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Saturday, 2 August 2008

Results of the mistreatement of Earth starting to show up

Today, here are few articles discussing the damage we're doing on the Earth. I suggest you read them, because they all can help us get real on the issue of G

  • Global Warming and our part of it.
  • Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again
  • Gadget recycling may be poisoning China's children
  • Forest Disappearing in Papua New Guinea
  • In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground

Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again

Published: May 30, 2008

ISLA DE ASIA, Peru — The worldwide boom in commodities has come to this: Even guano, the bird dung that was the focus of an imperialist scramble on the high seas in the 19th century, is in strong demand once again.

Surging prices for synthetic fertilizers and organic foods are shifting attention to guano, an organic fertilizer once found in abundance on this island and more than 20 others off the coast of Peru, where an exceptionally dry climate preserves the droppings of seabirds like the guanay cormorant and the Peruvian booby.

“There might be 10 years of supplies left, or perhaps 20, and then it will be completely exhausted,” said Victor Ropón, 66, a supervisor from Ancash Province, referring to fears that the seabird population could be poised to fall sharply in the years ahead. It is a minor miracle that any guano at all is available here today, reflecting a century-old effort hailed by biologists as a rare example of sustainable exploitation of a resource once so coveted that the United States authorized its citizens to take possession of islands or keys where guano was found.

As a debate rages over whether global oil output has peaked, a parable may exist in the story of guano, with its seafaring treachery, the development of synthetic alternatives in Europe and a desperate effort here to prevent the deposits from being depleted.

Peru’s guano trade quixotically soldiers on after almost being wiped out by overexploitation. The dung will probably never be the focus of a boom as intense as the one in the 19th century, when deposits were 150 feet high, with export proceeds accounting for most of the national budget.

The guano on most islands, including Isla de Asia, south of the capital, Lima, now reaches less than a foot or so. But the guano that remains here is coveted when viewed in the context of the frenzy in Peru and abroad around synthetic fertilizers like urea, which has doubled in price to more than $600 a ton in the last year.

Guano in Peru sells for about $250 a ton while fetching $500 a ton when exported to France, Israel and the United States. While guano is less efficient than urea at releasing nitrates into the soil, its status as an organic fertilizer has increased demand, transforming it into a niche fertilizer sought around the world.

“Guano has the advantage of being chemical-free,” said Enrique Balmaceda, who cultivates organic mangoes in Piura, a province in northern Peru.

That explains why Peru is so vigilant about preserving the remaining guano, an effort dating back a century to the creation of the Guano Administration Company, when Peru nationalized the islands, some of which were British-controlled, to stave off the industry’s extinction.

Since then, Peru’s government has restricted guano collection to about two islands a year, enabling the droppings to accumulate. Workers smooth slopes and build walls that retain the guano. Scientists even introduced lizards to hunt down ticks that infested the seabirds.

The guano administrators station armed guards at each of the islands to ward off threats to birds, which produce 12,000 to 15,000 tons of guano a year.

While the bird population has climbed to 4 million from 3.2 million in the past two years, that figure still pales in comparison with the 60 million birds at the height of the first guano rush. Faced with a dwindling anchoveta population (main food of guano), officials at Proabonos are considering halting exports of guano to ensure its supply to the domestic market.source

My comment:

Gadget recycling may be poisoning China's children

Think about this next time you upgrade your PC: toxic metals from old electronic goods are finding their way into school grounds in China.

Seventy per cent of the world's discarded phones and computers are exported to China. Most are processed in family-run workshops, where the circuit boards are ripped out of old equipment and heated over open fires. This melts the solder, allowing individual components to be removed and resold. The bare circuit boards are then burned.

But as Ming Wong of Hong Kong Baptist University points out, circuit boards contain a lot of heavy metals. Burning them releases fumes containing metals such as lead and copper, which pose a danger to people's health. Lead damages the central nervous system and lungs if inhaled, for example.

Wong analysed dust at locations around Guiyu, a Chinese village heavily involved in e-waste recycling. He found that dust from roads next to e-waste workshops had 370 times more lead than samples from roads 30 kilometres away (Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es071873x).

"Hopefully studies like this will lead to the European Union placing circuit boards firmly on the hazardous waste list," says Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, a toxic waste watchdog based in Seattle, Washington.

Wong had previously found elevated levels of toxic organic chemicals in the breast milk of women living near e-waste sites in China. source

My comment: I hope the EU classify the circuit boards as toxic waste and stop exporting them. I know that could take money from the Chinese people, but at least, we'll stop poisoning them. It's absurd to talk about cleaner Europe and pollute China in the same time. No wonder it would never sign any emission caps- it's the waste bin of the whole world.

Forest Disappearing in Papua New Guinea

Published: June 3, 2008

A new satellite analysis of logging in Papua New Guinea shows that the country has been losing about 1,400 square miles of rain forest, or about 1.4 percent of its total forest cover, each year.

At that pace, by 2021 more than 80 percent of the country’s accessible forest, and more than half of its total forest area, would be badly degraded or cleared, according to the study. It was conducted by scientists at the University of Papua New Guinea and Australian National University.

Logging and road building are already leading to erosion and fragmentation of ecosystems harboring some of the world’s most varied, and least-studied, wildlife, said Phil Shearman, the lead author and director of the Remote Sensing Center of the University of Papua New Guinea. The study is available online at

In an e-mail message, Mr. Shearman said there was still plenty of potential for cut areas to regenerate, but only if policies were changed to end what is essentially uncontrolled “timber mining.” He added that more would also have to be done to help fast-growing communities shift from continually clearing new forest areas for cropland to using less damaging farming methods.

The study was released Monday in Port Moresby at a conference on climate and forests. In international climate talks, New Guinea has been pushing for wealthy countries worried about global warming to pay forested countries to shift from cutting to conservation. Mr. Shearman said he was worried that all the accessible forests would be gone by the time such initiatives were worked out. source

My comment: The previous comment goes here too. We really have to start considering the Earth as one whole and not in a pieces for exploration and abuse. I truly hope developed countries will start taking such problem seriously.

In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground

June 3, 2008

FORTUNA, Spain — Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads. Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain and Germany. Golf courses — dozens of them, all recently built — give way to the beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.

There is only one problem with the picture of bounty: this province, Murcia, is running out of water. Swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert, a process spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development.

Murcia, traditionally a poor farming region, has undergone a resort-building boom in recent years, even as many of its farmers have switched to more thirsty crops, encouraged by water transfer plans, which have become increasingly untenable. The combination has put new pressures on the land and its dwindling supply of water.

This year, farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one another over who gets to water their crops. And in a sign of their mounting desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a rapidly growing black market, mostly from illegal wells.

Southern Spain has long been plagued by cyclical droughts, but the current crisis, scientists say, probably reflects a more permanent climate change brought on by global warming. And it is a harbinger of a new kind of conflict.

The battles of yesterday were fought over land, they warn. Those of the present center on oil. But those of the future — a future made hotter and drier by climate change in much of the world — seem likely to focus on water, they say.

“Water will be the environmental issue this year — the problem is urgent and immediate,” said Barbara Helferrich, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s Environment Directorate. “If you already have water shortages in spring, you know it’s going to be a really bad summer.”

Dozens of world leaders will be meeting at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome starting Tuesday to address a global food crisis caused in part by water shortages in Africa, Australia and here in southern Spain.

Climate change means that creeping deserts may eventually drive 135 million people off their land, the United Nations estimates. Most of them are in the developing world. But Southern Europe is experiencing the problem now, its climate drying to the point that it is becoming more like Africa’s, scientists say.

For Murcia, the arrival of the water crisis has been accelerated by developers and farmers who have hewed to water-hungry ventures highly unsuited to a drier, warmer climate: crops like lettuce that need ample irrigation, resorts that promise a swimming pool in the yard, acres of freshly sodded golf courses that sop up millions of gallons a day.

Facing a national crisis, Spain has become something of an unwitting laboratory, sponsoring a European conference on water issues this summer and announcing a national action plan this year to fight desertification. That plan includes a shift to more efficient methods of irrigation, as well as an extensive program of desalinization plants to provide the fresh water that nature does not.

The Spanish Environment Ministry estimates that one-third of the county is at risk of turning into desert from a combination of climate change and poor land use.

While southern Spain has always been dry and plagued by cyclical droughts, the average surface temperature in Spain has risen 2.7 degrees compared with about 1.4 degrees globally since 1880, records show.

Rainfall here is predicted to fall 20 percent from this year to 2020, and 40 percent by 2070, according to United Nations projections.

The government’s previous water transfer plans have moved many farmers in the opposite direction. The farmers have shifted to producing a wide range of water-hungry fruits and vegetables that had never been grown in the south. Murcia is traditionally known for figs and date palms.

“You can’t grow strawberries naturally in Huelva — it’s too hot,” said Raquel Montón, a climate specialist at Greenpeace in Madrid, referring to the nearby strawberry capital of Spain. “In Sarragosa, which is a desert, we grow corn, the most water-thirsty crop. It’s insane. The only thing that would be more insane is putting up casinos and golf courses.” Which, of course, Murcia has.

In 2001, a new land use law in Murcia made it far easier for residents to sell land for resort development. Though southern Spain has long had elaborate systems for managing its relatively scarce water, today everyone, it seems, has found ways to get around them.

Grass on golf courses or surrounding villas is sometimes labeled a “crop,” making owners eligible for water that would not be allocated to keep leisure space green. Foreign investors plant a few trees and call their vacation homes “farms” so they are eligible for irrigation water, Mr. Pérez Gracia said.

While he said his “heart goes out to the real farmers,” he did not have the personnel to monitor how people use their allotments.

With so much money to be made, officials set aside laws and policies that might encourage sustainable development, Mr. Gil, the journalist, said. At first, he was vilified in the community when he wrote articles critical of the developments. Recently, as people are discovering that the water is running out, the attitude is shifting.

But even so, people and politicians tend to regard water as a limitless resource. “Politicians think in four-year blocks, so it’s O.K. as long as it doesn’t run out on their watch,” said Ms. Montón of Greenpeace. “People think about it, but they don’t really think about what happens tomorrow. They don’t worry until they turn on the tap and nothing flows.”source

My comment: Yup. Been there, seen that. I see that as a punishment for the crime done to Spain by investors. The area of South-east Spain is so heavily built, all you see is concrete. It's horrible. Mountains are being destroyed for the stone, natural stony beaches destroyed to make a nice and gently sand-beaches. Plants? Only the palms on the streets. It's horrible. I hope now people would start taking environment seriously. For a change.

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