Watching the World
Trees Reduce Urban Pollution
“For the first time experts have been able to measure how different species of tree can cut pollution,” reports The Sunday Times of London. In a three-year study in the West Midlands area, scientists from England and Scotland measured soil samples taken near some 32,000 trees to see which species soaked up the most harmful particles. The researchers also measured particles in the atmosphere and ozone levels. The ash, larch, and Scots pine topped the list; least efficient were the oak, willow, and poplar. The study showed that “trees are up to three times more effective in ridding the atmosphere of pollution than grassland.” Indeed, a computer projection showed that if just half of West Midlands’ open space were planted with trees, air pollution from particles would be reduced by 20 percent.
Discovering New Species
Primatologist Marc van Roosmalen has stumbled on two new species of monkeys in the Amazon rain forest, adding to the eight species that have come to light in the region since 1990. Interviewed in National Geographic Today, Van Roosmalen said: “I didn’t realize the Amazon was so poorly known until I started finding all these new animals.” The quest for unidentified species “has little to do with experience,” adds Van Roosmalen, who has five new primates to his credit since 1996. Many species have been located by simply visiting remote Indian villages and checking out their pets. Commenting on these latest finds, in Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo, zoologist Anthony Rylands observed: “With the destruction of habitats in the Amazon, it is quite possible that other species will become extinct even before they are discovered.”
Religious Intolerance Intensifies in Georgia
“Jehovah’s Witnesses were planning a summer revival in a field next to a river gully here today, but a mob came the night before,” states a report in The New York Times. “Two dozen men wearing crosses of the Georgian Orthodox Church arrived on buses and ransacked the home of the host, Ushangi Bunturi. They piled Bibles, religious pamphlets and Mr. Bunturi’s belongings in the yard and burned them . . . They filled the baptismal pool with diesel fuel. The police went, too, including the local police chief . . . No one was arrested. . . . The attacks occurred as if scripted.” While there have been religious tensions “in many of the former republics of the Soviet Union, including Russia,” says the Times, “Georgia is unique in the intensity of the violence toward religious minorities, and in the evidence of official complicity in the attacks. Georgia enshrined freedom of religion in its post-Soviet Constitution. But in the rising violence there have been dozens of mob and arson attacks and beatings.”
Youths Flock to “Fun Church”
Under the heading “Youths Said Yes to ‘Fun Church,’” the German newspaper Nassauische Neue Presse reported on the first Church Youth Day festival organized by the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau. About 4,400 attended the five-day festival. The program included workshops and group discussions, night services with candlelight and songs, and plenty of sports, parties, and live music. “Completely missing among the more than 220 events were conventional Bible studies and traditional church services,” the newspaper noted. One youth pastor was completely surprised “that some youths asked, of all things, for Bible studies, which have a reputation of being dry.” Said one teenager: “Actually, the program has little to do with church, but the atmosphere is nice.”
Religion and War
“The bloodiest and most dangerous disputes today . . . are wrapped in religion,” states the newspaper USA Today. They are also very difficult to resolve. “The standard tools of diplomacy—a willingness to compromise, for instance, and to forgive old grievances—can be more difficult to apply when combatants claim God is on their side,” the paper adds. “That’s true even when religion is more a tool used to mobilize support than the cause of a conflict, which may center on less-spiritual struggles over land or power.” Religious differences even make it difficult to establish a temporary truce. An example is the recent warring in Kosovo. An Easter pause was considered but could not be implemented as the Easter dates for the Catholic and Orthodox celebrations differed. “In the end, there was no pause,” says USA Today.
HIV/AIDS Epidemic “Out of Control”
“Throughout the world, 40 million people are infected with HIV, 20 million have died from AIDS, and 750 000 babies are born with HIV infection every year,” reports Britain’s medical journal The Lancet. In the year 2001 alone, there were five million new infections and three million deaths due to AIDS. According to Peter Piot, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the epidemic is “out of control,” yet still in its “early stages.” He estimates that in the next 20 years, 70 million people will die from AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, between 30 and 50 percent of the population in some cities is HIV-positive. With so many young adults dying of AIDS, the worry is that by 2020, over 25 percent of the work force will be lost. “The effects on children have the most important implications for future economic recovery,” says The Lancet. In Zimbabwe, “by early adolescence one in five can expect to lose at least one parent.”
“There is simply no better food for newborns” than breast milk, writes neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Time magazine. “Breast-fed babies have lower rates of hospital admission, ear infection, diarrhea, rashes, allergies and other medical problems than bottle-fed tots.” Breast-feeding is also reported to protect against respiratory illnesses. A Danish study concluded that “adults who as babies were breast-fed for seven to nine months had higher IQs than those who were breast-fed for two weeks or less.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child be nursed for six months and, if possible, for a year or more. “It turns out babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from breast-feeding,” says U.S.News & World Report. A study of 150,000 women in 30 countries revealed that “every year a woman breast-feeds she cuts her lifetime risk of developing breast cancer by 4.3 percent.” Yet, “only half of American mothers breast-feed, for an average of two to three months.”
Family Relationships Can Help Prevent Drug Abuse
A study of teenagers in Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands “shows that the quality of family life, or rather the lack of it for many young people, is at the core of the drugs problem in Western society,” said researcher Dr. Paul McArdle of Newcastle University, England. As reported in The Daily Telegraph of London, when young people lived with both parents and enjoyed high-quality family relationships, especially with their mothers, only 16.6 percent developed drug habits. But when these factors were absent, 42.3 percent used drugs. “We spell out the dangers of drug abuse to children on TV and launch drug prevention initiatives in schools but it seems that no one is really tackling the issue of parental responsibility,” said McArdle. “I believe effective prevention of drug use is more about family relationships than any other factor.”