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Air Quality - Forest Fires—a Clear Example Of Transborder Pollution

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The burning of forests worldwide, either intentionally or accidentally, has consequences for nations many miles away. In 1997 fires in Indonesian forests purposefully started by humans practicing slash-and-burn agriculture (a method of cutting down and burning vegetation to clear the land) darkened the skies and blotted out the sun in seven Southeast Asian nations for many months. The haze caused the closure of airports, loss of work, shutdown of mines and factories, loss of investment and tourism, and illness among hundreds of thousands of people. Reduced sunlight slowed the growth of fruits and vegetables and caused reductions in corn, cocoa, and rice crops. Hundreds of people died from respiratory ailments, starvation, dysentery, and influenza.

In Mexico in 1998 scores of people died and at least 50 million were left to breathe in smoke from nearly 10,000

TABLE 5.9
Public concern about air pollution, 2004
PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU PERSONALLY WORRY ABOUT THIS PROBLEM A GREAT DEAL, A FAIR AMOUNT, ONLY A LITTLE, OR NOT AT ALL. AIR POLLUTION?

Great deal % Fair amount % Only a little % Not at all % No opinion %
2004 Mar 8–11 39 30 23 8 *
2003 Mar 3–5 42 32 20 6 *
2002 Mar 4–7 45 33 18 4 *
2001 Mar 5–7 48 34 14 4 *
2000 Apr 3–9 59 29 9 3 *
1999 Apr 13–14 52 35 10 3 *
1999 Mar 12–14 47 33 16 4 *
1997 Oct 27–28 42 34 18 5 1
1991 Apr 11–14 59 28 10 4 *
1990 Apr 5–8 58 29 9 4 *
1989 May 4–7 63 24 8 4 *
SOURCE: "Please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all. Air Pollution?," in Poll Topics and Trends: Environment, The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, March 17, 2004 [Online] www.gallup.com [accessed March 30, 2004]

fires (most set for agricultural purposes). A cloud of haze and cinders hung over most of Mexico, Central America, and much of the United States for many weeks. Cities declared the air so unhealthy that they even closed airports.

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