The Aral Sea, before and after:
The cause? River in-flow to the inland sea diverted by the Soviets for irrigation.
The US Dust Bowl
The cause? Drought + inappropriate farming practices. Ploughing destroyed the prairie grasses needed to hold the top soil down. One Black Blizzard [pictured above], blew all the way east and covered the Statue of Liberty.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
One of five areas in the Earth’s oceans where plastic rubbish collects due to the action of ocean currents.
The cause? Our rubbish, flowing into rivers and from there into the ocean. Our fishing nets, lost or dumped overboard.
Radiation causes mutation in plants, animals and humans. Wild animals around Chernobyl are still radioactive because they eat radioactive plants.
The cause? Our nuclear power plant[s]. Other notable nuclear accidents include Three Mile Island [US] and Fukushima [Japan].
France – The Red Zone
The Red Zone is a no-go zone that was created by ordnance and chemicals left behind by 2 world wars.
The cause? A war that happened more than 100 years ago.
Maralinga in South Australia
A few words for this one:
‘The plutonium contamination at Maralinga was caused by these minor trials, two of which involved burning plutonium and detonating fissile material using conventional high explosives.
As a result just over 22 kilograms of plutonium-239 was dispersed around the site.
Plutonium-239 has a radioactive half-life of more than 24,000 years. This dangerous carcinogen is hazardous to humans if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through breaks in the skin.’
Two clean-ups were necessary.
‘Between 1996 and 2000, all but around 120 square kilometres of around 3200 square kilometres of Maralinga country had been cleaned to a standard considered safe for unrestricted access.’
‘In the worst-contaminated areas, 350,000 cubic metres of soil and debris were removed from an area of more than 2 square kilometres, and buried in trenches. Eleven debris pits were also treated with in-situ vitrification*. Most of the site (approximately 3,200 square kilometres) is now safe for unrestricted access and approximately 120 square kilometres is considered safe for access but not permanent occupancy.’
*In-situ vitrification is a process that melts things, including soil, into something similar to glass. Apparently it’s good for radioactive waste.
The cause? British testing of atomic weapons on Australian soil.
These are not the only examples of man-made damage, but they are the ones that resonate with me. I’m sure people can think of, or find, many other examples.
We may not have been capable of changing the planet 300 years ago, but we are now. In fact, if you include nuclear weapons, we have the capacity to destroy all life on the planet, many times over.
p.s. And as a small aside to Aussies only – let’s not forget the Cane Toad, the foxes, the rabbits, goats, pigs, horses, waterbuffalo and camels.