ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week. In the news June 6 - 10: Dolphins used tools, conservation and recreation interests clashed over water use, environmentalists decried the net impact of fishing on marine mammals, and more.
Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
ENN Commentary: Followers Leading the Leaders
The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter
In the news June 6 - 10: Dolphins used tools, conservation and recreation interests clashed over water use, environmentalists decried the net impact of fishing on marine mammals, and more.
1. If logging and fire continue to take a toll on the forests of Indonesian Borneo, the impact on many rare wildlife species could be catastrophic, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The group's Heart of Borneo Initiative aims for large-scale, rapid conservation of the precious ecosystem.
>> Borneo Lowland Forests Face Extinction
2. Long considered a defining characteristic of humans and our closest primates, tool use has been observed in dolphins, scientists reported on Tuesday. Research conducted in Australia's Shark Bay revealed dolphins using sponges as protection for their snouts while foraging. The behavior appears to run along family lines, suggesting that it results from social learning.
>> Researchers Document Tool-Use by Dolphins
3. Scientists came under fire this week, with the results of a survey revealing that one-third have practiced shaky science over the past three years. Fudging data, altering research methods, and plagiarism are among the behaviors to which many survey respondents admitted.
>> Survey Concludes Scientific Misbehavior Is Common
4. Apparently, scientists aren't the only ones indulging in some questionable actions on the job. It appears that an ex-oil industry lobbyist, currently chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, may have made creative edits to several significant administration climate change reports.
>> Bush Administration Defends Former Oil Industry Advocate Who Changed Climate Reports
5. The biggest culprit behind global warming? You guessed it: People. With a G8 summit a month away, climate change took center stage at a meeting of scientists from around the world this week, who pointed to the culpability of humans in the warming crisis and urged prompt action.
>> World Scientists Say Humans Causing Global Warming
6. Formerly unreachable regions of the ocean are fair game for research these days, and some scientists think that's reason enough to design and implement protective regulations on behalf of deep-sea resources, including hydrothermal vents and seamounts.
>> Researchers Say New Deep Sea Rules Needed
7. Water parks provide a fun and convenient means for kayakers to get their fix without leaving the 'burbs, but conservationists in Colorado are up in arms about the hundreds of gallons of water per minute that they use. As the weather heats up, so does this debate over the recreational allocation of water.
>> Water Leads to Clash of Cultures in Colorado
8. In a similar vein, a researcher has found that grooming Yellowstone National Park for recreation -- with snowmobile roads snaking through the landscape -- does not alter the natural movement of the park's bison. Some environmentalists have suggested that groomed roads tend to lead bison over the park's borders and into harm's way.
>> Study Looks at Yellowstone Roads, Bison
9. For nearly 1,000 marine mammals a day, fishing nets are fatal, and the situation demands immediate attention, a new report says. According to WWF, "Most of the species on the list (of dolphin and porpoises populations in danger) are threatened by the widespread use of one type of fishing gear -- gillnets."
>> Fishing Nets Kill 1,000 Marine Mammals Daily
10. In a dramatic example of the real, human impact of global warming, an entire Inupiat village plans to pack up and move within four years. With the ground under their feet literally melting away, the residents of the village of Shishmaref will relocate about 13 miles inland by the year 2009 -- sooner if storms hasten the erosion.
>> Climate Changes Spur Plan for Alaska Village Move
Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary
This week in Sustainable Economy, we continued our coverage of "proxy season." That's the time of year -- springtime for most companies -- that corporate annual meetings are held. That means it's also the time that shareholders debate about various issues, including increasingly, environmental performance. Shareholders are asking about it, investors want to know about it, and Congress is interested now too:
Baxter Testifies Before Congress About Business Benefits of Climate Change Initiatives
US Investors Support Global Warming Resolution with General Motors
Suncor Energy Releases 2005 Report on Sustainability
MFC Plans First 'Social Responsibility' Fund
We also covered a number of different trends going on in the business of environmental improvement. It seems that every week, strides are made in the right direction. Often these advances are the work of smaller innovative businesses, but also sometimes they come from bigger entities such as MIT:
Bamboo Fabric May Be 'Next Big Thing' in Textiles
Cultivating the Power of Nature's Call
Alternative Fuels Push to Benefit Alaska
Innovative Farming Methods Save Money, Spare the Environment
MIT Looks to Help Solve World's Energy Woes
Mohawk Paper to Use Wind Power
Modine Wins DaimlerChrysler Contracts to Meet Tighter Heavy-Duty Truck Emission Standards
Unfortunately each week, it's hard to avoid the stories that show us that we've got a long way to go before we can really feel that we're doing everything we can to preserve our environment:
California Farmers Say Relief is Needed to Save Family Farms
U.S. Virgin Islands Government Sues Oil Refinery, Alumina Plant for Damaging Environment
California Collects Stamp Fees to Boost Sportfishing, but Keeps Funds on the Hook
On a lighter note, if you've never been whale watching off Cape Cod, take the opportunity as soon as you can. It's an amazing experience, especially for children. There's nothing quite like seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat:
Be sure to check ENN's Sustainable Economy section regularly, for all of the latest news, information, and trends that affect business and the environment, and the business of the environment.
EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary
This week on EarthNews Radio, Jerry Kay brought you several features about that precious commodity -- check that, resource -- that is a primary life-giver on earth. Water is a critical substance that merits more of our attention.
Jerry spoke to Robert Glennon, who is the Morris K. Udall Professor of Law & Public Policy at the University of Arizona. Glennon became interested in water issues because they are obviously at the forefront in the arid desert of Arizona, but upon studying the issue he realized that groundwater is drying up in the more verdant parts of the US such as Massachusetts and Georgia. His book "Water Follies" is a cautionary tale for us all:
Given that fresh water is becoming scarcer in many increasingly populated places, one organization believes that we shouldn't view H2O as a commodity, as we increasingly do (as opposed to the past, where it was considered a public utility), but a human right:
EarthNews Radio also covered what's in the water: fish. Do you know farmed fish from fresh fish?
Of course proper water use is part of organic farming and gardening. This week EarthNews Radio also brought you information about more earth-friendly methods to grow flowers and food, including one method that is as much state of mind as it is practical:
Of course, check back to ENN's EarthNews Radio section often to hear the latest interviews from Jerry Kay, or to catch up on broadcasts you may have missed.
Followers Leading the Leaders -- An ENN Commentary
by James Quigley, Center for Sustainable Energy
It was one of those great moments in history. Mohandas K. Gandhi had organized massive numbers of Indians to march to the sea to make their own salt in protest to a tax on the commodity. The Mahatma remarked to newsmen who had stopped him along the way, “my people are leaving and I must follow them for I am their leader.” Of course, Gandhi’s Freedom Party ascended as the tide of history swept British colonial rule from power.
Here, the people are leaving but their leader is not following because he is not a leader. This is at least what any objective citizen would have to conclude with respect to the absence of White House leadership on global climate change. It is old news that the Bush administration stubbornly clings to the notion that there is insufficient evidence to support claims of human-caused climate alteration, despite the myriad reports to the contrary by thousands of scientists all over the world. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Dubbya prevaricates while world ice mass melts.
At least most of the industrialized world gets the picture. To date, 141 countries -- including Britain, France, Japan, Russia and Canada -- have ratified the Kyoto Protocol calling for a reduction in greenhouse gases. Notably absent from the list is the USA. But where the leaders won’t lead the people will. Last month a bipartisan coalition of 132 mayors representing some 29 million people in 35 states endorsed Kyoto. Among this group was republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York who also recently signed sweeping legislation to reshape the City’s vehicle fleets. According to the Mayor’s office, New York City now has the largest hybrid fleet in the nation and massive numbers of buses, sanitation trucks, and utility vehicles are using low sulfur diesel or are equipped to use compressed natural gas, thus substantially reducing emissions.
Even friends of Dubbya like Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and George Pataki of New York have seen the logic of reducing carbon dioxide and power plant emissions, initiating important actions in their respective states. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels worries about the loss of drinking water and hydroelectric power, while New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin knows that rising sea level will submerge his city. Growing numbers of institutional investors and industrial leaders are urging emissions reductions, most recently the CEO of General Electric. Meanwhile insurance companies continue with dramatic increases in deductibles for policies that insure against loss from natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, farmers are changing their planting and cultivation seasons as spring comes sooner and winter comes later, and native peoples in the Arctic are fleeing homelands that can no longer support the food chain on which they have relied for several millennium.
Why won’t our president take action? How can he remain so couched in his indifference? None are so blind as they who will not see. I must leave this where I started it, thinking of Mr. Gandhi. During his celebrated journey to London at the height of his fame, the great Indian leader was asked, “so Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?” He replied, “I think it would be a very good idea.”
James Quigley, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy.
Photo: The Johnston Island National Wildlife Refuge in Honolulu, Hawaii. Credit: D. Lindsey Hayes/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.