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Video warns of environmental dangers ahead

If you think climate change defines the worst of today’s environmental worries, you may want to check out this video offered by Scientific American magazine in connection with its April cover story.

Then again, you may not if you’re already a worrywart about the environment. This is not reassuring by any means.

Among other warnings, the scientists behind the video predict that up to 30 percent of all the mammals, birds, and amphibians on Earth will be threatened by extinction during this century.

The video is a flag for the cover article by Jon Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Foley led a team of 30 scientists from around the world who determined that several environmental processes are heading for dangerous levels as the burgeoning human population stresses the planet’s resources.

Foley argues that while climate change gets ample attention, species loss and nitrogen pollution exceed safe limits by greater degrees. Some other environmental processes such as ocean acidification and stratospheric ozone depletion are moving toward dangerous thresholds. Phosphorus cycles and the use of land and freshwater also are on the list of concerns.

Foley calls for swift action to push back from planetary “tipping points” that would thrust the global environment and human life into dangerous new territory. First steps include promptly switching to low-carbon energy sources, curtailing land clearing and revolutionizing agricultural practices.

The challenge of feeding a human population that is approaching seven billion and growing relates to several of the environmental processes at issue.

Foley predicted in earlier writings that food production would need to double during the next 40 years to keep pace with population growth and increasing global demand for meat and biofuels.

If that is going to happen without pushing the planet over a tipping point, we will have to “dramatically reduce the environmental impacts of our farming practices, which have caused widespread damage to soils, ecosystems, watersheds and even the atmosphere,” Foley wrote in a forum for the New York Times  last October.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 04/01/2010 - 10:17 am.

    For me your writing was better than the video. You should write about the wyoming wind farm controversy where prairie grouse are holding back wind development.

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