16
Jun
2004

World's Land Grievously Stressed

June 16, 2004

OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Glen Barry, Ph.D., Forests.org

Humanity's misuse of land is dangerously shortsighted. Nearly everywhere land is becoming dust as overuse turns once verdant landscapes into deserts. Lands the size of Rhode Island are becoming desert wasteland every year, sending millions of ecological refugees fleeing to greener countries - but few remain with land to spare. Nearly as much American land is covered by concrete as is under wilderness designation. In the continental United States an area the size of Ohio (~43,000 square miles) is covered by impervious surfaces - buildings, roads, parking lots - while natural protected lands cover just a bit larger area (~75,000 square miles). And we know the way this is trending. Paved lands are biological wastelands that impact climate, water and land productivity. If determined by the needs for continental ecological sustainability, protected wildlands would cover a much greater area.

Contemporary society has misjudged risk - the third article below points out that as we fight terror the Planet is crumbling. "While we remain virtually hypnotized by terrorism, humanity is quietly destroying the biosphere in which we live, ourselves and our future along with it." Every day many more victims die from air and water pollution, to say nothing of poverty, than died on 9/11. Issues of environmental sustainability are deeply rooted in social inequities and injustices. It is made clear that the Earth is approaching a breaking point in our lifetime. Solutions are straightforward -- stabilize population, reduce consumption and share wealth. Some $40 billion a year -- about what consumers spend on cosmetics -- would provide everyone on Earth with clean water, sanitation, health care, adequate nutrition and education. In a globalized world, there is no refuge from those faced with dire need.

The state of the World's land - and by extension its atmosphere, water and oceans - is perilously grave. The rich want more while the poor work to meet basic human needs - in both cases leading to further overuse of land.

Where is the outrage as entire swathes of the Earth's land are made uninhabitable? Where are the massive citizen movements and governmental programs to address catastrophic land losses? Is there anybody out there that cares? Land is the bedrock of human existence. A mass back to the land movement that seeks to extract land from the global growth machine while nurturing its restoration and stewardship may be our last best hope.

More on this later...

g.b.


RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:

ITEM #1

Title: US concrete 'would cover Ohio'

Source: Copyright 2004, BBC

Date: June 15, 2004

Byline: John Heilprin, Associated Press

Excessive concrete cover is not good for the environment If all the concrete structures in America's 48 contiguous states were added up, they would cover a space almost as big as Ohio, researchers say.

Workers from several universities and agencies have put together the first ever map of the US, which shows "impervious surface areas" (ISA). It is important to total up concrete cover because of its harmful effect on the environment, the researchers claim.

The work was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Giant Jigsaw

If you made a giant jigsaw out of all the highways, streets, buildings, parking lots and other solid structures in the contiguous states, it would cover 112,610 sq km (43,480 sq miles). That is an area nearly the size of Ohio, which is 116,534 sq km (44,994 sq miles).

This is far more than a Christmas cracker statistic, the researchers claim, because concrete cover - or ISA - is not good for the environment.

The replacement of heavily vegetated areas by ISA reduces the depletion of carbon dioxide, which plants absorb from the atmosphere. This can speed up global warming.

ISAs can also alter the water cycle and disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

They do this by changing the shape of stream channels, raising water temperatures and washing pollutants into aquatic environments.

Population growth

The ISA of the contiguous states is already slightly larger than that of its wetlands, which cover 98,460 sq km (38,020 sq miles). The population of the US is increasing by three million a year. Concrete cover is spreading to match.

Every year, one million new family homes are built and 20,000 km (10,000 miles) of roads are laid.

Given these trends, it is likely a lot more will be made of impervious surface areas in the future.

The research was part funded by the US space agency (Nasa).


ITEM #2

Title: U.N. Says Globe Drying Up at Fast
Source: Copyright 2004, Associated Press
Date: June 15, 2004
Byline: CHRIS HAWLEY, Associated Press Writer

//omega.twoday.net/stories/241750/



ITEM #3

Title: While we're off fighting terror, the planet's crumbling

Source: Copyright 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Date: June 1, 2004

Byline: RICHARD STEINER, PROFESSOR

//omega.twoday.net/stories/229931/

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