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High Relief

The mountains of the entire planet are the honorees of their own "International Year" in 2002. The United Nations has issued an appeal to involve institutions and individuals around the world in achieving a fundamental goal for the Earth's well-being: the sustainable development of its mountainous zones.

The website of the International Year of Mountains states that one of the key objectives is to incorporate these ecosystems into the development programs of each country. Another priority is to ensure the well-being of the communities living in these high altitude regions.

The idea that the international community needs to pay special attention to mountains was proposed in 1992 at the UN-sponsored Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Coming out of that summit was Agenda 21, a broad plan for the world's sustainable development. Chapter 13 of that document is dedicated to mountainous regions.

"Mountains are an important source of water, energy and biological diversity. Furthermore, they are a source of such key resources as minerals, forest products and agricultural products and of recreation. As a major ecosystem representing the complex and interrelated ecology of our planet, mountain environments are essential to the survival of the global ecosystem," says the text.

Approximately 10 percent of the world population depends directly on mountains and their resources for their livelihood, but a much larger portion utilizes resources that originate in mountainous areas, such as freshwater.

The Internet holds a great deal of information about the importance of mountain ecosystems. Some organizations specialize in promoting their conservation, and others in disseminating information about mountains from around the globe.

International Year of Mountains
International Year of Mountains: Concept Paper
United Nations Environment Program/World Conservation Monitoring Center: Mountains and Mountain Forests
Agenda 21: Sustainable Mountain Development
Mountains of the World
Mountain Forum
Mountain Agenda
Yahoo!: Mountain-related websites
The Mountain Institute

Ice at Large

Icebergs are the frosty residents of Earth's enormous oceans. These pieces of glaciers float as they please and are the result of a fascinating - and occasionally dangerous - natural phenomenon.

Perhaps the most famous incident occurred in 1912 when the famed ship, the Titanic - the "unsinkable" vessel built as a show of human know-how - ran into an iceberg and sank.

The term "iceberg" has become part of are daily speech as one often hears the phrase: "the tip of the iceberg", which refers to the fact that as much as seven-eighths of the iceberg's mass is under water, leaving only a small portion exposed.

The destructive power of these colossal chunks of ice has prompted humans to set up monitoring systems - such as satellite surveillance - to prevent collisions.

Icebergs generally arise from the "calving" of glaciers, in which a large piece breaks off and is cast adrift in the oceans, particularly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The largest iceberg was discovered in March 2000. Dubbed B15, it measures nearly 300 km in length.

The Internet is home to numerous websites featuring information and photos of icebergs. Find out why these giants are comprised of freshwater in spite of the fact that they are found floating in the saltwater of the planet's oceans.

International Ice Patrol (U.S. Coast Guard)
U.S. National Ice Center: Icebergs
Antarctic Icebergs: current positions
USA Today: Info on Icebergs
NASA: Satellite views of icebergs
Greenland Iceberg Paradise
FAQ: Icebergs of the Northern Hemisphere
B15: The Biggest Iceberg

Fleeing for their Lives

A new war at the beginning of the 21st century has brought attention to one of humanity's chronic problems: the plight of refugees, people who are forced to flee their homes in order to save their own lives.

The refugee crisis of Afghanistan is considered by many to be among the most serious in history. But the irony is that this and other similar emergencies continue to occur in the middle of the "digital era", at a time when there are many places around the world that are the epitome of modernity and "progress".

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the leader in actions taken to save refugees around the world. According to the organization's estimates, its efforts are serving more than 20 million people.

The main legal instrument that benefits refugees is a Convention negotiated in Geneva in 1951 and ratified by more than 140 nations. On June 20, 2001, World Refugee Day was celebrated, marking 50 years since the document was drafted.

UNHCR says that refugee status is the result of persecution arising from political conflicts. But in today's world the matter is more complex, as many people are fleeing hunger and drought, which may be caused by war or by environmental problems.

The refugee crisis has been denounced by numerous non-governmental organizations and has established a place on the international agenda, but there are still many people with horrific testimonies of their own experiences in being forced to flee their homes.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees
UNHCR: Crisis in Afghanistan
UNHCR: Protecting Refugees


Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados



Crédito: Freestockphotos / USGS
Crédito: Freestockphotos / USGS


















Crédito: NASA
Credit: International Ice Patrol












Crédito: NASA
Credit: UNHCR