Peace and Environment News — Insider, January–February 2011
by Mike Buckthought
Loss of Species Threatens Human Health
A new study reveals a link between the loss of species and disease. The loss of biodiversity in ecosystems results in increases in the numbers of disease-causing organisms. “We knew of specific cases in which declines in biodiversity increase the incidence of disease. But we’ve learned that the pattern is much more general: biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission across a wide range of infectious disease systems,” said Felicia Keesing, an ecologist and lead author of the study. The animals, plants and bacteria that disappear are the ones that buffer against disease transmission. Remaining species are often the ones that transmit diseases such as West Nile, Lyme disease and hantavirus. In the case of Lyme disease, mice can thrive when forests are fragmented, increasing the numbers of ticks that carry the disease. Loss of biodiversity has a detrimental impact on human health. (Bard College, December 1, 2010 http://www.bard.edu/news/releases/pr/fstory.php?id=2034)
Denmark Fossil Fuel-Free by 2050
Canadian corporations pour billions of dollars into the fossil economy, mining the Alberta tar sands and clearing forests to construct pipelines to send oil and gas south of the border. Denmark has chosen a different path, with substantial investments in green energy and a national plan to make the transition to a carbon-free economy. According to the Danish climate commission, the country can go fossil fuel-free by 2050. With the rising cost of oil and gas, it will be much cheaper to use wind and biomass energy to meet the country’s power requirements. The commission recommends investing 0.5 per cent of Denmark’s gross domestic product (GDP) in renewable sources of power to make the transition. (The Guardian, September 29, 2010)
Canada Bombs on Leadership
The Canadian government has made deep reductions in its funding of programs to clear landmines. Canada slashed spending by 57 per cent, the biggest decrease of all donor countries. This contrasts with Canada’s past support for the 1997 Ottawa Convention to ban landmines. According to the Landmine Monitor 2010 report, the Ottawa Convention has prevented many injuries and deaths. In 2009, 3,956 new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war were recorded, a 28 per cent reduction from the previous year. Eighty-six countries have destroyed their stockpiles of antipersonnel mines. (Landmine Monitor 2010, November 24, 2010 http://www.the-monitor.org/lm/2010; Mines Action Canada, November 24–29, 2010 www.minesactioncanada.org)
Naked Scanners Pose Cancer Risk
The “war on terror” will have an unintended consequence: it will lead to increased rates of cancer in North America. Scientists are warning of the health impacts from the use of full-body “naked” security scanners at airports. “They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” said Dr. Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at John Hopkins University. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has purchased hundreds of airport scanners which create revealing images of passengers. Canada is following the American lead. The “naked” scanners have been criticized for health risks and privacy issues. (Agence France Presse, November 12, 2010)
Chemical in Receipts Linked to Cancer
Receipts from cash registers contain high levels of the carcinogen bisphenol A, according to a new study. U.S. non-profit organizations Safer Chemicals, Safer Families and the Washington Toxics Coalition tested receipts from stores and coffee shops. Half of the receipts contained high levels of bisphenol A, a chemical known to increase risks of cancer and obesity, and to affect the development of babies and children. Touching a receipt for ten seconds transferred up to 2.5 micrograms of bisphenol A to a person’s fingers, according to the report. Bisphenol A is used in plastic bottles, cans and other consumer products. The European Union is following Canada’s lead, taking action to end the use of the chemical in baby bottles. (Agence France Presse, December 8, 2010)
Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and human rights issues.
Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 26, Number 1, January–February 2011, page 7.