Environmental Impact

Cultivation of illicit narcotics is the cause of some of the most severe environmental damage. Nature suffers from the removal of forests to create more space for crops, and especially because of the chemicals used in the cultivation and refinement of drugs. In addition, the chemicals are a serious health-risk to the workers involved, since they do not wear any protective clothing. Heroin and cocaine production destroys the environment most gravely in South America, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Although cannabis production is almost free of chemicals, it nevertheless results in deforestation, soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion.

As for the war on drugs, chemicals, or toxic herbicides, are used to eradicate coca crops. In addition to poisoning the actual target, however, anything near-by, like flora and fauna, get poisoned in the process, and the inhabitants of any such area face serious risks to their health. Moreover, the wiping out of the coca bushes means a major setback to the farmers whose finances in most cases were not on a very solid ground to begin with.

The Amazon rainforest has a significant effect on the planet earth’s ecological balance in relation to atmospheric phenomena. The biological diversity of the rainforest accounts for almost half of the genetic heritage of the entire earth biosphere. This diversity is indispensable to the human kind, for it gives us oxygen to breathe, controls climates and provides basic raw materials for nutrition, clothes, medicine and housing. Nevertheless, the rainforest is being destroyed and chunks of it disappear every day.

Since the Spanish Conquest, the Amazon basin has been subjected to violent exploitation of both its environment and its people. What started out as a quest for gold later evolved to a search for rubber, oil, and natural gas. Lately the emphasis has been on the genetic resources, medicinal plants and the traditional knowledge of them that the native peoples of the jungle possess.

Drug traffic is the last great infectious disease to hit the Amazon, presenting one of the biggest threats to the protection of the rainforest. The loss of some 700 000 hectares of the Amazon jungle since the 1970’s can be attributed to the spread of coca crops. Up to the 1970’s, coca cultivation was almost non-existent except among the Andean peoples who have been cultivating it for a millennia, to be used as a medicine, as a source of nutrition, and as a sacred plant in their traditional rituals.

The clearing of forests to make way for coca crops leads to deforestation, soil nutrient depletion, and imbalance in the Amazon ecosystem. As a further result, 300 tons of soil per hectare is about to be wiped out annually. The significant rainfall in the area makes matters worse by accelerating erosion.

In the 1990’s in Peru alone, 225 million tons of coca-leaves were cultivated for drug trafficking. Of that total, it is possible to make a rough estimate of the toxic chemicals ending in the rivers as a result. Here is one such estimate:

  • 57 million liters of kerosene
  • 32 tons of sulfuric acid
  • 16 million tons of un-extinguished calcium
  • 3200 tons of carbide
  • 5 400 000 liters of both acetone and toluene

In comparison, the annual waste total in Finland never exceeded 85 million tons during the decade of 1990’s (according to the Finnish Environment Institute).

In addition to all of the above, the tons of quicksilver used in gold-mining, the chemicals used in the war on drugs, the illicit airstrips, armed conflicts, organized crime, and corrupt officials and governments all contribute to the environmental threat facing the Amazon basin.

Boycotting drugs is an excellent way to respect life, to take care of nature and the environment.

Written by Juan Santos Rodriguez Huacanjulca, a Peruvian quechua, who is called chakaruna, a bridge-builder, among his people.

Environmental Catastrophes in Europe

The production of drugs has environmental consequences in Europe too. For instance, the manufacturing of ecstasy has been divided among different moving laboratories in order to minimize the risk of getting caught. Since the manufacturing of drugs is illegal to begin with, there is no need for the people involved to follow any kind of environmental norms.

On the one hand, laboratories are normally found only when they catch fire or blow up, and, on the other hand, when toxic waste is found to have been dumped in sewers or even on someone’s property. Waste dumped on roadsides or into the seas do not leave the same kind of footprints. As a reminder, the production of one kilo of ecstasy leaves behind approximately thirteen liters of waste.

Animal testing and animal rights also become issues of concern when considered in relation to the development of new synthetic drugs, as well as the study of their effects.