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Saturday, June 07, 2003

Winged Migration

I just saw Jacques Perrin's film Winged Migration. Simply put, sequence after sequence here is absolutely stunning and to my mind it rivals films like Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi in blending cinematic brilliance with the themes of nature and human relations.

However, Perrin does not play up nearly enough the role of humanity in the film and in fact fails to drive home the larger point that the beauty of bird migrations -- as he puts it, a yearly harbinger of the return of life -- will not continue in this fashion at all if global development continues unabated into natural areas. Perrin could have pointed out that over the last 30 years, over 50% of the global wetlands have been either drained or filled -- the very spaces that migratory birds absolutely must have if they are to survive! Instead, Perrin gives us tremendous pastoral shots of birds against an awesome backdrop of nature (which occludes that these spaces are increasingly few and far between). To be fair, he does give poetic glimpses into the fate of such birds at the hands of humans during the film, but the message is ultimately washed away in his larger theme of endless return and survival of the fittest.

Still, there are amazing moments -- such as when a captured blue Amazonian parrot figures out how to unlock himself, steps out of his cage, and flies liberated into the Amazonian jungle, or when a French peasant woman greets the returning cranes on her farm, feeding the weary travellers by hand. Such moments shine out of this film, and give hope that the human forces weighing presently against other species can be educated, redirected, and turned into a more beautiful harmony with the earth. But anyone expecting Perrin's film to sow this message for them will be mis-served. I highly recommend this film for parents and teachers, but they will have to raise the more complex questions about humanity's role in this drama after the fact.

Posted by Richard
6/07/2003 05:28:27 PM | PermaLink

Environmental Blogs

Matt over at has put together a list of environmental blogs that he knows about. The list is useful -- there are suggestion is that you contact Matt if you qualify. It's always nice to have people together in a list and being listed at Earth-info is always a good thing.

Posted by Richard
6/07/2003 04:55:35 PM | PermaLink

Friday, June 06, 2003

Survey Finds Americans Want Action on Global Warming

More than 80 percent of Americans think the United States
should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new survey conducted at the University of Oregon.

The survey is especially timely as the U.S. Senate debates the National Energy Plan. Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., are co-sponsoring an amendment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through government regulation and a market-based trading system.

The survey data, compiled by the UO's Survey Research Laboratory, found that of those Americans who have heard of global warming (92 percent):

* A strong majority (77 percent) supports regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant and investment in renewable energy (71 percent).

* A strong majority (88 percent) supports the Kyoto Protocol and wants the United States to reduce emissions regardless of what other countries do (76 percent).

* While a majority favors a tax on gas guzzlers (54 percent), strong majorities oppose a gasoline tax (78 percent) or a business energy tax (60 percent) to reduce emissions.

* Americans divide evenly (40 percent) regarding a market-based emissions trading system, while 18 percent are uncertain.

One of the most surprising findings was the strong, bipartisan support for action, said Anthony Leiserowitz, the study's principal investigator. Clear majorities of Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals said they support national policies to address global warming. With the Senate now debating the issue, decisions that will affect us all for generations to come are in the balance.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the mail survey of 673 adults was conducted between November 2002 and February 2003.

Survey results are available online.

Posted by Richard
6/06/2003 09:34:11 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, June 05, 2003

The US War on Iraq's Real Toll Begins...

Today is World Environment Day and the theme is Water. While the leaders of the G8 have taken this last week to avoid the swarms of protest, cast the suspicious media image of unity, and attempted to spin themselves as "sustainable," the sad facts speak for themselves. How George Bush can even sit at a table speaking about "sustainability" is beyond me -- the corruption of the term has become unimaginable...


Water Damage - As the heat has crept up into the low 100s in Iraq, so has the reliance on the ancient, sewage-choked waterways. The impact on the country's children has been devastating

The Iraqi city of Basra made headlines recently when a deadly wave of cholera swept the area. But it was only the first problem in a summer health-care crisis that will get worse in the coming weeks. Even before the war, water filtration plants across the nation were in a state of disrepair. Patched up with second-hand parts, they chugged along with machinery purchased in better days. The war delivered the coup de grace. Many of those that survived the bombing and the fighting-and quite a few didn't-were crippled by looters after it. In recent days, as the heat has crept up into the low 100s, so has the reliance of locals in towns across the country on the ancient, sewage-choked waterways of the Tigres and Euphrates rivers. The impact on Iraq's children has been devastating.

The border city of Usaybah, on the banks of the Euphrates up by Syria, is typical. "There is no water except from the river and there is nobody to help me," said Jossa Jamel as she sat with her infant son, who was stricken with diarrhea and started vomiting five days ago. "What should we do? There is no other way." Each day in recent weeks, Hamdi al-Aloosh's staff at Usaybah Hospital has treated as many as 30 cases of dysentery. And almost every day, he loses a child. "Everything is destroyed and the pumps are 25 years old," al-Aloosh explained. Lately, his doctors have begun to notice another disturbing trend: cases of typhoid, another deadly water-borne killer, may soon rise to epidemic proportions.

ALSO Baghdad: Attack Destroyed Water Supply Network -- The USA targeted the civilians' water supply

Posted by Richard
6/05/2003 09:37:32 AM | PermaLink

Trickling Away ... A Life and Death Commodity, UN Warns that Underground Supplies of Water, Crucial to Billions, are Remorselessly Decreasing

Underline "commodity" on this one...
Via: Guardian UK

Groundwater, the unseen source of life for two billion people, is diminishing almost everywhere in the world, according to a study published today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). So much water has been pumped from beneath Mexico City that buildings have in some places sunk two metres. The water table under the high plains in the American Midwest has fallen on average by three metres a decade and up to 30 metres in some places. So much has been extracted from southern Florida that the aquifers are at risk of flooding by sea water. Paradoxically, some cities in the Arabian Gulf have become waterlogged because of leaking pipes from coastal desalination plants.

Twelve cities of more than 10 million people - including Bangkok, Shanghai, London and Calcutta - rely on underground water reserves. "Some two billion people and as much as 40% of agriculture is at least partly reliant on these hidden stores," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of UNEP. "Groundwater also supplements river flows, springs and wetlands vital for rural and urban communities and wildlife. Most of the world's liquid freshwaters are found not in rivers and lakes, but below ground."

Posted by Richard
6/05/2003 09:36:15 AM | PermaLink

144 Page PEW Report Documents Oceans in Serious Crisis, US Practices Very Harmful

Via: ENS

The nation's oceans are in crisis from overfishing, pollution and development, and the government's patchwork of laws and bureaucracies are failing to protect them, according to an independent report released today.

The report from the Pew Oceans Commission calls for a new national commitment to the oceans and for dramatic efforts - including the creation of a single federal agency to set and oversee U.S. ocean policy - to reverse the decline of ocean wildlife and the collapse of ocean ecosystems, and to preserve the ecological, economic and social benefits the oceans provide.

For the report, click here.

Posted by Richard
6/05/2003 09:13:08 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Right of Way

Via: Audobon Magazine

Every year, collisions with deer alone cause millions of dollars in vehicle damage and 12,000 human injuries nationwide, according to the American Automobile Association. The impact on wildlife is, if anything, harsher. The nation's 4 million miles of roads fragment habitat and threaten species. Roads have devastated amphibian populations and the wetlands where they live, including most of the habitat of California's red-legged frog. Wildlife crossings have proven successful in Europe, where the loss of wildlife and habitat is a centuries-old issue. Europeans have been trying to protect animals from roads since the 1950s, and they are now sharing what they've learned with U.S. biologists and engineers.

Posted by Richard
6/04/2003 09:01:13 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky Supporting Greens

On his 3hr interview on CSPAN2 this last Sunday, Chomsky responded late in the program to a caller wondering about his support for the Greens. Chomsky sounded relatively enthusiastic, and while he had earlier admitted that voting beyond local elections is generally not his style, he more or less admitted to voting Green tactically in the last election. His feeling was, he said, that in States in which the electoral result was essentially known, he believed that it was important to support a progressive Third vision in national politics.

Now, he and Howard Zinn have come out with a more direct plug for the party generally:
Dear Green Party Supporter ,

Ralph Nader's campaign for President in 2000 sent out a powerful message: that conservative, DLC-dominated Democrats are not good enough for us. And Nader's Super Rallies gave us the thrilling experience of knowing that despite being ignored by the mainstream press, we are not alone - we have the power.

The 2000 campaign built the Green Party at the grassroots and gave all progressives a real alternative to the mainstream politics - a stream that is drifting much too far to the right. Now the Greens have much work to do, many coalitions to build, and much organizing to do to realize the dream that the Nader campaign gave us and that those Super Rallies made us feel.

Please help in any way you can so that the next generation's People's History of the United States tells a much different story.

Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky

Posted by Richard
6/03/2003 08:02:40 AM | PermaLink

Dennis Kucinich: From "Polka-Bowling-Kielbasa" to "Green-Democrat-Vegan"?

It shows how much the times have changed in America when a political figure like Kucinich can rise to fame in Ohio on the mantra of Polka, Bowling and Kielbasa and transform himself into the Democratic cutting-edge by taking strong stands for human rights, nuclear abolition, and a non-animal use lifestyle. Still, as Kucinich considers running Green and the Greens consider running Kucinich (not a bad move in my opinion b/c of his Washingtonian status as an insider), he needs to step and prove that he's more than just a fly-by-nighter and political fair-weather-fan. It's fashionable to be Green right now for someone like Kucinich -- but the Greens aren't about fashion (at their best). Thus, Kucinich (as a vegan) needs to answer why he continues to promote Kielbasa on his homepage - "The Sausage Shoppe"?

From Kucinich's website:
He not only believes in sustainability, he practices it. Congressman Kucinich is one of the few vegans in Congress, a dietary decision he credits not only with improving his health, but in deepening his belief in the sacredness of all species. In the 106th Congress, his call for labeling and safety testing of all genetically engineered foods provoked a $50 million advertising campaign by the biotech industry. Kucinich hosted an international parliamentary session, attended by officials of 18 countries, on the social, economic, political and health impact of genetic food technologies. More recently he was one of the principal speakers at an international conference on water rights, where he called for governments to reserve public ownership of water resources.

US Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat of Ohio, is a dynamic, visionary leader of the Progressive Caucus of the congressional Democrats who combines a powerful activism with a spiritual sense of the essential interconnectedness of all living things. His holistic worldview carries with it a passionate commitment to public service, peace, human rights, workers rights, and the environment. His advocacy of a Department of Peace seeks not only to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society, but to make war archaic. His is a powerful, ethical voice for nuclear disarmament, preservation of the ABM treaty, banning weapons in outer space, and a halt to the development of a 'Star Wars' - type missile defense technology.

Posted by Richard
6/03/2003 07:52:04 AM | PermaLink

Monday, June 02, 2003

Environmentalists Ponder a Low-Impact Life

Via: Oregonian

Buy no bananas. Live close to your work. Think about every purchase. Set aside one day a week without television, telephones or motor vehicles to stay in touch with personal values. Those were some of the ideas suggested on Saturday during the final sessions of a Portland conference designed to encourage sustainability in a wide range of human activity. Some ideas were as simple as installing energy-efficient light bulbs, while others were as ethereal as deciding what's really important in life and figuring out how to get there.

Posted by Richard
6/02/2003 10:35:36 AM | PermaLink

E-trash: Recycling the Future or Just Greewashing it?

Green Movement Is Gray Area:
The electronics industry is paying more attention to the environmental friendliness of its products. But environmentalists worry that the concern is just "green washing,'' or lip service with minimal environmental benefits, meant to spur sales to green-conscious consumers.

Electronics Recycling Industry Poised for Growth:
Economic, political, and environmental factors will help fuel significant expansion of the electronics recycling industry in the coming years as dozens of states implement or consider electronics recycling laws and pressure builds for a national take-back policy.

And here's a good report on E-trash: Exporting Harm: the hi-tech trashing of Asia.

Posted by Richard
6/02/2003 10:13:19 AM | PermaLink

World Environment Day, June 5th

If you do nothing else, take a moment to look over the educational information provided by UNEP that shows why clean water is increasingly the #1 terrorist commodity of our times...

This Web site introduces the United Nations Environment Programme's World Environment Day (WED), hosted this year in Beirut. World Environment Day is "one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action." This year's theme is "Water -- Two Billion People are Dying for It." Features available on the Web site include downloadable informational material, descriptions of WED events planned around the world, a fantastic collection of water-related photos from UNEP's International Photographic Competition, and much more. The site also includes a quiz where users can test their understanding of water resources and responsible water usage. Also available in Arabic, French, and Spanish.

Posted by Richard
6/02/2003 08:09:35 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, June 01, 2003

California Protest Urges Ford to Boost Fuel Economy

Via: Reuters

Environmental protesters gathered in San Francisco on Saturday for the first of several nationwide protests aimed at pressuring Ford Motor Co. to boost the fuel economy of its cars and trucks.

The groups say they are taking aim at Ford, the world's second biggest automaker, because they believe it is not living up to its claim that it is committed to continuous improvement in fuel economy to meet customer and societal needs.

"Ford has tried to make itself out as an environmental leader, and unfortunately there is a big gap between its rhetoric and its actions," said Jason Mark, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Global Exchange.

The protest follows Ford's announcement in April that it would miss a 2005 deadline to improve the fuel economy of its sport utility vehicles by 25 percent.

In April, Ford said it would delay its SUV fuel economy goal set three years ago in favor of reaching a 20 percent to 30 percent improvement in average fuel economy across all the vehicles it sells in North America by the end of the decade.

The protest was also part of an effort by some activists who opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to take their "No blood for oil" message to a new level to help break what they call America's "oil addiction."

The demonstration is planned to be followed next weekend by protests in up to 20 U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago and New York, and to culminate in protests from June 14 through June 16 at Ford's Dearborn, Michigan headquarters, when the company will observe its 100th anniversary.

Two protest sponsors, Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network, say they believe the technology exists for Ford to achieve average fuel efficiency of 50 miles (80 km) per gallon by 2010 -- far above today's standards.

Existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards required for passenger cars stand at about 28 miles per gallon (mpg). The standards were first adopted in 1975 by Congress after the Arab oil embargo. CAFE requirements for popular SUVs and light trucks stand at about 21 mpg.

Environmental groups have long-favored higher mileage requirements for SUVs, but the auto industry has fought any substantial changes. SUVs and pick-up trucks account for about half all vehicles sold each year in the United States.

Posted by Richard
6/01/2003 06:17:24 AM | PermaLink