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Friday, September 05, 2003

Support Environmental Justice: Vote No on Proposition 54

Californians need to realize that the question of whether or not to allow right wingers to steal the state is only one of the important measures on the recall ballot. Also, the Prop 54 is up for grabs -- sponsored quietly by rightist money, passage of this measure would be a great blow to the environmental justice movement here in CA. Vegan Blog stands against the move to deny classification by race, ethnicity, color, or national origin because these statistics are important for proving in court and at the policy level that specific communities of color are adversely affected by industrial and military pollution. There may be a time when identity politics and such classification is less necessary and I would be willing to entertain this question -- with proper democratic debate (which is not occuring in this case) -- at that time. Now, however, is not the time to strike another blow against those who can least afford it.

Via: Loma Prietan

As part of the recall election on October 7, Californians also will vote on Proposition 54, the "Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin Initiative" (CRECNO). The initiative, authored by Ward Connerly, would prevent state and local governments from collecting or maintaining racial or ethnic data in their operations. Sierra Club California joins the other major environmental groups in the state in opposing Prop. 54 because it would undermine our effort to achieve environmental justice in California.

First, Proposition 54's ban on information gathering by state agencies would greatly hamper efforts to identify and document the unequal distribution of environmental hazards in California. Studies show that numerous environmental harms are disproportionately located in communities of color, even after controlling for income and other factors. These hazards include the likelihood of living near abandoned waste dumps or facilities that release toxic chemicals, living in areas that fail Clean Air Act standards, and suffering from childhood lead poisoning or pesticide-related illnesses or eating contaminated fish.

Some of the most important demographic data on which these studies are based comes from the California Department of Finance, the Department of Health, and County Health Departments. If Proposition 54 is enacted, state and county agencies could be precluded from collecting these data.

Proposition 54 likewise would jeopardize programs to achieve environmental justice, including recently adopted state legislation. The new law requires Cal/EPA to prevent discriminatory siting and enforcement and to improve research and data collection for its programs, including their impact on minority populations. Yet, among other things, Proposition 54 could stop state and local agencies from identifying higher risks faced by minority populations who fish for subsistence purposes; analyzing whether proposed projects would have disproportionate environmental impacts on communities of color in Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) or other documentation prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); conducting targeted outreach in African-American and Latino communities where rates of childhood lead-based paint poisoning are several times higher than in white neighborhoods, or conducting research on the causes of high asthma rates among African Americans.

In short, Proposition 54 provides no concrete benefits and instead will only make us ignorant about environmental injustices that are prevalent in California and greatly hinder efforts to remedy them. Please vote NO on Proposition 54. For more information, visit the Coalition for an Informed California, at

Clifford Rechtschaffen is a Professor and Director of the Environmental Law Program at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Posted by Richard
9/05/2003 11:55:59 AM | PermaLink

Americans Among Most Misinformed on Global Warming


In one of the hottest years ever recorded, with hundreds dying in Europe from a sweltering heat wave, a new research study out shows that Americans are among the most mis-informed citizenry regarding global warming. This statement comes from a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by the name of Steven R. Brechin.

He recently completed a study that will be published this fall in a special issue of the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. This study analyzed a variety of public opinion polls conducted since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and included various Gallup and Pew Research Center polls and studies by the research group Environics International.

According to Brechin, some of the most surprising findings concern U.S. citizens. Not only are Americans "more or less equally misinformed" as people elsewhere about the causes of global warming, but they also are "among the most misinformed of the developed nations surveyed."

A 2001 poll, for example, found that only 15 percent of the U.S. citizens surveyed correctly identified burning fossil fuels as the primary cause of global warming.

"Even the Cubans, at 17 percent, were slightly more informed," Brechin wrote. The citizens of Mexico led all 15 countries surveyed, with 26 percent of the respondents correctly identifying fossil fuels.

Posted by Richard
9/05/2003 05:53:11 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Understanding the Policy and its Effects -- Boise Cascade's Truce with Rainforest Action Network

While I have read some criticism from the extreme left of RAN's coming to the table with a giant timber harvester like Boise at this time, personally I think one needs to see this as a positive for RAN -- who earlier in the year had gotten their other old growth enemy, Citibank, to cave in -- and will cement the organization as one to be reckoned with in the years to come. That is: if RAN gives up credibility with more extreme opinion, it arguably moves the sustainable lumber certification process forward by a decade and concretizes RAN's political power as it moves into its year-end award banquet (note: this can help with donations!).

However, as one reads below, there are problems and complications with the whole process of certification and what is an endangered forest and what is not, etc. Thus, don't expect to see any amazing changes soon and Boise is now free, more or less, to get back to the job of what it does best -- clear out forests, including some big, big trees. Additionally, while the article below glosses over the issue of tracking a certified lumber shipment from point of origin to final sale (as something which the industry and environmental groups will now be working towards doing), this is in fact gravely difficult. There is a huge black market in illegal wood and the shipping business is notably corrupt and unexact -- if one wants to load, transport, and sell in the US, for instance, illegal Brazillian mahogany, it can be and is done. Certification processes make it more difficult, but they make it more difficult in the same way that it is more difficult to traffic in cocaine or other substances across borders. The average consumer needs to understand that wood that is certified sustainable is not by any means a 100% assurance as to its origin and the practices surrounding its sale and its not clear that such an assurance will ever be completely forthcoming either.

Still, the sheer effect of a grassroots organization influencing a major industry through its leader toward instituting more ethical conduct and standards is nothing to be shrugged away. There is other political work to be done, but RAN has done one leg of it.

Via: Idaho Statesman

What are the main points of Boise Cascade´s new environmental policy? The new policy builds on the company´s already announced plan to phase out old-growth logging by 2004 by adding new requirements sought by environmentalists, including:

• No longer buying wood from endangered forests in places such as Chile, Indonesia and Canada once those forests are identified.

• Giving preference to suppliers who use wood from certified forests.

• Tracking the origin of wood it receives from suppliers.

What is old growth? Old growth is determined by the age of the trees, but there remains much debate on how old a tree needs to be to be considered old growth. The U.S. Forest Service has more than 100 old-growth definitions.

Even before announcing a plan to curb old growth harvesting, Boise Cascade was only harvesting a very small percentage.

Because defining old growth is difficult to agree on, environmentalists have now opted for the term “endangered forest.”

What is an endangered forest? That, too, is a definition that has yet to be determined. Boise Cascade and environmental groups will now start the process of trying to identify and agree on which forests in the world should be considered endangered.

What is forest certification? Forest landowners ask an independent body to certify that they operate their forests sustainably measured against standards set by two different certification groups.

Who are the two groups? The Forest Stewardship Council is an independent, non-profit, internationally oriented forest management certification group based in Mexico. Started by environmentalists in 1993, it is run by a board of business, environmental and social interests. It requires inspections by third-party certifiers and a system that tracks wood from the forest to the final product. It´s the group most environmentalists like.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative was started in 1995 by the American Forest and Paper Association, the national trade association of the U.S. forest products industry. It has shifted its certification from self-inspection to third-party audits. Its standards, first set by the industry, are increasingly being moved to an independent board similar in makeup to the FSC board. Led by Boise Cascade, it is moving toward tracking wood from the forest to the final product.

Do they ban the harvesting of old-growth timber? No. Neither bans the harvest of old-growth timber, but their approaches are different. FSC´s approach meets the requirements of Home Depot, Lowes and other retailers. SFI up to now hasn´t.

What does this agreement mean for other timber owners in Idaho? Potlatch already is attempting to certify all of its forestlands in Idaho through both the FSC and the SFI systems. Experts expect other large forest landowners, including the Idaho Department of Lands, which manages its timber for the school endowment fund, are going to face pressure from their customers to begin certification. So far, no one has suggested how to certify federal lands.

What´s the drawback for certification?

It´s expensive to start and expensive to keep up. Many landowners are waiting until they can get a premium for certified wood or until they have no choice.

What´s the advantage? Easier access to a marketplace increasingly demanding environmentally responsible products.

What does it mean for consumers?

As certification becomes standardized, consumers won´t have to do research to know they are buying wood from forests that meet environmental standards anywhere in the world.

What does it mean for Boise Cascade? The agreement ends a public relations nightmare for the company as it moves aggressively into the retail office supplies sector. It may even give Boise Cascade a boost in the new market, since it can justifiably argue it has the environmental mark of approval.

What does it mean for the Rainforest Action Network? The agreement is a major victory for its grassroots, market-based campaign to improve forest practices worldwide. Its ability to reach a sound agreement with Boise Cascade shows it can make the compromises necessary to be effective.

Posted by Richard
9/04/2003 09:59:22 AM | PermaLink

Federal Government Attacks Los Angeles Clean Air Policies

In this case its actually the federal government acting on behalf of the Western States Petroleum Association (read: big oil interests) and the Engine Manufacturers Association (read: big auto interests), with both using their considerable lobbying power to attempt to repeal the very same progressive reforms that the US government (under Clinton) demanded that southern california implement by 2010 or suffer serious consequences financially. Now, under Bush, industry is running amok and even though southern california is set to have 60-70 odd smog alert days (days exceeding federal safety standards), and this figure is twice the amount of last year's alone sending so. cal. back to 1970s levels of pollution, the feds are moving in to make sure its even dirtier for the average citizen and that business is laissez-faire. Southern californians should be outraged and vote this outrage the next election...the only problem, however, is that the people most affected by this are the poor and minority communities who tend not to vote, with communities like Orange County behind the smog line (for now) and filled with the same industry tycoons that are attempting to institute this mess. What happened to state's rights?


The federal government today joined a lawsuit in U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to overturn the Southland’s “clean fleet rules,” one of the region’s most important and innovative tools for reducing smog-forming and toxic air pollution.

“This is the third strike in one month launched by the federal government against clean air in Southern California,” said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“We are experiencing our smoggiest summer in more than five years, and the federal government is trying to take away the very tools we need to protect the health of 16 million Southern Californians.”

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief today in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to overturn AQMD’s clean fleet rules.  The Western States Petroleum Association, a trade association of major oil companies, and the Engine Manufacturers Association, which includes several diesel engine manufacturers, originally brought the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.  After AQMD prevailed in that court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case in early December.

AQMD’s clean fleet rules, adopted in 2000 and 2001, include seven measures requiring fleet operators of transit buses, school buses, trash trucks, airport shuttles and taxis, street sweepers and heavy-duty utility trucks to buy clean-fueled models when they replace vehicles or add to their fleet.  The rules have resulted in the replacement of hundreds of highly polluting diesel-powered vehicles with cleaner-burning natural gas and other alternative-fuel models.

Plaintiffs and now the federal government argue that under the federal Clean Air Act, states and local jurisdictions are prohibited from establishing their own emission standards for new motor vehicles.

“AQMD’s fleet rules do not set emission standards,” Wallerstein said.  “They simply ask fleet operators to choose from among the cleanest engines that are commercially available.”

Each of AQMD’s fleet rules exempts fleet operators if they can demonstrate that the specific model they need is not commercially available in a clean-fuel version.

In today’s legal brief, the federal government also argued that under the Clean Air Act, AQMD must petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for permission to adopt its own emission standard to new vehicles.  AQMD maintains that this is unnecessary since its fleet rules do not constitute an emissions standard.

Today’s action is the third time in the last month the federal government has attempted to obstruct Southern California’s efforts to move forward with its clean air program.

In early August, AQMD adopted its 2003 Air Quality Management Plan, a blueprint for clean air by 2010 that will require substantial emission reductions from sources such as trains, planes and ships under the sole jurisdiction of the federal government.  The U.S. EPA refused to commit to any specific emission reduction measures in AQMD’s plan.

Just this week, EPA announced sweeping changes to the so-called “New Source Review” program, a major clean air program aimed at ensuring that large factories and businesses install the best available air pollution controls when they expand or modify their equipment.  EPA’s new rules in many cases will allow facilities to expand without using the best available air pollution control equipment.  AQMD in February sued EPA over an earlier relaxation to the program.

“For years, the federal government has threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Southern California’s economy, including the revocation of billions of dollars of highway construction funds, if the region does not meet federal clean air standards by 2010,” Wallerstein said.

“Instead of doing their best to help us achieve this goal, they are putting roadblocks in our path.”

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Posted by Richard
9/04/2003 08:09:32 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Big, Bad World -- EF Schumacher 30 Years Later

Via: Guardian UK

It is 30 years since the publication of a slim volume of articles and essays titled Small is Beautiful - a key text of the nascent environmental movement. The year 1973 was a timely one for radical environmental thinking. The first UN conference on sustainable development had been held the previous year, and soon after, within months of each other, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the UK Green party were founded.

Small is Beautiful rapidly became a bestseller, and its author, EF Schumacher, was feted by international leaders and counterculture activists alike. Today, Schumacher is less well known, but the ideas he popularised helped shape modern environmentalism, development theory and the global justice movement.

Equal parts economic analysis, spiritual tract and radical manifesto, the book reflected the contradictory nature of its author - a patrician academic who was also passionately interested in Eastern philosophy. What bound his work was a central belief that modern society had lost touch with basic human needs and values - and in doing so had failed both the planet and its people.

Posted by Richard
9/03/2003 04:36:51 PM | PermaLink

Rusting, Toxic 'Ghost Fleet' on Way to UK

Via: Guardian UK

A fleet of 13 dilapidated US ships, heavily polluted with asbestos, oil and deadly PCBs, will embark on the 4,500-mile journey from America's east coast to Teesside in the next month amid warnings from salvage experts that they risk bringing an environmental disaster in their wake.

Seven years ago Bill Clinton ruled that the US navy's "ghost fleet" of 120 decomposing hulks could not be scrapped in developing countries because their pollution and toxic loads risked the lives of shipyard workers. But a British company has signed a $17m (£10.8m) contract to dismantle the most fragile vessels at a dockyard near Hartlepool.

Posted by Richard
9/03/2003 04:36:38 PM | PermaLink

Pheasants Take Fatal Flight: Hundreds of Drowned Game Birds Float Ashore After Bid to Flee Townships Hunting Preserve

Thanks to Vegan Animal Rights for this one. These sorts of private hunting clubs are the spitting image of today's most barbarous war instincts and its no wonder that its the same class of wealthy gentry that like to gather together on the weekend to dispose of trapped exotic game, that tend to vote for (or be behind) the larger imperial ventures being levyed upon trapped global populations of people. In this case, loading the pheasants to an island and clipping their wings so that they can not even fly away, highlights the lengths that such insecure cruelty will go to in order to garner its trophies and have a good time. Cheers to the Montreal Gazette to standing up to the rich financiers behind this venture and outing their pathetic and tragic actions.

Via: Montreal Gazette

Residents of a tiny community on Lake Memphrémagog awoke to a horrible scene yesterday as hundreds of dead pheasants washed up on the lake's rocky shores.

It isn't the first time the shores of Cedarville, near Stanstead, 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal on the Quebec-Vermont border, have been littered with dead birds. In previous years, birds washed up on shore after being killed by hunters on a privately owned island in the middle of the lake, but never in such great numbers, area residents said.

The pheasants are raised at the Club de chasse et pèche île de Province, which is owned by a consortium that includes business giants Jean Coutu and Francesco Bellini, among many other high-profile Quebecers. They could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"We picked up roughly 250 birds," said Edward Boisclair, a member of the Stanstead volunteer fire department. "A couple of them were still alive, but they didn't make it."

Boisclair said the birds most likely tried to fly across the lake to the mainland but were unable to make it because they have all had their wings clipped by the club to make them easier to hunt.

It appears that the birds simple drowned in the lake. They were unable to swim because, unlike ducks, the pheasants do not have webbed feet.

The final count of dead birds could be much higher, however, with local residents picking up close to 100 other birds and dozens still floating along the shores of the lake.

"It was pretty upsetting," said Michelle Wesley, who picked up more than a dozen dead birds behind her boyfriend's parents' cottage.

"We come down on a long weekend and find all these beautiful birds dead - it's upsetting."

Mike Klein, who was out on the lake with his son Matthew, saw the birds fly overhead and watched them drop into the water.

"They were everywhere. They came to your boat because they were just so scared," Klein said.

"The poor things are so docile, they were shaking.

"We were able to save about 15 of the birds and let them go in the woods."

Unfortunately, he also recovered 25 dead birds and stuffed them into orange garbage bags.

"It's sad and outrageous," he said.

Jean Cooper, whose husband was one of the first to find the birds in the water, said that residents have asked the club to stop their hunting for a while.

"We've asked them to stop, but they can do whatever they want," she said.

Her husband was able to save about a dozen birds, but he also recovered dozens more dead ones.

Cooper moved to the area several years ago after leaving Montreal and said that the birds that have washed up on shore in previous years had been shot.

"It's sort of sick. What kind of sport is that?" she said.

Klein loaded the garbage bags filled with dead birds onto his boat and headed for the island with Wesley, a reporter and a photographer.

They intended to drop the two bags of carcasses on the island as a form of protest.

Dozens of dead birds could be seen floating on the shores of the island. Looking past the brush, hundreds more birds could be seen on the island, apparently not willing to make the same mistake as their cousins.

The residents also attached a note to the bags addressed to the owners. It described their disgust at the death of the birds.

Klein was surprised he was able to get that close to the docks, usually closely watched for trespassers.

For some residents, the disaster seems to be the final straw in a series of problems with the island. Many of them have been complaining for some time about noise on the island, which is about one kilometre offshore and partially in the United States.

The noise reaches a peak every Thanksgiving, when hunters converge on the island for a weekend of hunting and celebration.

"When they start shooting, the noise is horrible," Klein said. "It is as if a war has broken out."

Gina Beattie has also been complaining about the noise from the island for some time and says that it gets unbearable at times.

"For eight weeks, we can't come down here without hearing all the shooting."

Posted by Richard
9/03/2003 07:08:50 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Scientists Highlight Fish Intelligence

Via: BBC

Fish are socially intelligent creatures who do not deserve their reputation as the dim-wits of the animal kingdom, according to a group of leading scientists. Rather than simply being instinct-driven, the group says fish are cunning, manipulative and even cultured.

The three experts from the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Leeds said there had been huge changes in science's understanding of the psychological and mental abilities of fish in the last few years. Writing in the journal Fish and Fisheries, biologists Calum Brown, Keven Laland and Jens Krause said fish were now seen as highly intelligent creatures.

Posted by Richard
9/02/2003 09:45:03 AM | PermaLink

Toyota Unveils Car With Steering Sensors

While I'm still hoping for a world in which the automobile becomes de-normalized and people return to walking and bikes on the one hand, and mass-transit on the other, tremendous advances in hybrid-style autos like the new Prius serve to underline how 11mpg monsters such as the Hum-vee are thoughtless and egoistic transport choices that signify only that one could give a damn about others, besides connoting certain factors of personal insecurity (and, in men -- their primary owners -- impotence). How can one not want to drive a self-parking car that gets 84 mpg, as well as being eco-friendly by utilizing recycled materials? It is the perfect urban sprawl vehicle -- everyone in LA should own one.


Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled a new passenger car it says marks a world's first in using sensors and automated steering to help even the worst drivers ease into parking spots.

The redesigned Prius, which was introduced to the Japanese market Monday, uses a monitor screen to scan the parking location and help guide the car into position, Toyota chief engineer Masao Inoue said.

"As you can see, the car does all the steering, helping you park," Inoue said at the car's Tokyo debut. "This is a very convenient feature for use in curbside parking or when backing up into the garage."

Toyota president Fujio Cho said the company hopes to sell 76,000 new Prius worldwide by the end of 2004, tapping a growing appetite for environmentally friendly cars.

The new Prius is also equipped with a hybrid gasoline-electric engine that allows the driver to switch power on the roll and achieve fuel efficiency levels of up to 84 miles per gallon.

The Prius, first launched in 1997, has sold more than 120,000 units to date, the company said.

In Japan, the new Prius is retailing for $18,534.

Posted by Richard
9/02/2003 09:31:11 AM | PermaLink

Protected Forests Crucial to Supplying the World's Biggest Cities with Cheaper Clean Water

Thanks to EcoSocialism for the link to this. In light of this report, one might also find interesting a recent report by the World Bank in which its global investment strategy is evaluated vis a vis the Bank's new environmental policy recommendations, with each country and region being evaluated in terms of the need for potable water, fragile land, and unsafe outdoor air (air containing sediment greater than 2.5 microns). In this report, a curve was then applied to normalize investment such that one single region did not dominate, allowing the Bank to spread investment globally based on "need," population, and the Bank's own global charter, as well as whether or not the investment stood a good chance of seeing real improvement as the result. The most important finding hidden in the report as far as I can see is that it is recommended that the World Bank decrease investment in Africa -- with Nigeria and Congo taking real hits -- while that money would instead be funneled into East and South Asia -- with China, Vietnam, Korea and other countries gaining significant capital increases.

Via: World Wildlife Fund

A new study by World Bank-WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use shows that protecting forest areas provides a cost-effective means of supplying many of the world’s biggest cities with high quality drinking water, providing significant health and economic benefits to urban populations.

The new report, Running Pure, shows that more than a third of the world’s 105 biggest cities — including New York, Jakarta, Tokyo, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Nairobi, and Melbourne — rely on fully or partly protected forests in catchment areas for much of their drinking water.

Well-managed natural forests minimize the risk of landslides, erosion, and sedimentation. They substantially improve water purity by filtering pollutants, such as pesticides, and in some cases capture and store water.

According to the report, adopting a forest protection strategy can result in massive savings. It is, for example, much cheaper to protect forests than to build water treatment plants.

In New York, the adoption of such a strategy will be seven times cheaper than building and operating a treatment plant.

With over a billion mainly poor city dwellers still deprived of drinking water or adequate sanitation, WWF believes it is the responsibility of all urban areas, irrespective of their size, to maintain and invest in high quality drinking water.

“Some cities that are currently struggling with unsafe water supplies should protect, manage, and where necessary restore forests in strategic places. This would both help them secure their supply of clean water and save billions of dollars,” said Dr Chris Elliott, Director of WWF’s Forests for Life Programme. “However, good quality drinking water for city dwellers should not come at the expense of people living in catchment areas, and any protection or management scheme should be fully negotiated with local stakeholders.”

According to the report, better enforcement of the protected status is also needed as several of the forest protected areas around big cities still suffer from harmful activities, such as illegal land use and logging.

Mount Kenya, for example, saves Kenya’s economy more than US$20 million a year through protecting the water catchment area of two of the country’s main river systems.

However, illegal charcoal burning, logging, and road construction are still rife on Mount Kenya — severely impacting the quality of water going to the capital, Nairobi.

Similarly, the forests surrounding Istanbul, Turkey, are threatened by illegal housing developments, inappropriate land use policies, and disputes at national and local authority level.

Today, water-related diseases kill millions of people each year, and in urban areas with inadequate freshwater supply, poor sanitation, and bad hygiene practices, the infant mortality rate is 10–20 times the norm.

With around half of the world’s population currently living in towns and cities, these problems are likely to increase in the future as populations and cities continue to grow rapidly, the study further notes.

“Conserving whole catchment areas to protect water supplies for cities provides a good example of how investing in environmental health benefits both people and nature,” said David Cassells, Senior Environmental Specialist for Forest Resources with the World Bank, and Co-Chair of the Forest Alliance. “For many cities, time is running out. Protecting forests around water catchment areas is no longer a luxury but a necessity. When they are gone, the costs of providing clean and safe drinking water to urban areas will increase dramatically.”

WWF calls on governments and donor agencies to significantly increase their efforts in protecting water catchment areas if they are to reduce poverty and halve the number of people without adequate access to water by 2015 — a target set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year.

Posted by Richard
9/02/2003 08:32:35 AM | PermaLink

Monday, September 01, 2003

NGO Statement on Multilateral Environmental Agreements and the World Trade Organization

One of the issues that the WTO will be exploring in Cancun in several days is its relationship with international (multilateral) environmental agreements (MEAs). A possible outcome is that the WTO establishes itself as the body to settle disputes that arise between global environmental and trade agreements, threatening to undermine the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and other agreements.

Several North American groups have collaborated in pulling the following position statement together. Please consider signing your group. Since this will be presented in Cancun during the WTO Ministerial Meeting, the deadline for organizational sign-ons is noon on Thursday, September 4 (eastern time).

Sign-on statement for organizations
Send sign-ons to Jason:

The signatory organizations listed below express unqualified support for Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that are critical to the protection and recovery of the environment and to the promotion of sustainable development worldwide. We express deep concern that the current negotiations at the World Trade Organization are threatening these international environmental laws by making them subservient to trade law. The success of WTO supremacy over MEAs would severely retard the ability of the global community to react to such major environmental challenges as climate change, extinction and pollution.

We call upon all delegates to the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico, September 10-14, 2003, to defend the principles and letter of international environmental laws, especially in the context of paragraph 31(i) of that the Doha Declaration that authorizes negotiations on "the relationship between existing WTO rules and specific trade obligations set out in Multilateral Environmental Agreements."

MEAs fulfill various critical global environmental objectives with trans-boundary effects that cannot be addressed by individual nations. International environmental agreements are also important legal tools to prevent foreign corporations from despoiling the ecosystems of developing countries. MEAs have included trade measures since the late 19th Century, and include agreements related to trade in endangered species, the movement of hazardous waste, the protection of biological diversity, and the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Considering the risks for international environmental governance posed by the current WTO negotiations on the relationship between trade rules and MEAs, we oppose the continuation of these negotiations. The WTO should have no rule-making oversight concerning international environmental governance in general, and specifically not over MEAs. We therefore call upon governments to halt the current WTO negotiations and transfer them to a neutral multilateral venue within the UN system.

We believe that any consideration of the relationship between WTO rules and MEA rules will result in bargaining away important environmental protections in favor of greater trade liberalization. We are also concerned by the bad precedent for global governance that could be set by one body of international law unilaterally determining its own relationship to another jurisdiction of international law. For these reasons, it is preferable to have no negotiated outcome than to have an outcome any less clearly deferential to MEAs than the position asserted in the 1996 report of the WTO's Committee on Trade and the Environment.

WTO negotiations on MEAs should not be allowed to define an MEA, or to establish procedures or criteria applying to specific trade measures between parties to an MEA.

Related to paragraph 31(ii) of the Doha Declaration, we further call on the parties to the WTO to grant to all MEA Secretariats observer status to any WTO negotiations, and to create procedures for regular information exchange between Secretariats and relevant WTO committees. This level of transparency and involvement is needed to help predict and mitigate any negative impact the WTO may have on MEAs.

Endorsing groups: American Lands Alliance, Friends of the Earth - U.S., Pacific Environment, Sierra Club of Canada, Sierra Club - U.S.

Posted by Richard
9/01/2003 04:08:26 PM | PermaLink

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Inside the ELF: Meet the Public Face of Radical Environmentalism

Via: LA Weekly

A former Earth First!er who sailed with the renegade Sea Shepherds to save baby harp seals and served jail time as a card-carrying member of the Animal Liberation Front, Rod Coronado is fast replacing Dave Foreman as the radical environmental movement’s resident prophet and godhead. Finished with direct action after his release from prison four years ago, he now lives in Tucson, where he works at the Earth First! Journal and travels the country speaking about the environment.

The lone face and de facto spokesperson of the Earth Liberation Front, he sat down with the L.A. Weekly’s ALEX MARKELS this week to answer a few questions.

L.A. Weekly: What’s the difference between those now in the vanguard of the radical environmental movement and the old guard from your Earth First! days?

CORONADO: People in the movement nowadays are thinking more holistically. In the past, everyone was very much about wilderness — roadless areas, grizzly bears and that sort of stuff. Nowadays, you’ve got people who are just fighting to protect their neighborhood woods. In fact, I’d say there are just as many activists involved in urban restoration as there are people involved in protecting the wilderness.

But the most glaring difference from the old days is that the connection between environmentalism and animal rights is much stronger today. Back in the 1980s, radical Earth First!ers still ate meat. Now if you’re a radical environmentalist and you’re not meatless, people will call you a hypocrite. Those involved in the struggle today are very much connecting the dots between the environment and animal oppression. [..]

Posted by Richard
8/31/2003 09:00:32 AM | PermaLink