ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week.
Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
ENN Commentary: America's Other Trade Deficit
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The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter
In the news this week, another re-discovery of species considered extinct, hope for Thailand's abandoned pets, possible new uses of U.S. national forest land, and much more.
1. According to new Forest Service rules, more than 58 million acres of pristine U.S. forest land set aside for protection by the Clinton administration are suddenly open to a variety of commercial uses.
>> Road Building to Be Allowed on National Forest 'Roadless' Areas
2. Scientists fear that a costly Everglades restoration project might fall victim to a slimy, green monster: toxic algae that's a byproduct of the pollution that coats the bottom of Lake Okeechobee.
>> Toxic Algae on Florida's Lake Okeechobee Jeopardizes $8.4 Billion Everglades Restoration
3. On the heels of last week's thrilling discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, news this week of the rediscovery of a trio of snails in Alabama.
>> Three Snails Thought Extinct Discovered
4. A zoo in New York is investigating how to make the best of a whole lotta dung. Renowned for its elephant-breeding program, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has proposed using pachyderm poo to generate energy.
>> U.S. Zoo Considers Using Animal Waste as Energy Source
5. There's new hope this week that the U.S. might sign on to a U.N.-sponsored treaty that would impose restrictions use of the "dirty dozen" chemicals known to be the most hazardous in the world.
>> U.S. Looking Next Year to Join Global Treaty Banning World's Most Toxic Chemicals
6. As worries about world energy supplies mount, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman advocated clean coal research and development at a meeting of the International Energy Agency on Tuesday.
>> U.S. Energy Chief Wants Global Push for 'Clean Coal'
7. A precipitous decline in Myanmar's marine turtle population over the course of four years has prompted the Ministry of Fisheries to issue new regulations aimed at turning the tide back in favor of the normally long-lived creatures.
>> Myanmar Issues Regulations to Save Decimated Marine Turtle Population
8. Also on the theme of hazards to marine life, good news this week that NOAA has located -- and intends to clean up -- a giant tangle of fishing nets in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.
>> Government Researchers Locate Concentration of Lost Fishing Nets
9. From the tsunami tragedy emerges a small ray of hope: Animal lovers worldwide are realizing the plight of Thailand's homeless and abandoned animals and funding efforts to help them.
>> Tsunami Brings Better Treatment for Thai Stray Dogs
10. If you're planning your summer vacation, think about traveling sustainably. ENN's Special Report for the month of May focuses on ecotourism, examining the pros and cons and offering a wide range of resources.
>> ENN Special Report: Sustainable Travel
Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary
This week in Sustainable Economy, we talked about the energy issue -- and though in recent weeks hybrid cars have been hot -- and they still are -- this week we saw evidence that there's a lot of work to be done before fossil fuels cease to be the dominant energy factor on the planet.
It will soon be Memorial Day weekend, the start of the traditional driving season in the US. We gave you some tips on how you can make that vacation somewhat less fuel-intensive:
Traveling Light: The Environmental Impact of Vacation Travel
The zeal to find and invest in oil has not abated yet, despite the efforts of environmentalists. These two stories illustrate that:
North Slope Oil Companies Gamble on Heavy Oil
Small Oil Company Touts Potentially Huge Discovery, Analysts Skeptical
And the ramifications of our dependence on oil are still being felt:
California Judge Rejects Challenge to Diesel Emission Rules
NRC Chairman Says U.S. Needs 100 New Nuclear Power Plants across Country
However, the effort to develop, market, and mainstream alternative fuels that will change the equation continue:
FuelCell Energy Power Plant Running on Waste Byproduct to Generate Stable Electricity for Eco-Community
In other sustainable economy news, two organizations are working to help companies and consumers be more green for the money. Read those stories here:
U.S. Green Building Council Helps Builders and Companies Go Green
Consumer Reports Launches Website for the Green Consumer
Be sure to check ENN's Sustainable Economy channel for the latest news about theefforts to a greener world and a greener balance sheet.
EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary
This week EarthNews Radio brought you interviews with information about greener consumer products -- including how to identify them and how they're grown -- and the battle to make some of them legal and accepted.
Jerry Kay and Katrina Rill interviewed Sylvia Blanchet, president of ForesTrade, a wholesaler of organic and fair trade products. She talked about the interesting origins of organically grown spices:
Businesses with hemp-based products face a number of challenges. Jerry spoke with Joanna Schultz of the Hemp Industry Association about those challenges:
Many websites are now touting beauty products that are "organic," though many of the offerings are loaded with chemicals. Jerry spoke to Diana Kaye of Terressentials, a real organic-products company, about pseudo-organic products and the difficulties they cause for legitimate organic product providers:
Listen to EarthNews Radio regularly to hear Jerry Kay's interviews with many compelling scientists, activists, and environmentalists. And be sure to visit EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN; you can find it at www.enn.com/enn_radio_main.html.
America's Other Trade Deficit -- An ENN Commentary
by Robert Ovetz, PhD, Sea Turtle Restoration Project
The massive die off of nearly one half of the US’s honey bees over the past six months indicates an underlying new, as yet unidentified, indicator of national economic well being and public health.
America has a massive environmental trade deficit and it’s growing wider every day.
Honey bees are being wiped out by the parasitic varroa mite that originates from China that was first identified in 1986. The mite attaches itself to the bee and sucks it dry of its internal fluids. Honey bees are crucial not only to making honey but pollinating many other crops such as almonds, watermelon, strawberries, apples, pecans and beans. California produces 80% of the world’s almonds crop, about 1 billion pounds a year. In all, these crops are worth about $15 billion each year.
The problem looming for US agriculture is much larger than simply that the varroa mite has become resistant to pesticides used to control it.
It is a case of the metaphorical chickens coming home to roost. In more ways than one rapidly expanded global trade with China, to name just one of our many trading partners, has introduced a new invasive parasite that is threatening to wipe out one of America’s strongest global products.
Each day countless flights, trucks and vessels are transporting countless tons of new goods into the US to feed the insatiable habits of our consumer society. Electronics, food, labor, and media bring with them new so-called invasive species of not only varroa mites but mounds of plastics treated with dangerous toxic chemicals.
Scientists are finding that these chemicals invade our bodies through simple touch, inhalation or when they leach into the water after they are thrown away. Pthalates, PBDE flame retardants, mercury, and a host of other dangerous, untested, and mostly unregulated chemicals are daily depositing themselves not merely in our homes but into our bodies as well with completely unknown consequences for human growth and evolution. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors effecting mental development, the nervous system and reproductive capacity.
Most at threat are our children who are being poisoned at higher doses by body weight from flexible plastic baby bottles and toys, utensils, plates and cups, body care products, clothes, blankets, bedding, electronics and numerous other household items. Children are actually doubly at risk of poisoning from plastics since children often labor sorting through mountains of our refuse in countries where our plastic waste is being dumped or “recycled”.
The very luxuries for which we pride ourselves for being able to afford are making us biologically poorer for having them.
As our global economy churns out and distributes more and more products at a blinding pace, plastics are being used with increasing frequency for packaging, wrapping, cushioning and casings replacing glass and paper which can be recycled many times.
Equally as toxic is the myth that plastics can be recycled. The fact is plastic can only be re-used and little of it is. Most of what is collected in shipped off to be someone else’s problem in another part of the world where there are no mechanisms to deal with it.
Both waste plastic and raw pellets end up in the ocean where it becomes another deadly menace to marine wildlife and washes up on the beaches of countless island nations. The documentary film “Our Synthetic Sea” presents evidence that plastic particles out number plankton in the ocean.
Much like the honey bee, we are witnessing a parasitic wholesale toxicification of an entire generation with unknown possibly Malthusian consequences for human development. While the European Union has implemented new regulations to slow and eventually eliminate these dangerous ingredients, American based chemical and plastics industry lobbyists are busily swarming Brussels to undermine their efforts.
The varroa mite and these seemingly disconnected mounds of toxic consumer goods have a lot in common. They are the inevitable invasive byproducts of our central role in the increasingly global economy. They are the costs of our rapidly widening environmental trade deficit—an indicator for which there is no measure but the failure of timeless ecological processes such as pollination and the biological process of human reproduction.
Robert Ovetz, PhD is an adjunct instructor at The Art Institute of California-San Francisco and an international ocean advocate with the California based Sea Turtle Restoration Project.