Past News Archives
Oct 18, 2002
What Happened Last Year, May Still Happen This Year Again!
The industrialised North continues in its attempts to send its hazardous waste ships to be scrapped in the shipyards of the developing South, threatening human health and the environment in those nations, charged activists as delegates gathered here this week for the conference of the Basel Convention on hazardous waste trade. Also, the year of 2002 saw an increase in the Earth's average surface temperature, is the second warmest in the 160 years since instrumental measurements of temperatures have been recorded, reports the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
While Houston Repeat as 'Fattest City' in the United States, their nearby neighbouring central American countries, Some 700,000 Central Americans are suffering from hunger today, including 6,000 children at risk of starving to death, while the international aid needed to finance a 4.8 million dollar World Food Programme (WFP) emergency plan is only slowly trickling in....
January 3, 2003 News
Table of Contents
1) North's Fleet of Toxic Tankers a Threat to South (IPS)
2) Environmentalists sue to obtain 'endangered' status for orcas (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA)
3) LA Faces Fines for Sewer Spills (Los Angeles Times, USA)
4) India: After Beatings, Activists Promised Access to Bhopal Site (IPS)
5) US Agriculture Dept Settles With Bio Firm (Assiocated Press)
6) 2002 the Planet's Second Warmest Year (IPS)
7) Groups Sue Government US Agency Over Global Warming (IPS)
8) Global Warming Found to Displace Species (New York Times, USA)
9) Antarctic Ice Sheet May Disappear (Assoicated Press)
Food and Hunger:
10) Africa: A Forgotten Food Crisis in Refugee Camps (IPS)
11) Central America: Thousands of Children Could Die of Hunger (IPS)
12) USA: Houston Repeat as 'Fattest City'
13) Who Can Afford To Be Vegan? (WireTap, USA)
Indigenous People Struggle:
14) Sacred places under attack in Native America (Indian Country Today, USA)
15) US Approves Power Plant in Area Indians Hold Sacred (New York Times, USA)
16) Northern Calif. Geothermal Plant OK'd (Assoicated Press)
17) 3,000 Dolphins Killed by Fishing (Assoicated Press)
18) Gov't Sued Over 'Dolphin Safe' Labeling (Assoicated Press)
19) UN to Focus on Fresh Water Issues in 2003 (IPS)
20) Sea birds drop radioactivity on land (The New Scientist)
GENEVA, Dec 12 (IPS) - The industrialised North continues in its attempts
to send its hazardous waste ships to be scrapped in the shipyards of the
developing South, threatening human health and the environment in those
nations, charged activists as delegates gathered here this week for the
conference of the Basel Convention on hazardous waste trade.
Washington is preparing to execute a pilot plan in 2003 for exporting as many as four idle toxic vessels that are currently within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Federal Maritime Administration (MARAD), reports environmental watchdog Greenpeace International.
Greenpeace political adviser Kevin Stairs said these vessels contain significant quantities of asbestos, a known carcinogen, and PCBs (polychloride biphenyls), which are also a threat to human health.
The decision by the U.S. government of George W. Bush alters the policies enacted by the previous administration of Bill Clinton (1993-2001) that banned the export of these ships because of potential harm to the nations involved in scrapping older vessels.
Jim Puckett, of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non- governmental organisation (NGO) based in the northwest U.S. city of Seattle and specialising in toxic trade issues, said the Clinton decision was taken as a consequence of activists' efforts and media reports.
Journalists revealed the horrendous conditions of Asian shipyards employing thousands of workers in breaking down ships to recover the steel, said Puckett.
But the U.S. Congress and Bush reversed the moratorium and set up a 20-million-dollar fund to finance a pilot project to export up to four ships and to sink others to create artificial reefs.
Ravi Agarwal, of the BAN office in India, says talks were reportedly held between U.S. authorities and Indian ship scrapping operators for the sale of vessels that have not been decontaminated.
"The United States professes to uphold the principle of environmental justice that calls for no peoples to be disproportionately victimised by toxic burdens," Agarwal told a press conference Wednesday in Geneva.
However, this principle apparently only holds inside U.S. borders, commented the activist.
"Developing countries will get these toxic ships and their inevitable pollution and worker health damage simply because we are poor," Agarwal said.
BAN, Greenpeace, Toxic Link of India and a group of trade unions charge that the U.S. policy violates the country's own legislation (Toxics Substances Control Act) as well as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
The Basil Convention, whose 152 states party are meeting this week in Geneva, has since 1992 banned trade in hazardous waste among the countries that have ratified the Convention, a treaty overseen by the United Nations Environment Programme.
The strict application of the Convention should prevent the United States from exporting its toxic tankers even though that country is not a party to the treaty, says Puckett.
The BAN activist estimates there are some 300 ships of the U.S. national defence fleet rusting in that country's ports. Around 100 are docked on the coast of the eastern state of Virginia, on the Atlantic.
It is a ghost fleet full of asbestos and PCBs, commented Puckett.
In its original version signed in March 1989, the Basel Convention lacked the power to prevent toxic waste traffic, which generally flows from the countries of the industrialised North to the developing South.
But the nations of the South, and the African countries in particular, pushed through an amendment known as the Basel Ban, which, as of Jan 1, 1998, prohibits all hazardous waste exports from the wealthy and industrialised countries of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all non-OECD countries.
In addition to asbestos and PCBs, the list of hazardous waste includes arsenic, which is highly toxic and carcinogenic, cadmium, harmful to the lungs and other organs, and mercury, which damages the brain, kidneys and foetal development.
Also included is medical waste, such as syringes, pharmaceutical packaging and materials that might be infected and spread pathogenic germs and harmful microorganisms.
Many of the dangerous materials covered by the Convention are byproducts from the manufacture of the latest telecommunications and information technologies, like computers and mobile telephones.
BAN questions the idea that certain products, such as electronics -- which are produced mostly in Asia -- should be returned to that continent as waste.
The simple fact that transnational electronics companies exploit cheap labour to manufacture their products does not justify subjecting that same population to the waste from those products, says Puckett.
The NGOs maintain that the amendment, the Basel Ban, is still under threat from powerful governments and business lobbies, which are attempting to "sabotage" it.
BAN is calling on the 152 states party to the Convention gathered this
week in Geneva to emphatically reject any "pilot plan", such as
the one announced by the United States, for exporting toxic ships to the
A coalition of environmental groups sued the federal government yesterday for failing to protect Puget Sound orcas under the Endangered Species Act.
National Marine Fisheries Service officials denied the killer whales that
frequent these waters "endangered" status in June, instead proposing
under a less stringent law.
That decision "insulted everyone who lives around Puget Sound,"
said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound, one of
the groups suing
the fisheries service.
Since 1996, the population of resident orcas has declined almost 20 percent, from 97 to 79 last year. Recent births have raised the total to 82.
The fisheries service held that the orcas are in danger of becoming extinct, but if they did disappear, neighboring whales could potentially repopulate the waters. Because the whales were deemed not to be biologically significant, Endangered Species Act protection was rejected.
"They were not eligible for the kind of protection that everyone agrees they need," said Brian Gorman, the fisheries service spokesman in Seattle.
The groups filing suit in U.S. District Court said the proposed weaker protection would not save the whales. They accuse the Bush administration of aiming to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Gorman said his agency is taking steps to determine the reasons behind the orcas' decline and try to stop it.
Nearly $200,000 was spent on research related to the Puget Sound orcas this year, and the fisheries service is hoping for more money next year, he said. The agency has applied for a "depleted" designation for the whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with approval expected early next year.
Once that is done, the fisheries service will create a recovery plan, but without the legal enforcement power such a plan has under the Endangered Species Act.
Gorman contends that both sides "have the same goals and same concerns . . . it's just that we're quibbling over means."
An Endangered Species Act listing would require protection of habitat deemed critical to the orcas and force federal agencies to consult the fisheries service to ensure that their actions won't threaten orca survival.
Those filing suit were the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the San Juans, Orca Conservancy, Ocean Advocates, Earth Island Institute and former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro. They expect a judge to hear the suit next summer and rule by the end of next year.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed about 150 similar appeals and won more than 90 percent, said Brent Plater, an attorney with the group.
The environmentalists argue that the whales, which have unique vocalizations, eat different food than other orca populations and are genetically distinct, deserve the stronger protections to aid recovery.
Suspected causes of their decline include accumulation of toxic chemicals that reduce reproduction and the ability to fend off disease, and a diminishing food supply.
Scientists have raised concerns about the health of the Sound, which is suffering the effects of development, overfishing and pollution.
"You save the resident orcas and you save the Sound," said Will
Anderson of the Earth Island Institute. "Only the Endangered Species
Act can address these
P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1998-2002 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
3) LA Faces Fines for Sewer Spills
The city might have to pay up to $8 million after a judge rules that it is liable for hundreds of incidents. Federal suit sought to force repairs.
By Kenneth R. Weiss, LA Times Staff Writer, 12.24.02
A federal judge on Monday found the city of Los Angeles liable for hundreds of sewage spills that have fouled neighborhoods and polluted the ocean, marking a turning point in a four-year court fight aimed at forcing the city to repair its often clogged and leaky sewer lines.
The city faces fines of up to $8 million under the initial ruling by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, who found the city liable for 297 spills over the course of a year. Fines of up to $27,500 per spill may continue to mount with every violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The suit was brought by federal and state officials, environmental organizations and homeowner groups in Baldwin Hills, the Crenshaw district and Leimert Park.
"These kinds of spills continue to happen on average two times a day,"
said Fran Diamond, chairwoman of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality
Control Board. "It's from roots blocking lines, grease from restaurants.
The city should be able to provide basic city service. This isn't a Third
World city. We should be
able to do better."
Adel Hagekhalil, a division manager in the city's bureau of sanitation, said the city is stepping up its schedule of cleaning pipelines and replacing sewer lines that have broken or become overwhelmed. He said a citywide program to cut down on restaurants dumping grease down the drain has resulted in a 30% reduction in spills from grease-clogged pipes.
"The Board of Public Works is committed to reducing sewage spills," Hagekhalil said. "We have a goal to reduce spills by 25% between now and 2005."
Los Angeles has 6,500 miles of sewer lines and dozens of pumping stations that funnel water to four treatment plans, including the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey. About half of the city's sewer pipes are a half-century old and, according to state and federal officials, have a sewage spill rate of more than double of other Southern California cities.
Fixing a system that large with so many problems will probably require
more than just goals, said Steve Fleischli, executive director of the nonprofit
"When we filed this lawsuit they had 350 sewage spills that they reported.
In 2001, they reported 682 spills. A 25% reduction in that doesn't even
put us in a
place when we started."
Fleischli, who has been pressing to settle the case, is angry that the city redirected $600,000 from its sewer maintenance fund to hire a private law firm to fight the lawsuit and then, on Monday, conceded liability in all but four of the 297 spills, which occurred from July 2001 through July 2002.
In the remaining four spills, the city argued that it is not liable because raw sewage was captured on city streets and never made it to a protected stream, river or ocean. Judge Lew dismissed that defense, ruling that the spills violated the Clean Water Act even if the sewage didn't reach the Los Angeles River, Ballona Creek, the Santa Monica Bay or the harbor.
That ruling was significant because it means the city could be found liable
for thousands of spills that have occurred since 1998, not just those that
documented as having reached protected waters.
The potential for millions of dollars in extra fines may be enough to pressure the city to settle the lawsuit, lawyers for the plaintiffs hope.
Lawyers for the groups that brought the suit want the city to adopt an enforceable schedule of reducing spills by a certain percentage each year, Hagekhalil said. If the schedule isn't met, the city would face penalties and automatic increases in required cleaning, upgrades and maintenance.
The city is asking for more flexibility, he said, without arbitrary standards. "The city has invested over $1 billion in the last 10 years to renew and upgrade its sewer system. We have committed $2 billion over the next 10 years."
Such investment may not be enough to keep pace with aging infrastructure -- a problem faced by many other cities, officials said.
The EPA has brought similar suits against Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Baltimore. San Diego, under an administrative order from the EPA, recently increased residential sewer fees to pay for upgrades to reduce a pattern of spills similar to those in Los Angeles.
"Sewage spills are a major source of pollution and a significant threat
to human health," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator
in San Francisco.
"Making sure municipalities manage their sewage properly moves us toward the EPA's goal of purer water ... and better protection of public health."
Parts of the system seem to be straining under current capacity.
Residents of Baldwin Hills, the Crenshaw district and Leimert Park have
spent decades complaining about a foul "rotten egg" odor from
sewer gases from the
system around Rodeo Road and La Cienega Boulevard.
"It comes and it goes, but when it comes it's bad," said Calvin
Hill, who lives nearby. "It permeates the house and the neighbor's
house. It gets into the
clothes and it stays."
Opal Young of the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Homeowners Coalition said residents have been getting the runaround for years when they tried to find a responsible agency to take action. "It's been going on for 30 years," she said. "You are driving down the road and it hits you. It's like rotten eggs and body parts. People cannot barbecue outdoors."
City officials expect that particular problem to be remedied in about a
year when crews compete a $280-million sewer upgrade to handle extra capacity,
well as build seven odor-control facilities at a cost about $45 million.
Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times
After brutal beatings and police detention, environmental activists have been promised free access to investigate and conduct tests at the pesticides factory in central Bhopal city which 18 years ago was the scene of the world's worst industrial disaster.
NEW DELHI, Dec 4 (IPS) - After brutal beatings and police detention, environmental activists have been promised free access to the pesticides factory in central Bhopal city which 18 years ago was the scene of the world's worst ever industrial disaster.
The promise was made by Digvijay Singh, chief minister of central Madhya Pradesh state who, according to Pryaag Joshi, Greenpeace International director for political affairs, also said permission would be given for carrying out soil tests and containment work on the site heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals.
Singh has instructed his officers to drop charges against activists of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) who were violently stopped by police on Nov. 25 from 'containing' some of the hazardous waste lying abandoned at the plant which was sold by the U.S. trans-national Union Carbide to the Michigan-based Dow Chemicals in Feb. 2001.
''We appreciate the gesture of the chief minister and see this as a move which will help the campaign to nail Dow and obtain justice for the affected victims and citizens of Bhopal. But we do hope it will be followed up by real and timely action,'' Joshi said Wednesday.
Greenpeace screened in the capital on Tuesday, footage from the Nov. 25 police action showing activists being clubbed and kicked at the site by police before being flung into vans and taken away and charged with various offences starting with criminal trespass.
''The police also impounded equipment used for containment by ICJB activists, making it impossible for international specialists to pursue their peaceful intentions of bringing the world's attention to the ongoing crime in Bhopal,'' Joshi said.
The police brutality and the arrests of 56 activists, 13 of them foreign nationals, reeked of the government's anxiety to protect the interests of Dow Chemicals rather than that of the hapless victims or the safety of ordinary people in Bhopal, he said.
On Tuesday, gas-affected victims and supporters led a huge rally through the streets of Bhopal and called upon Dow Chemical, the new owners of Union Carbide to assume liabilities and responsibility for the Dec 3, 1984 Bhopal disaster. A toxic gas leak from the plant resulted in the deaths of 6,500 people and the maiming of 500,000 others.
It has been established by scientists that had refrigeration units at the plant not been shut off as an economy measure to save about 50 dollars a day, the runaway reaction in its storage tanks full of deadly methyl-isocyanate may never have occurred.
Various Indian governments appear to have colluded with Union Carbide in thinly disguised cover-up jobs and also in watering down the original suit filed for 15 billion dollars and which former chairman Warren Andersen had publicly committed to pay in the aftermath of the tragedy.
After arrogating to itself the right to represent the victims, the central government filed a weak claim for three billion dollars and finally collected 470 million dollars in an out-of-court settlement which was never accepted by several of the organisations working for the victims.
Union Carbide came out of it all relatively unscathed. At a time when it had an annual revenue of eight billion dollars it had to cough up just 70 million dollars for the final settlement because more than 200 million dollars had already been collected as insurance while another 200 million dollars had been set aside under court instructions.
Andersen, who was briefly arrested in Bhopal on charges of culpable homicide, criminal conspiracy and other serious offences along with several other Indian company executives, was allowed to fly back to the United States where he quickly ''disappeared'' ignoring summons to face trial.
In August, Greenpeace traced Andersen to his home in Long Island, New York and served him a 'citizen's arrest warrant.' Said Joshi: ''The fact that Greenpeace activists could find Andersen when several intelligence agencies failed speaks for the seriousness of the U.S. government in getting him to face trial,'' said Joshi.
But the Indian government has not been particularly serious either.
In May, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the country's main sleuthing agency asked the courts in Bhopal for a dilution of charges against Andersen to negligence and let him off criminal culpability.
Greenpeace campaigner Von Hernandez said it did appear that India, as with other developing countries, was eager not to do anything that might discourage foreign investors.
''As far as we know there has been no move on the part of the Indian government to initiate extradition proceedings against Andersen,'' he said.
Rallies were conducted by the ICJB and its supporters on Tuesday not only in Bhopal but also in the western port city of Mumbai where Dow Chemicals has its country headquarters.
Said Vinod Shetty convenor for the group in Mumbai: ''If Dow can accept Carbide's assets they must accept its liabilities as well and these include cleaning up the plant site and its surroundings.''
Greenpeace, which has carried out soil sampling and other tests on the site said it is prepared to share technology to help the Madhya Pradesh government clean up the site from where toxic chemical are said to be leaching into the ground and contaminating drinking water.
''We have told the chief minister that while Greenpeace does not have the resources to provide continuous support in financial and other matters, we can give technical and developmental support,'' said Ruth Stringer, senior scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories in Exeter, U.K.
She described the site as one of the most toxic places she had ever seen with the soil still loaded with chlorinated benzenes, chlorform, carbon tetrachloride and other chemicals that could penetrate the skin and affect the kidneys, liver and the nervous system.
Stringer was part of a team which authored the Greenpeace document entitled 'The Bhopal Legacy', released three years ago which put the number of killed by the traged at ''an estimated 16,000'' and those injured at 500,000.
Her colleague Hernandez said Greenpeace was determined to carry on with its global campaign to get Dow Chemical to accept responsibility.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Agriculture Department imposed more than $3 million in penalties Friday on a biotechnology company that mixed genetically engineered corn containing an animal vaccine with soybeans meant for humans.
The government, which stopped ProdiGene Inc.'s contaminated soybeans from entering the food supply, fined the company $250,000.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said ProdiGene also will pay for the 500,000 bushels of contaminated soybeans, valued at $2.7 million, and the cost to destroy them.
Anthony G. Laos, CEO and president of ProdiGene, apologized for the incident. ``We're very sorry for the mishap and have corrected it,'' he said.
Bobby Acord, administrator for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said it's the first time the agency has levied a fine against a biotechnology company for violating the Plant Protection Act, a law written in 2000 that regulates the transportation and planting of genetically engineered plants.
ProdiGene also has agreed to post a $1 million bond to pay for any future problems resulting from its products, Acord said.
The company, based in College Station, Texas, makes pharmaceutical and industrial enzymes and proteins by growing them in genetically modified corn. The government has strict guidelines for planting and removing such crops to make sure those products do not mix with the food supply or mingle with neighboring crops.
ProdiGene failed to remove all the corn that contained a protein for a swine vaccine before planting soybeans in fields in Pocahontas County, Iowa, and Hamilton County, Neb. Government inspectors discovered stray corn plants and ordered the company to remove them.
The Iowa corn was burned and the Nebraska crop was impounded at a warehouse.
The government is working with ProdiGene to improve its compliance by setting up a stringent program, which Laos said he hopes ``would set a benchmark for the rest of the industry to follow.''
``We have learned some valuable lessons, and we hope the entire industry will benefit from our endeavors as we work with USDA on an enhanced compliance program,'' he said.
USDA officials will increase inspections of ProdiGene's test sites.
Lester Crawford, deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said his agency also is working with ProdiGene to ensure a similar incident does not occur.
The Agriculture Department, FDA and Environmental Protection Agency regulate biotechnology.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said the penalties were a step in the right direction.
``I think ProdiGene is a wakeup call and I think they're hearing it,'' Margaret Mellon, director of the group's food and environment program, said of the Agriculture Department.
The next step is to set a national standard to prevent a food scare, she said.
``We need to set as a national standard zero-contamination of the food supply so that we're going to go ahead with industrial and pharmaceutical plants but only if we can assure ourselves as a nation that the way we grow these does not result in contamination of our food supply,'' Mellon said.
On the Net:
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: http://www.aphis.usda.gov
12/06/02 17:53 EST
GENEVA, Dec 18 (IPS) - This year, which saw an increase in the Earth's
average surface temperature, is the second warmest in the 160 years since
instrumental measurements of temperatures have been recorded, reports
the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Another notable weather trait of 2002 is the reappearance of the phenomenon known as El Niño, though in a more moderate version than its most recent occurrence, in 1997-1998.
Since 1900, the planet's average surface temperature has risen 0.6 degrees Celsius, and the temperatures recorded this year, through late November, were a half-degree higher than the annual average from 1961 to 1990.
As a result, 2002 replaced 2001 as being the second hottest year -- after 1998 -- of the 20th century.
The exceptional readings on thermometers in the last few years are not isolated incidents. "Clearly, for the past 25 or 26 years, the warming has been accelerating," said WMO Climate Programme director Kenneth Davidson, adding that the rate of increase "is unprecedented in the last thousand years."
This warming has been verified through ice core samples, seabed samples and tree ring samples, Davidson explained.
The rate of warming is the most noteworthy aspect of the phenomenon. Davidson admitted that he is surprised at the rate of temperature increases.
"Personally, I would say it isn't what I expected," he told a press conference as he presented the WMO report Tuesday. "I think that everyone is surprised to see this rate of increase" in the average world temperatures.
The phenomenon is being tracked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of scientists specialising in studying aspects related to global warming.
In its the third assessment report, the IPCC states that the world is warming at unprecedented rates and it is "likely" that human activities are influencing this phenomenon.
"And I would say that certainly is the opinion of the members of the WMO as well," the United Nations agency entrusted with research and information on climate phenomenon, said Davidson.
The warming trend will persist unless additional steps are taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to retaining heat in the Earth's atmosphere, according to WMO assistant secretary-general Hong Yan.
The WMO annual report, which Yan presented Tuesday in Geneva, notes the reappearance in 2002 of conditions in the tropical Pacific that are known to give rise to El Niño.
The El Niño event occurs every three to seven years, when the sea-surface temperature over a large area of the equatorial Pacific, off Australia, becomes warmer than normal, and this current of warmer water moves eastwards, towards South America.
The presence of the current alters the winds and the climate in general, and can cause weather extremes, including torrential rains and drought, in the Pacific region.
Climatologists explain that El Niño is only one stage of a characteristic cycle of changes that occur in this region, and can be likened to a pendulum. An El Niño event occurs when the pendulum reaches its maximum point.
The two relatively recent El Niño experiences that are considered the most intense in history occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, causing the extremes of drought and flooding, with devastating consequences for humans and for economies.
But Davidson said, "We are anticipating that the El Niño conditions will begin to move back to neutral after next May."
The WMO also called attention to the reduced size of the so- called ozone hole over Antarctica. The Southern Hemisphere spring is when the atmospheric ozone layer thins, but this year the total area of the hole was the smallest since 1988.
In late September, an unprecedented event occurred: the ozone hole cleaved into two parts. The hole expanded until mid-October, but by early November it had disappeared. The thinning is cyclical, occurring from September to as late as December.
The limited area of the hole and the brevity of its appearance can be explained by meteorological conditions in the stratosphere, says the WMO. Efforts must continue to eliminate the production and use of ozone-depleting gases, particularly CFCs and furans.
The UN agency's report also states that the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean in September this year was less than in any previous September since 1978, when satellite observations began to be conducted.
Amid growing anger among environmentalists over the record and intentions of President George W. Bush, three major U.S. environmental groups said Thursday they are suing his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to curb global warming.
WASHINGTON, Dec 5 (IPS) - Amid growing anger among environmentalists over the record and intentions of President George W. Bush, three major U.S. environmental groups said Thursday they are suing his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to curb global warming.
The lawsuit by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) charges the EPA with violating the 1977 Clear Air Act by failing to limit air pollution caused by automobiles that ''may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare''.
Despite growing impacts of global warming on human health and the environment, the three groups charged, the EPA has steadfastly refused to control automobile emissions, which contribute to global warming.
''It's time for the Bush administration to get its head out of the sand," charged Joseph Mendelson, CTA's legal director. ''The EPA stalling tactics are doing real damage in the fight against global warming."
The lawsuit marks the latest expression of rising frustration on the part of environmental activists over the administration's failure to act, despite a report by its own scientists last June that concluded that the burning of fossil fuels for industry and automobiles was contributing heavily to the climate change that will itself wreak havoc on natural ecosystems throughout the United States.
Environmentalists also fear future administration plans, particularly now that Republicans have gained control of both houses of Congress. Last year, much of the administration's energy plan, particularly its hopes of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling by U.S. energy companies, was held up by the Democratic majority in the Senate.
But Republican control of Congress should make it much easier for Bush to relax existing environmental laws and regulations over the coming two years, at the behest of energy and automobile companies and electrical utilities that contributed heavily to his presidential campaign in 2000.
In the Senate, for example, the new chairmen dealing with energy and the environment both support drilling in ANWR and have among the upper chamber's worst voting records on environmental protection.
In his first move since the elections, Bush proposed a substantial loosening of federal regulations under the Clean Air Act two weeks ago to permit old coal-fired power plants to upgrade their facilities without requiring them to install new anti-pollution equipment, as they must now do.
While the administration insisted that the change would encourage investment that would eventually result in cleaner air, environmentalists blasted the proposals as a major step back in the fight against air pollution, and a number of leading Democrats called for EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to resign her post in protest.
Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey, has long urged Bush to toughen regulations governing the Clean Air Act and even to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the international accord that requires industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions some seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States currently accounts for about 25 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions.
But Whitman has been largely sidelined by the administration. She even avoided appearing personally to announce the power-plant proposals as she would normally do, issuing a statement through her spokesperson instead.
Thursday's lawsuit was motivated by the EPA's failure to respond to a formal petition submitted to it three years ago that demanded the regulation of global warming pollutants under the Clear Air Act.
The EPA subsequently received some 50,000 comments on the petition, the vast majority of which strongly agreed that global warming should be addressed under those provisions of the Clean Air Act that require it to regulate air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.
Yet, 18 months after the public-comment period closed, the EPA has yet to offer a formal response to the petition, let alone to enact rules regulating greenhouse-gas emissions as requested by the petitioners.
According to the lawsuit, which cites the government's own studies about possible impacts of global warming on ecosystems and human health, climate change is responsible for unstable weather patterns, floods, droughts, and outbreaks of tropical diseases, including the West Nile virus that raged through much of the eastern United States last summer.
Scientists says warming, if left unchecked, will cause potentially catastrophic rises in sea level, the melting of the polar icecaps, and the loss of unique ecosystems around the world.
''Under the Bush administration, the EPA has found time to weaken or threaten many crucial environmental protections that Americans take for granted,'' according to David Bookbinder, an attorney with the Sierra Club. ''But it can't find time to get serious about the most pressing environmental problem in the world's history.''
The lawsuit coincides with the launch this week of the administration's first phase of its strategy to deal with climate change, a meeting of hundreds of scientists here to map out a research plan designed to better assess the problem and more accurately predict the effects of certain policy changes.
But environmentalists and many of the scientists taking part in the exercise have said enough is known about the threat posed by global warming to warrant a decision to cap, if not reduce, U.S. emissions immediately.
''The Bush administration is asking for five more years of studies while the world is warming and regular people will pay the price,'' said Gary Cook, climate coordinator for Greenpeace.
''We are asking the courts to intervene and order the EPA to enforce U.S. environmental laws and take action to address global warming.
Global warming is forcing species around the world, from California starfish
Alpine herbs, to move into new ranges or alter habits in ways that could disrupt
ecosystems, two groups of researchers say.
The two new studies, by teams at the University of Texas, Wesleyan, Stanford
elsewhere, are reported in today's issue of the journal Nature. Experts not
associated with the studies say they provide the clearest portrait yet of a
biological world driven into accelerating flux by warming caused at least in
part by human activity.
Plants and animals have always had to adjust to shifting climates. But
is changing faster now than in recent millenniums, and many scientists attribute
the pace to rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
In some cases, species' ranges have shifted 60 miles or more in recent
mainly toward the poles, according to the new analyses. In others, the timing of
egg laying, migrations and the like has shifted weeks earlier in the year,
creating the potential to separate species, in both time and place, from their
needed sources of food.
One academic not associated with the studies, Dr. Richard P. Alley, an
past climate shifts who teaches at Pennsylvania State University, said that
climate had changed more abruptly a few times since the last ice age and that
nature had shifted in response. But, he noted, "the preindustrial migrations
were made without having to worry about cornfields, parking lots and
Citing the new work and studies of past climate shifts, Dr. Alley saw particular
significance in the expectation that animals and plants that rely on one another
were likely to migrate at different rates. Referring to affected species, he
said, "You'll have to change what you eat, or rely on fewer things to eat, or
travel farther to eat, all of which have costs."
The result in coming decades could be substantial ecological disruption,
losses of wildlife and extinction of some species, the two studies said.
The authors express their findings with a certainty far greater than in
decade, when many of the same researchers contributed to reports on biological
effects of warming that were published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, the top international research group on the issue.
The authors of one of the new Nature papers, Dr. Camille Parmesan, a biologist
at the University of Texas, and Dr. Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan
University, calculated that many ecological changes measured in recent decades
had a 95 percent chance of being a result of climate warming and not some other
"You're seeing the impact of climate on natural systems now,"
Dr. Yohe said.
"It's really important to take that seriously."
Some butterflies have shifted northward in Europe by 30 to 60 miles or
with the changes closely matching those in average warm-season temperatures, Dr.
Parmesan said. The researchers were able to rule out other factors - habitat
destruction, for example - as causes of the changes.
Some of these changes meshed tightly with variations in temperature over
Dr. Parmesan cited bird studies in Britain. There, populations of the great tit
adjusted their egg laying earlier or later as climate warmed early in the 20th
century, then cooled in midcentury and warmed even more sharply after the
Over all, Dr. Parmesan's study found that species' ranges were tending
toward the poles at some four miles a decade and that spring events, like egg
laying or trees' flowering, were shifting 2.3 days earlier a decade.
Around Monterey Bay in California, warmer waters have caused many invertebrates
to shift northward, driving some species out of the bay and allowing others to
move in from the south.
Authors of both new papers said they were concerned that such significant
ecological changes had already been detected even though global temperatures had
risen only about one degree in the last century.
They noted that projections of global warming by 2100 ranged from 2.5 to
degrees above current levels, should concentrations of carbon dioxide and other
heat-trapping gases, which flow mainly from smokestacks and tailpipes, continue
By comparison, the world took some 18,000 years to climb out of the depths
the last ice age and warm some five to nine degrees to current conditions.
"If we're already seeing such dramatic changes" among species,
pretty frightening to think what we might see in the next 100 years," said Dr.
Terry L. Root, an ecologist at Stanford University who was the lead author of
one of the new studies.
The two teams of researchers used different statistical methods to analyze
on hundreds of species, focusing mainly on plants and animals that have been
carefully studied for many decades, like trees, butterflies and birds. Both
teams found, with very high certainty, a clear ecological effect of rising
Several of the researchers said the effects of other, simultaneous human
actions, like urban expansion and the introduction of invasive species, could
greatly amplify the effects of climate change.
For example, the quino checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species with
range in northern Mexico and Southern California, is being pushed out of Mexico
by higher temperatures while also being pushed south by growing suburban sprawl
around Los Angeles and San Diego, Dr. Parmesan said.
"The butterfly is caught between these two major human factors - urbanization
the north and warming in the south," said Dr. Parmesan, who has spent years
studying shifting ranges of various checkerspot species.
Dr. Alley said the studies illustrated the importance of conducting much
research to anticipate impending harms and devise ways to maintain biological
diversity, for instance with green "wildlife corridors" linking adjacent pockets
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON (Jan. 3) - A natural cycle of thawing may cause an Antarctic ice sheet as big as Texas and Colorado combined to melt away in 7,000 years, possibly causing a worldwide sea level rise of about 16 feet, according to new research.
In a study appearing Friday in the journal Science, researchers say that geochemical measurements of when mountainside rocks first become free of ice near the south pole show that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet began melting about 10,000 years ago and is still shrinking.
''There was a gradual and continuous melting,'' said John O. Stone, first author of the study and a professor of geology at the University of Washington, Seattle. Over thousands of years, he said, the ice has retreated at the rate of about 2 inches a year in a steady pattern that shows no sign of slowing.
If the sheet does melt entirely, he said, global sea level could rise about 16 feet, enough to drown some islands and coastal areas.
''If this kind of melting rate were to persist for 7,000 years, the rate of change is one that humans can accustom themselves to,'' said Stone. ''The real problem is that there are places in the world'' where a 4-inch rise over a few decades ''would be a quite serious concern because of storm surges and tides,'' he said.
''Our measurements suggest a steady rate of melting, but we couldn't rule out short, rapid events,'' Stone added.
Stone said the study cannot prove or disprove any affect on the melting by global warming, a gradual increase in temperatures that some believe is accelerated by the burning of fossil fuels. Instead, he said, the researchers have measured what is apparently a natural cycle of ice buildup and melting that may have been going on periodically for millions of years.
Robert P. Ackert Jr. of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute said the study establishes a baseline trend of natural melting against which any added melting caused by human influences on the climate can be measured.
''While mankind may not be able to stop this trend,'' Ackert said, warming caused by human activity ''could conceivably accelerate it. I would not interpret this data to mean we no longer need to be concerned about this issue.''
Stone and Gregory A. Balco of the University of Washington, along with researchers from three other institutions, measured the chemical isotopes in rocks collected on the side of mountains of western Marie Byrd Land in the area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
At the height of the last glacial age, ice covered these mountains. As the ice melted and the glaciers retreated, boulders and rocks on the mountainsides were uncovered. When this happened, the rocks began being hit by cosmic rays from deep space, altering the isotopic chemistry of the rocks. By measuring these isotopes, the researchers could determine when the rock became free of ice.
''The clock starts ticking when the ice melts away,'' Stone said.
Matching the isotopic date with the altitude of where the rock was found gives the researchers a gauge of how fast the ice is melting.
Stone said that the measurements show there was no stuttering in the melting rate of the ice.
''We see no evidence that it has stopped,'' he said. ''The pattern we see is very steady and continuous. ... We've had 10,000 years of climate much like it is today and the ice sheet has been shrinking continuously during that time.''
Stone said researchers were startled to find that the ice sheet in Antarctica began to shrink at about the time that most of the ice mountains formed during the last ice age already had disappeared from northern Europe and North America.
''We have just enough food for January. In February, we will have
no maize whatsoever. The following month, we'll run out of salt. The month
after that, we'll run out of vegetable oil and it goes on,'' says the
World Food Programme's communication officer in Kenya, Laura Melo.
Food shortages facing refugees in Kenyan camps are so acute that more than 60 percent of children are already malnourished.
NAIROBI, Dec 17 (IPS) - ''We have just enough food for January. In February, we will have no maize whatsoever. The following month, we'll run out of salt. The month after that, we'll run out of vegetable oil and it goes on,'' says the World Food Programme's communication officer in Kenya, Laura Melo.
Food shortages facing refugees in Kenyan camps are so acute that more than 60 percent of children are already malnourished.
''In the last two months, we've had an increase in admissions to the therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes. The situation has deteriorated and will further deteriorate if something does not happen urgently,'' warns Blessing Ezeibe, head of the WFP in Kakuma refugee camp, on the Kenyan-Sudanese border. The WFP is so concerned that it has flown one of the refugees, Fatuma Ahmed Ali, to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to publicise the plight.
''My weight is going down day by day. Even my eyes (are failing). I don't have vegetables, I don't have milk,'' says the 46-year-old mother of eight.
Ali supervises food distribution at the camp, ensuring that elderly and pregnant women get served first. She says many pregnant and lactating mothers are already anaemic because of the lack of nutritious food.
''We want to beg donors to give us food to keep us alive. Otherwise, we are dying, all of us. Kakuma camp will become a grave,'' she warns.
This is not the first time WFP has run into trouble. In February, drastic cuts were imposed, with each refugee receiving just 500 Kcal a day instead of the usual 2160 Kcal ration. The number of children attending therapeutic feeding centres went up dramatically.
With so many other food crises facing the African continent, the predicament of the 220,000 mainly Sudanese and Somali refugees in the Kakuma and Daadab refugee camps in north-west and eastern parts of Kenya is being forgotten.
''There are such big, high-profile crises that have emerged in Africa. Donors have this attention span which follows where the big crises are,'' complains Melo.
''The fact that 14 million in southern Africa and 14 million Ethiopia are in need of food does not mean that these refugees go away. They are here and they will stay here for a while,'' she emphasises.
''If we cut off food distributions, people pretty much start dying,'' Melo warns.
Food shortages are also a security concern for WFP staff, as Ezeibe explains.
''A hungry person is an angry person. There have been cases of attacks in the camps. The former head of sub-office was assaulted,'' she recalls.
''They don't really understand the situation. Not all of the refugees are privileged with information. Most of the time, they think that we have got this food and we don't want to give them. But the truth is we give what we have,'' she says.
Ali, an articulate and energetic woman, is frustrated by her dependency. She has lived in Kakuma for seven years and expects to remain there for several more, given the continuing chaos in her home country, Somalia.
''Our situation is so bad. We are beggars. We eat whatever they give us. If they give us stones, we have to eat them,'' she says.
Kakuma is situated in an extremely hot, arid part of Kenya. Little grows there. The refugees cannot keep livestock because it leads to conflict with the local, equally impoverished, Turkana people over scarce resources like grazing land.
The refugees cannot even leave the camp to collect firewood because many have been raped or assaulted.
Kenyan government policy of encampment means that refugees are not allowed to leave the camps to look for work, thus making them wholly dependent on handouts.
''A lot of these people have handicraft abilities. They can do little things. But the camps are located in extremely remote and hostile areas. There's no market for them to sell. They are stuck. They can really do very little for themselves,'' says Melo.
''We don't have the freedom of movement to be self-reliant. The United Nations refugee agency is doing its best. But human beings need more,'' complains Ali.
''We are not blind. We are not disabled. We can cover our lives. There are other solutions. We can farm. We can do whatever,'' she urges.
Some argue that allowing the refugees to work or farm would provide a solution to the current dependency - which fatigued donors appear reluctant to continue funding.
The situation for refugees in Angola is very different. ''Those who are able-bodied and healthy can engage themselves in activities. They can cultivate, work on construction sites. They can do a lot of things to help themselves. They are not as restricted like those in Kakuma,'' says Ezeibe.
The Kenyan government argues that refugees pose a security risk if they mix with the rest of the population. The ongoing civil wars in Sudan and Somalia have led to a serious influx of small arms into Kenya, many brought by people fleeing those countries.
In a country where millions are unemployed and living in poverty, refugees might also be resented if they are seen to be taking jobs away from indigenous Kenyans.
''When it comes to protection, everyone, including refugees, must be protected. But at the end of the day, Kenya is for Kenyans. That is very clear,'' Kenyan police spokesperson, King'ori Mwangi, told the UN news agency, IRIN.
Aid agencies have no choice but to work within these restrictions.
''There are countries that allow refugees to settle in villages, work, farm and produce their own income. That could be the case in Kenya. But it is not. And that is, therefore, the reality that we have to deal with,'' emphasises Melo.
''It is an extremely sensitive situation. But there are no better solutions for the time being. We have to respond to this,'' she urges.
''There's nothing much we can do but sit and wait for donors to react,'' agrees Ezeibe.
SAN JOSE, May 2 (IPS) - Some 700,000 Central Americans are suffering from hunger today, including 6,000 children at risk of starving to death, while the international aid needed to finance a 4.8 million dollar World Food Programme (WFP) emergency plan is only slowly trickling in.
The situation is at its most dramatic in Guatemala, but in the mid-term, food shortages and malnutrition will also worsen in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, warned the WFP, which reported that it has only received one-third of the funds pledged by the international community.
''The current situation, especially among the children in Guatemala, is terrible. I can't remember ever seeing images like these in Latin America,'' Olga Moraga, WFP information officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS.
''We are in a high risk situation, with serious difficulties,'' WFP director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Francisco Roque, also commented to IPS.
Roque explained that the drought, hurricanes and earthquakes that have hit the region in the past five years compounded the slump in international coffee prices to create severe social difficulties for this poverty-stricken region of nearly 37 million.
The WFP estimates that around 60,000 Guatemalan children are suffering some degree of malnutrition, representing a 16 percent rise on the number of undernourished in 2000. Of that total, 6,000 youngsters are at serious risk of dying of hunger.
''We must not let the children die of starvation,'' said a visibly anguished Roque.
Aid has come in from the United States, Germany and Norway, but the desperate situation means more is urgently needed from the international community, he added.
The non-governmental organisation Friends of WFP is collecting aid for the hungry children in Guatemala from private individuals and companies, at the following address: Friends of WFP, PO Box 11856, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 530-1694.
The WFP's biggest concern is that new climate changes are being seen in the region, apparently the result of another El Niño, a current that warms the waters of the Pacific Ocean, starting in Australia, which appears every three to seven years.
A lack of rain has been reported along Central America's Pacific shoreboard, where the region's main cities are located, while rainfall has been excessive along the Caribbean coast.
The last El Niño occurred in 1998, causing billions of dollars in damages around the world, including substantial losses in Central America.
''If the rains are not good in May, there will be big problems in October,'' said Roque, who explained that the WFP is currently conducting a needs assessment in the highest-risk areas.
The study, which is to be ready by the end of the month, is evaluating the most pressing problems faced by 30 communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, in order to design proposals for short, medium, and long-term solutions.
The populations affected by the famine are the same ones that over the past few years have suffered the brunt of natural catastrophes - including two major earthquakes early last year in El Salvador - and severe economic difficulties, said WFP spokeswoman Moraga.
Hit hardest by the hunger and malnutrition are poor peasant farmers who lost their crops last year to the drought that swept the area along the Pacific coast.
According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), drought caused 189 million dollars in losses last year in Central America. Researchers warn that the damages will worsen if the region continues to suffer difficult weather conditions.
''In Guatemala, we have undertaken a special six-month operation aimed at assisting 155,000 people, including 59,635 children under five suffering varying levels of malnutrition,'' said Moraga.
Central America, a region of 523,000 square kilometres, is made up of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Belize.
The gap between rich and poor is enormous - with the exception of Costa Rica, which has the highest standard of living in the region - and poverty affects up to 80 percent of the population in countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala.
A study by the United Nations chidren's fund (UNICEF) found that drought led to an increase in acute malnutrition - from 2.7 to 5.9 percent of children - in the hardest-hit parts of Honduras between July and November 2001.
The Red Cross reported that it provided food aid to 7,700 families in Honduras from August 2001 to January 2002.
''This is a silent emergency,'' Roberto Escoto, UNICEF health and nutrition officer in Honduras, told IPS. He underlined that although the visible effects of malnutrition and drought are perhaps not as dramatic as those of a hurricane or earthquake, they are steadily undermining the physical and mental capacities of broad segments of society.
HOUSTON (Jan. 2) - Houston, we still have a weight problem.
For the third year in a row, ``Men's Fitness'' magazine has named the city the nation's fattest, blaming the region's hot and humid climate, ``abysmal'' air quality, relative lack of outdoor recreation and residents' love of junk food.
The country's fourth-largest city topped a list of 25 cities, followed by Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Last year, the city launched a Get Lean Houston! initiative, aiming to encourage residents to get fit and live healthier lives. It also named Lee Labrada, a former Mr. Universe, as the city's first fitness czar.
Labrada said he's skeptical of surveys like the magazine's, and places more stock in studies like a recent one by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC interviewed 185,000 Americans by telephone in 55 U.S. cities to determine the percentage of people who are overweight or obese.
``Houston was not even in the top 10,'' Labrada said.
Houston Mayor Lee Brown, who last year admitted he had packed on a few pounds, has lost 20 pounds since.
``We do not relish the title bestowed upon us by 'Men's Fitness' magazine,'' Brown said in a statement, ``and will continue to work to involve all Houstonians in our programs to improve the overall health and fitness of the city's residents.''
01/02/03 22:55 EST
I'm not a vegetarian. I eat fish and if I have the choice to eat vegetarian -- I do. I don't like red meat and chicken is almost out the window. But when I stand in line for my lunch at the cafeteria, I almost always grab the vegetarian box. And when I look around, it seems a lot of other people go for the vegetarian option as well. A few people go the extra mile and choose the vegan option.
I think that it is great to eat healthy and support animal rights and go as far as to implement those beliefs in your daily diet. Hey, I even participate myself to a certain extent. However, I find myself torn time and again over what I like to call the "privileged diet."
Let me explain. The whole idea behind eating vegetarian and vegan is awesome in theory. But my question is, who is privileged enough to participate in this phenomenon? Is it the poor African-American family living in the ghettos of Los Angeles? Is it the Mexican farmers in Mexico who farm for survival? Is it the under-privileged families in the South? No, it is those that are privileged enough to be able to CHOOSE where their food comes from as opposed to eating whatever is available. The vegan and vegetarian food market is too expensive for many people to afford.
The USDA recently reported that between 1996 and 1998, about 10 million American households did not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. In fact, the Food Security Institute at the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University in Massachusetts recently released a national report ranking the state of Oregon as the number one state in hunger, with Washington pulling in at second hungriest. Researchers say that rural isolation and high cost of living are factors that contribute to the findings. When that much of the American population can barely afford to survive, who has time to think about buying overpriced vegan ice cream?
Studies have shown direct correlations between poverty and obesity or health problems. Is it fair that the impoverished continue to consume unhealthy foods that are affordable to them, while those who can afford health care -- and even a gym -- eat "healthy" vegan and vegetarian meals? That is not to say that poor people do not have the right to eat vegetarian or vegan, because they definitely do. And believe me, I know plenty of vegans that are poor and opt for no food over animal food. But in general, most people who swing to the veggie side can afford to fund their preferred diets.
In the San Francisco and Sacramento school districts, concerned parents petitioned to have healthier school meals for their children and the districts responded. This proves that at least some regions are beginning to realize that the processed foods in subsidized school lunches are harmful to children's health.
Scientists have shown that milk consumption in children leads to so many infections and conditions like asthma. They have also shown that the human body was not built to consume any other milk than breast milk. Yet, we continue to enforce the idea that the more milk, the better. If we could get the government to subsidize veggie options to schools, we would have children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds benefiting from healthier meals. Unfortunately, this does not seem like something that will be happening any time soon.
So we will continue to allow this gap in resources to widen. Those who can eat well will continue to do so. And those who can't will continue to eat 49-cent cheeseburgers at McDonalds. I will grab many more veggie sandwiches in my life, because I have a choice, but I will always keep in mind the privileges that I enjoy over a child who gorges herself on unhealthy, processed foods because that is all she can afford.
Jennifer Contreras, 21, is a senior journalism student at University of La Verne in Southern California.
14) Sacred places under attack in Native America
Posted: December 18, 2002 - 9:28am EST
by: Suzan Shown Harjo / Columnist / Indian Country Today
It's been a busy fall for federal, state and private exploiters of Native American sacred places.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service take the prize this season for abetting their constituent developers in the desecration of Native holy lands. (The National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers still share the lifetime achievement title for violating Native burial grounds and other sacred areas, and are the culprits attacking many of the places listed later.)
Medicine Lake Caldera is a sacred place to the Pit River and other tribes, who have used it for thousands of years for ceremonies and healing.
It sits in the Modoc National Forest in northeast California on the cratered edge of the largest shield volcano in the United States.
Two years ago, the outgoing administration denied geothermal power development there because of the irreversible physical and cultural impacts.
The BLM and FS reversed that determination on Nov. 26. They decided that
the state-funded Calpine Corporation can build the network of power plant
facilities, roads, cables and drills it will need to dig deep into Mother
Earth, tap the hot water, convert it to electricity and export it to Bonneville
Power Administration for consumers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Pit River Chairman Gene C. Preston called the decision a "very serious blow." Pit River's press release stated that the "Tribe has no intention of giving up the battle."
BLM reversed another decision the prior administration made as it was leaving office. On Sept. 27, BLM issued a report finding that Glamis Gold, Ltd., has valid claims to mine in the Quechan Indian Pass area of the California Desert.
The Quechan Indian Tribe says the proposed Glamis Imperial Mine is a "massive, open-pit, cyanide heap-leach gold mine on 1,600 acres in the heart of an area now withdrawn from future mining claims to protect Native American religious and cultural values."
Included in the area are 55 properties eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places; items subject to the graves protection and repatriation law; and religious sites - "prayer circles, ceremonial places, shrines, ceramic scatters, petroglyphs and spirit breaks linked by ancient trails."
The Interior Inspector General is investigating the Indian pass decision processes, as well as the ties between several decision-makers and the mining industry generally and Glamis specifically.
Lawsuits are contemplated in both the Medicine Lake and Indian Pass cases.
On Dec. 2, a federal appeals court ended a case that tried to stop the massive telescope project atop Mount Graham, an Apache sacred place in the Pinaleno Mountains in Arizona. The University of Arizona and its development partners, the Forest Service and the Vatican, launched the project, and Congress waived all laws to accommodate it.
An Apache and environmental coalition claimed that the National Historic Preservation Act was not followed in developing power for the project. The court ruled that the appeal was moot because the power line and electricity were in place, and the "harm that the coalitions seek to prevent has already occurred and no effective relief for the alleged NHPA violation can be given." More litigation is likely at the next phase of the project.
Whenever Congress has explored legislation to protect Native sacred places, the most strident objections have been raised by the extractive and logging industries and the federal agencies that represent them.
They and other developers say they don't know the location and details of Native sacred places, implying that they would refrain from harming known sacred places.
This, of course, is not true. It is more the case that a voluminous record on a sacred place is tantamount to a neon invitation to "Dig Here."
By the federal agencies' own account in the Medicine Lake case, the "decision follows extensive consultations with the affected Tribes to hear their concerns regarding the significance of the Medicine Lake Highlands as a sacred area and the manner in which the proposed development would affect this important cultural property and its use.
"Although the Tribes remain opposed to the project, (BLM and FS officials) met personally with them, which led the agencies to seek design changes to reduce the visual and audible impacts of the project wherever possible."
In other words, the Indians had their say; now, let development begin, except for some minor cosmetology, if you developers feel like it.
Two dozen endangered sacred places were identified in San Diego at a Nov. 8-9 gathering to protect sacred places and at the National Congress of American Indians Nov. 10-15 annual convention. The public record of each of these identified places is exhaustive.
Because both conferences were held in California, many of the endangered sacred places identified are located there:
o Coastal Chumash lands in the Gaviota Coastal region in southern California.
o Yurok Nation's salmon fisheries in the Klamath River affected by the Interior Department's waterflow decreases.
o Berry Creek, Moore Town and Enterprise Rancherias' lands impacted by the California Water Project's fluctuation zone at the Oroville Dam Reservoir.
o the sacred Puvungna of the Tongva and Acjachemen Peoples.
o the sacred Katuktu (Morro Hill) of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians.
The groups called for the protection and recovery of sacred places in the Southwest:
o in Arizona - Hualapai Nation landforms in Truxton and Crozier Canyons from private extraction of boulders for decorative landscaping; Hopi and Navajo lands and the Navajo aquifer from slurry coal mining by Peabody Coal Company; the San Francisco Peaks from FS and private expansion of the Arizona Snow Bowl and the Boboquivari Mountain of the Tohono O'odham Nation.
o in New Mexico - the micaceous clay-gathering place of the Picuris Pueblo from mica mining by Oglebay Norton Specialty Minerals and Zuni Salt Lake from coal strip mining by the Salt River Project.
o in Texas - Carrizo/Comecrudo lands flooded by Amistad Lake and Falcon Dam.
Other sacred places identified as under attack now, include
o Badlands, Black Hills, Medicine Wheel and Missouri River in the Plains.
o Semiahmah Village burial ground and Snoqualmie Falls in Washington.
o Pipestone National Monument and Cold Water Springs in Minnesota.
o Hickory Ground ceremonial and burial ground in Alabama.
o Ocmulgee National Monument and Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia.
o Taino Caguana ceremonial site in Puerto Rico.
o Yaqui Zona Indigena in Sonora, Mexico.
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.
This article can be found at http://IndianCountry.com/?1040221839
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 27 - The Bush administration has approved construction of a geothermal power plant in the Modoc National Forest, a remote volcanic field near California's border with Oregon that local tribes consider sacred.
Indians and environmental groups accused the government of betrayal today and said they would fight the decision.
The project, at Telephone Flat, was blocked two years ago by the Clinton administration because of concerns about intrusion on the lands. The plant would be two miles from Medicine Lake, which the tribes believe has healing powers.
In reversing the Clinton administration decision, officials said "the overall interests of the public would be best served" by allowing the project to proceed. Specifically, the decision, released on Tuesday, cited the need for developing renewable energy sources.
Calpine, the utility in San Jose that wants to build the 48-megawatt
plant, owns extensive leases for geothermal development in the national
forest. Calpine sued the government for $100 million when the project
was rejected, but agreed to drop the claim if the Bush administration
reconsidered the plan.
Gene Preston, chairman of the Pit River Tribe, one of four near Medicine Lake, said his 2,000 members felt cheated by the reversal.
Two years ago, when the plant was rejected, another geothermal complex proposed by Calpine was approved at nearby Fourmile Hill, just outside the most sacred area. Mr. Preston said the tribe agreed to drop public protests over the Fourmile Hill plant in exchange for a five-year moratorium on additional power projects.
"We sat down and worked out a compromise," Mr. Preston said. "We thought we had five years so that studies could be done and level minds could make more informed opinions. Now that is all moot."
Mark Rey, under secretary for natural resources and environment in the Agriculture Department, which oversees the forest service, said Mr. Preston's complaint was with the Clinton administration.
"I don't know the specifics of this promise because I was not there," Mr. Rey said. "But I can tell you the lion's share of my first year in office has been spent trying to figure out what the outgoing administration promised and whether or not it would be wise public policy to redeem those promises. We are trying to do what is right here."
He said the Calpine suit had heavily influenced the Telephone Flat decision.
"The Justice Department said we are going to lose boatloads of taxpayer money if we don't find a way to give these guys a fairer hearing," Mr. Rey said. "If some folks don't like the decision, the company has already made commitments to make the decision more palatable."
A spokesman for Calpine said it was studying the decision, which included new conditions, including moving the 13-mile power line to run parallel to a Forest Service road and not pass near Medicine Lake.
"There are a number of things that have to be reviewed," the spokesman, David J. Michetti, said.
In approving the plant, the administration rejected the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation, a federal agency that seeks to preserve important cultural and historical places.
About 24 square miles of volcanic fields near Medicine Lake, known as the Medicine Lake Highlands, were declared a traditional cultural district in 1999 and are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. In a letter to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, the advisory council urged denying the plant a permit. "The costs to the historic resources of Native Americans and our nation are too high," the letter said.
The Pit River tribe and others consider Medicine Lake and the surrounding
area a spiritual sanctuary.
They believe that the creator descended from nearby Mount Shasta and bathed in the lake, giving it healing powers. Medicine men still train there, and coming-of-age ceremonies are conducted there. Many Indians immerse themselves in the lake to cleanse the body and soul.
Mr. Preston said the tribes believed that the geothermal energy, which would be tapped for electricity, had a spiritual origin and should not be tampered with. Already, he said, tribe members wait until nightfall to conduct ceremonies at the lake to avoid motor homes and boaters. A plant at Telephone Flat would further tip the balance toward the outsiders, Mr. Preston said.
"We have to hide in the bushes and wait until everybody is gone
and sneak out on the lake," he said. "Our land was taken away
initially with land claims, and now they are trying to take our culture
Deborah Sivas, director of the Earthjustice Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford University, who has represented the Pit River tribe in a suit over Fourmile Hill, said the reversal on Telephone Flat was a big setback. Calpine might view the ruling as a green light to move forward with more geothermal projects, Ms. Sivas said.
"We really perceive this as a policy coming down from Washington to push energy development at whatever cost," she added.
Mr. Preston said he worried about the future of his ancestral lands, as well as the precedent. He said he recently met for three hours with Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management, and Dale N. Bosworth, chief of the Forest Service.
"They gave me a clear and open opportunity to make our case," Mr. Preston said. "But at the end, they described it as a clash of cultures. They understood our plight and were sympathetic to it. They said they recognize our culture, but also the culture of capitalism."
Copyright The New York Times Company
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The federal government approved a geothermal power plant in northern California, reversing an earlier decision, but required the developer to avoid areas important to environmentalists and American Indian tribes.
The 48-megawatt Fourmile Hill project is needed because of the nation's and California's drive for more domestic and more renewable energy, said Assistant Secretary of the Interior Rebecca W. Watson.
A tribal and environmental coalition already is suing to block the plant near Medicine Lake and will continue its opposition after Tuesday's decision.
``It's another betrayal by the federal government of another promise to the tribe,'' said Michelle Berditschevsky, environmental coordinator for the Pit River Nation and spokeswoman for the Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense. ``The site is extremely sacred to the tribe and has been for at least 10,000 years.''
The plant will produce enough power for about 50,000 homes by drawing naturally heated water from the earth, then reinjecting the water to be reheated and reused. Calpine estimates it will operate for 45 years.
Opponents noted most of the power will go to the Bonneville Power Administration, which serves Washington, Oregon and Idaho power users. Nonetheless, the California Energy Commission gave San Jose-based Calpine Corp. a $20 million grant for the project.
Calpine plans to build the $120 million plant at Telephone Flat, on the Modoc National Forest.
The approval requires Calpine to make some changes to meet the concerns of environmentalists and Indian tribes, including relocating a 13-mile power line east of the original proposed location. The line will now be built along an existing U.S. Forest Service road.
The revised project ``will produce renewable energy with fewer environmental impacts,'' said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. A Calpine spokesman declined to comment, saying the company hadn't seen the decision.
Bosworth and Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke said they consulted extensively with the five nearby tribes. They said the tribes' concerns persuaded the agencies to require Calpine to reduce visual impact and noise wherever possible.
A coalition of environmental organizations and tribes sued in June to block the plant. They were particularly upset with the proposed location of the transmission line, but also concerned about what they said would be gases, heavy metals and other minerals released in steam.
``It's an unfortunate reversal of the original decision made in 2000,'' said Peggy Risch of the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. ``It's clearly a victory for corporate interests.''
The plant site is within the Glass Mountain Known Geothermal Resource Area, targeted since the 1970s as a region with significant geothermal potential. The government sold leases for geothermal development in the mid-1980s, and received the plant development proposals in 1996. Supporters have touted geothermal plants as a form of renewable energy.
The site is on the edge of a caldera, a crater caused by a collapsed shield volcano, northeast of Redding. The Bureau of Land Management previously rejected a proposed plant within the caldera itself because it would have adverse affects on the American Indian cultural values and on recreation.
On the Net:
11/27/02 11:25 EST
WASHINGTON(AP) - About 3,000 dolphins are still being killed each year by tuna fishing fleets in the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and Central America, a government report says.
The report estimates about 6 million dolphins were killed in this fashion in the eastern tropical Pacific since the 1950s, and that while the annual death toll has dropped significantly in recent years, the dolphin's recovery remains in doubt.
``Despite considerable scientific effort by fishery scientists, there is little evidence of recovery, and concerns remain that the practice of chasing and encircling dolphins somehow is adversely affecting the ability of these depleted stocks to recover,'' the report says.
The report was prepared in August by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
An environmental group, Earth Island Institute of San Francisco, obtained the report and provided it to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The report has not yet been released publicly by the Commerce Department.
The group said in a statement that it believes the Bush administration doesn't want to publicly release the report because that would undermine the government's attempt to help Mexico and other countries label their tuna as ``dolphin-safe.''
A court ruling in the United States last year effectively rejected a federal effort to relax standards of dolphin-safe tuna that would have let more Mexican and Latin American fishing fleets sell their catch in the United States.
The Clinton administration, hoping to promote trade with Mexico, argued that the tuna should be labeled dolphin-safe because U.S. government studies found that the dolphins were released unharmed but environmental groups sued.
Mexican authorities maintain that their tuna catches do not pose a threat to dolphins.
In recent years, canning and processing industries in the U.S., Canada and many European countries have said that they won't market tuna unless it is caught in a way that doesn't harm dolphins.
Gordon Helm, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of the Commerce Department, said Wednesday that the report was completed and peer-reviewed, but not yet ready to be made public since it was still being reviewed by Commerce Secretary Don Evans.
``Any discussion of the report before the secretary makes his decision would be premature,'' Helm said.
Evans has until Dec. 31, a deadline set by Congress, to review the report along with public comments and other supporting documents. He is required to conduct scientific research and then decide whether the large nets used by the tuna fleets is significantly harming the depleted dolphin populations in the eastern tropical Pacific.
On the Net:
Earth Island Institute: http://www.earthisland.org/home-body.cfm
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Environmentalists have sued the federal government to prevent it from labeling tuna ``dolphin safe'' if fishermen encircled the dolphins to make the catch.
The Earth Island Institute and other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court late Tuesday, hours after the Commerce Department revised labeling standards.
The government said tuna that fishermen catch by encircling dolphins may immediately be imported into the United States and bear the dolphin-safe label if observers certify no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the process.
Under the old definition, any tuna caught using dolphins as targets were automatically barred from bearing the consumer-friendly label on cans sold in the United States.
Dolphin commonly swim with schools of tuna. Various reports have said between 2,000 and 3,000 dolphins are killed annually in connection with tuna fishing in the eastern Pacific. Dolphin fatalities numbered in the hundreds of thousands decades ago, prompting new international efforts - and the emergence of the dolphin-safe label - to better protect the mammals.
In seeking to overturn the new dolphin-safe definition, environmental groups charged the Bush administration was sacrificing dolphins for the sake of free trade and misleading consumers in the process.
Among other things, the lawsuit said targeting dolphins during tuna fishing stresses dolphins to the point of ``fatal heart damage'' and can cause mothers and their offspring to become separated. Those and other factors may go unnoticed to fishing monitors, the groups charged.
No court date has been set.
01/03/03 03:36 EST
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 (IPS) - Water is likely to become a growing source
of tension and fierce competition between nations, warned United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week, launching the International Year
of Fresh Water 2003.
Allocation of water from rivers that run through several countries has long been a highly complex and politically sensitive issue. India and Bangladesh, for example, have had major differences over sharing the waters of the Ganges, particularly in the lean pre-monsoon period, and the Nile remains a source of perennial dispute in North Africa.
Potential conflict is just one water issue. About 90 percent of sewage and 70 percent of industrial wastes in developing countries are discharged without treatment, often polluting the usable water supply.
In the United States, China and India, groundwater tables are steadily falling, and some rivers, such as the Colorado in the western United States and the Yellow River in China, often run dry before they reach the sea.
"The world needs to improve its stewardship of water resources," Annan said. "We need much more efficient irrigation, far less toxic agriculture and industry, and new investments in water infrastructure and services."
There are 261 watersheds that cross the political boundaries of two or more countries, and 19 river basins are shared by five or more countries. One basin - the Danube - is shared by 17 nations. A multi-million-dollar U.N.-supported project has been trying since 1997 to establish a framework of cooperation on sharing the Nile's waters.
In the last 50 years, struggles over water have provoked 37 violent disputes, though no war has been fought over water resources in modern times, according to the U.N. department of social and political affairs (DESA). The disputes are generally between tribes, water-use sectors or states and provinces.
But some people argue there is still room for optimism.
"I am convinced that water can be an agent of peace, rather than conflicts," said Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the U.N. Educational Scientific Cultural Organization. UNESCO, he said, was looking at ways that would allow the new century to be one of "water peace", rather than one of "water wars".
In order for that to happen, experts say, the world has to find ways to meet the growing demand for water, and an ever-widening gulf between how the rich and the poor use water.
A single flush of a toilet in the developed world consumes what the average person in a developing country uses for a whole day's washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking. The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia face chronic problems of water supply, and by 2025 as much as two-thirds of the world's population may be living in what the United Nations calls "water stress".
A new 'water index' released earlier this week revealed that developed nations will soon be growing food for the world's poor, who will run out of water to irrigate crops.
''The international Water Poverty Index demonstrates that it is not the amount of water resources available that determine poverty levels in a country, but the effectiveness of how you use those resources,'' said Caroline Sullivan, who helped develop the index for the World Water Council.
In developing countries, losses due to leakage, illegal water hook-ups and waste consume about 50 percent of drinking water.
Annan suggested that efficient irrigation, less toxic agriculture and industry, and new investments in water infrastructure and services would go a long way toward addressing water problems.
According to DESA, the world needs to substantially increase its current annual spending of 30 billion dollars on drinking water and sanitation in order to meet the target set at the Millennium Summit of halving by 2015 the proportion of people unable to afford safe drinking water.
While 63 countries are on track to reach that target, vast disparities remain.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only 58 per cent of the population has access to improved water resources. In the least developed countries, there has been no change in the proportion of people with access to water since 2000.
While resources hold the key, say experts, community awareness can be a vital catalyst for change.
Aggressive campaigns to raise awareness, coupled with lawsuits against polluters, has helped restore New York's Hudson River to its past glory, said Alex Matthiessen of Hudson Riverkeeper, and the recipient of a Presidential Award from the White House.
With the help of a team of attorneys, Matthiessen investigates potential threats to the watershed and enforces environmental law in order to safeguard the Hudson River valley, which provides New York City's drinking water.
"Hudson was an open sewage back in the 1960s," he said. "We have over the years managed to protect its fisheries, and the drinking water reservoirs in Catskills that supply water to New York's nine to 10 million residents."
The Riverkeeper model is now being replicated in 99 waterways within the
United States and beyond, he said, adding that developing countries could
draw on the New York experience.
20) Sea birds drop radioactivity on land
by Andy Coghlan
The New Scientist
02 Jan 2003
Droppings from seabirds could be introducing radioactive isotopes into the food chain. That is the conclusion of researchers who found high levels of radioactivity in droppings and plants on an island close to the Arctic.
If tests confirm that the guano is bringing radioactivity ashore, it will need to be factored into pollution assessments that gauge radiation risks to human health and ecosystems. The risk is probably low at temperate latitudes, but could be much greater in the fragile wastes of the Arctic. There, guano is a major source of nutrients for plants, which are then eaten by animals.
Radioactive material gets into the oceans from natural geological processes on the sea floor, but radioactive isotopes from human nuclear activity can add to this. In the Arctic, radioactive material has been dumped in the Kara Sea to the east of the Barents Sea.
And radioactive material from nuclear accidents such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has reached the seas, along with particles from atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons.
The evidence that bird droppings are bringing radioactivity ashore comes from Mark Dowdall and his team at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority in Tromsø. They spent two years between 2000 and 2002 collecting soil, vegetation and guano samples from a remote coastal inlet called Kongsfjord on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, about halfway between the northern tip of Norway and the North Pole.
The samples of bird droppings were from vast piles produced by two colonies of seabirds supporting kittiwakes, puffins and fulmars. Tests showed the guano contained 10 times the concentration of radioactive isotopes found at other sites on the island.
The researchers found unusually high concentrations of the natural radioisotopes uranium-238 and radium-226, which decay to form more hazardous isotopes. But they also found high concentrations of the isotope caesium-137, which does not occur naturally. Dowdall suspects this is from the fallout of atmospheric nuclear tests carried out decades ago.
Tests on vegetation growing near the guano also revealed high concentrations
of radioactive material. "It means that low levels in the Arctic environment
don't stay low, they become concentrated," he says.
Fish and crustaceans
Dowdall believes the birds eat contaminated fish and crustaceans, and the radioactive material is then concentrated in their faeces. The extra nutrients the droppings provide encourage plants to grow, and the plants take up and concentrate the radioactive material.
This poses a problem, because plants make up the bulk of the diet of many
animals, especially that of indigenous reindeer. "We're talking about
vulnerable environment, and when reindeer eat the [contaminated] vegetation, it's in the food chain," says Dowdall.
Environmental researchers are intrigued by the finding. "I don't think people have looked at this particular pathway before," says Scott Fowler at the International Atomic Energy Authority's Marine Environmental Lab in Monaco.
However, in 1999, pigeons roosting in contaminated buildings on the site of British Nuclear Fuels' Sellafield reprocessing complex in Cumbria were found to contain 40 times the European Union's safe limit of caesium-137.