The Salem News
---- — I’ve been on a tear to find good news about the environment, because there is so much bad news. Here are two positive developments that made headlines recently I’d like to share.
First, a landmark federal study on “fracking” made public last week finds that no chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing — the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock — leak into groundwater or drinking water. This is apparently due to the fact that those chemicals are exploded thousands of feet below where drinking water resources reside.
Second, some scientists were much relieved to find deforestation in one of the world’s largest rainforests, Africa’s Congo Basin, has slowed. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. studied satellite images of the Basin that revealed deforestation has fallen by about a third since 2000.
OK, so there’s the good news. Now for the bad. The Iberian lynx is headed quickly toward extinction, despite millions of dollars spent trying to save it. Why? Shifting climate conditions are killing the rare cat’s food source. Turns out these bearded, pointy-eared predators eat the European rabbit, which is dying due to climate change. Scientists trying to save the lynx haven’t taken that into account until now. So, saving the lynx (only 300 are left in Spain and Portugal, where thousands used to roam) means moving the few survivors to higher, more fertile ground, where the rabbits can repopulate and so can the cats.
It would be great if the Iberian lynx were the only species on the brink of extinction. If you research the terms “extinction” and “climate change,” you’ll see the lynx is the most endangered member of the felid family. But it is hardly alone.
The highly respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates 20 to 30 percent of species will be at “increasingly high risk of extinction if global temperatures rise by more than 2 (degrees Celsius) to 3 (degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels. Given that temperatures have already gone up by nearly 1 (degree Celsius), and carbon continues to pile up in the atmosphere, that amount of warming is almost a certainty.” This was reported by Time magazine.
Now back to the good news. It’s not really that good. The fracking survey results are preliminary, and the study is ongoing. Whatever the final verdict, something tells me it’s not a great idea to explode dangerous chemicals thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. We are doing so not just all over this country, but worldwide. Somehow, somewhere, some way, this is going to come back to harm us in a big way. We need the natural gas because we’re running out of oil. There are too many people straining our planet’s resources to the tipping point.
In the Congo Basin, deforestation may be slowing, but it’s not ending. BBC News reports: “Logging could continue to fall because of schemes such as the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) that offer financial incentives to keep forests intact. But on the other side, the big increase in human population and the rise in living standards globally mean we may need more agricultural commodities ... ‘It could go the other way and go much more like South East Asia or the Amazon and see the expansion of commercial agriculture,’ explained Dr. (Simon) Lewis, (from the University of Leeds and University College London Lewis.)”
One environmental activist told the BBC that despite the reduction in the rate of deforestation, the world’s second-largest rainforest is still losing an area 34 times the size of Manhattan each year. That size continuous loss is unsustainable over time and will destroy the Basin and many of its plant and animal species in the process.
Notice the connection between these stories? Too much demand for and use of raw materials translates into rising global temperatures. This creates a vicious cycle of destruction of precious natural resources on the one hand, and extinction of plant and animal species on the other. I wish more people would notice and there would be more demand to make changes to stem climate change.
Bonnie Erbe, a TV host, writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.