Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Treeless Terror

The inhabitants of Afghanistan are facing a number of problems these days. Smoldering infrastructure, tribal rivalries, Taliban holdouts, and even a recent earthquake. According to Mother Jones magazine's Michael Kamber, though, that's only the beginning. You probably didn't realize that Afghanistan is also facing an environmental crisis. Warlords might be roaming and unexploded munitions might be maiming, but MJ is concerned with the trouble the soot from wood fires is causing. Not only that, deforestation is being exacerbated by "a large timber mafia that smuggles wood out of the country" to towns in Pakistan. I didn't realize that firewood was banned from international commerce. Bad news for Canada, I guess.

Not all is lost, however. It seems that the unexploded bombs and other hazards of war might actually be good for the environment:

"Some environmentalists, searching for a silver lining among the ruins, are hoping that the landmines and dormant bombs will indirectly help protect some of Afghanistan's wildlife - even though they also pose a threat. 'Landmines tend to keep people out of areas,' says Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, Asia Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). 'That can be good for animals.'"

We've found the secret to wildlife preservation in the Third World - landmines. If only Princess Diana had lived to learn that they are "good for animals," she might have had more free time.

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