What is more damaging to the environment the drug trade or the war on drugs?

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    This is probably a bit difficult to quantify, and there is a lot to consider.

    The drug trade: Colombian cocaleros (coca farmers) have cleared 2.2 million hectares of forest to grow coca–but remember that this is sometimes a necessity, for the sake of peasant livelihoods. Also, the coca plant was traditionally used as a fairly tame stimulant (something like a cup of coffee). It is when coca is processed into cocaine that serious psychological and environmental damage can be done. Kerosene and sulfuric acid are used in the chemical processing of coca into cocaine, and these pollutants often end up in waterways. Deforestation occurs in Colombia for a number of reasons, however, including the production of palms for biofuel (hardly a green alternative!)

    The war on drugs: When anti-drug heroes sweep into these plantations to eradicate crops, their vision appears quite narrow. We still fumigate plantations with non-selective chemicals (that kill everything–not just the drug crops) sprayed from airplanes. Falling from that high altitude, the chemicals are sure to kill more than their intended targets. These poisons kill other rare flora, linger in the soil, and enter water systems. Destroying these plantations usually encourages deforestation elsewhere; the war’s eradication tactics do not seem to be getting to the real root of the issue (which is probably consumers).

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