Program Note: On Thursday, April 22, CNN takes an in-depth look at flashpoints around the globe where natural resources are caught in the crossfire of conflict.
Tune in to watch Anderson Cooper swim without a cage with Great White Sharks, meet a group of Mountain Gorillas never seen before by tourists and explore the next possible deadly pandemic with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
A special Earth Day edition of CNN’s award winning documentary, Planet in Peril will air tomorrow night at 11pm ET on CNN.
Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling traveled to Rwanda as part of the Planet in Peril series, examining the conflict between humans and nature.
Anderson Cooper | BIO
Editor's Note: We're following the climate summit in Copenhagen but we're not taking sides – we're reporting the facts. As part of our Planet in Peril report, Anderson traveled to the rainforest to examine the impact of logging, agribusiness and construction on the world's largest rainforest. Don't miss more of his Planet in Peril reporting on Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.
The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world and covers nearly 70 percent of Brazil. The rainforest produces about 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen and plays a big role in controlling the climate of the entire planet. The Amazon also is home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem on Earth, 30 percent of the world's total.
About one-fifth of the Amazon has disappeared in the past three decades. The causes are many: Logging, both legal and illegal; construction of homes and roads; and agri-business clearing land to plant crops or graze cattle.
The Brazilian government says the situation is getting better and that federal police are cracking down on illegal logging, in particular. But critics say there aren't enough agents on the ground and that more land needs to be put under federal protection.
Sanjay Gupta | BIO
Lake Chad once was the sixth-largest lake in the world, but in 45 years it has shrunk to half the size of Rhode Island – only 10 percent of its earlier size.
The shallow body of water borders four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – and provides water to 20 million people.
In Nigeria, the shrinking lake has a huge effect on human health – farmers find it more difficult to siphon water into irrigation and they have a harder time growing food, which means people become more vulnerable to diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
Scientists say water diversion (irrigation and new dams on nearby rivers) and drought are equally to blame for the shrinking lake levels.
Hunched over a campfire in eastern Panama, Embera tribesman Raul Mezua chanted a song his grandfather taught him when he was a boy.
The words are memorized, passed down from an aging generation to a new group of tribal youths.
"The song means a lot to me," Mezua told CNN, the fire's dying embers splashing a red glow across his face. "But I don't know what it means."
It's not just the song but their language and culture that Mezua and his tribe fear losing as deforestation from logging and cattle ranching threatens the rainforest that is part of their identity.
But recent trends could usher in a welcome reversal for Mezua and his tribe. Rural workers are migrating toward cities in search of jobs, and forests are re-emerging where now abandoned farms and cattle ranches once flourished, according to a 2009 report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
U.S. Department of State
Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Land area: 462,860 sq. km.; about the size of California.
Cities: Capital–Port Moresby (254,158). Other cities–Lae (78,038), Mt. Hagen (27,789).
Terrain: Mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills. The largest portion of the population lives in fertile highlands valleys that were unknown to the outside world until the 1930s, but that supported agriculture some 10,000 years ago, possibly before agriculture was developed elsewhere.
Climate: Tropical. NW monsoon, Dec.-Mar.; SE monsoon, May-Oct.
Population (2007 est.): 6.3 million.
Annual growth rate (2006): 2.6%.
Languages: Three official languages are English, Tok Pisin, and Motu. There are approximately 860 other languages.
Education: Years compulsory–0. Literacy–49.3%.
Health: Infant mortality rate–54/1,000. Life expectancy–57.0 yrs.
Type: Constitutional parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: September 16, 1975.
Branches: Executive–Queen Elizabeth II (head of state, represented by a governor general); prime minister (head of government). Legislative–unicameral parliament. Judicial–independent; highest is Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 19 provinces and the national capital district (Port Moresby).
Major political parties: National Alliance (NA), People's Progress Party (PPP), United Resources Party (URP), PNG Party (PNGP).
Suffrage: Universal over 18 years of age.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta | BIO
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
Located in the South Pacific, the Carteret Islands are fighting a losing battle against the ocean. It's estimated the six islands will disappear into the water by 2015. Papua New Guinea plans to relocate the Carteret's 2,000 residents.
But a debate centers on what is causing these islands to disappear: Is global warming to blame, or are the islands sinking into the sea, or have the residents permanently damaged the reefs that help to protect the islands from the ocean?
In Alaska and across the Arctic, the average amount of sea ice has been decreasing during the past few decades. This could be huge trouble for polar bears, which live and hunt primarily on sea ice.
About 4,700 polar bears live in Alaska, U.S. officials say. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended the polar bear be placed on the Threatened Species list.
Alaskan residents also are dealing with a changing environment. Temperatures in the state, which is twice the size of Texas, have warmed more than 3 degrees in the past 50 years and residents are seeing the expensive consequences of melting permafrost, which causes soil erosion and some flooding. Scientists say what happens in the state, one-third of which lies within the Artic Circle, is a harbinger of what might occur in the contiguous U.S.
The ice sheet that blankets the largest island in the world holds about 630,000 miles of ice. But NASA estimated in 2005 that the ice sheet was losing about 200 gigatons per year – roughly 200 times more than the amount of water Los Angeles uses every year.
At a research camp on the ice sheet, scientists say temperatures are up 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years, more than double the global average. The researchers at Swiss Camp are studying how fast the ice is melting and the way it is changing locally and what impact that will have on the world.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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