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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dead Zone Spreads Across Gulf of Mexico

HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) -- A huge "dead zone" of water so devoid of oxygen that sea life cannot live in it has spread across 5,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico this summer in what has become an annual occurrence caused by pollution.
In the last 30 years, the dead zone has become an annual summer phenomenon, fed by rising use of nitrate-based fertilizers by farmers in the Mississippi watershed, Rabalais told Reuters.

The nitrates, carried into the gulf's warm summer waters by the river, feed algae blooms that use up oxygen and make the water uninhabitable.
Virtually nothing is being done to stop the flow of nitrates into the river, meaning the dead zone will reappear every year, Rabalais said.
Virtually nothing! Those fertilizers go in large part to grow grain which is then fed to cows, pigs and chickens, who then crap all over the place fouling even more water before being brutally slaughtered and fed to humans who could have been adequately nourished from about 5% of the land if the animals weren't involved. Rather than taking the obvious step of eating less or no meat, people have preferred to believe the propaganda about the Adkins diet so they can keep eating pigs like pigs.

Some of the fertilizer goes to grow (mostly genetically-modified) soybeans, a tiny fraction of which are processed into biodiesel fuel. While this has at least one step going in the right direction to go with the steps in the wrong direction, why isn't anyone making this connection: One of the best potential sources for biodiesel is algae! We could be reducing dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up the Gulf by harvesting the algae, or better yet finding some integrated and efficient way to turn two or more problems into solutions. I'd like to think that President Kerry would take bold steps in this direction, but I'm not sure he's even got the guts to call for a modest increase in the gasoline tax. Fortunately, reality make overtake him on that one relatively soon.