HL - Environmental Change Case Studies

Case studies useful for HL Geography - Environmental Change

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Food Miles - Potatoes

Potatoes being grown in Egypt?!

Potatoes are not native - Seeds have to be shipped from Europe
1) Desert sand = dry! Water is pumped from 350m below ground - Once used it will be gone         forever! => Need 500 litres of water for 1kg potatoes

2)  Desert sand has no nutrients - nutrients have to be put in the water

The potatoes are then shipped BACK to Europe, UK and Russia

When they are transported they are covered in Peat from IRELAND!

Overall 11.5 thousand miles trip!


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Copper Mining - Republic of Zambia

Zambia in the Northwest African Copperbelt 
Area is focused heavily on mining
Mining companies are owned mainly by CHINA - need copper for rapid development

Environmental Impacts:

  • Air pollution - dust = respiratory problems
  • Noise pollution from blasting 
  • Water pollution - waste water pumped out from the mine from the smelters = very porr drinking water quality -> tap water white with sediment + toxins! Dangerous levels
  • 'scars' from open mining + massive mounds of leftover material = damaged habitats
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Carajas Project - Mining in Brazil

Iron Mining Area - one of biggest deposits in the world - accounts for 8% of world iron ore trade

Used for a whole project for development covering 1/10th of Brazil

  • Including hydroelectric power stations, roads and railway lines
  • Provides 7000 jobs
  • Homes with low rent, free health care, swimming pool etc.
  • Closed community = no mugging and little crime
  • Impacted local cities and towns - economic boom = life improving

  • Forest around town being burned for firewood and opened for mining
  • Removes approx 50,000 hectares of tropical forest every year 
  • Town is completely cut off from civilization; not contact with relations
  • Food has to be delivered from surrounding areas
  • Some people make greater adcantage than others - divide between very rich and very poor
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Chemical Pollution in Songhua River

Jilin Petrochemical   - Chinese corporation
2005 Blast killing 8 people + discharging 10 tonnes of highly toxic carcinogenic benzene into the Songhua river --> Benzene levels over 100 times safe levels!

  • Created 80km slick - poisoning river water
  • Hid information for days!
  • Deprived millions of drinking water - 3.8 million residents in province water supplies cut off = no access! - water brought in by road
  • People panic-buying food and water = prices soared
  • Temporary evacuation of 10,000!
  • Protests against authorities
  • Some schools and businesses closed
  • Flights out of local area sold out - everyone leaving
  • Hospitals put on standby for possible poison victims
  • Slick reached Siberia, Russia = Trans boundary pollution! - caused international protest
  •  Dead fish washing up along shores


fined 1 million yuan!!

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International Pollution - Chernobyl

26th April 1986, Ukraine (Part of USSR at time)

Nuclear Reactor disaster - USSR slow to admit what had happened & did not repsond
100x more radioactive than Hiroshima

  • Spread globally - particularly Scandinavia - still farms in UK that face post-Chernobyl controls
    Traces of radioactive deposits in neraly every country in northern hemisphere 
  • Main fall out in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia --> Over 3500 people had to be resettled
  • Soil contaminated with nuclear material - will remain for ears 
  • Many people will eventually die from effects of radiation -> Sharp increase in thyroid cancer 
  • Most affected = people who were children/ teens at time of explosion

For international pollution also see Exxon Valdez and Somalian Pirates Case Studies

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WWF(World Wildlife Fund for Nature) - Internationa

Mission Statement:
Stop degradation of the planets natural environment + build future where humans live with nature by: conserving biological diversity + promoting reduction of pollution + ensuring using natural resources is sustainable "One Planet Future"
Not just about reducing impace but planning for future change 

What do they do?
Work with governments, businesses, industries and local communities to:
safeguard wildlife
Campaign - promote renewable energies + use energy more efficiently in the home
Protect wildlife + people already affected by climate change and those most vulnerable to it

WWF in the UK
 Campaigns to change legislation and policy to protect UK biodiversity 
Main campaigns include advertising; Climate change, energy usage, housing, and protection of our marine environment
Encourages schools and youth groups to support EARTH HOUR - everyone turns off all electricals 


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Global Farming - Kenya's Water Problems

"Happy Valley" area of Kenya

British and European owned flower companies: grow for export
Kenyan authorities are accusing companies of "stealing" water from Ngiro river - it is a life sustaining resource for nomadic farmers! 
The 12 largest  flower companies are using 25% of water
Therefore companies are exporting water --> "virtual water" 


  • Unfair: biggest companies paying as much for waters as local peasants
  • Kenya = one of drying countries, and companies are directly competing with peasants 
  • Worst impact on nomadic pastoralists (move pastures) as companies have taken over land
  • 2010 Volcano eruption in Iceland = flights between Kenya and Europe shut down = $8million of flowers destroyed! :(  
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TNC pollution - Maquiladora development, MEXICO

Maquiladora operations = the establishment of US-owned companies building low cost factories in Mexico
They are foregin owned, but employ local labour
Attractions for the USA:

  • Low labour costs
  • Relaxed environmental legislation
  • Good acces to US markets - close to the US 

Benefits = over 500,000 locals employed! Many Mexicans in favour of the companies

Problems = even though companies are required by law to transport waste back to USA, illegal dumping is common = led ot high air and water pollution in bordering cities 

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