Earth Under Fire


With essays by Camille Parmesan and Thomas E. Lovejoy. Sidebar, "Risking the Gifts of the Earth" on the climate change dangers to natural systems that support us all.

"The list of famed parks and World Heritage Sites under great pressure from human development, and now also affected by climate change, reads like an eco-tourist's dream itinerary: the Everglades and West Bengal's Sundarban mangrove forest, the Great Barrier Reef and Florida Keys, Monteverde Cloud Forest and the Daintree rainforest of northern Queensland, Glacier National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Nepal's Sagarmatha National Park, the Farallon Islands, Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Antarctic Peninsula, to name just a few. Even natural paradises that have just been discovered and are free of direct human damage are menaced by climate change. Just weeks after expeditions from Kew Gardens in London and Conservation International announced discovery of a new genus of palm tree and previously unknown species of insects, birds, frogs, and a marsupial tree kangaroo in the highlands of New Guinea, another researcher said weather records showed the place was warming twenty times faster than previously known....

"As Thomas Lovejoy put it at the protected area conference, "We have to stop thinking we can protect a few postage stamps with fences around them and use up all the rest." The land set aside in national parks and reserves, including their ecosystem services to us, will deteriorate without strong interconnections with surrounding land, water, and people who care about them. The reverse is likely true as well: surrounding land, water, and people will deteriorate if the protected areas are lost. We need to protect biodiversity and whole ecosystems not for their sake alone, but also to help us survive climate change." -- © 2007 Gary Braasch

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