Wednesday, January 4, 2012


MERCURY CONTAMINATION CONCERNS - In collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, PBS special correspondent in Peru, Steve Sapienza, reports about environmental concerns over mercury contamination at extensive gold mining operations in the remote regions of the Peruvian Amazon. Sapienza says: “Recent spikes in gold prices have lured 10 to 15 million people worldwide into the business of small-scale gold mining.  But rising global demand for gold has also fueled demand for a far less prized metal, mercury. The toxic metal is used by millions of miners every day to separate and collect gold from rocks and soil. Miners say mercury is easy to use, readily available, and cheap.  The United Nations Environment Program estimates that small-scale miners use up to 1,350 tons of mercury each year, making it the single largest use of mercury worldwide. In south-eastern Peru, the gold rush has attracted some 20,000 small scale miners to the pristine rain forest and rivers of the Madre de Dios region.”

“The devastation caused by widespread mining is easy to spot, with huge swathes of the forest turned to barren desert, but the damage caused by the heavy use of mercury is harder to detect. Mercury from small-scale mines travels widely, settling in sediments and moving up the food chain into fish, fish-eating wildlife and humans. Scientists and medical researchers only recently started to measure the impact of mercury here. Mota is a very popular fish around the region. You will find it on a lot of dinner tables, a lot of restaurant menus. This fish is at the top of its food chain. And what that means is it consumes a lot of smaller fish. And a lot of these small fish have mercury in them. And through a process known as biomagnification, this fish accumulates a lot of mercury. In fact, if a person consumes two servings of this fish per week, they’re getting seven-and-a-half times the safe limit of mercury, according to the World Health Organization,” Sapienza explains.

Gold-mining operations in remote regions of the Peruvian Amazon have stirred major environmental and health concerns over mercury contamination in fish, fish-eating wildlife and humans. Miners mix the soil with mercury, often using their hands and feet, creating a clump of amalgam that contains gold. And yet most miners are unaware of the dangers posed by mercury to the environment and to their own health.  We are part of the earth, and she is part of us, so we should live a natural life.

The biological well-being of our Mother Earth, along with the character of mankind, are becoming ruined by the materialistic way of life. Still, as the current residents of this planet, we are the ones responsible for establishing solutions for the future. ... Humanity has tried everything in the last few thousand years. Every economic and political system, as well as the industrialized, technological information age has failed to improve the human character and create a just environment. ... Change is unavoidable. We always want to be progressive and successful. Now is our last chance to do the right thing. In theory it is easy. Accept a spiritual way of life which does not allow those who follow this path to do any harm to others.

Śrīla Bhakti Aloka Paramadvaiti Mahārāja :
“Vaishnava Ecology”

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