Snort coke, shaft the environment, say boffins

By klaatu · Mar 30, 2008 · ·
  1. klaatu

    The Register
    Sunday 30th March 2008

    Snorting cocaine is an environmental crime whatever your views on drug use, scientists declared last week.

    A panel of scientists meeting at the Natural History Museum in London last week detailed how the production of the drug and its trafficking affect biodiversity and contribute to climate change.

    The production of a gram of cocaine means the destruction of four square metres of Colombian forest, they said, raising the question of which supermodels, popstars and city types should be lined up with hummer drivers and big game hunters in the environmental most-wanted stakes.

    Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the planet, and also the biggest cocaine producer. Bad combination.

    Cocaine production is a threat to environment is all its stages, said Liliana Davalos, lecturer in Molecular Ecology at the Open University, UK. The first step of the cycle is the destruction of forest to plant coca. Every year, 100 thousand hectares of Colombian forest is destroyed for this end. The plantations also use tons of herbicides that are forbidden in many other countries. Since the UK is one of the world’s largest consumption markets for cocaine, it makes concerns about organic tomatoes and pesticides seem futile.

    Then, the coca leaves must be soaked in solvents to release their psychotropic substances. Every year, 20 million litres of acetone, 13 million litres of gasoline and 81 thousand litres of sulphuric acid are used in this process and then thrown away, untreated, in rivers and water streams.

    Transporting the product demands the clearing of more forests for landing strips, preferably in national parks and conservation areas. "These areas belong to the Government, so no owner can be held liable for the illegal activities," Davalos points out.

    Finally, the Colombian government's efforts to eradicate the plantations only serve to exacerbate the situation. They use planes to spray herbicides over coca plantations, with predictably gruesome consequences for insects, amphibians and other plants in the area. Growers then move to other areas, clear the native vegetation and start all over again.

    For those who are convinced of the huge impact of their stimulant consumption and want to change for a milder and more ethical one, massive doses of caffeine are the way to go.

    Coffee from shade trees cultivation farms, where the bushes are grown in the shadow of native taller trees, is a much more eco-friendly option. "Biodiversity in these plantations is almost as high as in primary forests," said botanist Sandy Knapp from the Natural History Museum.

    So, the geek classic stimulant is eco-friendly, while the yuppie classic is a no no.®



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  1. FuBai
    Of course, with legalisation and regulation coca production could be done openly and would not have to be hidden in the rainforests. Most plants can be grown anywhere in the world with greenhouse techniques etc, so one could just as easily say that the War on Drugs is an environmental crime. Plus growing coca closer to home reduces "drugs miles" (the drug version of food miles) and allows cutting edge environmentally sound farming and processing techniques.
  2. chinpokomaster
    What is science trying to do? Make life so unworth living that we have an environment that's not worth saving?
  3. Benga
    totally agree with that. Not to mention the liberation of Colombia's politics and economy from the pressure of the cartels. The amounts spent on the illegal drug trade funded mini civil war opposing the government, cartels and paramilitaries guerillas of all sides could be at least partly reinvested in useful projects, including environmental preservation, reforestation, fairer trade etc...
    sounds idealistic ?
    Peru, which has legal government backed coca growing cooperatives, which don't "eat up the forests" has initiated organic farming projects, and environmental focused education...
    Illegal drug production and trade related political and economic instability, violence and environmental disasters are a reality. But if one wants to act against this, in an ethical way, keeping sustainable development issues in mind, this implies looking at the wider picture...

    such articles using ethical / political concerns as a call for some kind of "civic boycott" of illegal drugs don't have much weight in my opinion

  4. Senor Gribson
    Illegal drug corporations don't care about the environment!?
    What did they expect, multi-billion dollar companies run by a bunch of environmentalists? Business 101: profits, and fuck everything else!
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