Here are some of the latest news stories regarding water and the environment:
US to make ‘wild’ public land eligible for protection: “Environmental groups have called on the Obama administration to restore wilderness protections. The order reverses former President George W Bush’s policy forbidding the government from doing so.”
Chromium-tainted drinking water: Time for a federal crackdown?: A type of chromium linked to cancer is turning up in tap water in 31 cities, according to an independent study that urges federal regulators to adopt tougher standards.
Facing threat to food supply, China invests in water conservation: “China plans to invest 30 billion dollars on water conservation projects in 2011 to reduce the impact of natural disasters on grain production, state media said Saturday.”
Syria Launches its First “Water Scarcity Park” : “Following five years of drought which has driven nearly half a million people away from drought-hit areas and put the country at risk of increasing desertification, Syria has inaugurated a water scarcity park to highlight the need to conserve dwindling water supplies.”
Plastic Bag Ban in Italy Starting Jan 1: “’Sustainability is made of little changes to our lifestyle that don’t cost us anything and can save the planet,’ said Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian Environmental Minister, as she confirmed that a ban on non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags will take effect on 1 January 2011, for all of Italy.”
It’s a pretty established fact that environmental damage leads to climate change. I don’t have to list all the real-life examples of this, but I do want to point out one case that (in my humble opinion) blows the rest out of the water.
In November of 2008, South Korea’s major conglomerate Daewoo (Korean for “Great Universe”) signed a 99-year lease for half of Madagascar’s arable land. The firm planned to pay nothing for the lease of this area spanning 3.2 million acres — an area half the size of Belgium. Ok, just think about that for a minute. A few suits in South Korea decided it would be a good idea to buy up almost an entire impoverished nation and turn it into a one-stop-shop for necessary goods. But to give them a little credit, they are desperate. Because of food security concerns, South Korea is particularly adamant about finding off-shore farming opportunities to satiate the growing need for resources at home. Daewoo wanted to plant corn and oil palm in Madagascar’s rare rainforest regions.
Be afraid, be very very afraid
But then the people of Madagascar revolted and ousted the country’s hegemonic leader (more or less). Andy Rajoelina came to power earlier this year and canceled the land lease (phew). This deal, which could have been devastating to every living thing in Madagascar, is representative of how new pressures put on resources by expanding populations can force world leaders to go to extreme lengths in order to maintain their citizens’ well-being. And by extreme I mean really REALLY extreme. Folks, we’re talking about buying countries for the sole purpose of stripping their natural resources and not giving a damn about the indigenous population.
Reading about the virtual destruction of Madagascar makes me feel a little too apocalyptic for a Tuesday night. Nonetheless, I am compelled to address these issues because they go beyond the matters at hand and symbolize our desperate search for a satisfactory way to simultaneously appease the earth and the people who live on it.