The following stories aren’t getting front-page treatment in the nation’s major newspapers, but they are arguably among the most important — and depressing — of the day. Normally, we might write a post about each of these stories, but frankly, that would just be too depressing. So, here they are, subjectively, from least to most depressing:
1. Detroit May Kill the Electric Car (Again)
Facing the prospect of financial ruin, the Big Three American automakers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, may abandon fledgling efforts to create electric cars, according to Reuters. It’s a speculative article, but when one considers that tackling global warming or freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil will almost certainly require electrifying the vehicle fleet, it’s a depressing setback.
2. The Largest Forest Infestation in North American History
The infestation of mountain pine beetles is growing “exponentially,” according to the New York Times, with tens of millions of acres of Rocky Mountain forests from New Mexico through Canada succumbing. It’s called the largest infestation in the known history of North America. Drought, global warming and fire suppression all play a role in the outbreak, and the death of trees will make the region susceptible to more violent wildfires, among other ills.
3. Highly Polluting School Buses May Not Be Upgraded
The economic crisis will likely prevent many school districts, states and even the federal government from continuing to pay for the upgrading and replacement of old, dirty diesel school buses, according to Environmental Health News. These pollution nightmares pump out 90% more pollution than their cleaner counterparts, including fine particulates and cancerous chemicals that tend to build up inside the bus, where children are sitting.
4. Bush Opens Land to Oil Shale Development
In the latest in a series of last-minute lame-duck decisions that will have far-reaching consequences for the environment, the Bush Administration set new rules in place that will allow the development of oil shale on 2 million acres of public lands in Colorado Utah and Wyoming, according to the New York Times. This highly polluting process essentially liquefies rock to make oil, creating massive pollution in the process. More depressing, it’s only one of many decisions that will not only harm the environment, but may be difficult for the next president to easily reverse.
5. 25% of Desert Storm Vets Has Gulf War Syndrome
Despite years of government denials, it appears that about one in four veterans of the first Iraq war, Desert Storm, suffer from Gulf War Syndrome due to chemical exposure, according to a new congressional investigation detailed by the Cox Newspapers. Worse, the 175,000 men and women suffering from the multisymptom illness aren’t getting better with treatment and time.
6. European and North American Soils Are Dying
Despite recent successes in curtailing pollution, decades of acid rain have so decimated soils across the industrialized world (and downwind from it) that they are on the brink of collapse, according to new research from the U.S. Geologic Survey, the University of Colorado, the University of Montana and the Slovak Academy of Sciences. The soils are so depleted that additional acid rain — which in the U.S. now comes mainly from burning fuel in cars — will cause soils to lose fertility, and allow toxic metals to leach into surface waters, poisoning streams. This news is doubly depressing because not only does it mean soils — which we need to grow food — are imperiled, but also that environmental problems we considered solved — acid rain — turn out to have much more far-reaching and long-lasting consequences than we’d suspected.
7. Half the World Will Go Without Clean Water
In the lifetime of many of those reading, half of the world’s population will be going without clean, potable fresh water, because of global warming. As glaciers melt, flooding contaminates water supplies, ocean waters rise and other changes occur due to the changing climate, as many as 3.2 billion people will face water shortages by 2080, according to a new report.