Paradise for Sale

Page 3

Worrisome Environmental Indicators
The loss of biodiversity is speeding up to a rate that is found in mass extinctions—human behavior caused 20 percent of all birds to become extinct in the past 2,000 years. An equal percentage is now threatened, endangered, or missing.
Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased 30 percent in the past 100 years. The decade of the 1990s was the hottest on record.
The number of people is 100 times greater than any similar-sized, non-domesticated animal in the history of the world—an ecological abnormality.
If the consumption level of all 6.2 billion people on Earth equaled that of North Americans, then at least two more earths would be required to maintain that level without degrading life-support capacity.
Every section of land and water on Earth is contaminated with human-synthesized chlorinated hydrocarbons with mild to extreme toxicities. Many of the thousands of toxic waste sites in the United States are in areas inhabited by minorities and the poor.
Rates of soil erosion in the United States are higher than they were during the dust bowl era of the 1930s. The global loss of cropland to soil exhaustion, erosion, salinization, and waterlogging is 4 percent per decade.
Human activities use over half of the readily available freshwater. The Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains of the United States, like many other aquifers, is being depleted much faster than it is being recharged.

What We Can Do to Erase the Human Footprint
Know what humans have done and are doing to the earth, as well as how we might change these destructive patterns.
Reduce population and consumption--by about half--by having just one or two children later in life. Make family planning available to everybody, everywhere.
Bike, walk, and ride public transportation; support legislation for high gas mileage vehicles; buy energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances, cars, and houses; replace air conditioning with fans; keep inside temperatures high in summer (75 degrees) and low in winter (65 degrees) and use night set-back thermostats; support renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal) and building codes for energy-efficient structures; compost; recycle toxics, glass, metal, plastic, and paper; share yard equipment with a neighbor.
Plant a garden, buy food locally, participate in community-supported agriculture, eat less meat, support measures to promote organic farming and preserve farmland.
Adopt some patch of biodiversity (a vacant lot, a bit of woods, part of a stream) to learn about and protect; support programs that expose people to nature; arrest sprawl and only develop areas already exploited; restore natural habitats; keep wilderness and other areas free of roads; maintain old-growth forests; protect endangered species and their habitats.

Reading List for More Information
More information on the Nauru experiment and its connections to the global experiment underway can be found in Paradise for Sale: A Parable of Nature, Carl N. McDaniel and John M. Gowdy, University of California Press, 2000. A sobering discussion of the human capacity for fantasy is found in The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity's Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature, Reg Morrison, Cornell University Press, 1999. An excellent and well-written account of the biology of biodiversity can be found in The Diversity of Life, Edward O. Wilson, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992. The status of biodiversity and proposals for its salvation are considered in The Future of Life, Edward O. Wilson, Knopf, 2002. A thorough assessment of biodiversity in the United States is provided in Our Precious Heritage, Bruce A. Stein, Lynn S. Kutner, and Jonathan S. Adams (eds), Oxford University Press, 2000. A summary of Earth history from an environmental perspective is given in A Green History of the World, Clive Ponting, Penguin Books, 1991. An environmental history of the 20th century is given in Something New Under the Sun, J.R. McNeill, Norton, 2000.

Oberlin Environmental Education Alumni Association (OEEAA)
A group of alumni has organized a new affiliate group, OEEAA, that is now seeking members. If you have interest in supporting environmental education in the Oberlin community, on or off campus, please contact the Alumni Association at (440) 775-8692 for more information.

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