Monday, December 31, 2007

2008...the year of the what?

As 2007 comes to a close and 2008 looms on the (very near) horizon, it may be appropriate to reflect on what the year 2008 is supposed to stand for.

It is not very easy to convince the United Nations to declare a year for something, so it is interesting that this year the UN has announced 4 years-of:

1. The Year of the Potato. This was recommended by Peru's government - not because the potato is in any danger, but to highlight the importance of the potato and its possibility for alleviating world poverty. They claim that the potato "produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop."

2. The International Year of Sanitation. This was designated to raise awareness of the plight of roughly 41% of the world's population — at least 2.6 billion people — who don't have access to basic sanitation. This is in line with one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals to reduce this number by half by 2015.

3. The International Year of Languages. Since my research involved reading and language (particularly, reading multiple languages with different alphabets), I am overjoyed to hear this news. An excerpt from the Sixty-First General Assembly Plenary:

...recognizing that genuine multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Languages.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly, also recognizing that the United Nations pursues multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally, emphasized the paramount importance of the equality of the Organization’s six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)...

4. The International Year of the Planet Earth. Which lasts for three years. Funding for this program started in 2007 and will end in 2009. The aim of this program is to bring more attention to Earth scientists and their research, referencing the 2004 Asian Tsunami as an example of an event which could have involved fewer deaths if more attention was paid to the Earth Sciences.

Outside of the UN, it appears fairly easy to designate various years-of...

1. The Year of the Frog. The Amphibian Ark has highlighted 500 frog species threatened with extinction. Kermit the Frog is the official spokesperson for the program.

2. The (Second) International Year of the Reef, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative. The IYOR aims to educate people about the importance of coral reefs to world ecosystems.

3. The Year of Feta Cheese - in Greece.

4. The Year of Boy Scouts and Engineering - in Australia.

5. The Year of Gardens - in Cheshire, England.

6. The Year of Intercultural Dialogue for the European Union (shouldn't that be EVERY year, in the EU?)

Oh, and 2008 is also the Chinese Year of the Rat.

...with thanks to Nature News for some of the references above.

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