• Green world update

    by Cameron Douglas

    From time to time, Cedar Street Times likes to put a finger on the general pulse of environmental concerns around the world, and what actions are being taken to keep our pretty blue planet green. Here is information from our latest sampling of green issues.

    The topics are many; and right now there is increasing focus on the loss of biodiversity and the high cost that comes with it. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes in a video that many species are threatened with extinction. These include:

    • One out of eight birds
    • One out of four mammals
    • One out of four conifers
    • One out of three amphibians
    • Six out of seven marine turtles

    beijingairCMYKThe IUCN further reports that 75 percent of genetic diversity in agriculture has been lost. Of the world’s fisheries, 75 percent are fully or badly exploited. Up to 70 percent of the world’s known species are at risk of extinction if global temperatures rise more than 3.5 degrees Centigrade. One-third of reef-building corals are threatened with extinction. More than 350 million people now suffer with severe water scarcity.

    A recent study predicts that one million species will be lost in the next 50 years, citing climate change as the chief reason. The World Wide Fund for Nature sums it up this way: “Earth is unable to keep up in the struggle to regenerate from the demands we place on it.”

    In the face of these reports, CST went in search of good news. In September, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of environmentalists in a lawsuit against the U.S. government, over Navy training exercises off the West Coast that involve sonar, which, say the environmentalists, is harmful to endangered whales, dolphins, and other protected marine mammals.

    More good news: New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg recently asserted that the air in his town is the cleanest it’s been in 50 years, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and deaths; Puerto Rico has enacted a new law to protect a part of their territory identified as a major nesting site for the world’s largest turtle, the leatherback; a new wind farm in Australia is supplying electricity at a cheaper rate than gas or coal-fired plants; more than 140 countries have agreed on legally binding measures to curb mercury pollution; South Korea’s two largest airlines announced this year they are banning shark fins from their cargo flights as part of a global campaign against this Asian delicacy and the corresponding slaughter of sharks.


    Big Brother is watching
    Information on the environment is sometimes found in unexpected places. The Central Intelligence Agency has a web page that chronicles current environmental issues all around the globe, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The page is part of the agency’s World Factbook, and it also has detailed information on the state of our oceans. Here are some of the CIA’s reports.

    • In 1998, NASA imagery over Antarctica showed the ozone hole in that region to be the largest on record, spanning 27 million square kilometers. In 2002, significant areas of Antarctica’s ice shelves disintegrated in response to regional warming.
    • Walruses and whales are now counted as endangered species in the Arctic Ocean. The CIA describes the Arctic ecosystem as “fragile, slow to change, and slow to recover from disruptions or damage, with a thinning polar icepack.”
    • The Atlantic Ocean’s endangered species include the manatee, seals, sea lions, turtles and whales. Drift net fishing is causing a decline in Atlantic fish stocks, triggering international disputes. There is municipal sludge pollution off the eastern U.S, southern Brazil, and eastern Argentina. Oil has polluted the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Maracalbo, the Mediterranean, and the North Sea. The last two, along with the Baltic Sea, also suffer with industrial waste and municipal sewage pollution.
    • The Pacific Ocean’s endangered species include the dugong, sea lion, sea otters, seals, turtles and whales. There is oil pollution in the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea.

    Judging by the CIA’s info on Russia, that country is an environmental train wreck: “Air pollution from heavy industry, emissions from coal-fired electric plants and transportation in major cities; industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution of inland waterways and seacoasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas of sometimes intense radioactive contamination; groundwater contamination from toxic waste; urban solid waste management; abandoned stocks of obsolete pesticides.”

    Acre for acre, Algeria is worse. The CIA reports “Soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification; dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; Mediterranean Sea in particular becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion and fertilizer runoff; inadequate supplies of potable water.”

    The CIA’s description of environmental issues in the United States reads, “Air pollution resulting in acid rain in the U.S. and Canada; large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification.”
    Deforestation and soil erosion are frequent topics on the CIA list.

    In contrast, the World Factbook sums up Bermuda in two words — sustainable development. Indeed, there is strong environmental awareness in the tropical nation, supported by two major entities. One is an organization called Bermuda Environmental Alliance, which focuses on education, and on the region’s number one environmental challenge, trash. The other is the government’s own Department of Environmental Protection, with information on environmental engineering, plant protection and marine resources.

    China’s industry
    China continues to struggle with the environmental woes of its rapid industrialization and colossal population. Beijing, which lies in a topographical bowl similar to Los Angeles, has significant industry and heats with coal. The Chinese capital city is subject to air inversions resulting in extremely high levels of air pollution in winter months. Part of the CIA’s description simply reads, “China is the world’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.” Add to that water shortages and deforestation. While awareness of these problems has increased among China’s population, critics point to Chinese officials’ efforts to deal with environmental issues as half-hearted at best, and ineffective at worst. China has also lost one-fifth of its vast agricultural land since 1949 due to soil erosion and economic development.
    Send comments and suggestions for future Green Pages to: cameron@cedarstreettimes.com/

    posted to Cedar Street Times on November 7, 2013

    Topics: Green


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