Stories tagged environmental protection

You can rarely go a day here on Science Buzz without reading some post or reader comment about environmental issues. But today, bloggers of all stripes are committing to writing about enviromental issues for the first-ever Blog Action Day. About 15,000 bloggers worldwide have committed to use their space to write on matters that impact our Earth. Minnesota participants (as reported in the Star Tribune today) include Alt Text, Ancora Imparo, The Garden Corner, Matt's Cuppa, Smart Marketing and Views From Minnesota.

Jul
19
2007

No, he's not dead, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Brazilian blue. Beautiful plumage!: Photo by gnakcgnackgnack at Flickr.com
No, he's not dead, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Brazilian blue. Beautiful plumage!: Photo by gnakcgnackgnack at Flickr.com

Chalk up another victory for environmental protection. Lear’s Macaw, a brilliant blue parrot native to Brazil, is coming back from the brink of extinction. Ten years ago, a survey found only 70 birds in the wild. A June count by the American Bird Conservancy found 751.

The bird is still endangered by hunting and illegal pet trade. But protecting its habitat in northeastern Brazil has helped bring the bird back.

Oh, and before I forget: Season 1, episode 8.

May
27
2007

Rachel Carson, inspiration for the modern environmental movement: Photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service
Rachel Carson, inspiration for the modern environmental movement: Photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, whom many credit as the inspiration for the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring warned the world of the dangers of environmental degradation, especially due to the overuse of chemical pesticides. The book stirred millions of people worldwide to take action. In the United States, we saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency – all the result of the movement Carson inspired.

Today, our air and water are cleaner thanks to these actions, and dangerous chemicals are more closely regulated. But some people are re-evaluating Carson’s legacy, especially with regards to the pesticide DDT. Carson explained how insects absorbed the poisonous chemical. Birds which ate enough insects often died themselves, or would have trouble hatching eggs. Carson promoted restricting the use of DDT.

However, some of her followers went further, pushing for a total ban of DDT in many countries. Unfortunately, DDT is extremely effective at killing mosquitoes that spread malaria – a disease that kills some one million people each year. Responsible, limited use of DDT could save millions of lives.

(Science Buzz has discussed malaria here and here,and the possible effects of preventative measures such as mosquito nets, drugs, and genetic engineering.)

Carson’s legacy reminds us not only of the importance of protecting our environment, but also that one person can have a tremendous impact. It also reminds us that even the best ideas can have unintended consequences, and any major changes need to be undertaken in a balanced, rational and flexible manner.

Dec
13
2006

Eritrea, an east African nation bordering Ethiopia, announced Monday a plan to protect its entire coastline. This is the first nation in the world to make such a bold step towards environmental protection. Eritrea will preserve 837 miles of mainland coast and 1,209 miles of coast around 350 islands.

Currently, Eritrea’s dry coastal plains are largely undeveloped, except for two large cities including its capital, Asmara. The Eritrea Coastal Marine and Island Biodiversity Conservation Project (ECMIB) will create a 330-foot buffer along the coast protecting against future development. Inland areas that are part of the Red Sea watershed will be preserved, and places of ecological importance will be placed under permanent protection as national parks and reserves.

Solving environmental problems is typically a luxury developing nations cannot afford. The little revenue their government generates must be used for economic development and building infrastructure. Still, developed nations, such as the US, continue to learn that it is more cost effective to prevent environmental problems than to fix them. Even more difficult to measure on an economic scale is the cost of ecosystem services, such as clean water. Cities spend billions dollars on water treatment facilities to perform a function that a healthy ecosystem would provide for free. By protecting their coastline and watersheds, Eritrea is protecting against environmental disasters, such as flooding, and guaranteeing that many ecological services will be maintained.

Eritrea is plagued with many of the typical problems of developing nations in east Africa. After a 32-year war of independence from Ethiopia, which ended in 1993, they fought with Yemen and again with Ethiopia. Today there is peace, but it is tenuous. The boarder dispute that ignited its most recent fighting with Ethiopia is still unresolved. These issues are compounded by other problems. Two-thirds of the population needs government assistance to provide enough food for their family. Any economic progress is slowed due to the large proportion of Eritreans who are in the army, rather than the workforce.

Still, with a host of social and economic problems, Eritrea has made an unprecedented step towards environmental protection. They realize that their current problems will only worsen with continued ecological degradation. Severe droughts and other natural disasters caused famine and economic decline in east Africa between 1974 and 1984. Protecting the Eritrean coastline will protect more than just the environment. It is a cost-effective and necessary effort to protect the country and region.