Despite the dramatic variations across Europe, the environmental challenges are comparable. Everywhere the goal is to improve management of environmental impacts in all economic sectors, while also taking more responsibility in a global context (EEA 2004a, OECD 2004, RIVM 2004). Central and Western Europe need to build and expand on current policy processes. In Eastern Europe, a key task is to harness the skills and commitment of professionals and citizens more effectively (OECD 2004).
In all of Europe, improvements can be achieved by:
- Increasing use of market-based instruments to manage demand and internalize external environmental costs;
- Switching more extensively to environmentally sound subsidies;
- Promoting innovation; and
- More targeted monitoring of environmental change.
The benefits for the environment and human health will be multi-dimensional, cutting across issues such as climate change, air pollution, biodiversity and air and water quality (EEA 2004a).
Our Changing Environment
Almeria, Spain: From fields to greenhouses
The sunny south of Spain offers more to the national economy than simply tourism. Over the past 50 years, the small coastal plain of Campo de Dalias, some 30 km southwest of the city of Almería, has been intensively developed for agriculture.
The area has a dry, mild, Mediterranean climate and is further sheltered on the north by the Sierra de Gador mountains. With just slightly more than 200 mm of annual precipitation to support crop growth, the area also relies on groundwater fed by small stream aquifers from the mountains to the north.
Over the past three decades the land-use pattern has changed dramatically. In the image from 24 June 1974, mixed landuse including urban development and agriculture occupy the Campo.
Since then agriculture has shifted from open fields to the greenhouse production of early and out-of-season vegetables – including lettuce, cucumbers, watermelons, depending upon the stage of their development, dominates the agricultural lands. beans, squash, cucumbers,
peppers, and tomatoes.
The greenhouses are
In the image of 18 July 2004, note the dense, bright pattern of
thousands of greenhouses extending
from the shoreline right up to the base of the
mountains and even into some of the smaller valleys.
Salt pan operations can also be seen in the long
coastal lagoons (bottom).
There are now an estimated 20 to 40 000 ha
of greenhouses in the Campo de Dalías, the largest
concentration in the world. Their produce accounts for
over US$1. 5 billion in economic activity. Over 2. 7 million
tonnes of produce are grown in the plain each year.
Source: Earth Observatory
Source: Earth Observatory 2004
Images provided courtesy UNEP/GRID – Sioux Falls