ENN Weekly: September 26th - 30th

ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news September 26th - 30th: China's tiger trade, a wide-scale children's health study, Arctic ice on the decline, and a Sky Tour to go.

Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
Now Showing on ENN TV
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: Getting Apollo off the Ground

The Week's Top Ten

In the news September 26th - 30th: China's tiger trade, a wide-scale children's health study, Arctic ice on the decline, and a Sky Tour to go.

1. ENN Presents Autumn 'Sky Tour' Podcast
Fire up your iPod, bundle up, and head out to take an informed look at the autumn sky! ENN's Sky Tour, hosted by Jerry Kay and featuring Bing Quock of the California Academy of Sciences is designed for download into an MP3 player, freeing you up to get outside and look at the galaxies and constellations with expert guidance. Make Sky Tour part of your weekend!

2. Caribbean Corals Hit by Warm, Storm-Spawning Seas
Coral in the Caribbean is taking a hit from the same forces that fueled the most recent and damaging hurricanes to churn through parts of the U.S. Scientists say that warm seas are causing "bleaching" of corals, as the algae surrounding them die off in the heat. The coral, in turn, suffers due to being deprived of the algae, which is a primary food source.

3. Researchers Launch Biggest Study of U.S. Children
In the quest to unravel the mysteries of diseases like diabetes and autism that are becoming increasingly common, the U.S. this week announced that it will be launching an ambitious study aimed at sleuthing out environment-disease links. According to Dr. Duane Alexander of the National Institute of Health, "The National Children's Study would follow more than 100,000 children, from before birth -- and, in some cases, even before pregnancy."

4. Cocaine Is Killing Colombian Nature Parks
Another reason to "just say no" to drugs: Their detrimental impact on wildlife. The cocaine business in Colombia, in particular, has set off a chain of events with the bottom-line result of damage to the country's magnificent nature parks. Fumigation as a means of eradicating coca plants has driven growers into the parks, leaving the government with a choice between the lesser of two evils: spraying environmentally damaging weed killer or allowing coca-growing to continue.


5. Warming Causes Record Arctic Ice Melt, U.S. Report Says
Temperatures are up and the Arctic melt is on, according to scientists at NASA. Data indicates that the current amount of ice in the Arctic is the less than it has been in a century or more. As research scientist Mark Serreze puts it, "It's increasingly difficult to argue against the notion that at least part of what we are seeing in the Arctic, in terms of sea ice, in terms of warming temperatures ... is due to the greenhouse effect."

6. China Tiger Trade Would Doom Species, WWF Says
Their body parts highly valued on China's black market, tigers are living, breathing targets of poachers. Although China halted trade in tigers and tiger parts 12 years ago, the country is currently considering allowing trade in farm-bred animals raised in captivity. The Wildlife Fund for Nature warned that such a move would send the wrong message and could have catastrophic implications for wild tigers, too.

7. Former Prime Minister Proposes Australia as World's Nuclear Dump
Nuclear waste has to go somewhere -- an ongoing problem -- and one former Australian politician thinks that his country should serve as host. Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 until 1991 asserted, "What Australia should do in my judgment, as an act of economic sanity and environmental responsibility, is say we will take the world's nuclear waste."

8. Scientists Capture Giant Squid on Camera
From remains washed up on shore we knew a few things about giant squid. Their eyeballs are as big as basketballs. Their outstretched tentacles can span the length of a bus. But until this week, no one had ever caught pictures of giant squid alive. Japanese scientists win the distinction of photographing the mysterious creature in its natural environment.

9. Tsunami Actually Aided Crops in Indonesia
In some areas of the world December's tsunami wrought devastation almost beyond the scope of imagination. Nine months later, we see small signs of hope rising up from the death and destruction. Here's one example: Indonesian farmer Muhammad Yacob and his wife have seen a bumper rice crop this year, aided by the sea water that once turned his paddy into a mucky swamp.

10. Rare Congo Gorillas Surviving War, Poaching, Group Says
Another ray of hope in an altogether different conservation challenge: The discovery of a couple of significant groups of lowland gorillas largely unaccounted for in prior estimates of the species' numbers. "We found two important populations of Grauer's gorilla that were severely underestimated, neglected or thought not to exist," said Patrick Mehlman of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary

This week on the Sustainable Economy channel, we saw that many businesses are learning that going "green" is good for business, and we continued to see effects from Katrina nearly a month after the hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast, and now Rita's wrath as well.

Businesses are realizing that green practices are good for business, and many business are adjusting their internal operations. Some are changing their product lines and business models as well:

GE Plastics Seminar Includes Environmental Component
Milwaukee-Based Company Unveils Lab for Hybrid Auto Batteries
Trash, Waste Are Newest Fuel Sources
Illinois Hospital Goes 'Green'
Crocodiles Rock on Former Brazil Dairy Farm
Utah Firms Find Being Environmentally Conscious Is Good Business
Reflecting New Shopping Trend, Stop & Shop Touts Organics

The aftermath of Katrina and Rita consists of physical damage but other ramifications as well:

Lawsuit Filed Against Major Oil Companies Alleging Ecological Damage Worsened Katrina
Rita Decimates the Louisiana Cattle Industry
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Begins Assessing Damage on Texas Coast

For companies that do good for the environment, recognition can be a reward. We showed you some examples of awards given by various organizations, and the winners. One award, though, probably isn't one the city of Chicago wanted:

Efforts to Promote Commuter Alternatives and Benefits Win EPA Awards
EnviroMedia Issues National Small Business Conservation Challenge: $5K Prize
Fortune Rates Top 100 Corporate Citizens
Chicago Named 2005 Fall Allergy Capital

Meanwhile, new organizations were formed to broaden the fight to save our environment:

Climate Change Now
New Program Supports Parents Who Want to Raise Children in An Eco-Healthy Way

And of course, challenges continue:

Energy Star Requirements to Get Tougher
Environmentalists, Boise Cascade Clash Over 'Old Growth'
Global Strategy to Fight Bird Flu in Animals Faces Funding Gap: FAO
New Algae Species Complicates Efforts to Improve Taste, Smell of San Diego Drinking Water
Poll Shows Many Firms See Global Warming Affecting Their Business

ENN features 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.

And be sure to check ENN's Sustainable Economy channel every business day to get the latest news about the "green" economy. 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:

While all five species of rhinoceros are threatened with extinction, the outlook is particularly grim for the most charismatic of them all: the Sumatran rhino. Dr. Nan Schaefer of the nonprofit group SOS Rhino dedicates her life to rhino welfare, promoting education and conducting research into rhinoceros fertility. It's poaching that has decimated the species, leaving fewer than 400 Sumatran rhinos alive in the world. Their horns can bring $30,000 per pound, prized in some cultures as an aphrodisiac. Rhinos are an umbrella species, meaning that saving them from obliteration will help save other species that share their habitat. In this film, SOS Rhino introduces viewers to the charming Sumatran rhino, tells their story, which began more than 40,000,000 years ago, and makes a compelling case for working to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

So what, exactly, is in our food? We might think we know what we're eating, but according to this video from Guerrilla News Network, the food chain could be tainted with genetic modifications of which the consumer is largely unaware. The piece takes a fascinating look at the practical reasons for the adoption by some farmers of GM technology: With a glut of food in the world, farmers are desperate for any means of reducing their cost in order to gain an economic edge. Some agrochemical companies exploit that susceptibility, slowly gaining footholds in the food chain. Putting desirable traits from other species into food might benefit agribusiness, but, as this video asserts, the dangers to the end users -- those who eat the food -- are still unknown.

Uniquely and compellingly, this video gives viewers a new reason to recycle by putting a human face on it. The next time you take out the trash, think of Miriam and her adorable 14-month-old son, Dodo. Living in poverty in an outer Bangkok suburb, Miriam ekes out a living rummaging through rubbish for recyclables. A competitive "business," trash collecting is arduous, backbreaking work that pays Miriam only enough to cover her and Dodo's basic needs. For Miriam things weren't always like they are now; a string of personal and professional bad luck altered the course of her life, leaving her to worry about her son's future. For those of us who have every wondered "why bother" recycling, consider Miriam. Think of the fact that in a small way we can help her earn a living by doing our part and recycling rather than sending recyclable trash to the landfill.

Here's an apt description of sustainability: "Sustainability is about using the interest of nature, not the capital." For businesses considering adopting some sustainable practices, the case is increasingly compelling. In today's market there's a growing demand for environmentally sound goods and services. In this video we meet a number of business owners in diverse fields who have incorporated sustainable practices for better efficiency and profitability. From using the heat from a pizza oven to heat water to providing experiential education opportunities for youth, these sustainable business pioneers have taken innovative approaches to balancing economic and environmental needs, with inspirational success. As the video says, human creativity and imagination is the one unlimited resource.

See it for yourself: WATCH ENN TV

EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary

This week on EarthNews Radio, Jerry Kay brought you the second incarnation of Sky Tour, with guide Bing Quock of the Morrison Planetarium of the California Academy of Sciences. The Sky Tour is available as a podcast download, so that you can bring your iPod or MP3 player with you to view and recognize what you see in the fall night sky.

You can link to the podcast here: ENN Sky Tour

Here's an idea of what's included in the 15-minute Sky Tour:

Summer Triangle

The North Star

EarthNews Radio brought you information about another universe - that of the undersea:

Coral Reefs

Genetic diversity is something that we should want to preserve, but naturally rather than through human genetic manipulation, as these guests point out:

Biological Diversity

Genetically Modified Foods

Food Revolution

Also, food safety should not include certain kinds of pesticides:

Pesticide Action Network

EarthNews introduced you to a publication for earth-conscious readers:

Mother Earth News

Finally, the construction industry is one sector that is embracing green practices. EarthNews Radio told you about this very positive development:

Green Construction

Conservation Easements

Don't forget to return to EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN often. Jerry Kay interviews environmentalists, scientists, and activists on a wide variety of topics. These 90-second blasts of information will keep you thinking, and may prompt you to act! You can find them at ENN Radio Network.

Getting Apollo off the Ground -- An ENN Guest Commentary
By Steven J. Moss

Energy and labor are intimately related. After all, energy is by and large a replacement for labor ”“ most energy-using devices save time. Washing machines replaced stone-slapping methods of clothes cleaning; cars substitute for slower modes of manual transport. This historical relationship has recently formed the basis for a counter-movement lead by labor unions and environmental groups ”“ the Apollo Alliance. Apollo seeks to change the energy-labor relationship into one in which cleaner energy sources create jobs, rather than eliminates them.

So far Apollo has been closer to a delayed space shuttle launch than a successful trip to the moon. While energy efficiency, solar power, and “demand-response” have made steady gains in state and federal energy policies, the linkage between energy and economic development hasn’t. Still, despite the lack of policy reform, there’s ample evidence that well-crafted community-based energy management programs can provide multiple benefits, including reduced polluting air emissions, job creation, and economic development.

San Francisco Community Power is one example of how energy and employment can be successfully linked, as well as the challenges of doing so. SF Power was originally funded by power plant mitigation monies. The organization trained unemployed residents of San Francisco neighborhoods where aging power plants are located to install energy saving equipment at low income households and small businesses. The work itself was not particularly complicated ”“ literally screwing in compact fluorescent light bulbs or installing motion sensors ”“ but it required patience, care, and “handyman” level competence.

Virtually every worker hired by SF Power had “issues,” before and after their training. The training itself was the first time some of them had been in an adult classroom setting, and many did not have study skills, or even know how to behave respectfully towards the teachers or one another. Most of them, including the women, had their wages garnished for back child care liabilities, reducing their incentive to work. And throughout their employment work-disrupting situations emerged for all of them. Girlfriends or family members got sick, and had to be taken care of; cars broke down or were stolen entirely; addictions re-emerged, with individuals simply disappearing for days, weeks, or forever.

Still, and without the full-range of social support resources typical of many back-to-work programs, the job got done. Thousands of households or businesses were provided with devices that tangibly reduced their energy bills, as well as lessened reliance on the locally polluting power plants. Less money for utility bills meant more dollars in consumers and businesses pockets, with concomitant benefits to the local economy, including, undoubtedly, more job creation. And every person employed in the program expressed pride in their work to help improve their community’s environment. The outcome was precisely what the Apollo Alliance wants to achieve.

When the mitigation monies, which were administrated by the City and County of San Francisco, ran out, SF Power successfully turned to the local utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, for funding support. A version of the program continued, including relying on community residents to do the work. But PG&E, as governed by the California Public Utility Commission, did not have the same interest in bundling energy saving efforts with job creation and economic development. The utility’s direction from its regulators was to obtain cost-effective energy savings as soon as possible. As a result, it had less patience for the slower work pace caused by newly refurbished workers, and no funding for the extra staff time required to make community residents workforce-ready. It was difficult to get the resources necessary, or even obtain access, to support training opportunities.

Still again, the PG&E-funded program has proved successful, employing two-dozen community members and cumulatively serving close to fifteen thousand homes and businesses cost-effectively. But the need to wage a “permanent war” to attract, train, manage, and replace low income workers has taken its toil on SF Power. It’s not clear, four years after its launch that this type of effort can effectively compete against private sector companies whose only motivation is the bottom line, and who are willing to hire fewer individuals from outside the community being served to do more work at lower pay.

And that’s why Apollo needs to get off the ground. While utility ratepayers may not have an interest in job creation, environmental justice, or even economic development, society does. And it just so happens that society members and ratepayers are one and the same. Energy regulators -- as well as other one-issue government agencies, for that matter ”“ should abandon their single-minded focus on achieving a solitary goal. Instead we should use our scarce resources to get as many “two-fers” as possible. A dollar spent buying someone a light bulb will get some energy savings. Spending a dollar and a “bit” having that same bulb screwed in by a rehabilitated worker who lives in the neighborhood will not only save energy, it will create it as well: previously under-utilized human energy.

Steven Moss is the publisher of the Neighborhood Environmental Newswire. He serves as Executive Director of San Francisco Community Power, www.sfpower.org.

Photo: A raccoon at the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Credit: John and Karen Hollingsworth/NCTC Image Library/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.