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Europe Stories, Environment and Natural Resources

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Germany Architecture

The planning, designing, and construction of buildings or other structures produces architecture (Latin: architectura; from Greek: arkhitekton, "architect," from "chief" and "creator").
 Buildings that are architectural works in their physical form are frequently regarded as works of art and cultural symbols. Architecture from past civilizations is frequently used to define them today.

Cultures on all seven continents have used the practice, which dates back to the prehistoric era, as a means of expression. Because of this, architecture is regarded as an artistic medium. Since antiquity, books on architecture have been written. The Roman architect Vitruvius wrote his treatise De architectura in the first century AD. According to Vitruvius, a good building embodies firmitas, utilitas, and venustas (durability, utility, and beauty). Centuries later, Leon Battista Alberti expanded on these concepts, considering beauty to be an objective property of structures that can be found in their proportions. In his 16th-century book Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Giorgio Vasari introduced the concept of style in the Western arts. Louis Sullivan said that "form follows function" in the 19th century. The term "function" started to take the place of the traditional "utility," and it came to mean not only something useful but also something with aesthetic, psychological, and cultural components. In the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of sustainable architecture was first proposed.

Rural, oral vernacular architecture was the first form of architecture, and it evolved through trial and error before being successfully replicated. Up until Greek and Roman architecture turned its attention to civic virtues, ancient urban architecture was preoccupied with constructing religious structures and buildings that symbolized the political power of rulers. Asian architectural forms were influenced by Indian and Chinese styles, and Buddhist architecture in particular incorporated distinctive regional influences. Pan-European Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and abbeys first appeared during the European Middle Ages, whereas the Renaissance favored Classical forms used by renowned architects. The functions of engineers and architects were later divided. After World War I, an avant-garde movement that aimed to create a totally fresh aesthetic fit for the needs of the middle and working classes in the emerging post-war social and economic order gave birth to modern architecture. High-rise superstructures were made possible by emphasizing contemporary methods, supplies, and geometrical forms. Postmodern and contemporary architecture emerged as a result of many architects' growing disillusionment with modernism, which they saw as anti-aesthetic and unhistorical.

The practice of architectural construction has evolved over time to encompass everything from ship design to interior design.

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COP26: crucial step in the fight against global warming, France

International news Agence Française de Développement (AFD)
The 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP26, will be held from 31 October to 12 November 2021, in Glasgow (United Kingdom). As a major player in the fight against climate change and guarantor of the spirit of the Paris Agreement, France will carry out strong actions in Glasgow, together with the European Union, on several priorities.

The latest work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the urgency of taking action and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to stay on a trajectory of global temperature rise of 1.5°C as foreseen by the Paris Agreement. The commitments made by States Parties in the framework of COP26 will be decisive for the future of the planet.

Challenges and priorities of COP 26
In this context, the 4 priorities of COP26 are:

1. Raising global climate ambition
5th convention of the Parties since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, COP26 corresponds to the 1st stage point of the cycle of ambition provided for by the Paris Agreement.

This cycle of ambition requires each Party to the agreement to increase its climate commitments every 5 years through the submission of a new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC.

The European Union has met this target by committing to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

2. Finalise the rules for the application of the Paris Agreement
At COP26, negotiations will continue on the rules for the application of the Paris Agreement, in particular on Article 6, which provides for emissions trading mechanisms, and on transparency. France and the European Union hope that the discussions can be finalised in Glasgow.

3. Mobilizing finance for developing countries
Developed countries have pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year for climate change in developing countries between 2020 and 2025.

To take stock of this commitment, developed countries, including France, published before COP26 a delivery plan on the amounts they will mobilize by 2025. This plan was published on October 25, 2021.

France is determined to achieve this goal in order to meet the expectations of the most vulnerable countries. The President of the Republic has undertaken to:

increase climate finance mobilised by France to €6 billion per year from 2021 to 2025;
spend one third (2 billion) on adaptation. This corresponds to an increase from the commitment made at COP 21 to reach €5 billion in 2020, including €1.5 billion for adaptation. In 2020, the commitment was met, with a total of €5.05 billion in funding, including €1.96 billion for adaptation, and even exceeded in 2019 with €6 billion.
For the period 2020-2023, France has doubled its contribution to the Green Climate Fund to €1.5 billion.
This dynamic is part of a European framework: climate finance from the European Union (EU) and its Member States reached €21.9 billion in 2019 (with an EU of 27 members), making the Union the largest contributor of public climate finance.

4. Enhancing and strengthening the Agenda for Action
The Climate Action Agenda was created so that non-state actors can deploy operational climate actions. It was one of the key elements in the success of COP21 and the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

France wishes to perpetuate the inclusive spirit of Paris by continuing to mobilize actors (local authorities, researchers, civil society, NGOs, youth representatives, businesses) and multi-stakeholder coalitions so that they develop concrete solutions to fight climate change in different sectors (energy, transport, buildings, water, ocean). At COP26, France will offer a space of expression to these actors through the programming of its pavilion.

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The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Switzerland

Air quality
The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 14.5 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the 13.9 micrograms OECD average. Pollution from respirable particulate matter (PM10), ozone (O3) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) continues to exceed the legally prescribed ambient limit values. The scale of ammonia (NH3) pollution also exceeds the critical limit value.

Water Quality
Half of the 20 largest Swiss lakes suffer from eutrophication and lack of oxygen, particularly in areas of intensive farming. Micro-pollutants, from urban sewage or diffuse agricultural sources detected in surface waters. Roughly 40% of rivers significantly modified as a result of land use. River flows altered and artificial barriers hindering fish movement.

Hydropower production also altered river flows.Nutrient loads still very high at 10% of monitored river stations, would be higher if more smaller rivers were monitored.

Levels of nitrates from fertilisers exceeded the legal limit of 25 milligrams per litre (mg/l) in 15% of sample areas in 2014. This increased to 40% in areas where there is a high degree of arable farming.

Society is ageing, life expectancies are rising, and premature death is less likely. These trends are expected to continue and become global. The Federal Statistical Office expects the number of retired people in Switzerland to increase by 50% by 2045.

The average age of foreigners living in Switzerland is 36, while that of Swiss is 44, there is a higher percentage of foreign residents of working age than of Swiss citizens. Without exceptionally strong productivity growth or a continuing inflow of young foreign labor, in the long run, the retirement age or tax revenue and pension contributions must be raised or the level of benefits reduced.

Besides an ageing population, the increasing demand for health care services has made the Swiss healthcare system one of the most expensive. Since the introduction of compulsory basic health insurance in 1996, health costs have more than doubled. In the four years from 2010 to 2014, per capita Swiss health care costs rose 10.2%.

Biodiversity and habitat loss
Half of Switzerland’s natural habitats and more than a third of its animal and plant species were under threat – much more than in most European Union countries. About half of 235 Swiss habitat types are endangered, with a high proportion of threatened species. Only 6.5% of its land is set aside as protected area. 

Overall 36% of evaluated species have been categorised as threatened. As of the late 2000s, 79% of reptiles, 62% of amphibians and a third of mammals are classified as endangered, vulnerable or critically endangered. About 60% of bats are threatened mainly due to pesticides.

The percentage of threatened habitats and species in bodies of water and wetlands is particularly high. Most bodies of water and mires in agricultural areas were drained in the last century, while rivers, streams and lakes were robbed of their natural dynamic. Around one ­fifth of Swiss watercourses are today completely artificial, heavily damaged or culverted.

Waste generation
Because of its high standard of living, Switzerland has one of the highest municipal waste volumes in the world, at 742kg per capita in 2015. Volume of municipal waste increased by 27% since 2000, in line with private consumption.

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A Culinary Journey: Healthy Meal Choices for Extreme Heat in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe

Extreme heat, a phenomenon rather common in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, necessitates particular lifestyle modifications, one of which is diet. Evidence has suggested that what we consume can influence our body's toleration against such conditions.

Surviving and Thriving in a Heat Wave: A Focus on Nutrition
As we adapt to these increasingly hot conditions, we must understand the importance of a well-balanced, heat-appropriate diet. Consuming the right nutrients can hydrate our bodies, optimize energy utilization, and prevent heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke.

The Mediterranean Standard: A Nutritional Model for Extreme Heat
The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy oils, has long been renowned for its health-promoting properties. But in addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and enhancing longevity, it also represents an effective strategy for surviving extreme heat. This diet employs foods that naturally help to regulate body temperature and provide hydration.

1. Hydrating Foods
Most fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, and tomatoes, common in Mediterranean cuisine, are high in water content. These foods help maintain hydration and electrolyte balance, crucial for managing heat stress.

2. Light Proteins
Fish and poultry, staples in the Mediterranean diet, provide protein necessary for repairing heat-induced wear and tear on bodily tissues. They are light and easy to digest, preventing the body from overheating during digestion.

3. Healthy Fats
The use of oils, particularly olive oil, is characteristic to Mediterranean cooking. These healthy fats are essential for absorbing heat-protective vitamins like vitamin E.
Meal Ideas for Extreme Heat
Inspired by the inherent wisdom of the Mediterranean diet, here are some meal recommendations for extreme heat.

1. Greek Salad
A fresh Greek salad, brimming with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese, can be a hydration powerhouse. It is not only satisfying and delicious but also excellent for maintaining water balance in the body.

2. Grilled fish with Lemon and Herbs
Grilled fish, flavored with lemon and fresh herbs like rosemary or dill, serves as a light protein source. Served alongside an array of grilled vegetables, it makes for a well-rounded, heat-friendly meal.

3. Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
For dessert, a parfait comprising local fruits like figs, peaches, or berries and Greek yogurt would be a desirable choice. It would offer hydration, essential nutrients, and a cooling effect, without being excessively heavy.

Drinking Habits in a Heatwave
In addition to food, mindful drinking is paramount. Regular water intake is essential, but other traditional Mediterranean drinks, such as herb-infused water or freshly squeezed orange juice, provide hydration plus vital nutrients. However, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which are diuretic, should be consumed in moderation.

Adapting to the extreme heat of the Mediterranean and Southern Europe requires not just any dietary modifications, but a focus on a diet that has proven effective in these regions for generations. The Mediterranean diet, with its abundance of fresh produce, light proteins, healthy fats, and hydration-focused beverages, provides an ideal model for maintaining health in extreme heat. Hence, we can indeed survive and thrive in a heatwave if we watch, and more importantly, adapt what we eat and drink, as per the local environment's requirements.

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Denmark Plant and animal life

The unique plant and animal life of Denmark is what sets it apart from other countries in Europe and around the world. The temperate climate and diverse landscape provide ideal conditions for a variety of species to survive and thrive. From the majestic elks of the wild, to the coastal and migratory birds that can sometimes be seen along the beaches, Denmark offers visitors a great array of natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Denmark is home to a large number of different plant species. The forests in the southern part of the country are home to such trees as birch, pine, ash, and spruce, and in some areas beech and oak can also be found. There is a wide variety of grasses, bushes, and flowers, too. Some of the more common wildflowers include small yellow primroses, bluebells, daisies, and buttercups. Denmark is also home to a variety of lichens, mosses, and ferns.

Denmark is known for its many species of animals as well. Mammals that live in Denmark include elk, badger, red deer, roe deer, fox, hare, and rabbit, among many others. Many different species of bird can be seen in Denmark, such as the great crested grebe, mute swan, barnacle geese, ptarmigan, curlew, and red kite. In the summer months, visitors might be lucky enough to spot a white-tailed eagle or osprey in some areas. Denmark is also a great place to observe seals and porpoises in the ocean.

The fauna of Denmark has been particularly well-preserved. In addition to the many species of plants and animals that can be found in the wild, Denmark is home to a number of protected areas and conservation organizations that ensure the health of the country's native species.

For visitors looking to connect with nature, Denmark is an ideal destination. With its abundance of flora and fauna, and its commitment to conservation, Denmark makes for a wonderful wildlife getaway.