ENN Weekly: September 12th - 16th

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news September 12th - 16th: Ape habitats in peril, achieving a healthy lifestyle, gauging the scope of Katrina's damage, the debut of ENN TV, and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Now Showing on ENN TV
Guest Commentary: The Environment Matters

The Week's Top Ten

In the news September 12th - 16th: Ape habitats in peril, achieving a healthy lifestyle, gauging the scope of Katrina's damage, the debut of ENN TV, and much more.

1. Spending on Environment Yields Big Returns, Report Says
How about investing in the environment as a means of countering poverty? A recent study suggests that doing so can produce important returns. Every dollar put toward clean water in the Third World, for example, could result in about $14 worth of diverse benefits, including decreased health care costs and improved school attendance.

2. ENN Special Report: Achieving A Healthy Lifestyle
With the change of season comes renewed emphasis on adopting healthy, environmentally sound routines. This month, ENN focuses on healthy lifestyles with a special report featuring a plethora of information, resources, and advice for incorporating your personal "conservation ethic" into your daily life. Topics include food, personal care, green parenting, pets, and fitness.

3. Countries to Agree to Save Ape Habitats
With the alarming news of dwindling primate habitat and grim predictions for the impact on primate populations came an agreement that poaching and animal smuggling must be addressed in many countries. According to Edwin Wiek of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, "We don't have any data system to monitor the illegal trade of great apes. Government support is crucial to building these systems."

4. Senate Effort To Repeal Mercury Emissions Rule Defeated
By a small margin the Senate deflected the Bush administration's challenge to the mercury emissions rule this week. Summarizing his point of view, resolution sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, "I challenge colleagues to tell a whole generation of women and children that their health is less important than energy company profits."


5. Germany To Seal Nuclear Dump with Four Million Tons of Concrete
Residents near the Morsleben waste deposit in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany shouldn't have to worry anymore about suffering radiation-related effects from the defunct nuclear dump -- at least for the next 150,000 years or so. Containing about 1.3 million cubic feet of waste, the dump has been hermetically sealed by about 4.4 million tons of concrete.

6. Bison Numbers Swell at Yellowstone
News that the bison population in Yellowstone National Park has reached an estimated 4,900 animals -- about 700 more than last year -- is fueling the controversy surrounding management of the bovine disease brucellosis. According to Amy McNamara, national parks director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, "We can treat bison like wildlife while still protecting Montana's brucellosis-free status and we ought to be focused on that."

7. Scientists Collect Fish To Assess Environmental Damage from Katrina
Scientists are hoping that the state of health of Mississippi's fish can tell them something about the wide-ranging impact of Hurricane Katrina. They fear that contamination from any number of sources could have poisoned offshore waters, and the wildlife that inhabit them. Recent Coast Guard estimates indicated that more than seven million gallons of oil could have leaked from facilities in southeast Louisiana.

8. Forest Service Proposal Would Speed Up Grasslands Oil Drilling
Approximately four million acres of grasslands in the Great Plains and West could be opened to oil exploration sooner than current regulations allow in an effort to address the country's oil shortage. If adopted, a new proposal put forth by the USDA would shorten the review period for certain oil drilling projects from six months to two months in an effort to increase oil supply fast.

9. U.S. Agriculture Department Killed One Million More Animals in 2004 than in 2003
Environmental groups took exception to the news that the government killed about one million more "public nuisance" animals in 2004 than it did in the year prior. "Wildlife Services killed more than five animals per minute in 2004," said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, a wildlife advocacy group based in Colorado. "The toll on ecosystems wrought by this one agency is jaw-dropping."

10. Environmental Group Warns Hippos Face Extinction in Congo
The World Wildlife Fund warned that only 887 hippopotamuses remain in the Congo, the place that is home to the largest population of hippos in the world. According to WWF's Marc Languay, "If the government does not take the hippo situation in Virunga seriously, this will not only lead to an environmental disaster, but also to an economic crisis for local communities."

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

For the second week in a row, Katrina dominated the headlines. This week many of the stories were about the post-aftermath -- issues such as the cleanup, the insurance, and the effect on the economy:

Dynamix Bio-Hazard Clean-Up Crew Arrives in New Orleans
Swiss Reinsurance Co. Doubles Katrina Claim Estimate
More Automakers Embrace Hybrids as Gas Prices Rise
Katrina Threatens To Wipe Out Many Gulf Coast Shrimpers

Beyond Katrina, the world of business and the environment saw the usual: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good:

Aspen Institute Releases Report on Community Forestry
England Household Waste Recycling Doubles in Last Four Years
GreenFuel Technologies Delivers Field Trial System to First Commercial Customer
Earth Share Launches CharityGift Card Program to Help Environment
Timber Tycoon Developer Now Owns Chunk of Idaho

The bad: Builders and environmentalists continue to distrust each other, and some companies are still running afoul of environmental rules:

Bermuda Wary of Island's Development Boom
Endangered Species List Riles Builders
FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company Pays NRC Fine
U.S. Announces Clean Air Agreement with Nation's Largest Hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal Operator

And the ugly... or at least unattractive:

Rural Montana Prepares for Major Bio Defense Lab
Disney Opens New Park as Smog Casts Pall over Hong Kong

Don't forget that ENN is featuring cutting-edge products on ENN Innovation Expo, where companies can tell their story and green consumers can find the latest in environmentally responsible products. Visit ENN Expo regularly.

Be sure to check ENN's Sustainable Economy channel daily 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 covered a number of subjects, though several of them had a common theme: conservation. Of course conservation encompasses a number of positive practices, and Jerry Kay's interviews covered several of them, ranging from wetlands restoration to clean energy to using recycled and recyclable products:

Wetland Restoration

Paper or Plastic Pallets

Consumers for Clean Energy

Heritage Seeds

Edible Forest Gardens

Though summer is coming to an end, there is still ample opportunity to view the night sky. These two editions of EarthNews Radio can help enhance the experience:

Finding Constellations

Constellation Scorpius

Parents who have children with an interest in science will benefit from this information:

Science Resources for Parents

Modern human history has been primarily an urban history, and a focus on balance between the needs of a modern society and the natural world has never been more necessary. EarthNews Radio brought you the story of that history, as well as one success story about an environmental intervention:

History of Cities

Human Exposure to Lead

Be sure to visit EarthNews Radio homepage here at ENN regularly. Jerry Kay's interviews of environmentalists, scientists, and activists run the gamut of information for those with an interest in science and the environment. These 90-second blasts of useful information are sure to make you think. You can find them at ENN Radio Network.

Now Showing on ENN TV, by Carrie Schluter

Selected highlights of this week's programming on ENN TV:

Where is reality more amazing than mythology? The Amazon! Richly diverse, uniquely grand, and incredibly challenging for filmmakers to document, the Amazon rainforest is declining rapidly.Amazon, a Kieth Merrill Film produced by Ogden Entertainment, explores this mysterious and precious land, tracking an American scientist and a tribal shaman on their mission to find rare medicinal plants. Award-winning actress Linda Hunt narrates. ENN TV brings audiences a stunning preview of Amazon.

Electric cars are no longer things of the future. As futuristic as it may look, the zero-emission GEMCAR is on the road, complete with the same suspension, hydraulic front disc brakes, and other components as every other car. The big differences: GEMCARs cost their owners about 35 cents a day to operate, and does not pollute. Running 35 miles a day on average, GEMCARs are perfect for short, in-town trips. Find out more about the GEMCAR, and then test drive one for yourself!

Described as a reclusive oddball with "rabbit ears and kangaroo legs" the bilby of the Australian is so rare that some think it's a mythical fabrication. Two people have championed the unusual creature, and through determination and contagious enthusiasm have won the support of politicians, neighbors, and everyday folks alike through their efforts to save the bilby from extinction.

See it for yourself: WATCH ENN TV

The Environment Matters -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by Dr. Claude Martin, WWF International

Many of us in the conservation world are concerned that the natural environment ”“ as the fundamental provider of life on this planet ”“ seems to have dropped off the international community’s radar screen in the lead up to the UN-hosted World Summit.

This is an alarming realization as natural resources and the environment are being degraded and destroyed at record pace. Most environmental indicators ”“ from climate change to freshwater and forest habitat loss ”“ have become markedly worse. Despite the multiplicity of international environmental agreements, many have become paralyzed by politics, bogged down in the process or even worse, ignored.

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ”“ a set of internationally-agreed upon targets to eradicate poverty and hunger, improve health, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2015 ”“ led us to believe that they could correct a weakened multilateral system. But after years of touting the goals as a panacea for many of the world’s social and economic ills, most countries are now unlikely to meet their targets as promised.

Recognizing these shortcomings, world leaders attending the World Summit will meet to set a massive multi-billion policy direction and aid package for developing countries over the coming years.

Described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and UN reform, this summit should also be an opportunity to include environmental concerns, particularly as they are inextricably linked to sustainable development and poverty reduction.

A healthy environment warrants substantial attention and investments because it is fundamentally linked to how people in some of the poorest countries make a living ”“ providing a range of goods and services including food, timber, fodder, shelter and water. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where millions of the poor rely on subsistence agriculture and artisanal fisheries.

However, unsustainable development has in many cases created immediate and problematic realities such as water scarcity and pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, as well as such global effects as climate change. A polluted river may seem like a small price to pay for jobs and economic growth, but what if people can no longer use its water to drink, wash or irrigate their crops?

Likewise, dam and irrigation projects are often built in the name of development, but if poorly designed and without environmental considerations, they can lead to loss of productive land and fish stock. A forest or wetland that makes way for large-scale plantations for the export of, say pine apples or soy beans may also be done in the name of development. Large-scale land clearing means that poor, rural people, particularly women, need to walk for hours to gather firewood and can not spend that time for more productive activities. Children are less likely to go to school.

As the list goes on, we are left with one conclusion: poverty reduction in Africa and elsewhere can only succeed if we consider the links between human livelihoods and natural ecosystems, and consequently invest in conservation and environmental care.

The World Summit is set to repeat the mistakes of the past unless world leaders recognize the accumulated evidence showing how a healthy environment is fundamental to achieving development goals. Countries must recognize, valuate and account for the services that the environment provides, including clean water and air, climate stabilization, and prevention of land degradation. Their response can only be concrete actions and investments to conserve nature and to give local communities the ability to manage their natural resources.

Natural resource management and environmental restoration are now holding out the hope of improved quality of life, income and security to poor communities in what is emerging as a key mechanism for the delivery of the MDGs or whatever new goals are set.

Conservation and environmental protection will not solve all our problems, but they have to be part of any solution.

Dr. Claude Martin is Director-General of WWF International, based in Gland, Switzerland.

Photo: New Orleans, LA., Some residents fled so quickly when hurricane Katrina hit that pets were left behind on locked porches. Neighbors who did not evacuate have been trying to care for these animals. Credit: Liz Roll/FEMA.