WHY WIND IS SMARTER
21 November 2005
Wind energy offers something no carbon-based fuel can offer: zero emissions, zero cleanup, local control and reasonable local supply everywhere on Earth, and it is 100% non-climate disruptive and essentially infinitely renewable. In fact, the overall global wind resource far exceeds our capacity even to harness or to use it. As of 2003, Pentagon-commissioned research had found that just 3 wind-rich midwestern states possess sufficient wind resources to power the entire US economy with existing wind-turbine technology. [Full Story]
AFRICA SUFFERS SPREAD OF FAMINE, HUNGER
1 August 2005
As the world begins to focus on the nearly 3 million facing hunger in Niger and the catastrophic refugee crisis in Darfur, in western Sudan, an estimated 31.1 million people across the continent face food shortages.
Arable land, foodstocks and agriculture in general are suffering dangerous setbacks, making it increasingly difficult to feed African populations, some of which are growing rapidly. [Full Story]
EVOLUTION BEING PUSHED OUT OF US CLASSROOMS
The New York Times is reporting that evolution is an increasingly persecuted field of scientific knowledge in US schools. According to the story, teachers in an around Birmingham, Alabama are being openly and/or indirectly discouraged from discussing the existence of the theory of evolution, the validity of which is not in doubt among scientists in any relevant field.
Teachers are reported to cite fear of raising the issue, due to the opposition of fundamentalist groups in many communities. [Full Story]
The United Nations has been pushing for some time for a global strategy to deal with the looming scarcity of fresh water. A BBC report from June 2000 indicated 1 in 5 of all living human beings already lacks access to safe drinking water. Dramatically making the point that our oceans cannot solve the problem, the report says "Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers."
Immediately available, clean fresh water, not contaminated by industrial chemicals, parasites or natural toxins, simply does not exist in the abundance needed... [Full Story]
Ron Oxburgh, chairman of Shell, says he is "really very worried for the planet", due to the effects of climate change as brought on by excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide. He specifically suggested there is an urgent need to begin the complex process of sequestration, which effectively contains CO2 emissions, thus reducing their release into the atmosphere. Lord Oxburgh added that "No one can be comfortable at the prospect of continuing to pump out the amounts of carbon dioxide that we are pumping out at present".
Robin Oakley, from Greenpeace, called for Lord Oxburgh to work to convince his counterparts throughout the oil industry who still wish not to act to abate climate change, or indeed deny the very science at issue. The Guardian newspaper noted a 3,000m deep ice core from Antarctica shows carbon dioxide levels "are the highest for at least 440,000 years". [Full Story]
JORDAN URGES ACTION TO SAVE DEAD SEA
The government of Jordan has issued a plea to the international community to organize an effort to save the Dead Sea from extinction. As experts predict the world's saltiest sea and the point of its lowest altitude will disappear within 50 years if action is not taken, the Jordanian government has requested international action to plan for feeding water into the sea, to save it. Irrigation systems in neighboring Syria and Israel have contributed to the Dead Sea's losing 1 meter of depth per year for 20 years. [Full Story]
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE MOVE TO PASS ANTI-GLOBAL-WARMING LEGISLATION IN U.S.
The organization Environmental Defense is campaigning to pressure the Senate to pass the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The bill would require more stringent emissions standards for greenhouse gases. The environmental organization has used an online publicity campaign to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures to be delivered to senators who have not yet decided what their final vote will be. At least 273,000 supporters have signed the petition so far, with brand-name companies signing on to help spread the word. The bill itself (S. 139) is considered to be friendly to businesses in its provisions for reaching new emissions benchmarks, and a responsible way to begin the process of abating and reversing climate change. [For more: Pew Center]
The Renewables 2004 global conference in Bonn, Germany, has resulted in recommendations for more aggressive research and development of renewable energy resources. Citing persistent unrest in oil rich countries, the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels, along with soaring prices and the economic problems associated with any finite resource, the conference noted the benefits to economic and political security of using resources that are local, clean and renewable.
Renewable resources were also put forth as a solution to poverty and marginalization: rural communities have historically been deprived of the resources of urban centers, and as many as 2 billion people worldwide still have no access to electricity. Developing countries are beginning to see the economic and political benefits of renewable resources. [Full Story]
The President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute has called for a comprehensive cleanup initiative in Iraq, aimed at reducing the danger posed by Depleted Uranium, left over from artillery shells launched against Basra, Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder of the NPRI, Uranium 238, the radioactive isotope present in Depleted Uranium, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. That means that the level of radioactivity of the molecules in a mass of Depleted Uranium will be halved only after 4.5 billion years. This means that land contaminated with DU spilled from exploding artillery shells, used by the US military against enemy tanks, artillery depots and fortifications, will still be radioactive and uninhabitable 4.5 billion years from now. [Full Story]
EPI REPORTS STRAIN ON GLOBAL FOOD HARVEST, COMING SHORTAGES
The Earth Policy Institute is reporting new strains on global food stocks and current and coming harvests. According to the non-profit research organization, global food security is now imperiled by the fourth consecutive year of increasing grain harvest shortfalls. In 2003, the shortfall was "easily the largest on record", reducing reserve stocks to 30 year lows, pushing wheat and corn prices to their highest level in 7 years and rice to a 5-year high.
During the current year, the momentum of falling grain stocks may be compounded by other evolving crises, such as "falling water tables and rising temperatures". If this year's harvest shows another vast shortfall, grain prices will continue to rise, affecting economies around the world. [For more: EPI at EcoVaria.com]
CYANIDE SPILL POISONS ROMANIAN RIVER
Romania's Siret River, a tributary of the Danube, is now reported to be contaminated by cyanide. The chemicals involved in the spill leaked from a deactivated chemical processing plant, where storage conditions may not have been up to international standards. Estimates are that "10 tons of toxic substances leaked into the river", according to Ioan Jelev, of Romania's Environment Ministry. [For more: Reuters]
NEW EVIDENCE OF MASS INSECT EXTINCTION
A new study by British scientists indicates that massive numbers of insect species (among the most time-tested and resilient life forms) are dying off. The findings are another piece of evidence that the Earth may be experiencing the largest mass extinction of plant and animal species since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
There have been 5 great extinctions, according to current scientific knowledge, during which 65% to 90% of all species went extinct. The current rate of extinction is not that high, but ecologists are alarmed at the rapid acceleration of extinctions. [For more: Nature.com]
THE SIXTH GREAT EXTINCTION: A Status Report
Almost 440 million years ago, some 85 percent of marine animal species were wiped out in the earth's first known mass extinction. Roughly 367 million years ago, once again many species of fish and 70 percent of marine invertebrates perished in a major extinction event. Then about 245 million years ago, up to 95 percent of all animalsnearly the entire animal kingdomwere lost in what is thought to be the worst extinction in history.
... After each extinction, it took upwards of 10 million years for biological richness to recover. Yet once a species is gone, it is gone forever.
The consensus among biologists is that we now are moving toward another mass extinction that could rival the past big five. This potential sixth great extinction is unique in that it is caused largely by the activities of a single species. It is the first mass extinction that humans will witness firsthandand not just as innocent bystanders. [More EPI at EcoVaria.com]
MACAL RIVER VALLEY FACES DAM PERIL
A project in the works between the Belize government and a Canadian corporation to dam the Macal River. The dam would flood 22 miles of the valley's pristine habitat, considered indispensable for various endangered species, "including Morelet's crocodiles, tapirs, jaguars, and the last 200 birds remaining in a local subspecies of scarlet macaw." (BioGems) The government of Belize sidestepped public hearings (required by law) and conducted no critical review of the project's environmental assessment, which experts say is suspect in its findings.
The London-based assessment company has reportedly been contracted to participate in the construction of the dam, which suggests improper dealings and undermines public confidence in the project itself. Observers also speculate that the project as planned would not significantly improve the energy market in Belize and would therefore not decrease costs to consumers, considered the only long-term governmental justification for damming. [For more: BioGems]
MERCURY HOTSPOTS THREATEN PUBLIC HEALTH
Environmental groups have been warning against controversial plans to trade in pollution credits, which allow companies, or countries, to buy and sell leftover maximum pollution quota credits, on the grounds that they undermine the effectiveness of regulation by permitting contaminated "hotspots" to emerge in places where a given polluter has purchased a large number of credits. Environmental Defense reports that 10 US states are already emerging mercury hotspots... [Full Story]
23-MILE-LONG OIL SLICK THREATENS OREGON WATERS
A large spill of oil, laced with banned carcinogenic PCB's, was released into the Columbia River, from the transformer of a major Dam. A "rainbow-hued streak" stretched for 23 miles, according to observers along the river's banks. After several days flowing downstream, the slick had reached the Bonneville dam, 40 miles away, but was no longer in full view at the surface. [Full Story]
COURT OVERTURNS LOWER EFFICIENCY STANDARDS FOR AIR CONDITIONERS
Citing a "no-rollback" provision in Federal appliance-standard laws, a Federal Appeals Court has blocked the Bush Department of Energy from lowering energy-efficiency standards for air conditioners. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sued to stop the rules change, said the decision was a declaration that the Executive branch cannot unilaterally rewrite laws, since it is the constitutional province of Congress to write or approve, or alter all legislation. [Full Story]
According to Albaeco's editor, Dr. Fredrik Moberg, "Biodiversity will matter even more in the future". The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says island plant and animal species, which represent natural selection's most diverse and unique progeny, are the most endangered in the world. According to Moberg, "On Hawaii, 85 plant species that are found nowhere else are in danger of extinction." [Full Story]
HYDROGEN HITS NEW MEXICO
Toyota has introduced its first full-sized hydrogen fuel-cell powered SUV to New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson, who organized the visit, says he wants his state to become the hydrogen fuel-cell research capital of the nation. The vehicle runs entirely on hydrogen and emits only water vapor as exhaust. [Full Story]
WRI OFFERS 6 ISSUES TO WATCH
This morning, Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute, presented a list of 6 major environmental issues to watch in 2004. As current trends in economics, industry and international politics show environmental degradation ongoing, with no clear established governing authority to scale back pollution, pressures on the environment are likely to bring these issues to the fore in the coming year. [Full Story]
DEFORESTATION CONTRIBUTES TO PHILIPPINE FLOODING DISASTER
Landslides caused by widespread flooding have killed 200 people in the central and southern Philippines. Massive deforestation is blamed for the floods. In 1991, over 8,000 people were killed by landslides and flooding in the same area. According to an American University case study, "Forest cover in the Philippines has decreased by 56 percent in the postwar period". Some estimate the Philippines will be the first country in the world to lose all of its native rainforest ecosystem. [Full Story]
SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO MELTING
The snows atop Mount Kilimanjaro, made famous by Ernest Hemingway's haunting story, are melting. The glaciers that crown the Tanzanian peak are disappearing, and scientists believe they are in danger of vanishing altogether by 2015. [Full Story]
US ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS CLIMATE POLICY
The Bush administration has issued a trenchant defense of its policies on climate change and environmental regulation. Since rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, the administration has faced sharp criticism around the world for ignoring a problem that affects all people everywhere. The US is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is viewed by many as the deciding component in any treaty to reduce contaminants. [Full Story]
BERLUSCONI DUMPS NUCLEAR WASTE ON SOUTHERN ITALY
A small town in southern Italy has been hit with a punishing blow by the Berlusconi government: Italy will dump its nuclear waste there. Berclusconi's cabinet was making this decision even as the news of Italy's worst military loss since World War II was coming in from Iraq. [Full Story]
TOXIC SHIPS TURNED BACK
Two toxic decommissioned US Naval ships were ordered to leave Portuguese waters, while on their way to Britain. The British Environmental Agency has indicated that the company due to scrap the two ships had not acquired the proper permits and the ships would be forced to return to the US. [Full Story]
VATICAN CONSIDERS GM CROPS
African priests criticized the Vatican's recent conference on the acceptability of genetically modified crops for not including more priests who opposed their implementation. The conference was held in order to help the Vatican take an informed official position on the benefits or detriments of genetically modified crops. [Full Story]
The New York Times today featured a front page account of new rules changes at the Environmental Protection Agency. The rules changes, in line with current administration energy policies, will effectively end investigations into Clean Air Act violations at 50 power plants across the United States. The reported rules change would allow energy producers and refineries to upgrade their plants, even where it increases harmful emissions, without installing any pollution controls at all. The Times also reports that a "career E.P.A. enforcement lawyer" said the move was unprecedented and characterized the process as a decision "not to enforce the law at all." [Full Story]
WARMING CONTINUES APACE
While regulations aimed at holding global atmospheric warming trends are being undercut by political and industry leaders, the trends continue and gather strength. There is no sign that industry will regulate itself, though some have voluntarily shifted to new resources, citing new cost-effectiveness of power from renewable resources. [Full Story]
One of the most dire struggles in the new millennium is the use, distribution, cost and funding of clean, drinkable water. Wars are being fought, weapons are being developed, for the sole purpose of controlling the essential resource of life-sustaining water. The world's most majestic rivers are being brought under governmental and industrial control through massive development projects and construction of big dams and mega dams. [Full Story]
:: HEADLINES FROM THE Earth Policy Institute