Climate change


Climate change

Climate change


Climate change is the greatest threat facing mankind today. Many people think of it as just an environmental issue, but its social and economic consequences in the coming centuries will be greater than that of all the world wars the planet has seen to date – unless we act in this generation to do something about it.

Many people take the view that scientists will find a way to deal with it in the future, so why should we worry about it now, whilst others (in some cases the polluting industries themselves) are deliberately spreading misinformation in order to confuse the public.

But most scientists today (except those on the payrolls of oil companies and logging companies) agree that unless we act now, many of the consequences will be irreversible.

Here are some useful links that contain a lot of enlightening information about climate change. Please take the time to read through some of them and make yourself aware of the global crisis that is facing humanity.

Everybody, including you and me, can play an important role by helping to bring the issue to the top of the political agenda of the people who run our countries. Until they act, nothing substantive will be done, and future generations will look back on us and see us as the ‘greedy generation’ that used up half of the planet’s resources and left the world in an environmental mess for our children’s children.

Here are the links:

The following two sites are quite heavy going. They are not easy to navigate and they don’t contain much ‘bite-size’ information that will help to educate the general public, but I’ve added them here as they are sources of some important reports in case you want to delve into this topic more deeply:

Finally, the following link is to the website of the fourth World Electronic Media Forum in Mexico City where I made a presentation on Multilateral Institutions and Global Media Concerns. Whilst this presentation touches on a wide range of development issues apart from climate change prevention and mitigation, it includes the CNN report that won the 2009 Asian Development Bank/ABU Prize for climate change reporting:


Street Trees

Street Trees

Advantages and disadvantages of street trees

This information paper was originally written to assist students participating in an environmental outreach program. It may be reproduced without attribution for educational use or for other purposes to promote the planting of street trees



Street trees play a significant beneficial role in urban environments of tropical countries.  Street trees are publicly owned capital assets that apart from their obvious aesthetic benefit, improve the quality of the air, save energy and provide many other economic and lifestyle benefits to the community where they are planted.

A scientific study in the US demonstrated that over a 50-year lifetime, one street tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen and provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control.1

Various studies into the value of street trees in cities around the world have produced benefit to cost ratios (i.e. the value of benefits received by the community divided by the cost of planting and maintenance) of between 3:1 and 14:1.

There are some drawbacks to planting street trees, but these are more than outweighed by their benefits. The pros and cons of street trees are:


1.  Street trees provide shade to pedestrians, thus making walking more comfortable and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

2.  Street trees trap dust particles and absorb many gaseous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

3.  Street trees remove from the air dangerous particulates (from smoke and diesel exhausts) that can cause serious respiratory problems.

4.  Street tree roots take-up elements like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which are nutrients for trees but harmful to water ecology and quality.

5.  By shading roads and pavements, street trees reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of these structures.

6.  Street trees lower the ambient temperature in a street by one or two degrees, thus increasing comfort levels as well as helping to save energy costs in cooling homes.

7.  Larger street trees may also directly shade some houses along the street (depending on their orientation), providing even greater cooling effects and increasing the savings in electricity costs for individual householders.

8.  Street trees improve the aesthetics of the urban landscape and enhance property values in the area.

9.  By breaking the fall of rainwater, street trees reduce surface runoff and soil erosion.

10. Street trees improve traffic safety through their calming effect and by creating the impression that the street is narrower, resulting in lower average traffic speeds.

11. Street trees reduce traffic noise by absorbing some of the sound from engines and road noise.

12. Street trees help combat global warming through the oxygen that they produce and the carbon dioxide that they absorb. 

Although the part that urban street trees play in reversing the adverse effects of global warming is a small one, it becomes increasingly important as rural areas become deforested and natural rainforests disappear through logging or clearing for agriculture. (A single mature tree absorbs about 20 kg of carbon dioxide a year and releases enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings).


1.  Branches can break off in high winds causing a danger to pedestrians and vehicles.

This drawback can be minimised by ensuring that only suitable species are planted as street trees (i.e. not species known to have brittle limbs and susceptible to dropping branches in high winds) and the trees are professionally pruned every one or two years.

2.  Leaves from street trees can clog gutters on houses.

This drawback can be overcome by installing plastic mesh over gutters to prevent leaves from entering the box section.  Gutters in some countries can be purchased with these ‘Leaf Guard’ meshes already installed.

3.  It is inconvenient having to sweep fallen leaves and dispose of them.

Non-gardeners’ sometimes raise this as an objection to street trees, but gardeners use fallen leaves to produce leaf mold or compost. Leaf mold makes an ideal garden mulch, and compost is a valuable organic fertiliser that helps to negate the need to buy costly chemical fertilisers. There are thus probably as many people who would classify this  as a benefit rather than a drawback.


The major drawback of street trees is the danger of falling branches in high winds.  Therefore it is important to ensure that suitable species are planted in the first place, to ensure that the beneficial attributes of street trees clearly outweigh their drawbacks.

There has been a tendency in new urban developments in some countries to plant fast-growing street trees in order to make the area more attractive to potential buyers.  However, often it is the fast growing street trees that have the most brittle branches when mature.  Generally speaking, the slower growing the tree, the more sturdy the mature specimen will be (although there are some exceptions to this).

The Angsana tree (Pterocarpus indicus) is one species is that has been widely planted as a street tree in tropical regions because of its fast growth and spreading canopy (in the Philippines it is known as the Narra tree).  However, the Angsana tree’s branches can be quite brittle and therefore it needs regular pruning to strengthen its form.  Singapore has successfully used the Angsana tree to shade major highways because it has allocated sufficient budget for regular pruning and has the necessary equipment to carry out the pruning properly.  However, poorer countries in south-east Asia do not have the funds to maintain these trees properly despite their benefits to the community.

The African Tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) is another fast-growing tree that has been used in street plantings (its spectacular flowers are another reason it is a popular choice) but it’s branches are also brittle and it has quite a superficial root system making it susceptible to being blown over in heavy storms.

Large palms (and especially coconut palms) should not be used in street tree plantings where there is pedestrian traffic underneath because falling fronds (and coconuts) can injure – and on rare occasions even kill – persons below.

Species with overly vigorous root systems (like most of the Ficus species) should not be planted as street trees because they may lift pavements and damage drainage pipes.

Generally speaking, single trunk trees with an upright form and a spreading canopy, that have a long life and non-suckering roots, make the best street trees.

On streets where there are power lines, smaller trees should be planted so as not to interfere with the power lines.  These will not provide the same benefits as shade trees, but flowering varieties may be chosen to enhance the aesthetic benefit.

Falling branches can also be a problem if street trees are not maintained properly and they become diseased or if they are attacked by termites or borers. Therefore local authorities need to regard the maintenance of street trees as an ongoing responsibility, just as they are required to maintain other capital assets such as roads, pavements, street lighting and public buildings.

1 USDA Forest Service Pamphlet #R1-92-100

Favourite quotes

Favourite quotes

Favourite Quotes


"The greatest thing that could happen to this State - and the Nation - is when we can get rid of the media. Then we could live in peace and tranquillity, and no one would know anything."

Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former Premier of the Australian state of Queensland, quoted in the Spectator, London, 12 December 1987


“I did a lot, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I took all kinds of action, but there is no need for me to tell you what they were.”

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, responding to criticism that he didn’t do enough to combat corruption during his term of office, quoted in The Star, Malaysia, 31 May 2005


“Beautiful women can easily get rich husbands while less beautiful ones need the government to give them salaried jobs. This is fair measure because the beautiful will have husbands to look after them while the non-beautiful will have money.”

Nik Aziz Nik Mat, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Kelantan, directing state government officers not to employ beautiful women, quoted in The Star, Malaysia, 15 July 1999


"They're not even within 100 miles of Baghdad . They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq . This is an illusion... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion.”

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, former Iraqi Information Minister, responding to journalists’ questions about the CNN live coverage of American tanks advancing on the outskirts of Baghdad , 2 April 2003


"I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here."

George W. Bush, President of the United States , at the President's Economic Forum in Waco , Texas , 13 August 2002


"I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavour for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves."

George W. Bush, President of the United States , Washington , D.C. , 21 September 2003


"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

George W. Bush, President of the United States , Washington , D.C. , 5 August 2004


"I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport ."

George W. Bush, President of the United States , Washington , D.C. , 3 October 2001


"I'm the commander — see, I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being President."

George W. Bush, President of the United States, as quoted in Bob Woodward's book ‘ Bush at War’


"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."

George W. Bush, President of the United States,in an interview with CBS News, 2006


“ It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that's one thing. If it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.”

Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, in 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair


“We do know, of certain knowledge, that he is either in Afghanistan or in some other country or dead.”

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, responding to a question on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden at a Pentagon press briefing, 27 December 2001


“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.”

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, at a Pentagon press briefing, 12 February 2002


“If I know the answer I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond, cleverly.”

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, addressing troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, 27 April 2002


“Father told me that if I ever met a lady in a dress like yours, I must look her straight in the eyes.”

Prince Charles of England , quoted in the Reader’s Digest, October 1975


“ Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress? ”

Prince Charles of England , quoted in the Daily Mail. London , 1994


“ [F]or the majority of people, the use of tobacco has a benficial effect. ”

Dr Ian G. Macdonald, Los Angeles surgeon, quoted in Newsweek, 18 November 1963



Here are some other quotes that I like. These have been widely circulated in the Internet, but I don’t know where or when they were said:


"It has been rumored that we have fired scud missiles into Kuwait . I am here now to tell you, we do not have any scud missiles and I don't know why they were fired into Kuwait ."

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, former Iraqi Information Minister


“I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I said, and…well, I assume it's what I said.”

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense


“Money doesn't make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of the U.S. state of California


“I spent 90% of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted.”

George Best, U.K. footballer


“Speaking as a man, it's not a woman's issue. Us men are tired of losing our women.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States, talking about raising breast cancer awareness


“Bank failures are caused by depositors who don't deposit enough money to cover losses due to mismanagement.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States


“I deserve respect for the things I didn't do.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States


"The best thing about rain forests is they never suffer from drought."

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States


“It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States


“[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States


“People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have tremendous impact on history.”

Dan Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States

(that last quote is probably the most sensible thing Dan Quayle ever said)



And here is one I heard on the radio the other day. I don't know who said it (she was a fashion designer being interviewed) but I liked it:

"Women don't dress to attract men, they dress to annoy other women."




(I found these in a 1997 back-issue of Newsweek magazine)


"Radio has no future"

Lord Kelvin, Scottish physicist and former President of the Royal Society, 1897


"Everything that can be invented has been invented"

Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents, 1899


"The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad."

A president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Horace Backham (Henry Ford's lawyer) not to invest in the Ford Motor Co, 1903


"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927


"[Television] won't be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, 1946


"Computers in the future may perhaps only weigh 1.5 tons."

Popular Mechanics magazine, forecasting the development of computer technology, 1949


"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home."

Kenneth Olsen, President and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977