ENN Weekly: August 29th - September 2nd

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news August 29th - September 2nd: Katrina overwhelms the Gulf Coast, retreating glaciers worry Greenland's Inuit people, scientists crack the chimp's DNA code, Steve Case bets on car-sharing, and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: Back-To-Greener-Schools

The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter

In the news August 29th - September 2nd: Katrina overwhelms the Gulf Coast, retreating glaciers worry Greenland's Inuit people, scientists crack the chimp's DNA code, Steve Case bets on car-sharing, and much more.

1. Hurricane Katrina
With multi-tiered environmental implications likely to reveal themselves more fully in the coming days, weeks, and months, Katrina wrought unprecedented damage on the Gulf Coast early in the week. ENN will continue to cover Katrina's impact on the environment as the picture emerges. Stories from this week include:

Biggest Health Worry after Katrina is Clean Water
German Conservative Links Katrina to U.S. CO2 Policy
Once the Driver of the State's Economy, Mississippi Coast Now a Big Stretch of Rubble
Bush Releases Oil from Petroleum Stockpile, Urges Nation To Brace for Higher Prices, Shortages
'What Hiroshima Looked Like' -- Katrina's Full Wrath Still Being Felt, Death Toll Soars Past 100
Analysts See Katrina as `Perfect Storm' for Already High Energy Prices

2. Scientists Decipher the Chimpanzee's DNA
Scientists have cracked the genetic code of chimpanzees, humankind's closest living relative in the wild kingdom, sharing 98% of our DNA. Dr. Robert Waterston, senior author of a paper related to the discovery summarizes: "We hope that elaborating how few differences separate our species will broaden recognition of our duty to these extraordinary primates that stand as our siblings in the family of life."

3. Retreating Glaciers and Melting Permafrost Threaten Traditional Lifestyles of Arctic People
Greenland's Inuit people have built a life in the cold and ice, but it's a lifestyle and culture that's slowly melting away. As chunks of ice break free from glaciers and fall into the fjords and formerly frosty seasons turn wetter every year, indigenous people fear that the consequences of global warming will have especially dire implications their part of the world.


4. Ozone Layer Has Stopped Shrinking, U.S. Study Finds
Reports of a stabilized ozone layer suggest that limiting production of ozone-depleting chemicals has had some positive effect. NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher said, "These early signs indicate one of the strongest success stories of international cooperation in the face of an environmental threat." But ozone recovery, scientists say, will be a long time coming.

5. Clever Whale Uses Fish to Catch Seagulls
A killer whale at Marineland has learned to "fish" for seagulls, and appears to have taught his technique to five other whales. The strategy involves spitting regurgitated fish onto the water's surface and then sinking down to wait for seagulls to take the bait. As gulls land, the whales surge up, mouths wide open for the catch.

6. Scientist Scours Global Waters in Bid To Save Earth's Largest Freshwater Fishes
American biologist Zeb Hogan is doing some "fishing" of his own. On a quest to find the biggest of the big fish in the world, 31-year-old Hogan will visit 10 rivers on the lookout for 20 or so species of gargantuan fish. His objective isn't to catch them, but rather to save them from extinction. "These big, amazing creatures all over the world, they might be goners, on their way out," he said.

7. Fields in Tsunami-Damaged Aceh Could Take Up To Five Years To Recover
In agricultural areas hit hard by December's tsunami, recovery will be painfully slow, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization predicted. On the west coast of Aceh, in particular, where more than 7,000 acres was lost, it will take "very substantial time" for farmers to rehabilitate the land. According to Bart Dominicus, coordinator of FAO's tsunami response program, "You may still be talking from three to five years in the most severe cases."

8. Western States Sue Bush Administration Over Decision To Open Pristine Forests
The Bush administration's decision to open 90,000-plus square miles of untouched forestland to road building and logging incurred the wrath of California, New Mexico, and Oregon this week, in the form of a lawsuit. The suit takes exception to the Forest Service's repeal of the former administration's "roadless rule," claiming that the government failed to conduct proper environmental impact analyses prior to repealing the rule.

9. AOL Co-Founder Steve Case Purchases Majority Stake in Flexcar
Flexcar, the Seattle-based car-sharing business, has a new big-name supporter: AOL co-founder Steve Case. Case's investment firm bought a majority stake in the company this week. "Car-sharing is poised for explosive growth, as it enables consumers to save on the expense and hassle of car ownership, while reducing traffic and pollution," Case said.

10. Rumsfeld Links Environmental Protections to Exposure of U.S. Troops in Iraq
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned this week of the need to balance military needs with environmental protections for the sake of U.S. troops. Citing examples of successful cooperative environmental efforts between the military and conservationists, Rumsfeld warned, "When those concerns are not balanced, the consequence can be unfortunate."

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Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

This week on ENN's Sustainable Economy channel, we brought you a number of stories that showed what can be accomplished when government, nonprofit organizations, and business cooperate. Also, we showed you some interesting new innovations from promising upstart companies. There is still work to be done, however, and there are occasional setbacks, as we showed you this week as well.

The week was rich with stories about cooperation among government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, or some combination of two of them. It shows that competition among businesses is sometimes supplanted by working together:

AltWheels to Host Panel Discussions on Newest Transportation Alternatives
ThermoEnergy Announces Start of $750,000 Federal Climate Change Grant Program
American Humane Association's Animal Rescue Rig Deploys Today
Department of Energy Selects SRI International to Develop Low-Cost Hydrogen Generation System
Conservation Agriculture Comes to a Close
USA Technologies Displays Energy Management Products at EPA Air Innovations Show
Germany's #2 Cement Producer Increases Use of Alternative Fuels
Law Requires Use of Biodiesel in Illinois State Vehicles
SmartWood Program Certifies First U.S. National Park
Coca-Cola, Ford, 3M, 68 Other Facilities Commit to Environmental Improvements Beyond Current Regulatory Requirements
USDA To Allow 'Organic' Label on Cosmetics

Meanwhile, businesses can be rather creative on their own, making and marketing products that will help our environment in the long run:

Willie Nelsonís Biodiesel is Now Available in Austin, Texas
Thor Power Corporation Says Product Could Cut U.S. Electrical Consumption by 33%
Biofriendly's Green Plus Selected by Direct Fuels for Low Emission Diesel Formulation in Texas
Ex-Builder Proves Business, Greenies Do Mix
Daihatsu To Release First Hybrid Commercial Minivehicle

One organization believes that though hybrids are becoming popular, their more efficient brethren, plug-in electric cars, may never fully catch on. It's interesting research, but one wonders if that will change as gas prices in the US begin to approach $4 per gallon:

Plug-In Hybrids to Remain Rare Despite Amazing Mileage, Says ABI Research

The fight for a sustainable economy sometimes suffers setbacks, and often it seems there's an overwhelming about still to be done. We brought stories of some of the difficult issues that are still being posed:

Florida Citrus Growers Face an Urban Future
Mauritania's Poor Remain Convinced They'll Get No Share of Oil Wealth
Closures Threaten U.S. Energy Supply
Researchers Seek To End Dump Stink
After Promising Start, North Dakota Fish Farming Kaput

And finally, last week in our latest "innovative product" story, we introduced you to Trex, a company that makes decking material from recycled and reclaimed products. Where do they get those materials? Here's where:

A New Market for Grocery Store Bags

Be sure to check ENN daily to get the latest news about business and the environment. New stories are added every business day to keep you completely up-to-date on the advances being made for a sustainable economy. You can find them here on ENN on our Sustainable Economy News page.

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

This week EarthNews Radio featured stories about "heritage" plants, which keep genetic diversity going, skywatching tips, some answers to the age-old question "paper or plastic," and an innovative program to help consumers lighten their environmental footprint.

Jerry Kay brought you these interviews about keeping the genetic diversity of plants:

Heritage Plants

Heritage Seeds

Skywatching is a wonderful summer pastime, and EarthNews Radio brought you these helpful tips to enhance your viewing experience:

Skywatching This Month

Finding Constellations

Constellation Scorpius

when you're asked "paper or plastic," your answer has greater implications than you think. We know that plastic bags contribute to environmental degradation, but in some cases, plastic is the best answer. Of course, sometimes the best answer is "neither":

White Pollution

Paper or Plastic Pallets

Checkout Bag Fee Proposal

Finally, EarthNews Radio introduced you to a novel program to help consumers offset their energy usage. Offsets and supporting renewable energy isn't just for big companies anymore:

Our Energy

Consumers for Clean Energy

Visit EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN often since the topics change regularly. Hear Jerry Kay's interviews with environmentalists, scientists, and activists on a wide variety of topics; these 90-second blasts of useful information are sure to keep you engaged. You can find them at ENN Radio Network.

Back-To-Greener-Schools -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by Joyce H. Newman, The Green Guide

New York has just become the first state to require that all schools use safer, non-toxic cleaning products. Passage of New York’s pioneering legislation -- similar to laws in Washington State that require all school and public buildings to “go green” -- was driven by mounting concerns that many school buildings and grounds are actually quite unhealthy environments. In the recent past, more than 50% of all public schools in the U.S. were cited for poor indoor air quality, and things are getting worse, according to government reports.

Given that our children spend much of their time in school, the air they breathe can be a significant source of exposure to toxic pollutants, which are especially hazardous for their more vulnerable, developing bodies. Studies also show that indoor air pollution in schools actually can result in decreased performance and a significant number of school days lost due to illness.

Going outside to play may not offer any relief either. A July 2005 surveillance report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, notes that acute pesticide-related illnesses are relatively common in students and school employees. Moreover, the authors find that the rate of illness in children that is associated with pesticide use at schools is increasing significantly. “To prevent pesticide-related illnesses at schools”, the authors urge “implementation of integrated pest management programs in schools, practices to reduce pesticide drift, and adoption of pesticide spray buffer zones around schools.”

To address these and many other school-based environmental health issues, a nationwide effort to build and maintain healthier, greener schools has been gaining momentum. In Massachusetts, for example, there is a Green Schools Initiative, a project of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, providing a range of “best practice” tools for greening schools.

In California’s huge public school systems, The Collaborative for High Performance Schools is helping to design healthier and more energy efficient facilities. In addition, across the country, a small, but growing number of public and private schools have successfully implemented voluntary green building standards, known as LEEDS standards (LEEDS stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Building Council to raise awareness of the benefits of green buildings and to change the marketplace.

Just in time for the 2005 school year, the editors of The Green Guide, have singled out “America’s Top 10 Green Schools” -- real leaders who are creating everything from day lit classrooms and pesticide-free grounds, to student lockers made of recycled milk cartons, and compost programs for school lunch remains.

By making changes in their design, energy and water use, chemical use indoors and out, their lunch menu, and more, these schools are making greener, healthier and better learning environments for their kids.

Find out which schools make The Green Guide's Top 10 Green Schools list; how to rate your own local schools; plus many other online resources for healthier schools at: www.thegreenguide.com.


An award-winning broadcast journalist and new media executive whose credits include a wide range of environmental and "green consumer" websites and programs, Joyce H. Newman is a Trustee of the Green Guide Institute, a nonprofit, independent publisher of consumer health and safety advice, product reviews, and shopping tips. She currently heads Newman Productions, specializing in strategic communications for a variety of national nonprofit organizations.

ENN welcomes a wide range of perspectives in its popular Commentary Series. To find out more or to submit a commentary for consideration please contact Jerry Kay, Publisher of the Environmental News Network: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo: Davie, Florida - Hurricane Winds from Katrina knocked over this tree crushing this Mobile home. The residents had evacuated. Many Mobile homes homes are damaged and residents are displaced. Credit: Marvin Nauman/FEMA photo.