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Saturday, September 28, 2002

How the Bush Administration Is Giving Away Our Environment to Its Contributors

Very informative 32 page document, Paybacks: Policy, Patrons and Personnel from Earthjustice and Public Campaign. (pdf)


Posted by Richard
9/28/2002 09:55:33 AM | PermaLink

An Unlikely Advertising Partner

The advertising agency that helped create the "Truth" antismoking campaign has taken aim at tobacco companies again, but for this effort it has found a most unexpected partner — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami, donated its creative services to the advocacy group, fashioning a campaign against experimentation on animals by the tobacco companies. The effort employs the shock tactics favored by the organization, but some infuriated representatives of the tobacco companies predicted the tactics would backfire.

The organization's volunteers, dressed as giant laboratory rats, have begun handing out stickers spoofing cigarette packaging to schoolchildren as young as 6 years old. The stickers advertise fake brands like Murderboro (parodying the Marlboro brand made by Philip Morris U.S.A.), Krool (for the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company's Kool brand), and Cadaver and Slay'Em (for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco's Camel and Salem brands, respectively).

The Slay'Em sticker, for example, portrays a crying rabbit in restraints inhaling cigarette smoke over the legend "Spilled Blood, Uncool Tests." The rear of the stickers has photographs of lab animals being forced to breathe cigarette smoke.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, is taking aim at schools in the backyards of several tobacco companies, including R. J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., before taking the campaign national next month.

The second phase of the $100,000 campaign breaks during the last week of October, when the advocacy group expects to place full-page ads in the obituaries sections of several newspapers, including The Winston-Salem Journal, The Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. The ads are mock obituaries for laboratory animals that died through the experiments of tobacco companies.

The advocacy group has also posted related material on its Web site. And, if outdoor-advertising companies donate space, the group will print billboard-size ads.

The latest efforts of the organization are a continuation of its campaign to halt the use of animals in product tests, not an antismoking push, according to Dan Mathews, vice president for campaigns at PETA. "If kids stop smoking as a result, we're delighted, but that's not the focus," Mr. Mathews said. "The focus is to get kids to voice their outrage."

"If you do smoke, please choose a brand that doesn't fund animal tests, like American Spirits," he said, referring to a brand made by the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, in Santa Fe, N.M., a subsidiary of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings.

The distinction means little to tobacco company officials. "PETA is acting irresponsibly by handing out tobacco logos to children," said Ellen Merlo, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Philip Morris U.S.A. in New York. Moreover, the campaign is unduly harsh, she said. "There is never justification for demonization, denigration or disparagement," she said.

Tobacco company representatives also complained about the campaign's accuracy. "We agree with their goal of treating animals humanely," Ms. Merlo said. The group has taken that goal and "exploited it, dramatized it, and created an impression that's just not true," she said.

Jan Smith, senior director for public relations at the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, echoed that sentiment. "We do not use animal studies if any other methods exist to get the particular answers our scientists need for a study," she said.

The stickers depict monkeys, dogs and rabbits, but all three of the tobacco companies that are cited on the stickers experiment only on rodents, their representatives said. The companies finance research outside their own laboratories that could involve other animals, but their representatives said that all research follows federal ethics guidelines and involves the minimum number of animals.

Moreover, the research of tobacco companies is not as frivolous or redundant as the campaign charges, said Mark Smith, a spokesman for Brown & Williamson in Louisville, part of British American Tobacco. "As we develop new materials for potentially risk-reduced products, it's incumbent on us to fully test those materials," he said.

"I have to believe, if animals ruled the world, they'd do the same thing."

Mr. Mathews of PETA said the campaign was based on information from the National Institutes of Health, research abstracts in trade journals, research by opponents of animal research and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Chuck Porter, chairman at Crispin Porter, referred calls to the group.

The campaign piggybacks on the continuing antismoking work of the American Legacy Foundation in Washington, which is financed from the $206 billion settlement between the major tobacco companies and 46 state attorneys general.

Preliminary results released last week from a study by the foundation indicated that smoking declined 18 percent among high school students from 2000 to 2002, with the greatest decline, 29 percent, among students with the most exposure to the foundation's television commercials.

"It's always a challenge for us because we don't have much of an ad budget to speak of," Mr. Mathews said. "We decided to put a lot of money into this because there's so much attention to the harmful effects of smoking already."

But just as PETA tries to whip up public pressure, it can be subjected to the same forces. Mothers Against Drunk Driving attacked the group last week for reviving its "Got Beer?" print campaign, which argues to college students that drinking beer is healthier than drinking milk.

And the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, a food industry group, bought a full-page ad in the Sept. 30 issue of U. S. News & World Report suggesting that PETA supports violence on behalf of animal rights. Mr. Mathews called the charge "completely untrue."

By Nat Ives, N.Y. Times

Posted by Richard
9/28/2002 08:34:42 AM | PermaLink

British Fox Hunting

The following is a story by Canadian Broadcasting documenting the 300,000 people marching against Britain outlawing fox-hunting with dogs. What the story fails to convey adequately is that the fox-hunting issue was tied up w/ another series of agricultural and other issues and that a great many of the 300,000 people were "volunteered" from business-owners who gave them the day off and "asked" them to participate in the protest.

The article does convey that the wide majority of Brits are against the fox-hunting practice w/ dogs, which has been documented and filmed as a barbaric practice indeed. Even those who are in favor of the "sport" of it, have little argument here -- the dogs essentially chase and corner the fox, so that the hunters can ride up on their horse to shoot the trapped creature dead. That foxes and dogs are relatives makes the practice all the stranger, revealing the ideological contradictions in why people choose to make a sport out of killing one being, while domesticating and valuing another.

There are groups of people in Britain that attempt to help the foxes by running alongside the hunters and confusing the dogs. Quite legally. Again though, to show the types of people that the hunters are -- they have been documented as quite casually firing upon the fox-lovers, charging them and trampling them with their horses, and riding upon them so as to smack them with the whips and clubs that they sometimes additionally carry.

Fox-hunting w/ dogs couldn't end soon enough in Britain and the idea that the right-wing would challenge the issue as one of state-intervention in the lives of people is misguided. No life in a modern nation state is free of state-intervention, one lives within a legal and juridical system of laws and rights -- there is no one who is free to do as they please. However, the question remains as to whether or not states speak to and enforce the democratic will of the people (if they are even committed to that process!) or if they are interested in enforcing only the will of the powerful.

The critique of nation states by leftist anarchists and rightist libertarians is based upon the idea that states never have been interested in the will of the people and that they exist only to enforce power.

Yet, anarchists and libertarians alike also need to account for their own existence within the nation-state structure -- and no matter how poignant their critiques of state, they are (for the most part) existing within the structure free of state extermination and some, like Noam Chomsky and the Cato Institute respectively, even thrive.

In this sense, then, fox-hunting groups need to awaken to a more-complex and realistic theory of state and recognize that the question is not one of state-intervention proper, but whether such intervention is in accord with democracy. In the case of Britain's attempt to outlaw fox-hunting with dogs, it appears very much to be a case of the latter.

http://cbc.ca/stories/2002/09/22/foxhunt_march020922

Posted by Richard
9/28/2002 08:25:32 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, September 27, 2002

Peter McLaren: Radical Educator for the 21st Century

Two weeks ago I released my essay on Paulo Freire and Eco-Justice, which I had written for the 3rd International Paulo Freire Forum, "Paulo Freire and the Possible Dream: International Perspectives". Since that time I have been working on a variety of projects, but I have just finished the basic work on one them -- a new website for the critical educator Peter McLaren.

If you are not familiar with McLaren's work, Peter is one of the leading voices in Education today and along with Henry Giroux, helped to found the Critical Pedagogy movement in homage to Freire. His number one initiative right now is to stop the forces of global capital from destroying the possibilities of mentoring wisdom as they turn schools into foci of social reproduction. To this end, he draws upon the work of the Marxist-Humanist tradition and other radical strains like Eco-socialism (w/ a little solidarity prodding from yours truly).

For all those who have an interest in understanding how education meets anti-globalization, make sure to bookmark Peter's site and check back often as it grows and evolves.

Posted by Richard
9/27/2002 09:43:41 AM | PermaLink

From Jo'burg to D.C. -- Taking a Stand Against Globalization and Logo-ization

I both agree and disagree w/ Naomi Klein in her feeling that anti-globalization must begin to shift focus away from the major protest and to a more grass-roots local activism that often falls below the media charts.

On the one hand, she is correct for two reasons.

First, the amount of money and organization that is required to establish these major protests is beyond the scope of the movement proper to be sustained -- as the IMF and co. continue to "summit-ize" their existence all over the world every few months, they simply have the capital to break the back of the movement. They can establish major events far quicker then the AG movement can fight them. So, Klein is correct that, strategically speaking, at some point a shift in emphasis is going to have to occur if the movement is going to transform into its next stage of political action and survive.

Second, Klein is correct that real change from below is happening within local community protest and activity, often peacefully and quietly with local organizations achieving transformations of capital spaces in a variety of ways. We can see this across America in communities like Ithaca, NY and Madison, WI to Santa Fe, NM and Austin, TX, to the variety of communities dotting the California coastline. This is the Murray Bookchin model popularized in such books as Ecology of Freedom.

Yet, I disagree with Klein that the time is now to turn away from the major protest as political spectacle and event. For better or worse, we living in an emerging global world. Such events give activists the opportunity to network face-to-face at a global level -- the importance of this cannot be underestimated.

Additionally, we live in a media world. Any event staged by world power that is not challenged up front in such a way to demand media attention reinforces its hegemonic grasp upon the popular mind and normalizes itself within the mass imaginary. Since Seattle, just a few years ago, a real cultural wave has been created which gives people (especially the children) the conscious space in which to criticize and reject establishment norms and corporate media dogma. This was incredibly vital in the Anti-Vietnam movement and is even more important today. We cannot just write about these things on the Internet, but we must make public shows of disapproval. Yes, they are symbolic -- but "symbols" are a key to power. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of the symbolic register in activist politics.

Finally, we should not now turn away from the global event b/c it seems that there is increasing awareness of the symbolic potentials of these events within culture at large. People are interested in what is happening and who is behind it. They want to know more and media are attempting to meet the demand with increased coverage. The Earth Summit II in Johannesburg even had a variety of real-time Internet media feeds. All this adds up to an increase in energy, which is good for the movement overall.

This is not to say that I know what direction the AG movement should unfold in, or that it should be directed from above -- I think quite the opposite actually. But it is not time for the giant protests to end -- they've only just begun. Like the Grateful Dead family, dropping out and following their events all over the world, I see the possibility of a new political creature that exists in the counter-culture of the world politics of the day, combining raised consciousness with new modes of cultural expression, carried onward by the wealth of new planetary networks.

It will take some planning, but first, it will take some renewed fighting...

-----------------------------
Washington -- Antiglobalization activist Naomi Klein only came to town this week to tell the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to leave it.

"It's important to have people on the street in Washington because these are institutions that transform the developing world. It's a symbol of what's wrong with these organizations that their headquarters are in Washington and not in the global south, where they implement their policies," said Klein before the lenders' annual meetings, expected to attract thousands of protesters.

"They shouldn't have the comfort and the safety of that. Anybody who governs should have to be accountable to the people they govern," she said.

Klein, 32, became a spokeswoman for antiglobalization with the publication of her 2000 book No Logo, which denounced corporate branding as a tool to hide destructive financial and political networks. Although her name is often associated with violent demonstrations in Seattle, Quebec City, and Washington, D.C., Klein said she believed the heart of the anticorporatism was no longer found at such "roving protests."

"There is a consciousness that these are just symbolic shows of dissent," she said. "There needs to be less focus on the big global event, like the Seattle, the Washington, or the Genoa." Klein said the antiglobalization movement, which erupted three years ago when protesters blockaded a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, was now propelled by local acts of defiance in the developing world, where the impact of World Bank and IMF policies are most strongly felt.

The momentum of the antiglobalization movement slowed sharply after the attacks of Sept. 11, when the shift of that year's IMF and World Bank meetings to Ottawa stopped in its tracks a major protest planned for Washington.

But while the surge of energy at Seattle may have abated in North America, Klein said a wave of local uprisings against the sale of state-owned water and electrical services in Bolivia, Ecuador, and South Africa had inspired her to change her mind-set about the politics of resistance. "If those local initiatives are networked, we have a model of change we haven't tried before," she said. "Even though that might sound a lot less sexy than storming the WTO, I think it's a hell of a lot more important."

Small, direct acts of revolt at the grass-roots level — like housing squats by Canadian antipoverty groups and the takeover of unused farms by landless Brazilians — are for Klein proof that antiglobalization is alive and well. "The movement has been declared dead many times. It's kind of a ritual, actually, declaring it dead after every major event," Klein said. "Things have been more tentative in terms of street action in North America, but they have been much more intense elsewhere."

IDEOLOGICAL BAGGAGE

IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff said protesters seeking a better deal for the world's poor are wrong to target the IMF and World Bank, which share many of their beliefs. "If you care to listen, you will probably find that we share some of your ideas about improving the process of globalization. You might even find that you share some of ours," he said Wednseday.

But Klein linked growing discontent in the developing world to a consensus that IMF and World Bank policies and associated austerity measures have failed to alleviate poverty or increase development as promised.

She said the lenders' focus on attracting foreign direct investment — often encouraging countries to open national industries to privatization — did not hold water for many. "People no longer believe that it's going to lead to development as promised. They are saying, 'We've tried it for 20 years, and our standard of living is stagnant or worse,'" Klein said. "This recipe has been a colossal failure."

Klein faulted the institutions for being unresponsive to change and too dependent on business interests. "When you have organizations as ideological as these organizations have become, it does make sense to let go of the ideological baggage and start over, to think more clearly," she said. "They should be put out of their misery, I think."

From: Reuters

Posted by Richard
9/27/2002 08:46:25 AM | PermaLink

Activists Address Russia's Radioactive Legacy Before Disaster's Anniversary

Moscow -- The fallout from a catastrophic nuclear dumpsite explosion in Russia's Ural Mountains 45 years ago and decades of radioactive pollution have gravely affected the local population's health, but authorities have done little to assess or limit the damage, environmentalists said Thursday.

On Sept. 29, 1957, a waste tank at the Mayak nuclear weapons plant in the closed city of Chelyabinsk-65 exploded, contaminating 23,000 square kilometers (9,200 square miles) and prompting authorities to evacuate 10,000 residents from neighboring regions.

The city, which was so secret that it didn't appear on Soviet-era maps, has been renamed Ozyorsk but is still closed to outsiders. Some details of the disaster were first released to the public in 1989 as part of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalization drive, but its impact on the local population remains largely unknown even now.

"We will never be able to learn all the consequences of this terrible catastrophe," said Alexei Yablokov, a former Kremlin adviser on environmental security and now head of the nongovernmental Center for Environmental Policy. "No one has kept track of what happened to the evacuated local residents and workers who were sent to clean up the area."

Nadezhda Kutepova, the head of the Planet of Hope environmental group based in Ozyorsk, said that authorities had deliberately destroyed some medical archives to downplay the damage. "People who worked in the disaster area can't prove that," said Kutepova, whose father, a 19-year-old technical college student at the time, was among the men rushed to decontaminate the site several days after the explosion.

"The authorities simply called up all students at the college, put them into trucks, and drove them to the disaster area," Kutepova said. "They rounded up tens of thousands men — soldiers, students, prisoners — all whom they could find."

When Kutepova's father died of lung cancer 28 years after the disaster, the family thought the death was related to the radiation exposure during the clean-up works. However, they couldn't prove anything since they had no documents confirming that he worked in the disaster area, Kutepova said.

Since then, regional officials have run medical checks of clean-up workers living in Ozyorsk and the population in adjacent territories. Still, such inspections involved only a small fraction of people who suffered from the disaster, said Yablokov and other environmental activists.

In addition to the radioactive fallout from the 1957 explosion, Mayak has contaminated vast surrounding areas by regularly dumping nuclear waste into nearby lakes since 1949, when it built the Soviet Union's first reactor to produce plutonium for atomic bombs.

Last year, the local governor warned the federal government that a huge amount of liquid radioactive waste could burst into the region's rivers and trigger an environmental catastrophe. Officials said that more than 400 million cubic meters (14 billion cubic feet) of waste are stored in the Techa River cascade, a series of artificial ponds, channels, and dams intended to hold the waste from Mayak and protect the waterway from further pollution.

Local officials have proposed solving the problem by building a nuclear power plant in the area that would help reduce the amount of waste, but the environmentalists said it would only add to the region's burdensome nuclear legacy.

By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
9/27/2002 08:13:01 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, September 26, 2002

The State of Forests in Vietnam

Michael Silverman writes in:
Plenty of environmentally focused programs and regulations are coming into practice in Vietnam. There has been an increasing awareness of the importance of the environment overall...yet, when you learn of the economic practices that the state and it international donors support, it is difficult to see how the 25% of the remaining forests can be saved. According to a WWF study www.panda.org, Forests with some remaining biodiversity only account for about 9% of Vietnam's forests. The difference between 9% and 25% are large hectres of agroforesty or orchards, while important, are nevertheless not supporting indigenous ecoystems.
---------------
To this I wonder about the use of "wilderness corridors" in Vietnam, or NGO land-stewardship practices? If anyone knows anything about these matters, please contact me.

Posted by Richard
9/26/2002 09:14:44 AM | PermaLink

Porpoise Labeled as Whale Sold in Japan



Tokyo, Japan, (ENS) - Packages labeled "whalemeat" for sale in a Japanese supermarket in May in fact contained porpoise meat, analysis forced by a British environmental group has found. The inaccurate labeling is "illegal" according to the London based Environmental Investigation Agency, a charge the Japanese government denies.

http://ens-news.com/ens/sep2002/2002-09-25-02.asp

Posted by Richard
9/26/2002 07:45:13 AM | PermaLink

Equity in Climate Change: The Great Divide by Benito Müller

Executive Summary and full 100 page study can be obtained from:
www.OxfordClimatePolicy.org

Contents

1. Executive Summary

PART I. DIAGNOSING THE DIVIDE
2. Marrakech Impressions
2.1 Media Coverage: The North; The South
2.2 Ministerial Statements: Developing Country Mitigation Commitments; Developing Country Climate Change Impacts: CG11 and the Umbrella; EIG and EU; G77 and China; The ‘Big Three’; OPEC; The Most Concerned
2.3 Summary Impression
3. The Divide in Literature
3.1 Fair Weather? (Northern) Equity Concerns in Climate Change Fairness Concepts; Local Experiences; Fairness in Economics; Fairness in Social Science; Perspectives from Law and Political Science
3.2 Equity in the IPCC Third Assessment Report
3.3 Conjectures and Conclusions
4. Summary Diagnosis

PART II. BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: REDRESSING THE BALANCE
5. Conceptual Preliminaries
5.1 Monetisation: Economics’ Panacea
5.2 How to Treat Impacts: ‘To Adapt’ or ‘To Manage’?
6. Internat’l Weather-related Disaster Relief: The ‘Demand-side Picture’
6.1 ‘Business-as-Usual’
6.2 Regression Trend Projections
6.3 Climatic Variations from BaU
6.4 Fourier Trend Projections
6.5 Why Disaster Relief Measures? Conclusions from Projections
6.6 What’s Justice got to do with it?
7. Internat’l Weather-related Disaster Relief: The ‘Supply-side Picture’
7.1 International Donor Statistics
7.2 Existing Organisations, Instruments and Initiatives Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC); UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) ; The Internat’l Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC)
7.3 What is the Problem?
8. An FCCC Climate Impact Relief Fund
8.1 The Proposal
8.2 Operational Issues and non-Issues
8.3 The FCCC as Home for Impact Response Measures

Posted by Richard
9/26/2002 07:37:50 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Europe Bans Animal Cannibalism to Curb Mad Cow

This is huge -- experts like John Stauber have been saying for some time that one of the main issues in Mad Cow is to examine the link between feeding animals diseased remains of their own species and the mutation of the brain prions that cause the disease. There is a real reason to believe that the two correlate tremendously.

Of course, this isn't just a problem with farms -- this is a problem for many domestic pet owners right here in the U.S. When was the last time you did any research to see if the dog or cat food your feeding your favorite pooch or feline contains rendered animal fats? Hint: It can be a major brand and veterinarian recommended and still fail this criteria quite easily.

This is not even to mention the phenyl-barbitol that many petfoods include (the chemical used to induce euthanasia)...but don't get me started!
----------------------
Brussels, Belgium (ENS) -- Only material derived from animals declared fit for human consumption following veterinary inspection may be used for the production of animal feed, according to a new regulation adopted by the European Parliament Monday. The regulation also prohibits any form of "cannibalism" within species.

http://ens-news.com/ens/sep2002/2002-09-24-01.asp

Posted by Richard
9/25/2002 08:57:54 PM | PermaLink

Environmentalists Present Referendum 51 Alternative

Environmental groups yesterday detailed how they'd spend billions of dollars in transportation money, saying the Referendum 51 gas-tax proposal is too focused on building roads. The Sierra Club and other groups proposed a new direction that would move away from "trying to build our way out of congestion" and concentrate instead on maintaining existing roads and expanding public transportation. The coalition hopes to defeat the 9-cents-a-gallon gas-tax increase going before voters in November. About $5.8 billion of the $7.8 billion R-51 package would go toward building roads. But only about $2.4 billion of the environmentalists' $7.5 billion proposal would go toward such projects. (09/25/02) Seattle P-I
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/transportation/88491_gastax25.shtml

Posted by Richard
9/25/2002 08:51:59 PM | PermaLink

The State of Pollution Prevention

The Small Business Pollution Prevention Center has recently completed a study of the impact of pollution prevention. The study methods and resulting report is available on the IWRC website.

Pollution prevention programs exist to a degree in every state throughout the United States, with many states having individual local programs. According to the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable's Pollution Prevention Yellow Pages, 98 programs provide direct pollution prevention assistance to businesses. A few programs have been in existence since the 1980s, while most  were established after the passage of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

The intent of this document is to provide a snapshot of the impact these pollution prevention programs have had in the last decade. We have profiled the types of programs in each region where success has been documented. Some statewide programs are missing due to non-response or lack of program measurement data. Local government pollution prevention providers were not included in this initial report. In some instances, this information is as simplistic as the number of on-site visits that have been provided since inception. In other examples, programs have made efforts to document the waste reduction impact and cost savings of their pollution prevention recommendations.

Read and download the report at
http://www.iwrc.org/programs/stateOfP2.cfm

Sue Schauls, Program Manager
Small Business Pollution Prevention Center
IWRC 1-800-422-3109

Posted by Richard
9/25/2002 08:47:33 PM | PermaLink

Sierra Club on Bush / Cheney

Debbie sends in this link to The Big Book of Bush.

Posted by Richard
9/25/2002 08:40:01 PM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Heinz Center Issues Report on State of the Nation's Ecosystems

Unique Collaboration Presents Key Environmental Indicators and Identifies Gaps

Washington D.C. -- A new environmental study identifies major gaps in what is known about the nation's lands, waters, and living resources and proposes periodic reporting of key indicators that will inform and influence policy discussions for generations to come.

The highly anticipated report by The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment is a succinct and comprehensive-yet unbiased and scientifically sound-examination of the current state of the nation's lands, waters, and living resources. An unprecedented collaboration among nearly 150 experts from government, business, environmental organizations, and academia, the study identifies indicators and reports the best available data on conditions and trends.

The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the United States presents a compelling argument for reporting environmental indicators, much as key data are reported to help gauge the state of the national economy.

"Just as economic policies are informed through a set of key indicators such as gross domestic product, inflation, unemployment, and the balance of trade, we as a nation must have clear indicators of the condition of our ecosystems as a basis for shaping public policies and private sector initiatives," said William Clark, a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and chairman of the project.

"Without agreement on what indicators we should use to measure our progress, it is extremely difficult for lawmakers, regulators, and the public to make informed choices about the direction our policies should be taking," said Tom Jorling, Vice President, Environmental Affairs for International Paper, former environmental commissioner in New York State, and the chair of a group of senior advisors for the project. "The State of the Nation's Ecosystems is an important first step toward remedying this unsatisfactory situation."

The report provides indicators for the nation as a whole and for its coasts and oceans, forests, farmlands, fresh waters, grasslands and shrublands, and urban and suburban areas. For each of these systems, the study reports on ten key characteristics of ecosystems that should be tracked over time, and, where the data are available, it describes current conditions and trends. The ten categories, characterized by about 100 indicators in all, are:

* Ecosystem extent - Gains or losses in the area covered by a particular ecosystem
* Fragmentation and landscape pattern - Size, shape, proximity and other patterns of how ecosystems are arranged on the landscape
* Building blocks of life - Amounts and concentrations of key chemicals (nitrogen, phosphorous, carbon, and oxygen) that play vital roles in ecosystems
* Contaminants - The extent of chemical contamination, as well as the frequency with which contaminant levels exceed regulatory standards and advisory guidelines
* Physical conditions - The condition of important physical characteristics of a particular ecosystem, such as coastal erosion or the depth to groundwater
* Plants and animals - The presence and condition of native and non-native species of plants and animals
* Biological communities - The condition of groups of plants and animals that form the "biological neighborhood" for other species
* Plant growth and productivity - The amount of plant growth, which reflects the amount of energy entering an ecosystem and available to all organisms
* Production of food and fiber and use of water - Quantities of goods produced by ecosystems, such as crops, livestock, timber, fish, and water
* Recreation and other services - Activities like swimming, hiking, biking, and hunting, and other services, including plant pollination and flood reduction

"The report brings together in one place indicator data produced by a wide array of excellent but independent environmental monitoring efforts run by both government and private organizations," Clark noted. "These data reveal a rich, complex, and often surprising picture of the state of our nation's ecosystems. Equally important, however, the report shows where that picture is incomplete: nearly half the indicators lack sufficient data."

Participants in the study included representatives of industry and environmental organizations, elected and appointed leaders from local, state and federal government, and scholars. Nine federal agencies and thirteen corporations and foundations funded the project, which was commissioned by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It calls for annual updates and a revised edition every five years.

"This report is particularly important," said Thomas Lovejoy, president of The Heinz Center and formerly an advisor to the World Bank and assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, "Because our participants-including many traditional adversaries-put aside their differences to agree on scientifically grounded and policy-relevant indicators for describing the state of our natural systems."

"Policymaking about the environment will always be contentious in a democracy," Lovejoy said, "But debates on how best to manage our nation's natural resources should not be sidetracked through needless debates about the facts. As a nation, we must embrace these indicators, maintain the essential monitoring programs on which they are based, and launch additional efforts to ensure a comprehensive, sustained national reporting program."

The State of the Nation's Ecosystems is published by Cambridge University Press and is also available in full at www.heinzctr.org/ecosystems.

he text of this press release and a short (~30 page) summary of the report are available at http://www.heinzctr.org/env_press.htm

Posted by Richard
9/24/2002 10:43:40 AM | PermaLink

Herbicide Toxicity

It's rather frightening the lack of awareness in the popular consciousness as to the damage done to adults and children in neighborhoods, family pets, local animals and birds, and ground water supplies from the (over) use of toxic herbicides. The most popular of these products is undoubtably Monsanto's RoundUp -- a product that is well documented to cause everything from terrible nausea to non-hodgkins lymphoma.

But what to do about those weeds? Organic gardeners suggest two things: 1) A new vision of a lawn that is more wild and has a place for native weeds as part of a mini-ecosystem, and 2) The use of more benign products like corn gluten, which act as a safe pre-emergent weed killer when sprinkled upon lawns once or twice a year.

The following is a radio interview with Univ. of Wisconson Professor Warren Porter on toxic herbicides:

via Real Player
via MP3

CURWOOD: A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has found that in laboratory animals, extremely low doses of a common herbicide mixture tend to promote miscarriages. The chemicals are found in many commercial farming and consumer lawn care products.

Joining me now is Warren Porter. He’s a zoologist and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and was a principal researcher on this study. Professor Porter, welcome to Living on Earth.

PORTER: Thank you very much. Hello.

CURWOOD: Professor, why did you choose to exam this particular batch of chemicals?

PORTER: I chose to use that particular batch of chemicals because it was an extremely common herbicide being used by a very well-known lawn care company. And it was available on shelves for personal use. Our particular weed and feed mixture contains dicamba, and it contains 2,4-D, and it contains mecoprop.

CURWOOD: Walk us through the method you used in this study, if you could, please.

PORTER: Basically, we simply took it off the shelf, diluted it to the appropriate concentrations that match some of the EPA recommended levels, and went above and below that, and gave it to our mice in their drinking water so that we could get known concentrations, and let them get pregnant and have their babies. And then, we tested the babies and the moms.

CURWOOD: So, what were your results?

PORTER: We found that there were pregnancy losses up to 20%, basically losses of fetuses by miscarriage. And as we went down in dose, the lower we went, the greater the effect. We got down to 20% loss of the fetuses that were originally implanted. Twenty percent of those were lost. We don’t actually know yet how low we can go and still get effects.

CURWOOD: Now Professor, this seems really counterintuitive that the lower the dose of the herbicide, the stronger the effect, that is, more spontaneous abortions you saw in the mice that you studied. How could that be?

PORTER: We think that what’s happening here is that these lower doses are closer to the natural body hormone levels. And it’s interfering with the establishment of pregnancy or the maintenance of pregnancy.

CURWOOD: So, how does the amount that you found to have an effect compare with what we’d commonly find in our drinking water?

PORTER: Well, these levels are below what you could find in water here in this country.

CURWOOD: I think it’s fair to say that there’s rarely a straight line from an animal study to potential implications for human health. But, what about the results of this study do you find troubling in that regard?

PORTER: Well, there’s an awful lot of loss of human fetuses. Over 50% of fetuses currently conceived are lost. What really bothers me is the tremendous increase we’re seeing in childhood developmental problems, especially learning disabilities, behavior disabilities, and birth defects. All of these may be associated with environmental contaminants of various kinds, and some of them might be associated with herbicides.

CURWOOD: In this mix of chemicals that you’ve tested, one of them, 2,4-D, is a fairly common herbicide, perhaps the most common herbicide these days. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is now performing a safety review of 2,4-D and drinking water. The EPA is supposed to make a final decision on 2,4-D in the year 2004. Tell us, Professor, what’s your message to regulators if, indeed, a smaller dose seems to have a more potent effect than a larger one?

PORTER: We need to be looking in the world of the physiological realm rather than the pharmacological realm. We have been finding that at ultra low doses you really get into a completely different world instead of a toxicological, poison kind of world. You’re down into the low dose physiological ranges where we’re talking parts per trillion to parts per billion, which is where the body tends to operate.

But, you know, the question almost is-- how shall I say this? I think it needs to be rephrased. Because, you see, the focus is on 2,4-D. And, in our study, the focus was on the product that the consumer buys. Now, the reason that I make this distinction is because, when you look at 2,4-D, that chemical has been purified. And, only recently, very recently, have I found out that 2,4-D and dicamba, two of the three ingredients in this weed and feed mix are still being contaminated with dioxin. This is a very potent endocrine disrupter. And it, in fact, may have a partial role in some of the results that we have found.

CURWOOD: Warren Porter is a toxicologist and zoologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Thanks for joining me today.

PORTER: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

CURWOOD: If you’d like to read an EPA Consumer Fact Sheet on the herbicide, 2,4-D, including the brand names of products that contain the chemical, you can go to our website at loe.org.

Links for this story:

Dr. Warren Porter’s website
An EPA consumer fact sheet on 2,4-D
– See the study, published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives


Posted by Richard
9/24/2002 02:55:05 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, September 23, 2002

Happy Equinox Everybody: Turn, Turn, Turn

To every thing, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep



To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together


To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 11:07:40 AM | PermaLink

Community Forestry Takes Root in Bolivia

Michael Silverman sends this story in from his research at the University of Southern California:
Indigenous communities take sustainable and profitable control of local timber resources.


Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 11:02:02 AM | PermaLink

Right-whale Calf May be the First Seen in North Pacific in a Century

The first northern right-whale calf to be seen in the eastern North Pacific Ocean in perhaps a century was reported yesterday by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Marine mammal specialists at the service called the sighting a cause for celebration. "The North Pacific right-whale population is in danger of extinction. A mother and calf embody hope for the whales," said Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for the fisheries service in Alaska. The northern right whale is the most endangered whale in the world, the agency said. (09/22/02) Seattle Times
http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=whale21&date=20020921

Panel Says Health of Seas in Peril (09/23/02) Seattle P-I
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apwashington_story.asp?category=1152&slug=Managing%20Oceans

Ocean woes growing deeper, new panel finds (09/23/02) Seattle Times
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/134540834_oceans23.html

Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 10:38:29 AM | PermaLink

Gov. Davis Basts Bush Forestry Initiative

This is interesting and meaningful -- California being a political power broker, significant forestry reserve, and scene of some this past season's largest wildfires. It is also the state in which turn-coat Sen. Dianne Feinstein refused to back a Sierra Club initiative against the Bush logging plan and instead joined ranks with some of the most agressive anti-environmental Senators of the right-wing to call for quick and increased logging. If you'll remember, this was part of the same alliance that I predicted would lead to a new proposal to drill the ANWR -- which the contemptible Sec. Norton is now trying to force through Congress yet again.

As election season is upon us, Gov. Davis has recently stepped up his rhetoric and is promoting a series of environmental accords and programs -- now going so far to clash openly with his state's most powerful Democratic senator. We can only take this to mean that the past year's revelations of Davis's own big-business friendly term in office have hurt him with a left-leaning political base that feels strongly about the environment and that Green-candidate Peter Camejo is doing stronger than expected, as Republican-crook Bill Simon dips further into his millions to keep his hopes alive.

------------------
Inserting itself into the national debate over forest fires, the Davis administration has issued a strong critique of President Bush's "Healthy Forests" initiative, saying the White House is scapegoating environmentalists for this summer's rash of wildfires. "The president's initiative is based on the assumption that the environmentalists are a major cause of the problem," state Resources Secretary Mary Nichols wrote in a Sept. 16 letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "Ascribing blame further polarizes the issue and threatens to unravel the consensus we have built for fuel-reduction work in California." For the first time, the Davis administration also urged Bush to support the Sierra Nevada framework, which reduces logging in the Sierra but encourages more removal of bush and trees near mountain communities. The plan has come under scrutiny by the president's top forestry officials. (09/23/02) Sacramento Bee
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/environment/story/4505272p-5524937c.html

Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 10:35:41 AM | PermaLink

Putting a Lid on the Light: Inefficient Use of Artificial Light is Having a Detrimental Effect on Creatures Great and Small

Long before "light pollution" entered the lexicon, Carlos Lastreto worried about it.

The California ornithologist had heard rumors that migrating birds were dying around lighthouses. In 1917, he and colleagues from the Audubon Association of the Pacific wrote to federal lighthouse keepers, asked them to keep track of the deaths of night-migrating bird at the 37 lighthouses along the coast, then tallied the results.

The survey largely absolved the lighthouses. But after 85 years of population growth and urban sprawl in the United States – as well as more rigorous studies about the biological effects of light – scientists across the country are becoming increasingly concerned about the effect that inefficient use of artificial lights may be having having on plants and creatures great and small.

In the process, they are adding a slowly growing set of voices to an issue already of considerable interest to professional and amateur astronomers, states and cities that want to cut energy bills, and just about anyone who heads out into the backyard on a clear night to find the stars or watch an aurora, only to find them shrouded by the sky glow.

"We're in jeopardy of losing the whole night sky this century," warns Dan Green, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

At issue is the widespread use of increasingly efficient but powerful outdoor lights – along highways, at malls, in housing developments, and even in rural areas – that shine out and up, as well as down, often spreading the light where it isn't needed. Wasted outdoor lighting adds roughly $1 billion a year to the nation's energy bill, according to the International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, Ariz.

For homes and small businesses, lighting research has spawned halogen and metal-halide lights that pack a more-luminous punch in a smaller package than their incandescent ancestors, and they are cheaper to run, Mr. Green explains. So more people install them. During the past decade, he continues, homebuilders have put finishing touches on new construction by hanging large, clear-lensed coach lights by the front door or mounting them on posts at the ends of a driveway, while unshielded floodlights bathe garage entrances and back decks with more light than they need.

Meanwhile, many cities and towns line their streets with unshielded lights, often with little background knowledge of how the light will behave in combination with the lighting already present.

"Many communities don't even know how many streetlights they have," he adds. "Police say we need a light at this intersection, and the town puts one in" without examining whether lighting levels already are adequate.

In the 1950s and '60s, astronomers began to press for city ordinances to curb light pollution that was affecting major telescope facilities, such as the Kitt Peak Observatories south of Tucson. Sky glow not only was brightening the dark skies that drew astronomers to the area initially. The light also was difficult to filter.

But in the 1970s, as research into light's effect on organisms' "biological clocks" and nocturnal behavior patterns, more biologists took closer note of artificial lighting's effect on a range of organisms, according to Melissa Grigione, an environmental science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

During the past 25 years, she says, much of this work has focused on small amphibians, reptiles, and birds.

Captivated by light from skyscrapers and radio towers, for example, night-migrating birds were found to orbit them until they dropped out of the sky from exhaustion or after colliding with other birds in the migration flock or with structures. Since 1993, skyscrapers in Toronto alone have claimed 15,000 birds, including threatened and endangered species, according to the Fatal Light Awareness Program in Toronto.

In Florida, "it was shown early that sea turtles were really affected by light in an area," Dr. Grigione adds. Beaches along the state's Atlantic coast are breeding grounds for Western Atlantic loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtles. Researchers found that lights from roads and a lengthening necklace of condos and hotels along the beaches discouraged female turtles from laying eggs. If they did lay eggs, hatchlings would leave their shells and head toward the lights instead of the ocean, only to become roadkill or meals for terrestrial predators.

Now, she says, researchers are gaining the tools to examine light pollution's effect on less visible organisms.

To see what effect artificial light may have on lakes and ponds in urban areas, two researchers at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., have developed techniques to measure the intensity and spectra of artificial light as it changes with depth. After looking at five New England lakes in a range of urban and suburban settings, Marianne Moore and Susan Kohler calculated that aquatic organisms can detect artificial light to a depth of roughly three meters (about 9 feet) and found that it could have a marked effect on their night maneuvers.

Small invertebrates that ordinarily rise to feed on surface algae at night become less active grazers in the presence of increasing amounts of light. As light-pollution levels rise, the results suggest that some of the region's ponds and lakes could experience more algae blooms and lower water quality.

Some worry that excessive lighting could undercut conservation efforts in states such as California, where ecologists have tried to ensure that corridors of land link habitats isolated by suburban development. The corridors allow groups of endangered or threatened species to follow their normal migration patterns or find new breeding partners.

Studies in California about the effect of artificial light on mountain lions, who tend to avoid bright lights, suggest that light pollution "could have a severe impact on the corridors" by discouraging the movement of animals that travel under the cover of darkness, says Travis Longcore, scientific director for the Urban Wildlands Group, an environmental organization in Los Angeles.

As the constituency for more conservation-minded lighting has grown, so have the number of states, counties, and towns that have built provisions into building codes requiring the use of shielded lights. So far, nine states have adopted so-called "dark sky" provisions, which are under consideration in 11 more.

IN California, where the state's energy crisis sparked a range of conservation measures, the state energy commission is getting public comment on proposed outdoor-lighting standards required by a statute enacted last year. Under the proposal, standards for commercial as well as government lighting would apply to new buildings and to projects that require more than half of a structure's outdoor lighting to be replaced.

"This really is an extension of the experience we gained from code changes for indoor lighting," says Mazi Shirakh, senior mechanical engineer with the Energy Commission. He adds that 40 percent of the estimated 4,000 megawatts the state has saved through conservation regulations since 1988 has come through changes in indoor-lighting codes.

The Smithsonian's Green, who has been active in trying to get similar legislation through the Massachusetts legislature, notes that once code changes appear at the state level, "they tend to cascade through the whole state." Moreover, the economic clout of states such as California provides a big incentive for lighting manufacturers to develop the fixtures to meet the requirements.

Emphasizing that groups such as his are not out to ban outdoor lighting, Green adds, "all we're asking is that lights be shielded and the output be reduced" to levels sufficient to do the job.

"Night is a place of its own," adds Catherine Rich, executive director of the Urban Wildlands Group. "We need to plan for the night."

By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
E-mail spottsp@csps.com

Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 09:50:07 AM | PermaLink

Putting a Lid on the Light: Inefficient Use of Artificial Light is Having a Detrimental Efect on Creatures Great and Small

Long before "light pollution" entered the lexicon, Carlos Lastreto worried about it.

The California ornithologist had heard rumors that migrating birds were dying around lighthouses. In 1917, he and colleagues from the Audubon Association of the Pacific wrote to federal lighthouse keepers, asked them to keep track of the deaths of night-migrating bird at the 37 lighthouses along the coast, then tallied the results.

The survey largely absolved the lighthouses. But after 85 years of population growth and urban sprawl in the United States – as well as more rigorous studies about the biological effects of light – scientists across the country are becoming increasingly concerned about the effect that inefficient use of artificial lights may be having having on plants and creatures great and small.

In the process, they are adding a slowly growing set of voices to an issue already of considerable interest to professional and amateur astronomers, states and cities that want to cut energy bills, and just about anyone who heads out into the backyard on a clear night to find the stars or watch an aurora, only to find them shrouded by the sky glow.

"We're in jeopardy of losing the whole night sky this century," warns Dan Green, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

At issue is the widespread use of increasingly efficient but powerful outdoor lights – along highways, at malls, in housing developments, and even in rural areas – that shine out and up, as well as down, often spreading the light where it isn't needed. Wasted outdoor lighting adds roughly $1 billion a year to the nation's energy bill, according to the International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, Ariz.

For homes and small businesses, lighting research has spawned halogen and metal-halide lights that pack a more-luminous punch in a smaller package than their incandescent ancestors, and they are cheaper to run, Mr. Green explains. So more people install them. During the past decade, he continues, homebuilders have put finishing touches on new construction by hanging large, clear-lensed coach lights by the front door or mounting them on posts at the ends of a driveway, while unshielded floodlights bathe garage entrances and back decks with more light than they need.

Meanwhile, many cities and towns line their streets with unshielded lights, often with little background knowledge of how the light will behave in combination with the lighting already present.

"Many communities don't even know how many streetlights they have," he adds. "Police say we need a light at this intersection, and the town puts one in" without examining whether lighting levels already are adequate.

In the 1950s and '60s, astronomers began to press for city ordinances to curb light pollution that was affecting major telescope facilities, such as the Kitt Peak Observatories south of Tucson. Sky glow not only was brightening the dark skies that drew astronomers to the area initially. The light also was difficult to filter.

But in the 1970s, as research into light's effect on organisms' "biological clocks" and nocturnal behavior patterns, more biologists took closer note of artificial lighting's effect on a range of organisms, according to Melissa Grigione, an environmental science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

During the past 25 years, she says, much of this work has focused on small amphibians, reptiles, and birds.

Captivated by light from skyscrapers and radio towers, for example, night-migrating birds were found to orbit them until they dropped out of the sky from exhaustion or after colliding with other birds in the migration flock or with structures. Since 1993, skyscrapers in Toronto alone have claimed 15,000 birds, including threatened and endangered species, according to the Fatal Light Awareness Program in Toronto.

In Florida, "it was shown early that sea turtles were really affected by light in an area," Dr. Grigione adds. Beaches along the state's Atlantic coast are breeding grounds for Western Atlantic loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtles. Researchers found that lights from roads and a lengthening necklace of condos and hotels along the beaches discouraged female turtles from laying eggs. If they did lay eggs, hatchlings would leave their shells and head toward the lights instead of the ocean, only to become roadkill or meals for terrestrial predators.

Now, she says, researchers are gaining the tools to examine light pollution's effect on less visible organisms.

To see what effect artificial light may have on lakes and ponds in urban areas, two researchers at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., have developed techniques to measure the intensity and spectra of artificial light as it changes with depth. After looking at five New England lakes in a range of urban and suburban settings, Marianne Moore and Susan Kohler calculated that aquatic organisms can detect artificial light to a depth of roughly three meters (about 9 feet) and found that it could have a marked effect on their night maneuvers.

Small invertebrates that ordinarily rise to feed on surface algae at night become less active grazers in the presence of increasing amounts of light. As light-pollution levels rise, the results suggest that some of the region's ponds and lakes could experience more algae blooms and lower water quality.

Some worry that excessive lighting could undercut conservation efforts in states such as California, where ecologists have tried to ensure that corridors of land link habitats isolated by suburban development. The corridors allow groups of endangered or threatened species to follow their normal migration patterns or find new breeding partners.

Studies in California about the effect of artificial light on mountain lions, who tend to avoid bright lights, suggest that light pollution "could have a severe impact on the corridors" by discouraging the movement of animals that travel under the cover of darkness, says Travis Longcore, scientific director for the Urban Wildlands Group, an environmental organization in Los Angeles.

As the constituency for more conservation-minded lighting has grown, so have the number of states, counties, and towns that have built provisions into building codes requiring the use of shielded lights. So far, nine states have adopted so-called "dark sky" provisions, which are under consideration in 11 more.

IN California, where the state's energy crisis sparked a range of conservation measures, the state energy commission is getting public comment on proposed outdoor-lighting standards required by a statute enacted last year. Under the proposal, standards for commercial as well as government lighting would apply to new buildings and to projects that require more than half of a structure's outdoor lighting to be replaced.

"This really is an extension of the experience we gained from code changes for indoor lighting," says Mazi Shirakh, senior mechanical engineer with the Energy Commission. He adds that 40 percent of the estimated 4,000 megawatts the state has saved through conservation regulations since 1988 has come through changes in indoor-lighting codes.

The Smithsonian's Green, who has been active in trying to get similar legislation through the Massachusetts legislature, notes that once code changes appear at the state level, "they tend to cascade through the whole state." Moreover, the economic clout of states such as California provides a big incentive for lighting manufacturers to develop the fixtures to meet the requirements.

Emphasizing that groups such as his are not out to ban outdoor lighting, Green adds, "all we're asking is that lights be shielded and the output be reduced" to levels sufficient to do the job.

"Night is a place of its own," adds Catherine Rich, executive director of the Urban Wildlands Group. "We need to plan for the night."

By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
E-mail spottsp@csps.com

Posted by Richard
9/23/2002 09:48:11 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, September 22, 2002

Experts Say Nuclear Plants Can Survive Jetliner Crash

Here's a question that I wish these experts would answer: If, as they say, it is true that an aircraft flying at 480 mph was flown into the type of concrete wall that surrounds the reactors and it only penetrated about two inches, how is it that a single plane was able to penetrate an entire wing of the Pentagon's concrete structure, damaging an additional two inner rings, especially when this plane would have had to have been traveling at far less than 480 mph in order to navigate its descent as it did?

The conspiracy continues...
--------------------
Washington D.C. -- Seeking to counter assertions that the nation's nuclear plants are vulnerable to attacks like the one on the World Trade Center, 19 prominent nuclear experts have concluded that a reactor containment building could easily withstand the force of a jetliner crash.

But the federal laboratory that conducted a major test cited by the experts says its experiment was not meant to demonstrate anything about reactors' structural soundness.

The 19 experts, many of them retired, work or worked at universities or companies that build or operate reactors. In an article on Friday in the journal Science, they dismiss fears voiced by opponents of nuclear power that the nation's reactors are vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

"We read that airplanes can fly through the reinforced, steel-lined 1.5-meter-thick concrete walls surrounding a nuclear reactor," the article says, "and inevitably cause a meltdown resulting in `tens of thousands of deaths' and `make a huge area uninhabitable for centuries,' to quote some recent stories." But, they add, "no airplane regardless of size, can fly through such a wall."

The article says the scenario "was actually tested in 1988 by mounting an unmanned plane on rails and `flying' it at 215 meters per second (about 480 m.p.h.) into a test wall." The engines penetrated only about two inches and the fuselage even less, according to the article.

But the relevance of the test, conducted at Sandia National Laboratories, has long been in dispute. People who opposed nuclear power before Sept. 11 pointed out that the test wall moved several feet; the movement reduced the damage by absorbing some of the force of impact.

At Sandia, a spokesman, John German, said the point of the test was to move the wall, as a way to measure the impact forces. The test was sponsored by the Muto Institute of Structural Mechanics Inc., of Tokyo, as a preliminary step in building a computer model of such impacts, but the Japanese decided not to sponsor the next step, Mr. German said.

Asked if it showed that a plane could not penetrate a dome, he said, "We've been trying like heck to shoot down this rumor."

Mr. German said: "That test was designed to measure the impact force of a fighter jet. But the wall was not being tested. No structure was being tested."

The nuclear experts contend that the test makes their point nevertheless. The opponents of nuclear power have argued that the plane in the Sandia test, an F-4 Phantom, weighs far less than a jumbo jet.

But James Muckerheide, a nuclear engineer who is the co-director of the Center for Nuclear Technology and Society at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, on whose work the authors relied, said in an e-mail response to a reporter's question that penetrating a reactor containment building would take far more than an airliner. Compared with the F-4, Mr. Muckerheide said, "a large passenger aircraft is a slow, empty, tin can."

"The mass of the aircraft can put a heavy compression load on the containment structure," he said, "but it has negligible penetrating ability."

The containment building can withstand huge compression loads, he argued. The fact that the block in the Sandia test moved had a trivial effect, Mr. Muckerheide said.

Whether a containment building is the soft spot of a nuclear plant is also not clear. Most of the radioactivity in a power plant is in the spent fuel pool, which, critics note, is usually in a building that is far less sturdy.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is conducting an engineering analysis of the vulnerability of power plants to aircraft attack, Sue Gagner, an agency spokeswoman, said. "If warranted by the ongoing detailed analysis, we will consider changes," Ms. Gagner said.

Articles in Science, like those in many scientific journals, are reviewed before publication by experts not connected with the authors. But the magazine's editor in chief, Donald Kennedy, said that if there was a difference between the authors and the group that performed the experiment, "they're going to thrash it out in our letters column, and we'll let them do it."

The magazine is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Posted by Richard
9/22/2002 02:40:15 PM | PermaLink

Faster Environmental Reviews Sought, Critics Say Bush Undermining Laws on Transportation Projects

President Bush's decision this week to order federal agencies to speed up environmental reviews of major transportation projects marks the latest in a series of administration challenges to long-standing environmental protection measures.

An executive order issued late Wednesday calls on the secretary of transportation to draw up a list of high-priority projects, such as highways, bridges, tunnels and airports, that would receive "expedited agency reviews" for permits and other required approvals.

Bush also established an interagency transportation task force to identify overlapping or overly restrictive federal, state and tribal regulations that are holding back construction of high-profile federal projects. The task force will be headed by the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and would include the secretaries of transportation, agriculture, commerce, interior and defense, as well as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency..

"Too many transportation projects become mired for too long in the complex web of clearances required by federal and state law," said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

However, some environmentalists charged that the administration is systematically chipping away at environmental protections under the guise of "streamlining" regulations.

Deron Lovaas of the Natural Resources Defense Council's "Smart Growth Program" said the president's executive order "is in keeping with the administration's campaign from day one to undermine the laws that protect our environment and public health."

The Council on Environmental Quality already has launched a review of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with an eye to proposing changes in the law to remove what it considers to be obstacles to governmental decision-making. The 32-year-old NEPA requires federal agencies to study and disclose the environmental impacts of their actions and to include public input in regulatory decision-making.

Last month, Bush cited this summer's Western wildfires in proposing legislation to waive NEPA environmental impact reviews and appeals to speed up selective logging and other fire-prevention activities in high-risk areas of national forests.

Administration officials say the changes are needed to reduce unnecessary regulatory obstacles that have hindered active forest management in fire-prone areas. But environmentalists say Bush is trying to overturn decades of crucial environmental safeguards against rampant commercial logging.

Bush's plan has run into stiff opposition from Senate Democrats.

On another front, the administration has contended that NEPA does not apply outside of U.S. territorial waters in a legal dispute over a Navy sonar testing program that environmentalists charge is harming whales.

Mineta said that by working closely with governors, congressional committees and stakeholders, the administration hopes to identify effective procedures for routinely expediting consideration of environmentally sound transportation projects. On average, Mineta said, it takes 10 years to complete a new airport and 13 years to complete a highway project.

Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, said it supports Bush's latest executive order for speeding up environmentally sound projects, provided that it is not used to speed up reviews for projects "with large adverse impacts on the environment."

By Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 20, 2002; Page A27

Posted by Richard
9/22/2002 02:30:45 PM | PermaLink

Massachusetts Lawsuit Would Limit Hunting of Farmed Phesants in Cape Cod

Wildlife advocates sued the National Park Service to prevent the agency from stocking the Cape Cod National Seashore with Asian pheasants for a six-week hunting season this fall. The park service, the advocates say, is violating its own policy that prohibits the release of nonnative and exotic wildlife into the reservation. The Asian pheasants are farm-raised, tame and have little chance of survival in the wild, said the suit, which was brought by the Fund for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and several Cape Cod residents.  (AP)

Posted by Richard
9/22/2002 02:11:21 PM | PermaLink