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Saturday, April 05, 2003

German Greens Back Airspace for US Warplanes

This has been a historical problem for the European Greens -- less perhaps for the French Les Verts: during "times of peace" the Greens seem too radical to be popular, during flagrant war and other state crises, the Greens are too much a part of the political machine to be progressive. In America, where the Greens are more highly ostracized from state power, the message has been a part of the street protest and is radically anti-war. Of course, this is to be expected considering that it is one of the party's political platforms. Shame on Fischer and the Germans for another fundamental betrayal.
"There could not be a clearer expression of the profound gulf between the former pacifist party and the millions of people who have taken to the streets against the war." Coinciding with the beginning of the Iraq war, the German Green Party has officially spoken out in favour of allowing American and British troops to use German air space and bases to launch military operations. A March 20 statement by the parliamentary faction of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens), records with approval that the federal government, “despite their and our rejection of this war, will not place in question overflight and usage rights in accordance with the NATO treaty for American and British bases in Germany and their security. As far as these are directly or indirectly involved in the war against Iraq, it (the government) will tolerate this.”
By Peter Schwarz

Posted by Richard
4/05/2003 10:15:37 AM | PermaLink

Iceland Plans to Catch Hundreds of Large Whales

Whale conservationists around the world have condemned Iceland's proposal submitted this week to the International Whaling Commission to begin whaling under the convention's scientific research provisions.

The plan would allow Iceland to catch 100 fin whales, 50 sei whales and 100 northern minke whales each year. Both fin and sei whales are classified as endangered by IUCN, the World Conservation Union.

Icelandic Fisheries Minister Arni Matthiesen (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
Although Iceland has declared that the "research proposal" is confidential, details were leaked in the Reykjavik newspaper "Morgunbladid." The paper quotes Fisheries Minister Arni Matthiesen as saying that the aim of the research is to investigate the cetaceans' diet, their distribution and numbers, and their interaction with other marine species. These are the same justifications used by Japan which takes almost 900 minke whales a year under the guise of scientific research.

Conservationists protest that information about all these subjects can be collected without killing the whales. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society based in the UK warns that the results of the diet studies will only be used, as they are in Japan, to support spurious scientific arguments justifying the culling of whales to protect fish stocks.

When Iceland rejoined the International Whaling Commission last year with a reservation against the ongoing moratorium on commercial whaling, Icelandic officials said the country's whalers would not start commercial whaling before 2006. Iceland was accepted back into the IWC, after two failed attempts and much controversy, with a one vote majority.

Read more at:

Posted by Richard
4/05/2003 06:55:59 AM | PermaLink

International Fund for Animal Welfare says Seal-Culling to Increase Cod for Fishing is Ludicrous

This is a Canadian story, though the over-fishing and poor-fishery management of Cod (and other trade fishes) is a monumental problem at the moment -- one capable of destroying industries and livelihoods, on the one hand, and ecosystems and the world regions, on the other. The IFAW is no doubt correct in pointing out that the attempt to re-write a growing wrong by displacing the burdern of the blame onto the next most available predator on the chain -- in this case, the seal -- is logic that is both cruel and wrong to the seals and incapable of restoring cod stocks to the hoped for level.

How long will the governmental and industry answer be further murderous tinkering with their murderous tinkering? Some of the answers are so simple, if people truly cared -- a life lived differently, in conservation and care, in respect and awe. This is not the world of powerpoint policy presentations and computer-mediated statistical models. Rather, it is a moral world of quite simple immediacy. One in which people awaken to strengthen that which remains...

Posted by Richard
4/05/2003 06:49:53 AM | PermaLink

Friday, April 04, 2003

US Bombs and Iraqi Quakes?

During the War in Afghanistan I was following a hunch that the use of 15K Bunker-Buster bombs in the geologically active Hindu Kush region was triggering deadly landslides, quakes and other natural disasters.

This not on tv but from international print media sources:

Apparently, russian seismologists are vigorously promoting the theory from the war in Afghanistan that American munitions were triggering fault quakes and creating potentially dangerous environmental climates. Other geologic stations too like Bulgaria and Armenia are saying the same thing. The USGS is mysteriously missing its middle eastern data from its recent quakes list -- during the afghan saga they published what i believe is an unprecedented disclaimer saying that the war wasn't causing quakes there (which of course is debatable).

Anyhow, the russians correctly point out that using these DU and these giant pit making bombs are not only dangerous for immediate earthquakes, but in a seismically sensitive region that the effects can be months or a year or two later and that the range of effect is the entirety of the fault line -- thus what is happening in Iraq can affect as far away as Romania. The Persian Gulf itself, however, is extremely active like the Afghani Hindu Kush and so the US has picked two of the worst places on earth to conduct these recent massive seismic attacks.

Posted by Richard
4/04/2003 08:30:52 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Toxic Spill Leaves 500,000 in Brazil Without Water

This will be a sort of benchmark for the Lula government in Brazil -- that so many have hoped would be a shining example of a true people's regime, but which has been plagued by all the typical struggles of being a state integrated into the world economy of global capital powers. Recently, the Lula government greatly upset the Brazilian farmers, and global conservationists, by rescinding a standing policy against the use and importation of GM agricultural products. Brazil had been taking a leading role in a pan-Latin American movement toward organic produce grown only for domestic use. Now, a major corporate blunder within the country will test the administration severely. Single-handedly, at this early stage, Lula may make or break his populist presidency right now on how he responds to this crisis.
A toxic spill from a pulp and paper factory reservoir into nearby rivers in southeastern Brazil has left at least a half-million people without regular water supply, officials said Wednesday.

Civil defense and environmental officials said more than 20 towns in Minas Gerais state had been affected by the weekend spill from the Cataguazes de Papel Ltda factory in the small town of Cataguases.

Campos, a large coastal city north of Rio de Janeiro with an estimated population of 400,000 people, said it had shut its water supply and irrigation channels.


Posted by Richard
4/03/2003 10:53:08 AM | PermaLink

ANWR Drilling Back for Another Round  

This is UNBELIEVABLE -- while this proposal is vetoed again and again and again by both the people at large and the Congress, the Republicans will not let their little oil project go. "Can we slip it in here? Maybe no one will notice it there?"

House Republicans are reviving President Bush's top energy priority, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, although the Senate recently rejected it. The refuge provision was among a package of energy proposals that were moving swiftly through several House committees Wednesday with expectations that the full House might take them up as early as next week. Republicans included ANWR drilling as part of a broader package of energy proposals approved Wednesday by the Resources Committee. While the measure has a good chance of passing the House, it is certain to again run into trouble in the Senate, which rejected refuge drilling by a 52-48 vote two weeks ago.

Posted by Richard
4/03/2003 10:44:23 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

The Life and Death of Albert

It should be pointed out that shelters do more than euthanize dogs -- they provide positive services for animals in the community as well. Still, I think it is important to be honest about the realities of 3-days and you're out euthanasia programs...not just as a critique of animal shelters, but as a reminder and gird towards strengthening pet care and stewardship responsibilities for us all.

Posted by Richard
4/02/2003 08:12:47 AM | PermaLink

Rainforest Action Network in Los Angeles?

Got this from Sharon -- who can help her? Please contact.
I work with RAN on our markets campaigns targeting the logging and finance industries - to push them out of the world's remaining endangered forests. RAN's thinking of sponsoring a workshop in October in LA, as well as doing some work and outreach between now and then in that area. Any thoughts on leads, or folks that are interested in rainforest protection, globalization, corporate accountability?

Sharon Smith
Old Growth Organizer, Rainforest Action Network

800.989.7246 x310

Posted by Richard
4/02/2003 08:04:49 AM | PermaLink

U.N. Assesses Satellite Images of Gulf: Finds Evidence of War Toxicity Already

No doubt The Economist would find that this war is evidence of environmental benefits for the phytoplankton and other microbes that are thriving on the increased sewage from the war (see yesterday's post)...
The war in Iraq has spewed toxic pollutants into the air and led to more raw sewage in rivers and canals, creating a potentially serious health threat in the region, the U.N. Environment Program said yesterday.

While there have been fewer than 10 oil well fires since the start of the war -- most of those are out -- the remaining burning wells combined with oil-filled trenches and bomb-ignited fires in Baghdad are generating huge quantities of toxic smoke, according to an analysis of satellite data by the environment program.

"The black smoke that we see on television and in satellite pictures contains dangerous chemicals that can cause immediate harm to human beings -- particularly children and people with respiratory problems -- and pollute the region's natural ecosystems," said Klaus Toepfer, director of the environment program.

Smoke from oil fires contains a range of contaminants such as sulfur, mercury, dioxins and furans, the program said. Satellite images reveal that smoke plumes from the Rumaila oil fields near Basra in southern Iraq have weakened over the past several days, "but continue to threaten inhabited areas with smog," the program said.

As bombing takes its toll on industrial facilities in Baghdad, the likelihood for the release of dangerous pollutants increases, said Pekka Haavisto, who oversaw the program's assessments of war-related environmental damage in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Those assessments found industrial wastes, waterways fouled by depleted uranium and damaged water treatment systems.

While Iraqi children are most at risk, there are also potential immediate and long-term health risks for U.S. troops in the region, said Dr. Michael McCally, a professor of public health and preventive medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

The degree of pollution exposure is probably similar to that experienced by rescue workers at the World Trade Center in New York after 9/11, McCally said.

Satellite images show a sharp change in color of the water in the Persian Gulf near the Shatt al-Arab estuary at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, according to the environment program.

U.N. analysts believe the color change indicates a significant increase in phytoplankton -- minute aquatic plants -- that is probably caused by an escalation in the dumping of raw sewage into rivers and canals that flow out to sea.

Wastewater and garbage from the unusually large number of ships in the area are also likely to contribute to phytoplankton blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water. In the past, plankton blooms in shallow waters such as the Kuwait Bay have led to large die-offs of fish, the program said.

McCally, who was part of a public health assessment team that visited Iraq in January, said the greatest pollution threat to human health is from diseases associated with contaminated drinking water and open sewage like typhoid and cholera.

Even before the war, Iraq's water and sewage infrastructure was in severe disrepair, McCally said. Electric power disruptions further worsened the problem, causing pumping stations to frequently shut down, he said.

"People were drinking water from puddles in the street," McCally said. "It was horrible."

Source:, by Joan Lowy

Posted by Richard
4/02/2003 07:58:19 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The Spoils of War

The below piece from The Economist points out that someone is indeed thinking in the direction of my challenge that the Allied forces in Iraq demonstrate their humanitarian commitment to the country by restoring the southern marshes. Of course, it will never happen -- primarily b/c of the oil available by having them drained and also because of the expense w/ little return on investment (economic problems that one would expect The Economist to have given a little more attention to!). The piece then ends with an "Eden Again?" section that is highly dubious -- that war can be good for species and the environment. While the case of the front-line between North and South Korea is a well known example of ironic environmental protection, the fact of the matter is that these species wouldn't last an actual outbreak of war in that region. Further, citing the making-do of African rhinos and elephants is just ridiculous in this context (i.e. people are too busy killing each other to kill a large mammal). For one thing -- the mammals continue to be killed outright. But more importantly, and what the author fails to understand, is that life is not simply not being dead. There are many ways to kill someone -- destroying their habitat and forcing them to live under constant threat being tops among them.
DURING the 1991 Gulf war, the snowy-white peaks of Iraq's northern mountains turned black. Soot from burning oil created a biblical rain that stained everything from houses to mountainsides. In Afghanistan, a country devastated by more than a quarter of a century of warfare, people still fish with rocket launchers. It seems obvious that military conflict takes a dreadful toll on the environment. Yet previous wars suggest that the connection is not so obvious as one might suppose.

The main environmental problems that conflict in Iraq may bring are the pollution of water by sewage, the felling of trees to meet energy shortages, the physical degradation of the land, and pollution from materials such as oil. The seriousness of any of these problems will depend largely on the length and severity of the war, and on how quickly aid agencies can get in afterwards.

The Post-Conflict Assessment Unit of the United Nations gives information on the environmental effects of war worldwide. The United Nations Environment Programme reports on the environmental effects of conflict in the Iraq region. See also the Eden Again Project and the AMAR Foundation.

In Iraq, the chief worries are pollution from oil spillages and burning oil wells. In the 1991 war, some 6m-8m barrels of oil were spilt into the sea, producing an oil-slick that cost more than $700m to clean up. That was bad. But it was not the environmental apocalypse that many had feared. And although it is still early in the current conflict, there is some ground for optimism that this level of pollution will not happen again. In Iraq's southern Rumaila oil fields, which produce 60% of the country's oil, only nine out of 1,000 wells are reported to be alight. In 1991, 600 Kuwaiti wells were set on fire, 76 wells were uncapped and 99 wells were damaged.

Another cause for concern, the use of ordnance tipped with depleted uranium (DU), may also be less of a problem than many fear. A report on the use of DU in the fighting that racked Bosnia in the mid-1990s was published on March 25th by the post-conflict assessment unit (PCAU), a branch of the United Nations. It finds that no medically significant levels of radioactivity can be measured there. Of 15 sites inspected by the PCAU, only two have airborne radioactive particles, and these are within safety limits.

Fight and flight
Oil fires are visible, and radioactivity is scary. But the worst environmental problems associated with warfare are more subtle. The biggest is the displacement of large numbers of people. The PCAU has found that even though bombs, troop movements and landmines caused awful problems in Afghanistan, the most serious long-term consequences have resulted from the uncontrolled use of resources, particularly the cutting of forests for firewood, by 6m cold, hungry and often well-armed refugees. After three decades of conflict, the forests are almost gone, lakes have dried up and topsoil is blowing away. The productivity of the land, in other words, has been destroyed.

In Palestine, too, the most visible kinds of environmental damage may not be the most threatening. Bulldozers and tanks chew up the scenery. But another report by the PCAU suggests that the biggest environmental concerns should be the quality and scarcity of water. Pekka Haavisto, who chaired the UNEP taskforces in Afghanistan, Palestine and the Balkans, is particularly worried about the declining quality of fresh water in Gaza. Here, continuing conflict prevents the Palestinian Authority from building sewerage and water-cleaning systems. As a result, groundwater is being polluted by agricultural chemicals and by waste from landfills and the burning of refuse. The same applies in Iraq, where conflict over the past decade has caused widespread damage to water and sewerage infrastructure, and reduced the amount of water available by more than half.

In Iraq, much of this damage is deliberate. A few years ago, the government decided to drain the marshes of lower Mesopotamia, in what amounted to an act of environmental warfare. These marshes, which some scholars believe are the area referred to in the Bible as the Garden of Eden, are inhabited by people who have had the temerity to oppose Saddam Hussein. The marsh Arabs are Shia Muslims, who are suspected of sympathising with the Shia government of Iran. The drainage was part of Mr Hussein's repressive anti-Shia measures.

According to the AMAR foundation, which works to assist marsh Arabs and other refugees, these measures included the poisoning and napalming of the marshes and anybody living there. Only 7% of the original marshland remains. If the drainage continues, the rest is likely to vanish within five years. Open-water areas are now dusty salt-pans. A productive ecosystem, which supported hundreds of thousands of people and supplied 60% of the country's fish, has almost vanished.

A coalition victory could change that. Ed Maltby, a researcher at Royal Holloway, a college in the University of London, says that getting the marshes back to the state they were in 15 years ago will be a challengebut it could be done. Last month, he and his colleagues in the Eden Again project, a scientific collaboration financed by an Iraqi human-rights group, met to work on a restoration plan. The idea is to start with pilot areas, thousands of hectares in size, and then expand them. There are huge problems ahead, including salt and pesticide contamination, the need for additional water flow from Turkey, and, of course, money. But Dr Maltby says it is an opportunity and a test of the world's ability to respond to one of the worst environmental disasters for a generation.

Eden again?
By and large, conservationists agree that war is a bad thing. Surprisingly, however, armed conflictor the threat of itcan sometimes be good for the environment. The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea is a 250km-long strip of mountains, jungle and wetlands untouched by humans since 1953. It is now home to wildlife extinct elsewhere on the peninsula. Landmines laid in civil wars in Africa have discouraged hunters and allowed game to flourish in areas from which it had previously disappeared. In Congo, anarchy has prevented mining companies and timber firms from spreading into the country's remaining wild areas. Although many large animals have been killed by gun-toting soldiers, recent aerial surveys suggest that Congo's rhinos have survived the conflict well; some 6,000 elephants remain too.

The people of Congo would doubtless prefer less anarchy, even if it meant fewer elephants. But the fact remains that when men are busy killing each other, nature sometimes gains.

To see the links and pictures, go to:

Posted by Richard
4/01/2003 12:20:57 PM | PermaLink

One Year Later...

Well, they said I had to be an April fool to start a blog about veganism and ecological consciousness -- and then to name it Vegan Blog outright! Who will read such a thing?, people asked me. Won't people take the title as too in your face and aggressive? Ha -- vegans as aggressive...there's a new one!

Instead, the blog has thrived and if you don't find it ranked regularly on Blogdex or the Daypop Top 100, what they don't rank is a healthy and committed bunch of subscribers and hundreds of readers daily from over 25 countries. Our top readers are -- thankfully -- students and faculty in American colleges and universities. And our readership grows by leaps and bounds every month...if only more people would link directly to the stories! But we're about education, not blog recognition here anyhow.

To celebrate one full cycle and spiral of this blog, I thought that I would begin a new feature that goes back into the archives and re-posts what was the topic of day this time last year -- some added context to all this war consciousness going around...

April 1, 2002 Vegan Blogs:
Bush tapped solar energy funds to print energy plan

WASHINGTON — While environmentalists have slammed the White House national energy plan for not doing enough to promote renewable energy, the Bush administration found those government research programs useful in paying the bill for printing copies of the 170-page plan.

The administration took money from the Energy Department's solar and renewable energy and energy conservation budgets to pay for the cost of printing its national energy plan.

Documents released under court order by the Energy Department this week revealed that $135,615 was spent from the DOE's solar, renewables, and energy conservation budget to produce 10,000 copies of the White House energy plan released last May.

Another $1,317.39 was spent for producing 16 "briefing boards" used by administration officials to illustrate and explain the White House energy plan.

The newly released documents also show that $176.40 was taken from the energy conservation program to pay for an Alaska trip by Andrew Lundquist, the White House energy task force's staff director, to promote the energy plan. The administration's energy policy called for drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a proposal strongly opposed by environmentalists.

At the same time the White House tapped the renewable budget for funds to print the energy plan, the administration was urging Congress to cut the renewable and energy efficiency research budgets by more than 50 percent.

Posted by Richard
4/01/2003 08:26:27 AM | PermaLink

Monday, March 31, 2003

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Outlaws Healthy Food

The DEA's ruling on hemp (and marajuana for that matter, which deserves to be classified differently from hemp) is ludicrous from an ecological standpoint. If people want to speak about "sustainable development" in a way that includes both continued commercial development and environmental conservation -- personally, I would like to limit the development period -- than HEMP is the miracle plant we've all been dreaming of. Quite literally, the hemp plant is THE SPITTEN IMAGE of sustainable development. It can replace cotton, tree paper, and a whole range of synthetics just to begin with, and as the article below points out: it's a good food for you too!

The Rastafarians -- who consider hemp and marajuana to be sacred -- consider the United States to be the heart of Babylon. I guess it's no wonder that Babylon won't wake up and smell the weed, but the fact of the matter is that in a country where the food is mostly toxic and where such consumable toxics like corporate alcohol and tobacco are legal and status quo, to demonize hemp is not only's criminal.
Baffling Attempt by DEA to Halt Sales of Food Containing Hempseeds

On March 21, 2003, the DEA published their final rule on hemp which effectively categorizes all hemp foods as an illegal drug, even though hemp is not marijuana and contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. For well over ten years shelled hempseeds have been used in food products as diverse as baked goods, snacks, breakfast cereals, beverages and frozen desserts.

Hempseeds are an almost perfect source of nutrition, containing 35% protein by weight, including all of the essential amino acids. They also provide high concentrations of essential fatty acids (EFA) and a high pro-portion of these EFAs are in the form of omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid and omega-6 linoleic acids. Hempseed also provides other phytonutrients, including phytosterols and carotenes as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium.

"Ever increasing numbers of consumers are discovering the nutritional benefits of hemp," says David Neuman, VP of Sales and Marketing at Nature's Path Foods. "Sales for both our HempPlus(TM) Granola and HempPlus(TM) Waffles are growing strongly, which is due in large part to the health benefits of hempseed."

Prior to its use as a food ingredient, hempseed is cleaned and its hard outer shell is removed. This effectively removes all but the most microscopic amounts of THC (usually less than 3 parts per million). After being processed into food products, usually involving heat and/or pressure, the remaining miniscule amount of THC drops to virtually undetectable levels and cannot lead to intoxication. The industrial hempseed industry, from growers to food manufacturers, have responsibly addressed all health, safety and drug-testing issues with a wide margin of safety.

"We believe that consumers should be allowed to purchase healthy and safe foods such as our HempPlus(TM) Granola and HempPlus(TM) Waffles," says Arran Stephens, founder and president of Nature's Path Foods. "It is inconceivable to think that they may not be available due to an over reaction on the part of the DEA." For more information regarding hemp food products or this issue please visit or

Nature's Path®, EnviroKidz®, and LifeStream(TM) brands are together North America's best selling brand of organic and natural cereals sold in natural supermarkets. Founded in 1985, the company produces a range of cereals, waffles, cereal bars, and breads. Visit the company's web site at or for more information.

Nature's Path Foods
Kevin Greenwood, 604/940-0505 ext. 358
Nature's Path Foods
David Neuman, 604/940-0505 ext. 367
Email: Website:

Posted by Richard
3/31/2003 01:02:11 PM | PermaLink

Marriott Corporation Promotes Inhumane Dog Sledding as Vacation Dream

In their Fall 2002 issue of Shared Times, I recently read an article by Dionne Rucker called "Answer the Call of the Wild" that begins:
The next time you take a ski vacation, consider adding a little adventure to your trip by taking a dog-sled run. It's a great way to experience an area's natural landscape. In fact, with only two narrow wooden slats, called runners, between your boots and the white powdery surface flying by, you wouldn't want to get any closer to Mother Nature.
Well, I might...but granted that most of the bourgeois vacationers at Marriott resorts might not. Anyhow, the larger picture here is that it is well documented that the "wild adventure" and dog sledding (in particular) are fantasies that both nature and the dogs that lead you to her would like ended. Symbolically, the wild is not calling us to exploit and colonize it -- actually, it would prefer to be left alone and not eco-tourized. Further, sled dogs -- like those of the iditarod race -- would appreciate not being asked to provide free labor in often grueling conditions, in which dogs are frequently injured and in some cases killed.

In their brochure, Marriott does not actually claim to provide dog sledding for customers, but they do promote it and provide phone numbers near US resorts where it is available. They ask you to call to make advance reservations. I suggest you call to voice your democratic displeasure at both Marriott's and the dog-sledding operators profiteering at the expense of nature and sled dogs.
Marriott's MountainSide in Park City, Utah (435-940-2000)
Marriott's Mountain Valley Lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado (970-453-8500)
Marriott's Summit Watch in Park City, Utah (435-647-4100)
Marriott's StreamSide in Vail, Colorado (970-476-6000)
Marriott's Timber Lodge in Lake Tahoe, California (530-542-6600)

Posted by Richard
3/31/2003 10:34:46 AM | PermaLink

Study Shows Organic Produce is Healthier

Fruits and vegetables grown without synthetic pesticides have higher levels of cancer-fighting nutrients than produce treated with the chemicals, according to a provocative new study by UC Davis researchers. The food scientists compared corn, blackberries and strawberries raised under different methods, and found that those grown without chemical pesticides had consistently more flavonoids, a type of anti-oxidant.


Posted by Richard
3/31/2003 09:54:49 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Insects Thrive On GM 'Pest-Killing' Crops

Genetically modified crops specially engineered to kill pests in fact nourish them, startling new research has revealed.

The research, "which has taken even the most ardent opponents of GM crops by surprise," radically undermines one of the key benefits claimed for them. And it suggests that they may be an even greater threat to organic farming than has been envisaged.

It strikes at the heart of one of the main lines of current genetic engineering in agriculture: breeding crops that come equipped with their own pesticide.

Biotech companies have added genes from a naturally occurring poison, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is widely used as a pesticide by organic farmers. The engineered crops have spread fast. The amount of land planted with them worldwide grew more than 25-fold, from four million acres in 1996 to well over 100 million acres (44.2m hectares) in 2000, and the global market is expected to be worth $25bn (£16bn) by 2010.

Drawbacks have already emerged, with pests becoming resistant to the toxin. Environmentalists say that resistance develops all the faster because the insects are constantly exposed to it in the plants, rather than being subject to occasional spraying.

But the new research, by scientists at Imperial College London and the Universidad Simon Rodrigues in Caracas, Venezuela, adds an alarming new twist, suggesting that pests can actually use the poison as a food and that the crops, rather than automatically controlling them, can actually help them to thrive.

By Geoffrey Lean, Independent UK

Posted by Richard
3/30/2003 08:25:18 AM | PermaLink

In Defence of the Environment, Putting Poverty to the Sword

Editorial by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
One can easily clean up the language of war—“collateral damage, friendly fire, smart bombs”—but cleaning up the environmental consequences is a far tougher task.

Undoubtedly it is the loss of human life, the suffering of those made homeless and hungry that must be our primary, first, concern.

But all too often the impact on the Earth’s life support systems is ignored, and ignored I, would suggest, at our peril as the growing expertise of UNEP’s Post Conflict Assessment Unit is suggesting.

Environmental security, both for reducing the threats of war, and in successfully rehabilitating a country following conflict, must no longer be viewed as a luxury but needs to be seen as a fundamental part of a long lasting peace policy.

Few can forget the lakes and pools of petroleum, the TV images of smoke and flames turning day into night, during the 1991 conflict in Kuwait. An estimated 700 wells were damaged, destroyed and sabotaged, triggering pollution of water supplies and the seas, the impact of which is still being felt.

It has been suggested that, as a result of the soot, death rates in Kuwait rose by 10 per cent over the following year. The only good news was that the over four million tonnes of soot and sulphur did not climb higher than 5,000 metres, otherwise there could have been potentially severe dangers to the regional and possibly global climate.

There are many indirect impacts of war on the environment too. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which helped inspire an international convention, says that tens of millions of explosives remain scattered around the world in former conflict areas like Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bosnia and on the African Continent.

These are not only horrific hazards for people, maiming and killing returning refugees and local villagers. They effectively bar people from productive land forcing them to clear forests and other precious areas for agriculture with consequences for the fertility of soils, accelerated land degradation and loss of wildlife.

Warring factions and displaced civilian populations can take a heavy toll on natural resources. Decades of civil war in Angola have left its national parks and reserves with only 10 per cent of the original wildlife. Sri Lanka’s civil war has led to the felling of an estimated five million trees, robbing farmers of income. Many poor people in developing countries critically depend on forests for food and medicines.

Our first principle is the pursuit of peace. Indeed it should not be forgotten that the awarding of the Nobel Peace prize to Kofi Annan last year was award not only to the UN Secretary General but to the UN system as a whole.

However, warfare may be justified when all avenues of diplomacy, when all paths of reasonableness have been trod, and exhausted. The struggle to rid Europe and the world from the insanity of fascism, culminating in World War II, was vital. Evil must be confronted at all costs.

But, as the environment and its natural resources are all too often forgotten as the long term casualty of war, then equally their role in triggering the tensions that can spill over into conflict are also too often ignored.

Many conflicts on Continents like Africa have been driven or at the very least fueled by a greed for minerals such as diamonds and oil or timber.

Some individuals and groups can make a fortune under the cloak of an ideologically motivated war. It is estimated that UNITA rebels in Angola made over $ 4 billion from diamonds between 1992 and 2001. The Khmer Rouge was, by the-mid 1990s, making up to $240 million a year from exploiting Cambodia’s forests for profit.

As the world’s life support systems and natural resources become increasingly scarce, so the possibility of conflict rises. Water, the most precious resource on Earth and crucial for all life, is not evenly shared across the world and between nations. There are 263 river basins, shared by 145 countries. But just 33 nations have more than 95 per cent of these rivers within their territories.

By 2032, half the world’s population could be living in severely water stressed areas. Daily, 6,000 mainly children die as a result of poor or non-existent sanitation or for want of clean water. It is the equivalent to a quarter of the population of a large capital city like London dying every year.

Unless countries learn to use water wisely, learn to share, there will be instability and there will be tensions of the kind that can precipitate war.

Countering this is sustainable development in action. We have an alliance against terrorism, we need an alliance against poverty and solidarity with the marginalised, we need to defend nature and our natural resources

For little will ever be achieved in terms of conservation of the environment and natural resources if billions of people have no hope, no chance to care.

As Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, observed just before the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), “sustainable development is…a security imperative. Poverty, environmental degradation and despair are destroyers of people, of societies, of nations. This unholy trinity can destabilize countries, even entire regions".

The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, agreed at the end of WSSD, is the blue print for reducing poverty and delivering development that lasts, development that fosters a stable environment with social justice.

Making it operational was at the heart of a global environment ministers meeting, UNEP’s Governing Council, which took place at our headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, in early February 2003.

We were delighted to be hosting it only weeks after the peaceful Kenyan elections where a new government was swept into power on a wave of optimism. The doom and gloom merchants, sadly all too often right when it comes to African democracy, have been forced to eat their words. I am also delighted that the new Kenyan government has poverty and a healthy environment among their top priorities alongside a fight against corruption.

Like us, they believe that putting poverty to the sword is the peace policy of the 21st century.

So we need above all environment policy as a precautionary peace policy.

Governments are also waking up to the need to rehabilitate the environment if all else fails and conflict occurs. Many are now recognizing that a polluted environment, that contaminated water supplies and sullied land and air, are not a long term recipe for stability.

In 1999, UNEP and its sister, agency UN Habitat, were asked to carry out a post conflict assessment in the Balkans. Shortly afterwards, UNEP carried out a similar exercise in Macedonia and Albania following the Kosovo conflict.

The findings are helping to guide the clean up and restoration of these countries.

We have now also completed an assessment of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan and these studies were presented to ministers at our February meeting.

I hope the results will not only inform but inspire nations to do more so that the peoples of these troubled lands can have the healthy environment they deserve, the clean air, water and soils needed to deliver growth and prosperity.

But we must go further. There is endless debate before and after a war about the economic costs including the costs of bombs and the costs of humanitarian relief. We need to cost the environmental clean up too.

We have the Geneva Conventions, aimed at safeguarding the rights of prisoners and civilians. We need similar safeguards for the environment. Every effort must be made to limit the environmental destruction, using the environment as a weapon must be universally condemned, must be denounced as an international crime against human-kind, against nature.

Posted by Richard
3/30/2003 08:14:40 AM | PermaLink

This is a link worth checking out, especially if you are interested in understanding some of the facts and figures related to oil reserves, supplies, and why powerful nations are interested right now in making grabs on signficant petroleum beds vis a vis their economic future. is one of many web ventures being done by Julian Darley, who is an eco-activist in Vancouver, and a very interesting example of what can be done with progressive web technology. Julian is providing free audio, transcripts, and in some cases -- video -- of an ongoing series of interviews with ecological experts. See especially Julian's own set of links about Oil Peak & Decline.

Posted by Richard
3/30/2003 08:04:16 AM | PermaLink