At a June 4 conference in Seoul, South Korea, scientists and environmental experts discussed prospects for the biologically rich Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula. Geospatial studies of the 250-kilometer-long, 4-kilometer-wide "no-man's land," which has divided North and South Korea since 1953, confirm the continuing ecological importance of the region, said William Shore, secretary of the non-profit DMZ Forum, which co-sponsored the event. Participants discussed plans to conserve the zone while also noting that pressure to develop the landscape is intense.
Having remained relatively untouched for more than 50 years, the DMZ is a rich habitat for many rare and endangered species. With 97.4 percent forest and grassland cover, it boasts "abundant biodiversity, more than any other region in the nation," according to Chea-hoan Lim, director of the Nature Policy Division of South Korea's Ministry of Environment. Partial surveys of the area confirm the existence of some 2,700 species, including more than 1,100 plant species, 50 mammal species (including Asiatic Black Bears, leopards, lynx, and possibly tigers), more than 80 fish species, and hundreds of bird species. Roughly one tenth of the world's cranes winter on the DMZ's Cheorwon Plain, the DMZ Forum reports.
The Forum was formed in 1997 to publicize the environmental value and peacemaking potential of the DMZ. The group hopes to ultimately establish a "peace park" in the region, helping to transform the zone "from a symbol of war to a place of peace among humans and nature." Forum members believe that ecotourism, rather than industrial development, may ultimately be the most profitable long-term use of the land.
But greater cooperation between the two Koreas in recent years has led to increased interest in developing the zone and bordering areas. Already, two railroad lines and two highways cut through the DMZ, and P.J. Puntenney of Environmental and Human Systems Management noted at the conference that this construction has "resulted in the degradation of the Sachon River ecosystem." According to South Korea's Lim, his country intends that after the two Koreas reunite, the unified government will maintain the DMZ as a natural reserve for two years while a "master plan" for biological resource conservation is developed.
This story was written by Alana Herro for Eye on Earth (e2), a service of World Watch Magazine in partnership with the blue moon fund. e2 provides a unique perspective on current events, newly released studies, and important global trends.
Image: Korean Demilitarized Zone. Credit: flickr/http2007
A growing and now pervasive UNWILLINGNESS exists to do what is necessary to save life as we know it and the integrity of Earth's body.
Everywhere we can look, people in the very best positions can be seen choosing NOT to do meaningful things to save the planet we inhabit. Super rich and powerful people, the self-proclaimed masters of the universe, are lost to this cause, it appears.
For example, Forbes Magazine indicates in their latest list of the 400 Richest People that, for the first time, all the billionaires will not fit on the list of 400. Apparently 82 billionaires had to be left off the list. At least to me, it looks as if too many of our "brothers-with billions" are so singlemindedly focused on the accumulation of wealth and power, in feathering their own gigantic nests, frequenting exclusive clubs, flying private jets, sailing yachts and visiting exotic hideaways, that they have forgotten how human life depends upon Earth's limited resources and frangible ecosystem services for its very existence.
These "powers that be" have evidently also forgotten what words mean when we say that the Earth is not flat and endless but round, finite and relatively small. One consequence of their widely shared and consensually validated denial of the requirements of practical reality is that the scale and rate of conspicuous per capita consumption is dissipating natural resources faster than the Earth can restore them for human benefit. So great is per human overconsumption by a minority of people in our time that biodiversity is being extirpated, the environment degraded and humanity itself endangered.
Is the fulfillment of the insatiable wishes of unrestrained consumers unexpectedly and perversely tangled up with unbridled big business interests relentlessly pursuing a course of endless economic expansion? Are we fecklessly consuming the very resources needed for our survival? Is humankind being taken for a ride along a primrose path the ends up with our species inadvertently eating itself out of house and home?
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