Who should take the blame?

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When examining the problem of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent effect of biodiversity loss, people have done a lot of finger pointing. Studies have shown eutrophication from farm land in the Mississippi River basin to be the greatest cause of the problem. Restrictions on the amount of fertilizer farmers may use and how they should use it has been suggested as the best way to deal with the problem. Instead of arguing who should receive the blame and repair the damage done, perhaps the emphasis should be put on better communication.

This is not a problem solely of the states that border on the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River drains forty percent of the land in the United States. In 1993 when the Mississippi River flooded, the hypoxic zone doubled in size. In contrast, in 1988 when the Midwest experienced a great drought, the hypoxic zone was almost absent. "That clearly shows the influence of the river is dominant (Yoon, 1998)." The increase in the amount of nutrients in the river directly correlates with an increase in fertilizer use since the nineteen fifties. "Despite the evidence, scientist remain reluctant to blame the dead zone entirely on farmers (Yoon, 1998)." The political strength of agribusiness coupled with the relatively new appearance of this environmental issue complicates how a stop to the Gulf's hypoxia problem can be obtained. Farmers will have to restrict their use of fertilizer, but it's unclear by how much. "The problem of having a very large area of low oxygen in normally productive area of the Gulf of Mexico has both environmental and economic implications (Kucharski, 1999)." Reports to reduce the amount of fertilizer farmers should use have been made with more economical thoughts in mind, rather than hard factual data to explain why it should be done. This espeically aggravates the agricultural industry because scientists have yet to show that hypoxia negatively affects the fishing industry. Economically, agribusiness feels that it is more important to the nations than the fishing industry and that it should not it have to suffer. Farmers have already helped to ammend an environmental problem by abiding by legislation from the early nineties that reduced soil erosion by seventy percent (30% on crop land). In addition, the farmers still feel like they don't entirely know why they should change at all. There are other factors that attribute to hypoxia that are being seemingly over looked for the easiest solution. Stratification from fresh water flowing into salt is a natural cause. Changes in the Mississippi River's channel over the years has also affected the nutrient flow. Recent findings show that organic carbon could play a large role in oxygen loss.p>

The loss of biodiversity due to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico is a local problem with a multi state cause and a national solution necessary to fix it. Unfortunately, more is unknown than is known at this time. However, actions should still be taken to fight the problem. Better communication and cooperation among the agriculture businesses, environmental government agencies, local farmers and fishermen has to occur in order for an economically feasible solution to arise. The farming industry has to better manage it's nutrients; but it deserves some compensation for it's cooperation. The hypoxia issue stemming partially from eutophication from the Mississippi River basin is a test of the nation's environmental protection system maturity. It is a complex problem with no simple solution and no one party on which to lay the blame.

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