Monthly Archives: June 2015

Phosphorus: Ecology and Economy by Juho Miettinen

Juho-screen-shot-2013-12-19The image of the phosphate economy. The world’s longest conveyor belt runs 98km from the contested West Sahara region to the coast, carrying rock phosphate to the coast to be exported. The phosphate rock can be seen from space as a light-colored dust, strewn across the landscape by the desert wind, along the length of the inadequately covered machine. [Picture: Bing Maps]

Despite phosphorus’ myriad uses, the markets have failed to account for it’s tremendous value. The main use for the element is currently the manufacturing of phosphate fertilizers. Of the phosphorus currently mined as rock phosphate for this purpose only 20% end up in the food you eat. The rest is lost from human control as phosphorus pollution. Phosphorus pollution degrades soils and causes eutrophication, paving the way for serious environmental catastrophe. By far the largest phosphorus losses occur in conventional agriculture, where large amounts of superphosphate fertilizer application are required to keep up with the +66% losses from runoff.

To address the problem of phosphorus production peaking during the current century, the economies of the world must begin to recycle their phosphorus in an effort to reduce demand for phosphorus. There is no alternative input for phosphorus in the nutrition of any living thing, making it crucially important a resource to utilize sustainably. There are many ways to reduce demand for imported phosphates. Recycling phosphorus in it’s organic forms back into the soil, reducing erosion and runoff and drawing it into struvite at urban wastewater processing centers are just a few of the multitude of ways to approach improving phosphate efficiency. Recycling phosphorus represents real opportunity to turn a profit while protecting the environment.

Diversifying markets will also open up opportunities for farmers, who can potentially capitalize on their surplus manures and other outputs. There is a real need for a greater degree of security in the global phosphorus market, as relying on a handful of exporting countries can compromise food security for many people all over the world for reasons that are legion in number. This security can be achieved by sourcing phosphorus locally.


How does poverty hinder education in Mexico? by Sofia Peltola


Photo: Petra Heikkilä

In Mexico, according to INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) in 2010, there were 19.8 million people aged 6 to 14, and 18.7 million of them had access to education. So, there were still 1.1 million children who did not attend school even though in the Mexican Constitution, education is declared to be compulsory for everyone. Elementary education is also declared to be free of charge, but this is not always the reality. In order to attend school, children must have school uniforms and other material, such as notebooks and pencils. According to the statistics of 2013, 45.5% of Mexico’s population, meaning 53.3 million people, live in poverty. Thus, there are many poor families who have difficulty in affording the necessary material. The poor parents face also indirect costs when sending a child to school because they usually lose a source of labor.

Financial barriers are not the only issues that prevent the poor children from having access to education. Machismo, the supreme valuation of the masculine over the feminine, remains still very common in the Mexican culture, and it hinders the girls’ access to school. Mexico’s security problem is another issue that touches especially the poor people who must live in the dangerous zones of the cities. Since the violence and drug traffickers confrontations risk the lives of the innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, parents may not be willing to let their children go to school.

Social exclusion, a state of separation of social relations and institutions, also hinders education. Firstly, it is complicated for the poor living in rural areas or in the outskirts of the cities to have access to school simply because they live so far away from it. If the poor children manage to go to school, they can be victims of externalization from groups of other children for not belonging to the same social class as the majority of children. Besides social exclusion, the poor quality of teaching is also likely to hamper the education of the children; they may have difficulties in learning and feel unmotivated.

Malnutrition is another factor that hinders the learning process. Because of inadequate caloric and/or vitamin intake, the children may suffer from anemia and feel too tired to concentrate in the classes. They might be too fatigued to even go to school. The lack of important nutritive ingredients hampers also concentration. In Mexico, the poor often lack potable water, and as a consequence, they suffer from gastrointestinal infections and skin illnesses. There are people who might not have any kind of water, thus, it is complicated to maintain a good hygiene in order to go to school.

On the whole, if the basic needs, such as satisfying the hunger, are not fulfilled, it is difficult to dedicate one’s time to education. Indeed, the poor in Mexico are living under very rough circumstances, and it clearly hinders the education of the children.