Our Battered Earth
IN 1805, renowned explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the Columbia River in present-day Washington State, U.S.A. * What captured their attention more than the river itself was the sheer abundance of salmon it contained. “The multitudes of this fish are almost inconceivable,” they wrote in their daily log. “They float in such quantities down the stream, and are drifted ashore, that the Indians have only to collect, split, and dry them on the scaffolds.” Indeed, salmon were so plentiful that the Indians dried them for use as firewood!
Today the story is quite different. “Scientists have known for more than a decade that fish are being removed from the ocean faster than they can replenish themselves,” states a Newsweek report. For instance, it is estimated that in the North Atlantic, 90 percent of the wild salmon population is gone.
But it is not just fish that are in short supply. Natural resources, such as fossil fuels, minerals, and forest products, are being used up at an astounding rate. The World Wildlife Fund reports that 30 percent of earth’s natural resources were lost between 1970 and 1995. Harvesting the earth’s resources is often a double-edged sword, for the methods used can destroy natural habitats.
Some people reason that since man created these problems, he can solve them. To cite one example, in recent years air pollution has decreased in many industrialized cities. Do such glimmers of hope mean that mankind is gaining control of the situation?
^ par. 2 Lewis and Clark had been sent to explore and map the newly purchased territory west of the Mississippi River.
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