Cocaine and the Environment
In case one needs yet another reason to ease off heavy duty drugs, perhaps the environmental affects deserve some consideration. I am traveling through South America and have become aware of the environmental crisis Colombian cocaine is creating. Colombia is the number one cocaine producer and the huge majority of the cocaine is consumed by North Americans. Environmental problems stem not only from the production of Cocaine, but also from attempts to stop the production.
The Colombian government has been strongly encouraged to halt the cocaine industry by whatever means necessary. Therefore Coca fields are being pushed farther and farther into the jungle in order to avoid legal issues. Today acres of jungles have been clear cut in order to provide rich, fertile, and hidden soil for coca plants to thrive. Even so, the deforestation only accounts for part of the environmental degradation caused by cocaine production.
The second way the cocaine industry damages Colombiaâ€™s jungle is through attempts to end the drug trafficking. The coca fields are so far out in the jungle and so strongly protected (primarily by the heavily armed FARC guerillas) that the only way to control the growth is by fumigating fields from the safety of an airplane. The herbicides used to kill the coca plants are extremely potent. Environmental regulations in the U.S. and Canada would never allow such doses. Yet the U.S. pays the Colombian government to carry out the fumigations.
Colombia has little choice but to deliver harmful chemicals into its jungle if they want to stop the drug trade and appease their American neighbors. So what is the answer to the problem? Allow the drug trade to thrive or spray dangerous chemicals that ruin the sensitive and diverse biosphere? The solution is not easy.
It is not fair that North Americaâ€™s demand for drugs creates a corrupt and unstable economy that thousands of Colombians become dependent on. Neither is it fair that the measures used to kill coca plants- paid for and demanded by the States- would never pass North Americaâ€™s own environmental regulations. And unfortunately, as is so often seen, the injustice is paid for by the environment of a developing country and its inhabitants.
This post was authored by Amber Hubers-Kolk, an alumni of the King’s University College.