Human attack on the earth
By ALAN KETTLER
IN JUST the next 25 years, the Earth is expected
to sustain two to three billion more people, each
vying with the other and the four billion now living
for food, fuel, clothing, shelter, and any other goods
and services society offers them.
The most basic of these wants is food. Unfortunate-
ly, Man's attempts to wrest foodstuffs out of the earth
have had and will continue to have disastrous effects
on the Earth's ecosystems. What differentiates past
from present is the unprecedented scale in which the
Earth is being assaulted. Increased agricultural pro-
duction in the next decade will change the land-
scape, productivity, and ecological significance of
lands more than any comparable amount of time in
Man's use of resources in two different environments
illustrate the process of land ruination and its long-
term, far-ranging effects.
First of all, biotic existence and soil productivity
are being torn asunder by subsistence agriculturalists
in the Sahel region of Africa. Traversing the width of
Africa at the 3,500 mile long southern flank of the
Sahara Desert, it is a transition zone between the
desert and savannas to the south.
HERE, THE fragile ecosystem has yielded to over-
exploitation by the grazing of cattle and goats. Domes-
tic animals eat more food than the arid region can
produce, with the result that the land is denuded.
Man's overgrazing and forest removal have created
The tropical rain forests contain the most incred-
ibly diverse set of organisms found on Earth. Here,
one finds big cats, sloths, anteaters, dazzling birds,
monkeys, and giant nakes. One eleven acre section of
Amozian rain forest studied by a WWF scientist held
at least 295 species of trees. We are accustomed to
forests with about a dozen kinds of trees.
UNFORTUNATELY, the species richness unique to
these forests is deceptive. Each species is represented
by relatively few individuals, which are widely scat-
Most misleading is the lush vegetation of the tropics.
The abundant greenery, rainfall, and sunshine would
indicate that the land is a potential paradise. But
the land is not as fertile as it appears to be.
While most of the nutrients in temperate forests such
as ours are found in the soil, 70 per cent of the nu-
trients in a tropical forest are found in its plants. When
organic matter falls to the gropnd, it is quickly de-
composed and taken up by the extensive root systems
of the living forest. Thus the nurient layer on the forest
floor is very thin.
Therein lies the danger of farming tropical lands,
as will now be illustrated.
The most prevalent type of tropical farming is the
slash-and-burn method. An area is felled, the litter is
burnt, and crops are planted. Because of the greatly
reduced plant cover, nutrients are leached through the
soil by the frequent rains.
'We operate on the general premise that you're guilty
until proven innocent.'
"The War in Indochina was as much a war on land as on peoples. Twenty-
one million bomb craters there cover about 345,000 acres. U.S. bulldozers
scraped away 800,000 acres of vegetation, and herbicides deforested one-
sixth of Vietnam's forests."
.:......... s . ..... f.. ... ...'....... ..... .. .
Eighty-four years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
Friday, March 14, 1975
News Phone: 764-0552
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104
Legalize gambling in state
SENATE BILL 92, introduced earlier
this year by State Senator Daniel
Cooper, is designed to relax Michi-
gan's ban on gambling. The bill pro-
vides for state licensing of a limited
number of modified casino opera-
tions in the state. Though managed
by private operators, the establish-
ments would be closely regulated and
their practices regularly reviewed by
Cooper's bill alone could by no
means spell the end of illegal gamb-
ling across the state. But it might
do much to both undercut mafia-con-
trolled gambling rings and give a
much-needed shot in the arm to the
A number of the more virtuous in-
habitants of the Winter Water Won-
derland deplore and dismiss a state
takeover of the gambling rackets as
a corruption of governmental values.
Their intentions are noble, but their
grasp on the underside of life in
Michigan leaves much to be desired.
LARGE-SCALE GAMBLING is a cold
but unescapable fact of life in
the state and across the nation. State
law enforcement agencies have
poured untold millions of dollars
into their crusade against the mob-
controlled gaming rackets. For the
most parts, their efforts have been
fruitless. Occasionally, a local vice
squad will collar a low-level racke-
teer or latch onto a high school-
bound shipment of football parlay
cards. But still the mafioso machine
keep chugging along, making a
crippling dent in millions of Michi-
gan paychecks and shaving the odds
to keep their lackeys in the hole.
Gambling is as much an addiction
as alcoholism or a heroin habit, and
the condition of odds-junkies - and
there are millions of them in fac-
tories, schools, taverns and offices
across the state will only worsen as
long as the underworld element
THOSE WHO'VE LEARNED the les-
sons of countless fruitless efforts
to drive out the gambling hordes rea-
lize that if you can't end the game,
you may as well make the rules.
The state may not be able to make
book with the charm and flair of a
local neighborhood bookies, but also
won't use the unrefusable offer ap-
proach to collecting bad debts and
keeping recalcitrants in line.
In the media and literature, pe-
destrian gambling is too often por-
trayed as a mischievous and mostly
harmless side attraction to life. The
cold reality of a daily fix in the num-
bers racket is one of life's darker
tragedies. The billions of dollars peo-
ple unwittingly forfeit to the mob
every year not only damages their
own lifestyles. it also directly contri-
butes to the financing of more dead-
lv mafia games like the narcotics
IT'S TIME TO recognize an en-
trenched though regrettable in-
stitution for what it is, and promote
steps - like Senator Cooper's bill-
to bring the gambling industry under
control, if not respect.
a large part of the Sahara Desert. Once the vegetation
on its periphery is removed, the soil is openly expos-
ed to the eroding forces of wind and rain. Loss of vege-
tation greatly reduces the absorptive capacities of the
soil, so when rain does come, most quickly runs off
the surface of the ground.
Dry gullies and stream beds can become roaring
torrents, washing away precious top soil and cutting
gullies into the landscape. Evaporation is quicker be-
cause of plant cover loss, too. Into the sky blows the
bare, dry topsoil left behind. Meanwhile, the great
water runoff increases flooding and destruction down-
stream. What remains is a useless land which can
only be restored through extensive, expensive means,
if at all.
Thus, the desert expands. A U.S. government study
states that the desert is moving southward up to 30
miles a year in some places. Once an area i deplet-
ed, its inhabitants move southward, where condi-
tions are repeated and the desert advances again.
The only thing growing well in the African Sahel is
the Sahara Desert.
ELSEWHERE IN Africa, the clearing and use of land
is having heavy consequences. Flourishing environ-
ments once operated in an ecologically balanced way
with continued highproductivity. Now, once wet rivers
are dry, soils are eroded to bare rock, vegetation and
wild animals have disappeared, water tables sink, cli-
mates deteriorate, surrounding areas are injured, and
desertification continues. Increasing populations of hu-
mans and livestock are destroying the productivity of
the land and building themselves up to a collapse.
Meanwhile, agricultural production in the world's
tropics proceeds quickly and dangerously. The inter-
nationally based World Wildlife Fund does not stand
alone when it states that in the next 25 years we will
probably witness the nearly complete destruction of
the Earth's rain forests,
AFTER TWO or three years of favorable harvests,
most of the nutrients will have been washed out.
The area is abandoned, and a new clearing is made.
What happens to the abandoned land is an irrever-
sibly destructive proces called laterization. Without
forest cover, rains wash out all the soluble elements in
the soil. The insoluble matter that remains is baked
by the blazing tropical sun to a rock-like consistency.
F. R. Fosbery, tropical ecologist and botanist at the
Smithsonian Institution, tells of seeing thousands and
thousands of acres in northern equatorial Africa where
laterization has occurred. "The ground becomes so
hard you can hit it with a hammer and the hammer
will bounce back at you," he says. "And as far as I
know, there is no way of restoring the productivity
of such affected soils."
As in sub-Sahara Africa, a positive feedback system
exacerbates the situation. As land productivity is de-
stroyed, less arable land is left remaining for an ever-
increasing number of farmers. Every time a productive
acre of land is lost, a complementary acre of good
land is doomed to be lost (if land-use practices do not
improve). As population and ruined acreage increase,
an ever-accelerating amount of tillable land will neces-
sarily decrease. In practice it is an agricultural sys-
tem with virtually no stability or long-term viability.
THE POPULATION of rain-forested countries will
generally double in the next 25 years. Like Brazil,
which alone will add 100 million people in that time,
growing countries are using their sparsely inhabited
rain forests as overflow basins for people.
The effects of the projected complete deforestation
and incomplete soil ruination of the tropics will be
unlike any thing the world has ever experienced.
In the Amazon alone, an estimated million plant and
animal species will be exterminated. Assuming the
combined forests of Africa, Asia, and Indonesia lost
the same number, the natural systems of the world
"The Sahara Desert is moving south-
ward up to 30 miles a year in some
places. Once an area is depleted, its
inhabitants move southward, where
conditions are repeated and the de-
sert advances again."
would lose one-fifth of their members.
Gone forever would be the incredible showcase of
the rain forests' inhabitants. Gone forever would be
their evolutionary potential. Gne forever would be
valuable scientific information about these species.
Most of the organisms will become extinct before they
are even discovered and described.
It is an undeniable principle of life that every liv-
ing thing afects every other living thing. However,
what we do not know is how the loss of so many spec-
ies will affect surviving species, including our own.
EVEN THE physical world is threatened by tropical
exploitation. Scientists are about even divided as
to whether or not such massive vegetation losses could
affect the earth's climate. Forests do regulate the
runoff of rainfall, slow evaporation by blocking the
sun and trapping humid air, and lessen temperature
extremes. Deforested and barren lands will reflect
more heat than forests, possibly affecting wind cur-
rents and thus rainfall distribution patterns.
The enormous problems of devegetation, erosion, and
extinction do not stop with agricultural production. The
War in Indochina was as much a war on land as on
peoples. Twenty-one million bomb craters there cov-
er about 345,000 acres. U.S. bulldozers scraped away
800,000 acres of vegetation, and herbicides deforested
one-sixth of South Vietnam's forests.
In 1973, 500 companies were vying for timber con-
cessions in the 60 million acres of remaining virgin low-
land rain forests in Indoesia. At that time, the inade-
quately trained and developed forest service showed
a lack of control over logging operations.
ONE NATION in quest of other resources is tearing
its land apart. A governmental department eliminates
the protective vegetation of streams and rivers. In-
dustries scrape away the living envelope of millions
of acres of land to get at energy-producing coal. Wood
and paper companies cut huge swaths into forests,
leaving stump forests and battered, exposed soils. That
nation is this one.
The world must take off its blinders. Population
growth in both developed and developing countries
must slow down. A more rational use of resources, par-
ticularly in the United States, would help to make
possible a sound redistribution of resources. For
example, the food Americans feed their pets is enough
to feed the undernourished third of the world. Also,
development projects in developing countries should
offer assistance with stability, self-sufficiency, and
ecological sanity as their goals.
The ravaging of the planet Earth continues, and is
worsening. It is ultimately from the soil that the
wealth of any society is based. If population pressures
force current land use patterns to persist, we will have
added one more gargantuan blow to an increasingly
overloaded and bewildered political and natural order.
The results could be disastrous.
Alan Kettler is an LSA sophomore and frequent
contributor to the Editorial Page.
It's your own fault!
Subversion of free speech
THE RECENT disruption of Israeli
President E p h r a i m Katzir's
speech raises serious questions about
the nature of free speech at the Uni-
versity. The crux of the matter is
this. Does the expression of odious
beliefs cancel the right to express
them? Or does the University guaran-
tee by its charter and purpose, the
right to express anything no matter
The Palestinians and their support-
ers on campus believe in the former
line, arguing that Katzir, who served
in the underground Hagganah, is a
Hitler and not entitled to complete
Such arguments are faulty. While
Katzir may or may not be a "Hitler",
he is protected in his right to speak
by the very nature of the University.
His beliefs may or may not be odious,
his background repugnant, but this
in no way cancels his right to be
The University may stand for
values like progressivism, justice, or-
der, and concern for the communityy
in varying degrees. Hopefully they
will reflect these values, and should
be held to account If they fail.
BUT SUCH VALUES are not the pri-
mary purpose of a University-
the expression of thought is. If the
University fails to meet its primary
obligation of protecting free speech
and thought, it fails to meet the pur-
pose for which it was constructed. If
it abandons that purpose, it should
Ths mi,,i.QP oft iPr nnp n t n+
By WAYNE JOHNSON
A FEW summer jobs ago, I
met a man who ran over
and killed a young child on Van
Dyke, a madly busy Detroit
street. According to eyewitness-
es, the driver was blameless.
A seven year old girl simply
ran into traffic thinking, per-
haps, she would magically ap-
pear on the other side. Instead,
the police and ambulance at-
tendants had to scrape a sub-
stantial portion of her body
from an automobile right front
I only knew this man a few
weeks before he turned into
a "killer" but the change in his
personality was obvious. Three
months later he still barely
spoke to his co-workers, prefer-
ring to remain within his own
thoughts. And such nice
thoughts they must have been.
Imagine watching the face of
a child an instant before you
spill her guts on the street.
By now thisman has probab-
ly worked the incident into
an image that he can live with
more easily. But he still isn't
likely to speak of his horrible
experience to casual acquaint-
MORE RECENTLY, an Ann
Arbor Councilman killed h i s
neighbor in the same grisly
manner, by slamming into him
with a moving car. It has now
become quite apparent to me
that I will be very lucky if I
survive Ann Arbor without of-
fing a fellow student in similar
There are so many candidates
for destruction each driving day
that I often wonder which one
you walk in front of moving
cars with the thought, "H 'Il
stop," firmly entrenched in
your mind? Do you like to wait
for traffic to clear about inree
steps off the curb? Are you
occasionaly seized with the per-
verse desire to really hurt your
girlfriend, boyfriend, father or
mother by getting yourself
squished into the cement?
NO? THEN why the hell am
I constantly wondering how
many of your toes I chopped off
on S. University? Why don'" you
back up and wait on the cirb
like a nice, rational pers-on?
Afraid the other kids might call
After all, you have no idea
what kind of evil ideas e a e h
driver might be considering.
Personally, I must admit there
are a few types of peaple I
would actually enjoy giving one
of those spectacular five 1-un-
dred yard air and concrete
boosts you read about in thle
papers. If you recognize your-
self in these descriptions, be-
ware your fellow man.
One type is the "Pacer". He
steps out from class or hame
with this single, unammendable
promise to himself, "I will not
slop, slow down or speed up for
anything." The Pacer believes
he is an automobile without
brakes and is thus justified in
Most drivers can spot thf- Pac-
er immediately. He comes
storming toward the street, eyes
flashing, daring any ,f those
stupid drivers to challenge him.
If you hit the Pacer he has al-
ready planned what he will do-
kick the crap out .f your car
writh the. ha, hant hs uers.
the several near misses I've al-
ready had, I'll bet I could
forgive myself for killing a Pac-
er within a week.
Another self destructive type,
called Jack and Sally Ins-me,
contnnually plague me. Aroind
automobiles, Mr. and Ms. in-
sane are prone to foolish activ-
ity. For example, if a car is
stopped for a sign or a :ght,
Jack and Sally will have uncon-
trollable urges to throw them-
selves under the tires.
Most of the time they will ies-
iate before they act, alliowirig
the alert driver a good chance
to escape. With eyes shifting at
a tremendous rate. the Insines
difficult for anyone else to
guess. When struck, Jack and
Sally won't whimper or ask
for explanations. They realize
death is just a normal part of
But the largest group of death
defiers is known as the Dream-
ers. These people were not plac-
ed on Earth to pay atten'ion
to mundane things like moving
cars and trucks. Heavens no,
the Dreamers are considering
the answers to the world's pr-
lems and cannot be expec ed to
realize where their legs ar: tak-
A quick demise is too h unod
for these people. They should
pound their chances of death
by giving these maniacs extra
opportunities to run them down.
SINCE MOST of us are part
time drivers and pedestrians, it
shouldn't be difficult for each
to empathize with the other's
problems. Why then, do pedes-
trians constantly forget how
long it takes to bring a rnov-
ing auto to a complete halt?
So, if you are walking around
Ann Arbor believing that you
have the same rights as auto-
mobiles, I would like to bid you
goodbye and good luck. Tech-
nically, you are correct, but it
will be difficult to argue your