ENN Weekly: April 11th - 15th

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week.

Environmental News Roundup
Sustainable Economy This Week
EarthNews Radio Review
ENN Commentary: New Tactics for the Environment

Photo Credit: Jinotega, Nicaragua: "Chepe" helps to pick his family's certified organic and fair trade coffee during the harvest. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, helps out so that traditions and agricultural knowledge are passed on to the next generations. © 2002 April Pojman, Courtesy of Photoshare.

Environmental News Roundup, by Carrie Schluter

In an historic move, oft-maligned retail giant Wal-Mart on Wednesday announced a $35 million "offset program" under which it will buy approximately 138,000 acres -- an amount equal to Wal-Mart's "corporate footprint" -- to be managed as "priority" wildlife habitat. More at Wal-Mart to Fund Wildlife Habitat. Read some details on one of Wal-Mart's first acquisitions here: Land Bordering Grand Canyon's North Rim to Be Acquired for Conservation.

The Bush administration's nomination of Stephen Johnson to head the EPA hit a roadblock in the Senate on Thursday. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del) put a hold on the nomination pending the release of emissions data. "For the past three years, I've sought from EPA information that I believe we need to make the best choices for the country to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and CO2 (carbon dioxide)," Sen. Carper said. More on the story at Democratic Senator Blocks Vote on Bush Nominee to Head EPA.

The week saw a number of interesting stories from the U.N. On Monday, a U.N. report warned that "ozone-friendly" chemicals don't necessarily live up to the hype. Find out why at Alternatives to Ozone-Depleting Chemicals also Contributing to Climate Change, U.N. Says. Research by the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA), a coalition of institutions assembled by the U.N. Environment Programme, reveals the huge potential of alternative energy sources in developing nations. More at Developing Nations Ripe for Wind, Solar Energy, U.N. Says. Meanwhile, a trio of problems -- dirty water, poor sanitation, and slums -- is the target of a two-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development. The full story is here: U.N. Meeting Tackles 'Silent Humanitarian Crisis'.

On the global warming front, a new campaign by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres) requests reports from the biggest electric companies in the U.S. on the financial implications of global-warming regulation compliance. Details here: Coalition Presses Electric Companies over Global Warming Risks. In a case with wide-ranging implications, an alliance of states continues its battle for EPA regulation of greenhouse gases as air pollutants. Get the story at States Ask Court to Force EPA Action on Greenhouse Gases. And at the Intermountain Logging Conference in Spokane, timber industry workers heard how global warming is altering the ecosystems on which their livelihood depends. Read more at Global-Warming Experts Address 100 Loggers.

In the midst of spring break for many, some tourism news. First, what happens to all the human waste generated during the course of a cruise? Not a pleasant topic to contemplate, but some lawmakers are dusting off a law that died on the vine last year that would tighten wastewater restrictions for ships able to carry 250 or more passengers. Get the details at Lawmakers and Environmentalists Push New Marine Pollution Law on Cruise Ship Waste. For those who crave the safari experience without all the mess -- and can afford to foot the bill -- Botswana may be the perfect destination. But what about the environmental impact of tourism? Find out more at Botswana Woos Rich Tourists with 'Africa-Lite'.

The week brought a couple of angles on the subject of animals in the service of people. A project in northern Mexico will give that controversial critter, the black-tailed prairie dog, a chance to prove that it can be an asset to grazing lands. Read the whole story at Conservationists to Convert Pesky Prairie Dogs into Valuable Farm Tools in Northern Mexico. And it's bugs and sheep to the rescue in a Forest Service plan to eradicate non-indigenous weeds in Arizona the natural way: By turning them into food. More at Sheep and Insects to Help Kill Exotic Weeds in Arizona Forests.

Sustainable Economy This Week, by Paul Geary

Throughout April we're featuring gardening in honor of Earth Day on ENN and of course we started the month in Sustainable Economy with an article about the challenges that gardeners and small farmers face: For Small Farms and Garden Entrepreneurs, Challenges Abound.

If you visited ENN over last weekend you learned also about a new way for people who don't have the time, desire, or ability to do their own gardening, but who want to support gardeners and small farmers. The novel method uses a finance tool that's increasing in popularity in many, usually high-end markets such as vacation condos and airplanes: the "share." In this case though, the yield of a farm is the good being partially-owned. Read about "farm shares" here: Farm Shares: Community Supported Agriculture.

This business week was no different at ENN; we've followed that with stories about gardening and small farms and the markets they serve. The small grain business is Iowa is doing well; smaller farms in this traditional corn-and-wheat state are reaping the benefits of the growing organic food and grain market. That story is here:Report Shows Good Progress on Small Grain Planting in Iowa.

Of course, having a market for products is one of the most important aspects to the long-term success of the small farmer. Healthy and organic foods are an increasing segment in the food market, to the degree that entire supermarket chains are now devoted to them. The largest is Whole Foods, providing a venue for the fruits of the labor of a number of organic and small farmers. Whole Foods itself is growing, as evidenced by its expansion in new markets well beyond its original base of huge cities and liberal enclaves like Austin, Madison, and Boulder. Its move into decidedly blue-collar Milwaukee may signal the readiness of mainstream America for healthy and organic foods. Read about Whole Foods' growth here:Whole Foods, Nation's Biggest Organic and Natural Food Seller, to Enter Milwaukee Market.

On the other side of the coin, Texas wants to make sure that people who choose to eat McDonald's rather than Whole Foods can't cash in on its negative consequence: Bill Would Bar Obesity Lawsuits.


Many things affecting the sustainability of the planet and the economy were happening worldwide in other businesses and markets as well. We brought you stories about transportation that ranged from public transit: NYC Subway Gets a Computerized Facelift, to the upside of $2.50 gas: Gas Situation Actually Has a Bright Side, to engineers making roads in New England more friendly for migrating moose: Engineers Redesign Roads to Save Moose.

As we like to do, we told you about people and businesses making a difference through innovative ideas and products. You learned about a self-sufficient house in New Mexico: Adobe House Designed To Be Self-Sufficient. One Florida company hopes to make money recycling computers, which are increasingly filling our landfills as people upgrade to cheaper, more powerful equipment: Tampa Firm Snags Deal for County's Computer Castoffs. Another company would like to take that a step further: converting garbage into energy. That story is here: Company's Proposed Plant Would Convert Garbage to Energy.

Finally, on the lighter side, we took a look at the Tattoo industry. It's a lucrative business, and many take "body art" very seriously, but do you know exactly what's being injected under your skin at your local tattoo parlor? Some industrious college students took a look: Tattoo Ink Composition: What's in There?

We'll continue to chronicle the efforts of those working for a sustainable economy and a cleaner world on these pages. So check back often with ENN, and you'll always be on the leading edge of the world of business and the economy.

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

EarthNews Radio is the 90-second feature started on CBS Radio more than 20 years ago. It's your opportunity to get quick blasts of information and features some of the most interesting people who are working for a sustainable world. Host Jerry Kay has featured recently in particular guests who are working to make our food supply and our food choices more healthy, dovetailing with ENN's focus on gardening and small farms in April in honor of Earth Day.Recently he interviewed Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Union, who gave us tips on figuring out whether products we buy are truly organic:

Listen to EarthNews Radio: Organic Consumers Association.

However, American waistlines continue to grow. Jerry and Katrina Rill spoke with, Marion Nestle, professor at the Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health department at New York University and food-policy expert about this "growing" problem:

Listen to EarthNews Radio: Junk Food and Our Waistlines.

Nestle has a number of interesting and poignant views about our eating habits; Jerry followed up with her to talk in particular about the foods being offered in our schools:

Listen to EarthNews Radio: Marion Nestle.

For Earth Day you can help the environment without turning your backyard into a garden. Jerry spoke to David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation about how you can make your backyard a natural wildlife habitat:

EarthNews Radio: Backyard Habitat for Wildlife.

Also featured all of this month has been the exciting line-up of new environmental programs that PBS is presenting in honor of Earth Day. Jerry spoke to Hal Weiner, Producer of "Journey to Planet Earth," a two-part series hosted by Matt Damon that features stories of hope about what's being done to protect the Earth. The program also tells us, though, that there is a lot of work to be done.

Weiner is an award-winning producer and has fascinating insight into the creation of "Journey to Planet Earth." Listen to both of Jerry's interviews with him here:

"Journey to Planet Earth"

Hal Weiner

Jerry also talked to Fred Kaufman, the Executive Producer of the Nature series on PBS andCo-Producer of "Deep Jungle." In this PBS feature, we learn about the amazing methods used by Kaufman's team to film some of the most fascinating creatures in nature:

Listen to EarthNews Radio: Deep Jungle

Check back often at ENN as we and EarthNews Radio continue to cover the continuing presentations of exciting environmental programming on PBS. Later this month, EarthNews Radio turns to the skies. Stay tuned for "Sky Tour," coming soon.

New Tactics for the Environment -- An ENN Commentary
by Paul C. Pritchard, National Park Trust

“The environmental movement is dead,” some in Ecotopia declare. Unfortunately, those of us in the communities and on the Eastern Front didn’t get the message. So, we continue to fight on in a lot of different fields, thinking somehow we can make a difference.

Some history might be useful.

Most agree that the modern environmental movement began with Earth Day, 1970, signaling a new tactic--when saving the environment was most efficiently addressed by looking for federal solutions like the Clean Water Act, the Wilderness Act, etc. Unlike prior times, the “federal solution” meant solving a national issue with federal laws, federal funding, and federal enforcement by an agency and in the courts. State solutions it was found were too costly for the limited resources of the few environmental warriors.

The success of this “federal solution” is evident. The failure was manifold: leaving our state and local grassroots behind, learning how to lobby (and therefore look like, smell like”¦) the big guys in Washington, and creating a legal system that was and is very vulnerable to a president like Bush and a Congress like the one we now have.

Looking back, the beginning of the end of this tactic was when we successfully fought off James Watt. As one of the Gang of Ten who fought the dark force of James Watt, we thought we did pretty well in the 1980s. But the broader social agenda, the zeitgeist, was moving away from us. Furthermore, Watt had determined how to stop or slow down the laws and agencies in Washington, DC. Only his mouth saved us.

Now some would argue that we just need to re-connect with the labor, the peace, and the civil rights”¦ movements. But these allies of the past are also struggling, looking for new tactics. They too relied on the “federal solution.” (You could even credit the Civil Rights Movement with inventing it.) And now these allies need to craft new tactics like we do. For example, the labor movement member today looks more like my children’s teachers than my brother-in-law who retired from GM.

Fussing and feuding about the failures of the past seems futile. The key is to realize that we need to focus on our long-range goals and devise new tactics for achieving the goals.

For example, one new tactic for saving land has been the incredibly successful land trust movement which has come into its own as a force for the environment.

The National Park Trust, one privately funded land trust charity, bought and saved a national park unit by making it a privately owned national park. It has quietly worked to save lands, “inholdings,” in over 100 national and state parks and national refuges.

Another example. Energy conservation groups like the Apollo Alliance are finding new tactics of working with the private sector, any ally, to transform America’s energy losses.

Water is a third area where the joint commitment of a charity and a private investor, the Concern for Kids and The Crestline Corporation, has created a way of solving one of the most important world challenges, clean, drinkable water.

The tactics of the past that were largely built on the “federal solution” are not being thrown out. Rather, these conservation tactics may take advantage of federal tactics and building on them, investment tax credits, conservation easements, etc.

Maybe the “movement” is not dead, just in need of new tactics. In the meantime, some of us will keep on fighting while the new thinkers and soldiers come up with the new solutions that reinforce those on the Fronts.

Paul Pritchard is Founder and President of the National Park Trust.

ENN Poll of the Week: