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Saturday, November 02, 2002

The Challenges of Teaching Sustainability

In order for sustainability to become -- pardon the pun -- sustainable, it's going to have to take hold in education. After all, the defining principle of sustainability is to provide future generations with an equal chance at success as the current generation, so it makes sense to get young people involved as much as possible. But as Portland State University professors Dave Ervin and Craig Shinn pointed out at their presentation "Sustainable Literacy: The Educational Challenge," part of the Sustainability Now! workshop series, incorporating sustainability into higher education poses some unique challenges.

by Derek Reiber

Posted by Richard
11/02/2002 09:39:15 AM | PermaLink

California Voters Alerted to Water Contamination

San Francisco, California (ENS) - Deteriorating water works, pollution, and outdated treatment technology are combining to deliver drinking water that might pose health risks to residents in four of California's largest cities, a new report warns.

While tap water quality in Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco meets most federal and state safety standards, it still contains pollutants that pose health and environmental risks, concludes the early release California edition of, "What's On Tap? Grading Drinking Water in U.S. Cities."

"Most Californians take it for granted that their tap water is pure and their water infrastructure is safe," said Erik Olson, principal author of the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Our report shows that they shouldn't."

The four city California report is part of a larger one on water supplies in 19 cities nationwide that the NRDC will publish in the next few months. The environmental group decided to release the California section early to let voters know about the problems before they vote next Tuesday on Proposition 50, a ballot initiative that would authorize $3.4 billion to protect water resources.

The NRDC report found no confirmed violations of enforceable federal tap water standards in the four cities, but concluded that infrastructure and other problems in each of the municipal water supplies might pose health risks to some residents.

Although the report does not advise residents to stop drinking tap water, it cites medical experts who suggest that pregnant women and parents of infants consult with their health care providers.

Echoing recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NRDC also urged that people who have serious immune system problems, such as those taking some cancer chemotherapy drugs or people with HIV/AIDS, consult with their health care providers regarding the safety of drinking tap water.

Fresno's water supply, which the report cites as the worst of the four, has serious problems caused by nitrates, pesticides and industrial chemicals. To address these concerns, the report recommends that Fresno improve its waterworks infrastructure and source water protection.

Perhaps acknowledging the problem, the city of Fresno this year urged that pregnant women and parents of infants consult with their health care providers about their tap water.

"Nitrates and other contaminants are a serious problem in Fresno's tap water," said Dr. Beatte Ritz of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Public Health. "Last year the city itself told pregnant women to avoid drinking it. That's good advice."

San Francisco's water supply exceeds a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tap water standard for trihalomethanes, a family of toxic chemicals unintentionally created when chlorine is used as a disinfectant. The standard took effect nationally in 2002, but the EPA has granted the city an extension until 2004 to meet it.

The report recommends that San Francisco make major water treatment and infrastructure improvements to address its water quality problems. But it also notes the city's source water protection effort, which includes working with ranchers in the Alameda watershed to prevent cattle from polluting waterways.

Los Angeles also has significant levels of chlorine byproducts, as well as substantial concentrations of arsenic. Although below the new EPA standard, the arsenic levels there are high enough, according to the National Academy of Sciences, to pose a significant cancer risk.

Sections of the Los Angeles water supply have elevated levels of radioactive and cancer causing radon, and levels of the rocket fuel perchlorate - a thyroid toxin - that exceed the California health warning level and the EPA's draft safe level. The system's water also is compromised by uncovered reservoirs, and some city well water shows elevated nitrate levels.

All of these problems will require major infrastructure and treatment improvements, and stronger measures to protect Los Angeles water sources from pollution, according to the report.

San Diego's water supply has a high level of trihalomethanes - averaging slightly below the new EPA standard but still posing a risk to public health - and perchlorate in parts of the system at levels higher than the state's action level and the draft EPA safe level.

The San Diego water supply also has other contaminants that, while not at levels high enough to trigger violations, exceed EPA health standards.

The contaminants include ethylene dibromide, a carcinogen and reproductive toxin; lead; and three cancer causing radioactive elements. The report concluds that, like the other cities, San Diego needs to protect its source water from pollution and make significant investments to improve water treatment and infrastructure.

To protect drinking water sources, the report recommends that the state and cities upgrade drinking water treatment, invest in water conservation measures, and replace and update pipes and water distribution system components.

The report also recommends that state and municipal authorities purchase land or easements, and adopt standards to protect watersheds and areas above aquifers draining into California water supplies.

"The problems NRDC's report found in four major California cities are emblematic of what both large and small municipalities are facing across the state," said Marguerite Young of California Clean Water Action. "And on November 5, California voters have an opportunity to do something about it: Pass Proposition 50. Prop. 50 will provide critically needed funds to improve drinking water quality infrastructure, prevent water pollution, and promote water conservation."

Young also urged the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board to approve new controls for agricultural discharges, which pollute the drinking water supply of millions of Californians.

The report reviews each of the cities' mandated right to know reports, which are designed to inform residents about water system problems. Among other things, the NRDC found that San Francisco failed to include a required warning for immune compromised people regarding the potential risks posed by pathogens in its water, San Diego failed to disclose the levels of radioactive and other contaminants in its water, and Fresno buried critical information about high nitrate levels in footnotes.

The Los Angeles right to know report received relatively high marks for revealing tap and source water problems.

"Fresno, San Diego and San Francisco don't adequately inform their residents about contamination," said NRDC's Olson. "Californians have a right to know what's in their tap water and whether it might harm them."

An executive summary of the report is available at:

Posted by Richard
11/02/2002 09:35:46 AM | PermaLink

U.S. Tested a Nerve Gas in Hawaii

Yet another declassified document that proves how incredibly irresponsible and insane the American military mindset has been in the past. President Eisenhower once remarked that our age was the time in which our abilities in science and technology far out-stripped our emotional maturity -- that is: we have developed any number of ways to destroy the planet but we have figured out very few ways in which to save it. The modern compulsion to have militarists secretly testing weapons of mass destruction without ethical review is a product of the syndrome that Ike attempted to speak to. Remember, this is the same 5-star general that warned that the implosion of militarists into the control mechanisms of state spelled doom for democracy and the nation's ideals.

Now, from terrible ocean-to-ocean sonars to nuclear-tipped missle defense systems being exploded in the high atmosphere to new forms of monstrous biotic and chemical agents being cooked up in military labs, we stand neck deep in the midst of Ike's crisis. If we are worth anything to the coming generations, we will do everything in our power to implore the powers that be to end this madness. And it must be all of us: the united peoples of the earth -- the test subjects. For without a united effort, nations never will disarm for fears of geopolitical weakness and insecurity.

Let's say it over the internet (for starters) and then in the streets over and over again: stop! This is not the world we want to live in. We are not to be tested upon and delivered unto the fatalism of cancer and other forms of radiological, chemical, or biological mutation. Military-free zones of peace must be established everywhere now!
Washington -- In the latest release of once-classified reports on chemical warfare tests during the cold war, the Pentagon said today that it detonated artillery shells and rockets filled with deadly Sarin gas in Hawaii in 1967.

There were no reports of military personnel or civilians being exposed to the nerve agent during the tests, conducted in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve, a dense rain forest on the island of Hawaii, Pentagon officials said.

Sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent that is absorbed through the nose, mouth, eyes and, to a lesser extent, the skin, can block breathing, dim vision and, in sufficient doses, bring on coma and death.

It dissipates to nondeadly levels after a few hours, Pentagon health officials said. Even so, the Pentagon report said, "very little information is available regarding long-term health effects following exposures to low levels that do not cause acute symptoms."

According to the reports, released today by the Deployment Health Support Directorate, a branch of the Pentagon office of Health Affairs, the Army detonated warheads filled with Sarin in the forest reserve in April and May of 1967.

The goal of the test, named Red Oak, Phase 1, was to "evaluate the effectiveness of Sarin-filled 155-mm artillery projectiles and 115-mm rocket warheads in a tropical jungle environment," the report states.

Barbara Goodno, a spokeswoman for the Deployment Health Support Directorate, said the tests were in a "remote location, far away from any populated area."

The five new studies released today are the latest in a series of declassified reports about the chemical warfare experiments. Pentagon officials said 46 exercises were conducted by the Deseret Test Center, based at Fort Douglas, Utah, from 1962 to 1973. Today's release brings to 41 the number of tests whose reports have been declassified.

The tests were not conducted to study the effects of chemical and biological weapons on human health. Instead, those on land were to learn more about how chemical and biological weapons would be affected by climate, environment and other combat conditions. Tests at sea were intended to gauge the vulnerability of warships and how they might respond to attack.

The Defense Department is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify an estimated 5,500 people believed to have participated in the land and sea tests. It is not known whether all the military personnel were fully aware of the nature of the exercises and the potential risks.

The new reports also describe three previously unknown tests that were conducted using less-toxic substances in the Panama Canal Zone, and another in an unspecified jungle location.

CS gas, commonly known as tear gas, was used in the jungle location.

In tests conducted in the Canal Zone, a biological agent called Bacillus globigii, in the same family as anthrax, was sprayed to simulate the dispersal of a more lethal biological warfare substance.

At the time, Bacillus globigii was considered harmless, but in the intervening years medical experts have determined that it could cause acute infections in people with weakened immune systems.

One series of tests in the Canal Zone, in which Bacillus globigii was sprayed by aircraft, was conducted near the Fort Sherman Military Reservation in February and March 1963. In a related series of tests, the substance was exploded from bomblets in Hawaii in April and May 1966.

By Thom Shanker, NY Times

Posted by Richard
11/02/2002 09:30:18 AM | PermaLink

Friday, November 01, 2002

U.S. Navy Sonar System Blocked by Federal Court

Thank god -- everyone should send an email of thanks and support to the reasonable and honorable Judge LaPorte. If only more of her ilk, existed!
San Francisco, California, (ENS) - A federal judge today issued a preliminary injunction stopping the U.S. Navy from deployment of a new high intensity sonar system that could hurt or kill whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles with its loud signals.

Granting a request by five environmental groups, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service issued the Navy a permit that likely violates federal law.

On July 15, the Navy received its permit to "harass marine mammals" in the course of operating low frequency sonar used to detect submarines while remaining outside the range of their onboard weapons. The Navy has been approved to deploy two ships that use the new sonar system.

Judge LaPorte found that the plaintiff environmental groups, "have shown that they are likely to prevail on establishing violations" of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

"They have also shown the possibility, indeed probability, of irreparable injury, particularly under the liberal standard applicable under these statutes," the judge found.

Scheduled for immediate deployment, the sonar system, known as Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active sonar (SURTASS LFA), relies on very loud, low frequency sound to detect submarines at great distances.

The environmental groups argued that the survival of entire populations of whales and other marine mammals are jeopardized by the deployment of this sonar, which has been measured at 140 decibels 300 miles away from the sound's source.

Judge LaPorte agreed. "It is undisputed that marine mammals, many of whom depend on sensitive hearing for essential activities like finding food and mates and avoiding predators, and some of whom are endangered species, will at a minimum be harassed by the extremely loud and far traveling LFA sonar," she wrote.

No Navy spokesperson was available for comment on the injunction. But the Navy maintains that SURTASS LFA is an essential component of the U.S. defense arsenal.

"Currently there are 224 submarines operated by non-allied nations, and the submarines prowling the world's oceans today are much quieter and more deadly than ever before," the Navy says on its LFA website. "An undetected enemy submarine is an underwater terrorist, threatening any surface ship or coastline within its range."

Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Marine Mammals Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the lead plaintiff in the case, said, "Today's decision is a crucial step to protect our oceans and, in particular, whales and other marine mammals that depend on hearing for their very survival."

National Marine Fisheries officials respond to a pilot whale stranding. (Photo courtesy NMFS)

"Deployment of LFA over 75 percent of the world's oceans, more than 14 million square miles in the first year alone, threatens marine life on a staggering and unprecedented geographic scale, not just the 'small number of marine mammals' that the law allows, but countless marine mammals around the world," Reynolds said.

There are two types of sonar - passive and active. Passive sonar listens for noises in the water. Active sonar sends out a loud, low-frequency signal and waits for responding signals that bounce off distant objects such as submarines. Scientists claim that, during testing off the California coast, noise from a single LFA system was detected across the breadth of the North Pacific Ocean.

Still, in granting the permit, the National Marine Fisheries Service said the sonar will have "no more than a negligible impact on the affected species," and "will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of these species or stock(s) for subsistence uses."

But Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, one of the coplaintiffs, says, "From a scientific point of view, there is very little question that, given the right set of circumstances, active sonar can kill marine life."

"The frightening thing about LFA is that we're flying blind, because the Navy has never seriously applied the lessons from previous strandings to its LFA system," said Rose.

The mass stranding of multiple whale species in the Bahamas in March 2000 and the simultaneous disappearance of the region's entire population of beaked whales has been linked to another type of Navy sonar. A federal investigation identified testing of a U.S. Navy mid-frequency active sonar system as the cause.

In late September, new mass strandings occurred in the Canary Islands as a result of NATO military sonar, and in the Gulf of California two whales died as the likely result of an acoustic geophysical survey using loud air guns.

"The court properly found that the decision to authorize and deploy the LFA system cannot be justified under federal law," said Andrew Sabey, a partner with the international firm of Morrison & Foerster, which is representing the plaintiffs NRDC, the Humane Society, the League for Coastal Protection, the Cetacean Society International, and the Ocean Futures Society and its president, Jean-Michel Cousteau.

"The ocean is a precious resource shared by all the world's peoples," said Cousteau. "The LFA permit is nothing less than a license to kill, and we are enormously grateful to the court for protecting our children's heritage."

The U.S. Navy's SURTASS LFA website is online at:

Posted by Richard
11/01/2002 07:38:44 AM | PermaLink

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Encourages Public to Drown Animals

Demand That Agency Sink Cruel, Unlawful Advice

In early October 2002, a member of the general public informed PETA that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) routinely advises citizens to drown captured wild and domestic animals, in violation of New York state's anti-cruelty statutes.

Posted by Richard
11/01/2002 07:25:12 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, October 31, 2002

World's Ecotourism Promoters Promise Dollars, Sense

Ecotourism is a major practice being promoted by the World Bank and related NGOs to third world nations in the name of providing a reason to native and indigenous peoples as to why they should not develop their natural resources and why they should instead practice land stewardship and eco-management. There appear to be some successful applications of this practice, but as the end of this article points out, many times ecotourism simply emphasizes the tourism at the expense of the "eco," and its not clear that anything truly positive is being done to protect and preserve traditional habitats in the process.
Sukau, Malaysia With a crash through branches overhanging Borneo's Kinabatangan river, one of Malaysia's strangest wildlife attractions makes its dramatic entrance above a boatload of tourists.

The proboscis monkey, with its distinctive pendulous nose, long tail, and orange-and-gray coat has arrived with his family troupe to find a spot to sleep in the canopy over the soupy, ochre water.

While the primates show no flicker of interest in their human audience, the tourists may be a key to the monkeys' future and that of countless other threatened species around the world.

Environmentalists, who have long regarded the travel business as a threat to nature, now see ecotourism as a potential savior. They hope a fraction of the US$463 billion tourists spend around the world every year will help tip the economic scales in favor of saving forests for wildlife, instead of using them for logging, farming, or mining.

For the proboscis monkeys, Asian elephants, and other animals living along the Kinabatangan River, that could mean a halt to the oil palm plantations steadily encroaching into their territory. Tourist dollars could also enrich local people and stem the flow of young people to towns and cities, a big problem for developing countries in Asia and elsewhere.

But even supporters of ecotourism see many hurdles ahead, not least defining what it actually is. Fergus Tyler Maclaren, director at The International Ecotourism Society in Burlington, Vt., says it does not mean hotels washing their towels less often or golf courses in the jungle.


He says ecotourism should protect wildlife habitats while making local people a living, something Asia sorely needs.

"Asia is still basically a very rural area which means a lot of poverty, a lot of people stuck on low wages with difficult lives," Maclaren said during a recent trip to an ecotourism conference in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo Island. "The communities that have taken it up realize that it's a really important opportunity for them to support their communities, support their jobs," he said.

Tor Hundloe, an academic who chairs Australia's National Ecotourism Accreditation Program, is part of a team drawing up a new world standard on ecotourism. Hundloe sees opportunity in World Tourism Organization forecasts of 1.6 billion tourists a year by 2020 20 percent of humanity.

"If you can get enough of that fifth of humankind that's traveling to understand, you won't have to destroy vast areas of rainforest for people to be employed and to make an income."

That is where defining ecotourism comes in, he said. "It's got to be nature based. You might have a wonderful resort on a barrier reef or in some rainforest, but if all people do is lie around and sip champagne, that's not ecotourism. Everything done, from the selection of the site to what is done in the bathroom, has got to be best practice in terms of saving energy, saving water, all those things. When you can prove that, you can have all the comfort, all the fine things you want," he said.


Maclaren says best practice should include regulation of tourist numbers to any site, a pressing issue for Sukau during the July-August high season.

"It's possible you can be loved to death by too many tourists going to a destination, where you are just too successful." Some 10,000 people travel each year into Sukau, a village set near lakes and jungle on the Kinabatangan River.

Albert Teo, managing director and founder of Sabah's Borneo Eco Tours, said poor regulation leaves the narrow tributaries at Sukau clogged with boat traffic during peak periods. Efforts at ecotourism can get swamped in the wake.

"The tendency in the industry is to sell on price, price, price and most volume," said Teo, a former hotelier. "I'm operating at a higher cost with a smaller boat and paying a penalty for those who are not," said Teo, whose work has been praised by the local office of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Teo employs villagers as guides and seeks to reduce the environmental impact of his lodge, conserving water and energy and using electric boat motors to cut noise and air pollution.

Teo says another danger is that local people, typically fishers, might grow hostile to tour operators and their clients unless efforts are made to ensure their approval. "If local people perceive that there's no benefit to them, the way they receive visitors will be very negative," he said.

By Patrick Chalmers, Reuters

Posted by Richard
10/31/2002 06:05:33 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

New 2003 Model Cars Headed for Showrooms Show Steady Decline in Fuel Economy

This is a disturbing example of why American's need environmental education worked into their school curricula pronto...
WASHINGTON Average fuel economy for the galaxy of shiny new 2003 model cars and passenger trucks headed for showrooms is 20.8 miles per gallon, about 6 percent below the high point set 15 years ago.

It's a trend reflected in consumers like Russel Fyock, recently in the market for a compact or mid-sized car.

"I buy a car for what I need it for, and fuel is just a thing to go along with it," said Fyock, 64, of Falls Church, Va. "Compared to inflation, gas has remained pretty cheap since the 1950s."

Among the highest achievers, the percentage of the new crop of vehicles getting more than 30 mpg drops to 4 percent from 6 percent a year ago. Only 33 of the 934 cars, trucks, and vans listed in the 2003-model annual fuel economy statistics released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency are that efficient. That compares with 48 of the 865 models available last year.

In 1987 and 1988, back before Americans developed a thirst for gas-gulping sport utility vehicles, the fleet averaged 22.1 mpg.

"Clearly it is disappointing that more than 15 years after fuel economy peaked, fuel economy is still hovering around an all-time low," said David Friedman, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley, Calif. "And yet the technology is out there. We could be averaging close to 30 to 40 miles per gallon, and that's with conventional technology: nonhybrids, better engines, better transmissions, improved aerodynamics."

This year, three hybrid gas- and electric-powered vehicles the two-seat Honda Insight coupe and five-seat Toyota Prius and Honda Civic sedans top the list of fuel pinchers. Last year there were only the Prius and the Insight.

The Insight has 64 mpg combined city and highway driving, the Toyota and Honda sedans 48 mpg. Next most efficient are four Volkswagen diesel cars and the Toyota Echo.

During the past year, Congress rejected by a wide margin any substantial legislated increase in fuel economy improvements. Industry officials long have argued that automakers give buyers what they want.

"With gas prices at historic lows, the cost of fuel is not as important as many other vehicle characteristics such as the utility of the vehicle, how many passengers they can carry, cargo and towing and safety features," said Ron DeFore, a spokesman for the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, which lobbies against government fuel-economy rules.

Automakers are required to meet fuel-economy standards set by Congress in 1975 for their entire fleet of models sold, not specific ones. The required average is 27.5 mpg on fleets of new passenger cars and 20.7 mpg for those of light trucks, including pickups, minivans, and sport utility vehicles.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham were taking a look at some of the new fuel-efficient cars Tuesday while releasing the new Web-based fuel economy guide with emissions and safety data.

Average fuel economy for the 488 cars in the 2003 fuel economy list is 23.6 mpg, marking a continued decline from 23.9 mpg for 2002 models and 24.2 mpg in 2001. For the 446 models or variations of SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks, the average is 17.6 mpg, down from 17.9 mpg for 2002 but above 2001's 17.3 mpg.

By class, the best achievers are compact cars at 26.1 mpg, followed by small station wagons at 24.6 mpg and subcompact cars at 23.3 mpg. Cargo and passenger vans guzzle the most gas at an average 15.7 mpg, followed by standard pickups at 17.1 mpg and four-wheel-drive SUVs at 17.3 mpg.

Among midsize cars, the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Corolla Matrix report the best combined city-highway mileage of 32 mpg, an increase from last year's 28 mpg performers. The worst in that category is, again, the luxury Bentley Arnage, which drops to a combined 12 mpg from last year's 13 mpg. All but seven other models get 20 mpg or better.

Two minivans from DaimlerChrysler the Chrysler Voyager/Town & Country and Dodge Caravan have the best mileage, 23 mpg combined, in the passenger van category. The Chrysler Voyager has the worst at 14 mpg.

Big SUVs such as Chevrolet's Suburban, Avalanche, and Tahoe and GMC's Yukon and Yukon XL get 12 mpg. The luxury sport import Lamborghini L-147 Murcielago is, again, the biggest guzzler at 10 mpg, followed by the Ferrari 456 MGT/MGTA automatic at 12 mpg.

By John Heilprin, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
10/30/2002 08:44:47 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Tapping the Trinity

O ye water-hungry Californians, read on:

If last summer's cutoff of irrigation water to Klamath Project farmers exposed a river system stretched to the limit, it stretches tighter still when the demands of California, the nation's thirstiest state, are figured in. "All of this is going to be a huge balancing problem," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, a top aide to Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the administration's point official on Klamath. "We didn't get here in a day, and we've got to bring it back over time without causing major dislocations for people." From the farms in the central valley to the computer chip-makers of Silicon Valley water projects link California to the flow of northern rivers. In this way even San Diego is connected to the Klamath River. "Literally the entire state of California is plumbed, from the north end of the state to the south end, and every basin is connected."

Biologist blows whistle on Klamath fish decision (10/27/02) Eugene Register Guard

New clash on salmon die-off (10/03/02) San Francisco Chronicle

Posted by Richard
10/29/2002 08:09:00 AM | PermaLink

Forests Show Resilience as Fires Pass

As flames leaped across the West this summer, so did the hyperbole. If fires weren't devastating, they were horrific or catastrophic. Colorado's governor at one point declared his state ablaze. Television sets blared the peril to California's groves of giant sequoias. But now that the smoke has cleared, the scene is not so grim. In the path of each of the major wildfires that captured national attention this year, large swaths of land emerged only lightly burned -- often better off for a much needed forest cleaning.,0,4884047.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

Posted by Richard
10/29/2002 08:04:43 AM | PermaLink

New Report on Global Endangered Species

According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), 121 plants and animals have been added to the Switzerland-based group's Red List of Threatened Species since 2000--bringing the total number to well over 11,000. Among the most endangered animals on the list, which was compiled by thousands of species experts around the globe, are the Chinese alligator; a fruit bat found only on remote Japanese islands; the Brazilian guitarfish, and the Philippine eagle. Says IUCN Director General Achim Steiner, "On the Red List, all species are treated with equal importance--the humble Bavarian pine vole stands alongside the African rhino. It provides the international benchmark to help guide effective biodiversity conservation."

To view the list and learn more about the planet's most vulnerable populations, visit

Posted by Richard
10/29/2002 07:50:54 AM | PermaLink

New U.S. Biological and Chemical Weapons Program Suspected

The Guardian -- The United States is developing a new generation of lethal and non-lethal weapons which may violate international agreements biological and chemical warfare, the Guardian reports.

In a paper soon to be published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Malcolm Dando of the University of Bradford and Mark Wheelis of the University of California argue that the creation of such weapons could undermine the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

The authors claim a recent move by Washington to block giving the convention the ability to inspect member states was intended to preserve U.S. secret work in biological weapons.

The two men assert the U.S. is working on biological weapon-dispersing cluster bombs, a new strain of antibiotic-resistant anthrax and "calmative" non-lethal agents to be used in crowd control.

Posted by Richard
10/29/2002 07:39:42 AM | PermaLink

Monday, October 28, 2002

Cut Class, Not frogs

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' new Web site tutors teenage animal-rights warriors how to resist dissection in biology class and mystery meat in the cafeteria.
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By Katharine Mieszkowski

Oct. 21, 2002 | It's a Web site that probably even the most autocratic of high school principals wouldn't think to censor in the school library. But they'll wish they had when newly minted 15-year-old pleather-wearing, fact-sheet-waving PETA activists start lecturing them on the horrors of amphibian dissection. Read the Salon article

Posted by Richard
10/28/2002 04:43:11 PM | PermaLink

Global Warming: Multiple Factors

While many scientists and policy makers have focused on how heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are altering the global climate, several new studies report that both air pollution and global warming could be significantly reduced by controlling emissions of methane gas and black carbon soot, and limiting activities like urban sprawl and deforestation that cause land surface changes. The full report can be downloaded as a PDF file at:

Posted by Richard
10/28/2002 08:45:20 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, October 27, 2002

More Than 100,000 Protest Plan to Use Force in Iraq

Washington, D.C. -- More than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators marched around the White House on Saturday to protest, peacefully but loudly, President Bush's plan to use military force in Iraq.

They carried signs bearing slogans such as "Regime Change Begins at Home" and "No More Blood for Oil." Another popular placard scorned the administration's war talk as "A Weapon of Mass Distraction." Organizers said it was the largest anti-war rally in the nation's capital since the Vietnam War.

Earlier in the week, they had worried that the Washington-area sniper would scare away some from attending. But as the crowd swelled throughout the afternoon under a sunny sky, they claimed that as many 200,000 had come.

Similar demonstrations worldwide drew crowds of thousands, from San Francisco to Augusta, Maine, and overseas in Berlin and Frankfort, Germany; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Stockholm, Sweden.

"If we launch a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, we lose all moral authority," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the huge crowd gathered near the Vietnam Memorial. "How will we say no to India, to Pakistan, to China when they consider pre-emptive strikes?

"Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for his crimes," Jackson continued. "That's a good argument for the International Criminal Court, not a good argument for bombing Baghdad."

The "Axis of Evil" was featured on many placards and in several speeches. In this crowd, the evil threesome consisted of "Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld."

Other speakers included former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, actress Susan Sarandon, singer Patti Smith and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Posted by Richard
10/27/2002 07:03:30 AM | PermaLink

The Definition of Environmental Justice

Drawing upon the findings of the U.N. over the last 30 years, the movement finds that everybody has a right to clean water and clean air, and nobody has a right to degrade and destroy the environment in such a way as to harm present and future communities. The idea of environmental justice, then, goes far beyond the environmental protections considered by such law as the Endangered Species Act. Instead of focusing upon severely degraded species, environmental justice is concerned with the idea of healthy communities, where children can play safely and where people can live and raise families with the knowledge that their area is healthy and free from the various toxicities of state and corporate oppression that normally plague oppressed locales.

Environmental justice has been defined as the pursuit of equal justice and equal protection under the law for all environmental statutes and regulations without discrimination based on race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or other forms of difference. This concept applies to governmental actions at all levels -- local, state and federal -- as well as private industry practices. There are actually three categories of environmental equity issues. Providing environmental justice goes beyond the stated definition and includes a guarantee of equal access to relief and meaningful community participation with government and industry decision-makers.

While environmental justice, as a political concept, makes the simple demand that the social laws and norms that already exist merely be implemented equally and effectively, there is a revolutionary character to the movement. This is because, in effect, by casting people's critical attention to why communities suffer with the problems of environmental justice, why people ravage the earth, and why certain people are made to exist with the fallout of such destruction more than others, the environmental justice movement is also educating people towards a new form of social values. It is utopian in the sense that it perceives a vision of the good society that does not yet exist and which it actively works to produce.

It is aligned with the mission of eco-justice, which tends to be the spiritual side of the movement (with its roots in progressive Christian ministries). Environmental justice often promotes a world that incorporates the spiritual values of eco-justice, but its political dialogue tends to be free of overtly spiritual or religious messages, situating itself within the politics of social justice.

The following list was adopted as the Principles of Environmental Justice at the People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. This list was adopted on October 27, 1991, in Washington, D.C.
1. Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.

2. Environmental justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.

3. Environmental justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.

4. Environmental justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.

5. Environmental justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.

6. Environmental justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.

7. Environmental justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.

8. Environmental justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.

9. Environmental justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.

10. Environmental justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

11. Environmental justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.

12. Environmental justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full range of resources.

13. Environmental justice calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.

14. Environmental justice opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.

15. Environmental justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.

16. Environmental justice calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.

17. Environmental justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth's resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.

Posted by Richard
10/27/2002 06:38:50 AM | PermaLink

Environmentalists Urge Poor Nations to Rally Against Global Warming

New Delhi (AFP) - Environmental activists at a shadow conference to a high-powered UN meeting on climate change urged developing countries to join forces to demand urgent action on global warming.

"It is time to ask rich countries to pay back their ecological debt to you," Andrew Simms, policy director of the non-governmental UK-based New Economics Foundation, told representatives from poor nations.

"People in rich countries have taken away their share (of the environment), but it is worse than that, they are taking away your share.

"We have got to stop people like that from playing with your future," he added.

Environmental and social action groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Third World Network, held the two-day "Climate Justice Forum" in New Delhi to highlight issues which they say are being ignored at the two-week long UN conference.

They blamed the rich nations of the world for rampant and haphazard industrial development and said the resulting climate change was putting the lives of millions of poor people at risk.

Simms said the situation was like finding your home suddenly overrun by strangers who cause floods by leaving the tap running and fires by putting the cooking gas on.

"That is what it is with global warming and this is what the rich countries are doing to you. And they think they are helping you to develop, but the truth is it is the opposite," he added.

Steve Sawyer, climate policy director of Greenpeace International, said the causes of climate change were well-known, but there had been hardly any progress in ten years because solutions were being blocked by powerful industries.

"What we require is a movement all over the world to demand action," he added.

Activists said representatives at the UN conference were cut off from the communities most affected by climate change.

The conference was inaugurated on Wednesday and has delegates from 170 nations including senior ministers who are holding talks on global warming and ways to check its impact and to cut down emissions.

Activists are due to stage a protest march on Monday in front of a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, architect of India's non-violent freedom struggle from Britain.

"The movement to stop environment pollution and climate change is a struggle for people's rights. The climate change issue concerns the whole globe. as pollution anywhere goes into the atmosphere," said Sunita Narain, director of the New Delhi-based Centre For Science and Environment.

"Is it right that those nations which are strong can go on polluting simply because they are more powerful? Or is it that those living on earth have an equal say and share on preserving the environment?," she asked.

"I think every human being should have an equal right."

Arun Kumar, a professor in economics at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the culture of consumerism introduced by rich nations was at the root of the problem.

"The time horizons have narrowed as a result. It means that if you want a tree you just cut it down, it does not matter. If you want a forest, it does not matter," he said.

He said many poor people were unable to grasp the problems of such globalisation because of the huge dimensions involved.

Posted by Richard
10/27/2002 06:04:27 AM | PermaLink