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Saturday, September 20, 2003

US Soldiers Kill Rare Bengal Tiger in Iraq's Zoo

Stories of animals are always, sadly, the under-reported undercurrent of any war. When the US invaded Afghanistan, the story was of the brave one-eyed lion Marjan -- who had lost his eye to Taliban violence, and who, though starved from the war and tattered, was holding on as a symbol of courage in war...within a month of the US intervention there, he finally died. Then, again, there were the stories of the US/Nato invasion of Bosnia and the animals in the zoos there who would release unearthly howls and screams 30 minutes prior to every bombing attack, sensitive to the oncoming death and destruction. Famously, a tiger there -- so terrorized by human warfare, took to eating off its OWN paws out of sheer neurotic fear. All this, though, doesn't tell the real story of what happens to animals and the environment during war -- from cats and dogs to rare species in the countryside. War, simply, kills; and in this case it kills those who intended no harm to anyone, those who would rather live without war. They lie shot in cages, dying at the hands of military violence.

Via: BlogLeft

During a drunken party, one soldier thought he would feed the tiger and got his hand bitten off, so his buddy retaliated and killed the endangered cat.

At: News24.com

Posted by Richard
9/20/2003 07:07:27 PM | PermaLink

 
Friday, September 19, 2003

World Facing Fourth Consecutive Grain Harvest Shortfall

The following is from Earth Policy's President Lester Brown...Brown does not draw out what should be an obvious conclusion from this information, however, that the global rise in beef production is not only a factor as well (as beef cattle and other "meat" animals are major global grain consumers), but that if global populations would move even somewhat towards even a vegetarian or vegan diet, this would significantly off-set global grain shortfalls. While rising population is without a doubt an issue, the neo-malthusian fear about people out consuming the planet is less reasonable than the reasonable fear about the consumption choices that people make and the way in which they relate to the planet which bears them.

Via: Earth-Policy.org

This year's world grain harvest is falling short of consumption by 93 million tons, dropping world grain stocks to the lowest level in 30 years. As rising temperatures and falling water tables hamstring farmers' efforts to expand production, prices of wheat and rice are turning upward.

For the first time, the grain harvest has fallen short of consumption four years in a row. In 2000, the shortfall was a modest 16 million tons; in 2001 it was 27 million tons; and in 2002 a record-smashing 96 million tons. In its September 11 crop report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that this year's shrunken harvest of only 1,818 million tons is falling short of estimated consumption of 1,911 million tons by a near-record 93 million tons. (See data http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update28_data.htm.)

Agricultural leaders are now looking to next year's crop with fingers crossed. If 2004 brings another large shortfall comparable to this year or last year, there could be chaos in world grain markets by this time next year as more than 100 grain-importing countries scramble for scarce exportable supplies.

Higher temperatures are thwarting farmers' efforts to expand food production. The earth's average temperature has been rising since the late 1970s, with the three warmest years on record coming in the last five years. As temperatures continue to rise, crop yields start to fall.

Last year India and the United States suffered sharp harvest reductions because of record temperatures and drought. This year Europe bore the brunt of higher temperatures. Record heat in late summer scorched harvests from the United Kingdom and France in the west through Ukraine in the east. Bread prices are rising in several countries in the region.

After several years of seeing crops withered by heat, scientists are now beginning to focus on the precise effect of temperature on crop yields. New research from crop ecologists at the International Rice Research Institute and the USDA's Agriculture Research Service shows an emerging consensus that a 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the optimum during the growing season leads to a 10-percent decline in grain yields.

How much will the earth's temperature rise? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--with some 1,500 of the world's leading climate scientists--is projecting a rise of 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius (2.5-10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) during this century if carbon emissions continue to increase. Farmers on the land now are facing the prospect of higher temperatures than those faced by any generation of farmers since agriculture began.

Although the IPCC projections are presented as global averages, the rise in temperature will be geographically uneven. Temperature rise is projected to be much greater over land than over the sea, in higher latitudes than in equatorial regions, and in the interior of continents than in coastal regions. The higher latitudes and continental interiors where the projected temperature rise is to be greatest neatly defines the North American breadbasket--the wheat-growing Great Plains of the United States and Canada and the U.S. Corn Belt.

This generation of farmers is also the first to face widespread aquifer depletion due in part to the use of powerful diesel and electric pumps that have become widely available only in the last few decades. Prospects for the big three grain producers--China, India, and the United States, which account for nearly half of the world's grain harvest--show the potential consequences of future water shortages.

Under the North China Plain, which produces half of China's wheat and a third of its corn, water tables are falling up to 3 meters per year. A World Bank assessment of China's water situation says, "Anecdotal evidence suggests that deep wells [drilled] around Beijing now have to reach 1,000 meters [more than half a mile] to tap fresh water, adding dramatically to the cost of supply." In unusually strong language for a Bank report, it foresees "catastrophic consequences for future generations" unless water use and supply can quickly be brought back into balance.

In India, water tables are falling throughout most of the country. As a result, thousands of wells are going dry each year. The USDA reports that water tables have dropped by more than 100 feet (30 meters) in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Water supplies are even tighter in California.

Overpumping for irrigation is a way of satisfying the growing demand for food today that almost guarantees a future drop in food production when the aquifer is depleted. For a few countries, the day of reckoning with aquifer depletion is already here. For many others it is drawing near.

Over the last four years the world's farmers have fallen further and further behind the growth in grain demand. We must now at least ask the question: Are the positive influences on production, such as advances in technology and investment in land improvement, largely being offset by negative influences, such as soil erosion, aquifer depletion, and rising temperature?

Since there has not been any growth in world grain production in eight years, the answer to that question may be yes. If so, we will need to move quickly to stabilize population, raise water productivity, and stabilize climate. If future grain shortages lead to dramatic price rises, they could destabilize governments in low-income grain-importing countries, disrupting global economic progress. Food security could quickly become the overriding security issue.

With most of the nearly 3 billion people who are due to be added to world population by 2050 coming in countries where wells are already going dry, there is an urgent need to stabilize population size as soon as possible. Some 34 countries have already stabilized their population. It is time for the remaining 150 countries to do so.

With water shortages spreading, we need a concerted global effort to raise water productivity, one patterned on the highly successful effort to raise land productivity that was launched a half century ago and that has nearly tripled world grain yields since then.

With rising temperature now shrinking harvests, we need to get serious about stabilizing climate, going far beyond the global goal set in the Kyoto Protocol of a 5-percent cut in carbon emissions by 2012. Reducing fossil fuel use is the key to stabilizing climate. It is perhaps a commentary on the complexity of our time that decisions made in ministries of energy may have a greater effect on food security than those made in ministries of agriculture.

Future food security may depend not only on stabilizing population, raising water productivity, and stabilizing climate, but on doing all these things at wartime speed. A detailed plan to do this is presented in the new book PLAN B: RESCUING A PLANET UNDER STRESS AND A CIVILIZATION IN TROUBLE which is available online, free of charge, at http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/index.htm.

Posted by Richard
9/19/2003 10:40:02 PM | PermaLink

Report Criticizes Canada's Ecological Record

Via: Globe and Mail

Canada is being criticized by environmentalists for its slow steps to protect the boreal forest, one of the globe's largest remaining areas of untouched wilderness, on the eve of a UN-sponsored conference in Quebec City on the state of the world's forests.

The National Resources Defence Council, one of the largest U.S. conservation groups, and Greenpeace are among the organizations issuing a report today calling on the federal government and provinces to halt development in the most endangered parts of the boreal forest so that its ecologically significant areas can be set aside as parkland before they are lost.

The UN-affiliated conference, known as the World Forestry Congress, is held every six years and allows host countries to showcase their forestry policies and research advances to thousands of scientific experts who attend.

Internationally, development has altered or destroyed about 80 per cent of the world's original forest cover, according to the report. Of the forest that remains in pristine condition, about a quarter is in Canada's boreal forest and is the largest area of wilderness woodland remaining in North America.

"Canada has an incredible opportunity to provide global leadership in reversing the trend of forest destruction by setting aside the most endangered areas of the boreal forest that remain," said Richard Brooks, a spokesman for Greenpeace.

The report says that Canada has allowed logging companies to cut a 25-million-hectare tract of forest since 1975, a land area larger than the United Kingdom.

It said Canada uses clear-cutting, the most environmentally destructive form of tree cutting, as its main logging method, with nearly 90 per cent of areas harvested by removing almost all tree cover.

The Natural Resources Defence Council, based in New York, said in a statement that its one million members and supporters "do not want to see a global treasure like the boreal lost so that companies can make toilet paper from old-growth trees," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, a lawyer with the group.

The report criticizes Canada for giving logging companies "near exclusive permission" to cut forests on public land and says it has placed little emphasis on managing forests for their environmental values.

Forest companies dispute this view. The Forest Products Association of Canada said its members face some of the toughest environmental laws in the world and are required to regenerate harvested areas through tree planting.

The report says that few companies in Canada are certified as operating in an environmentally responsible manner under the Forest Stewardship Council, a body that has some of the most rigorous standards for ensuring that logging minimizes damage to forests. It says the country's forests face other threats, as well, from hydroelectric development and mining to oil and gas exploration.

Posted by Richard
9/19/2003 10:30:26 PM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Bush Lauds Eased Pollution Laws: Looser Air Rules, Effective, Create Jobs, He Says

This is a classic misdirection and divide and conquer ploy, made famous during the Reagan/Bush era of loggers vs. spotted owls non-debate. The idea being that environmentalists are costing labor jobs and so, since labor represent "people" and environmentalists only "animals" or "nature," presidents (or senators, etc.) are acting responsibly by limiting environmental checks that impact people in negative ways.

Of course, there is something to this to the degree that, for instance, it is wrong that multinational organizations like the World Bank or the Nature Conservancy move in on indigenous territory and set up preserves that impact the traditional culture and ways of life of the people who already live there.

On the other hand, ecological thinking completely uncovers the Bush nonsense without even having to proove that making pro-industry pollution regulations does not significantly impact the labor force in a positive manner (something Bush hasn't proven either). Ecological thinking challenges the division between human people and their culture, on the one hand, and nature with its non-human animals on the other. This is all one planetary system and we interact together as an integral life-sustaining dynamic force. Business needs to reduce pollution because by not doing so they end up creating massive health problems, not only for the "environment" but for people, and the costs of these problems (as we are seeing with global warming) can be staggering if allowed to develop...the whole reason Bush and co. say they won't adopt the Kyoto protocol is not because it is ineffective but because it would be an economic blow, that is, it's too expensive! So, the idea is not people vs. nature or labor vs. environmentalists -- this is a divide and conquer -- it's the two together that is necessary.

A strong labor force needs a strong environmental policy and environementalists need to realize that there are real extant interests that people have that must be dealt with without attempting to regulate them out of existence. Personally, I believe these latter two elements are slowly arising and new labor/environmental coalitions are important political alliances well into the future of the next decade of Sustainable Development -- a concept that, despite its many, many faults, celebrates the combination of labor and environment together. Here Bush challenges this notion in an extremely reactionary way -- as I said, like something out of the '80s, and its clear that this administration is not behind the UN notion of sustainability...another example of US unilateralism.

To end, then, the real choice and divide to be made here is between SHORT and LONG-TERM THINKING. A short-term goal may be to release a predatory industry into the global environment and release all checks upon it -- this may increase some of its immediate profit earnings (though its not clear that this helps labor much, but rather the owners of the corporations of that industry and their big stock holders -- Marxist theory comes into play). But even if this industry grows by the removal of environmental protections in the short-term, the amount of secondary and correlative ecological damage that will result from the unchecked growth of that industry will tend to create long-term losses -- the idea being that it is much easier and of greater profit to keep a system in balance than to attempt to rectify its being wholly out-of-balance after you have radicalized its stasis.

So: labor vs. environment -- Bush-speak at its worst. Don't you believe it.

Via: SF Gate

President Bush adopted a new tack Monday in arguing for more lenient pollution regulations, saying the need to create jobs should not take a backseat to protecting the environment. "When we talk about environmental policy in this Bush administration, we don't just talk about clean air, we also talk about jobs. We can do both," the president told cheering workers at the Monroe Edison coal-fired power plant, about 40 miles south of Detroit.

The president's new emphasis on jobs in the debate over environmental policy comes as poll numbers show Americans increasingly concerned about job losses since the 2001 recession. Analysts say the high unemployment rate is a major liability for the president as he seeks re-election.

Posted by Richard
9/18/2003 07:22:12 AM | PermaLink

2003 Energy Bill

Senate Democrats have announced that they have the numbers to kill the yet again balloted proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, should it come to that. Republican Senator Pete Dominici, who chairs the Energy committee, has said that if this is indeed the case he will strike it from proposed Bill rather than have the legislation caught up in legal wrangling and have Republicans suffer another embarrassing defeat on this measure. The oil lobby and the politicians who represent it -- including one President Bush -- simply will not accept defeat of this measure and they return to it again and again and again, however. Bush's Interior Secretary said as of late 2002 that she would call for a veto of the Energy Bill passed by Congress if it did not contain allowance for ANWR drilling.

Meanwhile, there are other aspects of the proposed Energy Bill that should be evaluated and fought for -- notice how the Senate's version is far more progressive than the House's. While certainly not enough to meet our need for a move to renewable, small-scale ecologically-friendly energy choices, the Senate version at least makes a stab in that direction. Citizens should be aware of the differences and voice concern that House Republicans are basically presenting national energy regulation policy that is about 30-40 years behind the times. There is a chance for America with all of its power and economy to be a world leader in the move to new energy forms and sources; unfortunately, there are very powerful interests who have worked their way into the leading positions of governmental power in this country who are blocking this move.

Via: Eco-Justice News and Views

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Energy Bill adopted during the last Congress. With the House of Representatives passing its own version of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 in April, the Energy Bill will move to conference this fall. Some key differences between the two bills include (1) The Senate bill requires utilities, by the year 2020, to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable fuels. The House bill has no similar provision. (2) The House bill opens two thousand acres of the Arctic National Wildlife refuge for exploration and development. The Senate contains no such language. (3) The Senate bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to increase mileage standards for light trucks (including SUVs) within 15 months and cars within two years. The House bill simply requires the National Academy of Sciences to study the feasibility of an increase.

Both bills continue to favor fossil fuel industries and underfund renewable alternatives. The Senate version originally included heavy subsidies to jump start construction by the nuclear power industry and while the 2002 version ultimately adopted did not contain those provisions, Chairman Pete Domenici has indicated his intention of pursuing this during the conference committee. Finally, neither bill addresses the issue of global warming, although the Senate leadership has promised a debate and vote on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, S.139, which would establish for the first time a cap-and-trade mechanism for carbon emissions.

Posted by Richard
9/18/2003 06:36:54 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Dirty Secrets

Via: Mother Jones

Why aren't more people aware that George W. Bush is compiling what many environmentalists say is the worst environmental record of any president in recent history? The easy explanations--that environmental issues are complex, that war and terrorism push most other concerns off the front pages--are only part of the story. The real reason may be far simpler: Few people know the magnitude of the administration's attacks on the environment because the administration has been working very hard to keep it that way.

Also see:
Down Upon the Suwannee River
No Clear Skies
Behind the Curtain
Bush Pushes Stalled Pollution Proposal
Bush Links Pollution Measure to His Effort to Create Jobs
Agency to Allow Snowmobiles Exceeding Pollution Limits

Posted by Richard
9/17/2003 10:48:28 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Dolly's Cloners go to the Cleaners

Dolly was of course the famous cloned sheep that lived only half her normal life span before being euthanized because of inoperable lung disease...despite this setback, the press and cloning corporations continue to promote genetic manipulation and breeding, in a similar fashion to the way that they made a spectacle of "next frontier" internet technology in the early '90s. Though, unlike some ecologists and many environmentalists, I would not take a wholly negative position to cloning, it seems clear that this is a technology that requires two significant ethical principles be obeyed PRIOR to its widespread promotion and inculcation: 1) the Precautionary Principle be obeyed, that says a technology not be implemented until there is a reasonable assurance that its deployment will not create radically negative experiences and consequences; and 2) the Democracy Principle that says such technologies should be discussed in as wide and open a manner as possible, in accordance with Open Source concepts and the freedom of information and the right to know. This, of course, is NOT happening with cloning on either account. For another misguided cloning project, see the Missyplicity website.

Via: Jessica Kahn

Jess writes: Hey, just thought you might be interested that the company that created Dolly the sheep failed.

Apparently they own approx. 6500 other sheep, many of which will be destroyed (as noted at the very end of the NYTimes article).

Richard notes that this is criminal and shameful and should be a red stain upon cloning generally....

Posted by Richard
9/16/2003 10:38:24 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, September 15, 2003

Ozone Hole is Bigger Than it has Ever Been

I wrote about this a few weeks back and they said then that they expected this but would have to wait until end of September to know for sure how things stood. This article is great b/c it shows the word games of science, note Dr. Rodger's final comments below. "We PREDICT that it will be a decade OR MORE before we can SAY UNAMBIGUOUSLY that the ozone hole is recovering - ASSUMING that the decline in ozone depleting chemicals CONTINUES." Never has someone appeared to say so much while actually commiting himself to nothing...

Via: FT.com

The Antarctic ozone hole is bigger than it has ever been at this time of year, threatening populated regions of South America and New Zealand with harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Last year's hole was smaller than those recorded over the previous decade, leading to hopes that the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere was beginning to recover from its destruction by man-made CFC chemicals. But early observations reported on Friday to the British Association science festival at Salford University show that the hole, which appears every southern spring, is returning with a vengeance. The findings suggest that reduction of CFCs will take longer than expected to benefit the ozone layer.

Alan Rodger, who runs the British Antarctic Survey ozone-monitoring programme, said: "Last year's smaller hole should be regarded as exceptional and clearly a one-off event. It was... nothing to do with any reduction in ozone depleting chemicals."

The concentration of ozone destroying chemicals at the Earth's surface has fallen since 1994, following international agreement to phase out CFCs and related compounds through the Montreal Protocol. But levels in the stratosphere lag behind the surface by several years.

Dr Rodger said they are probably near their peak. "We predict that it will be a decade or more before we can say unambiguously that the ozone hole is recovering - assuming that the decline in ozone depleting chemicals continues," he said.

Posted by Richard
9/15/2003 08:56:30 AM | PermaLink

Civil Rights Commission Report Criticizes Agencies Commitment to Environmental Justice

Via: USCCR.Gov

New Study Examines EPA, HUD, DOT and Interior Compliance with Federal Rules

(Washington, DC) - The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has released a new study entitled Not in My Backyard: Executive Order 12,898 and Title VI as Tools for Achieving Environmental Justice. The draft staff report finds that the EPA, HUD, DOT and Department of Interior have failed to fully implement the regulation signed in 1994 by President Clinton mandating that federal agencies incorporate environmental justice into their work and programs.

The leadership at key federal agencies sometimes lacks commitment to ensuring that low-income communities and communities of color are treated fairly during the environmental decision-making process, noted Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson of the Commission. As a result, the agencies do not incorporate environmental justice into their core missions and existing programs are not evaluated.

The Commission will review the findings of the report at its business meeting on Friday, September 12, 2003 in Washington, DC. The full text of the report is available online at http://www.usccr.gov. For more information or to request an interview, please contact Danielle Lewis at 202/833-9771.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with monitoring federal civil rights enforcement. Members of include Chairperson Mary Frances Berry, Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commissioners Jennifer C. Braceras, Christopher Edley Jr., Peter N. Kirsanow, Elsie M. Meeks, Russell G. Redenbaugh, and Abigail Thernstrom. Les Jin is Staff Director. Commission meetings are open to the media and general public.

Posted by Richard
9/15/2003 08:48:54 AM | PermaLink