Monday, March 9, 2015

A Threatened Planet, A Threatened Way of Life, A Threatened People

“We should never forget that the greenest parts of the Amazon are Indian reserves. The Indians are the guardians of the rainforest.” Sebastião Salgado
The Yanomami of the Amazon Basin in Brazil (Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas)
In the mid-1970s, with Brazil’s military regime eager to develop the Amazon Basin, a northern section of the trans-Amazonian highway reached into Yanomami territory, introducing influenza, measles and malaria and resulting in thousands of deaths.

Maturacá, in contrast, was engulfed in a gold rush in the late 1980s which attracted over 35,000 freelance gold-diggers to traditional Yanomami lands, not only bringing new diseases but also using violence against Indians and poisoning their rivers with the mercury they used to separate gold from mud. Once more, uncounted thousands of Indians died.

Today, a new bill pending before Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies would proclaim a “public interest” in allowing Indian reserves to be used for farming, mining, oil and gas pipelines, hydroelectric dams, human settlements and military operations. The bill, already approved by the Senate.

Excerpted from an article in the Washington Post produced by Brian Gross and Shelly Tan. 

Facts about the Threats to Rainforests, Indigenous People and Species

  • Rainforests are threatened by unsustainable agricultural, ranching, mining and logging practices.
  • Before 1500 A.D., there were approximately 6 million indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon. But as the forests disappeared, so too did the people. In the early 1900s, there were less than 250,000 indigenous people living in the Amazon.
  • Originally, 6 million square miles of tropical rainforest existed worldwide. But as a result of deforestation, only 2.4 million square miles remain.
  • At the current rate of tropical forest loss, 5–10 percent of tropical rainforest species will be lost per decade.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the world's forests, including most tropical forests, are located in developing countries.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometers of forests around the world were cut down. That's roughly the size of all of the states in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.
(from the Nature Conservancy)

Humans Create Another Pile of Shit

“The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps” (Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, 2013)
So, well within my lifetime, a pristine mountaintop, at over 29,000 ft (8,848 meters) above sea level, towering over most of humankind's cacophonous cabbage patch, has been turned into just another pile of our shit.

Is there still a place on Earth we humans haven't despoiled?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Blueberry Blues

Washington is 4th among states in total U.S. blueberry production. But Mexico’s blueberry industry, already the world’s 3rd largest exporter, is “surging north." Anti-immigrant policies and water shortages due to prolonged droughts are encouraging growers, like Driscoll’s, to move south of the border.

Blueberries aren’t the only Washington ‘crop’ moving to more favorable climes. CO2-produced ocean acidification caused oysters to start dying by the billions along the Northwest coast in 2005, and the industry has been struggling ever since. Some oyster hatcheries have already moved to Hawaii. Washington’s shellfish industry is hurting.

The snowpack at many locations in the Cascades is as low as people at USDA have seen for this time of year. That spells trouble for Washington growers in the summer when farms, fish, and people are all competing for an increasingly scarce water resource.

There are real impacts from a warming planet and they affect real people. Studies have shown unequivocally that we can reduce CO2 emissions and boost the economy (e.g., see REMI, June 9, 2014). Get on board! Support Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, and other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Cultivated Ignorance

Ignorance cultivated in the interests of ideology has been practiced by liberals and conservatives alike; an unfortunate but enduring facet of human behavior, probably since Homo Habilis rose from slime mold to “handy man.” Since the New Millennium, however, Republicans seem to have incorporated and promoted the practice as central to their strategy. Why?

Why did Rick Santorum call President Obama a snob for promoting a college education? Why did Republicans in Oklahoma try to ban Advanced Placement History and other AP courses? Why did Rick Perry, in his infamous “Oops moment,” have no trouble remembering he’d cut the Department of Education, while forgetting whatever the third department was? Why are Republican-controlled state legislatures promoting private, tax-payer funded “Christ-centric” schools over public education?

Money. The big-monied interests supporting the Republican Party are not enthusiastic about a well-educated (or, as it happens, even a robust) electorate. It’s easier to convince people who are ignorant about basic physics, or chemistry, or geology, or statistics, or [oh-my-goodness!] paleoclimatology, that global warming is a hoax. Just bring a snowball to the floor of Congress.