Balance of Nature
A case in Borneo illustrates the delicate balance of nature and the unintended consequences of human intervention.
Back in the early 50s an outbreak of malaria in Borneo led the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring in massive amounts of DDT to kill the malaria carrying mosquitoes.
They were successful in killing the mosquitoes, but the DDT also virtually wiped out a particular species of parasitic wasp. This particular wasp fed on thatch-eating caterpillars. With the wasps gone, the caterpillars ate the villagers roofs! To make matters worse the geckos ate the poisoned insects, and were in turn eaten by native cats. The native cats died from DDT poisoning, and therefore the rat population flourished.
The increase in the rat population led to an outbreak of typhus and plague among humans. To assuage the damage, WHO arranged for a supply drop that included a couple dozen healthy cats! This supply drop was dubbed Operation Cat Drop. The cats were able to reduce the rodent population to controllable levels, and DDT was eventually outlawed.
Climate Change Imbalance
Mother Nature compensates for imbalances. Unfortunately for us, the current solution to the imbalance we have created is a radical change in climate.
Normal amounts of CO2 are healthy, in fact our survival is dependent on it. Plants and trees soak up CO2, they are the air-purifiers for planet earth. They clean it, and in doing so produce the oxygen we, and all animals need to survive. Trees have a limited life span, when they die and decay or are burned in a fire they release CO2, providing the CO2 we need to keep the cycle of life on planet earth churning.
Our infatuation with the overuse of dirty fuels (oil and coal) has caused so much pollution that we have created a greenhouse effect, warming our planet, disrupting the natural balance, creating an excess of CO2 that the plants and trees can not absorb and process.
Adding to the problem is the loss of trees through clear cutting of our forests. Our soils are suffering from degradation, which leads to loss of farmable land, which leads to more forest lands being destroyed to make room for more farming land.
Focus on Balance
Global warming is a complex issue, but we can start by focusing on how we can bring a balance back to nature to start the healing process. The first obvious step is reducing the amount of pollution we create.
In Latin America, a report developed by 90 authors and led by experts from the region was released recently by UN Environment and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. It found poor air quality and climate change is already affecting vulnerable populations and environment in the region resulting in premature deaths, crop yield losses, and ecosystem damage. They found efforts to reduce air and climate pollutants in Latin America could reap immediate health benefits.
The report shows how black carbon emissions can be reduced by over 80% by 2050 in most countries by focusing on initiatives that modernize cooking and heating stoves, improve diesel vehicle standards to Euro VI equivalent, put diesel particulate filters on vehicles, eliminate high emitting vehicles, and enforce bans on open field agricultural burning.
In a recent article published by the New York Times “Can Dirt Save the Earth?” author Moises Velqsquez-Manoff points out:
“The world is warming not only because fossil fuels are being burned, but also because soils, forests and wetlands are being ravaged.
In recent years, some scientists have begun to ask whether we can put some of that carbon back into the soil and into living ecosystems, like grasslands and forests. This notion, known as carbon farming, has gained traction as it becomes clear that simply reducing emissions will not sufficiently limit global warming.”
Turning to alternative and sustainable green energy sources helps. But we need to do much more than that. We need to reduce the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere to help cool the earth.
The two main areas that can accomplish this goal are in our control: forest and soil management.
Our intentions were not to destroy the ecological balance that keeps our planet healthy, our people thriving. But that is what we have done. And nature is responding to the increasing heat we are generating through our continuing excess pollution.
Glaciers are melting, oceans are heating up, expanding, and rising. Ocean life is dying, our weather is changing from an altered climate system, causing extreme storms, flooding, droughts. Just for starters.
We need to reduce our CO2 emissions, NOW, and we also need to take a lesson from nature and bring back a balance to our ecosystem, which means caring for our trees and soils, and let them do their job.
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August 2016 (First Edition)
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