ENN Weekly: September 5th - 9th

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news September 5th - 9th: Katrina's devastation, global warming, Indonesian orangutans, offshore drilling, and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: It’s Time for a New Vision

The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter

In the news September 5th - 9th: Katrina's devastation, global warming, Indonesian orangutans, offshore drilling, and much more.

1. Hurricane Katrina: The Aftermath
The environmental picture in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast regions hit by Hurricane Katrina came into sharper focus this week, with the following articles on ENN:
Louisiana Scientists Expect Major Environmental Damage
Contaminated Water Had To Be Poured into Lake, EPA Chief Says
First EPA Tests Confirm New Orleans Floodwater Risky Even for Skin Contact
Gulf Coast Fishermen Hope Katrina Spared Sea Life
Katrina Environmental Issues 'Almost Unimaginable'
Few Choices To Rid New Orleans of Poisoned Water
Post-Katrina, Gulf Barrier Islands More Vulnerable
Too Many People in Nature's Way, Experts Say; 'We Think We're Safe and We're Not'
Pumping Water Out of New Orleans Will Take Weeks, Possibly Longer
New Orleans Zoo Animals Survive Katrina's Wrath

2. Grass Hailed as Potential Source of Clean Energy
How's this for a new source of clean, renewable energy: grass. Scientists this week singled out a type of grass called Miscanthus as a potential sustainable energy crop. "As the plant grows it is drawing carbon dioxide out of the air. When you burn it you put that carbon dioxide back, so the net effect on atmospheric CO2 is zero," explained professor Steve Long of the University of Illinois.

3. Estimates Put Wolf Numbers Up in Rockies
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 912 gray wolves inhabit the Northern Rockies currently, compared to an estimated 835 in December of 2004. "But people who think wolves are just going to keep going, that's not true," said Ed Bangs of the agency's wolf recovery program. "We're probably approaching as many wolves as we can handle in these conditions and times."

4. EPA Proposal Would Ban Use of Pesticide Tests on Pregnant Women, Children
Pending the outcome of a 90-day public comment period, the EPA may ban pesticide testing on especially vulnerable populations: pregnant women and children. According to Jay Vroom of CropLife America, "We believe it has the potential to establish ethical and scientific safeguards and uniform standards to protect research subjects and improve the risk assessment process."


5. Water Crisis Looms as Himalayan Glaciers Melt
With glaciers comprising a majority of South Asia and China's water, the region could be facing a severe drinking water shortage within half a century as global warming causes glaciers to retreat. "Our research indicates the economy of the region may be affected due to these conditions and investigations suggest that all glaciers are reducing which could create an acute scarcity of water," summarized researcher Anil Kulkarni.

6. Republicans Eye Expanding U.S. Offshore Drilling
It appears that Hurricane Katrina's swath of destruction has presented an opportunity for Republicans to argue anew for opening offshore waters to drilling -- a move seen by environmentalists as tasteless. "This is an opportunistic effort to resurrect the parts of the energy bill that were too controversial to be passed before," claimed National OCS Coalition co-chair Richard Charter.

7. Indonesian Orangutans Under Siege, Green Groups Say
The illegal orangutan trade in Indonesia is putting the species in jeopardy, according to a study conducted by WWF and wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC. The report indicated that between 200 and 500 orangutans from Borneo -- most of them infants -- are traded in Indonesia annually, usually to be sold as pets. According to James Compton, the director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, "It clearly shows that there is a large discrepancy between what national conservation laws aim to achieve and what happens on the ground."

8. Global Warming Causes Soil To Release Carbon, Study Says
In yet another study of the impact of global warming on the environment, an article published in the journal Nature released this week said that human efforts to combat global warming are being thwarted by the large amounts of carbon being released by the soil. "Our findings suggest the soil part of the equation is scarier than we had thought," said Professor Guy Kirk of Cranfield University. "The consequence is that there is more urgency about doing something."

9. Irish Coral Reefs Bulldozed by Deep-Sea Trawlers
About 85 miles off the coast of western Ireland, 4,500-year-old coral reefs are taking a beating due to deep-water trawling. Dr. Jason Hall-Spencer of the University of Plymouth in England, estimates that 40 percent of the reefs have already been destroyed. "Protection is needed now," he said. "The idea is to get in quick to preserve the few bits that are left.

10. Popular Walrus Cam To Go Offline for Hunt
Normally the stars of a web site transmitting live images of their behavior on Round Island in the Bering Sea, Pacific walruses are experiencing some moments of privacy as the cameras went black today to avoid broadcasting images of the fall subsistence hunt that is a tradition of Alaska natives. "When you go deer hunting you don't want a camera shining on you," explains Helen Chythlook, director of the Bristol Bay Native Association's Qayassiq Walrus Commission.

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

This week on the Sustainable Economy channel at ENN, we began to see the full, sweeping effect that Hurricane Katrina is having on the US. What has been an immense tragedy for the people in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is having ripple effects on the environment and the economy. We brought you several stories about those:

Katrina Maims Lobster-Trapping Industry in Florida
Katrina Spawns Interest in Alternative Forms of Energy
Hurricane Katrina, Record Gas Prices Spark ZAP Electric Car Sales
Rise in Natural Gas Costs Prompt More Consumers To Look at Geothermal Systems

Though the news was filled with stories of sadness and hope about the aftermath of Katrina, organizations and companies around the world continued to spearhead major efforts to improve the environment worldwide:

Officials Unveil Plans for Sustainability Center
2006 FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament to be Climate Neutral
Navajos Receive Award for Banning Uranium Mining
Captain Launches TV Show To Spotlight Fragile Florida Ecosystems
Like a Theme Park, with Chores

We brought you examples of companies doing their part as well:

Potlatch Land Gets Green 'Certified' Label
GreenShift Introduces Mean Green BioFuels
Primax Electronics Uses PTC Windchill to Implement Environmental Regulatory Compliance Plan

On a sad note, a magazine about the organic lifestyle geared toward women closes its doors:

Organic Style Magazine To Cease Publication

And finally, we brought you the latest in our series of innovative product stories. BlueHeat is a product that will warm up your car on a frigid day without the need to start or idle the engine:

Innovative Environment-Friendly Products: BlueHeat

Don't forget that ENN is featuring a number of cutting-edge products on ENN Innovation Expo, where companies can tell their story and enviro-conscious consumers can find the latest in green products. Visit ENN ExpoBe 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 featured stories that you can use: skywatching tips, to help you enjoy the late summer sky, advice on whether to choose paper or plastic in given situations, an innovative program to help consumers lighten their environmental footprint, and a story on "heritage plants," that keep genetic diversity robust.

With the change of seasons comes a changing sky. Jerry Kay brought you these helpful tips to enhance your late summer sky and star viewing experience:

Skywatching This Month

Finding Constellations

Constellation Scorpius

"Paper or plastic," has greater implications than you think, and more applications than shopping bags. Plastic bags contribute to environmental degradation, but for some commodities, plastic is the best answer. Of course, sometimes the best answer is "neither":

White Pollution

Paper or Plastic Pallets

Checkout Bag Fee Proposal

EarthNews Radio introduced you to a novel program where a portion of your online purchases can go to renewable energy programs. Investing in renewable energy isn't just for big companies anymore:

Our Energy

Consumers for Clean Energy

EarthNews Radio also brought you these interviews about the importance of preserving the genetic diversity of plants:

Heritage Plants

Heritage Seeds

Be sure to check out EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN regularly. Jerry Kay interviews environmentalists, scientists, and activists on a wide variety of topics; these 90-second blasts of useful information are sure to make you think -- and may prompt you to act. You can find them at ENN Radio Network.

It’s Time for a New Vision -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by James Quigley, Center for Sustainable Energy

The calamity in the Gulf Coast will have staggering implications in the US economy for months and possibly years to come. Hundred of thousands are homeless and more than a million people have lost their jobs. Gasoline at the pump is now well past $3 per gallon across the country and those prices are not likely to subside appreciably in the foreseeable future if at all. Some climate experts are warning that Hurricane Katrina is a prelude to more aberrant climate disruptions ahead. Anarchy has overtaken the streets of New Orleans and all our President can offer are inadequate platitudes about how “this will make America stronger.” Where is the vision? Why is there such a vacuum of leadership?

Naturally, we all mourn for our fellow Americans whose lives have been shattered by this disaster. The survivors need our help and we should give it. But we need more than promises to rebuild the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. There is an imperative in the threat of global climate change. Our survival is at stake. The evidence abounds yet the naysayers decry it and remain ostrich-like in their perpetual state of denial. The oceans have warmed, sea level rises, glaciers are retreating, polar ice is melting, growing seasons start earlier and end later, drought ravages one area while floods ravage another. Concentrations of CO2 we have pumped into our atmosphere have never been higher as our demand for more fossil fuel has never been greater. There is a better way.

Existing, off-the-shelf, commercially-viable technologies could be employed to reverse the increasingly ominous cycle referred to above, yet it lingers at the periphery of our consciousness like a forgotten child. I refer here to solar and wind energy applications. The average high school math student, using conservative estimates, could calculate that photovoltaic (sunlight-to-electricity), or “solar panels,” placed on 10% of the land mass of Arizona could supply the entire electrical demand of the country. The state of Minnesota, by itself, has sufficient wind energy resources to also supply the entire US electricity demand.

What is needed is a new resolve, a rebirth of the old American spirit of ingenuity. There should be a massive undertaking on the scale of what we did to build the atomic bomb, put a man on the moon, or build our monumental interstate highway system. We should be erecting manufacturing facilities in every city that will put people back to work producing solar and wind energy applications that should be placed on rooftops and mountaintops across the land. Those people who purchase and install these technologies should get tax rebates for doing it. We could free ourselves from our dependency on imported oil and fight foreign wars no more over it. With the surplus electricity we generate we could electrolyze hydrogen to propel our vehicles down the nation’s highways expelling nothing more than water vapor. We have it in our power to change the tide of history.

We could do all this if we could only find the will. Will we find it? And can we find it before it’s too late?

James Quigley, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy at Bronx Community College, City University of New York.

Photo: Guiyu, China - A Chinese child sits amongst a pile of wires and e-waste. Children can often be found dismantling e-waste containing many hazardous chemicals known to be potentially very damaging to children's health. Credit: © Greenpeace/Natalie Behring.