issue 171 - May 1987
Planet in peril
Green activists hold that the quick-profit approach of
industrial decision-makers is creating a world that will be
uninhabitable for future generations. Evidence is mounting
that the Greens are right. NI takes stock of the
growing threat to our lives and livelihood.
Falling water tables
Shrinking fish stocks
The three main sources of air pollution are industry, energy production and the automobile.
A 1,000 megawatt power plant burning coal that gives off smoke containing 10% ash, 1.5% sulphur, and 1.5% nitrogen will produce per hour:
* air quality standard is 80 milligrams.
· In Canada 14,000 lakes are dead Some 40,000 more are dying. Also 90 of Ontario sugar maples in a 20,000 sq. kilometre area are dying. In the province of Quebec 14% of sugar maple trees are already dead.9
· Current trends suggest that atmospheric pollutants and acidity in precipitation will increase in much of the industrial and developing world.10
Climate in crisis
The waste products of industrial society are beginning to threaten the global climate.
Ozone layer depletion
Threat: The destruction of the rainforests is being engineered for the creation of more grazing acreage, for fuel, for roads and military installations, and in order to build a monocrop fast-growth forestry industry. By 1986 tropical forests were disappearing at the rate of 68 million acres a year.
The Arctic regions
Threat: The Arctic is threatened by potential oilspills in the Beaufort Sea and other Arctic areas where drilling is currently under way.There are also substantial oil reserves in the Antarctic. Oil and gas pipelines in areas such as Canada's Mackenzie Valley disrupt caribou migration patterns and native trapping economies. Military installations and air strips in Canada, the US and the USSR are also a threat and military activity will increase if US Star Wars plans go ahead.
Poisoning the water
Today much of our water is contaminated. Most contaminants become more concentrated and dangerous as they move up the food chain. For example, 1/50 of a part per million of a chemical insecticide in lake water becomes 1,600 parts per million in fish-eating birds.
Water pollution sources:
Toxic chemicals are sprayed on farms, fields and forests. They run off into streams and lakes and seep through the soil into groundwater.
Industrial wastes include synthetic chemicals and heavy metals that are poured into rivers and lakes and dumped into landfill sites such as Love Canal near Niagara Falls, New York. There are thousands of toxic landfill sites across the industrial world. It is impossible to estimate how many are leaking into ground or surface water.
Oil and chemical spills such as the highly- publicized spill of toxic chemicals into the Rhine river in 1986 or the Torrey Canyon oil spill into the Atlantic in 1967 are just the tip of the iceberg.
Radioactive particles are part of the waste-stream of reactors and some hospitals, and are a contributing factor to human cancers.
1 The Nature of Things, CBC, Toronto, 1986.