning to a pollution-free planet is vital for future generations.


Why Fashion Needs to Be More Sustainable

The pandemic slowed fast fashion to a standstill. Now as the world opens up and we are socializing and going places, we want to dress up again. But after living a confined and simpler life during COVID, this is a good time to take stock of the implications of how we dress. Fashion, and especially fast fashion, has enormous environmental impacts on our planet, as well as social ones.

Since the 2000s, fashion production has doubled and it will likely triple by 2050, according to the American Chemical Society. The production of polyester, used for much cheap fast fashion, as well as athleisure wear, has increased nine-fold in the last 50 years. Because clothing has gotten so cheap, it is easily discarded after being worn only a few times. One survey found that 20 percent of clothing in the US is never worn; in the UK, it is 50 percent. Online shopping, available day and night, has made impulse buying and returning items easier.

According to McKinsey, average consumers buy 60 percent more than they did in 2000, and keep it half as long. And in 2017, it was estimated that 41 percent of young women felt the need to wear something different whenever they left the house. In response, there are companies that send consumers a box of new clothes every month.

Fashion’s environmental impacts

Fashion is responsible for 10 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and 20 percent of global wastewater, and uses more energy than the aviation and shipping sectors combined.

Impacts on water

Global fashion also consumes 93 billion metric tons of clean water each year, about half of what Americans drink annually.

Cotton is an especially thirsty crop. For example, one kilogram of cotton used to produce a pair of jeans can consume 7,500 to 10,000 liters of water—the amount a person would drink over 10 years. Cotton production also requires pesticides and insecticides, which pollute the soil; runoff from fertilized cotton fields carry the excess nutrients to water bodies, causing eutrophication and algal blooms.

The dyeing process for fabrics, which uses toxic chemicals, is responsible for 17 to 20 percent of global industrial water pollution.

Seventy-two toxic chemicals have been found in the water used in textile dyeing.

Contributions to climate change

To feed the fashion industry’s need for wood pulp to make fabrics like rayon, viscose and other fabrics, 70 million tons of trees are cut down each year. That number is expected to double by 2034, speeding deforestation in some of the world’s endangered forests.

The fashion industry produces 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 each year, according to a MacArthur Foundation study. In 2018, it resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon produced by France, Germany and the UK all together. Polyester, which is actually plastic made from fossil fuels, is used for about 65 percent of all clothing, and consumes 70 million barrels of oil each year. In addition, the fashion industry uses large amounts of fossil fuel-based plastic for packaging and hangers.


Less than one percent of clothing is recycled to make new clothes. The fibers in clothing are polymers, long chains of chemically linked molecules. Washing and wearing clothing shorten and weaken these polymers, so by the time a garment is discarded, the polymers are too short to turn into a strong new fabric. In addition, most of today’s textile-to-textile recycling technologies cannot separate out dyes, contaminants, or even a combination of fabrics such as polyester and cotton.

As a result, 53 million metric tons of discarded clothing are incinerated or go to landfills each year. In 2017, Burberry burned $37 million worth of unsold bags, clothes and perfume. If sent to a landfill, clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton and linen may degrade in weeks to months, but synthetic fabrics can take up to 200 years to break down. And as they do, they produce methane, a powerful global warming greenhouse gas.

Microplastic pollution

Many people have lived solely in athleisure wear during the pandemic, but the problem with this is that the stretch and breathability in most athleisure comes from the use of synthetic plastic fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex and others, which are made of plastic.

When clothes made from synthetics are washed, microplastics from their fibers are shed into the wastewater. Some of it is filtered out at wastewater treatment plants along with human waste and the resulting sludge is used as fertilizer for agriculture. Microplastics then enter the soil and become part of the food chain. The microplastics that elude the treatment plant end up in rivers and oceans, and in the atmosphere when seawater droplets carry them into the air. It’s estimated that 35 percent of the microplastics in the ocean come from the fashion industry. While some brands use “recycled polyester” from PET bottles, which emits 50 to 25 percent fewer emissions than virgin polyester, effective polyester recycling is limited, so after use, these garments still usually end up in the landfill where they can shed microfibers.

Microplastics harm marine life, as well as birds and turtles. They have already been found in our food, water and air—one study found that Americans eat 74,000 microplastic particles each year. And while there is growing concern about this, the risks to human health are still not well understood.

Fashion’s social impacts

Because it must be cheap, fast fashion is dependent on the exploited labor force in developing countries where regulations are lax. Workers are underpaid, overworked, and exposed to dangerous conditions or health hazards; many are underage.

Of the 75 million factory workers around the world, it’s estimated that only two percent earn a living wage. To keep brands from moving to another country or region with lower costs, factories limit wages and are disinclined to spend money to improve working conditions. Moreover, workers often live in areas with waterways polluted by the chemicals from textile dyeing.

How can fashion be more sustainable?

As opposed to our current linear model of fashion production with environmental impacts at every stage, where resources are consumed, turned into a product, then discarded, sustainable fashion minimizes its environmental impact, and even aims to benefit the environment. The goal is a circular fashion industry where waste and pollution are eliminated, and materials are used for as long as possible, then reused for new products to avoid the need to exploit virgin resources.

Many designers, brands, and scientists — including students in Columbia University’s Environmental Science and Policy program— are exploring ways to make fashion more sustainable and circular.

Less waste

Since 80 to 90 percent of the sustainability of a clothing item is determined by decisions made during its design stage, new strategies can do away with waste from the get-go.

To eliminate the 15 percent of a fabric that usually ends up on the cutting room floor in the making of a garment, zero waste pattern cutting is used to arrange pattern pieces on fabric like a Tetris puzzle.

Designer YeohLee is known as a zero waste pioneer, employing geometric concepts in order to use every inch of fabric; she also creates garments with the leftovers of other pieces. Draping and knitting are also methods of designing without waste.

3D virtual sampling can eliminate the need for physical samples of material. A finished garment can sometimes require up to 20 samples. The Fabricant, a digital fashion house, replaces actual garments with digital samples in the design and development stage and claims this can reduce a brand’s carbon footprint by 30 percent.

Some clothing can be designed to be taken apart at the end of its life; designing for disassembly makes it easier for the parts to be recycled or upcycled into another garment. To be multifunctional, other garments are reversible, or designed so that parts can be subtracted or added. London-based brand Petit Pli makes children’s clothing from a single recycled fabric, making it easier to recycle; and the garments incorporate pleats that stretch so that kids can continue to wear them as they grow.

3D printing can be used to work out details digitally before production, minimizing trial and error; and because it can produce custom-fit garments on demand, it reduces waste. In addition, recycled materials such as plastic and metal can be 3D printed.

Sustainable designer Iris Ven Herpen is known for her fabulous 3D printed creations, some using upcycled marine debris; she is also currently working with scientists to develop sustainable textiles.

DyeCoo, a Dutch company, has developed a dyeing technique that uses waste CO2 in place of water and chemicals. The technology pressurizes CO2 so that it becomes supercritical and allows dye to readily dissolve, so it can enter easily into fabrics. Since the process uses no water, it produces no wastewater, and requires no drying time because the dyed fabric comes out dry. Ninety-five percent of the CO2 is recaptured and reused, so the process is a closed-loop system.

Heuritech, a French startup, is using artificial intelligence to analyze product images from Instagram and Weibo and predict trends. Adidas, Lee, Wrangler and other brands have used it to anticipate future demand and plan their production accordingly to reduce waste.

Mobile body scanning can help brands produce garments that fit a variety of body types instead of using standard sizes. 3D technology is also being used for virtual dressing, which will enable consumers to see how a garment looks on them before they purchase it. These innovations could lead to fewer returns of clothing.

Another way to reduce waste is to eliminate inventory. On-demand product fulfillment companies like Printful enable designers to sync their custom designs to the company’s clothing products. Garments are not created until an order comes in.

For Days, a closed-loop system, gives swap credits for every article of clothing you buy; customers can use swap credits to get new clothing items, all made from organic cotton or recycled materials. The swap credits encourage consumers to send in unwanted For Days clothes, keep them out of the landfill, and allow them to be made into new materials. Customers can also earn swap credits by filling one of the company’s Take Back bags with any old clothes, in any condition, and sending it in; these are then resold if salvageable or recycled as rags.

But perhaps the least wasteful strategy enables consumers not to buy any clothes at all. If they are mainly concerned about their image on social media, they can use digital clothing that is superimposed over their image. The Fabricant, which creates these digital garments,  aims to make “self expression through digital clothing a sustainable way to explore personal identity.”

Better materials

Many brands are using textiles made from natural materials such as hemp, ramie or bamboo instead of cotton. Bamboo has been touted as a sustainable fabric because it is fast-growing and doesn’t require much water or pesticides; however, some old growth forests are being cut down to make way for bamboo plantations. Moreover, to make most bamboo fabrics soft, they are subjected to chemical processing whose toxins can harm the environment and human health.

Because of this processing, the Global Organic Textile Standard says that almost all bamboo fiber can “not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was certified organic on the field.”

Some designers are turning to organic cotton, which is grown without toxic chemicals. But because organic cotton yields are 30 percent less than conventional cotton, they need 30 percent more water and land to produce the same amount as conventional cotton. Other brands, such as North Face and Patagonia, are creating clothing made from regenerative cotton—cotton grown without pesticides, fertilizers, weed pulling or tilling, and with cover crops and diverse plants to enhance the soil.

Textiles are also being made with fibers from agriculture waste, such as leaves and rinds. Orange Fiber, an Italian company, is using nanotechnology to make a sustainable silky material by processing the cellulose of oranges. H&M is using cupro, a material made from cotton waste. Flocus makes fully biodegradable and recyclable yarns and fabrics from the fibers of kapok tree pods through a process that doesn’t harm the trees. Kapok trees can grow in poor soils without much need for water or pesticides.

In 2016, Theanne Schiros, a principal investigator at Columbia University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), mentored a group of FIT students who created a bio-design award-winning material from algae. Kelp, its main ingredient, is fast growing, absorbs CO2 and nitrogen from agricultural runoff, and helps increase biodiversity. With the help of Columbia University’s Helen Lu, a biomedical engineer, the team created a bio-yarn they called AlgiKnit. Having received over $2 million in initial seed funding, the start-up, based in Brooklyn, is scaling up for market entry.

Schiros and Lu also developed a microbial bioleather. The compostable material consists of a nanocellulose mesh made through a fermentation process using a culture of bacteria and yeast. Schiros explained that these bacteria produce cellulose nanofibers as part of their metabolism; the bacteria were used in the fermentation of kombucha as early as 220 BC in what was Manchuria and in vinegar fermentation as early as 5,000 BC in Egypt. Biofabrication of the material is 10,000 times less toxic to humans than chrome-tanned leather, with an 88 to 97 percent smaller carbon footprint than synthetic (polyurethane) leather or other plastic-based leather alternatives. The fabrication process also drew on ancient textile techniques for tanning and dyeing. Schiros worked with the designers of Public School NY on Slow Factory’s One x One Conscious Design Initiative challenge to create zero-waste, naturally dyed sneakers from the material.

Schiros is also co-founder and CEO of the startup Werewool, another collaboration with Lu, and with Allie Obermeyer of Columbia University Chemical Engineering. Werewool, which was recognized by the 2020 Global Change Award, creates biodegradable textiles with color and other attributes found in nature using synthetic biology. “Nature has evolved a genetic code to make proteins that do things like have bright color, stretch, moisture management, wicking, UV protection—all the things that you really want for performance textiles, but that currently come at a really high environmental cost,” said Schiros. “But nature accomplishes all this and that’s attributed to microscopic protein structures.”

Werewool engineers proteins inspired by those found in coral, jellyfish, oysters, and cow milk that result in color, moisture management or stretch. The DNA code for those proteins is inserted into bacteria, which ferment and mass-produce the protein that then becomes the basis for a fiber. The company will eventually provide its technology and fibers to other companies throughout the supply chain and will likely begin with limited edition designer brands.

Better working conditions

There are companies now intent on improving working conditions for textile workers. Dorsu in Cambodia creates clothing from fabric discarded by garment factories. Workers are paid a living wage, have contracts, are given breaks, and also get bonuses, overtime pay, insurance and paid leave for sickness and holidays.

Mayamiko is a 100 percent PETA-certified vegan brand that advocates for labor rights and created the Mayamiko Trust to train disadvantaged women.

Workers who make Ethcs’ PETA-certified vegan garments are protected under the Fair Wear Foundation, which ensures a fair living wage, safe working conditions and legal labor contracts for workers. The Fair Wear Foundation website lists 128 brands it works with.

Beyond sustainability

Schiros maintains that making materials in collaboration with traditional artisans and Indigenous communities can produce results that address environmental, social and economic facets of sustainability. She led a series of natural dye workshops with women tie dyers in Kindia, Guinea, and artisans in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, and collaborated with New York designers to make a zero-waste collection from the fabrics created. The project connected FIT faculty and students to over 300 artisans in West Africa to create models for inclusive, sustainable development through textile arts, education, and entrepreneurship.

Partnering with frontline communities that are protecting, for example, the Amazon rainforest, does more than simply sustain—it protects biodiversity and areas that are sequestering carbon. “So with high value products that incorporate fair trade and clear partnerships into the supply chain, you not only have natural, biodegradable materials, but you have the added bonus of all that biodiversity that those communities are protecting,” she said. “Indigenous communities are five percent of the global population, and they’re protecting 80 percent of the biodiversity in the world…Integrating how we make our materials, our systems and the communities that are sequestering carbon while protecting biodiversity is critically important.”

The need for transparency

In order to ensure fashion’s sustainability and achieve a circular fashion industry, it must be possible to track all the elements of a product from the materials used, chemicals added, production practices, and product use, to the end of life, as well as the social and environmental conditions under which it was made.

Blockchain technology can do this by recording each phase of a garment’s life in a decentralized tamper-proof common ledger. Designer Martine Jarlgaard partnered with blockchain tech company Provenance to create QR codes that, when scanned, show the garment’s whole history. The software platform Eon has also developed a way to give each garment its own digital fingerprint called Circular ID. It uses a digital identifier embedded in the clothing that enables it to be traced for its whole lifecycle.

Transparency is also important because it enables consumers to identify greenwashing when they encounter it. Greenwashing is when companies intentionally deceive consumers or oversell their efforts to be sustainable.

Amendi, a sustainable fashion brand focusing on transparency and traceability, co-founded by Columbia University alumnus Corey Spencer, has begun a campaign to get the Federal Trade Commission to update its Green Guides, which outline the principles for the use of green claims. When the most recent versions of the Green Guides were released in 2012, they did not scrutinize the use of “sustainability” and “organic” in marketing. The use of these terms has exploded since then and unless regulated, could become meaningless or misleading.

What consumers can do

The key to making fashion sustainable is the consumer. If we want the fashion industry to adopt more sustainable practices, then as shoppers, we need to care about how clothing is made and where it comes from, and demonstrate these concerns through what we buy. The market will then respond.

We can also reduce waste through how we care for our clothing and how we discard it.

Here are some tips on how to be a responsible consumer:

  • Buy only what you need
  • Buy from sustainable brands with transparent supply chains
  • Learn how to shop for quality and invest in higher-quality clothing
  • Choose natural fibers and single fiber garments
  • Wear clothing for longer
  • Take care of clothing: wash items less often, repair them so they last. Patagonia operates Worn Wear, a recycling and repair program.
  • Upcycle your unwanted clothes into something new
  • Buy secondhand or vintage; sell your old clothes at Thred Up, Poshmark, or the Real Real.
  • When discarding, pass clothing on to someone who will wear it, or to a thrift shop
  • Rent clothing from Rent the RunwayArmoire or Nuuly

“I think the best piece of clothing is the one that already exists. The best fabric is the fabric that already exists,” said Schiros. “Keeping things in the supply chain in as many loops and cycles as you can is really, really important.”


plastic waves


Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny plastic particles. Officially, they are defined as plastics less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter—smaller in diameter than the standard pearl used in jewelry. There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.

Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Secondarymicroplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles. This breakdown is caused by exposure to environmental factors, mainly the sun’s radiation and ocean waves.

The problem with microplastics is that—like plastic items of any size—they do not readily break down into harmless molecules. Plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose—and in the meantime, wreak havoc on the environment. On beaches, microplastics are visible as tiny multicolored plastic bits in sand. In the oceans, microplastic pollution is often consumed by marine animals.

Some of this environmental pollution is from littering, but much is the result of storms, water runoff, and winds that carry plastic—both intact objects and microplastics—into our oceans. Single-use plastics—plastic items meant to be used just once and then discarded, such as a straw—are the primary source of secondary plastics in the environment.

Microplastics have been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water. Alarmingly, standard water treatment facilities cannot remove all traces of microplastics. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms.

Scientists are still unsure whether consumed microplastics are harmful to human or animal health—and if so, what specific dangers they may pose. Even so, many countries are taking action to reduce microplastics in the environment. A 2017 United Nations resolution discussed microplastics and the need for regulations to reduce this hazard to our oceans, their wildlife, and human health.


The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them. Plastic pollution is most visible in less-wealthy Asian and African nations, where garbage collection systems are often inefficient or nonexistent. But wealthy nations, especially those with low recycling rates, also have trouble properly collecting discarded plastics. Plastic trash has become so ubiquitous it has prompted efforts to write a global treaty negotiated by the United Nations.

How Did this Happen?

Plastics made from fossil fuels are just over a century old. Production and development of thousands of new plastic products accelerated after World War II to the extent that life without plastics would be unimaginable today. Plastics revolutionized medicine with life-saving devices, made space travel possible, lightened cars and jets—saving fuel and lessening pollution—and saved lives with helmets, incubators, and equipment for clean drinking water.

The conveniences plastics offer, however, led to a throw-away culture that reveals the material’s dark side: Today, single-use plastics account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year. Many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers, are used for mere minutes to hours, yet they may persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

Plastics by the Numbers

Some key facts:

  • Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.
  • Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.
  • Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.
  • Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible, and durable. But many of these additives can extend the life of products if they become litter, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.

How Plastics Move around the World

Most of the plastic trash in the oceans, Earth’s last sink, flows from land. Trash is also carried to sea by major rivers, which act as conveyor belts, picking up more and more trash as they move downstream. Once at sea, much of the plastic trash remains in coastal waters. But once caught up in ocean currents, it can be transported around the world.

On Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll in the Pitcairn Group isolated halfway between Chile and New Zealand, scientists found plastic items from Russia, the United States, Europe, South America, Japan, and China. They were carried to the South Pacific by the South Pacific gyre, a circular ocean current.


Once at sea, sunlight, wind, and wave action break down plastic waste into small particles, often less than half a centimer (one-fifth of an inch) across. These so-called microplastics are spread throughout the water column and have been found in every corner of the globe, from Mount Everest, the highest peak, to the Mariana Trench, the deepest trough.

Microplastics are breaking down further into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic microfibers (or the even smaller nanofibers), meanwhile, have been found in municipal drinking water systems and drifting through the air.

Harm to Wildlife

Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics.

Most of the deaths to animals are caused by entanglement or starvation. Seals, whales, turtles, and other animals are strangled by abandoned fishing gear or discarded six-pack rings. Microplastics have been found in more than 100 aquatic species, including fish, shrimp, and mussels destined for our dinner plates. In many cases, these tiny bits pass through the digestive system and are expelled without consequence. But plastics have also been found to have blocked digestive tracts or pierced organs, causing death. Stomachs so packed with plastics reduce the urge to eat, causing starvation.

Plastics have been consumed by land-based animals, including elephants, hyenas, zebras, tigers, camels, cattle, and other large mammals, in some cases causing death.

Tests have also confirmed liver and cell damage and disruptions to reproductive systems, prompting some species, such as oysters, to produce fewer eggs. New research shows that larval fish are eating nanofibers in the first days of life, raising new questions about the effects of plastics on fish populations.

Stemming the Plastic Tide

Once in the ocean, it is difficult—if not impossible—to retrieve plastic waste. Mechanical systems, such as Mr. Trash Wheel, a litter interceptor in Maryland’s Baltimore Harbor, can be effective at picking up large pieces of plastic, such as foam cups and food containers, from inland waters. But once plastics break down into microplastics and drift throughout the water column in the open ocean, they are virtually impossible to recover.

The solution is to prevent plastic waste from entering rivers and seas in the first place, many scientists and conservationists—including the National Geographic Society—say. This could be accomplished with improved waste management systems and recycling, better product design that takes into account the short life of disposable packaging, and reduction in manufacturing of unnecessary single-use plastics.


One Bottle at a Time

We have all seen the photos: birds nesting in piles of garbage along the shore, fish fatally caught in discarded netting, and huge mosaics of debris floating in the ocean. Even more alarmingly, what we see in these poignant images is only a portion of the problem. Approximately half of all plastic pollution is submerged below the ocean surface, much of it in the form of microplastics so small that we may never be able to clean them up completely.

To cut through the enormity of the ocean pollution crisis, one approach is to focus on something recognizable within these images of debris. Identify something you personally have used that may have ended up in the ocean—a water bottle perhaps. Find one in an image and ask yourself, how did it get there?

Plastic is a human-made, synthetic material that was first discovered more than one hundred years ago but did not broadly enter the public sphere until the 1950s. While currently a major culprit in ocean pollution, plastics are not inherently bad for humans or the environment. In fact, in a United Nations (UN) report on combatting the negative effects of plastics, the head of the UN Environment Programme Erik Solheim made a point to acknowledge that plastic is in fact a “miracle material.”

“Thanks to plastics, countless lives have been saved in the health sector, the growth of clean energy from wind turbines and solar panels has been greatly facilitated, and safe food storage has been revolutionized,” Solheim wrote in his introduction. Yet plastic bottles are one of the most common items within marine debris. So how did such a promising material become a symbol of human environmental desecration?

Plastic bottles are a single-use plastic, a product designed to be used only once and then discarded. Single-use plastics also include plastic packaging, for example of meats and fresh produce, which accounts for almost half of all plastic pollution. This type of plastic product is distinct from multi-use plastics, which can also pollute the ocean, but tend to amass less frequently due to their multi-use nature.

For example, refillable bottles can store water in a way that does not produce the repeated waste of a single-use plastic water bottle. Refillable bottles can be made of many materials, including plastic, but last much longer than a single-use bottle and can be recycled when they become old or damaged. For both types of bottles, how they are discarded determines their ultimate resting place and whether they become pollutants of the ocean.

A single-use plastic water bottle was manufactured, filled with water, and likely transported to a store, where it sat on a shelf waiting for a thirsty purchaser. Many of us drink out of plastic bottles several times during an average day, week, or month. Once we are finished with it, we have a choice where we leave that bottle:

  • Recycling bin: Bottles destined for recycling are unlikely to end up in the ocean, in their current form, unless they are mismanaged or lost in transit to a processing facility. However, due to recent limitations in how recyclables are internationally transferred and accepted for processing, many of these bottles will unfortunately end up in landfills rather than recycling facilities.
  • Trash can: These bottles also will not likely end up, in their current form, in the ocean. However, in areas across the globe with poor waste management or a lack of properly sealed landfills, as a bottle breaks down into microplastic particles over time, some particles may seep into the soil and eventually make their way into our waterways, ultimately entering and polluting the ocean.
  • Litter: These bottles may very well be carried by wind, storm water, or other processes to sewers, rivers, lakes, and other waterways that may ultimately deposit the bottle in the ocean.

Multi-use plastic bottles face these same pathways at end of their life—but of course this happens much less frequently since they can be used many times.

National Geographic Explorer Heather J. Koldewey works to empower communities around the world to participate in solving the ocean pollution crisis from single-use plastics via incremental individual actions—including a campaign called One Less, which encourages people to stop using single-use plastic water bottles altogether. One Less is currently based in and focused on London, England and its inhabitants, but anyone can make the choice to use one less single-use bottle.

Once in the ocean, a single- or multi-use bottle moves with the wind and ocean currents as it faces the elements. Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down into microplastic, which gives them plenty of time to sail the seas. After a certain amount of time, much of the debris from the coast will have met an oceanic gyre—a large system of rotating currents. The Pacific Garbage Patch, a widely known icon of ocean pollution, is within one of these gyres.

National Geographic Explorer Jenna Romness Jambeck has described the movement of plastics into such ocean gyres. Her work has influenced testimony to U.S. Congress and inspired discussion in the UN regarding policies that may help mitigate the marine debris crisis. She also co-developed an app to encourage public participation in identifying and cleaning up marine debris, including plastics, enabling citizen-science solutions at the grassroots level.

Specifically, Jambeck published research findings in the journal Science that provide details about the amount of plastic that makes its way into the ocean. Jambeck noted in this publication that the quality of waste management within a country substantially influences its contribution to marine pollution. As an immediate action to combat marine pollution, Jambeck and her colleagues suggest that industrialized countries address the growing use of single-use plastics. According to a 2018 UN report, sixty countries have passed such regulations to curb the use of plastic bags and polystyrene foam (commonly called Styrofoam) products.

Hopefully, future government and community solutions to ocean pollution will move toward an end to the crisis. In the meantime, individuals can get involved in citizen-science initiatives like Jambeck’s Marine Debris Tracker app and make smart choices about how to use and dispose of plastics, particularly the single-use items that dominate marine debris.


Von Lauten zu Worten

Die Entstehung der Sprache (Audio)

Sprache bestimmt unser Wahrnehmen, unser Handeln, und sie begleitet uns das ganze Leben. Mit ihr können wir uns anderen Menschen mitteilen, uns mit ihnen austauschen und unserem grundlegend menschlichen Bedürfnis nach Gemeinsamkeit und Zugehörigkeit Ausdruck verleihen. Sprache beflügelt außerdem unseren Geist, unser Denken und unsere Phantasie. Sie gibt uns Begriffe, um unsere Eindrücke und Wahrnehmungen in Worte zu fassen, sie in gedankliche Bahnen zu lenken, um Ideen zu entwerfen, Wunschträume zu leben, Meinungen zu formulieren und Wissen zu erweitern. Kurz und gut: Sprache ist Teil unserer Identität und sie ist ein Schlüssel zur Welt; zu unserer äußeren ebenso wie zu unserer inneren Welt. Als Werkzeug des Denkens und der Kommunikation hilft sie, uns selbst und andere zu verstehen und das, was unsere Wirklichkeit ausmacht, zu benennen, zu ergründen und zu gestalten.

Die ersten Worte – Für alle Zeit verklungen

Wie aber kam der Mensch zur Sprache? Was waren seine ersten Worte? Fragen, die seit der Antike die Gemüter bewegen. So viel vorweg: Niemals werden wir je wissen, wann und wo unsere Sprache im modernen Sinne entstanden ist. Denn es gibt weder Tonbandaufzeichnungen aus grauer Vorzeit, noch können wir Zeitreisen in die Vergangenheit unternehmen, vorbei an Cäsar, Cleopatra und Sokrates, vorbei an unseren Vorfahren aus der Steinzeit bis hin zur Ära des sogenannten Tier-Mensch-Übergangsfeld, das vielleicht zwei Millionen Jahre, vielleicht auch sieben Millionen Jahre zurück liegt. Hier irgendwo in dieser Phase der Menschwerdung ist die Sprache entstanden. Und mit der Entwicklung des Menschen hat sich seine Sprache entwickelt, ließ sie sich dort nieder, wo immer es den Menschen hinzog, erweiterte und veränderte sie sich, erfand sie sich neu und passte sie sich dem Lauf der Geschichte an. Die ersten Worte aber, die der Mensch jemals sprach, sind für alle Zeit verklungen.

Einer Ursprungsprache auf der Spur – Experimente, Theorien und Mythen

Der Wunsch, Sprache auf ihre Wurzeln zurückzuführen, hat die Menschheit stets bewogen, Nachforschungen anzustellen. Kaiser Friedrich II. (1194 bis 1250) etwa ordnete an, Neugeborene nicht anzureden und nur mit dem Lebensnotwendigsten zu versorgen. Herausfinden wollte er, in welcher Sprache sie denn sprechen würden, das sei dann wohl die Ursprungssprache. Ohne sprachliche, vor allem aber emotionale Zuwendung, fehlten den Babys allerdings sprichwörtlich die Worte, sie starben früh. Der Regent des Heiligen Römischen Reiches war nicht der Einzige, der solch grausame Experimente, teils aus anderen Gründen, mit Kindern durchführte. Seit Hunderten von Jahren wird immer wieder von Mädchen oder Jungen berichtet, die isoliert von jeglichem sozialem Kontakt oder in der Wildnis aufwuchsen. Eine wie auch immer geartete Ursprungssprache konnte man an ihnen freilich nicht ausfindig machen.

Die frühe Sprachwissenschaft konzentrierte sich stattdessen auf Theorien, für die, das ist ein nur allzu häufiges Schicksal der Theorie, der wissenschaftliche Beleg jedoch ausblieb. Zumal von ihren Kritikern mit Spitznamen versehen, muten die Überlegungen einstiger Gelehrter durchaus drollig an. Die «WauWau“-Theorie vertritt zum Beispiel die Auffassung, die Menschen hätten die Geräusche ihrer Umgebung, vor allem Tierlaute, als Lautmalereien nachgeahmt, um die mit ihnen verbundenen Sachverhalte und Objekte zu bezeichnen. Sprache ginge doch eher aus instinktiven Lauten des Schmerzes, der Freude, der Wut oder anderer Gefühlslagen hervor, das behauptet die „PuhPuh“ (oder «Aua“)-Theorie, während die «Hauruck-Theorie“ der festen Überzeugung ist, Sprache sei aus rhythmischen Lautierungen bei der gemeinsamen Arbeit entstanden, die sich zunächst als Gesänge und später dann als Sprache äußerten. Der Beweis: die prosodischen Merkmale aller heutigen Sprachen, also Sprachmelodie und -rhythmus.

Keine dieser Annahmen kann die Wissenschaftsgemeinde wirklich überzeugen. Zwar gehören Lautmalereien wie «Wauwau“ oder «Kikeriki“ zu unserem Sprachrepertoire, doch besitzt jede Sprache davon nur sehr wenige, als dass sich daraus die Entwicklung eines komplexen Wortschatzes und Regelsystems erklären ließe, mit dem sich moderne Sprache, gleich welcher Kultur sie angehört, auszeichnet. Ähnliche Kritik gilt den anderen Theorien, zumal auch sie sich darüber ausschweigen, wie es zu der Entwicklung von etwa 6.000 Sprachen und zigtausend Dialekten kam, die derzeit die Menschheit spricht, und das, obwohl der Hund in China sicher nicht anders bellt als in Brasilien. Die christliche Legende vom Turmbau zu Babel, der zufolge der erzürnte Schöpfer die Sprache der Menschen verwirrte und es darauf hin die Völker in alle Welt versprengte, mag da dem Forschergeist ebenfalls keine befriedigende Antwort sein. 

Der Evolution der Sprache nachspüren – Neuere wissenschaftliche Ansätze

Ob sich die Sprache des Menschen von Naturtönen inspirieren ließ, sie ihm aus Freuden- oder Schmerzensschreien oder gar aus der Kombination von Lauten und Gesten erwuchs, das wird keine Wissenschaft je herausbringen, es fehlt ihr dazu, das wurde schon gesagt, schlicht die Methode. Ohnehin möchte man von einer Ursprungssprache heute nichts mehr wissen. Den Voraussetzungen, Gründen und Folgen von Sprechfähigkeit und Sprachentwicklung für die biologische und kulturelle Entwicklung des Menschen nachzuspüren, das treibt nun die Forschung an. Natur- und Geisteswissenschaften arbeiten dazu Hand in Hand: Paläoanthropologie, Anthropologie, Archäologie, Neurologie, Genetik und Anatomie, auch die Linguistik sitzt, heute klüger, mit im Forscherboot.

Sprache, davon gehen neuere Ansätze aus, entwickelte sich nicht zufällig, sondern in einem komplexen Zusammenspiel gegenseitiger Abhängigkeiten. Äußere Einflüsse wie Klimawandel, veränderte Ökosysteme und die für den Menschen daraufhin notwendigen Anpassungsleistungen spielten ebenso eine Rolle, wie seine Entwicklung vom „aufrecht gehenden“ Lebewesen bis hin zum modernen Menschentypen, der Feuer machen konnte, Werkzeug und Waffen herstellte, auf die Jagd ging, ein geselliges Leben in der Gruppe führte und vom afrikanischen Kontinent aus bis in den hintersten Winkel der Welt zog, um sie zu erobern. Geistig und sozial war der Mensch in seinem Werden stets aufs Neue gefordert. Seine biologische Evolution legte die Grundlagen zur Sprechfähigkeit, dazu gehörten die Entwicklung des Rachenraums infolge der Absenkung von Kehlkopf und Gaumensegel, der Ausbau eines fein abgestimmten Stimmtrakts, die neuronale Kontrolle der Sprechmotorik und ein Gehirn, das all das zu regulieren und zu steuern vermochte. Die kulturelle Evolution des Menschen dagegen trieb seine Sprache in ihrer Bedeutungsentwicklung voran, erweiterte und wandelte sie und ließ sie wiederum Spuren im Gehirn oder besser: im Bewusstsein des werdenden Menschen hinterlassen.

Sprache – Unser gemeinsam geschaffenes kulturelles Erbe

Sprache im heutigen Sinn spricht der Mensch seit höchstens 125.000 Jahren, mindestens 40.000 Jahre. Eine Art Vorsprache dürfte es aber schon früher gegeben haben, davon zeugen fossile Funde und Rekonstruktionen steinzeitlichen Alltags. Nötige Absprachen zur Feindesabwehr oder Nahrungssuche und die Positionierung innerhalb der Gruppe, all das mag die frühen Vertreter unserer Ahnengalerie dazu bewogen haben, sich lautlich zu äußern und ihre Lautäußerungen als ein Instrument sozialer und geistiger Organisation zu kultivieren, bis hin zu einer differenzierten Sprache, die sich im Kampf ums Überleben bewährte.

Als, vor etwa 50.000 Jahren, eine nur kleine Gruppe aus der Spezies „Homo sapiens“ sich aufmachte, Afrika zu verlassen, hatte sie eine komplette Sprache mit Wortschatz und Grammatik im Gepäck. Und vermutlich trug ihr Mitbringsel dazu bei, dass sich der moderne Menschentyp in seiner neuen Lebensumgebung gegenüber den in Asien und Europa schon eingesessenen, sprachlich aber weniger gewandten Artgenossen, den Neandertalern, behaupten und damit seine Sprache zu einer Vielzahl an reich gegliederten Sprachen ausbauen konnte. So tritt das heute spracherwerbende Kind überall auf der Welt ein kulturelles Erbe an, das im Lauf der Menschheitsgeschichte erarbeitet worden ist und das jede Generation mit ihrem Angebot zur Interaktion an die nächste weiter gibt. Es ist faszinierend zu beobachten und eine beachtliche Leistung der Kleinen, wie sie sich (jede) Sprache zu eigen machen. Im Gegensatz zu unseren Vorfahren treffen sie aber auf ein bereits bestehendes Sprachsystem, und schon im Mutterleib sind sie für seine Laute empfänglich. Sprache muss sich nicht erst erfinden, sie ist schon da, doch auch in Zukunft wird sie sich mit uns Menschen verändern.


Wie ist die menschliche Sprache entstanden? (Audio)

Vermutlich ist die Sprache relativ spät entstanden. Aber natürlich gibt es kaum archäologische Zeugnisse. Dennoch gibt es ein paar Anhaltspunkte.

Erste Ansätze: Sprachzentren bilden sich vor 2 Millionen Jahren im Gehirn aus

Wir können von der Paläanthropologie her sagen, dass die Sprachfähigkeit oder anatomische Sprechfähigkeit wahrscheinlich sehr viel älter ist als unsere heutige symbolhafte Sprache.

Sehr allgemein formuliert: Vor zwei Millionen Jahren sieht man schon, dass die Sprachzentren «Broca» und «Wernicke» beginnen sich auszubilden. Das sieht man an Innenausgüssen des Gehirns. Allerdings kennen wir die Funktion nicht, sehen nur die Ausstülpungen dieser Hirnregionen.

Wir wissen zudem heute, dass das Kleinhirn sehr viel wichtiger ist bei der Sprache – da ist die motorische Kontrolle usw. Wir wissen aber auch, dass das Kleinhirn vor zwei Millionen Jahren begonnen hat, sich zu vergrößern. Das heißt also, diese anatomische Sprechfähigkeit könnte sehr viel älter sein als das, was wir heute als moderne Sprache ansehen.

Sprache im Sinne von Informationsaustausch haben Menschenaffen auch, das geht ewig weit zurück in den Primatenstammbaum. Aber die Fähigkeit zur symbolhaften und abstrakten Sprache, also Dinge nicht nur additiv aneinander zu setzen – das können übrigens auch Menschenaffen – sondern etwas Neues zu schaffen, kreativ zu sein, ist wahrscheinlich vor relativ kurzer Zeit entstanden. Also vielleicht mit Auftreten des modernen Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens gibt es schon seit 200.000 Jahren in der heutigen Form, aber Sprache ist sogar noch später anzusiedeln, vielleicht vor 30 oder 40.000 Jahren. Vielleicht fällt das sogar zusammen mit den ersten Kunstwerken, die wir vorher auch nicht kennen – symbolhafte Kunst, symbolhafte Sprache. Und möglicherweise ist das vielleicht eine Genmutation. Das FOXP2-Gen wird dafür verantwortlich gemacht, dass Sprache entstanden ist. Lustigerweise wird das an Mäusen getestet, die ja nun eher schlecht sprechen können – also da muss man mal abwarten, was die Forschung noch erbringt.

Wie kam es zur regionalen Verschiedenheit der Sprachen?

Das kommt natürlich viel später, das kommt durch die Ausbreitung der verschiedenen Menschen über die Erde. Vor 200.000 Jahren steht der Homo sapiens, vor 60.000 Jahren ist schon Australien besiedelt, dann kam der heutige Mensch vor 40.000 Jahren nach Europa – da gab es dann schon die Neandertaler, die möglicherweise auch sprechen konnten. Gefunden wurde ein Zungenbein von Neandertalern, das relativ modern aussieht.

Letztendlich hat Sprache die Funktion der gesellschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung – also muss hier auch das Sozialverhalten beachtet werden. Und Neandertaler hatten ein sehr ausgeprägtes Sozialverhalten – haben Tote begraben, haben Angehörige gepflegt usw.

Die Regionalisierung der Sprache ist erst in den letzten 20.000 Jahren entstanden, durch die Besiedlung der gesamten Erde. Dabei war Nordamerika vor 15.000 Jahren dann das letzte. Oft wird von «ursprünglichen» afrikanischen Sprachen geredet. Da ist nichts ursprünglich, sondern alles hochspezialisiert. Da muss man dann Sprachwissenschaftler fragen, die verfolgen das genauer.

Sprache entwickelt sich natürlich auch viel schneller als biologische Evolution. Biologische Evolution geht ja über die Gene, diese werden von Generation zu Generation weitergegeben – und das dauert dann Tausende von Generationen.

Dann gibt es noch die kulturelle Evolution. Hier wird die Sprache als Transportmedium genutzt und das geht natürlich viel schneller. Das geht von Individuum zu Individuum, das geht von einer Generation zur nächsten und sogar zurück in den Generationen. Das heißt also, allein durch das Medium Sprache ist klar, dass diese Entwicklung auch regional viel schneller geht, als die biologische.


Erste Worte vor 500.000 Jahren

Es ist schwer, die ersten Worte zu finden. Wer nach dem Ursprung der Sprache sucht, kann sich – anders etwa als bei frühen Werkzeugen – nicht auf prähistorische Funde verlassen. Viele Forscher vermuten, Sprache sei eher eine relativ junge Kommunikationsform, die der moderne Mensch vor rund 50.000 bis 100.000 Jahren entwickelt hat, möglicherweise ausgelöst durch eine einzelne genetische Mutation, die zur Sprechfähigkeit geführt hat.

Nun behaupten Forscher des Max-Planck-Instituts für Psycholinguistik im holländischen Nimwegen, unsere Sprachfähigkeit müsse weitaus früher entstanden sein. Demnach konnten schon die gemeinsamen Vorfahren von Mensch und Neandertaler vor rund 500.000 Jahren sprechen, sagen Dan Dediu und Stephen Levinson (Frontiers in Language Sciences, online).

Darauf würden die meisten von ihnen ausgewerteten Studien hindeuten. Möglicherweise enthalten sogar moderne Sprachen noch Elemente der Ur-Sprachen, meinen die Forscher. Die beiden Linguisten glauben sogar, dass diese die heutige Sprachenvielfalt erst möglich gemacht haben. Damit liefern Dediu und Levinson einen neuen Beitrag zu einer lange und intensiv geführten Debatte über den Ursprung der menschlichen Sprache. Die Forscher stützen sich nach eigenen Angaben auf alle verfügbaren archäologischen, anatomischen und genetischen Indizien, die verraten könnten, wann unsere Vorfahren zu sprechen begannen.

Mittlerweile wisse man, schreiben die Wissenschaftler, dass verschiedene Menschenformen, also Neandertaler, moderner Mensch und etwa die jüngst entdeckten Denisova-Menschen, die noch vor rund 40.000 Jahren in Mittelasien lebten, nicht nur miteinander in Kontakt standen, sondern sich auch paarten. Wobei es regionale Unterschiede gibt.

Die Neandertaler haben mehr genetische Gemeinsamkeiten mit den Menschen außerhalb Afrikas als mit den Afrikanern. Auch das Erbgut von Europäern und Asiaten unterscheidet sich deutlich. Generell belegen die Analysen, dass sich Mensch und Neandertaler genetisch stark ähneln. Daraus folgern die Forscher, dass beide ähnliche geistige und kulturelle Fähigkeiten besaßen.

Auch Fossilienfunde stärken diese Überlegungen. Neandertaler, die vor rund 40.000 Jahren im Westen des heutigen Frankreichs lebten, haben sich von modernen Menschen beim Fertigen komplexer Werkzeuge sowie Körperschmuck beeinflussen lassen. Sie waren somit in der Lage, kulturelle Anregungen aufzunehmen. Warum also sollten sie nicht auch schon gesprochen haben? «Neandertaler, Denisova-Menschen und heute lebende moderne Menschen teilten eine ähnliche Fähigkeit für Sprache und Kultur», schreiben Dediu und Levinson.


Die Sprache der Urmenschen

Die Vorfahren des Homo sapiens nutzten noch eine sehr einfache Sprache. Sie kommunizierten hauptsächlich über Gesten, Grunzlaute und Schreie miteinander.

Primaten verständigen sich auf ähnliche Weise. Sie warnen so ihre Artgenossen vor Gefahren oder teilen dem Gegenüber die eigene Gefühlslage mit. Von Wörtern und komplexen Sätzen war die Sprache unserer Vorfahren noch weit entfernt.

Von Lauten zu Worten
Im Laufe der Evolution veränderte sich die Kopfform des Urmenschen. Der Schädel streckte sich, das Hirn wuchs und auch die Zunge und der Kehlkopf nahmen mehr Raum ein als zuvor, ebenso Rachen und Nasenhöhle. Vermutlich war bereits der Homo erectus zumindest anatomisch dazu in der Lage, artikulierte Laute zu produzieren.

Sprachforscher vermuten, dass sich die Sprachfähigkeit des Menschen vor etwa 1,5 Millionen bis 40.000 Jahren herausbildete. Ein genauerer Zeitraum ließ sich bisher nicht bestimmen. Anhand von Fossilien oder urzeitlichen Werkzeugen können Forscher zwar erklären, wie intelligent unsere Vorfahren waren, nicht aber, ob und wie gut sie sprechen konnten.

Möglicherweise konnte bereits Homo erectus sprechen, der vor etwa 1,5 Millionen Jahren lebte. Er hatte immerhin ein größeres Gehirn als andere Menschen vor ihm.

Vermutlich war aber erst der moderne Mensch (Homo sapiens) dazu fähig, zu sprechen. Er tauchte erst vor etwa 150.000 Jahren auf. Die Form und Stellung seines Kehlkopfes gaben ihm die Möglichkeit, mehr Laute hervorzubringen als jeder andere Urzeitmensch.

Der Mensch konnte nicht vom einen auf den anderen Tag sprechen. Diese Fähigkeit hat er erst nach und nach im Laufe der Zeit erworben. Die Sprache verschaffte ihm einen evolutionären Vorteil: Er musste sich fortan nicht mehr nur mit Gesten verständigen, die Hände konnte er nun für andere Dinge nutzen.

Was den Menschen vom Tier unterscheidet

Sei es über Duftstoffe, Laute oder Gesten – die Lebewesen auf der Erde haben ihre Wege gefunden, miteinander zu kommunizieren. Ihre Kommunikation beschränkt sich jedoch meist auf Überlebenswichtiges: die Fortpflanzung, die Futtersuche oder die Warnung vor Feinden.

2005 fanden die britischen Forscher Karen McComb und Stuart Semple in ihren Untersuchungen heraus, dass Bonobos sich mit 38 verschiedenen Lauten verständigen, meist mit Schreien.

Biologen der Universität St. Andrews entdeckten 2010, dass der Orang-Utan 64 unterschiedliche Gesten verwendet, um mit seinen Artgenossen zu kommunizieren. Zwar können manche Menschenaffenarten Gesten und Schreie kombinieren – doch für einen Roman mit tausend Seiten oder ein romantisches Gedicht reicht das nicht aus.

Der Kreativität sind keine Grenzen gesetzt

Das Lautrepertoire der deutschen Sprache besteht zwar nur aus 40 verschiedenen Lauten. Mit diesen kann der Mensch aber zahlreiche Wörter formen und so nahezu alles ausdrücken, was er möchte.

Nach Schätzungen des Duden gibt es im Deutschen zwischen 300.000 und 500.000 Wörter. Eine genaue Zahl gibt es nicht, weil der Wortschatz sich stetig wandelt. Es kommen neue Wörter hinzu, wie «Flashmob» oder «Shitstorm«, andere verschwinden oder werden nur sehr selten benutzt, wie «Stickhusten» oder «Mohammedanismus».

Etwa 50.000 Wörter kann ein Mensch in Deutschland im Schnitt mühelos verstehen. In seinem aktiven Wortschatz hat er zwischen 12.000 und 16.000 Wörter. Das sind die Vokabeln, deren Bedeutung er kennt und die er sicher anwenden kann.

Mit diesem Handwerkszeug kann ein Mensch ohne Probleme neue Wörter erfinden, die zuvor noch niemand gesagt hat. Er kann neue Theorien entwickeln, fantasievolle Geschichten erzählen sowie anderen seine Wünsche und Gefühle mitteilen.

Um eine Sprache zu erwerben, muss ein Mensch nicht einmal besonders intelligent sein. Sofern er geistig oder körperlich nicht so stark eingeschränkt ist, dass die Sprachentwicklung darunter leidet, wird er die Sprache, mit der er aufwächst, mit Eintritt in die Pubertät beherrschen.

Die Grammatik bringt Ordnung in die Sprache

Wer spricht, reiht nicht bloß einzelne Wörter aneinander. Ein kurzer, aber falscher Satz wie «Schöner heute Tag ein ist» lässt sich noch einigermaßen verstehen. Bei längeren Sätzen ist das schon schwieriger.

Je länger und verschachtelter der Satz, desto mehr ist er auf eine Struktur angewiesen, eine Grammatik. Gäbe es keine Regeln, wäre es kaum möglich, dass zwei Menschen sich gepflegt unterhalten. Das Gegenüber wäre nicht vernünftig zu verstehen.

Die Grammatik einer Sprache gibt vor, wie die Wörter angeordnet werden müssen, damit der Satz am Ende Sinn ergibt. Eine Grammatik kann komplex sein wie im Lateinischen oder simpel wie im Englischen.

Das Lateinische beispielsweise unterscheidet in seinen Wortformen sechs verschiedene Fälle (Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ, Akkusativ, Vokativ und Ablativ). Das Englische hat nur für den Genitiv eine eigene Regel – das Genitiv-S.

Die Grammatik bestimmt, in welcher Reihenfolge die Wörter in einem Satz stehen dürfen, und ob etwa die Endungen einzelner Wörter verändert werden müssen, um etwas möglichst eindeutig auszudrücken.

Sprachen, die einen gemeinsamen Ursprung haben, also der gleichen Sprachfamilie angehören, haben eine ähnliche Grammatik. Italienisch, Spanisch und Französisch stammen etwa aus der Familie der romanischen Sprachen. Sie alle entwickelten sich aus dem Lateinischen. Wer Italienisch spricht, dem fällt es meist leichter, auch Spanisch zu verstehen.

Das Deutsche stammt – wie das Niederländische und Englische – aus der germanischen Sprachfamilie. Vor allem das Niederländische können viele Menschen, die Deutsch als Muttersprache sprechen, gut verstehen, auch wenn sie es nie gelernt haben.

Die Sprachen aus zwei verschiedenen Sprachfamilien unterscheiden sich hingegen meist sehr deutlich, sowohl was die Vokabeln anbelangt als auch die Grammatik.

Wenn ein Deutscher einem anderen Deutschen den Weg erklärt, verwendet er Wörter wie links und rechts. Ein Aborigine erklärt einem anderen Aborigine den Weg, indem er Himmelsrichtungen angibt. Ohne Kompass wären diese Informationen für viele von uns kaum von Nutzen. Ein Aborigine dagegen findet sich mit den Angaben bestens zurecht.


tiny BEEings – great food

Why bees are essential to people and planet

The greatest pollinators

Bees are part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival.

They provide high-quality food—honey, royal jelly and pollen — and other products such as beeswax, propolis and honey bee venom.

As the landmark 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) notes, “Sacred passages about bees in all the worlds’ major religions highlight their significance to human societies over millennia.”

Beekeeping also provides an important source of income for many rural livelihoods. According to IPBES, the western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator globally, and more than 80 million hives produce an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of honey annually.

And pollinators contribute directly to food security. According to bee experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a third of the world’s food production depends on bees.

When animals and insects pick up the pollen of flowers and spread it, they allow plants, including many food crops, to reproduce. Birds, rodents, monkeys and even people pollinate, but the most common pollinators are insects, and among them, bees.

Bees at risk from pesticides, air pollution

But sadly, bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities.

Bee populations have been declining globally over recent decades due to habitat loss, intensive farming practices, changes in weather patterns and the excessive use of agrochemicals such as pesticides. This in turn poses a threat to a variety of plants critical to human well-being and livelihoods.

Air pollution is also thought to be affecting bees. Preliminary research shows that air pollutants interact with scent molecules released by plants which bees need to locate food. The mixed signals interfere with the bees’ ability to forage efficiently, making them slower and less effective at pollination.

While the vast majority of pollinator species are wild, including more than 20,000 species of bees, the mass breeding and large-scale transport of pollinators can pose risks for the transmission of pathogens and parasites. According to the IPBES report, better regulation of their trade can decrease the risk of unintended harm.

Taking urgent action

But there are positive signs.

In May 2018, the European Union upheld a partial ban on three insecticides known as neonicotinoids to mitigate the lethal threat they pose to bees and their trickle-down effect on pollination as a whole.

This August, when world leaders gather in Kunming, China, at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), they are expected to finalize the post-2020 biodiversity framework, which calls for, amongst other things, the reduction of pesticides by at least two thirds by 2030.

“Increasing crop and regional farm diversity as well as targeted habitat conservation, management or restoration, is one way of combating climate change and promoting biodiversity,” says UN Environment Programme (UNEP) biodiversity specialist Marieta Sakalian. “Governments need to take the lead.”

It is precisely to encourage governments, organizations, civil society and concerned citizens to protect pollinators and their habitats that the UN has declared 20 May World Bee Day.

World Bee Day raises awareness of the essential role bees, and other pollinators play in keeping people and the planet healthy. The date coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard while needing so little attention.

For further information please contact Marieta Sakalian, Senior Programme Management Officer and Coordinator for Healthy and Productive Ecosystems at UNEP.

This World Bee Day, join the conversation on #WorldBeeDay, and do your part to #Savethebees

Here are some actions you can take to help preserve bees and other pollinators:

  • Plant nectar-bearing flowers such as marigolds or sunflowers for decorative purposes on balconies, terraces, and gardens
  • Buy honey and other hive products from your nearest local beekeeper
  • Raise awareness among children and adolescents on the importance of bees and express your support for beekeepers
  • Set up a pollinator farm on your balcony, terrace, or garden
  • Preserve old meadows, which feature a more diverse array of flowers, and sow nectar-bearing plants
  • Cut grass on meadows only after the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming
  • Use pesticides that do not harm bees, and spray them in windless weather, either early in the morning or late at night, when bees withdraw from blossoms



With its black and gold stripes, translucent wings and signature furry body, the bee is a common sight in woods and gardens around the world. But do you know how important this creature is to our planet, and the threats it is facing?

Often seen buzzing from flower to flower, bees have been around for millions of years. But they’re in severe decline and a world without these winged invertebrates is sadly becoming more of a possibility. These tiny creatures are an integral part of most ecosystems and if they became extinct, the planet could be in serious trouble.

Why are bees important?

Bees have an important part to play in maintaining our planet. We need them to pollinate the food we need to survive and many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for lots of other wildlife. 

Perfect pollinators 

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, approximately 80% of all flowering plants are specialised for pollination by animals, mostly insects like bees. Pollination is crucial because many of our vegetables, fruits and the crops that feed our livestock rely on it to be fertilised, so without it, we could go hungry.

While there are other methods of pollination, including by other animals and wind, wild bees can pollinate on a much bigger scale. Estimates suggest it would cost UK farmers an incredible £1.8bn a year to manually pollinate their crops. 

Honey makers

Honey bees, Apis mellifera, produce honey. This sickly sweet golden liquid is valuable not only for its saccharine taste, but also due to its medicinal properties and the fact it is so energy dense.

Why are bees disappearing?

Bees are in decline on a global scale as they face many threats, some of which threaten our trees and woods too.

Habitat loss

An increase in urban developments and invasive farming methods means that many of the areas bees once called home no longer exist. In the wild, several species of bee nest in hollow trees, so as more trees are destroyed, so are the bees’ homes. Wildflower meadows and other areas abundant in flowering plants are also in serious decline, reducing an important food resource for bees. 

Climate change

Climate change and the extreme weather it can cause disrupts bee nesting behaviour and alters the normal seasonal timings, so flowers may bloom earlier or later than expected. Planting more trees is helping to mitigate some of the effects of climate change, but it’s still a serious issue that could prove deadly for many of our bees. 

Parasites and diseases

Parasites and diseases are another big threat. The varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is a parasitic mite which clings to the back of the honey bee, passing diseases and viruses to it and gradually draining its strength.

Invasive species

Some non-native species can cause havoc for our native species – the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax, for example, eats honey bees.

How you can help bees

Grow bee-friendly flowers

One of the easiest ways to help out bees is by planting lots of bee-friendly flowers. Dedicate an area of your garden if you have one – even a single window box or pot on a balcony can be a lifeline. Bees favour a wide range of flowering plants, including foxglove, birdsfoot trefoil and red clover. Plant them easily with our seedball mix tailored to attract bees – you don’t need to be green-fingered, just scatter them and watch them grow!

Stop using pesticides

You can make a big difference to bees and other wildlife by stopping using pesticides in your garden. Some pests provide food for crucial pollinators, so leaving them to be controlled naturally is the best choice if you want to help save bees.

Help a bee in need

Often during summer you can spot a solitary bee unmoving on the ground. Chances are it’s exhausted and in need of a quick pick-me-up. You can help out a tired bee by mixing two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water and placing it near the bee so it can help itself to this homemade energy drink.

Provide shelter for bees

Like most invertebrates, bees need shelter to nest and hibernate in. You can create your own or buy a ready-made bee hotel – just hang it up in a sunny sheltered spot and watch bees filling the tubes during the spring and summer months.


Why are Bees Important?

Save the bees is a common plea — not just from Friends of the Earth. You’ve likely seen it plastered on t-shirts, on mugs, and on images online. But why are bees so important? 

The simplest answer is that bees pollinate food crops. Pollination occurs when insects — like bees and other pollinators — travel from one plant to the next, fertilizing the plant. Bees have little hairs all over their body that attract pollen. When the pollen from a flower sticks to a bee, it then travels with the bee to its next destination. When a bee lands on the next plant or flower, the pollen is distributed which results in cross-pollination. This process is what later yields fruits, vegetables, and seeds. 

Bees are one of the world’s most important pollinators for food crops — each day we rely on bees and other pollinators. In fact, out of every three bites we consume relies on pollination. Yet bee populations continue to decline due to the rampant use of pesticides and other environmental factors — like climate change. We cannot stress how important bees are — not only to people, but to the overall environment. 

Reasons Why Bees Are Important

A vast majority of flowering plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. As we mentioned above, fruits and vegetables all rely on pollinators transporting pollen from one flower to the next. But the value of bees goes beyond just supplying countless fruits and vegetables. Bees are also responsible for nuts, coffee, and even spices — but we can get to that shortly. Here are the top 5 reasons why bees are important, they: 

  • Help produce 1/3 of our food supply
  • Help provide ½ of the world’s fibers, oils, and other raw materials
  • Help create many medicines
  • Provide food for wildlife
  • Help prevent soil erosion
Why Are Bees Important To Humans

Could you imagine walking into your grocery store and not seeing the shelves lined with food? There would be few fresh fruits or vegetables. There would be no products containing honey, almonds, coffee, and chocolate! Even milk and beef would be in short supply. That’s right — pollinators like bees are responsible for plants that feed cattle — like alfalfa.   Pollinators are responsible for an extensive amount of the foods that we consume. Pollinators (including moths, flies, beetles, birds, bats and more) are also  part of maintaining the lungs of our planet. Pollinators help the growth of many trees as well as other plants! They are truly a keystone species – a vital part of many ecosystems. 

So taking a step back to look at why bees are important to humans, the answer is very clear. Bees are a cornerstone of our food system and along with other pollinators, they help support the plants that provide the air we breathe.

Why Are Bees Important To The Environment

Nearly 90% of flowering plant species on the planet require pollinators to aid in reproduction. This not only provides a food system for wildlife, but it also creates shelter for animals. 

Why Are Honey Bees Important

There are over 20,000 bee species across the globe with 4,000 of them being native to the U.S. One of the most notable bees is the honey bee. 

The honeybee is responsible for nearly a third of crop pollination. But these hardworking insects produce more than that! They have six hive products — pollen, honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, and venom. These are all collected and used for nutritional and medical purposes by humans.  

What Will Happen If Bees Keep Dying?

There is no way to overstate the importance of bees. 

The wind does play a role in pollination, so we cannot overlook the fact that we would have some food to eat — just nothing that would be tasty to eat day in and day out. The wind is responsible for the pollination of corn and wheat. But the majority of our nutritious foods are bee-assisted. No almonds. No apples. No cherries. The list goes on and on. Humans would lose a healthy, vibrant diet. 

Then what? It’s possible that advancements in technology would find ways to pollinate by “hand” — or by drone — we really don’t know what the future holds. But hand-pollinating is expensive. And guess where those costs would be absorbed? By consumers! IF you could get your hands on fresh fruits and vegetables — it would cost you an arm and a leg. 

Bee declines warn us that we are on a toxic track. The same pesticides that are killing bees threaten many other insects, which are the basis of our ecosystems.  And these toxic chemicals contaminate the air and water.  They even linger in soil for months or years, harming the vital soil communities we need to grow our food. If we step up to save the bees, it means that we’ll be saving so many other creatures, too. But we know that if we keep losing our bees, we’ll be living in a world with troubles greater than paying $50 for an orange.



The vast majority of plant species– almost 90%, in fact– rely on pollinators to reproduce. Pollination is the process by which pollinators help plants to produce fruit (technically anything with seeds on the inside, so that includes things we normally think of as vegetables, like cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes) by transporting pollen from one flower to another. There are approximately 200,000 different species of animals around the world that act as pollinators. Of these, about 1,000 are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, and the rest are invertebrates, including flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species.

Pollinators help plants survive, and plants:

  • Produce ⅓ of our food supply by giving us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • Provide ½ of the world’s oils, fibers (such as the cotton used to make clothes), and other raw materials
  • Are used to create many medicines
  • Provide food and cover for wildlife
  • Keep waterways clean
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Produce the oxygen we breathe
  • Absorb CO2, counteracting global climate change

Globally, pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than 1,200 crops. 87 of the leading 115 food crops, or about 75%, depend on pollinators. Every year, pollinators contribute more than $217 billion to the global economy, and $24 billion to the US economy. If we consider the indirect products of plants, such as milk and beef from cows fed on alfalfa, the value of pollinator services in the US would increase to an incredible $40 billion.



Honey bees are among the most numerous and efficient pollinator species in the world. Considering that the average honey bee can visit more than 2,000 flowers in one day, these bees greatly increase the chances of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable.

Honey bees are the species most commonly used as commercial pollinators in the US. They are managed and used to pollinate over 100 crops grown in North America, and contribute $15 billion to the US economy every year. Many crops, such as almonds, which contribute $4.8 billion to the US industry each year, rely on honey bees for more than 90% of their pollination.

But honey bees don’t only pollinate crops– they also pollinate wild and native plants, thus contributing to all the environmental and societal benefits attributed to pollinators in general above.



Honey bees are clearly vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora. We need bees to keep our crops and earth healthy, but in recent years their numbers have been decreasing by the billions. This decline has been linked to several factors, including parasites such as varroa mites, which bite bees and infect them with fatal viruses (read more about varroa mites here!), the use of pesticides which poison bees, and monoculture farming, which prevents them from having a varied diet.

Last year, in 2016, 44% of managed beehives in the US died. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Overwintering loss rates have increased from the historical rate of 10-15% to approximately 30%, and beekeepers have collectively lost approximately 10 million beehives.



Did you know that there are 4,000 different bee species native to North America? These bees vary widely, from cuckoo bees to bumble bees. Some are smaller than an eighth of an inch, while others are more than an inch long. They range in color from metallic green or blue to dark brown or black to striped red or orange.

Native bees are often overlooked because they aren’t domesticated, or because some of them don’t look like «traditional» bees (fuzzy, black and yellow). But these bees are the original residents of North America, who quietly and industriously pollinate our crops side by side with the honey bee.

Native bees might not spend much time in the spotlight, but they make a huge contribution to our environment and our economy. In 2009, the crop benefits from native insect pollination in the United States were valued at more than $9 billion dollars.

Sadly, native bees are struggling just as much as honey bees. Many species are endangered (read more about their endangerment here), and a few have already gone extinct. The factors that harm managed honey bees also harm wild bees, such as parasites, pathogens, and poor nutrition due to monoculture farms. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences last year found that wild bees may be disappearing in California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt, the Mississippi River Valley and other key farm regions. Between 2008 and 2013, modeled bee abundance declined across 23% of US land area.

Now more than ever we must find new and innovative ways to protect these national treasures and preserve the balance of our ecosystem.


Three Ways to Help the Bees From Home

Are you feeling cooped up and restless during the COVID-10 outbreak? One way to take a break and make a difference is by helping the bees and the environment… from your home! Research shows that being outside can help improve your physical health and mental outlook. Even better, helping our furry friends during their peak season of busy-bee activity will substitute positive vibes for the constant negative news stream and relieve tinges of cabin fever – a win-win! Luckily, you can do three simple things from your backyard (or even your small apartment balcony) to help our local pollinators! 

Put Out a Water Feeder for Bees

Bees are extremely busy at this time of year. Forager bees visit up to 2,000 flowers a day and can fly up to six miles a day! Bees drink water like all creatures, but they also need water to bring back to their hive or nest. Native bees need water for mud, which they nest with. Honey bees use water to dilute honey, feed babies, and regulate the temperature within the hive. They do the renowned waggle dance to communicate to their sisters where good nectar sources are located, but they can also spread the word on a good water source that way as well. 

One great way to help hydrate our thirsty pollinator friends is to provide a bee bath or bee water feeder! Take a shallow dish or bowl, put some rocks or marbles in it, and add just enough fresh water that the tops of the stones are not submerged. If you have a garden, you can put your bowl or dish on top of an upside-down flower pot somewhere protected and shady. If you don’t have a garden, set your dish outside wherever you are able. Change the water frequently and clean the bee bath weekly! Here is a great example. 


  • Shallow dish or bowl
  • Stones or marbles
  • Fresh water
  • Optional: plant pot (as a base for the dish) 

Plant Pollinator-Friendly Plants

Another way to help is to cultivate a bee-friendly garden. Bees are at their busiest right now and they can use all the nectar and pollen they can find! To start, learn about your area’s microclimate. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Map to see where plants will thrive in your space. Planting native plants and flowers is key for attracting bees! 

Do you want to ONLY eat kale all day every day? Like us, bees love a diversity of food to eat! Planting a variety of plants is a great way to attract many types of pollinators. This resource from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources has all you need to know on how to plant a successful bee garden in California! Some fan-favorite plants are lavender, lilacs, clover, honeysuckle, bee balm, aster, buddleia, (aka butterfly flowers, but bumblebees love them too), sunflowers, and poppies. Bees also love easy-to-grow herbs like sage, rosemary, oregano, mint, chives, fennel, and thyme! 

Low on space or resources? Even a balcony in a busy urban area is a promising location for flowers! To maximize space and minimize cost, consider plants that have both nectar and pollen such as coneflower, thyme, or blanketflower. Your local pollinators will appreciate whatever you can provide! 

Another thing to do is to relax on the weeding! Some weeds do an excellent job of supporting wildlife; lawn clovers and dandelions are quite popular for pollinators. Oh, and remember to stay away from using pesticides

Find out how to avoid seeds with pesticides and where to acquire seeds here!

Provide Homes for Native/Wild Bees

Honey bees get a lot of media attention, but native or wild bees are struggling quite a lot too. North America has around 4,000 native bee species and according to the Center of Biological Diversity, 1 in 4 native bee species in North America is currently at risk of extinction! One of the greatest hurdles that native bees face is habitat loss. Honey bees can live with up to 50,000 bees in a hive, whereas almost every native bee species is solitary and prefers to live and nest alone. 

You can easily provide a place for native bees to live! Most native bee habitats are in the ground or in other cavities, like a rolled-up leaf or a hollowed-out piece of wood. Leave a small section of your available landscape unmulched for ground-nesting bees! Another great way to help these important creatures is by making a bee house. One popular way to make these is by drilling holes in a block of wood, but make sure to replace them every year, as the bees nest in them by creating mud walls to keep their larvae safe. You could also leave a small area of the garden completely undisturbed to let nature take its course! 


blue beauty

what a wonder it is

coming from the sea

bizarre as they seem

and dangerous maybe

I wish I will see

no more plastics

on the beach

but loving strange things

known as Physalia physalis

chirigotas, cuartetos, comparsas y coros – calles de música y arte

Carnaval de Cádiz


Carnaval de Cádiz 2023. De Interés Turístico InternacionalDel 16 al 26 de febrero. La ciudad entera se vuelca con el carnaval, es una ocasión perfecta para conocerla y disfrutar del ingenio y la gracia de los gaditanos.

La música carnavalesca se oye por cualquier rincón de la ciudad, se ultiman los detalles de los disfraces (en Cádiz se conocen como «tipo»), algunos de ellos verdaderas obras de arte y el gaditano vive con toda su alma uno de los acontecimientos lúdicos más esperados, quizá de los carnavales españoles el que tiene una imagen más jocosa y divertida.

Frente a la espectacularidad de otros carnavales, la imagen jocosa y divertida del Carnaval de Cádiz lo convierten en una fiesta única, que merece la pena conocer. Durante estos días no faltan otros espectáculos para que la fiesta en Cádiz sea completa.

El Concurso Oficial de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas comenzará el 17 de enero 
La Gran Final del Gran Teatro Falla se celebrará el 17 de febrero.

Las cuatro modalidades participantes -coros, comparsas, chirigotas y cuartetos-, de las tres categorías -adulto, juvenil e infantil-, presentarán sus coplas ante un jurado para llegar a la Gran Final. Al finalizar la Gran Final comienza la fiesta en la calle.


Las Chirigotas. Están compuestas por aproximadamente 12 personas, clasificadas en: Tenores, Segundas y Altos. Los instrumentos que normalmente utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra; además de aquéllos que puedan corresponderse con el tipo. El repertorio es el mismo que el de las Comparsas: Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Siendo su fuerte los Cuplés. Suelen ser las agrupaciones más divertidas pues utilizan con frecuencia la sátira y el doble sentido.

Las Comparsas. Cuentan con aproximadamente 14 componentes, clasificados en: Tenores, Segundas, Octavillas y Contraaltos. Los principales instrumentos que utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra, además de acompañarse con otros relacionados con el tipo.Su repertorio se compone de Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Destacando los Pasodobles. Son las agrupaciones con apariencia más seria, aunque sus letras no están en absoluto exentas de aspectos críticos y reivindicativos.

Los Coros. El Coro es la agrupación que cuenta con más miembros, aproximadamente cuarenta y cinco personas. Sus componentes suelen clasificarse en Bajos, Segundas, Tenores y Orquesta. Entre los instrumentos que utilizan figuran laúdes, guitarras, bandurrias, así como otros en función del tipo. El repertorio suele estar compuesto por: presentación, tangos, cuplés, y popurrí; siendo los tangos lo más característicos de estas agrupaciones.

Los Cuartetos. Agrupación de tres a cinco componentes. Su repertorio consta de Presentación, Parodia, Cuplés y Popurrí. El plato fuerte de los cuartetos es la Parodia, en la cual representan una historia que suele estar relacionada con el tipo. Como instrumentos sólo cuentan con parejas de palos, con los que se acompañan durante el repertorio, sirviendo además para coordinarlos al cantar. Es una agrupación muy complicada, al tener que actuar con el objeto de hacer reír al público.



El Disfraz es el verdadero rey del carnaval. Bien de forma individual, en pareja, o en grupo; disfrazarse es casi obligado, sobre todo el primer sábado de carnaval. Puedes comprar uno en algunas de las tiendas que se dedican casi en exclusiva a este negocio. Los momentos ideales para lucir tu disfraz son el primer sábado de Carnaval y en cualquiera de las cabalgatas que se celebran.

Carrusel de Coros

Los carruseles de coros se celebran los días festivos del carnaval, tradicionalmente alrededor de la plaza de abastos. Los coros cantan sobre bateas y ofrecen sus tangos a las miles de personas que abarrotan la plaza. El éxito de los carruseles está provocando que se abran nuevos recorridos por otras calles y plazas de la ciudad durante la semana. Si visita Cádiz el primer domingo de Carnaval, no deje de acercarse a presenciarlos, nunca antes de la una de la tarde, y podrá disfrutar de varias horas de alegría. En los numerosos bares de los alrededores podrá saborear los típicos productos de la tierra y hacer un descanso entre las actuaciones.


Dos son las cabalgatas que se celebran durante los carnavales. La del primer domingo recorre la avenida de entrada a la ciudad y congrega a miles de visitantes en un espectáculo lleno de colorido y alegría. Se ha calculado que más de 100.000 personas, entre gaditanos y foráneos, invaden la avenida de acceso a la ciudad, convirtiéndose, muchas veces, en personajes activos en la representación. Este incesante desfile de carrozas, grupos de disfraces y agrupaciones, necesita más de 4 horas en recorrer los, aproximadamente, 3.500m. que abarca su itinerario.La segunda cabalgata, conocida como la “Cabalgata del Humor” se celebra el último domingo y recorre el casco histórico, con la más bullanguera muestra de disfraces y participación callejera que pueda verse.


Las llamadas agrupaciones “ilegales” o, también denominadas, “familiares”, nacieron hace varios años como una forma más de participación popular en el Carnaval. Multitud de charangas compuestas por grupos de amigos, compañeros de trabajo, peñas, familias, etc. rivalizan con las agrupaciones “oficiales en sus repertorios.La puerta del Edificio de Correos, en la plaza de las Flores, se convierte durante el Carnaval en el auténtico “Teatro Falla” de estas agrupaciones.


ON is IN

Why cycling is great for your legs, lungs, immune system and mind, plus 11 other great benefits of life on two wheels!

To those already engrossed in the cycling world, the benefits of cycling will already be abundantly clear, but for anyone who needs a reason to get out on the bike here’s a list of some of the biggest perks.  

The bonuses to cycling – including physical health benefits of cycling, mental health benefits of cycling, and an almost guaranteed broadening of your social circle – are as numerous as the beautiful roads you can find.

If you are thinking of starting cycling, now is the perfect time to make some hefty savings. Our best Black Friday bike deals page is pack with deals and discounts across all things cycling to get you going for less. 

But when it comes to picking a new hobby, there are of course plenty of options out in the world to weigh up, so here’s why we think cycling is the best:


study by the YMCA showed that people who had a physically active lifestyle had a wellbeing score 32 per cent higher than inactive individuals.

There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal such as completing your first 100-mile ride).

Cycling combines physical exercise with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride solo – giving you time to process worries or concerns, or you can ride with a group which broadens your social circle.

Former Hour Record holder Graeme Obree has suffered from depression through much of his life, and told us: “Getting out and riding will help [people suffering with depression]… Without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.»


Dr. David Nieman and his colleagues at Appalachian State University studied 1000 adults up to the age of 85. They found that exercise had huge benefits on the health of the upper respiratory system – thus reducing instances of the common cold.

Nieman said: “People can knock down sick days by about 40 percent by exercising aerobically on most days of the week while at the same time receiving many other exercise-related health benefits.”

Professor Tim Noakes, of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also tells us that mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing production of essential proteins and waking up lazy white blood cells.

Why choose the bike? Cycling to work can reduce the time of your commute, and free you from the confines of germ infused buses and trains.

There is a but. Evidence suggests that immediately after intense exercise, such as an interval training session, your immune system is lowered – but adequate and effective recovery after cycling such as eating and sleeping well can help to reverse this.


The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, is ‘calories out must exceed calories in’. So you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Cycling burns calories: between 400 and 1000 an hour, depending on intensity and rider weight.

Of course, there are other factors: the make-up of the calories you consume affects the frequency of your refuelling, as does the quality of your sleep and of course the amount of time you spend burning calories will be influenced by how much you enjoy your chosen activity.

Assuming you enjoy cycling, you’ll be burning calories. And if you eat a healthy diet that creates a calorie deficit (one that is controlled and does not put you at risk of long-term health conditions, we stress) you should lose weight.


The resistance element of cycling means that it doesn’t just burn fat: it also builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Muscle is leaner than fat, and people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.

To be clear – you won’t end up with quads like a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack. But you will develop a nice toned derriere.


If you decide to cycle to work, you’ve got a great excuse to add a couple of extra snacks to your day.

Since a half hour ride to work should be burning between 200 and 500 calories, you’ve got a license to enjoy a smug second breakfast at your desk.

If you’re serious about burning fat, you could do your morning ride fasted (sans breakfast) – but that’s mainly a habit reserved for the most dedicated of riders, and it’s a training tool best used with care, and in moderation – to avoid negative effects on your health.


You won’t be alone if this point seems contradictory to common sense. But studies have suggested that people who ride a bike are actually exposed to fewer dangerous fumes than those who travel by car.

study by the Healthy Air Campaign, Kings College London, and Camden Council, saw air pollution detectors fitted to a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian and a cyclist using a busy route through central London.

The results showed that the driver experienced five times higher pollution levels than the cyclist, as well as three and a half more than the walker and two and a half times more than the bus user. Long story short: the cyclist won.


Cycling raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping round your body, and it burns calories, limiting the chance of your being overweight. As a result, it’s among a selection of forms of exercise recommended by the NHS as being healthy ways to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

New evidence was presented in the form of a study conducted by the University of Glasgow, earlier this year. Researchers studied over 260,000 individuals over the course of five years – and found that cycling to work can cut a riders risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half. The full study can be read here.

Dr. Jason Gill of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences commented: “Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes.»


Many of the upshots we discuss when we talk about the benefits of cycling are exercise related. Reckon it might be easier to just go for a run?

Running is weight bearing – and therefore injury rates are higher. Cycling, by contrast to running, is not weight bearing.

When scientists compared groups of exercisers – long distance runners and cyclists, they found the runners suffered 133-144 per cent more muscle damage, 256 per cent more, inflammation and DOMS 87 per cent higher.

Whilst cycling is less likely to result in an overuse injury, they can still crop up. A professional bike fit is a good idea – skimping here is a false economy if you end up spending more cash on physio.

The lack of weight bearing also means that cycling does not do as much to increase bone density as other sports – so it’s a good idea to add a little strength training in to your programme.


Compare these three experiences:

  1. Get in the car, sit in traffic, queue to get into the car park, park, pay to park, arrive
  2. Walk to bus stop, wait for bus, complain about bus being late, get on bus (pay), watch as it takes you round-the-houses, arrive, about half a mile from your destination
  3. Get on the bike, filter past traffic, lock the bike, arrive

Short journeys contribute massively to global pollution levels, and often involve a fair amount of stationary staring at the bumper in front. Get on the bike, and you’ll save on petrol or cash on public transport, as well as time.


In the world of car sat navs and Google maps, sometimes there’s just not that much incentive to sharpen your natural sense of direction (however superior or otherwise it may be).

Unless you’ve invested in a GPS cycling computer with mapping capabilities, then getting out and exploring the lanes can provide essential exercise for your internal mapping capabilities, giving you (with practice) a better idea of which way is West.


Most of us know that sex is a good thing, but not everyone knows that it’s actually good for your overall health. In fact, regular sex could indeed prolong your life.

Dr Michael Roizen, who chairs the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, says: “The typical man who has 350 orgasms a year, versus the national average of around a quarter of that, lives about four years longer.” Similar findings were revealed for women.

So can cycling improve your sex life? Well – it builds some rather essential muscle groups. Dr Matthew Forsyth, urologist and keen cyclist from Portland, Oregon, commented: “All these muscles [worked on the bike] are used during intercourse. The better developed these muscles, the longer and more athletic intercourse will be.”

Add in that – thanks to spending plenty of time showing off all the lumps and bumps in skintight lycra (and occasionally double-oh-AND-seven) – cyclists tend to be fairly comfortable in their own skin, and you’ve got a recipe for success.


It probably isn’t rocket science that tiring yourself out on the bike will improve your sleep – but now it’s been proven. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied men and women aged 20 to 85 over a period of 35 years, and found that a drop in fitness of 2 per cent for men and 4 per cent for women resulted in sleep problems.

Dr Rodney Dishman was one of the lead authors, and commented: «The steepest decline in cardiorespiratory fitness happens between ages 40 and 60. This is also when problems of sleep duration and quality are elevated.»

Looking for causes behind the link the scientists suggested it could be a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise, that elevates the ability to sleep. Exercise also protects against weight gain with age, which is another cause of sleep dysfunction.


Exercise has been repeatedly linked to brain health – and the reduction of cognitive changes that can leave us vulnerable to dementia later in life.

2013 study found that during exercise, cyclists’ blood flow in the brain rose by 28 per cent, and up to 70 per cent in specific areas. Not only that, but after exercise, in some areas blood flow remained up by 40 per cent even after exercise.

Improved blood flow is good because the red stuff delivers all sorts of goodies that keep us healthy – and the study concluded that we should cycle for 45-60 minutes, at 75-85 per cent of max ‘hear rate reserve’ (max heart rate minus resting heart rate) four times a week. Nothing stopping you riding more, of course.


Cycling isn’t just about raising your heart rate and getting you breathless – unless you’re doing it on Zwift. There are technical elements – climbingdescending and cornering all teach you to use your body weight to get the bike to go where you want it to.

Gaining the skills to manage these technical elements can provide a massive confidence boost – especially when you start to see improvement. Plus, you might just find your abilities to manage that dodgy shopping trolley with the wonky wheels greatly improves.


Cycling is an incredibly sociable sport. Grassroots cycling revolves around cycling club culture – which in turn revolves around the Saturday or Sunday club run: several hours of cycling in a group at an intensity that enables easy chat, interrupted only by a cafe stop for a coffee for a caffeine boost (or the occasional puncture).

Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to grow your social circle, and if you’re new to riding – you’ll probably find all the maintenance and training advice you may have been looking for there, too.


Why Cycling Is Good For The Environment

As modes of transport go, they don’t come much ‘greener’ than cycling. The environmental benefits of cycling outweigh pretty much any disadvantage you could even try to think of.

Whether you cycle to work, school, the shops, or simply to keep fit – every turn of the pedal helps protect our planet in one way or another.

Or, maybe you don’t currently cycle but are looking for a way of reducing your carbon footprint and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle – you’re in the right place, and cycling is a great place to start.

While many of the benefits seem obvious, others are less so. Read on to learn about 5 of the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.

Cycling reduces air pollution

If you’re reading this blog, we’ll assume you’re already pretty clued up on air pollution and are conscious of your efforts to reduce your own output.

But – in a nutshell, air pollution is the small particles, chemicals and gases released into the air, often from things like the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, and wildfires.

Driving motorised vehicles, like cars, is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Car fuels, in particular, include gases like carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen dioxide, which are seriously harmful to the environment when released in large volumes.

On the other hand, cycling releases very little CO₂ into the air. So, straight away, it has an enormous environmental advantage. Shorter journeys, in particular, are where you’re most likely to notice the biggest environmental benefits of cycling.

According to environmental organisation Hubbub, 50% of the journeys we take each day are less than two miles – meaning lots of unnecessary, excess pollution is sent into the air for journeys which could, in theory, be done on foot (or pedal!)

Hubbub also states that in the UK alone, more than half (55%) of transport emissions come from cars, which has a hugely negative impact on our air quality.

Switching short car trips for a cycle instead has huge environmental benefits, and what’s more – it’ll keep you physically fit, too.

Cycling reduces noise pollution

Pollution doesn’t just come in invisible gas form – there’s also noise pollution to be mindful of too.

Noise pollution is usually classed as any unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect humans and animals’ health and wellbeing in that particular area.

This type of pollution also impacts the health and wellbeing of wildlife. Studies have shown that sudden, loud noises can cause small insects like caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds, for example, to have fewer offspring.

Animals use natural sound for all sorts of reasons, such as navigation, finding food, attracting mates and avoiding predators. If we, as humans, disrupt these sounds with noise pollution, it makes it difficult for animals to survive.

Animals have to alter their behaviour and may even have to change locations to avoid noise, which has a detrimental knock-on effect on our entire environment. For example, if a bird leaves its forest and others follow, that forest may decline over time. This could then lead to that forest being cleared. This is called deforestation – we’ll come onto that a bit later.

However, if there’s less noise from vehicles, traffic queues and the like, animals are more likely to stay and allow surrounding nature to thrive.

So, by leaving the car at home and choosing to cycle instead, you’re not just helping to save the planet – but animals, too.

Cycling boosts biodiversity and protects green spaces

By its simplest definition, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. But, more specifically, biodiversity is the number and types of plants and animals existing in a particular area or space. It also takes into account how life and species’ on Earth interact with one and other.

Biodiversity is important for several reasons. Firstly, a healthy ecosystem means good quality and variety when it comes to things like food, water and air.

However, as the temperature of the Earth gets warmer and the weather gets more unpredictable (otherwise known as climate change), fewer plant and animal species can survive.

Improving biodiversity is another important environmental benefit of cycling. As cycling generates less noise and air pollution and emits fewer gases that contribute to global warming, it also protects green spaces and the wildlife that exists within them.

Over time, switching your car journeys (again, particularly the shorter journeys) for cycling reduces the need for surfaces to be paved for vehicles. This even includes areas you might not have otherwise considered – like your front drive, for example.

Fewer paved surfaces mean more green spaces by default. So, by cycling, you’re doing your bit to boost biodiversity and protect that precious, natural greenery.

Cycling reduces the need for deforestation

Heavily linked to the earlier notion of protecting green spaces, the issue of deforestation is one of the largest, ongoing issues regarding land use – not just here in the UK but globally, too.

By definition, deforestation is the action of clearing a wide area of trees or forest. These spaces are often then industrialised, which, for reasons discussed previously, can have devastating impacts on the environment.

For a start, the very building and construction of an industrial site involves vehicle transportation and the use of non-eco materials. Then, once in operation, sites often burn fuel and emit all sorts of harmful substances into the atmosphere. Not to mention the additional noise and air pollution from importing and exporting goods.

However, if more people chose to cycle instead of drive, there’d be a bigger case for keeping these green, cycle-friendly spaces alive. Long term, there’d also be less of a need for metal production to help build cars.

The metals used in car production often need to be mined from the Earth – a process that often requires deforestation to work.

Can you see how it’s all linked?

Cycling helps to reduce global warming

Cycling has been long-established as part of the solution for a low-carbon, greener future for the planet. And if you weren’t quite sure why before, you certainly are now after reading this blog.

There’s little doubt among scientists and environmental experts that human activity contributes massively to global warming. But the good thing is that, as humans, we also have the power to enact positive change.

According to data from Cycling UK, just 6% of urban passenger miles are from cycling. However, it’s estimated that increasing this to 11% by 2030 and 14% by 2050 could cut CO₂ emissions from passenger transport by 7% and 11%, respectively.

In fact, research also suggests that if people in England cycled as much as people in the Netherlands, there’d be around two million fewer car commuters on the road. In theory, this would reduce the UK’s CO₂ output by an average of more than 1,500 tonnes a year.

So, what are you waiting for?


Radio for Freedom

Radio and Peace

The theme for the 12th edition of the World Radio Day, to be celebrated on 13 February 2023, is «Radio and Peace».

War, as an antonym to peace, signifies an armed conflict between countries or groups within a country, but may also translate into a conflict of media narratives. The narrative can increase tensions or maintain conditions for peace in a given context – for instance weigh in on the rough or smooth conduct of elections, the rejection or integration of returnees, the rise or tempering of nationalistic fervour, etc. In reporting and informing the general public, radio stations shape public opinion and frame a narrative that can influence domestic and international situations and decision-making processes.

Radio can indeed fuel conflict but in reality, professional radio moderates conflict and/or tensions, preventing their escalation or bringing about reconciliation and reconstruction talks. In contexts of distant or immediate tension, relevant programmes and independent news reporting provide the foundation for sustainable democracy and good governance by gathering evidence about what is happening, informing citizens about it in impartial and fact-based terms, explaining what is at stake and brokering dialogue among different groups in society.

“… since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”[1]

That is the reason why support to independent radio has to be viewed as an integral part of peace and stability. On World Radio Day 2023, UNESCO highlights independent radio as a pillar for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Radio in Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding

Radio is an important player and an essential part of maintenance and transition to peace. It is part of its agenda-setting function and provision of essential services to bring forward issues of concern, feature matters that deem attention from authorities and citizens, and give them salience.

Professional radio addresses both the root causes and triggers of conflict before they potentially explode into violence through specific radio programming and editorial choices. Issue-based programmes, for example, help cast a light on societal inadequacies, structural imbalances, poverty, resource or land disputes, corruption, arms racing, etc., reporting on and exploring options for underlying factors of conflict with journalistic standards. Radio’s editorial content may also raise alert to potential triggers of hostilities, such as miscalculations, growing propaganda, upsurge of specific controversies, escalation of tensions in certain zones, etc. It offers an alternative methodology of conflict prevention by clarifying frustrations or clashes of interest, clearing misunderstandings, identifying issues of distrust … This can help counter hate, the desire for revenge or the will to take up arms.

It is not radio flash reporting that contributes to conflict prevention and peacebuilding but radio professionals’ accountability to citizens, fact-checking, accuracy, balanced reporting and journalistic investigation behind each broadcast news and programmes. The freedom from commercial, ideological, or political influence enhances radio as a vector of peace. Furthermore, radio programmers’ varied collaborative techniques also reinforce a culture of dialogue by means of participatory programmes and formats such as calls-in, talk shows, listeners’ fora, etc. and so give opportunities to discuss latent issues democratically, on air, including disagreements.

Professional independent radio thus strengthens democracy and provides the foundation for sustainable peace. It should therefore more often be included in conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies and be decisively a focus of media assistance.

Support to Independent Radio

It falls from the history of services rendered by radio to society that increasing its journalistic standards and capacity should be considered as an investment in peace. Support can be provided in various ways: through emergency funding or structural assistance to radio as a sector, promoting adequate legislation and regulation, fostering radio pluralism and diversity, safeguarding their independence, facilitating affordable taxes or overall financial viability, and so forth.

Otherwise, the risk is that radio advertently or inadvertently play into the dynamics of conflict due to fragile editorial policy, loyalty to certain leadership or ownership, censorship, surveillance, self-censorship, anti-terror laws, organized crime …

Increasing support to independent radio should happen in recognition of their importance for peace – and should happen now.


History of World Radio Day

other ways

of regarding life

of insparing the world

of understanding politics

of making history

of walking, dreaming, imagining and living

Mahatma Gandhi

Martin Luther King Jr.

John Lennon

José Mujica

New days to come

for everyone

new things to be done

in the world’s run

among the resolutions

peace is real revolution

Peace – Norah Jones

There’s a place that I know
Where the sycamores grow
And daffodils have their fun
Where the care of the day
Seem to slowly fade away
In the glow of the evening sun

Peace when the day is done
If I go there real late
Let my mind meditate
On everything to be done

If I search deep inside
Let my conscience be my guide
Then the answers are sure to come
Don’t have to worry none

When you find peace of mind
Leave your worries behind
Don’t say that it can’t be done
With a new point of view
Life’s true meaning comes to you
And the freedom you seek is won

Peace is for everyone
Peace is for everyone
Peace is for everyone