Opinion

Commentary: We must stop harming our planet

Raccoon prints are shown along the oil spill stained beach on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.
Raccoon prints are shown along the oil spill stained beach on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana. Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT

The planet keeps trying to tell us to stop industrialization's punishment to the air, water and land.

But we're not listening. Our insatiable thirst for oil led to the months-long disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is unlikely, though, to slow the "drill, baby, drill" need for more offshore wells because this country and the world thirst for oil. The Obama administration was right to curtail deepwater drilling and should back away from endorsing nuclear power plants.

Nuclear waste remains a huge problem. The safety of nuclear power plants is far from assured. Doesn't President Obama remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? Each presented end-game scenarios for Mother Earth.

Global warming cries also are going unheeded. Too many conservatives see climate change as a spoof. But no one should be laughing.

Last winter was the fifth warmest on record worldwide. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center reported that worldwide, the average temperature in the winter was 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit — 1.08 degrees above average for winter months.

Worldwide temperatures have been climbing because of human activities dating to the Industrial Revolution, according to reputable atmospheric scientists. In February the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the 2000 to 2009 decade was the warmest on record, eclipsing the 1990s, the previously warmest reported.

Ice shelves keep coming off the Antarctic region and floating into the open sea posing risks to ships in the south Pacific Ocean. More are visible floating near New Zealand.

What's also tragic is global warming is causing sea levels worldwide to rise. That trend dating to the 19th century continues to affect island nations and coastal areas.

Beaches such as those in Hawaii, which Obama had called home, will continue to erode. In 100 years, sea levels are expected to be at least 3 feet higher. Scientists say that 60 percent to 80 percent of the existing U.S. shoreline will continue a chronic erosion pattern. Multibillion-dollar tourist areas will feel the bite.

Perhaps an even worse problem is what we've been doing to our food supply, and Mother Nature knows it. Farmers for decades have used the weed-killer Roundup. Television stations in this area used to carry advertising for the ubiquitous weed-killer.

It seemed to work great allowing farmers to produce more food because the product killed a broad spectrum of weeds. It was advertised as easy and safe, with little negative environmental impact.

But the widespread use of the Monsanto product now sold under the generic name of glyphosate has caused a spread of superweeds. Farmers have used it so much that the weeds have adapted and evolved so that the weed killer no longer is as effective. Scientists have called the superweeds "the largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen."

The first Roundup resistant species surfaced in 2000 in a Delaware soybean field. The problem has spread since with the emergence of 10 superweeds, all resistant to Roundup and related products. At least 22 states have been affected, involving millions of acres.

The superweeds have lessened the enthusiasm for genetically modified crops. Some corn, soybeans and cotton seeds, for example, have been genetically engineered to survive spraying with Roundup.

Such seeds have become a mainstay in American fields. Now, however, farmers have little reason to spend the extra money for them if Roundup and its generic cousins can’t kill predator weeds.

Farmers are being forced to use more toxic sprays, which could jeopardize humans, and people are having to pull weeds by hand in a return to more labor intensive agricultural methods. That will raise food prices, lower crop yields and cause more pollution.

Like global warming, Mother Earth can't be fooled. The time to stop the destructive behavior is now. The overconsumption of food and water has to end. More energy conservation has to occur, and renewable sources such as wind, geothermal and solar must be fully engaged. The planet won’t let us continue any other way.

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