Daily Archives: August 2, 2018

Sanctions-hit North Korea warns of natural disaster brought by heat wave | Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea on Thursday called for an “all-out battle” against record temperatures that threaten crops in a country already grappling with tough international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

The resulting drought has brought an “unprecedented natural disaster”, the isolated nation said, warning against crop damage that could savage its farm-reliant economy, battered by sanctions despite recent diplomatic overtures.

“This high-temperature phenomenon is the largest, unprecedented natural disaster, but not an obstacle we cannot overcome,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun said, urging that “all capabilities” be mobilized to fight the extended dry spell.

Temperatures have topped a record 40°C (104°F) in some regions since late July, and crops such as rice and maize have begun to show signs of damage, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party said in a front-page commentary.

“Whether the current good crop conditions, for which the whole nation has made unsparing investment and sweated until now, will lead to a bumper year in the autumn hinges on how we overcome the heat and drought,” it added.

Similar past warnings in state media have served to drum up foreign assistance and boost domestic unity.

…(read more).

North Korea food shortage looms after drought hits harvests

Stacey Yuen
Published 11:34 PM ET Wed, 13 Sept 2017 Updated 8:58 AM ET Fri, 15 Sept 2017
North Korea faces food shortages 10:10 AM ET Thu, 14 Sept 2017 | 00:54

Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia, Julius Baer

Even before taking the drought into account, the UN estimates that the average North Korean consumes approximately 1,640 calories of food each day. That compares with the 2,000 calories recommended for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health.

Rainfall has improved over large parts of the country since August, but the shift in precipitation will be insufficient to reverse the adverse effects of the drought, said Mario Zappacosta, senior economist at the UN.

…(read more).

North Koreans are likely to face serious food shortages despite recent relief from an intense dry spell, officials from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization told CNBC.

Rainfall this year was “considerably lower” than a corresponding period in 2001, when cereal production in the communist dictatorship plunged to record lows, the UN said in a July report. An estimated 20 percent of herd animals have also reportedly been severely affected this year in the worst-hit regions.

The worst dry conditions, which ran from April to June, could threaten this year’s overall agricultural yield and exacerbate food shortages in the country. According to the report, cereals, potato and soybeans comprise the main source of nutrition for North Korea’s population — many of whom are already underfed.

Opinion | Hunger in North Korea Is Devastating. And It’s Our Fault. – The New York Times

By Kee B. Park Dec. 17, 2017  Opinion Op-Ed Contributor

One cool morning last April in Pyongyang, North Korea, I watched a woman squat over a patch of grass along the Daedong River. A large handkerchief covering her head was knotted below her chin, encircling her sunburned and wrinkled face. As a van passed by blaring patriotic hymns from the oversize speakers on its roof, she weeded the riverbank. In North Korea, keeping the neighborhood clean is a civic duty. But she was far from any neighborhood. She was gathering the weeds for food.

On Nov. 13, a North Korean soldier in his 20s was shot multiple times as he ran across the demilitarized zone into South Korea. His surgeons reported finding dozens of parasitic intestinal worms inside his abdominal cavity, some as long as 11 inches, suggesting severe malnutrition.

As these stories show — and as I have seen during my 16 visits to North Korea in the past decade — hunger remains a way of life there. Forty-one percent of North Koreans, about 10.5 million people, are undernourished, and 28 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth. When my 4-year-old daughter visited Pyongyang in 2013, she, all of three feet, towered over children twice her age.

The hunger is devastating. And it’s our fault.

Led by the United States, the international community is crippling North Korea’s economy. In August and September, the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions banning exports of coal, iron, lead, seafood and textiles and limiting the import of crude oil and refined petroleum products. The United States, Japan and South Korea have each imposed bilateral sanctions on Pyongyang to further isolate the country.

North Korea’s Food Crisis Was Devastating In The 1990s. How Is The Country Faring Now? : Goats and Soda : NPR

North Korean farmers work in a rice paddy outside the capital Pyongyang.

June 19, 20184:58 PM ET

David Guttenfelder/National Geographic

In the 1990s, a devastating famine struck North Korea. According to international observers, a combination of drought, flooding and government mismanagement decimated food production. The death toll is uncertain, but estimates range from 240,000 to 2 million.

By all accounts, the situation is better today. Domestic agriculture has improved significantly. Today, grain production hovers around 5 million tons per year, roughly double what it was in the famine-stricken ’90s. But agricultural scientists and aid representatives familiar with the situation believe that the country is still unable to feed all of its population. And some question whether it even wants to.

The reality in North Korea remains bleak. As Kim Jong Un sat down to dine on beef short ribs and avocado salad with Donald Trump in Singapore last week, the issue of hunger is still pressing in his nation.

…(read more).

THE SAGAN SERIES – The Frontier Is Everywhere

Reid Gower
Published on Jan 9, 2011

Surrendering to Rising Seas – Scientific American

Coastal communities struggling to adapt to climate change are beginning to do what was once unthinkable: retreat

On New Jersey’s Delaware Bay, the remains of a house await demolition. The land will be converted into open space. Credit: Grant Delin

MONIQUE COLEMAN’S BASEMENT was still wet with saltwater when the rallying began. Just days after Superstorm Sandy churned into the mid-Atlantic region, pushing a record-breaking surge into the country’s most densely populated corridor, the governor of New Jersey promised to put the sand back on the beaches.

The “build it back stronger” sentiment never resonated with Coleman, who lived not on the state’s iconic barrier islands but in a suburban tidal floodplain bisected by 12 lanes of interstate highway. Sandy was being billed as an unusual “Frankenstorm,” a one-in-500-year hurricane that also dropped feet of snow. But for Coleman and many residents of the Watson-Crampton neighborhood in Woodbridge Township, the disaster marked the third time their houses had been inundated by floodwaters in just three years. Taxed by the repetitive assault of hydrodynamic pressure, some foundations had collapsed.

As evacuees returned home for another round of sump pumps and mold, Coleman considered her options. Woodbridge sits in the pinched waist of New Jersey, where a network of rivers and creeks drain to the Raritan Bay and then to the Atlantic Ocean. She heard that the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t be coming to build a berm or tide gate; the area had recently been evaluated, and such costly protections seemed unlikely. Spurred by previous storms, Coleman had already learned a bit about the ecological history of her nearly 350-year-old township. She discovered that parts of her neighborhood, like many chunks of this region, were developed atop low-lying wetlands, which had been elevated with poorly draining “fill” back around the early 20th century. As Coleman researched more deeply, a bigger picture emerged. “I started to realize that, in a sense, we were victims of a system because we were living in a neighborhood that should have never been built,” she says.

Although she had flood insurance—her mortgage required it—Coleman knew that her premiums would soon go up, and she worried that her property value would go down. She and her husband liked their house, a prewar colonial. Best of all, it was affordable, a rare find in a town so close to New York City. Coleman had only discovered she would be living in a “special flood hazard area” once she was reading the closing paperwork in 2006. That made her nervous. She recalls her attorney waving it off by saying that at the rate we’re going, everyone in New Jersey will live in a floodplain. That might be true in spirit, as a future-looking thought experiment, but it was severely misleading given the circumstances. Desperate to move her family away from a block in Newark with increasing drug activity, Coleman signed away one type of risk for another.

For four uneventful years, the marsh near the bottom of her street was an attractive amenity, a place where her three young sons could play freely. Then the drainages that wrapped around her neighborhood like a wishbone were overwhelmed by a nor’easter in 2010. And by Hurricane Irene in 2011. And again, by Sandy, in 2012.

…(read more).


Against the Tide: The Battle for America’s Beaches. Cornelia Dean. Columbia University Press, 1999.

Taking Chances: The Coast after Hurricane Sandy. Edited by Karen M. O’Neill and Daniel J. Van Abs. Rutgers University Press, 2016.

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. Jeff Goodell. Little, Brown, 2017.

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Elizabeth Rush. Milkweed Editions, 2018.


Storm of the Century Every Two Years. Mark Fischetti; June 2013.


Jen Schwartz

Jen Schwartz is a senior editor at Scientific American who writes about the intersection of science, technology and society.

Credit: Nick Higgins

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