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Letter from the Chair

As you may already know from our Winter 2007 newsletter, Fran Caffee has retired as group chair and I have the privilege of being the new Chair.

We have had a number of people resign leadership positions in our group over the past year. Therefore, there are a number of positions vacant at this time, as you can see from the leadership list here. If you are interested in becoming a leader in the VOF, this is a great time to do it.

Once these positions are filled it will be harder to become a leader in one of the more influential positions. The most important positions that are vacant on the Executive Committee at this time are Vice Chair and Secretary. Among the vacant committee chair positions, the most important are Fundraising, Political and Programs. The Program Chair is the person who sets up and runs the group’s public meetings and other special events.

This year I am hoping the group can focus its efforts around the important issues of global warming, destruction of the oxygen-producing plant life and human population growth. All three of these problems are interrelated and need to be addressed at the same time.

The Chinese have addressed the human population growth issue and reduced their population growth so far by 400,000,000. But still the human population on the planet is expected to increase by 50 percent from 6.5 billion to 9.5 billion by 2040.

This could mean a billion new people each decade or 100,000,000 new people ever year, which is equivalent to 10 new Chicago-size populations on the planet every year. If the human population growth does not slow down significantly, how can we ever hope to decrease the pollution that leads to global warming and the destruction of the oxygen producing plants on the planet?

At the present rate of destruction of the tropical rain forests only 2 percent of the rainforests will be left by 2050. The tropical rainforests supply the earth’s atmosphere with 40 percent of its oxygen. Do we all want to be living at sea level in 2050 and breathing only the amount of oxygen that we find presently at 10,000 feet?

And, by the way, the boreal forests, which are being destroyed in Siberia, northern Europe, Canada and Alaska, presently account for at least another 10 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. And the plant life in the oceans accounts for another 40 percent of the oxygen.

Both of these problems only make global warming worse. As the tropical rainforests are destroyed by burning, more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere which then results in an increase in atmospheric temperature.

And every new human who is born will add pollution to the atmosphere, since coal, oil, gas or wood will be burned to help clothe, feed and shelter him or her. And thus more carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.

The human race has only about 30 to 50 years to correct these problems before it runs low on oxygen and runaway global warming occurs. Why 30 to 50 years? Because right now the earth’s oceans are absorbing most of the increase in atmospheric temperature from present global warming and billions of tons of methane are still trapped in the permafrost in the arctic regions.

Sometime about mid-century the oceans’ ability to absorb the increasing atmospheric temperature will slow down and all the methane in the permafrost in the arctic will start being released in huge quantities into the atmosphere. And methane traps 17 times more of the earth’s reflected energy than carbon dioxide traps. Also by 2050, 40 percent of the plants on earth that produce oxygen for us may be gone.

With a decrease in the atmosphere’s oxygen content and an increase in global warming, the earth’s ecosystems will change drastically. For example, by 2050, subtropical plants could be growing in northern Canada. The tropical rainforest areas could dry out since the forests will have been destroyed. The southern half of the US could turn into a semi-desert area. The grain producing areas of the U.S. could shift north into Canada. And many oxygen-breathing animals could be stressed to the point of extinction.

I would recommend that everyone read Al Gore’s book “An Inconvenient Truth.” It is a good primer on these issues. And then start reading every scientific article and watch every television show you can on these problems. Why? Because it will take every one of us, changing our way of life, to correct these problems.

Dudley Case, former VOF Chair

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