ENN Weekly: May 8th - 12th

ENN rounds up the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news May 8th - 12th: Dolphin intelligence, lingering tsunami effects, wind energy controversy, coconut biofuel, and much more.

The Week's Top Ten Articles

In the news May 8th - 12th: Dolphin intelligence, lingering tsunami effects, wind energy controversy, coconut biofuel, and much more.

1. Amid Mines and Barbed Wire, Wildlife Thrives in a Cold War No Man's Land
Within earshot of a truckload of South Korean troops, a family of wild boars approaches a military base looking for an afternoon snack. Just down the road, water deer dash into a forest dotted with mines.

2. U.S. House Leader Suggests Ethanol Import Tariff Cut
House Majority Leader John Boehner said Tuesday that a temporary reduction in fuel ethanol import tariffs would help lower motor fuel pump prices.

3. Colombian Police Train Rats to Sniff Out Landmines
Her name is Lola and she's at the top of her class of risk-running rodents being trained to sniff out landmines in Colombia, home to the world's highest number of mine-related deaths and injuries last year.

4. Senators, Administration Move to Protect Cape Cod Wind Project
The Bush administration and two influential senators weighed in Friday against a provision that would block a 130-turbine wind farm off Cape Cod, where some of Washington's most powerful have vacation retreats.

5. House Sets Up Prizes for Hydrogen Fuel Technology
Scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs will be able to vie for a grand prize of $10 million (euro7.8 million), and smaller prizes reaching millions of dollars, under legislation passedf by the House of Representatives to encourage research into hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

6. Dolphins, Like Humans, Recognize Names
Bottlenose dolphins can call each other by name when they whistle, making them the only animals besides humans known to recognize such identity information, scientists reported Monday.

7. Amid Extinctions, Parrots, Panthers Get Costly Aid
Australia's orange-bellied parrot and the Florida panther are in an exclusive but growing club -- rare species getting costly protection even as the world faces what may be the worst wave of extinctions since the dinosaurs.

8. Sri Lanka's Coastal Drinking Water Still Suffers Effects of 2004 Tsunami
Thousands of wells along Sri Lanka's coast remain unusable because of contamination caused by the 2004 Asian tsunami, a government official said, as international monitors urged new measures to tackle the problem.

9. China Ponders Price of Progress at Spectacular Gorge
Residents and environmentalists fear that China's hunger for hydropower to feed its booming economy could spell the end of one of the world's deepest river gorges and scar some of the country's most spectacular scenery.

10. Pacific Islands Look to Coconuts to Cut Oil Costs
Many impoverished Pacific island nations are looking to coconuts to combat soaring world oil prices and cut severe balance of payment deficits by using coconut oil to make biofuel.

Guest Commentary: Canadians Getting Mad about Lack of Environmental Action
By Dr. David Suzuki

The longer I spend on my book tour, the more I'm convinced that Canadians are really starting to get angry about environmental issues.

They aren't just upset because there are so many issues in the news right now, but because it doesn't seem as if anyone's doing anything about them. The problems just keep coming up: polar bears drowning due to melting ice, bird species disappearing because their habitat is being destroyed, persistent pollutants accumulating in the food chain, and the list goes on. But where are the solutions?

Here we have a concerned public, who want to do their part to help, but they are becoming increasingly frustrated by what they see is a lack of action on the part of their leaders. Meanwhile, leaders are responding with ...a lack of action.

Case in point - the recent federal budget. Here was an opportunity for Mr. Harper to lay the groundwork for how his government could rescue Canada's floundering environmental record. It was a chance to put to rest concerns that he couldn't care less about the environment by doing something bold and ambitious. One of Mr. Harper's heroes, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did just that with the Green Plan that helped make him Canada's "greenest" prime minister.

Yet, the prime minister did nothing. The environment is barely touched on in the 600-plus-page budget document. And climate change, perhaps the most pressing environmental issue facing the world today, one that is expected to have profound repercussions for our economy and quality of life, doesn't even rate a mention. This, in spite of the fact that Mr. Harper has been dismantling pretty much every single piece of the previous government's climate change plan.

The Liberals took eight years after signing Kyoto to come up with a plan, which is why Canada's emissions are so high today. But at least we finally had a plan. Now Canada has nothing. Instead, we have vague promises about a "made-in-Canada" solution - a meaningless phrase if there ever was one. The previous plan was, of course, made in Canada too. Mr. Harper is simply playing politics of the disingenuous kind he always said the Liberals did. Now, he's proving himself the master.

This kind of partisan nonsense is exactly what is getting under the skin of Canadians. It simply isn't helpful. They have burning questions that demand answers: Why do cars still burn so much gas? Why can't I buy a home that uses less energy? Why do small things come in such big, wasteful packages? Why doesn't more electricity come from clean sources, like wind?

In other words, they want to know why it's so hard for them to make the least damaging, most socially and environmentally aware consumer choices. The answer is simple - because governments aren't doing their jobs. Instead of showing courage, they cower. Instead of being leaders, they pass the buck. And instead of acting in the best long-term interests of their constituents and their country, they pander to the lower common denominator with a smile and a wave.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some provinces and many municipalities are truly showing environmental leadership. But it seems the further you go up the political food chain, the weaker the political resolve. This doesn't have to be the case, but it's the hand we've dealt for ourselves.

I hate to say it, but we got ourselves into this mess. If Canadians really want action on the environment, we have to demand it from our leaders. And if our leaders fail, we have to throw the bums out.

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

ENN welcomes a wide range of perspectives in its Commentary Series. To find out more or to submit a commentary for consideration please contact ENN's editor, Carrie Schluter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo: Red Fox kits at play. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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