ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news August 22nd - 26th: Dirty air, rebounding wetlands, falling fish stocks, cloned kittens and much more.
Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: Need More Research on Environmental Chemical Exposure
The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter
In the news August 22nd - 26th: Dirty air, rebounding wetlands, falling fish stocks, cloned kittens and much more.
1. African Ministers Say Clean Water Key To Fighting Poverty
ENN highlights water conservation this August, with a special report featuring a host of water resources online. This story from Africa highlights the importance of clean water to human health and the environment. "While water is life, sanitation is dignity," said Roberto Lenton of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
2. Nine U.S. States Break with Bush on Greenhouse Gases
Despite the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, nine states in the northeastern portion of the U.S. are moving to address carbon dioxide emissions. A draft regional plan for capping and then reducing power plant emissions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont is currently in circulation for feedback from industry, power companies, and environmental groups.
3. Cloned Tabby Wildcats Have Kittens
Hailed by some as proof of cloning's potential to save endangered species, the birth of two litters of wildcat kittens in the past month made the history books: For the first time, two clones of wild species have reproduced naturally. According to Betsy Dresser, Director of the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, "By improving the cloning process and then encouraging cloned animals to breed and make babies, we can revive the genes of individuals who might not be reproductively viable otherwise."
4. Iraq's Devastated Marshlands Recovering Fast, U.N. Says
The United Nations Environment Programme estimated this week that the Iraqi marshlands cruelly drained by Saddam Hussein in 2003 have recovered at a phenomenal rate. In a dramatic display of the resiliency of nature, the once-rich ecosystem devastated by Hussein as punishment to residents has already reflooded to nearly 40 percent of its former level.
5. Environmentalists Declare Victory Over Judge's Order To Step Up Wolf Preservation Efforts in Northeast
Soon, the gray wolf could be howling once again in the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Ordering the Bush administration to step up to the plate, Judge J. Garvan Murtha found that the Department of the Interior ran afoul of federal law in its 2003 rule that no further wolf restoration efforts were necessary in the region.
6. Indian State Bans Sale, Use of Plastic Bags
The recent monsoon season in India prompted the government in Maharashtra to ban the use of plastic bags, citing their detrimental impact during heavy rains. "The ban is long overdue and very welcome... but to say the flooding was just because of plastic bags is stupid," said Debi Goenka of the Bombay Environmental Action Group. "This has to be a first step."
7. U.S. Conservationist Fulfills His Chilean Dream
Thirty million dollars and eight years later, businessman/conservationist Douglas Tompkins' dream has come true. Co-founder of Esprit clothing, Tompkins has donated more than 700,000 acres of pristine forestland to a foundation in Chile to operate as a nature preserve. "All of our work is aimed to get private land back into the public domain," Tompkins said.
8. World Health Organization Says Dirty Air a Regular Killer in Asia
The well-publicized bank of haze that enshrouded parts of Malaysia in recent weeks highlights a more widespread air quality problem in Asia, according to the World Health Organization. WHO air quality specialist Michael Krzyzanowski estimates that air pollution contributes to 500,000 deaths a year in Asia. "Traffic-related pollution, industry and criminal burning of wood and coal and solid materials is causing a permanent high pollution level," he said.
9. Global Coalition Meeting in Nigeria Unveils New Initiative To Save Falling Fish Stocks
Dwindling fish populations due to illegal fishing and natural disaster has left some of the world's poorer countries competing for an ever more scarce resource. This week, several international agencies announced the launching of a new initiative, called ProFish to aid countries where livelihoods are particularly affected by falling fish stocks.
10. Showcase Your Video on ENN TV, Powered by FLIMP™
Coming September 15: ENN TV! Made possible by ENN's groundbreaking FLIMP technology, ENN TV will offer yet another pathway for disseminating the most timely and intriguing environmental news and stories of the day. If you have a short video (four minutes or less) that you'd like to share with the ENN audience, here's your chance to showcase it as part of the ENN TV debut! Read on to find out how you can participate.
Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary
This week on ENN's Sustainable Economy channel, it became more apparent that the primary issue in business and the environment is energy. The search for alternative forms of energy is no longer simply good social practice; the high price of fossil fuels has made energy a bottom line issue for all businesses.
Debates about the best way to go about the transition to more efficient fuels continues. The government appears to have become a real advocate for wind farms (unlike in the past); discussions about the cost of ethanol versus typical gasoline continue; and Toyota, the current champion of hybrid car production, disagrees with rules that will undermine its competitive edge:
Meanwhile, businesses and other organizations look for ways to make current technologies more efficient:
Several Airports Conserve Energy by Installing Power Efficiency Controllers
San Francisco Municipal Railway Orders 56 Hybrid Electric Buses
Green Mountain Power Trucks to Run on Green Fuel
EENT's AXP 1000 Reduces Truckers' Idle, Helping the Environment
This week we told you about businesses and organizations that are taking different tacks in their quest to help the environment:
Image Microsystems Awards Environmental Research Grant to Texas Tech University
Rio Grande Valley Havens Are Preserving Nature -- and Boosting Area Communities
Safe Water: World Water Week
U.S. EPA and DOT Recognize Flexcar as a 'Best Workplace for Commuters'
Despite the efforts of many in government and business to improve the environment, there are still challenges, such as these that we chronicled this week. Among them is the culmination of a long battle in India over the longtime controversy about a particularly dirty Coca-Cola plant:
Be sure to check ENN regularly to get the latest news about business and the environment. You can find it here on ENN on our Sustainable Economy News page.
EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary
This week EarthNews Radio had two distinct areas of focus: science and business. For those of you interested in science, host Jerry Kay brought you interesting stories about plants, insects, and what we see when we look into the sky.
On the business front, EarthNews Radio informed you about several innovative initiatives to help everyone be a little more green. Three of the stories were simple methods that the every day consumer can employ on a daily basis. The other three stories concern business practices that are a little more complicated, but which could have a commensurate positive affect on the environment:
Be sure to visit EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN often to hear Jerry Kay's interviews with environmentalists, and scientists, and activists on a wide variety of topics. You can find it at ENN Radio Network.
Need More Research on Environmental Chemical Exposure -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by Dr. David Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation
Most of us are pretty strict about what we put in our bodies. Some people eat only organic meats and produce. Others are vegetarians. Many people don't use harsh chemicals in their homes or pesticides in their gardens because they don't relish being exposed to potentially hazardous substances.
Unfortunately, in many cases we aren't given a choice.
Whether we like it or not, the blood of every human being on the planet contains trace elements of industrial chemicals - most of which weren't even invented a century ago. Some of these chemicals have been well studied and we are aware of the risks associated with them. But for many others, we simply don't know what the long-term effects are or at what levels they become a hazard.
We are exposed to these chemicals every day in a variety of ways. Some are airborne and we breathe them into our lungs. Others are found in our water supplies. Some are in our soils. And others are in the food we eat and the products we buy. Most of them are byproducts of the way goods are made or how they break down after they are produced.
A recent report from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at human exposure to these chemicals. Using data from urine and blood samples, the report examined the amounts of 148 chemicals in the U.S. population from 2001 to 2002. The goal is to track exposure to these chemicals over time and try to determine risk levels for various segments of the population.
As the report points out, just because these chemicals are in our blood does not necessarily mean they are harmful to us. However, many of the chemicals, such as lead and mercury, are known to be dangerous, while for many others, there is just insufficient information. The fact that they find their way into our bodies at all is cause for some concern.
Fortunately, there is some good news in the report. In the early 1990s, 4.4 per cent of children tested had elevated levels of lead (a neurotoxin) in their blood. By 2002, that number had dropped to 1.6 per cent. Levels of certain pesticides, like aldrin and dieldrin, have also dropped to low or undetectable levels.
These results show how effective strong environmental legislation can be. Efforts to reduce lead in our environment - for example, by banning it as a gasoline additive - took many years to achieve because of industry opposition, but have been very successful in reducing our exposure to this toxin. Pesticides like aldrin and dieldrin have also been phased out and, as a result, are also disappearing from our blood.
But there are new chemicals coming on the market practically every day. The CDC found widespread exposure to pyrethroid pesticides, for example, which have been poorly studied in terms of human health, and phthalates, which are common in plastics and have been linked to reproductive abnormalities.
One of the groups most vulnerable to exposure to industrial chemicals is children. Children are not just small adults. Their bodies and brains are developing rapidly. They metabolize things differently. They play on grass and in the dirt. They chew on things and get into everything.
In the United States, there's a great new initiative called the National Children's Study, which will examine the effect of environmental influences on children from before birth to the age of 21. The study will follow 100,000 children in the U.S. as they grow to find out how chemical exposure, genetics, physical surroundings and a number of other factors affect development. Right now, there are no Canadian children planned for the study, but it is not too late for the federal government to fund a Canadian component and take part in this vital research.
We all deserve a choice over what we put into our bodies An ever-expanding list of pervasive chemicals in our environment takes away that choice. We need to take it back.
Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
Photo: A Karner Blue Butterfly. Credit: J & K Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.