ENN Weekly: July 18th - 22nd

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week. In the news July 18th - 22nd: Wal-Mart greens up, an Antarctic ecosystem is revealed, Brazil considers a "braking system" to protect the Amazon, Kenya's Maathai weighs in on G8 and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: The Road to Detroit

The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter

In the news July 18th - 22nd: Wal-Mart greens up, an Antarctic ecosystem is revealed, Brazil considers a "braking system" to protect the Amazon, Kenya's Maathai weighs in on G8, and much more.

1. Federal Judge to Determine Next Step in Everglades Restoration
Fertilizer runoff from Florida's sugar farms has seeped into the Everglades for decades, slowly upsetting the balance of this precious ecosystem. An extensive court-ordered cleanup of the Everglades has been underway for years, but concerns linger about whether the phosphorus runoff is addressed adequately by the government's stormwater treatment areas. Next steps are being hammered out in court.

2. Wal-Mart Experiments with Environmentally Friendly Store in Texas
Looking to spiff up its public image, Wal-Mart opened an experimental, environmentally friendly store north of Dallas this week. Features include a wind turbine and rainwater harvesting pool. According to Don Mosely, manager of experimental projects, "We don't expect everything to work, but with every component of our business, we want to be more sustainable, more economical or more environmentally responsible."

3. Brazil Considers Moratorium on Amazon Logging
As a means of slowing the momentum of Amazon rainforest destruction, Brazil is discussing implementing a "braking system" that would prohibit logging in Brazilian forests for up to a year. In 2004, the Amazon lost approximately 10,000 square miles, representing close to a six percent increase over 2003.

4. Kenya's Maathai Upbeat on G8, Unhappy at Evictions
Kenya deputy environment minister Wangari Maathai aimed criticism at the violent expulsion of 50,000 people from Kenya's Mau Forest. "I believe that people should be removed from the forests, we should reclaim these forests," she said. "But it is also absolutely necessary to carry out this exercise with respect for the people who live there, taking time to explain to them it is in their own interests and the interests of their children and grandchildren."


5. Antarctic Has Strong Ecosystem, Scientists Discover
Scientists made a surprising discovery in Antarctica this winter, revealed this week in the weekly newspaper Eos, put out by the American Geophysical Union. Far beneath the surface of the sea -- 2,800 feet, to be exact -- Antarctica's Larson Ice Shelf houses a rich ecosystem of mud volcanoes, microbes, and hearty clam communities. Scientists hope to discover new species living in this vast, inhospitable environment.

6. Lead, Tobacco Exposure Down in U.S., Survey Finds
Refreshingly positive news this week about human health and the environment. According to the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, lead and mercury levels have dropped significantly in populations tested, and fewer of us show effects of second-hand smoke exposure. The report focuses on 148 chemicals detected in the blood and urine of volunteers. While the trend is good, the question remains: What levels of these chemicals are actually safe for humans?

7. Protecting California Salamander to Cost $367 Million
So how much does it cost to save an endangered species? Try $367 million, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That's the estimated price of lost development opportunities over the next 20 years if 382,000 acres of "critical habitat" are restricted on behalf of the endangered California tiger salamander. Urban sprawl and invasive species have cost the amphibian approximately 75 percent of its native habitat, scientists say.

8. Survey Shows India's Forest Cover Has Increased, but Dense Forests Have Shrunk
The results of the 2003 Forest Survey of India were released this week, and the results are mixed. While total tree cover in the country increased over a two-year period, dense cover decreased. Government officials are concerned that lack of funding could thwart India's goal of increasing forest area from its present 23.7 percent to 33 percent by the year 2012.

9. Rare White Alligator in Legal Limbo
Snagged by brothers Ted and Heyward Clamp soon after it hatched, a rare white alligator -- especially vulnerable to predators due to its lack of pigmentation -- finds itself hidden away at a South Carolina zoo and ensnared in a legal battle. The Clamps, who operate a private zoo, could face jail time and a fine if convicted of taking and possessing an endangered species.

10. Londoner Purposely Wastes Water in the Name of Art
Is it possible to make an effective artistic statement about conservation by wasting the very resource you would encourage others to save? London artist Mark McGowan apparently thinks so, and his exhibition, "The Running Tap" is causing quite a flap in Great Britain. Consisting quite simply of just that -- a running tap -- at a south London Gallery, McGowan has incurred the ire of Thames Water, which estimates that the intended 365-day run of the exhibit will cost in excess of $23,000. McGowan's point: "When you've got the tap on at home, you don't think about it," he says. "That's why this is art, because it makes people consider it."

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

This week on Sustainable Economy we began to see the effects that a hot summer is having on the business of energy, and the business of trying to find alternative forms of energy. First, the details and ramifications of the weather so far:

NSTAR Reports Record Energy Use During Heatwave
Auto Club: Gas Prices Climb Nearly 22 Cents in One Month; July Price is within 5 Cents of Record Monthly Average
California Grid Operator Urging Conservation as Power Usage Soars Over the Weekend
New Futures Market Gambles on Hurricanes

We told you about DaimlerChrysler's effort to market an electric neighborhood car in EarthNews Radio. Ford has a different take:

Ford Shedding Electric Trucks

Predictably, businesses and governments are responding in different ways to the energy issue:

An Unlikely Alliance for Renewable Energy Plan
American Biofuels is Expanding its Production Facility in Bakersfield
New Rules for 'Urban' Oil and Gas Drilling in Ohio
DTE to Unveil Hydrogen Energy Park
Pioneer's Fain Gas Plant Resumes Operations
Software Entrepreneur Finds New Career in Biodiesel

Changing diets are a regular theme in ENN's Sustainable Economy channel. This week, there were several food-related stories including tips for healthy school lunch packing, and good news about the annual salmon catch:

Wild Oats Offers Tips for Making Nutritious, Natural School Lunches
Arkansas Poultry Farmers Say Lawsuit over Chicken Waste Could Doom Industry
Software Teaches Students to Select Healthier Food Choices
UK Pigeon Population Plump and Rising From Fast Food Waste
Sockeye Yield May Signal Recovery

Also this summer, firms are adapting to the reality of the need for recycling, as well as the need to produce products that are environmentally smart the first time around:

Interface Expands Offering Of Environmentally Preferable Products
Paper Product Firm Adds More Recycled Goods
California Firms Adapt to New Electronic-Waste Recycling Rules

Finally, congratulations to Joshua Glasheen of Lowell, Massachusetts, who will be joining the Dave Matthews Band on tour thanks to his commitment to the environment:

Ben & Jerry's, Dave Matthews Band and SaveOurEnvironment.org Announce Winner of Take a Stand with Dave Matthews Band Contest to Lick Global Warming

Be sure to see ENN's Special Report on corporate social responsibility, running all this month. Also check ENN's Sustainable Economy channel regularly for the latest news about the efforts made by business -- and to prompt business -- to create a greener world as well as a greener balance sheet. We bring you new and timely stories each weekday.

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

This week EarthNews Radio brought you innovations including those for both the backyard and the driveway; also we brought you efforts to develop the environmentalist instincts of young people, and information on topics ranging from bacteria to chocolate.

Jerry Kay interviewed representatives from two organizations about as divergent as you can get, each with a mission to help you make your home and daily life more environmentally friendly. "Backyard Habitats" is a program of the National Wildlife Federation, while GEM cars are electric cars made by automaker DaimlerChrysler:

Backyard Habitats

GEM car

One organization brings out the potential of young people to become conservation professionals:

Developing Conservationists

Student Conservation

Being a good environmental steward saves money for business and also creates goodwill. But there's another important reason for today's businesses to get green:

Environmental Bottom Line

And EarthNews Radio featured information about a myriad of subjects. Are you interested in the weather? Chocolate? Geography? We covered it:

Extremeophile Bacteria

Mercator Map

Chocolate Chemistry

Weather Watching

Recycled Glass

Be sure to check back to ENN's EarthNews Radio section often to hear the latest interviews by Jerry Kay. Catch up on broadcasts you may have missed with compelling scientists, environmentalists, and innovative green businesspeople.

The Road to Detroit -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by May Boeve and Jamie Henn

The whole thing began over a midnight snack of nachos at the small, dimly lit student café at Middlebury College in Vermont. After four months of sleepless nights and last minute conference calls, a dedicated group of students from around the country has partnered with the youth coalition Energy Action to pull together what is perhaps the most unique, exciting, youth campaign of the summer: the Road to Detroit.

On the surface, Road to Detroit (RTD) may look like your average college road trip: a painted school bus, good friends, bad food, and an ambitious schedule of over 13,000 miles. A closer look, however, reveals that this is no ordinary undertaking.

From the start, Road to Detroit has been dedicated to a not-so-typical environmental message. Instead of the usual gloom and doom, these students want to offer a compelling vision for America based on long-held values and convictions. At each stop, the students explain to people that they are taking action against global warming not just because of some scientific statistics, but because of moral and spiritual reasons: they are acting with their hearts as well as their heads. “After seeing the loss of biodiversity in Florida as a child,” says Sarah Trapido, a student on the bus, “I wanted to dedicate my life to doing whatever I can to save what is left.” For Sarah, stopping global warming means a chance to save the Florida coast.

Having identified the American Auto Industry as one of the leading contributors to global warming, RTD focuses on the solution. As anyone in Detroit could tell you, the automotive industry is no longer competitive with foreign automakers and thousands are losing their jobs. RTD envisions the Big 3 automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) revitalized by an aggressive campaign to increase the fuel efficiency of their entire fleets to at least 40 miles per gallon and to invest in zero emissions technology. By building the more fuel-efficient cars that consumers demand, Detroit autoworkers will profit while they help America towards a cleaner, safer future.

RTD is dedicated to showing Detroit that the demand for better vehicles exists now. The students are traveling the country on a 1991 GMC bus they have converted to run on used vegetable oil as well as biodiesel, an alternative to diesel fuel derived from vegetable oil. The bus last stopped at Cape Hatteras Light in North Carolina. For scientists and activists, the extreme erosion on Cape Hatteras is visual evidence of how rising sea levels caused by global warming are beginning to threaten the US coastline. My dream is to return to Cape Hatteras in a hybrid,” says bus member Brett Edmonds, “But first, US automakers have to start making them.”

Throughout the summer, the Road to Detroit bus will appear in over 50 towns and cities from coast-to-coast, collecting signatures on their Clean Car Pledge, which they will present to Ford Motor Company on August 22nd in Detroit. The bus members encourage everyone, young and old, to sign the pledge which asks automakers to produce more fuel-efficient, cleaner, union made vehicles. With over 7,000 signatures, the organizers are well on their way to their goal of 25,000 signatures and plan to shoot for 50,000 by the end of the summer. The pledge can be found on the website: www.roadtodetroit.org.

The bus tour culminates with a convergence in Detroit on August 20-22nd. Working with everyone from a youth theater troupe and hip-hop artists to environmental justice activists and union leaders, Road to Detroit organizers hope to celebrate the Detroit community and build the youth clean energy movement at the same time. By coming to Detroit as consumers, not protestors, Road to Detroit is attracting broad support from Detroiters and people around the country. “Everyone wants to help us dialogue about these issues,” says organizer Jamie Henn. “By focusing on our common goal and not our different approaches, we have been able to move the industry forward together.” People from across the USA are invited to join the bus in Detroit to help celebrate a brighter future for the industry and the country.

Keep track of the bus at our website: www.roadtodetroit.org. More information on Energy Action can be found at www.energyaction.net.


1. Sign our Clean Car Pledge! More than 5,000 signatures were collected on this pledge in just four days. Although the pledge is targeted at youth, the car buyers of tomorrow, people of all ages have signed the pledge. Visit the Road to Detroit website at www.roadtodetroit.org to sign.

2. Send a donation! Contributions are tax deductible and greatly appreciated. Checks should be made out to Energy Action, with Road to Detroit in the memo. Mail to:Road to Detroit, 75 Arkansas, Suite 1, San Francisco, CA 94107.

3. Finally, join us for the convergence in Detroit on August 20. People are encouraged to take the road to Detroit as renewably as they can in order to show their support for clean cars.

May Boeve, a senior at Vermont's Middlebury College, spent last fall traveling the country as part of Project BioBus, an educational outreach tour promoting biodiesel. She couldn't get enough of bus tours, so is spending this summer organizing Road to Detroit from her native Northern California.

Jamie Henn, a junior at Middlebury College is especially interested in environmental education. He is excited to spend the summer talking to people, young and old, about Road to Detroit's compelling vision for the auto industry and country.

Photo: Monument Valley in Utah at sunset. Credit: www.pdphoto.org.