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The Aral Sea: a prime example of human recklessness



Twenty-two years ago, the Aral Sea was creating attention as its fresh water level dropped by two-thirds. To this day, that number is above 70%, causing many to consider it as the most mismanaged water resource in human history. Joseph Iddison explores its history and future.

The Aral has become infamous for its sea-turned-desert existence, with historians and environmentalists placing it among the worst ecological disasters ever.

Casting back, it seems rather improper and reckless that such an area of aquatic history – previously the world’s fourth largest inland sea – was allowed to diminish.

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union built large pastoral dwellings for farmers, digging long canals to irrigate them. When this farm boom began, the Aral had a commercial fishery that brought in more than 40,000 tonnes of fish each year. Thousands of fishermen worked the Aral, and others found jobs in processing plants, canneries and railroad yards, where train cars full of fish left daily for markets in Moscow.

However, this changed in the 1980s, after the Soviet government drained the Aral in order to supply cotton fields planted in the landscape around it, specifically in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Once a colossal geographic feature, covering 26,000 square miles, the Aral shrank to just one-tenth of its original volume.

In the late 1980s, the Aral divided into two parts, becoming what is commonly known as the North Aral – small but moderately deep – and the South Aral, whose deep western side and shallow eastern side have separated into two distinct water bodies.

After the Soviet Union collapsed and Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, hope appeared for the North Aral’s recovery. The mayor of the town of Aralsk followed scientists’ advice and built a makeshift dam, isolating it from the South Aral. The dam collapsed several times, however, with reportedly two men killed, but during the years the dam stood, the North Aral rose slightly.

The Aral Sea's decline from 1989 (left) to 2008. Photo: NASA.

In 2005, the World Bank and the Kazakhstan government had designed and built a permanent eight-mile dam intended to raise the North Aral by approximately 4 metres, deep enough to drop salinity and allow native fish to repopulate the sea. The $85m project also improved irrigation structures upriver from the Aral.

The first phase of a World Bank restoration project concluded in 2008. Its total cost was $86m, including a $64.5m World Bank loan to the Kazakh government. The aim was to secure the northern Kazakh pocket of the Aral Sea at 42 metres above Baltic Sea level and improve ecological conditions in the area. The project includes construction of the Kok-Aral dike that separates the northern and southern seas, as well as several hydraulic structures on the Syr Darya river.

The World Bank is considering a follow-up project to improve environmental and economic conditions further – a scheme estimated to cost $300m. It includes returning water to the port of Aralsk and nearby villages, rehabilitating delta lakes and improving river flows.

One of the reasons for this proposal is due to the health problems local populations have had since sea levels have diminished, which the World Bank recognises.

Such investment in reconstructing the Aral Sea region is crucial, as it is among the poorest districts in the oil producing state. At least a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line, and the average monthly income is three times below that of Kazakh financial capital Almaty, according to official data. Average life expectancy is 66 years compared to 70 in Almaty.

Kazakhstan is expected to double its oil output and become one of the world’s top 10 oil-producing countries by 2020. Hydroelectricity from five plants make up 12% of its electricity generation, but because of its burgeoning fossil fuels industry, renewable energy development has been slow in the country.

Speaking at a high-profile energy forum earlier this month, Timur Kulibayev, head of Kazenergy, said “It’s very fashionable these days to talk about alternative energy. We would look for alternative energy once its cost of production becomes lower and feasible.”

This is worrying for the future of the Aral, as more harmful gases from neighbouring countries are pumped into its atmosphere. Only through clean or low-carbon energy will the sea’s ecosystems and bordering human populations enjoy a prosperous future, otherwise the Aral will forever be regarded as an example of mankind’s carelessness.

Joseph Iddison is a student in his final year of an English degree at the University of Leicester. He intends to do a master’s in geographical information science and human geography.

Further reading:

Drill, baby, drill: North Sea energy, 1970s style

In search of the ecological truth

Joseph Iddison is a master’s student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.


What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?




shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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