Wed, Jan 01, 2014 - Page 9 News List

The issues that are to dominate the year

From the surveillance state to food security, the World Cup and missions to map out the galaxy, here is a look at the matters that will likely make headlines this year

By Charles Arthur  /  The Observer, LONDON

Rosetta and Philae are then to stay with Comet 67P/CG over the next few months, studying the plumes of gas and vapor that are to boil from its surface as it sweeps past the sun. The £840 million (US$1,389 million) project is to be one of the most spectacular feats of space exploration ever planned and, if successful, will mark a major milestone for the European Space Agency, which is set to fulfill a series of space spectaculars this year.

Apart from Rosetta, the agency is to start taking data later in the year from its robot satellite Gaia, which it launched successfully a few days ago. Carrying the biggest, most accurate camera ever constructed, Gaia is to pinpoint more than a billion stars with unprecedented precision and create a 3D map of the Milky Way. The billion-pixel camera will also help astronomers pinpoint planets orbiting stars elsewhere in our galaxy and help them in their quest to detect dark energy, the mysterious force that is believed to be pushing the universe apart.

In addition to these missions, this year will see a program of commercial satellite launches and flights of European astronauts to the International Space Station, demonstrating that Europe’s burning ambition to become a major space power may very soon be fulfilled.


By Jay Rayner

At the dawn of the new year the global population will stand at just over 7.2 billion and rising. We are predicted to hit eight billion by 2024 and nine billion not long after that. The imperative of feeding all those mouths remains and the diary is packed with talking shops for those looking at ways to do it. The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is to hold its Empowering Agriculture summit in Berlin from Jan. 16 to 18.

Likewise, the AU has declared this year the year of agriculture and food security, and will debate the issues at its annual gathering in Addis Ababa at the end of this month. It is likely that similar discussions will be held in March at the Wheat Food Security summit in Mexico. This marks the centenary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution that ushered in a massive explosion in agricultural yields in India and Pakistan from the 1960s.

However, the key event in the food security diary this year is likely to be the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s second international conference on nutrition in Rome in November. Given that the first one took place in 1992, it is long overdue. Back then the issue was relatively straightforward: there were people who had enough to eat and a lot who did not.

Now an explosion in the middle classes of the emerging economies has created a different narrative. There are still nearly a billion people with not enough to eat, but there are also vast numbers who are consuming too much. Agricultural fixes alone will not secure the planet’s food supply; we must also now find a way to rebalance our consumption. This is the debate that will come to the fore this year.


By Joanne O’Connor

The growth of the “sharing economy” will continue to be one of the biggest travel stories of this year. Once seen as niche alternatives, accommodation sites such as Airbnb and Housetrip, car share service BlaBlaCar and dinner-party finder EatWith are moving swiftly into the mainstream and giving traditional hoteliers, car rental companies and restaurateurs sleepless nights.

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