National Geographic : 1990 Dec
EARTIHI ANLNAC NIOAGIE OGRAPHIC MAGAZINE IDE[IR 1990 Children Pay for CorruptedEnvironment hildren suffer more from degrad ed environments than adults. The toll is especially high in the Developing countries, according to a report issued jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Children's Fund. An estimated 14 million children Prairie Transplant: A Miraculous Move hen gravel mining threatened to gobble a patch of rare virgin prairie near Barrington Hills, SIllinois, a friendly scalping shifted it to a bald spot six miles away. The weather cooperated, said Steve Packard of the Nature Conservancy, who organized the first ever prairie ecosystem transplant. "It stayed cool, and rain fell. The patient seems to be doing quite well, getting back some of its color." In recovery are 2.4 acres of "dry gravel prairie," formed over some 10,000 years. At the end of the last Ice under five die each year as a result of poor sanitation, tainted drinking water supplies, malnutrition, common diseases, and environmental pollution. An additional three million children are seriously disabled. Diarrhea and acute respiratory infection, some of which is attributable to air pollution, each account for about four million deaths. Children inhale more air per unit of body weight than adults, maximizing the effect of pollut ants. In 1985 highly industrialized Cubatao, Brazil, saw infant mortality run a suspicious ten percent above the rest of Sao Paulo state. Deaths from common diseases may begin with inadequate diet brought about by degraded land. Children, whose nutritional needs exceed those of adults, weaken more from the decreased food production. In addi tion, radiation, mercury, and pesti cides may cause birth defects. "Admittedly, the figures are impre cise because many developing coun tries don't keep good data," said Gareth Jones, a UNICEF statistician. "Activities to reduce child mortality and other efforts to improve the well being of children will ultimately have a positive effect. What's good for chil dren is good for the environment." Age, rocky debris washed from melt ing glaciers and created rounded hills called kames. A unique combination of plants and animals found a home. Last summer the gravel company that planned to mine the property per mitted the Conservancy to skim off the prairie sod. First truck-mounted tree spades bit out eight earth plugs five feet deep. Other machines shaved off 16 inches of topsoil. Some 400 volunteers then rerooted plants like grooved flax, short green milkweed, and cylindric blazing star. Rodents, reptiles, and insects, even butterflies, were trans ported to the new site. "In five years or so," says Packard, "we'll know what survived." Still Champ After Half a Century ow big is the single biggest living thing on earth? If an average-size man stood next to the General l Sherman sequoia tree in Califor nia, the trunk area below his belt would outweigh a Boeing 737. The tree's total weight: an estimated 6,167 tons. In an era when records are broken daily, this heavyweight champ has held its title since 1940. That's when the American Forestry Association, a non profit booster of trees and forests, began its National Register of Big Trees. Some 750 arboreal champions, each one the largest of its species, are now listed. Tiniest of the titans is a shrub-size Virginia Stewartia found in the town of Chesapeake. A giant of its kind, it stands but 15 feet tall, with a trunk 10 inches around.