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Thursday, April 25, 2002

Scientists Fighting Back Against Proposed Changes to Endangered Species Act

The following is a letter that is being circulated in scientific (and related) circles to raise awareness about intended legislation regarding the ESA. Please be notified:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHAT: Endangered Species Act legislation is moving in the U.S. House that would change the regime for scientific underpinning of ESA actions. It is important for members of the scientific community to be aware of this legislation and to make their voices heard. The following letter was signed by a number of scientists for a March congressional hearing. We are now circulating this letter to the larger community to raise awareness, and seek wider support.

WHEN: If you agree with content, the letter should be signed ASAP because the House Resources Committee may vote on this legislation soon.

WHY: Troubling ESA bills have been introduced into the House -- H.R. 2829 (which is identical to S. 1912) introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and H.R. 3705, 3706, and H.R. 3707, all of which have been introduced by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA). Additional bills may be introduced in the future.

All these bills can be accessed via http://thomas.loc.gov/. An Earthjustice analysis of this legislation can be accessed at www.earthjustice.org/program/wildlife/science.html.

“The [Endangered Species] Act is a powerful and sensible way to protect biological diversity.”
Ecological Society of America (1996).

“[T]here has been a good match between science and the ESA.”
National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (1995).


Dear Members of Congress:

As scientists concerned about loss of biological diversity, we are writing in support of a strong Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) that will lead to recovery of threatened and endangered species. We commend policy makers for caring about scientific matters important to ESA decisions. However, current debate over science and the Endangered Species Act should not lead to changes that could weaken the Act’s provisions to stem the loss of biological resources.

Issues raised in recent ESA debate ? scientific uncertainty and how to make the best endangered species decisions in light of this uncertainty ? are not new to us. As individual members of the scientific community, we would like to share a portion of our thinking about making ESA decisions in a world where knowledge typically is not complete, and never will be.

In addition, we are concerned about current proposals to change the Endangered Species Act (such as H.R. 2829, S. 1912, H.R. 3705, and similar legislation) that could seriously impact the way “best available science” is defined and considered. We would like to share some of our thoughts about principles that need to guide reflection on science and the Endangered Species Act.

Additional Delays and Bureaucracy.
There are many species hovering on the brink of extinction and they need scientifically based action to help in their recovery. Any changes in the Endangered Species Act are troubling if they slow crucial decisions, such as those pertaining to listings, consultations concerning federal actions that may harm listed species and their potential for recovery, or the development and implementation of recovery plans. We cannot afford to bog down this process or to overburden an agency that already does not have sufficient resources. As the Ecological Society of America noted in a major 1996 report, “delaying the decision to provide protection and recovery will bring most . . . vulnerable species even closer to the brink of extinction, restrict the options available for achieving recovery, and increase the eventual cost of the recovery process.”

Peer review.
Any discussion about peer review ought to recognize that FWS and NMFS regulations already provide for independent peer review, for “listing and recovery activities” and in cases of “special circumstances.” In addition, the ESA currently requires public comment periods for major actions, and such comment periods offer opportunities for scientists, as well as others, to give input and express concerns: “The current public review process involves the active solicitation of comments on proposed listing rules and draft recovery plans by the scientific community [and others].”

Scientific Standards and Methodology Defined by the Scientific Community.
It is important to maintain current requirements in the ESA for making listing decisions based “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available” and not to make changes to the Act that would weaken this key ESA principle. To fulfill the requirement for basing listing and other ESA decisions on the “best scientific and commercial data available,” such data should be identified and analyzed by scientists free from political pressure and with adequate resources. Moreover, the ESA should not place statutory limits on the use of scientific methodology (such as population viability analysis) for the collection and analysis of scientific data relevant to ESA decisions.

Precautionary Principle.
In 1995, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council published a 271-page final report, “Science and the Endangered Species Act.” Much of this report focuses on decision making in instances of scientific uncertainty because, as the report notes, at least some degree of uncertainty is present in operation of aspects of the Endangered Species Act. Species are living organisms that react to a complex mix of biological, ecological, physical, and human-induced parameters, some of which are not fully understood by scientists; often we cannot precisely predict how specific actions will affect a particular species. We can, however, with a reasonable degree of assurance, envisage that certain actions will harm species. Moreover, by following the precautionary principle that was favorably discussed in the 1995 NRC report, policy makers can take the most prudent course of action by choosing alternatives that are not likely to harm listed species. We encourage Congress to keep this policy preference for the precautionary principle inherent in any Endangered Species Act legislation it considers.

Many members of the scientific community are regularly confronted with the reality of loss of biodiversity in our nation and world, and most scientists agree that the rate and degree of this loss is unprecedented in human history. Whether our particular motivations are ethical or self-interest, we need to address this crisis as a decent and forward-thinking society. As the National Research Council said in 1995, “[t]he ESA is the broadest and most powerful law to provide protection for endangered species and their habitats.” For the sake of current and future generations, the Endangered Species Act should be kept strong.

We appreciate your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,*

P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D.Professor of Zoology University of Washington, WA

Carlos Carroll, Ph.D.Klamath Center for Conservation Research, CA

C. Ronald Carroll, Ph.D.Professor and Director of the Institute of Ecology University of Georgia, GA

Andy Dobson, Ph.D.Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Princeton University, NJ

Ed Grumbine, Ph.D.Sierra Institute University of California Extension, Santa Cruz, CA

John Harte, Ph.D.Professor of Energy and Resources University of California at Berkeley, CA

Lynn Maguire, Ph.D.Nicholas School of the Environment & Earth Sci. Duke University, NC

Gary Meffe, Ph.D.Adjunct Professor, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation University of Florida, FL

Curt Meine, Ph.D.Prairie du Sac, WI

Reed F. Noss, Ph.D.President, Conservation Science, Inc.Chief Scientist, The Wildlands Project, VT

Steward T.A. Pickett, Ph.D.Senior Scientist Institute of Ecosystem Studies,NY

Stuart Pimm, Ph.D.Professor of Conservation Biology Columbia University,NY

H. Ronald Pulliam, Ph.D.Regents Professor of Ecology University of Georgia,GA

Sarah Reichard, Ph.D.Assistant Professor University of Washington, WA

Alan H. Savitzky, Ph.D.Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Old Dominion University, VA

John Terborgh, Ph.D.James B. Duke Professor Duke University, NC

David Wilcove, Ph.D.Professor of Ecology, Evol. Biology and Public Affairs Princeton University, NJ

* Signatures as of March 20, 2002. Affiliations for identification purposes only.

Posted by Richard
4/25/2002 04:46:56 PM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Certainly My Heart Is Defective: It Breaks Too Easily

By Linda J. Howard - lindajhoward@earthlink.net

Most other members of my species, presumably cut from the same mold, seem not to be concerned over the institutionalized killing of animals for "food." Yet, the mere thought of the fear and agony experienced by the "farmed" animals who are killed for no reason other than the greedy desire for the taste of their flesh breaks my heart... My heart must be defective.

Without batting an eye, members of my species abandon companion animals at shelters often for reasons which are trivial, or callous, or based on laziness or apathy. Yes, they know full well that millions of healthy animals are killed each year in shelters and that there are not enough homes for all the animals-in-need, but it does not seem to break their hearts as it does mine. Mental note: Call cardiologist to schedule heart transplant; surely my heart is defective.

It is difficult to accept that those who cause excruciating pain to animals in laboratories (in the name of $cience) are members of the same species. How can they repeatedly shock, burn, blind and experimentally infect sentient animals? Does it not break their hearts as it does mine? Or perhaps it is just that my heart is defective...

Members of my species purchase and wear the furs and skins of animals for vanity's sake. They flaunt what they believe is their prestige, but
imagining the original owner of the fur or skin struggling to get free from a Leghold trap, or shrieking in pain while being skinned alive or while being anally electrocuted breaks my heart. Have they no heart or does it confirm, as suspected, that mine is defective?

Those dressed in camouflage who invade the natural homes of wild animals to kill them for what they call "sport" are members of my species. They don't even flinch as their bullets or arrows take the lives of innocent animals. Again, my heart must be defective for it breaks seeing formerly majestic wild animals strapped to the tops of trucks. Will this qualify me for a heart transplant?

At the zoo, members of my species often are teaching their young how to harden their own young hearts. They muse at the sight of incarcerated animals but the pacing of the poor tiger suffering from boredom breaks my heart. Is it ever too late to harden a heart which breaks so easily unlike other members of the same species? Or is a heart transplant in order?

Posted by Richard
4/24/2002 09:08:51 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Earth Day 2002: No Time for Craft Fairs

Dr. Giuliano provides a powerful blast AGAINST the "domestication" of Earth Day...pointing out that its roots are more radical than arts and crafts fairs and t-shirt vendors. He also provides some ideas of how to get in touch with the deeper spirit of Earth Day -- all of which, I think, are dead-on (if not conclusive). My position, however, while supporting Giuliano's radical cry, would also say that the work should go on at all levels (especially because the problem is so immense and dangerous). We can't afford to turn away anyone who would otherwise let Earth Day pass unnoticed. Now, it's true that a holiday that is stripped of its symbolism becomes little more than a capitalist event of leisure. But in as much as the fairs and booths of this past Earth Day reached out to bring families in that otherwise would not have attended, in as much as the children were engaged with the living spirit of what the day represents, and (dare I say it) even in as much as the t-shirts and trinkets that were bought and sold proliferated to be worn and demonstrated as part of a cultural movement, we must thank those involved in making the day an event at all levels. This said, Giuliano's fear is apt and we must not forget that while the guitarist strums, the clock ticks...

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

“Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them, every one.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn”
-- Pete Seeger

"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity
for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin.
It is the knowledge that there can never really be
any peace and joy for me
until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
-- Frederick Buechner

The list of events planned around the U.S. for Earth Day 2002 is chilling. While tens of thousands of people die from soil, air, and water poisoned with pesticides and scores of toxic chemicals, craft fairs, discussion groups, and lectures will be held. Lost is the passion and sense of urgency that heralded in the first Earth Day 32 years ago.

The 32nd Earth Day this year will mark an unprecedented time resource consumption and environmental violence against the Earth and our health.

On Earth Day this year, while speeches, conversations and trinket sales take place:

* 603 people worldwide will die from exposure to pesticides and countless more will suffer serious health threats from chronic exposure
* 5,400 to 11,000 children will die from diarrhea from polluted drinking water
* 27,000 children will die from curable infectious diseases
* 164 babies will be born that are effected by mercury poisoning because their mothers ate contaminated fish - while government agencies recommend that pregnant women eat several servings of fish each week
* Over 103,000 animals will be killed for fur coats
* Nearly 2 million gallons of engine oil will be poured down the drain and will enter our nation’s waterways
* Over 41 million pounds of trash will be dumped at sea worldwide. About 77 percent of all ship waste comes from cruise ships.
* Over 3 million pounds of hydrocarbons will be released into the atmosphere just from jet skis, lawn mowers, boat engines, and other 2-cycle motors
* At least 1200 gallons of oil and fuel will leak from aging and malfunctioning pipelines in the U.S., polluting groundwater, lakes, rivers, oceans and soil.
* 313 million gallons of fuel, enough to drain 26 tractor-trailer trucks every minute, will be used in the U.S.
* 18 million tons of raw materials will be taken from U.S. soil
* Miscarriages will continue to take place among women of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe in Washington State, possibly from pesticide contamination in cranberry bogs.

Earth Day has become a time when the right wing corporate, industrial, and political leaders probably rejoice in the passivity of the population. Of course, there are exceptions and a number of groups throughout the nation will be mindful of the significance of the day.

But the first Earth Day in 1970 saw an estimated 20 million people across the nation participating in peaceful demonstrations that called attention to our environmental dilemmas. Senator Gaylord Nelson and activist attorney Denis Hayes organized it as a nationwide teach-in about the environment. Over 10,000 grade schools, 2,000 colleges, and 1,000 communities participated, sending a strong message to political leaders that the environment was part of everyone’s lives and needed attention.

What happened to the grand expectations we had at the first Earth Day, 32 years ago?

Senator Nelson said the purpose of Earth Day was "to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.”

"It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked." There is no gamble any longer. Earth Day is hardly controversial or threatening to anyone.

Some would argue that although many people are more aware of environmental issues today than in 1970, little has been done to stem the tide of environmental destruction in a world where economic growth outweighs planetary health. If anything, the destruction is happening at a greater level than ever before. It is often less visible because industry leaders and politicians know how to keep things quieter with the help of well paid public relations firms.

The first Earth Day's message was heard and in the few years that followed, sweeping environmental legislation was enacted including the Endangered Species Act, The Federal Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was a powerful time of reawakening and it appeared, for a while, that the sobering realization of our impact on the natural world might result in positive change. Species were saved, habitats protected, and development projects were stopped. In New York City, over 100,000 people attended an ecology fair in Central Park. Congress adjourned for the day and over five hundred of its members attended teach-ins at universities or made speeches about saving the environment.

On Earth Day 2002, will the President join Congress and adjourn for the day to attend teach-ins? Unlikely. In fact, the current presidential administration is working hard to weaken most of the environmental rules that emerged from the awareness raised from the first Earth Day.

There will be many events across the nation on Earth Day 2002. In Seattle, there will be a lecture entitled, “Global Warming: Can We Stop It,” at the University of Washington. On the Saturday before, there will be an all-day conference entitled “Community Based Solutions for Environmental Health and Justice.” It will be held at the University of Washington’s Ethnic Cultural Center and will cost $25. The fee and location pretty much insure that few of the people of color and low income who are being affected by the issue will be able to attend. They are having a hard enough time paying their heating bills, if they can afford any heat at all.

At 4pm the day before, there will be an “Earth Day Conversation” at Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Company.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, EarthFest 2002 will have live music, demonstrations and crafts. There will be speakers, entertainment, and children's activities at the Santa Fe Earth Day event in New Mexico and in Duluth, Minnesota, the 2nd Annual North Shore Beach Clean-up will take place.

Big deal.

Since the first Earth Day 32 years ago, global population has increased by as much as it did in the last 100,000 years. And as the number of people has grown, the amount of land and resources has also expanded. The gap between the rich and the poor has also widened dramatically.

The global economy has more than doubled in the past 31 years, putting pressure on most countries to increase export income, often at the expense of natural resources. Overfishing is decimating one ocean species after another, and the catch is getting thinner and thinner.

Tens of thousands of toxic chemicals stream into our world and into our bodies and there is no end in site. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that more than 32 million workers are exposed to harmful substances from more than 3.5 million workplaces. Forty-nine million tons of solvents are produced each year in the United States and 9.8 million workers are exposed to them daily. Yet over the last 30 years, OSHA has issued only 170 citations to employers for not having proper procedures to protect against toxic substances leaving the workplace.

While the lectures and conversations take place on Earth Day in the United States, in Bangladesh, hungry people fight to get fish from polluted sewage treatment plant water.

A recent U.S. government study shows that the nation’s waterways are filled with billions of pounds of toxic substances that are combining in unknown ways. The chemicals include caffeine, contraceptives, painkillers, insect repellent, perfumes, and nicotine. Virtually nothing is known about the health effects of ingesting this toxic mix of pharmaceutical and personal product pollutants. At least 31 antibiotics and anti-bacterial compounds were found in water samples from around the country.

These chemicals are being linked to deformed sex organs in wildlife, sex reversals in some fish, declining fertility in humans, and cancers.

Thirty-two years after the first Earth Day, I am feeling rather cynical. Earth Day 2002 continues to be a Hallmark card holiday, a day of a few beach clean-ups, educational booths, tree plantings, speeches, conversations and parades. Many festivals and fairs will be held throughout the U.S. with food, exhibits and, I am sure, many opportunities to buy products to filter our poisoned air and water.

There will be a whole variety of experiences, most press releases for Earth Day events say. Except there will be few demonstrations demanding an end to the madness sweeping across our world and few events pledging solidarity to those fighting for the cleanup of our Earth, our seas, and our skies. It should NOT be a day to sell T-shirts as fundraisers. It should be a day to teach simplification, to model how to end our consumption-at-all-costs lifestyle, and to highlight the importance of establishing a deep and profound connection to the natural world, the cycles of life, and the rhythms of nature.

On Earth Day 2002, maybe more than ever before in history, we need to reflect seriously on the fact that time may really be running out for our planet's life-support systems - and for us.

Maybe Earth Day should be a global call to stop work, to stop driving, to sit quietly at home, use as few resources as possible, and teach our children that the raping and plundering of the Earth in the name of economic growth has taken us to the brink of disaster.

Maybe Earth Day should be a day of national listening, listening for, as Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn says, for the sound of the Earth crying. If we really heard that sound, our only choice would be to act – now.

RESOURCES

1. Visit an Earth Day website at: http://www.earthday.org/. Contact the organizers and ask them to help put the spirit back into Earth Day. They need to hear from you.

2. Calculate your ecological footprint and see just how much of the Earth you use. You will be quite surprised. Start at: http://www.lead.org/leadnet/footprint/default.htm

3. See a fact sheet on women's health and the environment at: http://www.wedo.org/monitor/health.htm

4. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them it is time to protect environmental legislation and for sweeping environmental changes. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

5. Earth Day 2002 might be a great time to get your family to watch the “Diet for a New America” video by Jon Robbins, possibly the most important 60 minutes you and your family and friends could watch. You can get a copy by clicking here.

6. Follow a broad range of environmental issues with the Earth Island Institute at: http://www.earthisland.org/home_body.cfm

7. Give an Earth Day gift to your local high school, such as a powerful 30-minute video from the Video Project called “We All Live Downstream,” available at: http://www.videoproject.org/we_all_live_downstream.html

8. Visit the World Game Institute at: http://www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/ for their amazing "What the World Wants Project" to get details on the costs and assumptions to repair the world. It is a remarkable resource that will open your eyes forever. Send a copy of their chart to every philanthropist and political leader in your community.

9. Stay in touch with pesticide issues with the help of the Pesticide Action Network at: http://www.panna.org/panna/

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of “Healing Our World, A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light,” available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html. He can be found wondering how to make every day Earth Day for his 11 month old son. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}

Posted by Richard
4/23/2002 09:02:05 AM | PermaLink

New Hampshire Passes Nation's First CO2 Cap

It's something! But let's remember that this FIRST historic legislation is still less than 50% of the required Kyoto numbers up front, with the future incentive to move in the direction of meeting those goals. How many times will I say this, I don't know, but let's continue to remember one thing: the Kyoto protocol is itself a very conservative treaty -- the amount of conservation it demands (while certainly a help) is nowhere near what would really be needed to have clean air, a healthy environment, and sustainable energy practice. So, the moral of the story remains the same: no one wants to step up to the plate and deliver the bad news to the people -- that life styles must change considerably, that the legacy given to them is not a blessed one but rather one of great debt, and that if we don't begin paying it now, there may not be many generations left that can debate this question in the sort of politically cavalier manner that we are now witnessing.
--------------------------------------------------------------

By Cat Lazaroff

CONCORD, New Hampshire, April 22, 2002 (ENS) - New Hampshire has become the first state to pass legislation aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the so called greenhouse gases linked to global warming. State officials said they hope that other states, and the federal government, will follow New Hampshire's example and take action to curb climate change.

With a 21-2 vote, the New Hampshire Senate passed the Clean Power Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at cleaning up emissions from the state's three fossil fuel burning power plants. The legislation makes New Hampshire the first state in the nation to legislate a reduction in four common pollutants from power plants, including carbon dioxide.

"Cleaning our air is essential to protecting the health of our citizens, preserving our environment and ensuring our future state's future economic success," said Governor Jeanne Shaheen. "This is a landmark step for clean air, putting New Hampshire out in front of the rest of the nation in acting to protect air."

The House has already passed the bill, which Governor Shaheen has promised to sign into law.

"With this legislation, New Hampshire is sending a powerful message to other states and the federal government," Shaheen added. "Pollution does not respect state boundaries. Other states and the federal government must follow our lead so that downwind states like New Hampshire have clean air."

Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH), the owner of the state's three fossil fuel power plants, endorsed the bill, as did several conservation groups.

"This agreement is a clear demonstration of the continued leadership on clean air policy by the state of New Hampshire, PSNH, and key environmental organizations," said Gary Long, PSNH president and chief operating officer, announcing the company's support for the bill last November. "It is a 'first in the nation' accomplishment. No other state in the nation has achieved such a comprehensive agreement - one which addresses the reduction of these four major pollutants."

Under the Clean Power Act, PSNH must take steps to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

The Act requires that carbon dioxide emissions be cut by about three percent, back to 1990 levels. The bill provides for future requirements that emissions be cut by an additional seven percent below 1990 levels, the amount called for in the international Kyoto treaty on climate change.

The Bush administration has withdrawn U.S. support for the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to curb the emission of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

By 2007, PSNH must slash sulfur dioxide emissions, the chief component of acid rain and airborne soot, by 75 percent below federal requirements that took effect in 2000. Also by 2007, nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause smog and acid rain, must be cut by 70 percent, which will reduce this pollution to 90 percent lower than 1990 levels.

The bill requires the company to measure mercury emissions at its three coal burning power plants. A cap on mercury emissions will be established after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues its new power plant emissions standard for mercury, due out next year.

If PSNH cannot meet these new standards with actual emissions reductions, it can buy pollution credits from utilities in other states that have already reduced their emissions.

Critics of the legislation argue that the bill does not assure actual emissions reductions within New Hampshire's borders, because PSNH could buy pollution credits instead of installing emissions control technology.

To help alleviate those concerns, the final version of the bill includes incentives for PSNH to make their pollution reductions either in New Hampshire or nearby, where New Hampshire citizens will benefit the most from the reduced pollution. The bill makes it more expensive for the utility to buy credits from power plants outside the region, making it more likely that the credits will be bought from cleaner power plants in upwind states.

"Using trading to meet the emissions targets means that the upwind sources of pollution will have reduced access to the same credits, which will have a beneficial effect on the amount of pollution transported to New Hampshire," states Governor Shaheen's office.

PSNH said in November that it expects to meet the requirements of the Act through a combination of emission reductions and the purchase of sulfur emission credits. Based on today's price for such credits, the company estimates a cost of about $5 million per year, which could add about 40 cents a month to the average household electric bill.

"Pollution does not respect geographical boundaries," said PSNH's Long. "We will utilize the trading system, when appropriate, because it makes sense, from both an environmental and economical perspective."

If the bill had not included emissions trading, industry experts said the costs of installing state of the art pollution controls at the three PSNH plants could have forced the closure of the plants, which employ more than 1,200 people and provide enough power for about 500,000 homes.

"The challenge has been achieving the delicate balance between protecting our environment and providing power at an economic cost. This agreement accomplishes that," noted Long. "Long term, we expect continued air quality improvements and the ability to reliably meet regional energy requirements - and, importantly, the agreement preserves the economic value to the New Hampshire communities in which our power plants reside."

Governor Shaheen said the agreement should provide a model for other states to follow.

"New Hampshire has shown that it can be done," Shaheen concluded. "We brought people together, Republicans and Democrats, business and environmentalists, to find a common sense solution that would work."

Posted by Richard
4/23/2002 08:46:39 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, April 22, 2002

EPA Ombudsman Martin Resigns

Citing the inappropriate seizure of his files, the inability to communicate and negotiate with the proper officials, and the general attempt to keep him (or anyone else) from monitoring the EPA's function and policy direction, the Ombudsman has resigned.

Posted by Richard
4/22/2002 11:07:10 AM | PermaLink

Earth Day Report Documents Sweeping Rollback of Environmental Protections by Federal Agencies

WASHINGTON — Under the Bush administration, federal agencies have quietly launched the worst attack on key environmental safeguards in modern history, according to a report released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The agency rollbacks span the spectrum of the nation's most important environmental programs, including those protecting the nation's air, water, forests, wildlife, and public lands.

In its report, NRDC documents more than 90 environmental assaults at six federal agencies, noting that the attack on environmental protections intensified after September 11, when public attention was diverted by the war on terrorism.

"It is now painfully clear that this is the most anti-environmental presidential administration ever," commented Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "There is no mistaking the trend. On issue after issue, federal agencies have been promoting the agenda of corporate polluters at the expense of our clean air, clean water, protected lands and forests, and even our planet's climate."

The NRDC report, Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment, provides a detailed review of more than 30 recent or continuing federal agency actions, along with an appendix of more than 90 environmentally destructive actions since January 2001. The report also details the White House Office of Management and Budget's efforts to weaken environmental safeguards by twisting the regulatory process to benefit industry at the expense of public health and the environment.

Some of the most glaring examples documented in the report include:

* A pending Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would undermine the fundamental Clean Air Act requirement directing older power plants, refineries and other major air pollution sources to install state-of-the-art cleanup equipment when they expand or modernize their facilities.

* A recent Army Corps of Engineers proposal that would reverse the "no net loss" of wetlands policy issued under the first Bush Administration, which has been the cornerstone of America's approach to wetlands preservation for more than a decade.

* Bush administration's efforts to shift Superfund hazardous waste clean up costs from polluters to taxpayers, dramatically slowing the pace of clean ups.

* An Interior Department rulemaking that undermines the minimal environmental safeguards for private mining company operations on public lands, and renounces the agency's own authority to deny an operating permit to a mine causing "irreparable harm" to the environment.

* White House intervention to block a key EPA program to stem the discharge of raw sewage into America's waters.

The report also documents efforts to promote clear-cutting in pristine national forests, roll back safeguards for storing nuclear waste, weaken controls on untreated livestock waste from factory farms, and undermine protections for national parks and national monuments.

"The Bush Administration actions to subvert the vital federal rules that translate environmental laws into specific requirements for industry poses the gravest challenge ever to our landmark environmental laws," concluded Wetstone.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For more information, contact:
Greg Wetstone or Rob Perks
Natural Resources Defense Council

Posted by Richard
4/22/2002 08:47:26 AM | PermaLink

California may limit greenhouse gases, hit SUVs

Happy Earth Day, everybody. This year's Earth Day centers on the issue of Global Warming, which the following article tries fairly to describe as a "contested issue." In fact, this is wrong...investigation into the data surrounding global warming and expert scientific opinion finds that the issue is currently tantamount to scientific fact, with the large majority of experts declaring that if human practices do not significantly become more sustainable within the next 30 years, the Earth will face unthinkable transformations (and so human society) within the next century.

As Al Gore steps back into the political arena as the Democratic point man -- the Dems have sensed that Dubya is extremely vulnerable on environmental issues (war time popularity aside) and desperate to breathe any life into their ranks have turned to Gore to strike with his credibility on the issue -- the public is being made aware of the nonsense of Bush's "dramatic" new plan for clean air. Gore is correctly pointing out that not only is this plan an economically-friendly substitute for the Kyoto protocol, a treaty that itself hardly went very far towards combatting global warming, but that the Bush plan doesn't even guarantee that it will meet current Clean Air Act standards! Only in America could we have the nation's leader stare the public (and their children and pets) and tell them with "all honesty" about his commitment to global warming whilst behind the scenes his administration does everything in its power to cripple environmental measures in favor of a stronger economy.

So, it's the economy stupid! And why? Yes, because the power brokers (of every party) have much more to gain by a thriving economy than by a thriving environment; but moreso because the American standard of living, that which every red-blooded American feels he/she is entitled to by right, is first and foremost economy dependent. Ecologists can try explaining that the resources and stability to allow this economic growth ultimately drive their lifestyle, and that if they don't preserve resources than the economy must sooner or later fail outright, but until catastrophe occurs, Americans seem unwilling to lend the type of ear that would translate to lifestyle change.

This article, then, is an interesting move by the state of California (and if the Feds keep up their attacks upon the environment, the responsibility DOES fall to states and communities to enact such measures). The state is seeking to pressure SUV owners to move in another direction for the good of all. In reaction, the spokesman for car manufacturers invokes the entitlements and rights of soccer moms everywhere. But there's a few problems here -- 1) is there an inalienable right to be a soccer mom, 2) are most SUV owners really soccer moms -- i watch single passenger, 20 somethings pass me regularly in their SUVS, and 3) auto manufacturers CAN build SUVs that are up to 50% more fuel friendly right now and don't.

On the other hand, however, California is wrong to pass the blame to "evil" SUV manufacturers because most California cities and towns have eggregious city-planning that is entirely built on the kind of urban sprawl model that favors excessive automobile use.

Monday, April 22, 2002
By Deena Beasley, Reuters

LOS ANGELES -- California lawmakers are looking at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a move automakers call a veiled effort to tighten fuel economy standards and push gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles off the road.

"This would be tantamount to a driving tax. The only way to get less CO2 (carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere is to combust less fuel," said Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

To many Californians, that would mean driving a sub-compact instead of an SUV, he said. "I don't think a lot of soccer moms in Marin County would appreciate that."

Nearly half, 47 percent, of passenger vehicles sold in the nation's most-populous state are SUVs, minivans or light trucks -- a percentage that has tripled over the last 30 years.

The proposed law would require the state's Air Resources Board to adopt, by 2005, regulations that would achieve "the maximum feasible reduction" in emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, emitted by cars and light-duty trucks, the category that includes sport utility vehicles.

The bill was introduced by Fran Pavley, a state assembly member representing Woodland Hills, a suburb north of Los Angeles. It was passed by the Assembly and will be heard by the state Senate's appropriations committee on April 29.

If the bill becomes law, the regulations would not take effect until at least Jan. 1, 2006.

Because California's Air Resources Board was established before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed under the Clean Air Act of 1970, California is unique in its ability to impose air quality standards independent of federal regulation. The state air board already sets strict standards for tailpipe emissions of smog-causing pollutants like nitrogen oxides.

STEPPING IN WHERE BUSH STEPPED OUT

"Because CO2 has not been considered a major pollutant, it has been the purview of the federal government," said Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the state's air board. "But the (Bush) Administration has not endorsed the Kyoto agreement so there are no regulations that specify CO2 levels."

The United States, which emits around one quarter of the world's man-made "greenhouse gases," earlier this year pulled out of the 1997 United Nations anti-pollution treaty signed by President George Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton, saying it would harm the economy and instead came up with a voluntary plan to combat global warming.

The threat of global warming caused carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil, and gas-fueled energy sources is the subject of much debate with many scientists believing it will cause polar ice caps to melt and climates to change, while others say fluctuations in temperatures are not that unusual.

The California Air Resources Board does not currently have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, but the state's largest source of them is vehicles, Martin said.

"All autos emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases. SUVs consume more fuel, so they emit more gases," he explained.

Fuel economy is regulated by the federal government, which last month rejected a proposed 50-percent boost in fuel-efficiency for gas-guzzling cars and SUVs. Existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, require passenger cars to average 27.5 miles per gallon, while SUVs, along with mini-vans and other vehicles in the "light truck" category, need only achieve 20.7 mpg.

"It is silly that Californians would pay the price for a global problem," one auto company representative said. "The bill is too broad and too vague."

The bill's sponsors, however, say global warming presents unique risks for the state including potential reductions in water supplies and a projected doubling of catastrophic wildfires.

Copyright 2002, Reuters
All Rights Reserved

Posted by Richard
4/22/2002 08:42:22 AM | PermaLink