Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Epitome of a Catch Twenty-Two

August 1, 2007

Losing Forests to Fuel Cars
Washington Post

This article discusses the clearing of the Brazilian Cerrado, an extremely diverse area of landscape, in order to make room for sugar cane, an important ethanol producer. According to the article, already have the Cerrado has been destroyed to make room for cattle farms and soy beans. Scientists have predicted that if this rate of deforestation continues, by the year 2030, all vegetation in the Cerrado will be gone.

As countries seek to lower their CO2 emissions by achieving greater quotas of ethanol, more and more land must be cleared in order to make room for corn, sugarcane, etc. According to scientists, the Cerrado is home to over 160,000 plant and animal species, and many of them are threatened species. This extreme disruption to the delicate Cerrado ecosystem could mean the extinction of thousands of species.

As the world becomes more conscious of the threat of global warming, ethanol is becoming very alluring to tons of investors and big business leaders. It has a promising future. Thus, the race to produce ethanol is heating up. Everyone wants a piece of land in order to share in the profit of the bio fuel.

Think about it: In order to help the environment, we’re killing the environment. Call it what you will: stuck between a rock and a hard place, a catch twenty-two, damned if we do, damned if we don’t… but this has got to be handled cautiously. Some are suggesting that areas that have already been clear-cut for cattle farming could now be used to produce the sugar cane in order to prevent more forestation from being cut.

The fact is, if the agricultural frontier of Brazil is pushed too far, there will be irreparable damage. What happens when all the agricultural resources in that area have been exhausted? Where will we grow our food? Raise our cows? Produce our ethanol? What happens when there really is nothing left? Although that particular situation may not happen for decades, I know personally that I could not even dream of doing something like that to future generations.

I don’t really know what the answer is, nor do I know how to fix it.
To be crude, the whole situation sucks. It just plain sucks.

How much do we sacrifice and how much to we choose to preserve? What type of decision would cause the least amount of environmental damage while not costing everyone on the planet an arm and a leg? What’s the most effective, positive decision FOR THE LONG-TERM benefit of humanity?

How do we choose…?


Tonight on Smackdown: Nature v. Business

June 29, 2007

Who will emerge the reigning champ?

I realize that most of my posts so far come off quite liberal, and although that is the direction in which I tend to lean, on many issues I’m pretty stumped.

Like business and nature, for example. I love the environment, and I’ve been pretty clear on that, but business is important, too. We need a strong economy as a crucial keystone for just about everything else. If we want to end poverty, we need a good economy. If we want to keep jobs in the U.S., we need a good economy. If we want to help fight AIDS in Africa, well, we need a good economy. Everything we do depends on our revenues. Even nature depends on it! Keeping our environment safe is not a cheap cause. We need money to fund alternative fuel research, cleaning our lakes, oceans, and rivers, and the saving of endangered species It all costs something. However, the loss of a healthy ecosystem would be hundreds of times more costly than anything we can ever imagine. Food, wood, cotton, steel, makeup, gym shoes, baseball mitts, everything from A-Z depends on nature….and on business.

Understandably so, we face quite the dilemma: Where do our priorities lie? In the thing that governs our very livelihood, or… the other thing that governs our very livelihood?

In a really neat series of articles that the Washington Post did on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency (June 27, 2007), an incident of nature v. business was cited. While farmers faced droughts in Oregon, they were prohibited from irrigation in 2004/2005 because of the trauma it would cause to two types of threatened fish in the area. Due to VP Cheney’s work, the law was changed, and farmers were allowed to irrigate. Following the reversal of this law, tens of thousands of fish were found dead along the banks of the Klamath River.

Business won.
But at what expense?

Whether it is because of selfishness, ignorance, or just the difficulty of the subject, humans have a tough time seeing how important the interrelations of nature are. So what if we lose two types of fish?

Well, let’s say that those two types of fish feed off of smaller types, and those smaller types eat plant organisms that grow in rivers. When you eliminate the fish at the top of that food chain, the population of the next fish in line grows exponentially because they no longer have anything to keep their numbers “in check”. In turn, these fish consume all plant life in the river, lowering oxygen levels. The fish starve or suffocate, leave mass amounts of corpses, and create a river full of fungus/algae. The destruction of the entire ecosystem occurs because of the loss of the higher fish. When any one piece of an ecosystem is changed too drastically, it can very easily cause the destruction of the whole thing. (If you want to take that scenario a step further… Animals around the area no longer have a clean body of water from which to drink. Now where will that take us?)

However, not only was the ecosystem lost, Oregon lost the fishing business. Fishermen (er… fisherpeople to be politically correct I suppose) have lost their jobs, and people have less fish to eat directly from the area, causing them to shell out more money to get the fish from areas that are further away.

It seems that there is a strong interrelation between business and the environment, and it’s one that we can’t afford to ignore. We cannot function in a world without a healthy environment, nor can we function in a country without a healthy economy. Look to any example, and if you think hard enough, it is not so difficult to see the ways in which the two rely on each other.

The problem now becomes this: in the U.S., one cannot be “pro business” and “pro nature”. It’s just not possible. Politicians will be condemned for flip-flopping or being soft and won’t stand a chance in the next election. Ah, the two-party system: You are only one or the other, never both, and always neither.

I’m all about compromise- maybe it’s because I’m young and I’m still lost in a land of ideals and “what-could-be’s”, but for the sake of this country, for the sake of the world, and for the sake of the future, we have to find a way to reconcile business with nature, or nature with business. If we do not, there is no telling what could lie in store for us.