ENN Weekly: July 4th - 8th

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week. In the news July 4th - 8th: The G8 debate climate change, a new dolphin discovery Down Under, salvaging the Dead Sea, better zoos for India, and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: A Second Chance

The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter

In the news July 4th - 8th: The G8 debate climate change, a new dolphin discovery Down Under, salvaging the Dead Sea, better zoos for India, and much more.

1. Nations Agree to Cuts in Ozone-Depleting Pesticide
The phase-out of the ozone-damaging chemical methyl bromide continues, with an agreement by the U.S. and 188 other developed nations to limit its use in 2006. According to the U.N. Environment Program's Klaus Toepfer, the move "should send a positive signal to farmers and other users of methyl bromide that alternatives are increasingly available and should be adopted as quickly as possible."

2. India to Replace Old Zoos with More 'Natural' Ones
At least a quarter of the zoos in India have been targeted by animal rights groups as sub-standard and in need of replacement. With India's tiger population teetering on the brink, groups contend that conservation is the only justification for keeping the animals captive, and then only in enclosures that are as close to natural habitat as possible.

3. G8 Agree on Need for Climate Action but No Targets
Human activity does play a role in global warming, acknowledges a report from the G8 summit, and greenhouse gas reduction is necessary. How to go about it, however, is still a matter for debate. Regardless, French President Jacques Chirac sees progress: "Even if it does not go as far as we would have liked, it has one essential virtue in my eyes -- that is, to re-establish a dialogue and cooperation between the Kyoto seven and the United States on a subject of the highest importance," he said.

4. Environmental Activists Seek to Curb Raptor Deaths at California Wind Farm
With more than 5,000 windmills harnessing the breeze, California's Altamont Pass generates a whole lot of clean power, supplying 120,000 homes. But what's good for the environment has been a hazard for migrating birds, thousands of which perish by flying into the windmills' turbine blades. The dramatic number of bird deaths at Altamont has prompted reluctant action by environmentalists on behalf of wildlife.


5. Brazilians Suspect Foreigners Covet Amazon Rain Forest
Brazilians fear invasion of their country by nations eager to access the riches hidden in the Amazon rain forest. Many, like General Claudio Barbosa De Fiueiredo, cast a suspicious eye toward ecologist claims of the environmental significance of the Amazon. "I am convinced that the international attention to the recent news of deforestation has much more to do with the internationalization of the Amazon than with preservation of the rain forest," he said.

6. North Atlantic Ocean Temps Hit Record High
Yet another symptom of global warming has emerged in an especially sensitive ecosystem: the ocean. Higher than normal temperatures recorded at a number of different locations and depths leave little doubt that waters are warming up, and as a result animals are dying. As Bill Wareham, director of the David Suzuki Foundation said, "everyone's quite shocked at the speed at which these things are changing."

7. Australia Scientists Find New Dolphin, the Snubfin
One of the world's rarest species, the newly identified Australian Snubfin Dolphin, might only number in the hundreds. Preferring shallow coastal waters, the new species is extremely vulnerable to the impact of coastal development much like another species, the endangered Irrawaddy, from which the Snubfin had formerly been indistinguishable.

8. Donor Countries Agree to Finance a Feasibility Study to Save the Shrinking Dead Sea
With an infusion of water from the Red Sea, experts think there might be a chance to revive the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea. Evaporation and water diversion have taken a serious toll on the salty Dead Sea over the past two decades, and geologists have sounded the alarm. Expected to cost in excess of $1 billion, the Red-Dead Sea canal project is under scrutiny as a possible solution.

9. Gaylord Nelson, Environmentalist Politician Who Started Earth Day, Dies at 89
Sad news over the weekend with the passing of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Nelson served as Governor of Wisconsin for four years, followed by three terms in the U.S. Senate. In 1995 he received a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his environmental efforts. President Clinton's proclamation sums up Nelson's expansive legacy: "As the father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event: the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act."

10. ENN Forum: Our Readers Speak
ENN's readers noted the loss of Gaylord Nelson, with one forum member from Wisconsin noting the irony of seeing one flag flying at full mast -- at a Hummer dealership -- while all others were flown at half mast in Nelson's honor. Dependency on Middle East oil was another hot topic in ENN's forums this week, where a lively debate ensued over oil ownership. Join in on the discussion!

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

The short week after Fourth of July weekend not surprisingly yielded several stories about cars. As people experience pollution-causing traffic jams and high gas prices, alternative options begin to look better and better. Some companies are offering incentives for their employees to buy more efficient cars, and one organization is taking a novel approach to giving incentives to people to share a ride:

Some Firms Give Workers Financial Incentives to Buy Fuel-Efficient Vehicles
Companies Reward Individuals For Taking Two Million Miles Off US Roads

Two of the major Japanese companies continued dealing with the challenges of creating and marketing hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars:

'Eco-Car' Size Limits Upset Nissan: Official Rules Clash with Export Needs
Honda Develops Improved Hybrid System for New Civic

Meanwhile, the public transit option just got even cleaner in the Philippines as Manila puts into service new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses:

Philippine President Takes Delivery of First CNG Buses for Metro Manila

Even though the activity in many legislatures slows down in the summer, local and national governments worldwide are grappling with issues that impact business and the environment.

Pennsylvania Governor Signs ACRE Legislation
Draft Legislation Sides With Developers Over Majority of Americans: Defenders of Wildlife
Global Environmental Changes to be a Key Issue At This Week's G8
Ranchers Group Wants Canadian Border to Remain Sealed
U.S. Will Drop Farm Subsidies if EU Does Same, Bush Says

Using finance tools as a method to improve the environment is becoming more and more popular:

Skyworks' "Green Portfolio" Helps Customers Meet Environmental Guideline
Green Trading: Commercial Opportunities for the Environment

Perhaps you're a "newbie" to the fast-growing organic food movement? We brought you two stories to help you learn about the nature of organic food:

Farmers Relying on Growing Trust in Organic Labeling
Why Does Organic Food Cost More than Conventional?

Be sure to check ENN regularly for the latest news about the efforts to a greener world and a greener balance sheet. You can find new stories each weekday about business and the environment in our Sustainable Economy channel.

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

What could be better than the combination of coffee and chocolate? This week on EarthNews Radio, Jerry Kay brought you a company that makes quality coffee directly: The growers are shareholders in the company. For the chocolate lover, there is an exhibit in San Francisco this summer that's all about the world's favorite dessert:

Coffee Pacifica

All About Chocolate

Chocolate Exhibit

Pesticides aren't as appealing as chocolate, obviously, but the need to find cleaner pesticides is an important issue for the environment. This week we learned about a pesticide alternative, and about the concept of biotech "pharming": the idea that biotech engineering can be used for purposes other than food:

Pesticide Alternatives

Biotech Pharming

Sometimes in the summer it's hard to keep up with science news. If you want to catch up, there are organizations that can keep you in the loop:

This Week in Science
Science Updates
Focus Earth

Be sure to check back to ENN's EarthNews Radio section regularly to hear the latest interviews from Jerry Kay, or to catch up on broadcasts you may have missed.

A Second Chance -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by John Flicker, National Audubon Society

At first some of us didn’t know how to react to the rediscovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. After all, we environmentalists aren’t used to such good news.

I thought about former Audubon president John Baker, and wished he were still alive to see this miraculous event. In 1942 he led a desperate effort to stop the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company from cutting down the bottomland forest in Louisiana where the last ivory-bill had been seen. Chicago Mill and Lumber refused, the trees were cut, and Baker watched what everyone thought was the last bird disappear.

But nature outsmarted us again. Other ivory-bills secretly survived in the Big Woods of Arkansas, unknown to anyone until now. Some are calling it lucky, but I disagree. It was more than just luck.

We know what did and didn’t happen to make this “luck” possible, and it provides a compelling lesson for the future. First, what did happen: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set aside critical bottomland forest habitat as wildlife refuges that would protect birds and other wildlife. Next, what didn’t happen: The service did not jeopardize wildlife protection by opening the refuges to incompatible uses like oil drilling, logging, grazing, and water diversion projects—even though no one could prove that such intrusions might harm something like an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Americans are fortunate to have a system of protected national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges that are the envy of the world. But Congress and the Bush administration have been aggressively opening these protected areas to development. Just recently, Congress voted to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and President George W. Bush authorized construction of logging roads in some 58 million acres of national forest wilderness. Just as John Baker fought to stop the logging of Louisiana’s forests in 1942, Audubon fiercely opposed these decisions, and we are not giving up.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers are not alone. Audubon’s annual “State of the Birds” reported last year that nearly 30 percent of all bird species in the continental United States and Canada are in serious decline. The primary cause is loss of habitat. Birds are wonderful indicators of our overall environmental health, and as the environment is stressed and biodiversity reduced through habitat degradation and loss, the most sensitive species send out the signal first. The federal government should be heeding these signals and guarding the public land that has been set aside as national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Instead the administration has been opening the door and welcoming developers, and reducing the enforcement of environmental and conservation laws.

For more than 60 years environmentalists have lived with a nagging sense of guilt about the ivory-billed woodpecker. Was there anything more we could have done? Now we have an incredible gift: a second chance. This time we can get it right, both for the ivory-bill and for all the other birds sliding toward extinction.

To learn more or to find out what you can do to help, visit our website at www.audubon.org.

Photo: Bathsheba, on the east coast of the island of Barbados. Credit: Diahanne Lucas.