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Saturday, September 14, 2002

White House Mulls NEPA Revamp; Greens Growl

In what is turning out to be yet another policy clash with environmentalists, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has quietly formed a task force to "improve and modernize" the National Environmental Policy Act, seen as the cornerstone of U.S. environmental law.

The purpose of the task force, announced May 20, "is to seek ways to improve and modernize [the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA] analyses and documentation and to foster improved coordination among all levels of government and the public."

In a July 9 Federal Register notice, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) said: "Federal agencies' planning and decision-making processes (analyses conducted and documents produced) using NEPA can obtain higher levels of efficiency, clarity and ease of management through the use of existing authorities; better information management; improved interagency and intergovernmental collaboration; and the use of new technologies."

Environmentalists, however, think this relatively innocuous mission statement clashes with actions the White House has taken over the past few months on NEPA-related issues. Combined, the task force effort and the White House actions constitute an assault on NEPA, environmentalists said. NEPA requires federal agencies contemplating major actions to first complete an environmental impact statement- with opportunity for public comment- on the proposed actions before undertaking them.

Signed into law on the first day of 1970, NEPA was the first major statute addressing federal impacts on the environment. Its enactment also coincided with the founding of then-new environmental organizations, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund- now simply Environmental Defense. These and other groups have made skillful use of NEPA to force changes in the way the federal government goes about its business.

NEPA remains a principal tool of green groups to keep federal agencies on their toes and to ensure that U.S. tax dollars do not fund environmental degradation.

CEQ Chairman James Connaughton, in a July 9 press release, said "The NEPA task force will help the administration move federal environmental analysis and NEPA documentation into the 21st Century. Our goal is to integrate NEPA practices with newer principles of management, such as environmental management systems and advancing information management technologies."

In its Federal Register notice, CEQ invited public comments "on the proposed nature and scope of NEPA Task Force activities identified in this notice and solicits examples of effective NEPA implementation practices to develop a publication of case studies including examples of best practices."

The agency said this publication would be prepared after six months of reviewing the comments. The original due date for public comments on the task force's mission was August 23, but in response to numerous requests for additional time the agency extended the deadline to September 23.

"Additionally," CEQ continued, "the NEPA task force will make recommendations to CEQ regarding potential regulatory changes based upon the information collected."

While the task force mission seems benign, green groups say it clashes with policy positions the Bush administration has taken on NEPA-related issues. In one example, the Interior Department, reacting to the disastrous forest fires in the West and South this summer, proposed a forest protection plan that greens say would waive NEPA requirements for loggers entering federal lands.

While the Interior Department said the new rules are designed to allow loggers to clear away low-lying brush to help reduce wildfires, greens say the intent really is to give the logging industry free access to federal forests.

In another example, the U.S. Navy is refusing to undertake analyses of the environmental impacts of its use of a special sonar technology on marine mammals and other aquatic life, which the greens say are harmed by the technology.

"There is a real contrast right now between what the task force has laid out in its mission and what the White House is actually doing in its policy actions related to NEPA," said NRDC Senior Attorney Sharon Buccino.

"They are trying to take whole types of activities and remove them from the NEPA process. The impact of this policy is two-fold: not only do you lose the environmental impact statement, but you also deny the public the opportunity to participate."

John Bowman, legislative counsel for Environmental Defense, pointed to a half-dozen pieces of legislation in the House and Senate that also pose threats to NEPA. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), for example, has separate bills that would exempt airport and road construction from the NEPA process.

"We're not opposed to streamlining, but we want streamlining to improve, not weaken, NEPA," Bowman said. "We're definitely worried that the task force effort could turn into something that would weaken NEPA dramatically."

CEQ did not return telephone requests for comment.

By: Chris Holly, Energy Daily

Posted by Richard
9/14/2002 10:12:37 AM | PermaLink

India to Dig for Oil in Forest Den of Royal Bengal Tigers

India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) announced Saturday plans to drill for petroleum products in the vast Sundarbans, the world's only habitat of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers.

"ONGC will begin drilling next month in a 400-square kilometre (154-mile) area in the Sunderbans and in the East Midnapore district after a survey indicated the presence of oil and natural gas in the areas," company chairman Subir Raha said.

State-owned ONGC, which has privileged access to India's inland and offshore oilfields, has been consistently the country's most profitable company, with last year's profits soaring beyond 61 billion rupees (1.29 billion dollars). Raha, speaking to reporters in Calcutta, capital of West Bengal state, said he met Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee for permission to survey another 11,000 square kilometres (4,247 square miles) for oil, the Press Trust of India said.

The survey to be made at a cost of four billion rupees is expected to be completed by 2004, the news agency quoted the company chief as saying.

Raha, however, did not specify whether next month's oil dig would be in the vicinity of protected forests of the Sundarbans, but the operation is likely to come up against massive resistance from wildlife protection groups, observers said.

The Sundarbans cover 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles) of mangrove forests cradled by the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Malancha rivers and 40 percent of the territory is within India while the rest is part of Bangladesh.

The neighbouring nations in 1974 established three wildlife sanctuaries as part of a British-led campaign started in 1885 to protect its unique ecology.

Besides being the home to the flagship species, the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, the Sundarbans --- often called the "den" --- also holds the world's largest surviving tiger population.

The mangroves, besides boasting some 400 striped cats, also is home for up to 80,000 antelopes, around 20,000 wild boars and estuarine crocodiles, otters, dolphins and turtles.

From: Agence France Presse

Posted by Richard
9/14/2002 10:05:24 AM | PermaLink

Friday, September 13, 2002

West Greenland Beluga Whales at Risk of Extinction

Tromso, Norway (ENS) - Beluga whales in West Greenland waters are too few in number to continue with present harvesting levels, according to a newly published assessment by the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO). Present harvests are several times the sustainable yield, and, if continued, will likely lead to extinction of these white whales "within 20 years," warns a scientific committee of the commission.

Composed of three whaling nations - Greenland, Iceland and Norway, and the Danish Faroe Islands - the 10 year old commission has for two years been planning harvest quotas for belugas, narwhals and walruses. To date, these quotas are not in effect.

Greenland had decided to introduce quotas on walrus, and regulatory proposals have been drafted to halt the decline of walruses along the west coast of the world's largest island.

Operating separately from the International Whaling Commission, to which most nations belong, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) marked its 10th anniversary in Ilulissat, Greenland with a Council meeting February 5 to 7, 2002.

This NAMMCO Council meeting heard reports of its Scientific Committee on various marine species. Observers from the governments of Canada, Denmark, Japan and the Russian Federation attended along with several intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare says this regional "rival" to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is an attempt to undercut the IWC by questioning its legitimacy and authority. The IWC has had a ban on all commercial whaling in place since 1986.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, based in the United Kingdom, says that NAMMCO is "openly challenging the IWC and the concept of international regulation of whaling, contrary to all accepted legal and procedural norms."

The two other North Atlantic countries invited by the four founders to become full members of NAMMCO, Canada and Russia, have not joined.

Still, opening the council meeting, Hans Enoksen, Greenland Minister of Fisheries, Hunting and Settlements, expressed satisfaction with NAMMCO's progress and says the organization has gained international recognition.

The Scientific Committee reports that beluga whales in the West Greenland area in winter are depleted to less than 25 percent of their abundance in 1950s, and more likely are 20 percent or less of their abundance 40 to 50 years ago. "Landed catches in the 1990s are not sustainable, and are the reason for the continuing decline," their report states.

The models all estimate a sustainable harvest to be around 100 whales per year, and certainly not more than 150 beluga killed annually at current population size.

"Immediate reductions in catch to even 500 beluga, and subsequent reductions to 100 beluga annually over one to three more years all produce a halt to the decline and a low risk that the population in 2011 will be lower than the population in 2001," the scientific committee said.

{A narwhal surfaces. The number of remaining narwhal worldwide is estimated at 25,000 to 30,000. (Photo courtesy Narwhal-Whales)}

For the one-tusked small whale called narwhal, the scientists were not able to gather enough information to produce an assessment in the Baffin Bay area or adjacent areas. They found evidence for the existence of several populations of narwhal in the area, rather than a single one, as previously thought, but said it is likely these rare whales are being overharvested.

The assessment for West Greenland beluga has been completed, so the NAMMCO Council asked the Scientific Committee to concentrate its assessment efforts on the West Greenland narwhal in the coming year.

NAMMCO has its eye on a humpback whale hunt in the near future. There are indications from North Atlantic Sightings Surveys conducted by NAMMCO that "the stock of humpback whales around Iceland has increased rapidly over the past 15 years," the council said, and asked scientific committee to complete abundance estimates for this species "as a high priority."

The scientists did not have enough information to make assessments of North Atlantic fin whales, although a satellite tagging and biopsy program is underway. The Faroe Islands plans a larger scale tagging program once "technical problems with the tagging of large whales" are resolved.

Work on quantifying the interactions between marine mammals and fisheries is at the top of the NAMMCO Scientific Committee's agenda. Whaling nations contend that predation by marine mammals is a cause of declining fish populations in the North Atlantic, and use this argument as a justification for hunting whales.

The committee is trying to gather information on the stomach contents of white-beaked, white-sided and bottlenose dolphins. Norway emphasised that "there is a crucial need for stomach samples from these species because they are relatively abundant and may interact significantly with fisheries." Only the Faroe Islands hunts these species, and an application for a scientific take of white-sided dolphins last year was rejected by the Norwegian authorities.

Populations of grey seals have apparently declined in Icelandic waters over the past 15 years, but have increased in many areas of the North Atlantic. This species is both harvested and interacts with fisheries in three NAMMCO member countries. The Scientific Committee was asked to provide a new assessment of grey seal numbers throughout the North Atlantic.

The 2001 NAMMCO North Atlantic Sightings Surveys covered much of the central and northeast Atlantic, with participation from the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway. Target species for the survey were minke and fin whales, but all species encountered were recorded. Abundance estimates for target and other species are now being calculated by the scientific committee.

Faroese and Norwegian research vessels, which had planned to include waters around the United Kingdom in their survey, were denied access to this area at the last moment.

NAMMCO says its "larger goal" is to "apply an ecosystem approach to the study and management of marine mammals."

Japan’s whale research programs are providing "valuable scientific information related to interactions between cetaceans and fisheries," the Council said, and expressed its continued support for this research.

Whale conservation groups and the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, among others, object to Japan's whale research program. Under the guise of research, its critics say, Japanese whalers unnecessarily kill hundreds of minke whales each year and recently dozens of sei, sperm, and Bryde's whales as well.

The commission plans to hold an international conference on integrating user knowledge and scientific knowledge in management decision making, to be held in Iceland in January 2003. The conference will bring together hunters, managers and scientists to discuss how the two knowledge systems differ and how they are similar.

Posted by Richard
9/13/2002 09:48:59 AM | PermaLink

Wyoming Commission Seeks Dual Designation for Wolves

This was sent in by Colleen Klaum to the Save Wolves list on Yahoo -- I believe Colleen is a new reader of this blog, so welcome...

The ideas of these bureacrats in Wyoming are par for the course: use "hunting" to manage Wolf "protections" -- as well as to make money off of licensing and tourism -- but allow "shoot on site" for any rancher who feels wolves endanger his/her livestock. I won't revisit my many objections which I have written about previously. Just to add Wyoming to the list.
Casper, Wyo. (AP) - The state Game and Fish Commission voted to seek a dual class designation for the gray wolf that would include a trophy game designation for the animal in some forest wilderness areas and a predator classification in the rest of the state.

The commission's decision Tuesday went against the advice of Game and Fish Department directors who urged the commission to delay the move until a draft state wolf management plan is completed.

Bill Wichers, Game and Fish deputy director of external operations, told commissioners that Wyoming would need to change the current predator classification of the gray wolf or risk delaying the process to remove the animal's federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Wyoming, Idaho and Montana must have state management plans in place and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before a delisting petition is submitted.

Wyoming is in the process of developing a draft plan that will be presented to the commission for approval at its February meeting.

Wichers said the USFWS has told state Game and Fish officials that it will not begin the delisting process until the state predator classification is changed.

The gray wolf is classified as a predator in Wyoming. That means the wolf could be killed anytime, any way, anywhere, much like the coyote, jack rabbit and skunk, if its federal protection is removed. Animals classified as trophy game are subject to state hunting regulations, including licensing and specific hunting seasons.

Wichers said it was "appropriate and inevitable that wolves be classified as a trophy game animal" and said such a change would require legislative action.

Any delay in the delisting process, he warned, could mean the state will have to manage even more wolves in the future.

But Commissioner Gary Lundvall said he was not sure whether classifying the wolf as a trophy game animal and using hunting to control wolf populations would achieve the agency's management and population objectives.

"I personally don't think we'll be able to control that (wolf) population with just a sport hunting season," he said.

Lundvall made a motion directing the department to seek a dual classification that would make the wolf a trophy game animal within the confines of Bridger-Teton National Forest and Shoshone National Forest wilderness area boundaries.

In all other areas of the state, the wolf would be classified as a predator.

"That would leave us some waggle room ... and perhaps those (population) measures can be met," Lundvall said. He said it could also save the agency money that would be used for population control efforts under the management plan.

But Wichers and Game and Fish Acting Director Tom Thorne questioned whether the dual classification would be acceptable to the federal government or if the federal agency would reject the state plan, thereby delaying a delisting petition.

"I'm not sure we can get the USFWS to accept that classification and move forward with delisting ... that may not allow the Service that comfort zone for delisting," Thorne said. "We're playing a real high-stakes game here."

The commission, by a 3-2 vote, decided to pursue a dual classification while at the same time writing to the Service asking if it would reject the plan with a split classification.

"If it's not acceptable, then we can revisit this motion when we meet in October," Commission President Doyle Dorner said.

Wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. All of the wolves in the three-state Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are the product of the U.S. Department of the Interior's recovery program aimed at restoring populations of the gray wolf in the northern Rockies.

Posted by Richard
9/13/2002 09:24:52 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Paulo Freire and Eco-Justice: Updating Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the Age of Ecological Calamity

While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of view, been humankind's central problem, it now takes on the character of an inescapable concern.
--  Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed [1]

I. Introduction:

As a radical pedagogy and defense of the Third World, Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed remains as timely as ever.  Rooted in “real and concrete hunger” experiences and informed by a critical understanding of transnational social structure and power, since its appearance in English in 1970, Freire's great text has run alongside (and mostly counter to) the globalization of technocapital and its resulting cycle of mass extinction and planetary oppression.  I'll not bother now to further extol its many praises, of which the book is certainly worthy.  Rather, in the manner of praxis -- which moves dialectically from an analysis of a concrete situation to an understanding of the concrete's relation to abstract knowledge and then back again towards a transformation of the particular situation at hand -- I would like to begin by analyzing the fact of our present ecological crisis with the intention of then critically relating it to Freire's own theory as expressed in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  I hope thereby to provide both greater illumination of the limits of our own situation and of the pedagogy proper, with the paper itself guided by the belief that opportunities must be constructed for future interventions and alliance-building between those struggling against global eco-cide and Freirean educators.

When Freire's work is engaged by the reality of the current ecological crisis, it provides immediate historical insight as to why the people of the Third World, along with other species of the Earth, have been consistently denied the rights and privileges accorded those living amidst the advanced capitalist nations -- there is a logic of domination at work.  As Freire theorizes, it has always been the mindset of the oppressors to see themselves as “human,” while those that they prey upon are always less than such; like animals, they are barred from the prospects of history and the possibilities inherent in liberatory conduct. [2]   Therefore, it is of little surprise that people in the Third World and species everywhere currently bear the great burdens of “sustainable development,” uttered by the global oppressors as a cure-all for all those already suffering from the previous legacy of development and imposed transformation of their lifeworlds.  According to Freire's own thinking, we who stand with the global oppressed should then be especially dubious, if not in outright objection, of such top-down policy initiatives as proposed by global states and federations -- policies that are formed by those who live in great opulence and ease but which are always directed at those surrounded by despair.  Duly informed by the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we might suggest that in contradistinction to the many terrors now foisted by states and state-minded organizations upon the world, we need not globalization-from-above, but globalization-from-below. [3]

The idea of mixing a thorough-going critique of power with a sort of Gramscian-inspired, counter-hegemonic alliance politics is certainly not new within the Freirean legacy.  I think it is fair to point to movements as diverse as Critical Pedagogy, the Poststructural-Marxism promoted by Laclau and Mouffe, recent forms of Revolutionary Multiculturalism and to Borderland Feminism as promoting a sort of Freireanism fit for today's anti-globalization set.  Yet, as bell hooks herself testifies, this updating of Freire's work was often achieved only with great anguish.  Only after concerted effort were feminist, post-colonial, and multicultural criticisms of Pedagogy of the Oppressed allowed to stand and be heard within the Freirean corpus. [4]   Now, as we stand smack dab in the middle of a planetary eco-crisis, a catastrophe in which global powers will destroy the peoples and cultures of the Third World along with the species and habitats of their regions, I would like to ask: Is Freire's work in a position to mediate and speak with both those who stand beside the global poor and destitute and those whose deepest commitment is to the entirety of the natural kingdom?  Can the Freirean corpus itself find agreement with the multi-faceted movement for eco-justice?

Click here for the paper in its entirety...This is a piece that I have just finished for the 3rd Annual International Symposium of Freire's work at UCLA from 9/18-9/21, 2002.

Posted by Richard
9/12/2002 07:35:56 AM | PermaLink

Pigs and Chickens are Smarter Than You Think

This Reuters article is another in the long list of "Scientists are awakening after millions of dollars of study to the fact that animals are sentient" articles. Notice how the piece ends, however. In the current academic world, one has to justify one's multi-million dollar experiments (and even 30,000 dollar) grants with "useable" results. You can't say: Pigs are sentient like great apes, therefore our relationship to them must change. But you must say: Pigs are sentient, therefore there are ways to interact with them that can save money in the farming and butchering process. Interesting...
Leicester, England — Pigs and chickens are more intelligent than most people believe, scientists said Wednesday.

Chickens can learn from each other and are encouraged by example, and pigs use subtle social behavior and signal their competitive strength to rivals, researchers from the University of Bristol in southern England told a science conference.

Despite their reputation as the bird-brains of the avian world, chickens can be taught what food to eat or avoid, are able to adapt their behavior, and can learn to navigate, studies have shown.

"There are hidden depths to chickens," said Professor Christine Nichol, who has studied their behavior.

Pigs have also demonstrated cunning behavior and shown they can exploit the knowledge of their colleagues to obtain food. They may also be able to discriminate between different levels of aggressiveness to sort out their social order.

"Our results suggest that pigs can develop quite sophisticated social competitive behavior, similar to that seen in some primate species," Dr. Mike Mendl told the British Association for the Advancement of Science festival.

A better understanding of animal intelligence could help farmers tackle problems such as aggression in pigs, which causes deaths and injuries and accounts for an estimated 20 million pounds (US$30 million) each year in lost revenue in Britain, according to Mendl.

Posted by Richard
9/12/2002 06:58:54 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A Debate on Icelandic Whaling Practices

Settica wrote in this morning concerning my 7/23 posting on Iceland and whales:
While I agree with your article on some points. I don't agree with your article on many more, because unlike the Makai, Icelanders actually eat the meat.

Their government is actually called the Althingi, and they are one of the cleanest places on Earth if not the cleanest. They have the cleanest water supply and the cleanest fish. They comply with environmental policies in almost every way. Iceland is not America. The Makai and Icelanders have always eaten whale meat as it was a staple and what was available to them. One of the only things available for them to eat is fish and it would help their economy substantially. Iceland isn't this big monster, as I said again it isn't America. Things work differently there, they provide education, health care, literacy programs and all sorts of things for their people that Americans don\'t. Did you know that Iceland has an 100% literacy rate for people over 16? Did you know that Iceland provides free healthcare for it's citizens? Did you know that Iceland has a higher education rate of 85% and pays for students to go to school? Did you know that environmentally Iceland is one of the cleanest and most environmentally sound place to live?

What right do you have to attack a people who live in one of the best societies on this planet, who actually care about their people and don't sell them out to large corporations or let hmos turn them away because their insurance doesn't surgeries. This same type of attack was taken on Iceland by the Gaurdian and they wrote about the Blue Lagoon, they retracted their statements after finding out that Iceland was one of the cleanest places on earth and that the water at the Blue Lagoon was natural. So with that I say, it is easy for you to sit wherever you are and judge a place you've never been to or never seen (and by the way Iceland is beautiful) I can send you pictures.You have no idea about the customs of Iceland. They are different from your's, bureaucracies of governments are something that you perceive. Icelanders are pretty informed on the issues and choose to eat whale meat. It is not the language of a brutal patriarchy, it's the language of a people who have a democracy and a freedom to do what they'd like and what they've done for the last 990 years that they haven't been in a war or tried to impose its beliefs on any other society.

Settica Lux, I currently live in America and am moving to Iceland.
I responded:
Hi Settica,
Thanks for writing in and I wish you all the best in wonderful Iceland. I won't answer all your questions to me but I will say that yes, I am aware of a great deal of what you the end, Iceland is NOT America. I certainly do not want to present a picture of picking on Iceland as an environmental villain as I sit within America and pretend all is well. No, I live within the cruel land and do my best to change it and refuse it from within, as I witness and relate to an unfolding GLOBAL society in which nation-states no longer are truly separate or sovereign from one another. We are now part of a global federation, brought about by capitalism, for better or worse and we have responsibilities to be informed about and inform one another.

This said, even accepting all that you wrote about the small volcanic nation that harms few and is remarkably progressive, you are incorrect in one regard:
The Makai and Icelanders have always eaten whale meat as it was a staple and what was available to them. One of the only things available for them to eat is fish and it would help their economy substantially.

1) If a tradition is unjust it does not mean that it has a right to endure. Slavery is also a long standing tradition, as is war, as are many other cruel and unreasonable practices that may have arisen as legitimate in their day but can no longer bear the burden of information. Killing whales, either for eating them or selling their meat and blubber on the international market (what Iceland is really looking to do), is no longer an acceptable practice when put in the context of today's market realities, environmental costs, and scientific knowledge of sentient whales.

2) Whales are not fish -- and while I disapprove of commercial fishing also, you'll notice that I have never said anyone should ban their fishing practices at this time.

3) The entire issue that is now at hand is whether "whaling" (not fishing) would help Iceland's economy -- which, you are correct, is always the bottom line on any issue nowadays (not morals and ethics). But in fact, while around 65% of Iceland's economy is structured around fishing, it has now been pointed out convincingly that Iceland has far more to gain in dollars and cents by promoting a commercial whale tourism that protects and conserves whales then it does by hunting them and selling them to Japan.

So, while I apologize for in any way appearing to come down on Iceland -- a country that fascinates me and which I would be very interested in visiting myself -- I will not change my remarks as concerns Iceland's whaling and I ask you to examine your own views on the matter a second time.

Again, thanks so much for writing in. Without debate and exchange of opinion, all of this is meaningless. The best to you,
Settica wrote back: Understandable.

Posted by Richard
9/11/2002 09:41:34 AM | PermaLink

Sept. 11 No War Campaign

WOODSTOCK- Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him "Where are you going?"
And this he told me
"I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
I'm gonna join in a rock and roll band
I'm gonna camp out on the land
And try and get my soul free"

We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden
Huy do do do do do do huy do do do do do do
Huy do do do do do do huy do do do

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
And I don't know who I am
But you know life is for learning

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation...

We are stardust, billion year old carbon
We are golden, caught in the devil's bargain
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

Posted by Richard
9/11/2002 06:23:43 AM | PermaLink

Matriotism -- World and the Spirit: Women and the Fate of the Earth

During my childhood, February always ranked as the most patriotic month. In school, we seemed to spend forever cutting out silhouettes of Lincoln and smearing brown Crayolas over our wobbly drawings of log cabins. No sooner had the library paste dried than it was time for cherry trees, hatchets and pictures of George Washington with his funny ponytail and grim smile.

Be all that as it may, I got thinking about whether I am really patriotic. And that's when I decided we need a new word; so I coined one.


Now think about it. "Patriotic," of course, comes from the Latin pater, meaning father. A patriot is one "who loves and loyally or zealously supports his own country" or fatherland. A perfectly good word for a perfectly good feeling.

"Matriotic," by analogy, comes from the Latin mater. A matriot then, is one who loves and loyally or zealously supports her motherland, her own planet - Mother Earth.

The two words are not perfectly analogous, fortunately, otherwise people might see conflict of interest where there is none. Patriotism, as we use the word, is about the flag, the government, and the history of a nation - in our case, the Bill of Rights, free elections and the peaceful transfer of power (even after a national trauma like Watergate or the Iran-Contra Affair).

Matriotism, on the other hand, is yin to patriotism's yang. It's about the Earth, not the world. It's about what those fortunate few have seen from spaceship portals, not what we see on a map or a globe with regularly updated borderlines and political color-coding.

Matriotism is about one sun by day and one moon by night - a moon that waxes and wanes and marks months and menses whether you live in Moscow, Idaho, or Moscow, Texas. It's about what human beings have felt since the dawn of time when they lay on their backs on the ground and looked up at floating clouds or glittering stars.

Patriotism has always had a lot of the zest of competition in it - rival teams, us and them, Britain's battles being won on the playing fields of Eton, and all that. My country, right or wrong. My country over the other countries.

Matriotism, by contrast, recognizes that while there may be six- or seven-score fatherlands, there is only one motherland. There are political divisions that have risen, prospered, and utterly vanished, civilizations and great cities that are no more. But while we have her, there is only one Mother Earth.

She's done a little rearranging from time to time, what with volcanoes and earthquakes and such. But last spring, I stood on a grassy meadow in England and was informed that the same trees I was seeing, the same boulders, the same stream, had been seen and touched by Anglo-Saxons, by Romans and by Stone Age Brits.

Many cultures, patriots of many nations - but one earth. Some call her Spaceship Earth today.

So it's not either-or; it's not a matter of patriotism vs. matriotism. It's just a matter of bringing our matriotism a little more to the forefront, perhaps.

For instance, we could start with a holiday. A matriotic holiday, a worldwide day of celebration, gratitude, and rededication to the planet. We'd need a flag, of course, and we'd need a song - an anthem, really.

Wouldn't it be quite a feeling to have an international anthem (no, not the Internationale) that little kids all over the world would learn to sing about the oceans and the mountains and the sands and the snows of Earth?

We could certainly work up a pledge of allegiance: "I pledge allegiance to the soil, and to the air we breathe, to every species beneath the sun...."

We'd certainly need a Matriots' Hall of Fame someplace - maybe onboard a ship that would sail from country to country, celebrating the great matriots who fought for Mother Earth, whether by saving the whales and the gorillas and the snail darters, or by engineering new strains of seed that would feed more on less, or by finding the key to practical mass use of solar energy instead of fossil fuels - and so on.

Some people might not get too excited about being matriotic, seeing that it lacks that old competitive edge. On the other hand, remember what Walt Kelly's cartoon possum Pogo said: "We have met the enemy, and they is us." This fight to save Mother Earth could end up the biggest battle of all.
Elouise Bell is professor emeritus of English at Brigham Young University, a syndicated columnist and the author of Only When I Laugh (Signature Books), from which this article was excerpted.

Matriotism's Hall of Fame
Earth Island Journal is compiling an on-line version of the Matriot's Hall of Fame at Please join us in this attempt to honor the courageous matriots who have given their talents, their love and, at times, their very lives, to protect and defend this planet.

• Rachel Carson • Dian Fosey • Judi Bari • Wangari Maathai • Winona LaDuke • Arundhati Roy • Donella Meadows • Vandana Shiva • Helen Caldicott • Francis Moore Lappι • Petra Kelly • Medha Petkar • Julia "Butterfly" Hill • Anne Brower • Amy Goodman • Carolyn Merchant • Hazel Wolf • Digna Ochoa • Lois Gibbs • Karen Silkwood • Cindy Duerhling • Neta Golan • Terri Swearingen • Sylvia Earle • Rosalie Edge • Sylvia McLaughlin • Starhawk • David Brower • John Muir • Aldo Leopold • Chico Mendes • Ken Saro-Wiwa • Anil Agarwal • Jacques-Yves Cousteau • Carl Sagan • Ed Abbey • David "Gypsy" Chain • Berito Kuwaru'wa • Ka Hsaw Wa • Rodolfo Montiel Flores and Teodora Cabrera • Paul Watson • Huey Johnson • Gaylord Nelson • Ponderosa Pine • William Penn Mott • And all of the Goldman Environmental Award Winners and the nearly 700 recepients of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Global 500 Award.

We welcome further nominations. Please send your suggestions to gsmith@earthisland. Results will be posted online.

Copyright Earth Island Journal

Posted by Richard
9/11/2002 06:13:38 AM | PermaLink

Global Warming Photographed

Mike Meuser wrote in from Mapcruzin: I've just added It's an amazing (and frightening) global photographic tour of the effects of climate change by Gary Braasch

Posted by Richard
9/11/2002 05:35:38 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

ICC Unlikely to Touch Military Environmental Crimes

As military forces are globally by far the largest polluters and cause for environmental disasters, with the United States military providing a large share of the same, this is especially unwelcome news. Military environmental crimes are some of the most oppressive crimes against humanity and if they won't be judged so by international law then military forces essentially have carte-blance to engage in any type of destructive activity they feel necessary to accomplish their objectives.
Washington D.C., September 9, 2002 (ENS) - The International Criminal Court is not likely to prosecute environmental crimes due to military actions, a new report prepared for the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute concludes. It examines the possibilities of environmental damage during military action becoming a criminal liability for military personnel and/or their contractors before the newly formed International Criminal Court (ICC).

For full text and graphics visit:

Posted by Richard
9/10/2002 08:36:09 AM | PermaLink

Book Review of Cool Comfort: America's Romance with Air Conditioning

Marsha E. Ackerman. _Cool Comfort: America's Romance With Air-Conditioning_. Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002. ix + 214 pp. Illustrations, notes, index. $27.95 (cloth), ISBN 1-58834-040-6.

Reviewed for H-Amstdy by Bill Bush <>, Department of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Energy shortages and environmental degradation have forced Americans to rethink their avid use of such staple comforts as automobiles, home heaters, and air conditioners. Despite the doubts of prominent detractors, Americans in growing numbers have come to accept as factual concepts like global warming and the greenhouse effect. Habits of consumption, however, remain fairly impervious to change. Today's politicians point to the Carter administration's highly unpopular conservation program as an object lesson. As Marsha Ackerman notes in _Cool Comfort_, the thermostat became an instrument of symbolic dissent from Carter's calls for "sacrifice and voluntary discomfort" (p. 163). While businesses inundated the Department of Energy with complaints, federal judges in the sweltering Sun Belt region defiantly ran their courtroom air conditioners at temperatures far below the mandated 80-degree minimum. Ackerman explains these angry responses with polls and anecdotes that implied a widely shared definition of "comfort" that included indoor climate control.

Faced with such "common sense" about air-conditioning, Marsha Ackerman asks how "the idea of cooling captured the popular imagination" (p. 4) in the twentieth-century United States. Specifically, she explores how air-conditioning became "embedded" in the "perceptions and expectations" of the emerging middle class after World War II. A similar story, framed largely around the engineers who invented and tried to shape the uses of air-conditioning, appears in Gail Cooper's authoritative _Air-Conditioning America: Engineers and the Controlled Environment, 1900-1960_ (Johns Hopkins, 1998). Ackerman adds some useful information to this history in chapters on intellectual theories about climate, public health activism for cooler and more ventilated buildings, air-conditioned sites of leisure, the installation of air-conditioning in federal government buildings, the utopian portrayals of cooling at the Chicago and New York World's Fairs of the 1930's, and the spread of residential cooling systems in postwar suburbs.

Discourses of climate and civilization predated air-conditioning's earliest applications. The iconoclastic geographer and eugenicist Ellsworth Huntington lent "scientific" weight to older notions that tied "backwardness" to hot and humid climates. In his widely read 1915 tome _Civilization and Climate_, Huntington argued that temperate climates helped explain the geopolitical superiority of Western nations. Subjecting the Protestant work ethic to a kind of environmental determinism, Huntington linked productivity to cool temperatures while invoking worn stereotypes about indolent African, "Mediterranean," and Latin American peoples. In the 1924 edition of his book (interestingly, it went through several editions into the 1970s), he added empirical data culled from studies of over 15,000 workers in several states. Huntington correlated higher mortality and lower productivity with factories lacking adequate ventilation. His well-known colleague at Yale, Charles-Edward Amory Winslow, similarly argued for better ventilation in the New York City public schools as a way to safeguard public health and improve student performance. Here readers may run into some confusion. Ackerman implies, but never clearly explains, that intellectuals like Huntington and Winslow sought to manage both the cleanliness and temperature of the air in interior spaces. Winslow, whom Ackerman calls "America's foremost public health expert" (p. 27), became embroiled in controversy over the installation of ventilation systems in public schools. The reader easily could miss the distinction between ventilation systems, which circulated air without actually cooling it, and cooling systems. Similarly, the discussion of Winslow omits the larger context of urban Progressivism, the inclusion of which might clarify his changing position in the controversy over whether ventilation systems should circulate "fresh" or "artificial" air. Only with the advent of more reliable air-conditioners in the mid-1920s did Winslow overcome his initially staunch resistance to recirculated air.

In seeming opposition to the associations of cooling with efficiency, productivity, and civilization, air conditioners made their first significant impact on popular consciousness at indoor sites of leisure and consumption. Ackerman asserts, with limited but fairly persuasive evidence, that ice-cold air "delivered" working and middle class customers to movie palaces, department stores, hotels, and railroad cars. Part of "the total entertainment experience" (p. 49), air-conditioning helped offer an escape from a drab and hot workaday life. At the same time, it became associated with luxury, comfort, and modernity. The marketing of these newly air-conditioned spaces trumpeted unsurprising notions about gender; hotels and railroads promoted cooler work areas for male business travelers, while movie palaces and department stores appealed to "Mrs. Consumer's" presumed desire for comfort. Similarly, Congress justified the installation of air-conditioning in Washington, D.C. during the New Deal administration as facilitating useful work in the hot summer months. What are we to make, then, of President Roosevelt, who disliked air-conditioning so much that he refused to cool his office? Roosevelt held a patrician's disdain for displays of personal discomfort, which people of his class long had viewed as a sign of weakness; for a man unwilling to be seen in a wheelchair, heat and humidity perhaps seemed small challenges. Traditionally, the wealthy rarely suffered summer heat, sitting it out in breezy seaside or country retreats. As Ackerman notes, department store managers honored this unwritten rule for decades, installing air conditioners in the so-called "bargain basement" but not the upper floors where women of means shopped into the 1950s.

Air-conditioning might have remained an exotic luxury were it not for the world's fairs in Chicago (1933-34) and New York (1939-40). Most of the fantastic exhibits promising a scientifically driven utopia were air-conditioned. At New York's "World of Tomorrow," exhibits such as the H. G. Wells-inspired Democracity and the Town of Tomorrow prefigured the postwar suburbs in several ways. The architecture of model single-family homes ranged from European high modernist to "homely" colonial designs, yet many shared the view expressed in a brochure accompanying a home sponsored by _Good Housekeeping_ magazine: "Modernism means air-conditioning" (p. 87). This version of modernism, premised on technological progress, became even more prominent after World War II but not quickly or seamlessly. Ackerman shows that the years 1945-1955 constituted a "crucial decade" for the air-conditioning industry, which eagerly but uncertainly eyed the booming residential housing market. Manufacturers like Carrier had limited experience producing home cooling systems, let alone on the mass scale the new suburbs demanded. Elite shapers of opinion, chiefly at _House Beautiful_ magazine, also doubted the virtues of air-conditioning. By 1955, air-conditioning had won over such skeptics. That same year, William Levitt contracted with Carrier for air-conditioning units to be included in new homes. The space traveled by air-conditioning in the decade surfaces most clearly in some of the advertisements reproduced in the book. Two Carrier ads that ran in 1949 and 1950 clumsily rehash the interwar discourses of productivity and civilization, contrasting a dozing man in a Mexican village with a sober white executive in his downtown office. The text below the latter image offers air-conditioning for "hotels, skyscrapers, ships, factories or apartment buildings" (p. 11). By 1955, ads were more likely to portray suburban families communing in comfort by their wall unit, as in the Mueller Climatrol blurb promising "comfort, modern living and 'pride of ownership'" (p. 129).

That telling phrase neatly encapsulates the mutually reinforcing desires that animated consumers, according to Ackerman. Her attempts to demonstrate the advertisements' effectiveness, however, meet with mixed results. Citing William Whyte and Roland Marchand, she suggests that a combination of "keeping up with the Joneses" and manipulation by advertisers helped manufacture the "need" for air-conditioners. Despite restrictive covenants, African-Americans were hardly immune from the twin tugs of status and comfort; in _Ebony_ magazine, profiles of the homes of black celebrities conspicuously mentioned air-conditioning, while ads hawked cheaper wall units for an assumed low-income readership. The 1960 U.S. Census, the first to inquire about air-conditioning (itself a key marker), revealed that African-Americans were less than one-third as likely as whites to live in cooled housing. Regional differences suggest that comfort sometimes outweighed status anxiety. Ackerman presents other data showing that inhabitants of hotter areas like Texas and Louisiana logically valued air-conditioning more than in other regions, surely a reflection of Sun Belt suburbanization, initiated earlier than she allows here. Ackerman's discussion of air-conditioned suburbia would have benefited also from the inclusion of shopping malls, commercialized public spaces that probably owed much to air-conditioning.

The final two chapters survey, with uneven quality, dissenting opinions from the growing acceptance of air-conditioning in American homes, cars, and indoor public spaces. Leading critics of consumerism and conformity such as Henry Miller, Lewis Mumford, and Vance Packard punctuate a broadly conceived discussion that sometimes ranges too far from the specific questions raised by the rise of air-conditioning. Environmental historians may chafe at the brevity of Ackerman's portrayal of "green" critiques of air-conditioning. Ackerman might have enriched her discussion of air-conditioning's place in the environmental debates of recent decades by highlighting the rhetoric of rights, so evident in the reaction to Carter-era regulations of energy usage. Clearly air-conditioning became viewed as less a privilege than a right during the period Ackerman covers here. Nevertheless, the book brings such questions to our attention even if it doesn't always explore them fully, making it both a useful addition to scholarship on technology and culture and a highly readable text for the undergraduate and graduate classroom.

Posted by Richard
9/10/2002 06:41:48 AM | PermaLink

Monday, September 09, 2002

'Waste' Nothing New to Utah's Salt Lake

As everyone gets geared up for the big October protest of Yucca mountain in Nevada, little attention is paid to areas like the Great Salt Lake -- one of the most toxic regions in the continental U.S. Utah's Salt Lake desert has been home to nuclear experiments and toxic waste for decades, and the Goshute Indians' plan to store more waste there is nothing new. Brent Israelsen of the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Posted by Richard
9/09/2002 10:52:33 AM | PermaLink

Illinois Emissions Top 99 Countries' Combined!

Emissions from Illinois do more to warm the planet than releases from 99 developing countries combined, according to a report issued Wednesday by the National Environmental Trust.
Gary Wisby of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Posted by Richard
9/09/2002 10:47:15 AM | PermaLink

Goodbye To Glaciers: Thanks to Global Warming

The glaciers of the Rockies, the primary source of water for the western half of North America, will be gone in 20 to 30 years, according to one of Canada's most distinguished scientists. David Schindler said Thursday the situation is so dire it cannot be reversed.
Robert Remington of the National Post reports.

Posted by Richard
9/09/2002 10:40:35 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Plants in Motion [QuickTime]

Roger P. Hangarter of Indiana University's Department of Biology has created this wonderful collection of time-lapse photography that allows us "to see the movements of plants and clearly demonstrates that plants are living and capable of some extraordinary things. " The videos available show a broad range of plant growth phenomena, including germination, circadian responses, phototropism, and much more. The movies are fun to watch in and of themselves, but don't miss out on the informative descriptions that accompany each video and category heading. Macintosh users can also print out a flip book using NIH Image, a free image analysis software (link provided). Even those with only a passing interest in botany will find this Web site entertaining and informative.

Posted by Richard
9/08/2002 01:07:27 PM | PermaLink