How Sick Is Our Planet?
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN THE PHILIPPINES
The patient’s condition is serious. Symptoms are multiple. His breath is noxious. He has a fever, higher than ever before. Efforts to bring it down are not working. Poison has been found in body fluids. When symptoms are treated in one area, more pop up in other body parts. If this were a usual patient, doctors would be inclined to declare the multiple sicknesses as chronic and terminal. Not knowing what else to do, they would just take steps to make the patient as comfortable as possible until the end came.
HOWEVER, this is not a human patient. It is our home
The media regularly call attention to earth’s poor health with such headlines and captions as: “Blast fishing turns seabeds into killing fields.” A “Billion Asians Could Be Parched in 24 Years.” “Forty million tons of toxic trash a year trades globally.” “Nearly two thirds of the 1,800 wells in Japan are contaminated with poisons.” “Ozone Hole Over Antarctic Is Back and Bigger.”
Some people become accustomed to frequent news of danger to the environment, perhaps even thinking, ‘That is not of great concern as long as it does not affect me.’ However, whether we realize it or not, the wholesale destruction of the earth’s environment affects the vast majority of people. Since contamination of our planet is now so pervasive, it likely already affects more than one aspect of our lives. Thus, all should be concerned about the health and preservation of our home. After all, where else would we live?
Just how widespread is the problem? How sick is the earth? How are people’s lives affected? Let us take a look at just a few factors that help us to understand why our earth is not just mildly indisposed but, instead, seriously ill.
▪ THE OCEANS: Large sections of ocean are overfished. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme says that “70 percent of marine fisheries are so exploited that reproduction cannot or can just barely keep up.” For example, populations of cod, hake, haddock, and flounder in the North Atlantic fell by as much as 95 percent between 1989 and 1994. If this continues, what will it mean for millions who depend on the sea as a major source of their food?
Additionally, each year an estimated 20 million to 40 million tons of sea life are caught and thrown back into the ocean
▪ FORESTS: Deforestation has many negative sides to it. Loss of trees results in a reduction in the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, and this is said to be a cause of global warming. Certain species of plants, the potential source of lifesaving medicines, will disappear. Nevertheless, forest destruction continues unabated. In fact, the rate of destruction has increased in recent years. Some authorities feel that if this persists, tropical forests could disappear in about 20 years.
▪ TOXIC WASTES: Dumping of harmful materials both on land and in the sea is a serious problem that has the potential for bringing great harm to millions. Radioactive wastes, heavy metals, and by-products of plastics are among elements that can cause abnormalities, sickness, or death in humans and animals.
▪ CHEMICALS: During the past 100 years, close to 100,000 new chemicals have come into use. These chemicals find their way into our air, soil, water, and food. Relatively few of them have been tested for their health effects on humans. However, of the ones that have, a significant number have been found to be carcinogenic or to cause disease in other ways.
There are many more threats to our environment: air pollution, untreated sewage, acid rain, lack of clean water. The few already mentioned suffice to show that the earth is really sick. Can the patient be saved, or is the battle already lost?