Hey, a cheery article! what's that doing here?


Kaua'i cave tells 10,000-year tale
JAN TENBRUGGENCATE | The Honolulu Advertiser

[For information about the cave, write to makauwahi@gmail.com or call (808) 482-1059. Tours are given from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays.]

MAHA'ULEPU, Kaua'i — The Makauwahi Sinkhole, the largest limestone cave complex in the Hawaiian Islands, is yielding an unprecedented look into Hawai'i's history, with a record of life that dates back 10,000 years.

The findings from a multiyear archaeological dig at the sinkhole have profound implications for proposals to reforest parts of the archipelago with native vegetation, since it shows that coastal forests included a wide range of plants long thought to be limited to upland habitats.

The site also reveals a rich array of bird life, and has changed the current understanding of what pre-human Hawai'i looked like.

Read more... )

Yay? Gas co. invests in renewables, sort of

Making hydrogen from natural gas isn't actually renewable. Why they're not building a giant wind-powered conversion plant in North Dakota, I don't know. (Good wind resources, low population, and if you're converting it there, it gets around the transmission bugaboo.) Have I beat that particular horse to death yet?

BP Poised to Invest Billions On Alternative Energy, Renewables
29 November 2005
Power Market Today

BP on Monday said that it plans to double its investment in alternative and renewable energies to create a new low-carbon power business with the growth potential to deliver revenues of around $6 billion a year within the next decade.

BP Alternative Energy will manage an investment program in solar, wind, hydrogen and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power generation, which could amount to $8 billion over the next ten years. The move builds on the success of BP Solar, which expects to hit revenues of $1 billion in 2008, BP said.

BP chief executive John Browne said the first phase of investment would total some $1.8 billion over the next three years, spread in broadly equal proportions between solar, wind, hydrogen and CCGT power generation. Investment will be made step by step, and will depend on the nature of opportunities and their profitability. Read more... )

(no subject)


Islands battle rising seas for survival
By Michael Perry
Tue Nov 22, 8:11 PM ET
The Carteret Islands are almost invisible on a map of the South Pacific, but the horseshoe scattering of atolls is on the front-line of climate change, as rising sea levels and storm surges eat away at their existence.

For 20 years, the 2,000 islanders have fought a losing battle against the ocean, building sea walls and trying to plant mangroves. Each year, the waves surge in, destroying vegetable gardens, washing away homes and poisoning freshwater supplies.

Papua New Guinea's Carteret islanders are destined to become some of the world's first climate change refugees. Their islands are becoming uninhabitable, and may disappear below the waves.

Read more... )

You know how we export hazardous waste? Apparently, we import it, too.

I was lax this week with the cheerful articles. But I'm back.

Texas Observer
Political Intelligence:
Linky here

They steal across the border in broad daylight, bound for Texas and points beyond. Wherever these border-crossers end up, they plan on staying for a long, long time. Although they are dangerous and possibly sin papeles, even the Minutemen, those infamous border vigilantes, are ignoring them. These Mexican invaders aren’t people, but shipments of hazardous waste. And they flow into the United States with increasingly lax oversight from the federal and state government.

Under an environmental agreement signed during the Reagan administration and reinforced by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. must accept waste generated at Mexican maquiladoras for disposal here—111,000 tons in 2002. Much of the hazardous waste—benzene and the pesticide heptachlor, for example—ends up in landfills near the border, such as a BFI facility near Harlingen. Thousands of tons are also trucked out of state to far-flung sites in South Carolina, Minnesota, and other states.Read more... )

CAFOs and the regulation (or lack) thereof

7 November 2005
Superfund Report
Vol. 19, No. 23
Copyright (c) 2005 Inside Washington Publishers. All Rights Reserved. Also available in print and online as part of www.InsideEPA.com.

Lawmakers have rejected a controversial amendment to the agriculture spending bill, which EPA alleged would have jeopardized a pending enforcement agreement with animal feeding operations by exempting the industry from cleanup and reporting requirements under Superfund law.

A conference committee on the bill decided Oct. 26 not to include the amendment sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) after it prompted concerns from EPA, Democrats and environmental groups. Read more... )

Why is this important? Many farming activities are exempted from environmental laws; in some ways, farming is like the last frontier of environmental regulation. Since agriculture has been becoming more concentrated, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs, rhymes with pesos) are becoming more common. CAFOs are defined as point sources under the clean water act, but often have discharges due to things like breaks in the protection around their manure lagoons or even from rainfall causing the lagoon to overflow. And there are nuisance odors and undoubtedly air quality impacts. And what of the classification of manure as a hazardous substance under CERCLA? It would open the door to getting polluted sites on the list eligible for government funding for cleanup. However, since the industry tax which supported Superfund expired about a decade ago and to my knowledge has not been reauthorized, Superfund is pretty much broke anyway, so it's not as if it would lead to an increase in clean-ups (imho, of course). I think what they (CAFOs) are more worried about is that this opens the door to manure being a hazardous substance for other agencies (OSHA, EPA) it would mean all sorts of more regulations. Side point I need to look up later because I don't know: does OSHA cover agribusiness?

Other reading:

On CAFOs, from the Sierra Club

History of this law by CAFOs for CAFOs here. (And there's a charming little brief on marking your open sewage lagoon from the same people over here.)

(no subject)

7 November 2005
Superfund Report
Vol. 19, No. 23
Copyright (c) 2005 Inside Washington Publishers. All Rights Reserved. Also available in print and online as part of www.InsideEPA.com.

EPA is forming a new environmental justice panel to address widespread concerns that the needs of poor and minority communities are not being considered in the response to and rebuilding of hurricane-damaged areas.

The new advisory committee -- which EPA is forming under the auspices of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) -- will examine the environmental justice issues raised in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and recommend new federal policies on the issue, agency advisers and other sources say.

As EPA forms the new panel, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, is considering recommendations from environmental justice activists that will also address the issue in an upcoming guidebook it is developing for communities facing natural disasters. Read more... )

Regulations and how they are Formed

7 November 2005
Superfund Report
Vol. 19, No. 23
Copyright (c) 2005 Inside Washington Publishers. All Rights Reserved. Also available in print and online as part of www.InsideEPA.com.

A federal public health agency is proposing to weaken its informal risk screening level for perchlorate in public health assessments conducted at Superfund and other hazardous waste sites, a move that an agency official says will bring it in line with EPA's recently adopted risk level while also making the standard more scientifically defensible.

The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) last month proposed adopting 0.0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day as a chronic oral "minimum risk level" (MRL) for such screenings -- the same level the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended earlier this year as "safe" and EPA subsequently adopted. That corresponds with a 24.5 parts per billion health-protective level, Chris De Rosa, ATSDR director of toxicology and environmental medicine, told Inside Washington Publishers. Read more... )

Two articles on plastic bags

Markets and S.F. agree on reducing bag use / Goal is 10 million fewer plastic sacks for grocery shoppers
Charlie Goodyear
3 November 2005
The San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco officials have struck an ambitious deal with large supermarket chains to reduce by 10 million the number of plastic grocery bags given to shoppers by the end of next year.

The agreement comes after political support for a proposed 17- cent tax on grocery bags in San Francisco -- which would have been a first for any American city -- failed to materialize earlier this year. Read more... )

SAN FRANCISCO / Bagging public reactions / Grocery customers talk about carrying on after the change
Patricia Yollin
Chronicle Staff Writer
4 November 2005
The San Francisco Chronicle

Usually when Alex Moses shops for groceries, she brings canvas bags, string bags and paper bags with her. But when she left a supermarket Thursday afternoon, her cart had nothing but plastic bags in it. Five of them.

"I'm feeling guilty," said the Russian Hill artist. "I didn't bring my bags today."

She'd planned to buy only one item at the Marina Safeway. But many things were on sale, and they were hard to resist.

The day after San Francisco and some of its biggest supermarket chains agreed to cut the number of plastic grocery bags that are handed out -- the goal is 10 million fewer by the end of 2006 -- shoppers assessed the politics and realities of plastic. Read more... )

What is a tree worth?

I pulled these off the end of an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, so I assume the numbers are all Canadian dollars.

What is a tree worth?
3 November 2005

According to a study for the City of North Vancouver:
  • Average annual benefits: $94 per tree per year
  • Annual costs for pruning, watering etc.: $18 in 2003
  • Benefit to cost ratio: more than five to one.

Breakdown of benefits, per tree
  • Reduced air-conditioning costs: $1
  • Sequestered carbon dioxide: $2
  • Reduced air pollution: no dollar value provided
  • Reduced storm runoff: $12
  • Property-value increase: $78

New planes to lower pollution, but when?

Much like "Bush Vows to Eliminate US Dependence on Oil by 4920"? Or a solution to the problem?? I don't know. I know I fly too much to be sustainable...but on the other hand, my sacrifices just allow other people to do whatever they want, so.

The future of flying is batwing -and it's all to save the planet
Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
2 November 2005
The Times
(c) 2005 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

AIRLINE passengers of the future will have to do without window seats and fly in giant "batwing" aircraft as a result of aviation industry proposals to tackle climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions from flights will continue to increase for at least another 20 years -even under the most optimistic timetable for introducing these new planes. Read more... )

Wal*Mart goes on the offensive (because the little guys need to fight back?!?)

I know that a lot of places are showing the anti-Wal*mart film mentioned here; buyblue.org is promoting it. (I will be out of town when everyone is showing it and I bet you a nickel it won't play here.

A New Weapon For Wal-Mart: A War Room
1 November 2005
The New York Times
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 26 -- Inside a stuffy, windowless room here, veterans of the 2004 Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns sit, stand and pace around six plastic folding tables. Open containers of pistachio nuts and tropical trail mix compete for space with laptops and BlackBerries. CNN flickers on a television in the corner.

The phone rings, and a 20-something woman answers. ''Turn on Fox,'' she yells, running up to the TV with a notepad. ''This could be important.''

A scene from a campaign war room? Well, sort of. It is a war room inside the headquarters of Wal-Mart, the giant discount retailer that hopes to sell a new, improved image to reluctant consumers. Read more... )

What is organic?

Wal*mart wants a vote, which instantly makes me suspicious. Although I am a little bit unhappy with what Stonyfield Farms does with their cows, so. All in all, I would rather see "Made with organic ingredients" than a watering down of the standard (not that the USDA standard was ever that tough, but.)

What Is Organic? Powerful Players Want a Say

A Struggle Over Standards In a Fast-Growing Food Category
1 November 2005
The New York Times
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.

Customers at McDonald's restaurants in New England are about to get something a little different when they order coffee. Through a deal with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Newman's Own, McDonald's will soon be serving a coffee that comes from organic beans and is certified Fair Trade because it meets higher standards in the treatment of coffee workers.

The move, while still a test in a limited region, reflects a much broader trend: The growing interest among large food companies in offering organic foods along with their standard products.

General Mills markets the Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen brands; Kraft owns Back to Nature and Boca Foods, which makes soy burgers. Within the last few years, Dean Foods, the dairy giant, has acquired Horizon Organic and White Wave, maker of Silk organic soymilk. Groupe Danone, the French dairy company, owns Stonyfield Farm.

Wal-Mart wants in, too. ''We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food,'' Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, said at a recent shareholder meeting. ''It's a great example of how Wal-Mart can appeal to a wider range of customers.'' Read more... )

L@@K! Another place that needs a massive infrastructure investment!

What was the last news you heard out of Malawi? Yeah, me neither. And, as always, it's cheerful.

Malawi Is Burning, and Deforestation Erodes Economy
1 November 2005
The New York Times
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.

MALOSA, Malawi -- Lovely and lissome, the masuku tree rises maybe 35 feet at maturity, its wood the hue of a rare steak, its branches dotted with sweet golfball-size fruits that ferment into a tasty wine.

Working just after sunrise atop a small mountain not far from here, Injes Juma and his nine friends needed less than five minutes to sever a masuku at its base and send it crashing to the ground. Read more... )

Out West, a Paradox: Densely Packed Sprawl; L.A. Area Growing Crowded the Fastest

Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
2,536 words
11 August 2005
The Washington Post
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved

Sure, it looks like sprawl.

From atop this hill near the port of Long Beach, greater Los Angeles splays out through the midsummer haze as a low-rise suburban muddle stitched together by freeways.

But take a closer look: What you knew about sprawl turns out to be wrong.

Read more... )

Siberian permafrost beginning to thaw


Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat
It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005


A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists
warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and
Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

Read more... )


The language in this article really bugs me. The "technology will save us and we should continue to dump stuff" attitude bothers me. The untrue concept that GMOs are regulated in this country bothers me - these things reproduce on their own and are less tested than pharmaceuticals. Is anyone else worried?

Beyond food and drugs, biotech fights pollution
AP Biotechnology Writer
917 words
4 July 2005
05:00 am GMT
Associated Press Newswires
(c) 2005. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

On the site of a former hat factory in Danbury, Conn., a stand of genetically altered cottonwood trees sucks mercury from the contaminated soil.

Across the continent in California, researchers use transgenic Indian mustard plants to soak up dangerously high selenium deposits caused by irrigation of the nation's bread basket.

Still others are engineering trees to retain more carbon and thus combat global warming.Read more... )

The World Bank

I know people get terribly het up about the Bank, but I had a grad school seminar on it that really made me thing that that's not the institution that's the most damaging.  I regret that I didn't get to take the IMF or WTO classes, which might have been ridiculously informative.  Anyway, here's a Post article that kind of summarizes a lot of the points, namely that the Bank is full of well-intentioned smart people who are trying very, very hard to make the world a better place, rather than the sort of people who (I imagine) work at the IMF. (All right, the first couple of paragraphs are kind of cutesy.)

I guess I think it's important that people trying to make the world a better place, we separate out the difference and recognize that not all the Breton Woods institutions are equally bad. Of course, there are people who are against the Bank because it's the only way to get a handle on the IMF, and that's reasonable...but anyway, here you go.

World Bank's Loan Rangers
In the Global Village on Pennsylvania Avenue, Interest in Fighting Poverty Is Compounded Daily

By Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005; C01

Even now, after the demonstrators shouting and the finance ministers whizzing around in their limousines, after all the fussing about Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz taking over last week, who really knows what the World Bank does?

Read more... )

(no subject)

Because K-zilla asked for it, an article about monkeys using money:

Link here: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/magazine/05FREAK.html?pagewanted=all

June 5, 2005
Monkey Business

Keith Chen's Monkey Research

Adam Smith, the founder of classical economics, was certain that humankind's knack for monetary exchange belonged to humankind alone. ''Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog,'' he wrote. ''Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.'' But in a clean and spacious laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital, seven capuchin monkeys have been taught to use money, and a comparison of capuchin behavior and human behavior will either surprise you very much or not at all, depending on your view of humans.

Read more... )

The DDT Debate

I've heard people bring up DDT as the one savior for Africa's malaria problem and was having mixed feelings about the whole thing; I've spent some time in (Southern) Africa, and am conflicted.  On the one hand, if it's wrong to use a pesticide here, it's not right to use it somewhere else.  On the other hand, Africa has *so* many problems Right Now, it seems wrong to withhold anything that might help alleviate suffering.

However the Post had an article yesterday that made me feel better about opposing DDT. And here it is, by an entomologist with some experience: If Malaria's the Problem, DDT's Not the Only Answer.