Monday, February 19, 2007

Oops, there goes 71% of the planet

"If you dive here, you may see some really horrible things before your body dissolves [in the pollution]", says a guidebook in a reference to Manila bay.

It's a jokey exaggeration, of course, but not by much. The energy that has engendered 90 million mostly warm and loving (and mostly very young) Philippinos has -- when combined with a political elite often grossly negligent -- also inflicted huge damage on the air, land, water and almost all other life forms of the country except for those that thrive on sewage and toxic waste.

But comparatively wealthy foreigners shouldn't scoff. As I return from the Philippines to Britain, working to put what I have learned about coral reefs in context, it seems reasonable to consider whether industrial civilisation is doing the same to the whole planet.

Three points come to mind in support of this. The first two are prompted by stories in the press over the last few days.

One, a new report about a story that has actually been told many times: Tires Meant to Foster Sea Life Choke It Instead. The article refers to the good intentions of the perpetrators. But good intentions are not enough. Their ecological illiteracy almost screams at us today, and surely not that much has changed in thirty-five years.

Two, a report about large dead zones and changing ocean currents that are thought likely to have been caused by anthropogenic climate change (press release here, Observer story here).

The Observer quotes Jane Lubchenco from Oregon State University as saying "We should expect more surprises." Well (Three), one huge change that should be no surprise at all is acidification of the oceans (see my article here, or e mail for a full copy. See also this update on depth of CO2 penetration). Even if net emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere were cut by substantially more than the most ambitious scenarios envisaged at present, acidification would probably continue much more quickly than has been the case for tens of millions of years. The consequences are likely to be quite large.


Anonymous romunov said...

We often forget that everything we use, is most often made in Asia, from copper wiring to leather seats. The polution has to go somewhere, and it ain't pretty where it ends up.

I tend to think that, what goes around, comes around. We just have to last long enough to notice it.

4:54 pm  

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