I was reading Ashlee Fairey’s article in the latest Courant about EarthFest on the Esplanade.
“It is detrimental” to the park, said Sylvia Salas, executive director of the Esplanade Association.
The article goes on:
The weight of thousands of people on the grass compacts the soil, making it difficult for water to reach tree roots, Salas said. Tree damage leads to runoff, which in turn can pollute the waterways.
Salas says the 125,000-strong crowd usually leaves about seven tons of trash and six tons of recycling, “a low amount of trash”, according to a municipal development representative — and truthfully, it does work out to about a quarter lb. per person, which isn’t a lot until you put it all together. Last year it took the DCR about one 8-hour shift to clean up the mess.
But it’s telling. And it actually illustrates in a microcosm the impact of population on our environment. Rapid population growth threatens natural resources, levels biodiversity, and strangles quality of life.
About 15 million hectares (1 hectare is about 2.5 acres) of new land are required each year to support the earth’s steadily expanding population. Unfortunately, more than 10 million hectares of arable land are severely degraded and must be abandoned each year due to water and wind erosion, salinization, and water logging. Since topsoil formation proceeds at a painstakingly slow rate of about 2.5 cm every 500 years, arable soil is being degraded at a rate that far exceeds our environment’s replacement capacity. The 15 million hectares of new land required each year to sustain growing population are thus being taken largely from the world’s forests; however, the consequent deforestation is producing a shortage of the raw materials used to make paper products essential to a “quality” standard of living. In short, efforts to compensate for the deficiency of land resources by redistributing limited resources can and will continue to be felt in the decreasing availability of food and other products on which our present standard of living depends.
Surging food prices may be having a greater impact on regime change in the Middle East than any democratic aspirations of the masses there. According to the World Bank, food prices are 36% higher than this time last year, pushing an additional 44 million people into poverty.
There’s reason to believe that folks celebrating EarthFest on the Esplanade are themselves isolated — or at least feel that they are isolated from the food crisis when in fact the ripples will impact all of us, and certainly the consumer choices we make have a ripple effect in the rest of the world as well.
We like to celebrate, and there’s a season for it, but I think a better approach to Earth Day might be something along the lines of Vancouver’s “30 Zero Zero” challenge – 30 Days, Zero Waste, Zero Impact. Something to at least acknowledge that all the strain we put on the planet might require some sacrifice on our part, too.
No irony intended.