ENN Weekly: September 19th - 23rd

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news September 19th - 23rd: The perils of glacial retreat, ESA revisions in the offing, tackling overfishing, ferrets on the upswing, and much more.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
Now Showing on ENN TV
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: Environmental Income Can Help Reduce Poverty

The Week's Top Ten

In the news September 19th - 23rd: The perils of glacial retreat, ESA revisions in the offing, tackling overfishing, ferrets on the upswing, and much more.

1. House Panel Set To Approve Sweeping Endangered Species Act Rewrite
Now 32 years old, the Endangered Species Act is about to undergo a change, if conservative lawmakers have their way. According to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), "There is a recognition that the current critical habitat arrangement doesn't work, for a whole host of reasons."

2. U.N. Estimates that 2005 Ozone Hole Will Probably Be Slightly Smaller than All-Time High of 2003
A spot of encouraging news in the midst of a somewhat gloomy environmental news week: Ozone specialists from the World Meteorological Organization predict that this year's ozone hole won't be as large as it was in 2003. Scientist Geir Braathen offered this guarded assessment: "It's kind of leveling off, but it's still too early to say that the situation is improving."

3. Katrina's Environment Threat Not Over, Greens Say
As the floodwaters recede along the Gulf Coast in Katrina's wake and initial environmental testing indicates less damage than feared, environmentalists warn that the worst effects may not yet be revealed. Natural Resources Defense Council's Eric Olson summarized, "My fear is that the people who suffered the most when Hurricane Katrina struck will be the people who become most exposed to toxins."

4. Bush Administration Proposes New Fishing Rules Aimed at Overfishing
On Monday, the Bush administration floated new provisions for "ending overfishing and rebuilding our fish stocks," according to Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Critics contend, among other things, that the new guidelines weaken requirements for allowing overfished species to rebound over the course of a decade.


5. Scientists Say Trying To Modify Hurricane Behavior Is Futile Because Storms Are Too Strong
In this season of monster hurricanes, the concept of applying science toward actually staving off a storm doesn't seem too unreasonable. Already tried it, and it doesn't work say atmospheric scientists. Comparing "hurricane modification" to "trying to move a car with a pea shooter," hydrometeorologist Matthew Kelsch says, "The amount of energy involved in a hurricane is far greater that anything we're going to impart to it."

6. EPA Proposes Easing Reporting Requirements on Toxic Pollution
In a purported effort to spare companies some of the effort involved in regulatory compliance, the EPA this week proposed easing up on reporting requirements in the event of modest toxic pollutant releases. The EPA's Kimberly Nelson, assistant administrator for environmental protection said, "With 20 years of experience under our belt, we recognize that we can reduce the burden without losing much of the data we now receive."

7. Survey Shows Voters Care about Environment, But Not Necessarily at the Ballot Box
Voters care about the environment in theory, but not necessarily in practice, suggests a survey released this week. Conducted for Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the survey uncovered significant gaps between voters' general feelings toward protecting the environment and their election day behavior. "There is a clear disconnect here," summarized former EPA head William K. Reilly.

8. Professor Documents Glacial Retreat, Warns of Global Warming's Impact
Soon, a freezer full of glacial ice samples collected by Ohio State University Professor Lonnie Thompson could be all that's left of the world's glaciers, he fears, as global warming takes hold. "It's amazing how quickly the change has come," said Thompson, who first began collecting ice samples in the 1970s. "The thing that is discouraging is that there are so many vested interests who for their own short-term gain will negate what anyone can observe for themselves," Thompson said.

9. Army Corps Opens Tracts of Wetlands to Development
The Washington-based Environmental Integrity project reported this week that in the past few months, the Army Corps of Engineers has opened vast tracts of wetlands to development. "Congress has failed to act to shore up wetlands protections after the Supreme Court decision," said EIP's Eric Schaeffer. "And as bad as the Supreme Court decision was, the Army Corps has made it worse by going further than the opinion required."

10. Biologists Encouraged by Ferrets' ProgressOn a sunnier note, black-footed ferrets, once thought to be extinct, appear to be faring well in the Colorado wilderness. Jacob Smith of the Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver cautions that despite the encouraging findings, "We still have a lot of work to do, and we still have to work on recovering prairie dog populations so the ferrets can survive."

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

It's been a growing trend at all levels of both government and business to create initiatives designed to improve the environment. We're seeing a larger and larger percentage of business news consisting of announcements of these initiatives. Of course, we'll only know over time how effective they are:

Nine States To Set Carbon Dioxide Pollution Limits from Power Plants
National Instruments Announces Plan for New RoHS-Compliant Products
Beijing Officials to Use Remote Sensing Technology to help Clean Air for 2008 Olympics
Engineering Group Launches Efficiency-Awareness Program
Dakota Beef Sponsors New Organic Resource Center
Clinton Global Initiative Event to be Carbon Neutral
Farmer Has Carved Out a Niche for Survival: Community Supported Agriculture
African Leaders Convene First Regional Forum To Explore Market-Based Conservation Strategies

Hopefully most of these initiatives will be successful at helping the environment, so headlines like these will become less prevalent:

Seven Final, Five Proposed Superfund Sites Announced
Minister of the Environment Will Not Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on Belledune Facility
Growth Endangers Horse Culture

Sometimes advances in environmental protection and the organic movement come in places where you wouldn't expect:

Woman Markets Organic Dog Treats
Funeral Industry Takes Green Slant
Though Hurricane Rita is churning through the Gulf toward Texas as this goes to publication, we're still seeing the aftereffects of Katrina on both business and the environment:

Katrina Crop Toll Rivals Drought, Expected To Reach $900 Million
Company Reopening Mississippi Mills To Handle Damaged Timber

The energy industry has been affected by the storm, as have consumers in the US. Feeling the immediate impact of $3 per gallon gas, and the prospect of $5 per gallon gas in a worst-case Rita scenario, not many Americans have considered that home heating fuel will have spiked commensurately. There may be some relief, at least for homes heated by natural gas:

Brazilian Oil Company Announces Natural Gas Find in Gulf of Mexico

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.

Now Showing on ENN TV, by Carrie Schluter

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

Harrison Ford narrates this compelling Conservation International video that drives home the urgency of working today to save the planet's ecosystems. The reasons are compelling and undisputable. Rainforests the size of New York City disappear each day. Ninety percent of the world's predatory fish are gone. The video points to the destruction wrought by December's tsunami as evidence of the inextricable relationship of man and nature. Lacking the natural protection of coral reefs and mangroves, torn out to make way for development, nothing stood in the way to temper the fury of the big wave. While recognizing the threat currently facing the environment, Conservation International finds reason for home among the many successes it has built in conjunction with its partners around the world.

Scientists say that, due to human factors, the global temperature has risen faster in the past 150 years than it did in the 10,000 years before that. "Climate is not what it used to be," according to this video that provides a fascinating snapshot of global warming. The facts and figures tell he story one way, but beneath the numbers lies a frightening truth: Global warming puts our health and lifestyles at risk. The impact of glacial melt on cultures dependent on ice, for instance, has been tremendous. The question of who is responsible for global warming and what the evidence means is covered in this information-packed piece, featuring Alanis Morissette.

Sea turtles are the canaries in the coal mine for ocean health, "ambassadors of sea," says renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Swimming the oceans when dinosaurs roamed the earth, sea turtles have existed virtually unchanged through millennia. Vast in number less than a century ago, all seven sea turtle species are endangered today. This video focuses on the magnificent, enigmatic leatherback, the largest of all sea turtles, and the work of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project to save it from oblivion.

The EPA says that the energy we use in our homes can lead to twice the greenhouse gases as a car generates. If you've ever wondered how you can make a difference for the environment, consider the benefits of Energy Star, detailed compellingly and with humor in this enjoyable video.

What is reincarnation? This stylish video takes a look at the second lives of everything from Coke cans and running shoes in promoting RE3, North Carolina's new recycling campaign designed to increase participation in recycling at home, at the office, at a party, at a ballgame or park.

See it for yourself: WATCH ENN TV

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

This week EarthNews Radio brought you several ways to directly participate in conservation and environmental improvement, as well as a number of venues in which to simply gain more knowledge about our planets and the skies.

In these three interviews, Jerry Kay introduced you to hands-on methods that will make the world a greener, cleaner place. They include making the right choice in the "paper or plastic" question, creating resource-rich gardens, and.... shopping:

Paper or Plastic Pallets

Edible Forest Gardens

Consumers for Clean Energy

These three issues required larger-scale than simple individual participation might have allowed, but they're nonetheless vital and important to know about:

Wetland Restoration

Heritage Seeds

Human Exposure to Lead

As nighttime lengthens in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is a wonderful time to view the night sky. These two editions of EarthNews Radio can enhance the experience:

Finding Constellations

Constellation Scorpius

Parents and teachers who want their children to learn about science and the environment can learn about a great resource here:

Science Resources for Parents

Joel Kotkin's work has been well-known for years among urbanists, but today his expertise about cities is moving into the mainstream. Kotkin discussed with Jerry Kay the important of environmental balance within cities:

History of Cities

Visit EarthNews Radio's homepage here at ENN often. Jerry Kay interviews environmentalists, scientists, activist, and green businesspeople, providing information sure to be thought-provoking to those with an interest in science and the environment. These 90-second blasts of information are updated regularly, so look for them at ENN Radio Network.

Environmental Income Can Help Reduce Poverty -- An ENN Guest Commentary
Dr. David Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation

A common complaint I hear again and again is that environmental groups ignore the economy. "You can't take care of the environment unless you have a strong economy," is the standard refrain.

This line is often used as a justification to pursue just about any development, regardless of its environmental impact. And it's often used as a club against those who seek to protect natural areas in the developing world, as though industries are simply seeking to better the lives of the poor in these areas, while environmental groups want to hold them back.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Alleviating poverty is an important environmental goal too. I have often said if my family was starving and I saw an endangered plant or animal we could eat, I 'd have to kill it and bring to back to my family for food.

Still, the argument is tempting in its simplicity. How else can we improve the lot of the poor if not by merely exploiting the natural resources where they live? A new report, The Wealth of the Poor, backed by the United Nations and the World Bank helps explain how. It argues that linking aid to environmental protection is one of the most effective ways to reducepoverty.

According to the report, economic-development programs have largely ignored rural populations in developing countries, which make up three-quarters of the world's poor. These people more than any other rely most directly on natural resources and services, yet they face increasing pressures on these services from outside forces. Fish stocks, for example, are dwindling in developing countries as industrial fleets mine the seas to feed wealthier people in the developed world. This economic activity might increase the developing nation's GDP in the short term, but it actually reduces the capacity of local people to earn a living over the long term.

In other words, many of the current models of economic development are ill-suited to rural areas because they fail to take into account the connection between the people and the planet. But more than that, The Wealth of the Poor argues that natural resources and services, rather than just being basic survival mechanisms, can actually be wealth-creating assets if they are effectively managed. This "environmental income" can act as a stepping stone to economically empower the rural poor.

Central to tapping into that wealth is the need to bring local resources under local control. Examples have shown that such measures can succeed where international industrialization schemes have failed. For example, communities in Fiji have increased the abundance of fish in their waters when they strictly restricted fishing to certain areas. And land reforms based on local community co-operation in northern Tanzania have led to reforestation in degraded areas that now provide food and fuel for local people.

Unfortunately, such examples are few because the vast majority of poverty-reduction schemes are not grounded in local people and their environment. Natural services are often ignored as though they have no value and the poor suffer the most when these services are degraded. If we want to improve the lot of the rural poor, that has to change.

It's true that environmental organizations have not paid enough attention to poverty. But it's much more glaring that economic development plans have paid so little attention to the environment. For too long there has been a disconnect between science and economics. The fact is, we all depend on natural services and resources for our survival and for the wealth of goods we currently enjoy. And if we don't take care of those natural systems, we will all end up much poorer.

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Photo: A Black-crowned Night-Heron. Credit: Gary M. Stolz/Washington DC Library/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.