Earth 2002 - 2003


"Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents.
It was lent to you by your children."
  
                                                                --Kenyan proverb
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged
by
the way its animals are treated."
  
                                                                --Gandhi
"The Earth is not dying, it is being murdered and the people    
murdering it have names and addresses"

                                                                   --Earth First!

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2003.


Matriotism for Mother Earth
Seal saviors - a passion for saving sea creatures
Forget oil -- Water is the crisis
Sleeping in the Forest: poem by Mary Oliver

2002.
Our Sacred Earth

Earth seen from the moon

 

2004    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rattlesnake Ledge, North Bend, Washington

 

 

 

 

 

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"Until he extends his
circle of compassion
to include all living
things, man will not
himself find peace."

    --Albert Schweitzer

 

All articles reprinted
under the Fair Use
doctrine of
international

copyright law
(
http://www4.law.
cornell.edu/uscode/
17/107.html
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.

 

All articles reprinted
under the Fair Use
doctrine of
international

copyright law
(
http://www4.law.
cornell.edu/uscode/
17/107.html
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.

 

 

Water Facts

"It takes a single drop of water to start a wave          
But it takes all the drops of water to be still..."          

...on the state of the World's Freshwater crisis.

(Source: The United Nations, Division for Sustainable
Development)

* ...1.2 billion people lack access to safe water, roughly
on-sixth of the world's population and 2.4 billion or 40 percent of
the world's people lack access to adequate sanitation services.

* ...Some 6,000 children die every day from diseases
associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene.

* ...Unsafe water and sanitation cause an estimated 80 percent
of all diseases in the developing world.

* ...Women and girls tend to suffer the most as a result of the
lack of sanitation facilities.

* ...One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as the
average person in the developing world uses for a whole day's
washing, drinking, cleaning and cooking.

* ...Water use has grown at twice the rate of population during
the past century. The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia
are chronically short of water. In developing countries, as much
as 90 percent of waste water is discharged without treatment.

* ...Overpumping groundwater for drinking water and irrigation
has caused water levels to decline by tens of metres in many
regions, forcing people to use low-quality water for drinking.

* ...Losses of water through leakage, illegal hook-ups and
waste amount to about 50 percent of water for drinking and 60
percent of water for irrigation in developing countries.

* ...Floods affected more than 75 percent of all people
impacted by natural disasters during the 1990s and caused over
33 percent of the total estimated costs of natural disasters.

...On groundwater.

(Source: Save Our Groundwater, The Water Stewards Network
and Kirkpatrick Sales)

* ...The New Hampshire Legislature has stated that "surface
water and groundwater are an integrated public resource to be
conserved, protected, and managed for the public good." NOT
PRIVATE PROFIT!!!

* ...Less than 1% of the Earth's water is available for human
use; groundwater represents 8%.

* ...97% of the Earth's available freshwater is stored in
reservoirs underground secured in bodies of rock, called
aquifers.

* ...The Ogalla aquifer, the main source of water from South
Dakota to Texas, is being pumped out eight times faster than it
can be restored by nature.

* ...2 billion people depend on groundwater as their primary
supply of drinking water.

* ...Conventional agriculture is primarily responsible for
groundwater depletion and for approx 70 percent of its pollution.

* ...Extracting a large quantity of water on a regular bases could
cause a shift in groundwater flows and draw contaminants such
as MtBE, mercury and arsenic into our drinking water.

...On bottled water and water privatization.

(Sources: Save Our Groundwater and The Water Stewards
Network)

* ...Access to water is defined as a human right by the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the United
Nations in 1948.

* ...The World Trade Organization (WTO) has defined water as
a "good", "service" and "investment".

* ...The WTO rules trump national and international law.

* ...The potential global water market is estimated at $1 trillion.

* ...The World Bank currently has $20 billion in commitments
for water projects.

* ...Water utilities are being bought and sold by big,
international corporations who manage them to make a profit by
raising town water rates. Major players include: Vivendi, Kelda
Group, Suez, RWE/Thames Water Bottled water is a $35 billion
dollar industry worldwide. In 2000, US sales rose 9.3% to 5.7
billion.

* ...USA Springs stated publicly that it intends to sell the water
it bottles overseas.

* ...Two treaties govern international trade: the North American
Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
and they may supercede local and state laws.

* ...Over 90% of the cost of bottled water is in the bottle , lid
and label.

* ...More than 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle
water.

* ...A quarter of the 89 billion litres of water bottled worldwide
annually are consumed outside their country of origin.

* ...The Global Water Partnership (GWP), the World Water
Council (WWC) and the World Commission on Water (WCW)
were established to soften the public image of the corporate
agenda for water.

* ...In 2000, The 2nd World Water Forum established water as
a commodity.


...On damming and water management projects.

(Source: The Water Stewards Network)

* ...Extensive damage is caused by large damming projects.
The most common problems are siltation, water logging,
salination, and in some cases, induced earthquakes from
abnormal pressure placed on the earth, not to mention
displacement of thousands of people.

* ...The downstream effects of dams include the loss of
fisheries, contaminated water, decreased amounts of water, and
a reduction in the fertility of farmlands and forests due to the loss
of natural fertilizers and irrigation in seasonal floods.

* ...Dams spread waterborne diseases.

* ...The average large dam today is about 35 years old. Since
average construction periods generally range from 5-10 years,
this indicates a worldwide annual average of some 160-320 new
large dams a year.

* Dams, inter basin transfers, and water withdrawals for
irrigation have fragmented 60% of the world's rivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Sour Lake' suit finally gets trial -- in Ecuador

ChevronTexaco accused of Amazon dumping

Jack Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2003


When Texaco quit drilling in Ecuador in 1992 after nearly 30 years, it left behind what critics describe as an enormous toxic dump of 1.8 million gallons of spilled crude oil -- almost twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

But next Tuesday, 30,000 jungle residents of Ecuador and Peru whose natural surroundings were forever spoiled will finally get their day in court.

In an unprecedented hearing, a three-judge panel in a remote Amazon town called Lago Agrio -- or "Sour Lake," in reference to the oil dump -- will start hearing claims that the plaintiffs should be paid $1 billion by ChevronTexaco Corp. The behemoth oil company based in San Ramon inherited the lawsuit after merging with Texaco in 2001. ChevronTexaco was the Bay Area's No. 1 firm in revenue earnings last year, taking in $99 billion.

The case is remarkable not only for its endurance -- it has survived 10 years of legal wrangling over the matter of venue alone -- but because a landmark decision by a New York federal court last August stipulated that any financial penalty imposed on ChevronTexaco in Ecuador be recognized in the United States.

"It's a major shock for corporations that for the first time an environmental case is transferred to a foreign country where a judgment is enforceable in the United States," said Joseph Kohn, one of the plaintiffs' lead attorneys and a partner in Kohn, Swift & Graf, a class-action firm based in Philadelphia.

Even so, ChevronTexaco's position is that moving the case to Ecuador represents a victory for the firm.

"We have maintained all along that the Ecuadoran court system was the proper venue for this case," said Chris Gidez, a spokesman for ChevronTexaco, the world's second-largest oil company. "The plaintiffs fought for years for that not to happen."

The plaintiffs, mostly members of such Amazon tribes as the Cofan, Secoya and Siona, had struggled to get their case tried in White Plains, N.Y., the site of Texaco's pre-merger headquarters. They alleged that Texaco officials made the decision there to save billions of dollars by dumping contaminated water befouled by the drilling operation into 350 man-made waste pits rather than reinjecting this toxic waste back into the earth, as has been the industry's standard practice.

Kohn, however, argues that a shift in the political climate in Ecuador could work in his clients' favor.

Ecuador "could come out like Brer Rabbit," he said, referring to the classic folk tale character who symbolizes victory of the weak over the powerful. " 'Don't send us to the briar patch,' but when we get there, we are glad we are there."

The original class-action lawsuit -- Maria Aguinda et al. vs. Texaco Inc. -- alleges that Texaco dumped nearly 20 billion gallons of toxic waste into the open pits, estuaries and rivers between 1964 and 1992, exposing residents to cancer-causing pollutants. It also alleges that Texaco polluted 2.5 million acres of pristine rain forest along the route of the pipelines and wells. Although Texaco's entire drilling operation took place in Ecuador, some of the pollution made its way across the nearby Peruvian border, contaminating waterways there as well, the lawsuit says.

Gidez says there is no substantiated scientific evidence to support the plaintiffs' claims that Texaco's operations caused cancer in Amazon residents. He also says the lawsuit never factored in oil spills from political sabotage, a 1987 earthquake that destroyed nearly 25 miles of pipeline, or environmental destruction caused by a government colonization program that opened up untouched lands to hundreds of thousands of poor Ecuadoran peasants. He also points out that ChevronTexaco was a minority partner with Petroecuador, the state-owned oil company, and spent $40 million in a three-year cleanup of their Amazon operations between 1995 and 1998.

"At every step of the way, the remediation program was monitored and certified by the Ministry of Energy and Mines," said Gidez.

Last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York upheld a 2000 district court decision to dismiss the lawsuit in the United States for being an inconvenient venue (the legal term is forum non conveniens), since the plaintiffs live in Ecuador and Peru and sustained their alleged injuries there, and the court could not easily visit the contaminated sites.

Some legal scholars say American multinationals typically use forum non conveniens to avoid liability in U.S. courts.

"Large corporations want these cases kicked back to developing nations like Ecuador, where they have an advantage," said Alejandro Garro, professor of comparative and Latin American law at Columbia University in New York City. "These countries don't have a judicial system capable of handling thousands of plaintiffs and are not known for being efficient or independent. And in Ecuador, there is no power of discovery, which means Chevron- Texaco doesn't have to turn over any document that it doesn't want to."

But Garro concedes that the new political climate in Ecuador will place "tremendous pressure on the court." The case has made front-page news in local newspapers and is a hot political issue in the impoverished Andean nation.

Ecuador's new leader, President Lucio Gutierrez, is a populist who co-governs with an indigenous party and has appointed two Indian leaders to his Cabinet who openly support the plaintiffs. Foreign Minister Nina Pacari is the first Indian ever to hold that post in Latin America, and Agricultural Minister Luis Macas is the former president of a leading indigenous organization.

A delegation of 12 rainforest Indians representing five Amazon tribes is expected to arrive in the Bay Area sometime this month to protest at ChevronTexaco headquarters and gas stations, and seek support at local community centers, schools and churches.

"People have been waiting for nearly 30 years for justice," said Leila Salazar, ChevronTexaco campaign organizer for Amazon Watch, a nonprofit environmental group in Oakland that will sponsor the delegation's trip. "I don't think an Ecuadoran court will let it slide easily."

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

All articles reprinted
under the Fair Use
doctrine of
international

copyright law
(
http://www4.law.
cornell.edu/uscode/
17/107.html
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rollbacks and rollovers

The assault on California's environment

Bill Lockyer
Sunday, April 20, 2003


Air, beaches, old-growth redwoods and spawning salmon recognize no political boundaries. Yet, they are the stakes in an continuing struggle between California and the federal government that could shape our environmental future.

Californians enjoy a landscape of unmatched grandeur. As we prepare to count our blessings on Tuesday, the 33rd annual Earth Day, we also know first- hand the damage caused by pollution. Our state ranks second only to Texas -- President Bush's home state -- in carbon dioxide emissions.

Against this backdrop of great beauty challenged by man, California has enacted and enforced the nation's toughest environmental protection laws. Its people repeatedly have supported funds for environmental causes. These investments have produced dramatic results. Stage 1 smog alerts in the Los Angeles region dropped from 121 in 1977 to zero since 1999. We reduced smog- causing emissions from passenger vehicles by more than 90 percent.

But we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, our hard-earned advances, and our environment, now face a clear and present danger. The threat comes from our federal government, and it cuts across the spectrum of environmental law. The Bush administration has deployed an anti-environment arsenal that includes rollbacks of existing protections, efforts to pre-empt the state's enforcement authority and exemptions for federal-government polluters. Squarely in the administration's crosshairs are the resources Californians hold dear -- our forests, our coastline, our deserts, our rivers and streams and our wildlife.

It wasn't always this way. In the past 40 years, state and federal officials have united to safeguard and restore environmental quality. President Richard Nixon signed into law the Clean Air and Endangered Species acts. President Ronald Reagan showed respect for California's environmental policy by declaring that states are best able to "discern the sentiments of the people and to govern accordingly."

President Bush, however, has discarded his party's better notions of environmentalism and federalism. And now, protecting our natural resources and laws from the federal government's actions ranks as one of our biggest environmental challenges. We are determined to meet the challenge.

The Bush attack has been well-documented and launched on many fronts:

-- attempting to short-circuit state review of offshore oil-drilling leases;

-- allowing the commercial logging of 3,000 truckloads of timber in the Giant Sequoia National Monument;

-- slashing federal protection of wetlands;

-- reducing industrial air polluters' obligation to install stronger emission controls when they expand operations;

-- failing to legally defend federally designated wildlife habitats under the Endangered Species Act; and

-- providing federal agencies wholesale exemptions from cleanup and protection laws.

One case in particular illustrates how aggressively the Bush administration has moved to encroach on California's enforcement of its environmental laws. The federal government long ago granted California the authority to adopt stricter air quality standards than federal rules. In line with that authority, the state adopted a regulation that requires a certain percentage of cars to produce zero emissions.

But automakers sued to block implementation of the mandate. They contend the rule effectively sets fuel economy standards, a power reserved exclusively for the federal government. Last year, the Bush administration filed a friend- of the-court brief supporting the industry's flawed argument. We are now litigating this case in federal appeals court.

The administration's action was unprecedented -- and inconsistent with the president's State of the Union pledge to invest in zero-emission, hydrogen- fueled vehicle research. New state regulations may render the case moot. But they will not erase the Bush administration's anti-environment alliance with industry.

Bush's December 2002 proposal to allow commercial logging, road building and related activities in the Giant Sequoia National Monument also warrants special mention. The Bush administration insists that eliminating 100-year-old Sequoias is needed to prevent fires. But Giant Sequoias need wildfires to thrive. The slashing, burning and flattening of 79,000 acres is more tragic and destructive than any natural fire. We oppose the administration's plan, and we will defend the Sequoias and our other resources against this sweeping federal attack.

John Muir wrote of the Sequoia: "No other tree in the world, as far as I know, has looked down on so many centuries . . . or opens so many impressive and suggestive views into history." For the generations of future centuries, will Muir's "big trees" reveal we stood firm and preserved California as a natural wonder?

Bill Lockyer is California's attorney general.


San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget oil -- Water is the crisis

Lee Gaillard
Friday, March 14, 2003


Remember Coleridge's bright-eyed, half-crazed Ancient Mariner? "Water, water, every where,/ Nor any drop to drink," he chanted. He was right. We are running out of water.

That's why this week's U.N. World Water Forum (Sunday through March 22 in Kyoto, Japan) is perhaps the most important international water conference in history. Our blue planet may be 70 percent oceans, but you can't drink seawater or use it to irrigate crops. Nevertheless, drawing on relatively limited amounts of accessible freshwater, humanity has more than tripled its water use worldwide since 1950.

Some results:

-- The Ogallala (underlying the Great Plains) and other key aquifers in India and China continue unrelenting declines.

-- During the growing season, the entire Colorado River vanishes into city water systems and farmland furrows before it can empty into the Gulf of California; for the same reasons China's Yellow River no longer reaches the sea.

-- In Central Asia, irrigation drawdown of two inflowing rivers has already caused the Aral Sea to drop 75 percent in volume and 50 percent in area.

-- In Africa, the area of Lake Chad has shrunk by 95 percent since the 1960s.

-- A two-year drought in sub-Saharan Africa has caused a famine likely to claim 300,000 lives.

Implications are unsettling: the Global Water Policy Project forecasts that within 12 years, "nearly 3 billion people, or 40 percent of projected world population," will live in water-stressed countries. What then?

In his "History of Warfare," John Keegan notes that by 3000 B.C., Sumerian cities had begun squabbling over pasturage and water rights. Five thousand years later, a 1990 Washington Post article indicated that the Center for Strategic and International Studies forecast potential "unprecedented upheaval" and "possible military conflict over water rights in the future." A 2001 National Intelligence Council report concurred, warning that international competition for water continues to grow, jeopardizing supplies to the extent that by 2015 "the possibility of conflict will increase."

Indeed, violence is already erupting: in February 2000, the populace of the third largest city in Bolivia rioted in the streets against police and soldiers -- over water. La guerra del agua, they called it. An ominous wake-up call from Cochabamba.

Although heavy snowfalls blanketed the eastern United States this winter, remember that for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region the preceding winter of 2001-02 was not only warmer than normal but also one of the driest in recent memory. By early spring, reservoir levels had plunged, forcing several states to declare drought emergencies and impose mandatory water restrictions. 2001? Maine's driest year ever, and from 1987 to 1992 California withered in drought. The list goes on.

Despite these unmistakable warning signs, silence from Washington prevails: No national commission on water usage policy; not a peep concerning proactive regional and national watershed management; no mandates for community water conservation planning or recycling by industry.

Some drastically water-stressed and farsighted local communities have had to take the initiative. In California, for example, Orange and Los Angeles counties are routing millions of gallons of recycled water daily to reinjection wells to recharge local aquifers. San Diego is studying two potential construction sites, hoping that by 2006 desalinated seawater will supply 20 percent of the city's water needs. In Florida, Tampa Bay's new $110- million reverse osmosis desalination plant is the largest in the Western Hemisphere, supplying 25 million gallons of freshwater per day.

So there is hope. And the seminal 2003 World Water Development Report scheduled for release during the World Water Forum addresses 11 crucial "challenge areas" involving competing demands for shrinking supplies and contains seven case studies (from the Senegal River basin in Africa to the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Ozero watershed in northeast Europe), protocols for which could serve as planning templates for water conservation and management initiatives in other regions of the world.

But if government inaction, nationally and internationally, continues to impede planning, funding and allocation of technologies to supplement dwindling global water reserves, it may be too late. The Ancient Mariner's message could portend payment in untold suffering.

Lee Gaillard is an environmental writer who lives in Philadelphia.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water is a matter of public debate

Dennis Kucinich
Friday, March 14, 2003

Every human being has the right to clean water. In the United States, water has long been considered a vital resource and thus managed in the public interest by local governments accountable to their constituents.

The mission of a public water system is simple: Deliver safe, clean and affordable water to you and your family. Public works projects funded and built our existing water infrastructure, which has served us well during the last century. But our water infrastructure is beginning to show signs of age. Pollution, decaying pipes, depleted aquifers and other problems pose real threats to the U.S. water supply and communities across the nation are looking for ways to bring water systems up to safe and modern standards.

Privatizing water systems, however, is not the answer. Private companies, seeking to extract profits from municipal water systems, dangle lofty promises in order to gain control of local water systems. Corporations want people to believe that only they can efficiently manage water systems.

They seek monopoly contracts to run water systems for generations, or to expand the outright corporate ownership of water supplies and infrastructure.

Yet, from Atlanta to the United Kingdom to Huber Heights, Ohio, private water providers have charged higher rates, deteriorated water quality and failed to make assured investments. In fact, privatization failed so miserably in Atlanta that the city ousted United Water, only four years into a 20-year contract. Four years of broken promises and managerial debacles was more than enough.

Residents in many California communities are increasingly concerned with local water systems falling into the hands of a distant corporation. In Stockton, where city officials recently voted to privatize the public water system, citizens are responding by going door-to-door to collect signatures in an effort to nullify the City Council's decision.

I strongly believe that public control and public administration of the public's water supply is the only way to guarantee the universal human right of access to clean water. A grassroots movement of people is working to protect water from privatization by offering many alternative solutions to solve the global water crisis. Direct citizen participation should be encouraged when basic services such as water are being discussed. I hope that at the World Water Forum, which begins Sunday in Kyoto, Japan, this international movement of people will be heard.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is the ranking member of the House National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations Subcommittee. For information on the World Water Forum, see www.world.water-forum3.com.


San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeping in the Forest

by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me,
the insects and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Center for Global Environmental Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Si,  North Bend, Washington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth's temperatures heating up

Averages to rise 8 degrees by end of century, climate scientist says

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Monday, February 17, 2003


Denver -- A leading government climate scientist predicted here Sunday that average temperatures around the world will rise by as much as 7 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit before the end of this century -- a major climate change that could affect widespread crop fertility and the economies of many industrial nations.

The senior scientist did not take sides on the current conflict between the United States and the rest of the industrialized world over mandatory control of so-called greenhouse gases called for by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which the Bush administration strongly opposes.

But he did contend it is obvious by now that corporate leaders of U.S. industries and power plants need to be making serious efforts to curtail their emissions of the heat-trapping gases -- principally carbon dioxide -- that are affecting climate.

Warren Washington, chief of the Climate Change Research Group at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., offered his long- range forecast here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where climatologists and physicists are discussing the various computer models they have created to explain past climate changes and the forecast for the near-term future.

"It's clear," Washington said, "that we're in the midst of a rapidly changing climate that has accelerated in the past 25 years." It makes the last ice age -- an event that ended more than 10,000 years ago -- a "mere minor perturbation," he said.

In only the past 25 years, he said, global average temperatures have already risen between a third and eight-tenths of a degree, and pace is increasing even now, he said.

Scientists have created a wide variety of computer models in efforts to understand the many factors that can affect climate, and these can include, for example:

Long-term changes in Earth's orbit around the sun which can increase or decrease the solar energy that reaches the planet; major natural events like volcanic eruptions that can cloud the entire atmosphere with gases and ash for centuries, and long-lasting forest fires that can rage for years and darken skies with long-lasting soot.

On the basis of the most recent computer models by many groups -- including those developed by his own colleagues at Boulder -- Washington said, "Scientific confidence in the ability of the models to project future climate has increased." Recent experiments as well as routine monitoring, he said, "have found evidence of global climate changes already occurring that are much larger than can be explained by the climate's natural variability."

Many scientists have been considering efforts to help rid Earth's atmosphere of carbon dioxide by "sequestering" the gas as it emerges from the plants that emit it. Some advocate technologies that would scour the atmosphere and somehow send the gas deep into the ocean; others believe it could be buried deep underground -- in whose back yard, they don't say.

"Sequestering the carbon dioxide burden would slow down the pace of climate change appreciably," Washington conceded. "But we also ought to start cutting back on emissions as a precautionary principle -- because every time you put a single carbon dioxide molecule into the atmosphere, it stays there for 900 to 1,000 years or so."

Washington is a 40-year veteran of climate research, and leads the Boulder team's development of computer climate models. He is also chairman of the National Science Board and has been an adviser on climate issues to five presidential administrations, from Jimmy Carter to President Bush.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean scientists study mysterious zones near Pacific shore

New research shows marine protection laws are terribly outdated, they say

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Sunday, February 16, 2003

Denver -- Researchers exploring life along thousands of miles of the Pacific coast have discovered unexpected regions where some species grow to maturity and others are either threatened or surprisingly abundant.

The findings, they say, require major changes to outdated laws and regulations that for decades have controlled coastal fisheries despite scant knowledge of the ecological realities governing life in a zone stretching from a few yards to a few miles offshore.

Marine scientists from four West Coast universities have joined together to open what some researchers have termed the "black box" of scientific ignorance about what lies just off the Pacific coast. They discussed their work here Saturday during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The nation's ocean policies and practices simply do not reflect current scientific knowledge and concepts such as the importance of habitat, of interactions among species, or the overall workings of an ecosystem," said Jane Lubchenko, a marine biologist at Oregon State University and former president of the national scientific organization meeting here.

"The principal laws designed to protect our coastal zones, endangered marine mammals, ocean waters and fisheries were enacted 30 years ago on a crisis-by-crisis basis," Lubchenko said, "and the result is a hodgepodge of policies and practices that are at striking odds with our current scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems."

Among the major findings, said Stephen Palumbi of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, is that, rather than extending across the entire Pacific, many species of fish and marine organisms inhabit small coastal "neighborhoods" that can be easily managed and protected.

Palumbi and his colleagues have closely studied one species of barnacle whose newborn larvae have long been thought to drift hundreds of miles along ocean "highways" -- currents that may sweep from continent to continent. By studying the organism's DNA with the tools that make genetic engineering possible, Palumbi's group found that local populations of barnacles and larger organisms live within small areas of just 6 to 12 miles.

"If we're going to manage the ocean, it's really going to be on a neighborhood basis, not as just one big mix up and down the coast," he said.

Robert Warner, an evolutionary marine biologist at UC Santa Barbara, and his colleagues have been studying the localized habitats of fish and marine mammals by tracking the chemical signals of metals in their growing skeletons as their larvae and young drift through ocean "neighborhoods." The Global Positioning System satellite network also helped open up the "black box" of coastal zones, he said.

UC Santa Cruz researcher Margaret McManus is learning more precisely than ever how the larvae of rockfish -- whose many species are increasingly threatened along the coast -- spend months floating amid the microscopic plankton in previously undetected thin layers of the sea's upper regions before they move as young adults into the deeper kelp regions where they mature.

McManus and her colleagues have used acoustic sensors on the ocean bottom to track the movement of the rockfish during successive episodes of the El Nino and La Nina weather patterns, which have a profound effect on the movement of nutrients in the near-coastal ocean.

Rockfish include some 60 species of fish -- snapper, sole, flounder and others among them -- and all are becoming increasingly scarce. Just last October, state officials banned all fishing throughout 130 square miles around the Channel Islands and the Santa Barbara coast.

The scientists reporting on their work Saturday have created a Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans to continue their research and encourage the creation of new marine reserves to manage coastal life with policies based on solid science.

More information is available at www.piscoweb.org.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Organic' losing meaning

Late addition to spending bill kills feed requirement for meat

Carol Ness, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 14, 2003

That pretty, pink Rosie chicken in your supermarket's butcher case gets to call itself organic because, among other things, it eats only organic feed during its life.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif: "This is another example of a special interest, anti-consumer, anti- environmental rider attached to a bill without public discussion," she said. "Organic farmers in California deserve better, and consumers who depend on the integrity of organic products deserve to know the truth."

But under a provision slipped into the huge federal spending bill at the last minute, chickens may be able to eat anything and still carry an organic label. The same is

true for cows, pigs and lambs raised for their meat -- and consumers would have no way to tell the difference.

The 3,000-page spending bill passed the House late Thursday after last- ditch Democratic efforts to strip out the organic provision failed. The Senate also passed the bill late Thursday.

The change is keyed to the supply of organic chicken feed at not more than twice the cost of nonorganic feed.

"This is a sad day," said Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz. He was one of seven people who wrote the original draft of federal organic food standards and worked on revisions that took 12 years. They took effect in October.

The provision "puts at risk the term 'organic' across the board," Scowcroft said. "If a single private company can amend the Organic Food Act in the dead of night, who's to say that another company won't come along and do it again, and again?"

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., agreed.

"This is another example of a special interest, anti-consumer, anti- environmental rider attached to a bill without public discussion," she said. "Organic farmers in California deserve better, and consumers who depend on the integrity of organic products deserve to know the truth."

The rider was added to the spending bill, reportedly by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on behalf of Georgia Republicans seeking to help Fieldale Farms of Baldwin, Ga. Last year, Fieldale asked the USDA to change the feed requirement, but the agency refused after public outcry.

At the time, Fieldale Farms complained about the supply of organic feed. But organic feed producers have contended that the supply is fine, and that it's the prices that some farmers don't like.

Changing the law doesn't mean that organic producers such as Petaluma Poultry would change what they feed their chickens. "Absolutely not," said partner Dave Martinelli, who fought against the proposal last year.

"I'm just shocked at this," he said of the move. "It goes completely against all the principles that we farm under."

The change would mean his farm would be competing with chicken farmers who go with cheaper, nonorganic feed. And consumers who want a chicken -- or meat from any other type of animal -- raised on organic feed would have no way to tell them apart. Both would be called organic.

In a letter urging his fellow Senators to defeat the change, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the new standards "have been enthusiastically welcomed by consumers" and that the proposal "would undermine public confidence" in them.

The rider came to light just a day before the vote, in one paragraph on page 88 of the USDA's appropriation. And it stirred up an instant storm.

A leader of Oakland's Environmental Working Group, an advocacy and lobbying organization, warned that much more than chicken feed was at stake.

"It creates a precedent that other producers can use to attack the standards -- they can say you did it for this guy, so do it for me," said Bill Walker, its vice president. "The principle is something people in California fought for for a long time, and the principle is what's in jeopardy."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polluted bodies

Ruth Rosen
Monday, February 3, 2003


WHEN MICHAEL LERNER volunteered to give blood and urine samples to medical researchers, he figured they'd only find a few chemicals in his body. After all, Lerner, the president and founder of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Marin County, has lived in Bolinas for 20 years, eaten a healthy diet and avoided exposure to industrial chemicals.

He was wrong. Researchers found his body polluted with 101 industrial toxins and penetrated by elevated levels of arsenic and mercury.

Scientists call such contamination a person's "body burden."

Lerner was one of nine people -- five of whom live and work in the Bay Areas -- who were tested for 210 chemicals commonly found in consumer products and industrial pollution. Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the Environmental Working Group of Oakland and Washington, and Commonweal collaborated on this innovative study of the body burden.

At press conferences held in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., last week, researchers revealed these shocking results: On average, each person had 50 or more chemicals linked to cancer in humans and lab animals, considered toxic to the brain and nervous system or known to interfere with the hormone and reproductive systems. (The Environmental Working Group's Web site www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden/ features biographies and toxic profiles for each person as well as the kind of products that contain such chemicals.)

Lerner was astounded. "Being tested yourself brings the body burden home in a very personal way." For years, he has lived with a condition that causes a hand tremor. Now he suspects why. "Mercury and arsenic both cause tremor, so I've stopped eating all fish that have high mercury levels."

Lerner's wife, Sharyle Patton -- co-director of the Collaborative on Health and Environment -- also participated in the study. To her surprise, the Bolinas resident had as many toxins as people who have lived in cities. In fact, she had the highest levels of dioxins and PCBs -- both highly toxic substances -- of anyone in the test group. "What we learned," says Patton, "is that we all live in the same chemical neighborhood."

Lerner, who has devoted his life to promoting the health of people and the planet, hopes that such bio-monitoring tests will become routine and affordable. "Body burden tests," he says, "are the thermometer that gives us our body's chemical fever. In a prudent world, no household would be without a chemical thermometer in the medicine cabinet."

But individual tests only provide information; they don't reduce our contamination. "The truth is," Lerner says, "we are unwilling participants in a huge chemical experiment, which would never be permitted by the FDA if these chemicals came to us as drugs. But because these chemicals enter us from industrial and agricultural sources, they are not subject to testing that would ensure our safety."

The report therefore calls for "the reform of the Toxics Substance Control Act, under which chemical companies may put new compounds on the market without any studies of their effect on people or the environment."

Andrea Martin, founder and former executive director of the San Francisco's Breast Cancer Fund, strongly supports the recommendation. Martin is a breast cancer survivor who climbed Mount Fuji in 2000 with 500 breast cancer survivors and supporters. More recently, she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor unrelated to breast cancer.

Martin, who also gave samples to the Body Burden project, was stunned by the results. "I was completely blown away," she told me. "There were 95 toxins,

59 of which were carcinogens."

Martin has never worked with or near chemicals. But she now wonders whether her formative years may have turned her into a self-described "walking toxic waste site."

When she grew up in Memphis, she and her friends loved to get splashed by the streams of insecticide sprayed by trucks that roamed the neighborhood. Later, she indulged a passion for water skiing -- in lakes clouded by chemical pollutants.

"Where did I get all these PCBs and dioxins?" she asks. "I'll probably never know."

In fact, no one is sure how industrial and synthetic chemical residues -- even long-banned pesticides such as DDT -- end up in our bodies. But scientists suspect that chemicals first pollute the air, soil, food and water, then climb through the food chain and finally accumulate in our blood, fat, mother's milk, semen and urine.

I asked Martin if she regrets getting tested. "At first, I was really angry.

But I believe knowledge is power. We're starting to learn that pollution isn't only in the air, soil and water; it's also in us."

She also wonders whether her chemical body burden has caused her cancers. "We'll never know," she says, "because right now chemical companies don't have to prove the safety of their products and no government agency has ever studied the health risks that can be caused by chemical toxins."

That may change. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control also issued its second report card on the body burden of chemicals carried by Americans. Using data from 2,500 anonymous donors, the CDC provided further evidence that chemical residues have polluted the bodies of most of us.

Although no one yet knows what amount of trace chemicals are harmful for human health, scientists and environmental health activists worry about the cumulative assault on our health.

No one wants his or her body to be another pollution site. Still, lobbyists for the chemical industry resist further regulation. "As a result," says Martin, "we're living in a toxic stew and they are, quite literally, getting away with murder."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breast Cancer in California

Search for a cause

Jeanne Rizzo
Monday, February 3, 2003


While we are heartened to see the country's concern and attention focused on the escalating rates of breast cancer incidence and mortality in Marin County, we cannot indulge the inclination to look only in the easy, well- lighted places for answers, such as known risk factors in this specific demographic group. We are losing the "war on breast cancer" in no small part because we have been slow to look anywhere but under the lamppost.

Breast cancer risk in the United States has nearly tripled in the past 50 years, with 1 in 8 women expected to face the disease in her lifetime. Known risk factors associated with affluence and education may contribute to these escalating rates, but they certainly do not fully explain them. To depend too heavily on this explanation ignores the fact that breast cancer rates are increasing across all socioeconomic groups.

Most important, more than half of all breast cancer cases in the United States remain unexplained by all known risk factors, including age at menarche and first pregnancy; lack of breast-feeding; diet and exercise; and genetic risk. The failure to fully investigate this unexplained majority allows breast cancer to continue its relentless march into more and more bodies.

To stop the epidemic in its tracks, we must dedicate our attention to finding something equally as challenging and elusive as a cure -- we must find the causes. Identifying the root causes of breast cancer will allow us to prevent the disease.

Breast cancer is one of many diseases and disorders that have increased dramatically in recent years. Rates of other cancers, autism, asthma and birth defects are also rising, causing scientists and advocates to question the effects of industrial chemicals on our bodies.

Since World War II, more than 85,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced into the environment -- but fewer than 10 percent have been tested for their effects on human health.

What does this have to do with breast cancer? Many of the chemicals found in our air, water, food and soil are suspected or known carcinogens. Some take up residence in the fatty tissues of our breasts and mimic the effects of estrogen or disrupt the endocrine system in ways we do not fully understand.

New research methods can deepen our understanding and provide life-saving information. Biomonitoring research measures "personal pollution" by testing blood, urine and breast milk for chemicals rather than estimating exposures in the air, water or workplace. Biomonitoring studies have shown that breast milk,

once the purest food on the planet, has been contaminated by more than 200 synthetic chemicals.

On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the most extensive report ever on Americans' exposure to chemicals. The report gives us quantifiable evidence that toxic chemicals have invaded our bodies without our knowledge or consent.

We must continue to broaden our scope of research, but we have enough evidence linking breast cancer with environmental toxins to compel action now. We must take precautionary measures -- both personally and in public health policy -- to reduce exposure to harmful pollutants.

We do a great disservice to all women in the grip of this devastating disease, and all who live in fear of it, to be satisfied with any explanation that does not fully explain what is causing breast cancer and what can be done to prevent it.

The high incidence rates in the Bay Area command attention, but the staggering number of women suffering from breast cancer will not remain unique to Marin County and should not be dismissed as a problem for Marin alone. These numbers sound the alarm for the rest of the country, and demand a different approach if we are to halt the rising tide of this devastating disease.

Jeanne Rizzo is the executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund (www.breastcancerfund.org), a national, nonprofit breast cancer prevention organization based in San Francisco.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breast Cancer in California

An epidemic we cannot afford

Joe Nation
Monday, February 3, 2003


Why is Marin County's breast cancer rate the highest in the nation?

The theories are seemingly endless. Many blame environmental factors. However, rates are not as high in neighboring Bay Area counties. Some say it's due to socioeconomic factors. Marin women tend to be older and more affluent and therefore are more likely to get regular annual exams and mammograms, leading to a higher diagnosis rate. Others fault lifestyle choices such as delaying childbirth or drinking alcohol often.

No matter what the causes, we must find a cure.

Research toward finding a cure for breast cancer or lung cancer or testicular cancer or any cancer benefits all people battling this deadly disease. But finding a cure means money -- money from the federal government, the state, business and private donors. This money fuels invaluable cancer research projects. We cannot afford to eliminate any of the funding sources. Moreover, all funding sources need to work together to optimize our chances of finding a cure through cancer research.

One important funding source at the state level is the Cancer Research Section of the California Department of Health Services. Established in 1998, the Cancer Research Program provides state funds for cancer research with an emphasis on gender-specific cancers. So far, the program has funded two cycles of awards, which have granted more than $86 million to 182 cancer research projects.

These projects include clinical research, epidemiology, biological studies and prevention of specific cancers. For example, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco have received more than $900,000 through the Cancer Research Program for specific studies on ovarian cancer. The program has also obtained $2.5 million in state spending to establish the Translational Cancer Research Technology Transfer Program, which facilitates the transfer of recent laboratory and clinical advances to the public.

Because Marin County has the highest breast cancer rate in the state and nation, the California Legislature recognized that it is the best place to study all aspects of the disease. So, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 to be distributed by the Cancer Research Program specifically for the Marin County Health Department to do community-based breast cancer research. The data from this research will be available for use on a statewide basis.

Despite last year's extremely difficult budget year, California's 2002-03 budget contained further funding for these vital cancer projects. Specifically,

the 2002-03 budget preserved $12.5 million allocated to the Cancer Research Program. Because of this year's enormous budget shortfall, however, all government-funded programs face deep cuts in the coming budget year. In fact, Gov. Gray Davis has proposed eliminating state-funded cancer research for the 2003-04 budget.

I am extremely disappointed by the governor's decision, and I will do all that I can to restore and fund cancer research -- for Marin County and all of California -- in the upcoming fiscal year.

Joe Nation is a state Assembly member representing Marin and Sonoma counties. He chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Cancer Detection, Prevention and Research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Resources on the Line

The Bush administration's assault on the environment

Barbara Boxer
Sunday, January 19, 2003

On the last day of 2002, the Bush administration issued a ruling designed to undermine the "dolphin safe" tuna label. It was a fitting end to a year in which the administration repeatedly and relentlessly attacked the environment. Now it seems that no one is immune from these attacks -- not even the dolphin, whom we have protected for the past 12 years under a program popular with consumers and fishermen alike.

In all my years in public life, dating back more than 20 years, I have never seen an administration more hostile to our environment. At every turn, it has sacrificed our environment on the altar of special interests. In doing so, it has endangered our people and our planet.

The Bush administration's war on the environment comes at a time when we need environmental protection more than ever:

-- Asthma is now the leading cause of hospital admissions for children.

-- Toxic waste threatens 1 in 4 Americans, including more than 10 million children, who live within four miles of a toxic waste dump and are at risk for numerous health problems.

-- Lead poisoning affects nearly a million children under age 5 in this country.

-- Chemical compounds continue to threaten chronic exposure as their number and quantity increase. Since 1975, at least 75,000 new chemical compounds have been released into the environment through consumer and industrial products, many without basic toxicological testing.

Protecting our environment has long been a basic American value embraced by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Early in the country's history, statutes were passed protecting wildlife and forest resources. A Democrat, Harry Truman, signed the Clean Water Act. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, first set aside for protection the land now known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was a Republican, Richard Nixon, who signed into law the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Another Republican, George H. W. Bush, signed the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments into law. And a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, signed the Superfund law.

One hundred years ago, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said, "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."

Unfortunately, President Bush does not subscribe to Roosevelt's sentiment and does not share the values of past presidents from both parties. Instead of protecting our natural resources, he allows them to be squandered. Instead of protecting our environment, he offers plans and prescriptions to plunder it. Since his first day in office, Jan. 20, 2001, Bush has worked to roll back more than 200 laws and regulations that protect our public health and environment.

One of his first initiatives was a failed attempt to keep the level of arsenic in drinking water at high levels that were established in 1942, before arsenic was a known carcinogen.

Soon afterward, the president did an abrupt about-face on his campaign promise to address climate change, withdrawing from an international treaty and refusing to take concrete steps to address the issue.

He proposed to deny Medicaid testing of poor children for lead poisoning, then withdrew the plan after public outcry. But he stacked the expert panel on lead poisoning with industry representatives.

Bush has vigorously pursued oil drilling in some of America's most pristine places, targeting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite evidence that drilling would devastate the landscape and the native people's way of life for a pittance of oil. He is also in favor of drilling along California's coast.

Bush has opened 58 million acres of public forests to roads, logging and other forms of destruction and is now working at further weakening forest protections, especially those that benefit wildlife.

The administration is supporting a Department of Defense request for sweeping exemptions from environmental and public health laws, despite absolutely no evidence that any further exemptions are needed for national security.

The president has abandoned the principle of "polluter pays" and shifted the cost of cleaning up Superfund sites -- the nation's most toxic areas -- from the polluters to the taxpayers. In some cases, he has halted funding for cleanups altogether. He is the first president in more than 25 years not to support a tax on polluters to pay for Superfund-site cleanups.

Right after the 2002 elections, Bush moved forward with the most sweeping rollback of the Clean Air Act in its 30-year history in order to allow the oldest, dirtiest industrial facilities to increase pollution.

And when individual states exercise the constitutional right to protect their citizens, the president has intervened in order to protect corporate special interests. In California, the administration fought in court against California's right to protect its coast from offshore oil and gas drilling. Most recently, Bush joined the auto industry in court to argue against California's right to clean up its air and decrease auto emissions.

After two years, it is clear that Bush has a consistent and systematic environmental policy: to sacrifice the health of our families and every natural resource -- including grasslands, wetlands, forests, oceans, rivers, parks and wildlife -- in favor of special interests. In doing so he has turned his back on California values and American values.


Barbara Boxer, who has represented California in the U.S. Senate since 1993, is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and chaired the Superfund, Toxics, Risk and Waste Management Subcommittee in the last Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Dolphin safe' label update

Chronicle staff and news services
Sunday, January 19, 2003

  • Background: On Dec. 31, the National Marine Fisheries Service ruled that imported tuna caught with huge nets that encircle dolphins can be sold to Americans as "dolphin safe," as long as onboard observers certify that no dolphins were killed or injured.

    The change would primarily affect tuna from Mexico, a major exporter that has been kept out of the U.S. market for more than a decade because its tuna boats drop nets on dolphins. Dolphins swim above schools of tuna and were dying in the hundreds of thousands each year before U.S. conservation groups led a campaign to change fishing practices.
  • Court action: Earth Island Institute and other conservation organizations had planned to ask a federal judge in San Francisco for a temporary restraining order against the new rule. But early this month, the Bush administration agreed to retain the former standards until a hearing could be held on a preliminary injunction in March. But until a federal judge approves this agreement, the new rule stands.
  • Legislation: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has introduced the Truth in Tuna Labeling Act of 2003, which would strengthen a 1990 law that then-Rep. Boxer co-sponsored with Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., to ensure that tuna fishing will not result in the killing, serious injury or intentional chasing and harassing of dolphins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD

MoveOn Peace Bulletin, International Edition
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Susan V. Thompson, Editor
Leah Appet, Editorial Assistant

Read online or subscribe at:
http://www.peace.moveon.org/bulletin.php3#sub


CONTENTS


1. Ozone Hole Closing
2. Kyoto Protocol to Take Effect Soon


1)
OZONE HOLE CLOSING
In September, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization announced that the hole in the ozone is closing. It should fully recover by 2050 if current trends continue. At its peak, the hole was three times the size of Australia. A global ban on CFCs under the Montreal Protocol of the 1990's has helped reduce CFC usage to the point where their levels in the atmosphere have begun to fall. Scientists say that the closing of the hole demonstrates how well global environmental protocols work, which could help gain more support for the Kyoto Protocol.
http://www.aig.asn.au/ozone_hole_closing.htm

This is a short interview with one of the Australian scientists who helped conduct the research on the ozone hole. You can either read the transcript or listen to it using Media Player.
http://www.abc.net.au/am/s678136.htm


3) KYOTO PROTOCOL TO TAKE EFFECT SOON

The Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emmissions will take effect when it is ratified by enough countries to total 55 percent of emissions covered by the treaty. More than 95 countries have ratified it so far. The U.S. and Australia have been the only countries to reject any possibility of ratifying the treaty.

The U.S. refusal to ratify has been viewed as particularly damaging since the U.S. is accountable for a whopping 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The U.S. refusal thus meant that in order to come into effect, the Kyoto Protocol had to be ratified by almost every other country.

Canada was the most recent country to ratify, after months of debate over the issue and heavy lobbying by the energy industry.
http://www.greenhousenet.org/news/Dec-2002/ratifies.html

Since China has also ratified, the Kyoto Protocol is now one country away from taking effect. If Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, it will take effect even despite the U.S. refusal to participate. The good news is that Russia has already promised to ratify "in the near future."
http://www.news24.com/News24/WorldSummit/
0,5733,2-1381_1251831,00.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Weather Plagues Africa

Scientists say 40 million facing starvation may be first human victims of climate change

Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Thaba-Tseka, Lesotho -- The crops here in the rugged mountains of Lesotho are failing because the rain came much too early. And much too late.

There were hailstorms and tornadoes, too. Then an early frost killed most of the maize sprouts that had survived the earlier bizarre weather.

Now this tiny kingdom of subsistence farmers tucked into southeastern South Africa is in the midst of a famine; the World Food Program estimates nearly one-third of Lesotho's 2.1 million people will need emergency handouts this year.

Village elders like Makhabasha Ntaote, the 70-year-old matriarch of a huge and hungry extended family, believe something has gone haywire in the cosmos. The weather patterns, they say, no longer form patterns.

"Frost in the summertime!" Ntaote marveled. "We never used to see weather like this. We don't know what to expect anymore from the skies. I think God is angry at us, but I don't know why."

Many scientists say Ntaote, along with nearly 40 million other Africans at risk of starvation, may be among the first human victims of global climate change.

The scientists are wary of attributing any specific weather event to general warming trends, and they are careful to note that the causes of the famine stalking the continent include not only erratic weather but war, intractable poverty, corrupt governance and the AIDS epidemic.

Still, climate experts say the "extreme weather events" that have plagued countries like Lesotho in recent years are remarkably consistent with predictions for a warmer world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecast that Africa will be particularly vulnerable to the water shortages, disease outbreaks and food crises that are expected to be intensified by global warming, and the experts warn that a 30-year drought in the Sahel region that has scorched fields in Chad, Mali, Gambia and Mauritania could be a harbinger of other disasters.

The International Red Cross has documented steady increases in weather- related disasters in Africa and around the world, and most experts say the risks will increase with time.

"In short," said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, "the prospect of climate change for Africa is not good."

Cynthia Rosenzweig, a NASA research scientist who studies the impact of climate change on food security, said there was already strong evidence of a warming trend in Africa, far beyond the well-publicized melting of Mount Kilimanjaro's glaciers in Tanzania.

"It's an amazing thing for a scientist: The things we've been predicting for years are starting to happen now," Rosenzweig said. "It's already having real effects on vulnerable people. And the predictions get even worse."

Lesotho is almost entirely dependent on rain-fed subsistence farming; it has virtually no irrigation. And most of the South African mining jobs that once provided livelihoods for its people have disappeared. With the world's fourth-highest AIDS rate, Lesotho is not well positioned to absorb shocks to its system. And for two straight years, the rudest shocks have come from the weather.

"We've all seen a great change in the weather," said Teboho Maskane, as he loaded maize donated by the World Food Program onto his donkey. "Our farms do not give us food anymore."

A recent U.N. report found that average farm yields in Lesotho have declined by more than two-thirds since the 1970s. Soil erosion is spreading fast, and soil fertility is deteriorating even faster.

"Agriculture in Lesotho faces a catastrophic future," the report warned. "Crop production is declining alarmingly and could cease altogether over large tracts of the country if steps are not taken."

The most egregious meteorological problems began after the planting season at the end of 2001, when torrential rains washed away many seeds. Then came a dry period just when the remaining crops needed rain to grow, ruining the harvest -- which falls in May, during autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. The rain finally arrived in June and July, too early to be of use for planting, then stopped well before the traditional rainy season. After it finally rained, in late October, and farmers began to plant, a summer frost killed most of their crops.

That was before three hailstorms.

"We're trying to figure out what's going on," said Joalane Mphethi of the Lesotho Meteorological Service. "The timing is all wrong. It's somehow shifted.

We're going to have to adjust our models."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals, plants show fast response to warming

Stanford, Texas teams see northward shift, earlier development

Usha Lee McFarling
Los Angeles Times Thursday, January 2, 2003

Gradual warming over the past century has forced a global movement of animals and plants northward, and it has sped up such perennial spring activities as flowering and egg hatching across the globe -- two signals that the Earth and its denizens are dramatically responding to a minute shift in temperature, studies from Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin conclude.

One study shows that animals have shifted northward an average of almost 4 miles per decade. Another shows that animals are migrating, hatching eggs and bearing young an average of five days sooner than they did decades ago, when the average global temperature was 1 degree cooler.

That 1 degree, according to the studies, has left "climatic fingerprints" --pushing dozens of butterfly and songbird species into new territories, prompting birds and frogs to lay eggs earlier, and causing tree lines to march up mountain slopes.

In some cases, the shifts have been dramatic. The common murre, an Arctic seabird, breeds 24 days earlier than it did decades ago. And some checker-spot butterflies shifted their range northward by almost 60 miles in the past century.

Although many individual shifts in timing and range have been reported by field biologists, the studies published in today's issue of Nature are the first to establish that a variety of organisms in myriad habitats are responding in similar ways to climatic change.

"There is a consistent signal," said biologist Terry Root, a senior fellow at Stanford's Institute for International Studies and lead author of one report. "Animals and plants are being strongly affected by the warming of the globe."

Root said she was surprised that the two studies, conducted independently, were able to detect the effect. She said she thought the increased temperature was too small to cause widespread change.


TEMPERATURE'S IMPACT 'A SHOCK'
Root also said she expected that any damaging effects of climatic change would be unnoticeable amid the enormous habitat destruction in modern times caused by development, pollution and other human activities.

"It was really quite a shock, given such a small temperature change," she said.

Many scientists have debated whether plants and wildlife have been widely affected by climatic change. Some scientists have argued that no widespread response has occurred and that a few examples of animals changing the timing of their migration or reproduction have been used by environmental groups to overstate the dangers of global warming.

The new studies try to override such criticism by analyzing thousands of reports of biological change in animals and plants and correlating them with climatic change. The reports are based on studies of wildlife found in North America and the United Kingdom.

"People said there wasn't a quantitative analysis, and it was just storytelling," said University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, who led the other study. "This is the first hard-core, quantitative analysis."


LARGER EFFECT IN STANFORD STUDY
In the Stanford study, researchers reviewed scientific studies that involved more than 1,400 plant and animal species. Root and five colleagues determined that about 80 percent of those species had undergone range or behavioral changes probably caused by global warming.

They found, for example, that the earlier arrival of spring weather had shifted events such as egg-laying, the end of hibernation and flower blooming ahead about five days per decade for temperate-zone species.

Parmesan worked with a colleague to review studies that tracked about 1,700 species. While about half of the species showed no changes in behavior or range shifts, the changes seen in the other half clearly pointed to global warming as the culprit, she said.

In an analysis of 172 species of plants, birds, butterflies and amphibians, Parmesan found that spring events such as egg-laying or flower-blooming advanced 2.3 days on average each decade.

Her analysis of studies of 99 species of birds, butterflies and alpine herbs in North America and Europe found these species' ranges had shifted northward an average of about 3.8 miles per decade.

The changes are not necessarily bad for all species. The earlier hatching of eggs gives some bird species a chance to lay two clutches of eggs per summer instead of one, Root said. Many plants have a longer growing season.

But the scientists are concerned that warming will harm some species, particularly those already at risk. The extinction of the golden toad from the cloud forests of Costa Rica has been linked by some scientists to heat stress, Root said. And chicks of the jewel-colored quetzal bird in the same forest are now being preyed upon by toucans that moved to higher elevations in the forest as temperatures warmed, she said.


ECOSYSTEMS OUT OF SYNC
Ecosystems also could be at risk, she added, if insects mature too late to pollinate plants that now flower sooner. The earlier migration of wood warblers is leaving behind spruce trees full of spruce budworm caterpillars, which devastate the trees and leave the timber damaged.

"If we've had so much change with just 1 degree, think of how much we will have with 10 degrees," she said, referring to a U.N. panel's prediction that average global temperatures could rise as much as 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. "In my opinion, we're sitting at the edge of a mass extinction."

Alastair Fitter, a professor of biology at the University of York who has documented the trend toward earlier-blooming flowers in Britain, said: "These papers are the conclusive evidence that the natural world is already responding in a big way to climate change, even though that change has only just got going, and there is a lot more to come."

Such worst-case scenarios underestimate the ability of biological entities to adapt, some experts say. In a report written for the George C. Marshall Institute, Lenny Bernstein, an expert on the social and economic effects of climatic change, said some "marginal species" would become extinct.

Bernstein, added, however, that plants and animals had always faced climatic changes and that they often had survived. Future human intervention could help increase survival rates, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

9 states file suit over relaxation of clean air rules

Refineries can expand without adding anti-smog equipment

Eric Pianin
Washington Post Wednesday, January 1, 2003


Washington -- Nine Northeastern states from Maine to Maryland filed suit Tuesday challenging the Bush administration's decision to relax national industrial pollution restrictions for the first time since enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970.

The attorneys general of those states charged that the administration's rule-making far exceeded its legislative authority under the Clean Air Act and would undermine state efforts to adopt stricter protections.

The legal challenge, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, came as the Environmental Protection Agency formally issued final revisions to the so-called New Source Review clean air enforcement rules that would effectively preclude future government legal action in all but the most flagrant cases of pollution.

Under the new rules, which go into effect in March, refineries, manufacturers and some utilities will be presented with a series of new ground rules for upgrading or expanding their plants -- and likely increasing their emissions -- without the threat of lawsuits and without having to add costly anti-pollution equipment now required by law to control smog, acid rain and soot. Older coal-fired power plants would have far more leeway to perform "routine maintenance" and improvements without triggering legal actions under a separate proposed rule that officials hope to put into effect by late 2003.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said recently that the changes would encourage plant improvements and "actually reduce dangerous emissions."

But the coalition of New England and mid-Atlantic state officials -- led by New York's Democratic attorney general, Elliot Spitzer -- charged that the administration rule-making would neutralize one of the few effective tools for combating industrial pollution and result in dirtier air.

"The Bush administration has taken an action that will bring more acid rain, more smog, more asthma, and more respiratory disease to millions of Americans, " Spitzer said. "This action by the Bush administration is a betrayal of the right of Americans to breathe clean, healthy air."

Northeastern states are particularly concerned by the rules changes because they blame much of their air pollution on coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites in the Midwest that spew smog and acid rain-forming pollution into westerly winds.

"It seems that the Bush administration's New Year's resolution is to appease the energy industry by sacrificing the lives of people in the Northeast," Connecticut Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

Other states that joined in the suit include Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Bush administration officials suggested that the suit filed by the state officials -- the majority of whom are Democrats -- was politically motivated to try to embarrass President Bush and predicted that the new clean air enforcement rules would withstand any legal challenge. The EPA has said that the changes would eliminate "perverse" effects that kept antiquated plants from being modernized because of concerns about triggering legal action under the Clean Air Act.

"There was a need to make changes in the rules to keep up with how business has changed over the past 25 years," said William Harnett, director of the EPA's New Source Review enforcement program. "The rules we just went final on are things consistent with the law passed by Congress . . . and will lead to greater environmental benefit."

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, an alliance of utilities, said the Northeastern attorneys general would better serve their states by supporting an updating and clarification of federal clean air enforcement rules, instead of "marching off to the courthouse" to score some political points with their constituents.

He also suggested that the plaintiffs were engaging in a regional rivalry with Midwestern utilities that produce cheaper energy than plants in the Northeast.

STATES GET DIRTY OVER CLEAN AIR ACT

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued changes to the Clean Air Act. Nine states are filing suits in response: New York, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The states charge that the changes violate federal law by allowing companies to pollute more without having to install new emission controls. Key elements of clean air rules issued by the EPA:

-- Companies are given greater flexibility to modernize or expand without having to install new pollution controls, although the changes may lead to greater air emissions.

-- Plants with installed state-of-the-art pollution controls are assured exemption from having to install more effective equipment even if they expand operations.

-- Plants with numerous pollution sources may increase pollution from some sources as long as overall, plant-wide air emissions are not increased.

-- Companies are given greater leeway in calculating pollution to reduce the likelihood that new pollution controls will be required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aging oil tankers plying S.F. Bay

Ships like the one in Spanish spill inspected where safety rules are lax

Bernadette Tansey, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, November 24, 2002

The tanker that ruptured Nov. 13 off the coast of Spain had passed in May a rigorous safety review by one of the most respected private ship- inspection companies in the world -- the American Bureau of Shipping, based in Houston.

And as recently as three years ago, the Bahamian-flagged ship was a frequent visitor to U.S. ports, logging at least 33 visits to harbors from Portland, Maine, to Galveston, Texas, in the decade between 1989 and 1999.

Today, the 26-year-old Prestige, which has coated more than 180 miles of shoreline with oil and now threatens to ooze a remaining oil cargo almost double that spilled by the Exxon Valdez, would be banned from onshore U.S. ports because of its age and design. But every year, hundreds of similarly aging, single-hulled oil tankers operating under foreign flags pass through Bay Area ports. And every failure in such vessels heightens concern about the seaworthiness of the rest.

Just two years ago, the single-hulled oil tanker Neptune Dorado got as far as the Tosco refinery in Rodeo in such bad shape that it could easily have exploded. But the Coast Guard spotted the key problem, and the tanker was safely unloaded and repaired.

As tough as U.S. oil shipping laws became after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the breakup of the Prestige further proves that the safety of any nation's ports can depend largely on decisions made in distant foreign lands.

Well over half the nearly 700 tankers pulling into San Francisco Bay each year are foreign-flagged ships, including dozens of aging, single-hulled ships.

While American ports have tightened inspection programs, and some older ships like the Prestige have been banned, the first line of defense against catastrophic spills still rests with an international community of ship owners and private inspection companies responsible for keeping oil tankers shipshape.

Tankers in the U.S. merchant fleet, which are inspected by the Coast Guard, adhere to some of the strictest regulations in the world. But U.S. ships now make up as little as 3 percent of the world tanker fleet, and account for less than half the tanker visits to San Francisco Bay.

Shippers have sought to reduce their costs by using vessels based in foreign nations where the rules are often less stringent. Critics call the more lax of these states "flags of convenience."

"If we simply banned those ships from landing here, that would force a shift by the industry itself to register in countries that actually enforce environmental health and labor standards," said Russell Long, executive director of Bluewater Network in San Francisco.

The Prestige, managed by a Greek company for an owner registered in Liberia,

flying under the flag of the Bahamas and chartered by a Russian oil trader based in Switzerland, sailed out of the Baltic Sea and was headed for Singapore earlier this month when it ruptured near Spain's northwest coast.


PRESTIGE CAME TO U.S.
Only several years earlier, the Prestige was often seen docking in, among other locations, New York; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New Orleans; Galveston, Texas; Houston; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard records show no visits to California, and no U.S. arrivals since 1999. The Prestige would now be eligible to visit only deepwater U.S. ports more than 60 miles offshore.

But its younger cousins are traveling here still -- a generation of single- hulled tankers being allowed to serve out their second or third decade before an international conversion to double-hulled tankers takes full effect in 2015.

Among those ships was the Neptune Dorado, which sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in October 2000. On the decrepit tanker, run by a Greek crew for a Liberian operator under the flag of Singapore, fuel and volatile gases had seeped into ballast tanks unequipped to hold them. One stray spark could have ignited an oil-fed explosion.

"Obviously we were lucky that an extremely dangerous and damaging accident was avoided," said Warner Chabot of the Center for Marine Conservation in San Francisco.

Despite its history, the 17-year-old Neptune Dorado is still eligible to come back if it files the required papers and assurances. But the tanker, now renamed the Golden Gate, would be a top Coast Guard priority for boarding.


FLAGS OF CONVENIENCE
In the wake of the Prestige catastrophe, a chorus of European officials is calling for an acceleration of the single-hull phase-out, and Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson declared that ships sailing under flags of convenience should be banned from international trade -- raising an outcry of industry protest.

Many smaller nations that do business as flag states have no government maritime safety agency like the U.S. Coast Guard, but contract instead with one of the private inspection companies called classification societies to monitor the regulatory compliance of ships under their jurisdiction.

Some of those societies have dubious reputations, but the Prestige was monitored by one of the largest and most reputable -- ABS, which was founded in 1862.

ABS Vice President Stewart Wade said the Prestige's failure does not mean that the international tanker surveillance system is flawed, or that the useful life of scores of ships should be shortened. Maintenance is the primary safeguard for a ship of any age, he said, and the Prestige had undergone comprehensive inspections and reinforcement in May 2001, with a follow-up ABS inspection in May 2002.

"As the vessel gets older, the extent and stringency of those special surveys becomes greater," Wade said.

Alaa Mansour, chairman of UC Berkeley's graduate program in ocean engineering, agreed that ship maintenance is the paramount safeguard. But he said age itself is a risk factor. Tankers can develop hundreds of small cracks that are hard to detect but can open like a zipper if the ship hits heavy weather -- or if inexperienced operators fail to balance cargo loads. And the polyglot crews of many foreign flagships can hamper good operations, he said: "Sometimes they can't communicate with each other."

Wade said investigations so far have not determined the cause of the Prestige's initial rupture. But he said the damage could have been minimized if Spanish officials had allowed the tanker to be unloaded in calm port waters rather than sent out into heaving seas, where the ship fractured and sank.

"In the real world, ships of all types will end up getting damaged," Wade said. "The question is what to do then."

The work of the Houston classification society is so respected that the Coast Guard contracts out some of its own safety monitoring work to ABS, said Commander Steven Boyle, executive officer of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office-San Francisco Bay.

"I wouldn't use the Prestige as a broad brush to paint ABS' performance," Boyle said. "But this may cause them to become somewhat introspective."


NOT ALL SHIPS ARE BOARDED
The reputation of a classification society plays a big role in the Coast Guard's system for detecting problem vessels. Boyle has only eight inspectors to check over 3,000 ships of all types entering port each year, so his office has to set priorities for boarding -- even with oil tankers. If a reputable group like ABS vouches for a vessel, it takes lower priority, unless there are other factors such as a bad prior record for the ship or its flag state.

The Neptune Dorado had also been certified by two of the most respected classification societies -- Det Norske Veritas and Lloyd's Register. Fortunately, it was boarded on its visit to San Francisco Bay in 2000 because it hadn't been in a U.S. port for more than a year. Inspectors immediately noticed serious problems -- leaking sewage and engine fuel. But the most dangerous defect -- the contaminated ballast tanks -- was detected when the ship was unloading in inland waters at Rodeo.

Of the worldwide oil and chemical tanker fleet, Wade said, 5,243 are still single-hulled, and only 2,077 have double hulls. Yet the vast majority of voyages go well, he said.

"What's perhaps lost as well is the really incredible safety record of the industry -- 99.9996 percent of all oil transported by sea is delivered safely, " Wade said. "But what each of these high-profile incidents make clear is that the 0.0004 percent failure rate, which would be the envy of most industries, is unacceptable."

"This has been made clear to us by the governments as well as the outraged citizens of those areas affected."

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magistrate orders U.S. to halt study off Baja

Air guns may have killed 2 whales

Bob Egelko,
October 29, 2002

A federal magistrate ordered the government Monday to shut down a seismic research project that fires high-decibel air guns into the waters off Baja California, saying the sound waves may have killed two whales.

U.S. Magistrate James Larson sided with conservationists in issuing a temporary restraining order against the federally funded testing, saying research by the Navy has found that "sound levels this high could cause serious tissue damage to marine mammals."

The ruling represents a victory for environmental groups that have accused the government of endangering underwater life through stepped-up sonic testing, including a military sonar program.

The National Science Foundation, which owned the vessel and funded the project, should now realize that it has to follow federal environmental laws for such research in the future, said Brendan Cummings, lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The government argued Monday that the environmental laws should not apply to a project conducted in Mexican waters, with the consent of the Mexican government.

PROJECT SUSPENDED

But Larson -- noting that the U.S. government owned the research boat and planned the project -- said it was subject to laws requiring public disclosure and assessment of likely environmental affects, consideration of alternatives and restrictions on activities that harm marine mammals. The project must be suspended until those studies are conducted, he said.

National Science Foundation spokesman Curt Suplee said the agency has decided not to appeal and instead has halted the 6-week-old research voyage a week before it was scheduled to end.

"We're losing a lot of genuinely valuable science," he said. "They're studying how the earth plates are moving beneath the Gulf of California and how they might be tied to earth movement in California, including the San Andreas Fault."

The vessel, operated by a Columbia University laboratory under a $1.6 million science foundation grant, has been firing an array of high-powered air guns at the sea floor every 20 seconds to map a fault in the earth's crust.

BEACHED WHALES

When two beaked whales beached and died on an island in the Gulf of California late last month, scientists who spotted them said they also saw the research vessel nearby. The underwater testing was halted for a week but resumed after the government agency said there was no evidence it had harmed the whales, whose carcasses were not autopsied.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Coda, the government's lawyer, said Monday the vessel was at least 50 miles away, too far to have caused any effect. "There's no way these whales would have felt or heard these air guns," he said.

But Cummings, the environmental group's lawyer, said scientists at a government conference this month found a likely connection between the sonic testing and the deaths.

Larson also cited congressional testimony by Navy officials after 16 whales beached and died two years ago in waters off the Bahamas, where the Navy was conducting sonar testing. A government report, based on examinations of some of the carcasses, eventually found that the sound waves were the likely cause of death.

"The Navy was trying to convince a congressional committee that sonar was safe but air-gun blasting might not be," the magistrate said. "The government's own research seems to indicate that air-gun blasting is potentially more dangerous."

 

 

 

 

 

Our Sacred Earth

Chief Seattle

In 1854, the "Great White Chief" in Washington made an offer for a large area
of Indian land and promised a "reservation" for the Native American people.
Chief Seattle's reply, published here in full, has been described as the most
beautiful and profound statement ever made on the environment.


How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.

If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man - all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asked much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people, the water’s murmur the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers, the quench our thirst, the rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours; and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves behind, and he does not care. His father’s grave and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads, his appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways, the sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect’s wings. But perhaps it is because I am savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whip poor will or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a mid-day rain, or scented with the pinon pine.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath - the beast, the tree the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports, the wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that it sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfather’s. So that they will respect the land, till your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground they spit upon themselves.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth, this we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, the does to himself.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.... We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover - our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white, this earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The white too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the god who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man, that destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffaloes are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone, is the eagle? Gone the end of living and the beginning of survival.

 



 

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