Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2012

Download PDF files of worksheets to be used in conjunction with HOME here:

HOME Worksheet – Pt I

HOME Worksheet – Pt II

HOME Worksheet – Pt III

.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

PLEASE NOTE: This transcript is being provided for educational purposes only to be used in conjunction with a university course designed to raise awareness of the serious environmental issues that the documentary film HOME: A Stunning Visual Portrayal of Earth addresses. The kind understanding of the filmmakers will be appreciated with respect to any copyright issues which may arise, and it is hoped that permission to use this material will be granted so that the message M. Yann Arthus-Bertrand puts forth may be disseminated among the students participating in this course.

Students are encouraged to purchase their own copies of this important documentary on DVD.

Thank you.

Tony Del Vecchio, M.Ed.

**********************************************************************************

.

.

**********************************************************************************

Part III

.

Here’s one theory of the story of the Rapa Nui, the inhabitants of Easter Island, that could perhaps give us pause for thought. Living on the most isolated island in the world, the Rapa Nui exploited their resources until there was nothing left. Their civilization did not survive.

On these lands stood the highest palm trees in the world. They have disappeared. The Rapa Nui chopped them all down for lumber. They then had to face widespread soil erosion. The Rapa Nui could no longer go fishing. There were no trees to build canoes. And yet the Rapa Nui formed one of the most brilliant civilizations in the Pacific. Innovative farmers, sculptors, exceptional navigators, they were caught in the vise of overpopulation and dwindling resources. They experienced social unrest, revolts, and famine. Many did not survive the cataclysm.  The real mystery of Easter Island is not how its strange statues got there. We know now. It’s why the Rapa Nui didn’t react in time. It’s only one of a number of theories, but it has particular relevance to us today.

Since 1950, the world’s population has almost tripled. And since 1950, we have more fundamentally altered our island, the Earth, than in all of our 200,000 year history.

Nigeria is the biggest oil exporter in Africa, and yet 70% of the population lives under the poverty line. The wealth is there, but the country’s inhabitants don’t have access to it. The same is true all over the globe. Half the world’s poor live in resource-rich countries.

Our mode of development has not fulfilled its promises. In 50 years, the gap between rich and poor has grown wider than ever. Today, half of the world’s wealth is in the hands of the richest two percent of the population. Can such disparity be maintained? They’re the cause of population movements whose scale we have yet to fully realize.

The city of Lagos had a population of 700,000 in 1960. That will rise to 16 million by 2025. Lagos is one of the fastest-growing megalopolises in the world. The new arrivals are mostly farmers forced off the land for economic or demographic reasons or because of the diminishing resources. This is a radically new type of urban growth driven by the urge to survive rather than to prosper. Every week, over a million people swell the populations of the world’s cities.

One human being in six now lives in a precarious, unhealthy, overpopulated environment, without access to daily necessities, such as water, sanitation. or electricity. Hunger is spreading once more. It affects nearly one billion people.

All over the planet, the poorest scrabble to survive on scraps, while we continue to dig for resources that we can no longer live without. We look farther and farther afield, in previously unspoiled territory and in regions that are increasingly difficult to exploit. We’re not changing our model.

Oil might run out? We can still extract oil from the tar sands of Canada. The biggest trucks in the world move thousands of tons of sand. The process of heating and separating bitumen from the sand requires millions of cubic meters of water. Colossal amounts of energy are needed. The pollution is catastrophic. The most urgent priority, apparently, is to pick every pocket of sunlight.

Our oil tankers are getting bigger and bigger. Our energy requirements are constantly increasing. We try to power growth like a bottomless oven that demands more and more fuel.

It’s all about carbon. In a few decades, the carbon that made our atmosphere a furnace, and that nature captured over millions of years, allowing life to develop, will have largely been pumped back out. The atmosphere is heating up. It would have been inconceivable for a boat to be here just a few years ago.

Transport, industry, deforestation, agriculture — our activities release gigantic quantities of carbon dioxide. Without realizing it — molecule by molecule — we have upset the Earth’s climatic balance.

All eyes are on the poles, where the effects of global warming are most visible. It’s happening fast — very fast. The Northwest Passage that connects America, Europe, and Asia via the pole is opening up. The Arctic ice cap is melting. Under the effect of global warming, the ice cap has lost 40% of its thickness in 40 years. Its surface area in the summer shrinks year by year. It could disappear before 2030. Some predictions suggest 2015. Soon these waters will be free of ice several summer months a year. The sunbeams that the ice sheet previously reflected back now penetrate the dark water heating up. The warming process gathers pace. This ice contains the records of our planet.

The concentration of carbon dioxide hasn’t been so high for several hundred thousand years. Humanity has never lived in an atmosphere like this.

Is excessive exploitation of our resources threatening the lives of every species? Climate change accentuates the threat.

By 2050, a quarter of the Earth’s species could be threatened with extinction. In these polar regions, the balance of nature has already been disrupted.

Off the coast of Greenland, there are more and more icebergs. Around the North Pole, the ice cap has lost 30% of its surface area in 30 years. But as Greenland rapidly becomes warmer, the freshwater of a whole continent flows into the salt water of the oceans. Greenland’s ice contains 20% of the freshwater of the whole planet. If it melts, sea levels will rise by nearly seven meters.

But there is no industry here. Greenland’s ice sheet suffers from greenhouse gases emitted elsewhere on Earth. Our ecosystem doesn’t have borders. Wherever we are, our actions have repercussions on the whole Earth. The atmosphere of our planet is an indivisible whole. It is an asset we share.

On Greenland’s surface, lakes are appearing on the landscape. The ice cap has begun to melt at a speed that even the most pessimistic scientists did not envision 10 years ago.

More and more of these glacier-fed rivers are emerging together and burrowing through the surface. It was thought the water would freeze in the depths of the ice. On the contrary, it flows under the ice, carrying the ice sheet into the sea, where it breaks into icebergs. As the freshwater of Greenland’s ice sheet gradually seeps into the salt water of the oceans, low-lying lands around the globe are threatened.

Sea levels are rising. Water expanding as it gets warmer caused, in the 20th century alone, a rise of 20 centimeters. Everything becomes unstable. Coral reefs, for example, are extremely sensitive to the slightest change in water temperature. Thirty percent have disappeared. They are an essential link in the chain of species. In the atmosphere, the major wind streams are changing direction. Rain cycles are altered. The geography of climate is modified.

The inhabitants of low-lying islands here in the Maldives, for example, are on the front line. They are increasingly concerned. Some are already looking for new, more hospitable lands.

If sea levels continue to rise faster and faster, what would major cities like Tokyo, the world’s most populous city, do? Every year scientists’ predictions become more and more alarming. Seventy percent of the world’s population lives on coastal plains. Eleven of the 15 biggest cities stand on a coastline or river estuary. As the seas rise, salt will invade the water table, depriving inhabitants of drinking water. Migratory phenomena are inevitable. The only uncertainty concerns their scale.

In Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is unrecognizable. Eighty percent of its glaciers have disappeared. In summer, the rivers no longer flow. Local peoples are affected by the lack of water.

Even on the world’s highest peaks, in the heart of the Himalayas, eternal snows and glaciers are receding. Yet these glaciers play an essential role in the water cycle. They trap the water from the monsoons as ice and release it in the summer when the snow melts.

The glaciers of the Himalayas are the source of all the great Asian rivers — the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze, Kiang. Two billion people depend on them for drinking water and to irrigate their crops as in Bangladesh. On the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, Bangladesh is directly affected by the phenomena occurring in the Himalayas and at sea level. This is one of the most populous and poorest countries in the world. It is already hit by global warming. The combined impact of increasingly dramatic floods and hurricanes could make a third of its landmass disappear.

When populations are subjected to these devastating phenomena, they eventually move away. Wealthy countries will not be spared. Droughts are occurring all over the planet. In Australia, half of farmland is already affected. We are in the process of compromising the climatic balance that has allowed us to develop over 12,000 years. More and more wildfires encroach on major cities. In turn, they exacerbate global warming. As the trees burn, they release carbon dioxide. The system that controls our climate has been severely disrupted.

The elements on which it relies have been disrupted. The clock of climate change is ticking in these magnificent landscapes. Here in Siberia and elsewhere across the globe it is so cold that the ground is constantly frozen. It’s known as permafrost. Under its surface lies a climatic time bomb; methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. If the permafrost melts, the methane released would cause the greenhouse effect to race out of control with consequences no one can predict. We would literally be in unknown territory.

Humanity has no more than 10 years to reverse the trend and avoid crossing into this territory life on Earth as we have never known it.  We have created phenomena we cannot control. Since our origins, water, air, and forms of life are intimately linked. But recently, we have broken those links.

Let’s face the facts. We must believe what we know. All that we have just seen is a reflection of human behavior. We have shaped the Earth in our image. We have very little time to change. How can this century carry the burden of nine billion human beings if we refuse to be called to account for everything we alone have done?

20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of its resources

The world spends 12 times more on military expenditures than on aid to developing countries.

5,000 people a day die because of dirty drinking water

1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water

Nearly 1 billion people are going hungry

Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or bio fuels

40% of arable land has suffered long-term damage

Every year, 13 millions hectares of forest disappear

One mammal in 4, one bird in 8, one amphibian in 3 are threatened with extinction

Species are dying out at a rhythm 1,000 times faster than the natural rate

Three quarters of fishing grounds are exhausted, depleted or in dangerous decline

The average temperature of the last 15 years have been the highest ever recorded

The ice cap is 40% thinner than 40 years ago

There may be at least 200 million climate refugees by 2050

The cost of our actions is high. Others pay the price without having been actively involved. I have seen refugee camps as big as cities sprawling in the desert. How many men, women, and children will be left by the wayside tomorrow. Must we always build walls to break the chain of human solidarity, to separate peoples and protect the happiness of some from the misery of others? It’s too late to be a pessimist. I know that a single human can knock down every wall.

It’s too late to be a pessimist. Worldwide, four children out of five attend school. Never has learning been given to so many human beings. Everyone, from richest to poorest, can make a contribution. Lesotho, one of the world’s poorest countries, is proportionally the one that invests most in its people’s education. Qatar, one of the world’s richest states, has opened its doors to the best universities. Culture, education, research, and innovation are inexhaustible resources.

In the face of misery and suffering, millions of NGOs prove that solidarity between peoples is stronger than the selfishness of nations. In Bangladesh, a man thought the unthinkable and founded a bank that lends only to the poor. In barely 30 years, it has changed the lives of 150 million people around the world.

Antarctica is a continent with immense natural resources that no country can claim for itself, a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. A treaty signed by 49 states has made it a treasure shared by all humanity.

It’s too late to be a pessimist. Governments have acted to protect nearly two percent of the world’s territorial waters. It’s not much but it’s two times more than 10 years ago.

The first natural parks were created just over a century ago. They cover over 13% of the continents. They create spaces where human activity is in step with the preservation of species, soils, and landscapes.

This harmony between humans and nature can become the rule, no longer the exception. In the United States, New York has realized what nature does for us. These forests and lakes supply all the drinking water the city needs.

In South Korea, the forests had been devastated by war. Thanks to a national reforestation program, they once more cover 65% of the country. More than 75% of paper is recycled.

Costa Rica has made a choice between military spending and the conservation of its lands. The country no longer has an army. It prefers to devote its resources to education, ecotourism, and the protection of its primary forest.

Gabon is one of the world’s leading producers of wood. It enforces selective logging. Not more than one tree every hectare. Its forests are one of the country’s most important economic resources but they have the time to regenerate. Programs exist that guarantee sustainable forest management. They must become mandatory.

For consumers and producers, justice is an opportunity to be seized. When trade is fair, when both buyer and seller benefit, everybody can prosper and earn a decent living. How can there be justice and equity between people whose only tools are their hands and those who harvest their crops with a machine and state subsidies? Let’s be responsible consumers. Think about what we buy.

It’s too late to be a pessimist. I have seen agriculture on a human scale. It can feed the whole planet if meat production doesn’t take the food out of the people’s mouths. I have seen fishermen who take care of what they catch and care for the riches of the ocean.

I have seen houses producing their own energy. 5,000 people live in the world’s first ever eco-friendly district in Freiburg, Germany. Other cities partner the project. Mumbai is the thousandth to join them.

The government of New Zealand, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, and other nations have made the development of renewable energy sources a top priority. I know that 80% of the energy we consume comes from fossil energy sources. Every week, two new coal-fired generating plants are built in China alone.

But I have also seen, in Denmark, a prototype of a coal-fired plant that releases its carbon into the soil rather than the air. A solution for the future? Nobody knows yet.

I have seen in Iceland an electricity plant powered by the Earth’s heat-geothermal power.

I have seen a sea snake lying on the swell to absorb the energy of the waves and produce electricity.

I have seen wind farms off the coast of Denmark that produce 20% of the country’s electricity. The U.S.A., China, India, Germany, and Spain are the biggest investors in renewable energy. They have already created over two and a half million jobs. Where on Earth doesn’t the wind blow?

I have seen desert expanses baking in the sun. Everything on Earth is linked and the Earth is linked to the sun, its original energy source. Can humans not imitate plants and capture its energy? In one hour, the sun gives the Earth the same amount of energy as that consumed by all humanity in one year. As long as the Earth exists, the sun’s energy will be inexhaustible. All we have to do is stop drilling the Earth and start looking to the sky. All we have to do is learn to cultivate the sun.

All these experiments are only examples that they testify to a new awareness. They lay down markers for a new human adventure based on moderation, intelligence, and sharing.

It’s time to come together. What’s important is not what’s gone, but what remains. We still have half the world’s forests, thousands of rivers, lakes and glaciers, and thousands of thriving species. We know that the solutions are there today. We all have the power to change. So what are we waiting for?

.

IT’S UP TO US TO WRITE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT;

TOGETHER.

.

Download a PDF file for Part III here:

HOME – Part III

**********************************************************************************

Read Full Post »

PLEASE NOTE: This transcript is being provided for educational purposes only to be used in conjunction with a university course designed to raise awareness of the serious environmental issues that the documentary film HOME: A Stunning Visual Portrayal of Earth addresses. The kind understanding of the filmmakers will be appreciated with respect to any copyright issues which may arise, and it is hoped that permission to use this material will be granted so that the message M. Yann Arthus-Bertrand puts forth may be disseminated among the students participating in this course.

Students are encouraged to purchase their own copies of this important documentary on DVD.

Thank you.

Tony Del Vecchio, M.Ed.

**********************************************************************************

.

.

**********************************************************************************

Part II


.

For many of us, the American dream is embodied by a legendary name: Los Angeles. In this city that stretches over 100 kilometers, the number of cars is almost equal to the number of inhabitants.

Here energy puts on a fantastic show every night. The day seems to be no more than the pale reflection of nights that turn the city into a starry sky.

Faster and faster. Distances are no longer counted in miles but in minutes. The automobile shapes new suburbs where every home is a castle, a safe distance from the asphyxiated city centers, and where neat rows of houses huddle round dead-end streets. The model of a lucky few countries has become a universal dream preached by televisions all over the world. Even here in Beijing it is cloned, copied and reproduced in these formatted houses that have wiped pagodas off the map.

The automobile has become the symbol of comfort and progress. If this model were followed by every society, the planet wouldn’t have 900 million vehicles, as it does today, but five billion.

Faster and faster. The more the world develops, the greater its thirst for energy. Everywhere, machines dig, bore, and rip from the Earth the pieces of stars buried in its depths since its creation: minerals.

In the next 20 years, more ore will be extracted from the Earth than in the whole of humanity’s history. As a privilege of power, 80% of this mineral wealth is consumed by 20% of the world’s population. Before the end of this century excessive mining will have exhausted nearly all the planet’s reserves.

Faster and faster. Shipyards churn out oil tankers, container ships, and gas tankers to cater for the demands of globalized industrial production. Most consumer goods travel thousands of kilometers from the country of production to the country of consumption. Since 1950, the volume of international trade has increased 20 times over. Ninety percent of trade goes by sea. 500 million containers are transported every year headed for the world’s major hubs of consumption, such as Dubai.

Dubai is one of the biggest construction sites in the world, a country where the impossible becomes possible. Building artificial islands in the sea, for example. Dubai has few natural resources, but with the money from oil, it can bring millions of tons of material and people from all over the world. It can build forests of skyscrapers, each one taller than the last, or even a ski slope in the middle of the desert. Dubai has no farmland but it can import food. Dubai has no water but it can afford to expend immense amounts of energy to desalinate seawater and build the highest skyscrapers in the world. Dubai has endless sun but no solar panels. It is the city of more is more, where the wildest dreams become reality.

Dubai is a sort of culmination of the Western model with its 800-meter high totem to total modernity that never fails to amaze the world. Excessive? Perhaps. Dubai appears to have made its choice. It is like the new beacon for all the world’s money. Nothing seems further removed from nature than Dubai, although nothing depends on nature more than Dubai. The city merely follows the model of wealthy nations. We haven’t understood that we’re depleting what nature provides.

What do we know of the marine world, of which we see only the surface, and which covers three-quarters of the planet? The ocean depths remain a secret. They contain thousands of species whose existence remains a mystery to us.

Since 1950, fishing catches have increased fivefold, from 18 to 100 million metric tons a year. Thousands of factory ships are emptying the oceans. Three-quarters of fishing grounds are exhausted, depleted, or in danger of being so. Most large fish have been fished out of existence since they have no time to reproduce.

We are destroying the cycle of a life that was given to us. On the coastlines, signs of the exhaustion of stocks abound.

First sign: Colonies of sea mammals are getting smaller. Made vulnerable by urbanization of the coasts and pollution, they now face a new threat: famine. In their unequal battle against industrial fishing fleets, they can’t find enough fish to feed their young.

Second sign: Seabirds must fly ever-greater distances to find food. At the current rate, all fish stocks are threatened with exhaustion.

In Dakar, traditional net fishing boomed in the years of plenty, but today, fish stocks are dwindling. Fish is the staple diet of one in five humans. Can we envision the inconceivable: abandoned boats, seas devoid of fish?

We have forgotten that resources are scarce. Five hundred million humans live in the world’s desert lands, more than the combined population of Europe. They know the value of water. They know how to use it sparingly. Here, they depend on wells replenished by fossil water which accumulated underground in the days when it rained on these deserts:, 25,000 years ago. Fossil water also enables crops to be grown in the desert to provide food for local populations.

The field’s circular shape derives from the pipes that irrigate them around a central pivot. But there is a heavy price to pay. Fossil water is a nonrenewable resource. In Saudi Arabia, the dream of industrial farming in the desert has faded. As if on a parchment map, the light spots on this patchwork show abandoned plots. The irrigation equipment is still there; the energy to pump water also. But the fossil water reserves are severely depleted.

Israel turned the desert into arable land. Even though these hothouses are now irrigated drop by drop, water consumption continues to increase along with exports. The once mighty river Jordan is now just a trickle. Its water has flown to supermarkets all over the world in crates of fruit and vegetables.

The Jordan’s fate is not unique. Across the planet, one major river in 10 no longer flows into the sea for several months of the year. The Dead Sea derives its name from its incredibly high salinity that makes all life impossible.

Deprived of the Jordan’s water, its level goes down by over one meter per year. Its salinity is increasing. Evaporation, due to the heat, produces these fine islands of salt evaporates — beautiful but sterile.

In Rajasthan, India, Udaipur is a miracle of water. The city was made possible by a system of dams and channels that created an artificial lake. For its architects, was water so precious that they dedicated a palace to it?

India risks being the country that suffers most from the lack of water in the coming century. Massive irrigation has fed the growing population, and in the last 50 years,  21 million wells have been dug. The victory over famine has a downside, however. In many parts of the country, the drill has to sink ever deeper to hit water. In western India, 30% of wells have been abandoned. The underground aquifers are drying out. Vast reservoirs will catch the monsoon rains to replenish the aquifers. In dry season, women from local villages dig them with their bare hands.

Thousands of kilometers away, 800 to 1,000 liters of water are consumed per person per day. Las Vegas was built out of the desert. Millions of people live there. Thousands more arrive every month. The inhabitants of Las Vegas are among the biggest consumers of water in the world.

Palm Springs is another desert city with tropical vegetation and lush golf courses. How long can this mirage continue to prosper? The Earth cannot keep up. The Colorado River, which brings water to these cities, is one of those rivers that no longer reaches the sea. Even more alarmingly, its flow is diminishing at source. Water levels in the catchment lakes along its course are plummeting. Lake Powell took 17 years to reach high-peak mark. Its level is now half of that. Water shortages could affect nearly two billion people before 2025. Yet water is still abundant in unspoiled regions of the planet — the wetlands.

These wetlands are crucial to all life on Earth. They represent six percent of the planet. Marshes are sponges that regulate the flow of water. They absorb it in the wet season and release it in the dry season. The water runs off the mountain peaks, carrying with it the seeds of the regions it flows through. This process gives birth to unique landscapes, where the diversity of species is unequaled in its richness. Under the calm water lies a veritable factory where this ultimately-linked richness and diversity patiently filters the water and digests all the pollution.

Marshes are indispensable environments for the regeneration and purification of water. These wetlands were always seen as unhealthy expanses, unfit for human habitation. In our race to conquer more land, we have reclaimed them as pasture for our livestock, or as land for agriculture or building. In the last century, half of the world’s marshes were drained. We know neither their richness nor their role.

All living matter is linked. Water, air, soil, trees — the world’s magic is right in front of our eyes. Trees breathe groundwater into the atmosphere as light mist.

They form a canopy that alleviates the impact of heavy rains and protects the soil from erosion. The forests provide the humidity that is necessary for life. They are the mother and father of rain. The forests store carbon. They contain more than all the Earth’s atmosphere. They are the cornerstone of the climatic balance on which we all depend. Trees provide a habitat for three-quarters of the planet’s biodiversity — that is to say, of all life on Earth.

Every year, we discover new species we had no idea existed — insects, birds, mammals. These forests provide the remedies that cure us. The substances secreted by these plants can be recognized by our bodies. Our cells talk the same language. We are of the same family.

Mangroves are forests that step out onto the sea. Like coral reefs, they are a nursery for the oceans. Their roots entwine and form a shelter for the fish and mollusks that come to breed. Mangroves protect the coasts from hurricanes, tidal waves and erosion by the sea. Whole peoples depend on them — yet they were reduced by half during the 20th century.

One of the reasons for the ongoing disaster is these shrimp farms installed on the mangroves’ rich waters. Ventilators aerate pools full of antibiotics to prevent the asphyxiation of the shrimps, not that of the mangroves.

Since the 1960s, deforestation has constantly gathered pace. Every year, 13 million hectares of tropical forest — an area the size of Illinois — disappear in smoke and as lumber. The world’s largest rain forest, the Amazon, has already been reduced by 20%. The forest gives way to cattle ranches or soybean farms. Ninety-five percent of these soybeans are used to feed livestock and poultry in Europe and Asia. And so, a forest is turned into meat. When they burn, forests and their soils release huge quantities of carbon, accounted for 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted across the globe. Deforestation is one of the principal causes of global warming. Thousands of species disappear forever. With them, one of the links in a long chain of evolution snaps. The intelligence of the living matter from which they came is lost forever.

Barely 20 years ago, Borneo — the fourth-largest island in the world — was covered by a vast primary forest. At the current rate of deforestation, it will have totally disappeared within 10 years. Living matter bonds water, air, earth, and the sun. In Borneo, this bond has been broken in what was one of the Earth’s greatest reservoirs of biodiversity. This catastrophe was provoked by the decision to produce palm oil, the most consumed oil in the world, on Borneo. Palm oil not only caters to our growing demand for food, but also cosmetics, detergents, and, increasingly, alternative fuels. The forest diversity was replaced by a single species — the oil palm. Monoculture is easy, productive and rapid. For local people, it provides employment. It is an agricultural industry.

Another example of massive deforestation is the eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is used to make paper pulp. Plantations are growing, as demand for paper has increased fivefold in 50 years. Monocultures of trees are gaining ground all over the world. But a monoculture is not a forest. By definition, there is little diversity. One forest does not replace another forest. At the foot of these eucalyptus trees, nothing grows because their leaves form a bed that is toxic for most other plants. They grow quickly, but exhaust water reserves.

Soybeans, palm oil, eucalyptus trees — deforestation destroys the essential to produce the superfluous. But elsewhere, deforestation is a last resort to survive. Over two billion people — almost a third of the world’s population — still depend on charcoal.

In Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, charcoal is one of the population’s main consumables. Once the pearl of the Caribbean, Haiti can no longer feed its population without foreign aid. On the hills of Haiti, only two percent of the forests are left. Stripped bare, the soil no longer absorbs the rainwater. With no vegetation and no roots to reinforce them, nothing holds the soils back. The rainwater washes them down the hillsides as far as the sea.

Erosion impoverishes the quality of the soils, reducing their suitability for agriculture. In some parts of Madagascar, the erosion is spectacular. Whole hillsides bear deep gashes hundreds of meters wide. Thin and fragile, soil is made by living matter. With erosion, the fine layer of humus, which took thousands of years to form, disappears.

Download a PDF file for Part II here:

HOME – Part II

**********************************************************************************

Read Full Post »