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SOME FACTS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT ENDANGERED SPECIES A species probably becomes extinct about every nine hours. It may be as often as three hours: by the end of the century it may be every twenty minutes. Why the uncertainty? There are 5-30 million species on planet Earth but only 1.7 million have been scientifically investigated. Most live in the canopies of remote rainforest... By the year 2050 one in four of all plant species alive today is expected to be extinct. 25% of US drug prescriptions are chemicals originating in wild plants. Malaria treatment, leukemia drugs, anaesthetics and heart drugs are examples. Extinction of plants in the USA alone is estimated to cost (US) $3 billions by the year 2000... In 1981 the official endangered species list stood at 230. Now it is 35,000 and scientists can't keep up... There are three main causes for these species plight: 1) Destruction of habitat, particularly rain forest, happens through urban expansion, logging and agricultural and forestry development. The world's population is 5000 million and in 10 years time it will be 6000 million, 4000 million of whom will be in cities. Tropical regions are the main areas of population growth. 2) Direct exploitation for skins, ivory, feathers, shells, rhino horn, oils and meats. In 1975, over 164 million wildlife products entered the United States alone. Europe and Japan are the other main markets. The trade in wild animals is expanding to provide for zoos, the pet trade and industrial and medical research. 3) Pollution and breakdown in natural food chains, the importation of new competitors, predators, parasites and diseases. RAIN FORESTS Worldwide, at least 40% of rain forests have been lost in the last 30 years... Every minute an area of tropical forests larger than twenty soccer fields is destroyed by logging, burning, agricultural clearance or industrial development... Every year a forest bigger than Costa Rica (11 million hectares) is eradicated. For every ten hectares of trees felled, less than one is planted... 7% of the world's lands surface is rain forest. Panama contains over 50% of the world's species of flora and fauna. Panama has as many plant and animal species as Europe... All mainland Malaysian forest will be cleared by 1990. . Nigeria's rain forest will be cleared by 2000... One cause is the provision of high quality woods to the West. A trade as damaging but more insidious than the fur trade... Another cause is the servicing of debts by Third World countries, needing to produce short term dollar crops, rather than harvesting the forest's natural wealth.... 1200 hectares of the fast growing "Ipilipil" tree could generate the fuel equivalent of l,000,000 barrels of oil annually. Soil More than three billion hectares - almost a quarter of the world's land surface - is at risk from desertification, salinization from bad irrigation or other degradation. World- wide, an estimated 26 billion tons of topsoil are washed or blown off cropland each year... Every year 6 million hectares of productive dryland becomes desert... US$6 billion damage a year is done off-site by eroded soil deposited on coral reefs, in dams and fisheries, in the USA each year... 8 million metric tonnes of hazardous chemical wastes are leaking into Dutch soil. Cleaning up the 21,000 abandoned chemical hazard sites in West Germany will cost US$4 billion. The Ozone Layer The high level ozone layer soaks up the ultra violet rays (UV) and prevents lethal levels from reaching the ground. The ozone is under attack from the continued release into the atmosphere of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) A single chlorine atom can, over time, destroy upwards of 10,000 ozone molecules... Pollution by CFC chemicals comes from aerosols, air conditioning systems and plastic foam cartons... A hole the size of the USA has developed in the high level ozone layer over the Antarctic. Making enough ozone to fill the Antarctic hole would take about three times the annual U.S. energy output - every year... Once released, the CFC's are in the atmosphere for at least 100 years and they take about 15 years to reach the paper-thin ozone layer (three-millimeter deep) 15 miles above the ground... Although substitutes exist, U.S. industry sells $750 million worth of CFCs annually (one-third of the world's production)... 20,000 extra deaths from skin cancer may result in the U.S. alone where 500,000 cases are diagnosed each year... UV-B also damages the human immune system. A diminished ozone layer will make people more vunerable to a variety of infectious diseases... UV-B causes cell and tissue damage in about two-thirds of 200 species of plants tested at the University of Maryland... In Antarctica last year (87), UV-B has very serious effects on the photosynthesis and metabolism of the plankton at the base of the marine food chain. The plankton also produces 70% of the oxygen on Earth... A 3% thinning in the layer over Europe was detected in 1988... In the Southern hemisphere the ozone was down as much as 5% in 87... Monitoring stations in North Dakota, Maine and Switzerland had recorded wintertime drops in the ozone layer of up to 9%... Every year, nearly 700 million aerosol cans are produced in Britain alone, approximately two-thirds of the cans use CFCs... It would take an 85% cut in CFC use just to stabilize concentrations at today's levels... Greenhouse Effect Because of increasing carbon dioxide and other pollution from coal burn and industrial processes, the world has warmed up and is expected to increase another 1.5-4.5 degrees centigrade by 2030: the Greenhouse Effect. The result will be a sea-level rise by 2100 of between 1.4 and 2.2 meters, spreading deserts and retreating forests... The U.S. contributes one-quarter of the CO2 load, the Soviet Union is the second largest consumer of fossil fuels and Japan is third... To end or even slow the warming, fossil-fuel emissions would have to be slashed 60%. In contrast, economists forecast a doubling of such emissions over the next 40 years... Fossil fuel use now adds some 5.4 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere annually, and deforestation adds between 1 and 2.6 billion tons. Since 1958, concentrations of CO2 have increased 25%... Water Supplies and Ocean Pollution More than two thirds of India's water resources are polluted, 98% of China's sewage goes into rivers untreated, and in the Philipines domestic sewage makes up 70% of the Pasig River in Manila... In 1980 four out of five child deaths in the third world resulted from disease from dirty water supplies: 80% of people in developing countries have no sanitation facility. Water shortage and contamination kill 25,000 people a day... Nearly 2% of US undergound water supplies are polluted: 180,000 impoundments in the US contain hazardous chemical wastes. US produces 265 million tonnes of such chemicals a year. One American survey found 230 hazard escaping sites: 173 in groundwater, 162 in lakes or rivers, 65 in the air... In the USA Chesapeake Bay was highly productive, fed by 150 rivers or streams, with 200 fish or shellfish varieties and 2,700 other life forms: pollution cut annual catches of striped bass there 90% 1970-83 and oysters declined 50% in 20 years... The following toxic materials and contaminations are polluting US soil and groundwater supplies. PCB's metal carbonyls, tellurium, asbestos, peroxides, chorates, selenium, organic toxics, arsenic, radionuclides, trichloroethylene, isocyanates, organohalogens, mercury, cadium, thallium, beryllium lead, chromium. Causing: birth defects, cancers and nervous disorders... Chemicals from oil pollution are fatal to marine life at levels as low as one part in a million parts of seawater: around 6 million tons of oil are dumped in the sea annually. The Indian Ocean is most polluted... Japan's inland Sea is plagued by 200 red tides annually; one last year (87) killed more than 1 million yellowtail with a potential market value of US $15 million. The red tide are caused by the decaying of algae sapping enormous amounts of oxygen from the water, asphyxiating fish and other organisms. Scientists believe algal growth is speeded up by the runoff of agricultural fertilzers. A dead zone almost totally depleted of oxygen, 300 miles long and ten miles wide, is adrift (in 88) in the Gulf of Mexico... Commercial fishermen dump 22,000 metric tons of plastic packaging into the sea each year, along with 136,000 tons of plastic nets, lines and bouys. More than 450,000 plastic containers are thrown off ships daily: many choke fish or seals. As many as 2 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year after eating or becoming entangled in the debris. Acid Rain Nine-tenths of the chemical element sulphur present in the skies over Europe and North America, now comes not from natural sources but man's burning of coal and oil. Sulphur is a key cause of acid rain... In north eastern USA, pollution of rain is so great that it can be 100,000 to a million times as acid as tap water and 10,000 times acid as pure rain. In Scotland rain is some times as acid as vinegar, and snow is turned black by power station fumes. Rain is regularly at least ten times as acid as is natural... Acid rain decline has now affected over 7 million hectares of forest in over twenty countries... Acid rain has eliminated trout in rivers across 35,000 sq. km of Norway, acidified 90,000 km of brooks and 18,000 lakes in Sweden, severely affected over fifty Lochs in Scotland, 700,000 lakes in Canada and many in the Adirondacks in the USA... In West Germany, the percentage of trees damaged by acid rain rose from 35% to 50% between 1983 and 1984... In Austria it has been estimated that if the forest deline continues at its present rate, in nine years time there will be no trees left unaffected. In Poland three areas have been officially designated "areas of ecological catastrophe"... Pesticides One pesticide chemical in five exported from the USA to developing countries has been banned or suspended on health or environment grounds in the USA, and 490,000 poisoning cases occur in the world annually, with one in ten ending in death... Between 1970 and 1980, the number of resistant insects and mite pests resistant to key pesticides increased seventeen-fold due to over use... In the UK, farmers spent over 1,000 British pounds sterling in 1982 on pesticides. 97-98% of all our vegetables and cereals are sprayed with one or more of these chemicals. Up to 64% of the pesticide applied to wheat may end up, unaltered, in bread... Some pesticides sold in Britain are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and genetic mutations. The Dirty Dozen pesticides highlighted by the worldwide Pesticide Action Network as the most troublesome on grounds of negative health and environmental impacts and wide spread abuse are: paraquat (probably the world top killer, which causes respiratory failure if inhaled or swallowed), lindane, dischlorvos (causes nervous disorders), thiram, 2, 4, 5-T (often contaminated with dioxins), chlordane (suspected carcinogen), pentachlorophenol (causes liver damage), parathion (acute toxin), aldicarb (implicated in causing spontaneous abortions), captan and dieldrin. Many are exported to developing countries froim USA or UK. Most are still in use in UK and USA... Nuclear Waste Waste radioactive nuclear fuel totalled 6,219 tons in 1970: by 1985 it had grown to over 59,000 tons. Accumulated radioactivity dumped into the Atlantic by Britain and other countries totals over 1 million curies and has raised radiation levels near Windscale, four thousand times... Plutonium dumped in the North Sea over the last 30 years would be enough to bring cancer and death to 250 loads of radioactive waste in store in the UK alone. Reprocessing Plutonium increases the total volume of radioactive waste by 150 X... Reprocessing Plutonium is the only way to produce suitable radioactive material for nuclear weapons... COST OF ARMS The world spent almost one trillion dollars on weapons in 1985; more money than the entire income of the poorest half of the world's population. Three quarters was spent in developed countries such as USA, East and West Europe. Half a million scientists work on developing arms. The total sum that the United Nations estimates is needed for tropical reforestation and conservation is equal to half a day's arms expenditure; implementing the world plan to combat deserts would take two day's expenditure on arms; a ten-year international plan to supply clean water in the developing world would have taken just ten days of military expenditure; and ten hours of world arms spending could supply contraception to all women motivated to use family planning. Imagine how much could be achieved with half of the world military expenditures, equal to about 500 billion dollars a year, invested in global security defined in sustainable development terms, or in other words 5 trillion dollars before the end of this century equeal to about 5% of the total planetary product... Global Awareness in Action Inc. Anse St-Jean, Quebec Canada, G0V 1J0 (Source: Environet BBS (run by Greenpeace Action) 415-861-6503)


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