We are changing the global environment at a pace we can hardly credit. As a result we are living through the biggest mass extinction of species since the dinosaurs - yet we go about our everyday business as if there is no crisis.

Many aspects of our ecosystems, such as our coral reefs, have already reached the point of no return, while the planet responds in complex ways to this collapse. The crisis is happening not as apocalypse but by degrees. But there are still opportunities to save what we have.

Through images from some of the world's leading photographers, this issue celebrates the beauty and diversity of our planet - as well as conveying the urgency of what we must do to protect it.








2 Letters

4 Southern Exposure
Rescuing a boat from the flood - an everyday drama on the temporary islands of the Brahmaputra, captured by Indian photographer Swapan Nayak.

5 View from the South
What do Africans think of the torrent of pontificating about their continent's woes, from Bob Geldof and Bono to Gordon Brown and Bill Gates? Ike Oguine has been asking around.

6 Currents
Cultural consequences of climate change in East Africa; human rights and criminal justice in Syria; how poor Hispanics bear the brunt of US military service in Iraq.
PLUS: Wordpower - the language of Africa.
PLUS: Seriously - World Bank Presidents past and present.

9 Only protect...
The chilling message of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, conducted by more than 1,360 experts worldwide at the behest of the UN.

Egrets and tree frogs; migrant families and cityscapes: why the sixth and greatest extinction in the planet's history is happening now.

15 Life - the facts

16 AIR
From desert storms to plane travel and smokestacks, how the air we breathe may prove to be our downfall.

19 Air - the facts

Bleached coral and beached ships; lost wetlands and sinking islands: the power of water over our health, our weather and our wars.

22 Water - the facts

From monoculture in Montana to the spreading Gobi desert in China, how our assault on the earth has eroded its thin skin of soil.

26 Earth - the facts

Recommendations for governments -and addresses of action groups that will keep them honest.

29 Worldbeaters
Baring bottoms in scorn at the last absolute monarch south of the Sahara, King Mswati III of Swaziland.

30 Mixed Media

32 Big Bad World
Great Moral Excuses Through the Ages - Part 4: Slavery, by Polyp.
PLUS: NI Prize Crossword

33 Making Waves
Iranian webloggers are in prison as part of a general clampdown on internet dissent. But Jay Bakht of the Association of Iranian Blogwriters is hitting back.

34 Essay - Hungry season in Timor-Leste
High hopes of freedom and independence are already being dashed in what was formerly East Timor, where the dead hand of multinational consultants and IMF advice is already leaving the poor hungry. Ben Moxham reports.

36 Country Profile - Jordan








<This month's article>
-Translation of "Only protect..." (NI p9)
-Translation of "The captions of the photographs" (NI p9-28)

<Reporting from Japan>
-What is happening to our natural environment?
---Let's start by thinking of our immediate surroundings?

<Country Profile>
-Translation of "Country Profile - Jordan" (p36)


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