Earth Day,Conservation

Earth Day, event first observed internationally on April 22, 1970, to emphasize the necessity for the conservation of the world’s natural resources. Starting as a student-led campus movement, initially observed on March 21, Earth Day has become a major educational and media event. Environmentalists use it as an occasion to sum up current environmental problems of the planet: the pollution of air, water, and soils; the destruction of habitats; the decimation of hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species; and the depletion of non-renewable resources. The emphasis is on solutions that will slow and possibly reverse the negative effects of human activities. Such solutions include the recycling of manufactured materials, fuel and energy conservation, banning the use of harmful chemicals, halting the destruction of major habitats such as rainforests, and protecting endangered species.



Conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, such as soils, water, plants, animals, and minerals. In economic terms, the natural resources of any area constitute its basic capital, and wasteful use of those resources constitutes an economic loss. From the aesthetic and moral viewpoint, conservation also includes the maintenance of national parks, wilderness areas, historic sites, and wildlife. In certain cases, conservation may imply the protection of a natural environment from any human economic activity.

Natural resources are of two main types, renewable and non-renewable. Renewable resources include wildlife and natural vegetation of all kinds. The soil itself can be considered a renewable resource, although severe damage is difficult to repair because of the slow rate of soil-forming processes. The natural drainage of waters from the watershed of a region can be maintained indefinitely by careful management of vegetation and soils, and the quality of water can be controlled through pollution control. See Air Pollution; Environment; Reclamation; Sewage Disposal; Water Pollution; Energy Conservation.

Non-renewable resources are those that cannot be replaced or that can be replaced only over extremely long periods of time. Such resources include the fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) and the metallic and other ores. For discussions of conservation problems in this area, see individual entries on the substances concerned.


Although the conservation of natural resources has been recognized as desirable by many peoples since ancient times, frequently the basic principles of sound land use have been ignored, with disastrous results. Major losses—for example, the silting of rivers and the flooding of lowlands—resulted from the destruction of the forests and grasslands that protected watersheds in northern China and the Tigris-Euphrates area. Large areas in North Africa and the Middle East were rendered barren by centuries of uncontrolled livestock grazing, unwise cultivation, and excessive cutting of woody plants for fuel. Similar damage has also occurred in most of the more recently developed regions of the world, sometimes through the unwise introduction of species into new environments. The increasing industrialization of nations around the world continues to present severe conservation problems although international cooperation efforts have also evolved in certain areas, such as the protection of some endangered species. Some basic conservation principles in major areas of concern are discussed below.


In forests more than any other ecosystem, demand is increasingly being made that conservation should involve preservation from any destructive commercial use, particularly the cutting of trees for timber, which in a virgin forest is known to have harmful consequences far beyond the loss of the actual trees (for example the loss of animal habitats, and soil erosion). Where tracts of virgin forest are given over to timber production, principles of management have evolved in order to minimize the destructiveness of the process and to make it as sustainable as possible. The management of forest trees for timber production involves three fundamental principles. The first is the protection of the growing trees from fire, insects, and disease. However, fire, once regarded as a destroyer of forests, is now recognized as a management tool when carefully employed. Some important timber trees actually require fire for successful regeneration. Insects, such as the gypsy moth, spruce budworm, and pine sawfly, and disease, still take a heavy toll. However, biological control measures and some aerial spraying, proper cutting cycles, and slash disposal are increasingly effective. The second principle concerns proper harvesting methods, ranging from removal of all trees (clear-cutting) to removal of selected mature trees (selection cutting), and provision for reproduction, either naturally from seed trees or artificially by planting. The rate and frequency of any cutting should aim for sustained production over an indefinite period. The third principle of timber management is the complete use of all trees harvested. Technological advances, such as particleboard and gluing, have created uses for branches, defective logs, trees too small to be milled into boards, and so-called inferior trees. As demand for wilderness areas and recreational use of forests increases, management of commercial forests will become more intense. See Forest; Forest Fires; Forest Conservation and Management.


One of the principles of range conservation is the use of only a portion (usually about a half) of the annual forage plant production of a particular range in order to maintain healthy plant growth and reproduction. In addition, each range is stocked with the number of animals that can be nourished properly on the available usable forage and are permitted to graze only during the season suitable for that type of range. The conservation of ranges is based on a programme of grazing designed to keep them productive indefinitely and to improve depleted areas by natural reproduction or by artificial seeding with appropriate forage species. Although these principles are well established, many hundreds of thousands of acres of public grazing lands are still overgrazed.


One of the basic principles of wildlife conservation involves providing adequate natural food and shelter to maintain populations of each species in a given habitat. A major threat facing wildlife is both the destruction of habitat, through drainage, agriculture and urban expansion, and the fragmentation of habitat into parcels too small for wildlife populations to use. Illegal trade in feathers, horns, ivory, hides, and organs has brought many endangered species to the verge of extinction. Wildlife is an important biological, economic, and recreational resource that can be maintained through careful management. Hunting regulations allow the culling of many species without affecting overall population levels, and can even help control species that have grown too abundant for the region they inhabit.


Among the basic measures for soil conservation currently in use is the zoning of land by capability classes. In this system, the more level and stable soils are designated as suitable for annual crops, and other areas are designated for perennials, such as grass and legumes, or for use as grazing or forest lands. Another conservation method involves the use of soil-building plants in crop rotations. Such crops hold and protect the soil during growth and when ploughed under, supply much-needed organic matter to the soil. Cultivation methods that leave a layer of vegetable waste on the surface of the soil represent a major advance in land use. In many areas, these techniques have supplanted the use of the mouldboard plough, associated with the practice known as clean cultivation, which left the soil surface exposed to all the natural erosive forces. Special methods for erosion control include contour farming, in which cultivation follows the contours of sloping lands, and ditches and terraces are constructed to diminish the run-off of water. Another soil conservation method is the use of strip-cropping—that is, alternating strips of crop and fallow land. This method is valuable for control of wind erosion on semi-arid lands that need to lie fallow for efficient crop production. In addition, the maintenance of soil fertility at the maximum level of production often involves the use of inorganic (chemical) fertilizers. See Erosion; Soil; Soil Management.


Recent studies have confirmed that extremely dense vegetation prevents the collection of the maximum amount of water in a given drainage basin. Greater yields of water have been obtained from some mountain forest regions by thinning the natural tree stands, but not so much as to increase soil erosion or flood danger. A forest or shrub cover containing numerous small openings has been found to be more effective for capturing water than a dense, continuous cover that intercepts much snow and rain and permits the moisture to be lost by evaporation. Highly important in drainage basin conservation is the preservation of wetlands, which function as filtration systems that stabilize water tables by holding rainfall and discharging the water slowly, and as natural flood-control reservoirs.

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News and Current Affairs


News and Current Affairs, reporting and analysis of events by radio and television programmes, and on the Internet. The two terms, “news” and “current affairs”, reflect old differences in the way that broadcasting used to treat topical matters, differences that barely survive in today’s advanced radio and television systems. In early radio, before television, the news was plain, restricted to what newspeople call “hard fact”. Newsreaders gave carefully scripted accounts of main undisputed facts of politics, wars, accidents, and other significant events. Facts were not interpreted or analysed.


In traditionalist Europe, that narrow concept of news satisfied the desires of governments to control the new radio medium in the public interest. They believed that without controls broadcasting could do as much harm as good. The United States, however, was different because broadcasting development was driven more by commercial considerations and by a stronger belief in the pre-eminence of freedom of expression. News broadcasting there soon developed a freer style than in Europe and its colonies.

Regardless of the degree of control, the inadequacy of news limited to plain fact became evident. A news bulletin told people the news but did not help them understand it. It did not adequately make them aware of the issues, of the “news behind the news”. To compensate, the concept of current affairs was invented. Though close to the news in the subject area, it was separate from it. News continued to be strictly factual, while current affairs delivered a mix of fact, comment, opinion, analysis, and interpretation in interviews, commentaries by experts, and feature reports. The change advanced more in European “public service” broadcasting than in American commercial broadcasting.

An important factor in the free world that is still strong today was the belief that news broadcasting should be impartial. It should not take sides in matters of public dispute. It should, for instance, report industrial strikes without favouring the employers or strikers. Similarly, political reporting should not side with any party. Impartiality was encouraged by the dependence of broadcasting on a public resource—the frequencies, sound waves that carry signals from transmitters to radio sets. Frequencies are allocated to prevent a jumble of programmes from different stations on the same frequencies in the same areas at the same time. It was reasoned that as broadcasting used a public resource it should serve all of the public. To do so, it had to be impartial.

Such reasoning does not apply to newspapers, which do not depend on any public resource in the same way. Publication of one newspaper does not obstruct or prevent publication of another, although competition for readers might cause one to fail, in the same way as competition for listeners among radio stations. Thus, newspapers continued to be free to take sides while regulated broadcasting was not.

In the United States, the tradition of independent journalism encouraged its lightly regulated radio stations to standards of impartial reliability as strongly as heavier regulation achieved that end in European liberal democracies. Authoritarian regimes in Europe and elsewhere strictly controlled all the news media and used them for propaganda. Some other countries had a degree of newspaper freedom, while broadcasting was made to serve “the state”, which usually meant the purposes of government.

Over the years, broadcasters in freethinking countries developed more sophisticated ideas of news and current affairs. The two approaches moved closer together, overlapped, and finally intermingled. The new ways of news broadcasting aimed to make the news comprehensive and comprehensible. Broadcasters came to believe that a news programme should give the news, the meaning of the news, and relevant comment on the news in whatever ways programme-makers decided was the best. A radio or television news programme might start with a bulletin of hard news reports on various events, in summary, or at length. The same programme could then move to a sequence of interviews with people in the news and to reports that were more discursive than in the bulletin. A differently constructed news programme might tell the facts of one event, explain them in another report immediately following, perhaps by a specialist correspondent, and include leading comment from people involved in the event, before dealing in similar ways with the next most important or most interesting story. Many variations are possible. The length of programme and the nature of its parts depend on several factors: on the time of day, shorter news items being more convenient for audiences at busier times; on audience profile in terms of age, sex, and socio-economic group; on programme policy, a talk station favouring longer news than a station mainly for music; and on whatever news is available.


Interviews became important. Broadly, they have two aims: to elicit facts and to seek comments—functions that often merge. Interviews for facts are prominent when newsworthy events have just occurred. Viewers and listeners hear police officers, for example, giving facts about newly committed crimes, or rescuers describing what has happened in accidents and disasters. Interviews for comments involve experts, public figures, and other people in the news. Their purpose is sometimes to explain the significance of events. With public figures fixing public policy, the purpose is to press them to justify their decisions. In early broadcasting, such interviews were usually deferential. Interviewers showed well-mannered respect for people in public office. Now, they are as likely to interrogate interviewees. This has caused politicians in democracies to complain that television and radio have supplanted parliament as the forum of national debate: “trial by media”, they say. In turn, broadcasters argue that experience and concern for public image make politicians evasive. In the United States, the sound bite—a cogent, very short comment, used repeatedly in news programmes—is held to have ousted thoughtful exposition, although public figures do explain themselves at length on prime time talk shows. National culture also influences interviewing style. Interviewing style can vary between nations, perhaps showing the influence of prevailing cultural trends.


Technology assisted the transition from rigidly separated news and current affairs broadcasting to modern news programming that has abundant material. Difficult-to-use wax discs for recording interviews and reporters’ dispatches gave way on the radio to manageable magnetic tape. On television, cheap, easily edited videotape replaced expensive film that had to be developed before viewers could see it. Improved telephones and landline circuits from distant studios to the news transmission studio encouraged programmes to use their own reporters instead of standard news agency copy. Cumbersome, costly outside broadcast vehicles—mobile studios—sent to the scene of only the biggest stories were superseded by smaller news broadcast vehicles, saloon cars with radio transmission equipment. These can travel more readily, giving radio reporters more opportunities to beam their news directly into the news studio and, if necessary, live into homes and offices. Electronic news gathering (ENG) in television allowed its reporters to do the same with pictures and sound. Communications satellites also improved the quality of pictures and sound from distant places. More news was reported more quickly.

Portable telephones, lightweight video cameras, and portable satellite transponders (devices that both receive and send out signals) have further increased quantity and speed. Reporters send pictures and their account of the facts directly to satellite and on to studios in London, Washington, Paris, Sydney, and all points on the globe. Reporting the news from any location can now be instant.

As a result, editors of news programmes have many more stories to choose from and much more material to illustrate them. Editors first decide which events they would like covered so that reporters with cameras and sound equipment are allocated to them. Editors also receive material on events they did not know were happening or were going to happen. For their programmes, they decide what to use, in what form, how they are to be edited, to what length, in what order, and whether the reports should be live or recorded. They also decide which stories are most important or most interesting, and how their locality, their country, their region, and the world will be presented.

With more news to use, radio and television have much more news programmes than in days when news travelled slowly. Some stations have news all the time, 24 hours a day. The explosion of news will continue. Events in many parts of the world are under-reported or not reported at all, sometimes because they are too remote, sometimes because of restrictive governments, eager to hide problems, suppress information and deter reporters. However, political change, the demand for news, and easy technology combine to break down barriers and to encourage programme producers to explore more and more events in more and more parts of the world.

Some critics say that television often uses pictures simply because they exist or because they are exciting, not because they are important. They argue that editors neglect more important events for which there are no pictures or where the pictures lack action. Others see the situation in a different light: the growth of news means that the world is better informed and, while many events reported are relatively trivial, there are many serious news programmes attending to many significant events.


The expansion of news and current affairs journalism has continued with the emergence of the Internet. Since the early 1990s, when the Internet began to become a mass medium, it has developed into a steadily more important platform for journalism. The Internet is the world’s first truly global news medium, in that online journalism is accessible to anyone, anywhere on the planet, with a personal computer and an Internet connection.

In 1997 there were only 700 online news sites in the world. As of 2007, there were millions, and nearly every news organization has a website. In addition to sites operated by established news organizations, such as the BBC and CNN, there is millions more run by individual journalists, and by what are now called “bloggers”. Blogs are regularly updated online bulletins, often containing news and comment on the issues of the moment. Many are amateurish and ephemeral, read by only a handful of like-minded bloggers. Others, such as that written by Salam Pax, the “Baghdad Blogger” during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, become essential reading all over the world, supplying the traditional news media with stories and analyses.

Blogging is part of a broader trend towards “citizen journalism”, in which individuals armed with video cameras and mobile phones generate material for traditional news and current affairs outlets. Coverage of the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, for example, featured many video clips taken by people on the spot, then uploaded to the editorial offices of the BBC and others for incorporation into news bulletins.

The rise of citizen journalism, also known as user-generated content, has benefited traditional news and current affairs broadcasting by making available more of the raw material of news. In general, therefore, the trend has been welcomed by the news media. However, concerns have been raised about the quality controls on this kind of material. How can the accuracy and objectivity of user-generated content be guaranteed, in the absence of professional skills and editorial safeguards? This is an issue that traditional news and current affairs media are now grappling with, in an effort to harness the potential of new technologies like the Internet, while preserving the perceived reliability of their programmes.

The Internet has also fuelled what some observers call a “commentary explosion”, in which more and more of the content of journalism is not factual reportage or balanced analysis and commentary on the news, but the rumour, gossip, polemic, and bias. Again, news media face the issue of trying to filter out worthwhile commentary and analysis for inclusion in their news and current affairs programmes. The greatest challenge facing news and current affairs journalism today is not the quantity of material available, and the number of platforms from which journalism can be distributed, but ensuring the quality of what is produced.

Additional material by Brian McNair, Professor of Journalism and Communication, University of Strathclyde. Author, Cultural Chaos: Journalism, News, and Power in a Globalised World.

Contributed By:
John Wilson


Syrian Photographer Stops Shooting to Rescue Injured Boy

Syrian photographer and activist Abd Alkader Habak is being praised today, not for a photo he took, but for one he decided not to take. After being blown over by a massive explosion that took out a convoy of busses filled with evacuees, he stopped shooting and attempted to help the young victims instead.

Warning: This video below contains graphic and disturbing content, proceed with caution.

Habak told his story on CNN, describing the moment when he and his colleagues decided to put their cameras down. “The scene was horrible — especially seeing children wailing and dying in front of you,” he says. “So I decided along with my colleagues that we’d put our cameras aside and start rescuing injured people.”

He grabbed a young boy and started running towards safety, his camera still recording. As he ran towards an ambulance, he says the boy was still breathing, holding his hand, and looking at him.

The photographer says he’s not sure if the boy survived the blast—which CNN reports killed 126 people—but you can see him approach the ambulance and hand the young victim over to emergency personnel.

Later, another photographer captured Habak in tears, kneeling beside the body of another young victim, overcome by the “indescribable” scene he had just witnessed.

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