Archive for Political and Corporate Action
La Mode Verte has added it’s name to a bill in the US state of California that aims to encourage the recycling of fast-food takeout packaging, thereby reducing the amount of waste entering the environment. The Senate Bill 529 Fast Food Packaging and Marine Pollution Reduction, which has been put forward by Senator Mark Leno to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in Sacremento, has also been supported by great organisations such as Heal The Bay, 7th Generation Advisors, Sierra Club California, and the Surfrider Foundation. LMV is proud to support the bill, which “would prohibit food providers from distributing single-use food packaging and bags unless the packaging or bag is accepted for either recycling or composting in at least 75% of households in a jurisdiction.” According to the bill, plastic pollution jeopardises California’s $40 billion ocean economy and the city of LA already spends around $1 billion on clearing waterways of trash. The bill, if passed, would be a huge step in reducing the impacts of this pollution.
www.bbc.co.uk 11th March 2013
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made a progressive step towards the conservation of sharks around the world by giving added protection to three endangered species. The convention, currently being held in Bangkok, Thailand, voted by a two-thirds majority to increase the status of the ocean whitetip, three species of hammerhead, and the porbeagle sharks, as well as Manta rays. Despite strong opposition from Japan and China, two countries known for their taste in exotic marine species, a shift in the attitude of South American nations such as Brazil and Colombia helped the motion pass. However, it could still be overturned on appeal on the final day of the convention this week. Although the move stops short of banning the shark fin trade altogether, it does introduce stricter regulations that can result in sanctions on animal products if flouted. Many shark populations have plummeted 90% in the last 100 years largely as a result of overfishing. As many as a 100 million sharks are captured every year.
www.guardian.co.uk 9th February 2013
David Milliband, the brother of Ed the leader of the Labour Party, is to lead the newly formed Global Ocean Commission, a body to tackle the lawlessness of the open ocean. Mr Milliband will be alongside Nelson Mandela’s former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, and the former president of Costa Rica, José María Figueres, as well as yet-to-be-announced commissioners picked from former heads-of-state and senior ministers. The oceans are beginning to feature more prominently in global politics as their fate is looking increasingly uncertain. The open seas are beyond any national legislation and are therefore lawless. Preventable problems like over-fishing and pollution are causing severe damage to the marine eco-system and the former could lead to a collapse of numerous fish-stocks by the 2040. David Milliband is a good candidate for his role in the Global Ocean Commission. During his position as Foreign Secretary under the last UK labour government he established the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean; an area of no-fishing covering 640,000 square kilometres. ”The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale,” David Miliband told the Observer. “It is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis. The long-term costs of the mismanagement of our oceans are at least as great as long-term costs of the mismanagement of the financial system. We are living as if there are three or four planets instead of one, and you can’t get away with that.”
www.latimes.com 25th January 2013
Texas has lodged a complaint against the neighbouring state of New Mexico with the US Supreme Court this month. Texas claims New Mexico “has been diverting water it is obligated to send downstream under the 75-year-old Rio Grande Compact.” The compact was created in 1938 between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and established a “formula” for allocating the Colorado river’s water to the various states. Two giant reservoirs, the Elephant Butte and Caballo, were built in New Mexico as a result yet Texas now claims that as many as 2500 wells have been installed below the Elephant Butte diverting water from the river to the underground aquifer. This, says Pat Gordon, Texas’ representative on the Rio Grande Compact Commission, has reduced water for the irrigation network. New Mexico denies the allegations claiming those drawing water from the river actually have water-rights that predate the compact. A prominent water law specialist Charles DuMars seemed to back New Mexico in the dispute when he stated that the compact “only requires that New Mexico deliver a set amount of water into Elephant Butte Reservoir…as to what happens to the river between there and Texas, New Mexico’s water law probably applies, not the compact.”
www.nytimes.com 21st January 2013
In perhaps a surprising move, President Barack Obama put climate change at the forefront of his inaugural speech. Eight whole sentences were devoted to the subject, more than any other. The focus on climate change comes after a comprehensive failure to introduce any legislation on the issue in his first term. This time around, the president plans to use his executive power to avoid opposition by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Climate change was also brought up in election-night speech where he related it directly to the rise of extreme weather. A number of steps will be taken to help the US tackle the issue of greenhouse gases. The main step will be the power given to the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on emissions from coal power-stations. Another is to increase energy-efficient standards in buildings and home-appliances. A third is to increase the development of public transport. Despite a failure to secure any legislation in his last term, emissions in the US still dipped 10% between 2008 and 2012, a result of the economic slow-down and moves towards energy efficiency by government and industry.
Quoted from independent.co.uk 16th January 2013
Trees in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being fitted with mobile phones in an attempt to tackle illegal logging and deforestation. Devices smaller than a pack of cards are being attache d to the trees in protected areas to alert officials once they are cut down and the logs are transported. Location data is sent from sensors once the logs are within 20 miles of a mobile phone network to allow Brazil’s environment agency to stop the sale of illegal timber. The technology, called Invisible Tracck, which is being piloted by Dutch digital security company Gemalto, has a battery life of up to a year and has been designed to withstand the Amazonian climate. It will also allow officials to track trees in real time rather than relying on slower traditional means of monitoring through satellite images. Ramzi Abdine, general manager of Cinterion M2M, the wireless technology arm at Gemalto Latin America, said the new device could help overcome the difficulty of tracking trees over a large area. “The rainforest in Brazil is approximately the size of the United States so it’s impossible to monitor each and every acre,” he said. Marcelo Hayashi, general manager of Cargo Tracck, added: “Gemalto’s Cinterion M2M was vital in enabling us to develop a tracking and tracing solution rugged enough to withstand the heat and moisture of the Amazon. “It is unique because it’s small for inconspicuous deployment in the field and power-efficient enough to operate over long stretches of time without recharging batteries, which is crucial when tracking trees in remote areas.”
www.latimes.com 3rd January
A Royal Dutch Shell oil rig called Kulluk ran aground off the Alaskan coast just before the new year after drifting in high seas. The rig was being towed to Seattle for maintenance after its first season in the Beaufort Sea. Attempts to salvage the craft have so far failed. Kulluk is believed to be carrying 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and another 12,000 of other oil products. However, US Coastguard aircraft failed to spot any signs of a leak and the rig is currently deemed stable. Shell has said a significant spill is unlikely as the ‘fuel tanks [are] isolated in the centre of the vessel and encased in heavy steel’. The Kulluk’s 14 man crew had already disembarked because of the weather. It is uncertain, and Shell cannot give a reason, as to why the rig was being moved in such bad weather. According to the LA Times, the oil company appears to have underestimated the conditions in the Arctic region. A long list of errors by Shell have included an inadequate capability to de-ice the Kulluk crew’s transport helicopters (which set back the moving operation by several months), a failure to build an arctic-worthy containment dome and spill-response barge (which kept the company drilling to adequate depths to reach oil this year), and serious deficiencies involving pollution controls and crew safety in the Noble Discoverer, the drilling ship Shell used in the Chukchi Sea.
www.marketplace.org 28th December 2012
Quoted from source:
‘The British company Unilever announced this week that it will remove tiny plastic beads from its soap products by 2015. It’s Unilever’s latest move toward sustainability, and it might also be good business, according to analysts. The personal care industry calls these bits of plastic “microbeads.” “They range in size from almost microscopic so you can hardly see them to something a little bit bigger — maybe the size of a pinhead,” said Angela Griffiths, a research director with UL Environment. “They’re very, very small.” Companies like Unilever have increasingly used plastic beads in soaps to improve their exfoliating properties, Griffiths said. The problem is they go down the drain, sneak past water treatment plants, and end up in the ocean. Girffiths added: “There are a few studies out there that microbeads may be finding their way into the aquatic environment. So I think Unilever is taking the precautionary approach, and that’s a good thing.” Even some in the business world are praising the move. Pablo Zuanic follows Unilever for the U.K. investment bank Liberum Capital. “It makes good business sense,” he said. “And I think it’s good for the world.” The analyst said the microbeads announcement falls in line with a bigger strategy at Unilever, where an environmental message has become an important part of the marketing strategy. The company is hoping to influence its competition, Zuanic said. “They say if they achieve their sustainability targets, and no one else follows they will have failed,” he explained. “So their objective is that other organizations, nonprofits as well as the competition will eventually follow.” Plus, Zuanic said if Unilever is the leader on issues like this it may attract money from investment funds looking to back companies with sustainable business models.’
www.nytimes.com 18th December 2012
Quoted from source:
‘An industry group representing oil and gas companies has sued a city in Colorado that outlawed hydraulic fracturing, saying voters had no right to ban the drilling practice. The lawsuit, filed on Monday by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, seeks to overturn the ban on the contentious practice that passed by a wide margin last month in the northern Colorado city of Longmont. The measure, the first of its kind in the state, still allows oil and gas drilling within city limits, but it prohibits hydraulic fracturing, which has lifted energy production across the country but has raised concerns about air and water contamination. The oil and gas association said the ban amounted to a prohibition on all efforts to tap the estimated $500 million in oil and gas resources locked in the rocks deep beneath Longmont. “The ban is illegal, and we expect it to be overturned by the courts,” said Tisha Schuller, the president of the group. City officials had been bracing for a lawsuit challenging Longmont’s right to make rules for an industry regulated largely by the state and federal authorities. Colorado officials opposed the city’s ban but have declined to sue to overturn it. Sam Schabacker, one of the ban’s leading advocates, called the lawsuit an attempt to “undermine a democratic vote in order to put a dangerous industrial activity next to homes, schools and public parks.”
New research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that the illicit trade in animal and plant parts is worth $19 billion a year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and people trafficking. The report highlights the potential risk to national stability as armed rebel groups are using the trade to fund civil conflicts. The WWF study cites the example of a large elephant massacre in northern Cameroon as an example. In this case, rebel groups from Chad and Sudan killed 450 elephants in order to sell their ivory to buy arms. A recent seizure of an estimated 20 tonnes of ivory in Malaysia on route to China only shows to exemplify the scale of the trade. According to the Born Free Foundation, the number of elephants killed from poaching (c. 30,000) now exceeds the number that die of natural causes.
www.bbc.co.uk 11th October 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Oil giant Shell is due to appear in a Dutch court to face charges of polluting Nigerian villages in the Niger Delta region. The case is being brought by four Nigerian farmers and the Dutch branch of campaigners Friends of the Earth. It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad. Shell insists it has been unable to clean up the spills due to insecurity. The Anglo-Dutch firm also says that more than half of the leaks are caused by theft and sabotage. The case is linked to spills in the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria. The farmers say that oil spills from the oil firm’s pipelines have destroyed their livelihoods by damaging crops and fish-farms. One of the plaintiffs, Friday Alfred Akpan from the village of Ikot Ada Udo, told the BBC the oil leaks in his village had badly damaged his 47 fish ponds.’
Read the rest of the report on the BBC news website.
www.bbc.co.uk 24 August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Police in Peru have seized more than 16,000 dried seahorses which were to be exported illegally to Asian countries. Seahorse powder is used in China, Japan and elsewhere in traditional medicine and for its alleged aphrodisiac uses. Peruvian authorities say the traffickers ran away and abandoned their illicit cargo on a street in the capital, Lima. Police chief Victor Fernandez told the BBC the cargo could have fetched up to $250,000 (£160,000) abroad. Seahorse fishing is illegal in Peru, but the high prices paid for seahorse powder abroad make it difficult for the authorities to enforce the ban. Mr Fernandez said the cargo – three cases weighing 27.5kg (60 pounds) – was left behind following a police operation near the Lima’s airport. ”They are sent to Asian countries and used as aphrodisiacs. In China this product is also used to cure asthma,” he told the BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima. The marine fish, which finds northern Peru’s warmer waters a perfect breeding ground, is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). But Mr Fernandez said that last year a total of 20 tonnes of dried seahorses were seized across the world – half a tonne in Peru alone.’
www.bbc.co.uk 19th August 2012
A row has erupted between China and Japan over the arrest of a group of 14 Chinese protestors who set foot on the disputed islands known as Senkaku In Japan and Diaoyu in China. It is the first time non-Japanese nationals have set foot on the islands, which are owned by Japan, since 2004. The islands are largely uninhabited but are close to strategically important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds, and are believed to contain oil deposits. The activists arrived by boat and plane and their arrest immediately caused the Chinese government to call for their arrest. Chinese protestors also gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Shortly afterwards, 150 Japanese protestors also embarked for the islands but were prevented from landing by Japanese coastguard. Ten of the group swam ashore though and are now being questioned by police. Tensions have risen before when a Chinese trawler was apprehended by Japanese coastguard in September 2010 after it rammed two Japanese vessels. As Sino-Japanese relations plummeted though, the Japanese dropped charges.
e360.yale.edu 15th August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘A Brazilian judge has ordered a suspension of the controversial Belo Monte dam project, saying that local indigenous people who will be affected by the massive hydroelectric project were not sufficiently consulted during the environmental assessment process. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region found that no consultations were held with local communities before Congress approved what would be the world’s third-largest dam project. The $16 billion project, which is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of energy, would flood 260 square miles of rainforest in Brazil’s Para state and displace more than 20,000 people who depend on free-flowing rivers for their livelihoods. “The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities,” Prudente wrote. “Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project.” The developer of the project, Norte Energia, will be fined $250,000 per day if construction on the project continues. The company says it will appeal the decision to a higher court.’
www.guardian.co.uk 14th August 2012
The European Union has made radical changes to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, the world’s first comprehensive e-waste legislation introduced in 2003. The original legislation placed “producer responsibility” ‘on manufacturers that made them legally and financially responsible for the safe collection and disposal of old equipment’. However problems persisted with the export of e-waste to countries outside the EU for scrap. The updated directive ‘will impose a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules…new targets will require member states to collect 45 per cent of electronic equipment sold for approved recycling or disposal from 2016, rising to 65 per cent of equipment sold or 85 per cent of electronic waste generated by 2019, depending on which goal member states choose to adopt’. EU member states have until February 14 2014 to transcribe the new EU directive into their national e-waste laws.
www.e360.yale.edu 11th July 2012
Quoted from source:
“The European Union has introduced strict new auto emissions standards that officials say would cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2020. The new standard, which must be approved by all member states and the European Parliament, would require that new passenger cars emit no more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, compared with 130 grams today, and 147 grams per kilometer for vans. Connie Hedegaard, the European commission’s climate chief, said the new standards would help European automakers compete with foreign manufacturers and cut fuel costs for consumers. According to EU estimates, the average driver would save about €340 in fuel during the first year, and between €2,900 and €3,800 during the lifetime of the vehicle. In addition, the EU predicts it would save about 160 million tons of imported oil. Greenpeace officials, however, called the plan too weak, saying that, among other loopholes, it allows manufacturers to continue producing heavy-emitting vehicles in return for building zero-emitting electric cars, regardless of how many electric vehicles are sold.”
www.cnn.com 3rd July 2012
The Government Office Administration of the State Council of China has announced its intention to ban shark fins being served at official banquets. Shark fins are usually served in a soup that was originally reserved for the elite during imperial times. With the Chinese economic boom however, demand for the luxury dish has rocketed resulting in widespread and unsustainable shark fishing. Sharks are usually finned while still alive and the rest of the body is discarded. The demand for shark fin soup has been attributed to the increase of endangered shark species across the planet, rising from 15 in 1996 to 181 today. Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year. The move by the Government Office Administration came after a proposal was put forward in the National People’s Congress early last year. Although it may take as long as three years to implement, the ban would ‘help cut the cost of sometimes lavish banquets held for state functions.’ Several companies have also made moves to ban the product in China including the Peninsula Hotel and Shangri-la Hotels chains. Swissotel in Beijing has already stopped.
www.bbc.co.uk 22nd June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘On the final day of the UN sustainable development summit in Rio, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged governments to eliminate hunger from the world. The secretary-general said in a world of plenty, no-one should go hungry. The final phase of the summit has seen pledges from countries and companies on issues such as clean energy. But a number of veteran politicians have joined environment groups in saying the summit declaration was “a failure of leadership”. And UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the outcome as “insipid”. The meeting, marking 20 years since the iconic Earth Summit in the same city and 40 since the very first global environment gathering in Stockholm, was aimed at stimulating moves towards the “green economy”. But the declaration that was concluded by government negotiators on Tuesday and that ministers have not sought to re-open, puts the green economy as just one possible pathway to sustainable development. Mary Robinson, formerly both Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was not enough. ”This is a ‘once in a generation’ moment when the world needs vision, commitment and, above all, leadership,” she said.’
e360.yale.edu 14th June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Australia has announced that it will create the world’s largest marine reserve, a network of protected areas that will cover 1.2 million square miles, more than one-third of the country’s waters. Environment Minister Tony Burke, making the announcement in advance of the Rio+20 sustainability summit, said the action will expand the number of Australia’s marine reserves from 27 to 60 and will protect waters of the Coral Sea and other key ocean habitats. “It’ time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans, and Australia today is leading that next step,” said Burke. “What we’ve done is effectively create a national parks estate in the ocean.” Limited fishing and oil drilling will be allowed in some areas, and the fishing industry will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for reducing or eliminating commercial fishing in numerous tracts of ocean.’
LMV comment: only 1.1 million square miles of the world’s oceans were protected before the expansion, of which 310,000 square miles were in Australian waters. This move by the Australian government means that over half of the world’s marine reserves are now in Australia.
www.bbc.co.uk 13th June 2012
EU fishery ministers have provisionally backed a ban on the wasteful practice of discards, whereby fishermen throw back non-target fish that are caught up in their nets. This would see discards of Herring and Mackerel banned by 2014 and those of Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Sole by 2018. The latter four will take longer to implement because of their tendency to swim together, therefore making it harder to avoid catching non-target species. The ban in not binding however and came as a result of a compromise following 24 hours of intense discussions between ministers, who all agreed that overfishing should end by 2015, 2020 at the latest. However, green groups such as Greenpeace have condemned the wording of the ‘agreement’, particularly the sentence: ”quantifiable targets linked to biological parameters”. Greenpeace argue that targets should be governed by science, not linked to it.
Sign Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign now to keep the pressure on the EU Fisheries Commission to change.
Treehugger has just posted a series of photographs from the Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, from the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh. See a selection of the photographs below. They demonstrate how it is not just modern-day cities such as Beijing, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro that experience severe air pollution. Many cities that have relatively clear skies today such as Chicago, London, and Berlin also used to have dangerous smogs but these were tackled with curbs on emissions and stricter controls on air quality. Let us hope the industrialising nations manage to implement their own restrictions soon. These beautiful yet terrifying images are taken from war-time Chicago. The air quality is much the same as that LMV saw in the Beijing of today.
Guest editorial by Elizabeth Odegaard, University of Washington 1st June 2012
SEATTLE, Washington – Located in the eastern part of the state of Washington, near the city of Richland, is the Hanford facility. The 586 square miles that comprise Hanford make up the most contaminated and radioactive site in the western hemisphere. Hanford was built out of the Manhattan Project during the nuclear arms race in WWII as the ideal location for producing the plutonium for an atomic bomb. Making it an ideal site was its close proximity to the cooling waters of the Columbia River and its relative isolation from major cities. So, in 1942, families, farmers, and three Native American tribes were evicted from their own land to make room for the construction of the Hanford facility. Because of the extreme secrecy and security of the project, those that were evicted had no idea why, other than that it was in the name of “the war effort”. And the site itself was virtually impenetrable by anyone that didn’t work there. By 1944 plutonium production was underway at Hanford and in 1945 the atomic bomb containing plutonium from Hanford was dropped on Nagasaki. The effects of Hanford are global, not only in terms of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb, but because of the far-reaching implications of what is now one of the most radioactive and contaminated sites in the world. At the time the facility was built, the future implications that a nuclear processing plant would have on the environment were not considered, but current generations are now dealing with the consequences of the short-sighted decision. This area of Washington is currently home to fruit orchards, farm and agriculture land, and recreational sports and camping which means that contamination and radiation have direct effects on the health of the region.
The history of Hanford is rife with tension; political, economic, and surrounding the health and safety of people and the environment. Hanford is currently managed under the Tri-Party Agreement which includes the United States Department of Energy, The United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The tension and in-fighting over the distribution of money, and the power to make decisions, is endless. Coupled with the secrecy, distrust, and denial that has long been characteristic of Hanford, an effective clean-up process has so far been impossible. Each of these stake-holders is working toward different expectations of clean-up, under different budget constraints, and answering to different federal and state administrations. As a provision under the Tri-Party agreement, the Yakima nation represents the loudest Native American voice in the clean-up of Hanford but this has so far done little to truly further clean-up and speak for their specific rights. Many people, within each of these organizations, would agree that because of conflicting ideas of clean-up and pressures from outside forces, true collaboration is more or less impossible to achieve.
Plutonium production at Hanford continued until 1989 when the era of clean-up began. However, the challenge of clean-up is staggering. So far, only 2% of the radioactivity at Hanford has been immobilized. One of the biggest challenges is the 53 million gallons of nuclear waste stored in 177 underground tanks. A third of these tanks have leaked more than one million gallons of radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater that feeds into the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. The method of “disposal” used so far at Hanford includes the dumping of waste into miles of poorly designed trenches on the site. The future of waste management at Hanford looks to the operation of a Vitrification Plant that will immobilize the waste in the form of glass, encapsulating it in a secure cylinder that can then be ‘safely’ stored. However, the design and construction of the plant has been inefficient, slow-going, and expensive, and won’t even begin operations for what is estimated to be at least another ten years. Hanford is now the most expensive clean-up program and the largest public works project in the United States.
Plutonium is a man-made element with a half-life of over 24,000 years. This means that once it enters the body, through inhalation, consumption of contaminated food/water, or exposure to the skin, it doesn’t leave. The radioactive waste produced during the processing of plutonium is extremely dangerous, as plutonium is not only a carcinogen but also a mutagenic, it poses a serious health risk with long-term consequences for generations to come. In addition to the plutonium waste, other toxic chemicals, like chromium, tritium, uranium, strontium-90, and tetrachloride, have already contaminated the groundwater at Hanford, and threaten the Columbia River. Workers at Hanford, during both production and clean-up, as well as those living ‘down-wind’ from the facility, and people who use the Columbia River for recreational purposes, all face the continued dangers of potential exposure or contamination by an endless list of toxic chemicals. There are countless cases of people with cancers, thyroid diseases, and other illnesses because of radiation exposure or chemical contamination at Hanford.
Safe levels of radiation and chemical exposure are based on a “reference man” a statistical starting point that realistically only represents a small portion of the population; and the portion least at risk because it is based on a healthy, young, white male. Children have at least a three times greater risk of cancer than adults, and women are more vulnerable than men. The federal standard of ‘safe exposure’ from the Department of Energy is the least stringent and allows for 3 deaths out of every 10,000 people due to radiation exposure. The Washington State standard is 1 death per 100,000 people. These competing standards further reflect the challenge of collaboration and the problem of disjointed leadership perspectives at Hanford.
Hanford, though in many ways seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, has the potential to continue to have relatively unseen, but far-reaching effects. An earthquake or a chemical reaction at the facility has the potential to cause a massive radiation release, contaminating the air and waters of the Columbia River. As the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest, contamination of the Columbia would easily impact the Pacific Ocean and the marine and human life that relies on it for survival. Through the bio-accumulation of contamination, would likely perpetuate the exposure to humans and animals over great distances. Already, the river water along the shore of the facility has been tested and shown to have contaminants at levels greater than 1,500 times the drinking water standard. This poses a major threat to the health of the people and animals in contact with the river. This means that effective and thorough clean-up is necessary in order to prevent even more contamination in the future.
Though there is much contention surrounding Hanford, everyone can agree that it needs to be cleaned up; the disagreement is as to how that should be done. Hanford was built behind curtains of secrecy and justified with a vehement sense of patriotism. These qualities have made it extremely difficult to enact changes in clean-up policy and standards of health and safety as Whistleblowers are harassed and treated vilely; and the “good ol’ boy’s” club makes it virtually impossible to speak out against the ‘way things are’ at Hanford. The political willpower of the 1940’s that built Hanford, and constructed nuclear weapons, stands in great contrast to the current apathy and lack of collaboration on the part of the federal and state government and the stake holders there. Many organizations are working hard toward a collaborative clean-up effort with federal and state programs, and give voices to those that are affected by Hanford.
If you would like to learn more about Hanford and the clean-up effort please explore some of the resources below.
Hanford Challenge: A non-profit organization working on a collaborative clean-up of Hanford
The United States Department of Ecology: One of the Tri-Party stake holders
Physicians for Social Responsibility: A non-profit organization working on environmental and social concerns related to Hanford
Heart of America Northwest: A citizen’s group that works in pursuit of Hanford clean-up
LMV recently wrote a post about the ‘First Fish War‘, which is our interpretation on the brewing dispute over the South China Sea. However, China and the Philippines are not the only two countries that are arguing over fishing rights in territorial waters. If fact, this is a problem that is regularly seen across the globe but rarely reported about. For example, when LMV was filming out in the Cayman Islands we interviewed the former head of police for marine conservation. He told us that in the 90s the Cayman Coastguard had to chase Japanese fishing vessels out of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone because the ships were stealing tuna.
More recently, the BBC has reported a dispute between Spain and Gibraltar, a UK territory on the southern tip of Spain. According to the report, Spanish naval police escorted several Spanish fishing vessels into Gibraltar waters where they cast their nets near to Gibraltar harbour. The Royal Gibraltar Police surrounded the vessels, who did not leave the area until a Royal Navy ship, HMS Sabre (above) arrived on the scene. The use of large nets in Gibraltar waters is illegal under an environmental law. Although Spain disagrees with the UK’s ownership of Gibraltar, which has been a colony since 1713, the standoff between Spanish police and a UK military vessel is still surprising considering it is between two European countries. Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz stated to reporters: “We are not going to accept intimidations or humiliations. What the government is doing is defending the fishing rights of our fishermen.”
This particular clash comes amid a growing argument between northern and southern European countries on reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP, see the hard work done by British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall and his Fish Fight, above). Northern countries, such as those from Scandinavia, Germany and the UK have been pushing for greater reforms to the CFP in order to reduce discards, reduce the size of fishing fleets, and increase wild fish stocks. Their efforts have been sabotaged by southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and France who are more interested in the short-term future of their large fishing industries. The fact that these reforms are being discussed seriously at all is a huge step but also highlights just how serious the problem of over-fishing has become. Clashes such as those between Gibraltar and Spain and China and the Philippines are only going to become more common. Whereas violence is very unlikely in the northern Mediterranean due to the overarching influence of the EU, LMV is not so optimistic about the problem of the South China Sea.
www.latimes.com 24th May 2012
Los Angeles, California, became the largest city in the USA to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts. In a city that has previously used 12 billion plastic bags a year (with only 5% of these being recycled), the decision the City Council is a huge victory for environmental campaigners trying to combat plastic pollution in the region’s landfills, waterways and ocean. The Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out bags over the next 16 months in the city’s 7,500 stores. California leads the way in the country with plastic bag bans. San Francisco was the first in 2007 and since then San Jose, Santa Monica, and Long Beach have all jumped on the wagon. The bans vary in wording with some silent on the contentious issue of paper bags (a long-held argument of plastic-bag manufacturers is that plastic bags reduce the amount of trees needed for paper bags) although the LA City Council has stipulated there should be a charge of 10c per paper bag. This, according to Jennie R. Romer of plasticbaglaws.org, has resulted in a 94% reduction of their use (a similar figure to the drop experienced in Rep. of Ireland when the country introduced a fee on plastic bags). Oakland, next to San Francisco, had less success with their ban after they were successfully sued because of it. It will however be included in Alameda County’s ban starting next year.
The National Geographic November 2011 Issue
Decades of civil war has taken its toll on the rich biodiversity of the East African Rift Valley, a monumental geological phenomenon that separates the Nubian tectonic plate from the Somalian plate before forking down either side of Uganda. The region has seen the numerous conflicts over the last century including the most deadly since WWII: The Great African War, which saw around 5 million die. It also happens to be home to the highest biomass of large mammals in the world as well s huge reserves of important minerals such as gold, tin and coltan. This, combined with the huge population increase that places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen recently (for example in Goma, pictured, which is located next to an active volcano), has made for a volatile situation. People want land, and there is only a limited amount to go around.
For the national parks of the area, times are not good. Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park founded in 1925, is a ‘warzone’ with many people already settled inside the park’s boundaries. The lodges are gutted and tourism is almost non-existent following the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The remaining park rangers are constantly battling with local militias, called Mai-Mai fighters, who control illegal fishing and charcoal production. Conogolese soldiers stationed on the western shore of Lake Edward have decimated populations of megafauna. 96% of the park’s hippo population has been slaughtered and sold for bush meat by militias. If the park rangers’ job is hard enough, they also face direct threats to their lives. In response to the rangers destroying illegal fishing boats (the fishing fleet of Lake Albert has swelled from 760 in the 1960s to 6,000 today), the Mai-Mai have put out bounties on the rangers. Furthermore, 100,000 villagers have demanded the government to reduce the park by 90%, or they’ll take it by force.
The Ugandan Queen Elizabeth Park (above), established in 1952, is not a lot better. By 1980 elephant numbers had dropped from 3,000 to 150. A common belief among the crowded villages is that national parks are making the population poor. In Uganda’s Kagombe Forest Reserve, a presidential decree has disallowed National Forestry Authority from evicting immigrant settlers, largely because of the upcoming elections. In order to placate the native populations about the rise of immigrants, politicians then announced that they too should seize land (see picture below). Most wildlife has now been hunted out of the reserve, a once important corridor for chimps and other animals. According to the forestry authority’s sector manager, Patrick Kakeeto, “they’re cutting all of this down and we can’t touch them. For us, it’s kind of psychoprofessional torture.”
www.lemonde.fr 19th April 2012
Yesterday (18th April), French Prime Minister Francois Fillon officially signed into being the country’s tenth national park near Marseille. Covering an area of 150,000 hectares (of which 43,500 are at sea), ‘le parc national des Calanques’ (roughly translated: Creeks National Park) even covers some suburb areas of Marseille, the second largest city in France with a population of 800,000. The mayor of the city, Jean-Claude Gaudin, was a supporter of the project because, he says, the great beauty of the area had brought in people who didn’t care for the preservation of the local environment. However, there are those who fear the creation of the new ‘parc national’ will bring in too many restrictions on local activities, more development, and the alienation of the local community. Semeriva Francis, a 66 year old represented a community of cabanoniers (people who own small holiday sheds) in the Sormiou Marie valley, was particularly worried: ”There is no one more environmentally friendly than we are. The creeks, they were always protected, while the creation of the park will attract millions more people and with them new regulations. Cabanoniers will be treated like tourists.” Others worry about increased pollution brought about by new development. Not so long ago, the infamous Marseille ‘Red Mud’ blighted the park from sewage outflows within the area that is now the park.
The first French national park, La Vanoise, was set up in 1963 and covers 53,500 hectares in the Savoie region.
www.bbc.co.uk 17th April 2012
A government appointed panel has stated that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is more commonly known, should resume in the UK. The technique, used to extract gas trapped in underground rock, was put on hold following two earthquakes felt in the area of Blackpool due to fracking operations by a company called Cuadrilla. The panel was put together by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and their report on the process now goes out for a six-week consultation period before the DECC makes any final decisions. Although similar to a report put together by Cuadrilla that admits the company was responsible for the Blackpool earthquakes, the DECC appointed panel’s report claims other earthquakes could well happen, something Cuadrilla denies. However, these earthquakes are not likely to be larger than 3 on the Richter Scale (the previous two were 2.3 and 1.5 in April and May last year respectively). A decision to re-allow fracking in the country has angered environmentalists and conservationists who believe the coalition government (David Cameron’s self-described ‘greenest government ever’) should be doing more to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fracking uses a combination of water and industrial chemicals that are sprayed at high-power into underground rock formations to loosen gas reserves trapped within them. In the US, there have been reports of contamination of the local water supply as a result, which in worst case scenarios causes tap water to become flammable.