Saturday, June 19, 2010

THE GULF SPILL AS SEEN BY al-JAZEERA



Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film

This story repeats endlessly, not only for the last 40 years in the Gulf but globally. Here's the NY Times story of the last 50 years of oil in Nigeria, the legacy of oil extraction in Ecuador documented in the film CRUDE, and Riki Ott on the lessons of Exxon-Valdez in Alaska.

And, what does the future hold? Oil leases and exploration are spreading across all of the Peruvian Amazon (including Indigenous Reserves) and serious oil exploration is on-going in the globally most-diverse Juruá watershed of Brazil's State of Acre.

All I can do is to give you the best picture that I know of what is at stake, of what will be lost forever. That picture would come from the botanist David Campbell who studies the forest in Acre's Juruá watershed and writes in his award-winning Land of Ghosts:

I now have data from a total of 18 hectares. A hectare is an area of only 100 by 100 meters, and 18 hectares [less than 50 acres] is just a mote in the vast Amazon Valley. But that small area seems a universe to me. Its diversity is stunning: more than 20,000 individual trees belonging to about 2,000 species -- three times as many tree species as there are in all of North America. And each tree is an ecosystem unto itself, bearing fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, aerophytes, orchids, lianas, reptiles, mammals, birds, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, mites and uncountable legions of insects. The number of insect species alone -- especially of beetles -- may exceed the combined total of all the other species of plants and animals in the forest.

The Amazon River and its forest are the last continent-sized stretch of untrammeled wilderness on Earth and the greatest expression of her biodiversity. The Amazon Valley, in fact, has more species than have ever existed anywhere at any time during the four-billion-year history of life on Earth. Yet just at this moment of peak biotic eloquence, we know that inevitably most of it will be lost. Over the next several decades Earth will lose hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- of species. Most of this extinction will occur in the tropical forests and especially in Amazonia. In the course of a generation or two, the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed as a wilderness and as a functioning ecosystem. It is an old story, stale by now. Yet the loss of this place, I'm convinced, will be the most egregious event of a generation of atrocities.

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