Thursday, September 29, 2005

Environment evaporates in the Andes

I speak of this often but it's been quite a while since we looked south of the border so here's an interesting piece from Pravda on the US backed herbicidal warfare against the coca plant in South America. It warns of impending environmental disaster.

The US backed fight against drugs in South America is affecting the rich biodiversity of its Andean region and may lead to a natural catastrophe if the permanent spraying of coca plant killers continues. According to an official report issued by Colombia's counter narcotics department, growers are leaving their usual territories and moving into national parks where spraying is banned.

Colombian authorities said that farmers are burning huge areas of virgin rain forests within the parks and poisoning rivers with chemicals to continue with the production. In the meantime, pesticides sprayed by authorities keep threatening productive lands and endangered species across the region.
It's unsurprising that the dirt poor farmers would be moving into the forest. The herbicides rendered their previous land unfit for anything and they have to eat. The only crop they can grow that will give them a bare living wage in for return for their work is coca. The drug lords pay them just enough so they can get by to the next growing season. These people are poor and uneducated. They have no other choice.

Bombing them with poisons victimizes the least culpable in the drug supply chain and it endangers the greater ecosphere. The land is left useless, species die from the poison and the deforestation caused by forcing the peasants into the rain forests will eventually disrupt our climate all the over the earth.

Colombia is home to about 15 percent of all the world's plant species and one of its most diverse arrays of amphibians, mammals and birds. Dozens of species that populate its jungles and Andes Mountains exist nowhere else on the planet.
There was a time when scientists spoke of the next generation of medicines coming from the thousands of plant species that exist only there - many of which have never been studied. We lose a lot of potential breakthroughs if we allow our government to bomb these undeveloped countries back into the stone age and destroy the lungs of our planet in the bargain. There's a huge synergy in weather patterns and ultimately, without the rain forest, you won't get rain in the rest of the world.

What good will it do to have a drug free planet if it becomes a desert?

[hat tip to Cliff]


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