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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 28 July
PRESENTER
MIRIAM O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 28 July 2005
Flowers

The real cost of cheap flowers

What would be the impact on the environment if a city the size of Nottingham sprang up overnight - with no clean water and no sewage system? That's exactly what happened in Kenya - where 300,000 desperate people went in search of work in the flower industry. Most of them have little chance of finding a job but still they keep coming. If the choice is between jobs and saving the environment - there is no choice.

UK flower sales have trebled in the past decade to more than £1.3 billion. It is a boom business and big name retailers have taken the flower market by storm. Would we be so happy to scoop them into our trolleys if we realised they'd been flown halfway across the world by a trade that's accused of wasting and polluting scarce water supplies and exploiting workers in some of the world's poorest countries? Or should we be buying even more to put much-needed cash into the economies of cash-starved communities - helping to sustain vital trade links? For Costing the Earth, Miriam O'Reilly investigates the "fly now, pay later" trade in Britain's favourite blooms.

You may check your vegetables in the supermarket to see where they've come from - but what about the bunch of roses or carnations? Cornwall maybe, the Scilly Isles ... possibly even Holland where the world's largest flower auction is the hub of the European trade. But these days it's a fair bet they will have been flown in from Columbia, Israel or Kenya and that's an industry that's becoming increasingly controversial. Growers in Israel, for instance, have been accused of a flagrant misuse of water - a resource just as likely to start wars in the Middle East as oil - in the pursuit of profit; and in Kenya the flower-growing industry stands accused of threatening more traditional livelihoods by polluting Lake Navaisha and poisoning fish. Yet Kenya supplies the UK with 12,000 tonnes of cut flowers a year - a remarkable economic success story for the country.
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