Earth’s Forests Disappearing

  • A U.N. report indicates the planet is losing its forests. The U.S. and Europe have had net gains in forests, despite continued development. Poorer areas of the world are losing forests faster. (Photo by Lester Graham)

You might think that the countries with the most development are cutting down the most forests. But a new report by the United Nations shows that the United States and much of Europe are showing net increases in wooded areas. Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

You might think that the countries with the most development are cutting down the most forests. But a new report by the United Nations shows that the United States and much of Europe are showing net increases in wooded areas. Julie Grant reports:


It’s the countries where a lot of people are poor, or face conflict, where clear-cutting and uncontrolled fires are continuing deforestation. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has just issued a report on the the world’s forests. It finds that about 32 million acres of woods are lost each year.


That meant a loss of 3% of the world’s forests between 1990 and 2005. One of the agency’s foresters says the net loss is actually lower than in the past, but he says the world is still losing woodlands at an unacceptable rate.


Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are losing the most forests. The report says most of that land is being converted for farming. The study credits economic prosperity and careful forest management for forest gains in the US, East Asia, and much of Europe.


For the Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

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Fish Farmers Add to Drug Resistance Problem

Fish farmers in some parts of the world are using large amounts of antibiotics to prevent infections. Some scientists are concerned that could cause problems for the industry and human health. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams explains:

Transcript

Fish farmers in some parts of the world are using large amounts of
antibiotics to prevent infections. Some scientists are concerned that could
cause problems for the industry and human health. The GLRC’s Rebecca
Williams reports:


Fish that are raised in farms can get stressed. That makes them more
susceptible to infections. Researchers are finding it’s common for farmers
to give their fish extra antibiotics to prevent illness instead of just
treating fish once they’re sick.


Dr. Felipe Cabello is the author of a report in the journal Environmental
Microbiology
. He says the overuse of antibiotics in fish farming is leading
to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. He says that could mean more infections,
not only in fish but also in people:


“I think as aquaculture increases, the antibiotic use is going to increase
in the industry and then this is going to bring an increase in antibiotic
resistance.”


Cabello says antibiotic use is especially heavy in developing countries,
where it’s mostly unregulated.


For the GLRC, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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Developing Countries Get Hospital Castoffs

  • A street in Havana, Cuba. After more than 40 years of a U.S. economic embargo and more than a decade after the loss of their Soviet trading partners, Cubans have learned to improvise and make do with old stuff - cars, machines, and even medical equipment. (Photo by Ann Murray)

Tons of medical materials that normally would end up in U.S. landfills are being rescued, repackaged and sent to other countries. An aid group is working with local hospitals and volunteers to get surplus medical supplies to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray takes us on the trip from salvage to salvation:

Transcript

Tons of medical materials that normally would end up in U.S.
landfills are being rescued, repackaged and sent to other countries.
An aid group is working with local hospitals and volunteers to get
surplus medical supplies to Latin America and the Caribbean. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray takes us on the trip from
salvage to salvation.


(Sound of warehouse activities)


In a warehouse near Pittsburgh, Global Links staffers are preparing to load a shipment of medical aid into a forty-foot container bound for Cuba. Workers haul pallets of dialysis kits, mattresses, waiting room chairs and gurneys to the loading dock. Everything here has been carefully sorted, evaluated, and matched with requests from the Cuban Ministry of Health.


Kathleen Hower founded Global Links with two friends back in 1989. It used to operate out of their houses. Since then, Global Links has sent $110 million worth of medical aid, all of it requested by the receiving countries. About two-thirds of that has gone to Cuba.


“Cuba’s unique in so many ways; they’re very advanced medically, they do transplant surgery, they have a lot of doctors. There’s no shortage of physicians there. They’re very different than other countries.”


What Cuba shares with other developing countries is critical shortages of equipment and supplies.


(Sound of busy street)


Here in Havana, the streets are filled with Eisenhower-era cars and lined with shops that repair everything from pots to paperbacks. After more than forty years of a U.S. economic embargo and more than a decade after the loss of their Soviet trading partners, Cubans are masters of improvisation.


The same is true for the island’s medical community, says Sebastion Pererra, the former director of Cuba’s Center for Electromedicine.


PERERRA/TRANSLATOR: “The embargo has been like a school for us. It taught us how to keep working with the same machines and not have the identical parts to replace them.”


Pererra says parts and technical information from Global Links have helped keep old medical equipment going. They’ve also supported new programs in breast cancer screening and dialysis research.


MURRAY: “Has the equipment that Global Links sent to you saved lives?”


PERERRA/TRANSLATOR: “It is undeniable.”


Global Links sends materials to Cuba that other countries can’t use. That’s because medical care is not as advanced in many other developing countries.


Doctor Armando Pancorbo uses the salvaged equipment for minimally invasive surgery at the aging hospital where he works. He and his team have done nearly four thousand operations, using equipment and supplies that were thrown out by U.S. hospitals.


This morning, the O.R. is busy. Anesthesiologists prepare a middle-aged patient for gallbladder surgery while nurses set up sterilized instruments.


Back in Global Links’ Pittsburgh office, volunteers help with the labor-intensive job of packing supplies for shipping. Kristin Carreira says this work is helpful on two fronts.


“Our mission here is both humanitarian and environmental. Environmental because all of our medical supplies that we’re working on would have been put in an incinerator or landfill and so we’re really recycling in that sense.”


The American Hospital Association estimates that U.S. hospitals produce about three million tons of waste every year and they pay about three billion dollars to dispose of it. Many of the supplies that end up in the trash are opened but unused. Worries about liability, changes in technology, and a rash of government regulations account for much of the still-useful materials being thrown out.


Vicky Carse is a nurse who traveled to Cuba as a volunteer.


“Seeing people re-washing gloves where we just would open gloves and throw them away, drapes that we just open up and throw away. To see these people harbor these items, re-wash them and re-wash them because they don’t have supplies, just makes you value what you have.”


The medical community is beginning to take notice. More and more US hospitals are contacting aid organizations. Laura Brannen directs a joint environmental program for the American Hospital Association and the U.S. EPA. She says Global Links and similar groups offer hospitals much needed guidance.


“They provide the infrastructure around what can be used around the world. And without those guidelines, hospitals would be tossing this kind of materials because they don’t know where else to send it.”


Global Links founder Kathleen Hower is happy to set up the guide posts. She says we have to realize that we are all members of a much broader community – one that could use our help, even when it’s a matter of just sharing stuff we’d normally throw away.


For the GLRC, this is Ann Murray reporting.

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New “Golden Rice” to Alleviate Health Problems?

British researchers say they’ve developed a new genetically modified
strain of rice that could solve a major health problem in the developing world.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

British researchers say they’ve developed a new genetically modified strain of rice that could

solve a major health problem in the developing world. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester

Graham reports:


Six years ago, Swiss researcher Ingo Potrykus announced he’d designed a “golden rice” that had been

genetically mainpulated to increase iron and beta carotene.


Beta Carotene is rich in vitamin A, which could help reduce childhood blindness in developing

countries. But in the field, the golden rice didn’t produce adequate levels of Beta Carotene.


Now British scientists at the company Syngenta report in the journal Nature Biotechnology they’ve

developed a genetically modified strain that does contain enough Beta Carotene.


When the first ‘golden rice’ was announced, the biotechnology industry used it in a public

relations campaign on TV. When the first strain didn’t live up to the promise, the campaign was

quietly removed. The original ‘golden rice’ was to be given to farmers in developing countries for

free. Syngenta’s website does not indicate whether it will give away its strain of rice.


For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.

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Pitfalls of Population Growth

A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:

Transcript

A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


In its report, the United Nations Population Fund said that with six-point-one billion people on earth, humans are using more resources than ever before. The report indicates rising affluence and consumption along with the growing population are combining to cause extensive environmental damage. The report explains that increasing population itself does not mean increasing damage to the environment. But to be sustainable where the population is growing fastest, Asia and Africa, those regions must have better access to outside resources and technology to better manage their own natural resources, and the political will to use them responsibly. Without the resources and political will, the report indicates that growing populations in undeveloped areas tend to strip the ground clear of natural resources as well as damage the environment and induce famine and disease. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.

Green Technology Can Defeat Terrorism

Small-scale on-site power generation technologies help protect the environment. Will they also help to protect us against terrorism? Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Byron Kennard argues that they can:

Transcript

Small-scale on-site power generation technologies help protect the environment. Will they also help to protect us against terrorism? Our commentator Byron Kennard argues that they do.


Like every American, I am mourning the tragic losses that terrorists have inflicted on our nation. But I mourn too because I fear that in the aftermath of these attacks, environmental protection efforts will be sacrificed to the awful necessities of war. I am reminded of a remark Tolstoy once made to a young friend, “You may not be interested in war,” Tolstoy warned,” but war is interested in you.” War’s interest in the young is fully matched by its interest in the environment.


Apart from what the US does to go after bin Laden, we must also pursue peaceful solutions to this challenge. The best of these options is to vastly increase economic opportunity for the world’s poor. After all, it’s their desperation that provides the breeding grounds for fanaticism. As Jessica Stern, author of The Ultimate Terrorists, observes: “Force is not nearly enough. We need to drain the swamps where these young men thrive. We need to devote a much higher priority to health, education, and economic development or new Osamas will continue to arise.”


Economic development will be hard to achieve and will take much time. But in it environmentalists can find some solace. There are environmental ways to develop economies and often these make the most sense for the world’s poor. For example, two billion people in the world have no access to electricity. Providing them electricity for lighting, clean water, refrigeration and health care, and radio and television is perhaps the best single way “to drain the swamps.” The best way to make electricity available to the world’s poor is through on-site generating technologies that are the environment friendly.


These “micro power” devices generate electric power on a small scale close to where it is actually used. They include fuel cells, photovoltaics, micro generators, small wind turbines, and modular biomass systems. For instance, a micro generator the size of a refrigerator can generate 25 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a village in the developing world.


The environmental approach toward energy sufficiency in developing nations has been to utilize micro credit. That means providing poor people with affordable mini-loans to purchase on-site energy generators, or micro generation. Currently the US leads the world in exporting solar electric, small wind, fuel cells, and modular biomass systems to the developing world. Such exports of energy generation have become a $5 billion per year market, so this environmentally benign strategy is also economically productive. In short, electrifying the poor regions of the world will benefit our people, our planet and the cause of peace.

Stronger Restrictions on Water Export

The number of people living in areas without fresh water is
growing. And that’s made the Great Lakes more vulnerable to proposals
that would remove large volumes of water. In late March, the International Joint Commission announced a plan to regulate
water removal from the Great Lakes. If adopted, it will severely
restrict
bulk exports of drinking water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports:

Can Agriculture Keep Up?

As of this month (Oct.), there are six billion people on the planet and
the population will keep rising. It’s predicted the population will hit
eight-and-half billion by the year 2025. But some experts say the demand
for food will rise even faster. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports… feeding the world will be one of the biggest
challenges of the coming century: