Mastering Modern World History

Fifth edition, Palgrave Master Series

by Norman Lowe

Source questions for Part VI: Global problems

Chapter 27 - Pollution and global warming

Study the source and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Extracts from a speech by Michael Meacher, Environment Minister in the UK government from 1997 until 2003, in October 2003.

Our world is being transformed at an alarming rate. It is a process driven by unfettered industrial exploitation, growing technological control, population growth, and now climate change, the effects of which open up an apocalyptic scenario for the human race. We are bringing about species loss on a scale of some of the natural extinctions of history. . . . The ravages are there for all to see. Some 420 million people live in countries that no longer have enough crop land to grow enough food. Half a billion people live in regions prone to chronic drought. Deserts are becoming hotter. In 1998, the hottest year on record, large areas of forest burned down. . . . The whole process threatens to spiral out of control and make our planet uninhabitable.

What can be done? Clearly, what is needed is a framework of international law that permits the operation of free trade and a competitive world economy, but only within parameters strictly drawn to safeguard our planet. . . . What is really needed is a world environment court that would enforce a global environmental charter. Alongside this we need a strengthened United Nations Environment Programme to promote a more sustainable world economy. Companies should be obliged to report annually on their environmental and social impacts; fines should be jacked up; polluting rivers, illegally discharging chemicals or dumping hazardous waste should incur deterrent penalties instead of derisory fines.

Source:  Quoted in The Guardian, 25 October 2003.

(a) What evidence does the source provide to suggest that the changes in the environment are a cause for alarm?

(b) What are the causes of these alarming environmental changes, and why was the 1997 Kyoto Convention less successful in dealing with them than had been hoped?

(c) Using the source and your own knowledge, suggest some measures that might be taken to slow down or reverse the process of environmental decline.

Chapter 28 - The world AIDS epidemic

Study Source A and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Editorial in The Guardian (2 December 2003) about World Aids Day.

Yesterday was World Aids Day. Since it first appeared just over 20 years ago, 28 million have been killed and 40 million are living with HIV. There were a record number of deaths (3 million) and new infections (5 million) last year. The international agencies dealing with the disease – the UN’s Global Fund to fight AIDS, and the World Health Organisation – speak of the need for billion dollar budgets. The UK responded yesterday with a press release declaring that it was doubling its funding to a third UN agency, Unaids. It did, by raising its current £3 million grant by a further £3 million. Of course the UK gives more than £6 million a year to fight AIDS. Its total HIV/Aids programmes across the world have risen from £38 million in 1997 to more than £270 million last year – the second biggest bilateral donor. Yet, ironically, yesterday’s £3m was to help promote single national Aids plans in affected countries. Would this not be easier through two big international agencies rather than by bilateral deals? The biggest bilateral donor, the USA, is just as bad at bypassing these international agencies, even though the global funds schemes have earned high marks from independent monitors. There was encouraging news: a three-drugs-in-one generic pill that only has to be taken twice a day. This could play a crucial role in helping the WHO achieve its target of 3 million in ARV treatment by 2005. . . . Protests should be concentrated on the stance of the Vatican, which continued its blind opposition to condoms yesterday, even though scientists have shown it is the best means of prevention available.

(a) What does the source reveal about the difficulties involved in the campaign against AIDS/HIV and about recent positive developments?

(b) Explain why the AIDS/HIV epidemic has been so much worse in southern Africa than elsewhere.