Week in Review: February 21st - 25th

The violent land grab in Brazil claimed another victim this week. Dionisio Julio Ribeiro was killed on Tuesday, ten days after American nun Dorothy Stang met a similar fate.

The violent land grab in Brazil claimed another victim this week. Dionisio Julio Ribeiro was killed on Tuesday, ten days after American nun Dorothy Stang met a similar fate. Ribeiro, a 58-year-old retiree, had worked without pay for more than 15 years to prevent the harvesting of palm trees. He was shot in the head at the Tingua federal reserve. Responding to the news of Ribeiro's murder, Edson Bedin de Asevedo, director of Brazil's environmental protection agency in Rio de Janeiro, said, "The crimes against environmentalists are very serious, and they keep happening. They need a rapid response from the police and justice. There is no longer a place in our society for hunters, or heart-of-palm poachers." ENN will keep readers up-to-date as the developing story of the face-off between environmentalists and illegal loggers and ranchers in the Amazon rainforest -- the earth's "lung" -- unfolds. A selection of recent articles:

Brazil's Drive to Become World's Bread Basket Blamed for Amazon Land Violence
Brazil Vows Slowdown of Amazon Destruction
Brazil Environmentalist Shot in Rain Forest
Amazon Land Grab Fuels Brazil Progress, Violence

In southern Iraq, scientists are cautiously optimistic that a wetlands restoration project could have important implications for the wildlife and culture of the embattled region -- and beyond. During his regime, Saddam Hussein drained more than 90 percent of an expansive marshland area as retaliation against his opposition and to facilitate access to Iran. Restoration would have political, as well as ecological significance. According to the authors of a report published this week in the journal Science, "The future of the 5,000-year-old Marsh Arab culture and the economic stability of large portions of southern Iraq are dependent on the success of this restoration effort," For more on Iraq's wetlands project, read the whole story at Careful Flooding May Restore Iraq Marshes, Experts Say.

The EPA has set limits for safe exposure to perchlorate, a toxic chemical used to make rocket fuel. Ingestion of the chemical, which has been found in drinking water, milk, and several types of lettuce -- has been linked to health problems, especially in babies and pregnant women. EPA spokesperson Cynthia Bergman offered an assurance that the acceptable exposure level set by the agency "... is protective for all populations including the most sensitive." Environmental groups question whether the limit is, indeed, stringent enough to keep vulnerable populations out of harm's way. For all the details, go to EPA Sets Limit for Rocket Fuel Pollutant.

Despite sitting on opposite sides of the Kyoto-protocol "fence," President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder this week expressed a like-minded desire to curb global warming in a joint statement issued from Mainz, Germany. In particular, the statement promised "joint action to raise the efficiency of the energy sector and address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in our own countries and around the world." For more: Bush, Schroeder Say Cooperation Possible on the Environment.

In Dubai, concerns came to light this week that a $14 billion (US) island-building project might be putting the local environment in jeopardy. With coral reefs and oyster beds covered over with new "land" -- some of it in an area formerly protected as a marine wildlife zone -- environmentalists anticipate that the damage will be permanent despite the project developer's efforts to mitigate its impact. Frederic Launay of the Abu Dhabi office of the World Wide Fund for Nature explains, "If you build stretches of five-star hotels with landscaped gardens, you're transforming a wild environment to an urban environment. There will be different species. It's an artificial system." British conservationist David Bellamy takes a different view. ""If they do it right with proper effluent treatment, there will be a lot of new habitat," he predicts. Follow this link for details on the manmade islands project and its projected impact: Island-Building Covers Coral Reefs, Alters Gulf Environment.

This week, Utah's Great Salt Lake earned the dubious distinction of having the highest levels of mercury ever measured, giving rise to fears for the health of resident wildlife. Although the lake contains no fish, is does provide habitat for brine shrimp -- a favorite on the menu of many species of migrating birds. And though this possibility has yet to be put to the test, some speculate that people who eat those birds -- ducks and geese, in particular -- might risk some degree of mercury accumulation. Read more at Great Salt Lake Mercury Worries Scientists.

Kenya has declared war on plastic bags. Strewn across the country, discarded shopping bags are an eyesore. But more menacingly, they're a danger to wildlife, they can help create ideal breeding grounds for malaria, and they're a source of toxic soil pollution. A report launched by UN Environment Chief Klaus Toepfer proposes the implementation of new measures including banning extra thin bags, taxing thicker ones, and promoting alternatives. "The lessons learned from those countries who use so-called economic instruments is that they can change behavior and generate income for more environmentally friendly ways of dealing with waste and rubbish," Toepfer said. Get the whole story at Study Proposes Plastic Bag Ban in Kenya to Manage Growing Waste Problem.

Check in with ENN often for updates on stories like these and for the very latest environmental news and commentary.

Source: ENN