North America Headed For
Environmental Disaster
CBC News

CALGARY - Free trade across North America is not only affecting the air, water and forests of the continent, but is creating a "looming threat" to the survival of certain plant and animal species, says a report from a NAFTA agency.
The Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation will release its first "state of the environment" report Monday to the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The person in charge of the commission believes increased trade puts pressure on plants and animals. Janine Ferretti says the trucks and ships that transport goods across continents also deliver foreign pests.
"Bio-invasion is one of the new threats that wasn't in our lexicon, say, 10 years ago. The pests that we're seeing displace some of our native species, mussels and amphibians and even plants are a result of the kind of open trade that we're having," says Ferretti.
And according to the study, resources are being consumed faster than they are being replaced.
The report warns that new habitats "are rarely as diverse, healthy or aesthetically pleasing as their predecessors." This leads to a decline in the quality of the environment, making it less able to support a wide variety of life.
Increased flooding from greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases are given special mention in the report, and it warns that if "sea levels rise as expected storms and flooding will become much worse, causing property damage and loss in the billions of dollars."
Environmental effects of the increased gases could include polarized weather events, such as droughts, floods, and intense heat waves.
The report also points to the dangers of urban sprawl and increased traffic-related air pollution. It says public transit makes up just under five per cent of travel in Canadian cities.
Government subsidies that encourage high energy consumption make it difficult to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and additional pollution sources, according to the report.
But Ferretti says it's not all negative progress. She believes NAFTA's investment rules have brought cleaner industrial technology to Mexico.
"Believe it or not, Mexico's steel mills are cleaner than some of the steel mills that we find in the United States. Because of NAFTA, we have new investment in new modern steel technology in Mexico."
She also says the environmental challenges can be faced if governments reinstate funding removed during years of cutbacks.
Written by CBC News Online staff

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