Have you ever passed an area that you’ve always known to be wooded, only to find that the familiar landscape has been decimated since you were there last? That happened to me recently. The sight affected me like a punch in the stomach – it hurt.
I’ve seen this situation countless times in my lifetime here in my home state of New Jersey. Places that were once filled with natural beauty – however commonplace it may have seemed – are now developments full of “McMansions” or strip malls, with ostentatious landscaping but no real trees in sight. Other sites are nothing more than a pile of dirt, in anticipation of new construction. It sickens me to see expensive new homes sitting unoccupied on bare land that once was home to wildlife and the oxygen-producing trees essential to life. I see the animals that once inhabited the woodland areas now displaced, often killed by cars on the road as they migrate in search of a new home. This presents a hazard not only to the animals but to the humans who are driving and experience a collision with an animal that can weigh up to 300 pounds. The result is decaying carrion on the road, presenting a sickening sight and smell.
Then there is noise pollution as construction crews tear down the natural sound dampeners – trees – and begin to build, filling the air with the sounds of construction, now even louder without surrounding trees to dampen some of the noise. The noise pollution is compounded as city dwellers, accustomed to the constant hustle and bustle of the city, move into the new homes and carry on their “city that never sleeps” existence, to the distress of the locals, who actually (try to) sleep at night!
There is more litter on the roads, beaches and grass because people do not take pride in their hometown anymore. Visitors and those that have moved from areas where litter is a constant feature of the landscape carelessly add to the problem as they toss coffee cups, fast food wrappers, cigarette butts and who knows what else out of the window of a moving car. (I’ve seen it firsthand: A vehicle with out of state license plates, window rolled down, litter tossed out heedlessly.) This is not to say that the locals are blameless in this, but most often it is the out-of-towners that are guilty of marring the natural landscape with litter.
Sadly, these conditions are not confined to New Jersey, U.S.A. Worldwide, 29,800,000 trees are cut down every day. The Earth’s total forest area continues to decrease at about 35,714 hectares daily: that’s one acre per second. The actual figures may be even higher, because these figures may not include illegal logging.
Then there is the Amazon rainforest, often described as the “Lungs of our Planet” because it provides more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. The rainforest gives us not only essential oxygen, but also food. At least 80% of the developed world’s diet originated in the tropical rainforest. Many familiar foods such as coconuts, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, pineapples, mangos, winter squash and yams, coffee, nuts, spices such as black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric, and vanilla grow in the rainforest. Despite these gifts, essential to life, that are produced by the rainforest, one and one-half acres of rainforest are decimated every second with tragic consequences for the entire world. Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms are being destroyed or severely threatened – just as countless species in the rainforest are being discovered and their importance begins to be appreciated by scientists, they are obliterated by short-sighted, greedy deforestation.
Some experts project that in just forty years, the Earth will no longer be able to support life. When you think on the aforementioned facts about deforestation and add to that global warming and rampant pollution of air, earth and water, it’s not difficult to understand that we humans are killing the Earth – and ourselves. While our amazing planet has remarkable regenerative abilities, the human population – 7 billion and growing – is destroying a once perfect home. Conservation efforts, while commendable, are tragically too little too late. There are not enough people who care enough to effect real change in this situation. Each person can make a difference, but at this stage of environmental deterioration, each person needs to make a difference. But is each person willing to?
What do you think? Are we doomed?