Environmental Issues

Children unwilling victims of air pollution
November 23, 2001. Inquirer News Service
ROLLY D., age 5, has been in-and-out of the hospital for recurrent respiratory tract infections. Jun S., 11 years old, has the intelligence quotient (IQ) of a seven-year old. Dina G., born 11 months ago, is presently fighting for her young life in the intensive care unit of a Manila hospital, hooked to a respirator to help her breathe.
The three children have one thing in common. They all live in polluted areas in Metro Manila.
Health experts are sounding the alarm that a special population at risk with the alarming problem of air pollution are children, especially those under six years of age. Many are falling ill and dying from the effects of this worsening problem.
In Metro Manila, allergy specialists noted a significant increase in cases of asthma among children under 13 years of age.
"We have to seriously address the problem of air pollution, if only for our children's sake. It is our self-inflicted big-terrorism, posing a more real and imminent threat than anthrax or other forms of biological warfare," warns Dr. Benigno Agbayani, Sr., a professor emeritus of the UP College of Medicine.
Dr. Camilo Roa, Jr., another UP professor and a past president of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians explains that because of their physiology, children are much more likely than adults to develop' smog-related lung damage. For their body size, children inhale several times more air than adults, and they breathe faster, particularly during: strenuous physical activity. In addition, they spend more time outdoors than any other segments of the population.
An article published in the British Medical Journal quotes Dr. Miguel Celdran, a well-respected pediatrician at the Makati Medical Center, as saying: "About 90 percent of my patients have respiratory illness, and we're seeing babies as young as two months suffering from asthma. Before, this was unheard of.''

ISIS Report 03/11/10

Biofuels and World Hunger

Damning report confirms critic’s charge that industrial biofuels are responsible
for world’s food and hunger crisis Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Biofuels are conservatively estimated to have been responsible for at least 30
percent of the global food price spike in 2008 that pushed 100 million people
into poverty and drove some 30 million more into hunger, according to the
report, Meals per gallon, released by the UK charity ActionAid in February 2010
[1]. The number of chronically hungry people now exceeds one billion.

The report blames the biofuels targets set by the European Union (EU), and
concomitantly, the huge financial incentives given to the biofuels industry,
which together, provide a powerful driver for industrial biofuels. In 2006, the
EU biofuel industry was already supported by tax exemptions and agricultural
subsidies to the sum of €4.4 billion. In 2008, EU member states committed
themselves to a target of 10 percent of transport fuels from renewable sources
(i.e., biofuels) by 2020. If the same level of subsidies continues, the industry
would receive €13.7 billion per year.

If all global biofuels targets are to be met, food prices could rise by up to an
additional 76 percent by 2020 and starve an extra 600 million people.

Fuel vs food

The main agricultural crops used for industrial biofuels are vegetable and seed
oils such as palm, soy, sunflower, rapeseed, and jatropha for biodiesel, maize,
wheat and sugars for ethanol. Except for jatropha (see later), the feedstock are
all food crops. The most immediate effect of the push for industrial biofuels is
to compete with food for feedstock, thereby inflating food prices. The Food and
Agricultural Organisation estimates that in 2008/9, 125 million tonnes of
cereals were diverted into biofuel production. In 2010, more cereal (1 107
million tonnes) were diverted into animal feed and industrial uses than for
feeding people (1 013 million tonnes).  Overall, world food prices increased by
75 percent from 2006 to the middle of 2008, but the price for staple food grains
(such as wheat, rice and maize) went up by 126 percent. For the 82 low income
food deficient countries, import bills shot up. Each 10 percent increase in the
price of cereals adds nearly US$4.5 billion to the total cereals import cost of
developing countries that are net importers. Independent analysts have concluded
that industrial biofuels have been responsible for 30 to 75 percent of the
global food price increase in 2008.

To make matters much worse, huge tracts of land have been taken out of food
production, exacerbating landlessness everywhere (see [2] ‘Land Rush’ as Threats
to Food Security Intensify, SiS 46). ActionAid reports that [1] in just five
African countries 1.1 million hectares have been given over to industrial
biofuels for export; while 1.4 million ha were taken over simultaneously to
produce food for export. As biofuels displace food from agricultural land in
developed countries, and as rich countries run out of water for agriculture,
food production is increasingly outsourced to cheap land available in poor
countries [2].

Food and fuel are competing everywhere for land. EU companies have already
acquired or requested at least five million hectares of land for industrial
biofuels in developing countries [1]. Just to meet the EU’s ten percent target
would require 17.5 million hectares for growing biofuels in developing

Landlessness and hunger

While driving up food prices can create hunger, driving people off the land that
they have traditionally cultivated deprives them of the last resort of growing
their own food. This is happening all over the developing world.

In Mozambique, farms are destroyed for industrial biofuels. Elisa Alimone
Mongue, mother and farmer said: “I don’t have a farm, I don’t have a garden, ..
the only land I have has been destroyed. We are just suffering with hunger, ..
even if I go to look for another farm, they will just destroy it again.”

“They actually took the land when it was already tilled…They haven’t paid us
anything… What we want is to get our farms back because that is what our
livelihood is dependent on… we are dying of hunger and there is nothing we have
that is actually our own.” Matilde Ngoene, another mother and farmer said.

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Notes to ponder

NASA claims that the government could slow down worldwide global warming by cutting down on soot emissions. Studies by NASA show that cutting down on soot would not only have an immediate cooling effect, but would also put a stop to many of the deaths caused by air pollution. When soot is formed, it typically travels through the air absorbing and releasing solar radiation which in turn begins to warm the atmosphere. Cutting soot emissions would be an immediate help against global warming, as the soot would quickly fall out of the atmosphere and begin to cool it down.

Cutting back on soot emissions would buy us time in our fight against global warming. Soot is caused by the partial burning of fossil fuels, wood and vegetation. Soot is known to contain over forty different cancer causing chemicals, and a complete cut would offer untold health benefits worldwide.

Environmental conservation has always been a topic for lengthy discussions, but up until recent times, global warming and climate changes were vague subjects, with no hard proof. Not surprisingly, the previous lack of attention to these issues have created a very gloomy outlook on our future. So, considering all this, what could be the biggest contributor to climate changes through global warming? Transportation - the man-made iron horses, flying machines and sea monsters, so to speak.

The question we have now is how green is our transportation? The majority of the worlds' vehicles are fueled by oil (petrol, diesel and kerosene). Even if they rely on electricity, the stations used to generate this electricity use fossil fuels for power! Excluding vehicle manufacture, transportation is responsible for 14% of the artificially created greenhouse emissions, mostly carbondioxide.

Automobiles, trains and planes are all responsible for this problem, but cars are the highest impact-makers. They release approximately six times more carbondioxide than a plane and seven times more than sea vessels.

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is somewhat difficult to define because many air pollutants, at low concentrations, are essential nutrients for the sustainable development of ecosystems. So, air pollution could be defined as:A state of the atmosphere, which leads to the exposure of human beings and/or ecosystems to such high levels or loads of specific compounds or mixtures thereof, that damage is caused. With very few exceptions, all compounds that are considered air pollutants have both natural as well as human-made origins.

Air pollution is not a new phenomenon; in Medieval times, the burning of coal was forbidden in London while Parliament was in session. Air pollution problems have dramatically increased in intensity as well as scale due to the increase in emissions since the Industrial Revolution.