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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Spring 2005 > Around the World

Around the World

Local News from All Over

 

Africa

Double-edged DDT

Mosquito. The tropical person's traditonal foe
The tropical person's traditional foe.


The Ugandan government is planning to use DDT to kill mosquitos that carry malaria, a disease afflicting two million people globally, 90 percent of them in Africa.
If the chemical – which numerous studies have indicated is carcinogenic, and catastrophic to wildlife populations – is sprayed, the European Union is considering suspending the purchase of Uganda’s fruit and vegetable exports because consumers in Western countries want organic produce. A representative of Uganda’s agriculture ministry said this could mean losses of up to $23 million annually.
Many anti-malaria activists insist DDT is necessary to save lives. In an April 2004 New York Times article, Renato Gusmao, who headed anti-malaria programs at the Pan American Health Organization, said, “I cannot envision the possibility of rolling back malaria without the power of DDT. In tropical Africa, if you don’t use DDT, forget it.” South Africa is one of six countries currently relying on the controversial chemical for routine malaria control.
—New Vision, 12/1

No power to the people
Nigerians are facing a potential nationwide blackout. The power supply is 66 percent short of total national requirements, prompting National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) employees to ask the Federal Government to build ten new power generating plants. After power generation fell 41 percent in two weeks, Nigerians resorted to rationing. Most businesses have had to run generators at full power as the price of diesel increases.
NEPA attributes the shortages to the gap between supply and demand. A $400 million thermal plant was not completed as scheduled last September, and all three of Nigeria’s hydropower stations are shut due to a significant reduction in water levels. NEPA blamed the Nigerian Meteorological Department for inaccurately forecasting flooding on the Niger River.
The National Union of Electricity Employees spokesman, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said the nation’s output is less than 4,000 megawatts (MW), “grossly inadequate” for a country of nearly 1.5 million citizens. In contrast, Egypt produces almost 25,000 MW for a population one-fifth the size, and South Africa has about 35 million people but generates 45,000 MW.
—This Day, 11/24

To be young, green, and black

Elephant. Reserved for whites only?
Reserved for whites only?


Another vestige of South Africa’s apartheid era is ending as government officials, teachers, wildlife protection groups, and private safari operators campaign to promote wildlife conservation among black South Africans, particularly youth.
Conservation efforts in South Africa have long been the province of affluent white South Africans. Most of South Africa’s national parks were created during colonial rule, often by displacing black farmers. Black South Africans were barred from entering the parks during the country’s 40-year apartheid rule.
But this is changing. South Africa’s national parks system is actively promoting game reserves to black visitors, and is working with South African schools to include conservation education in the core curriculum. As part of the campaign, wildlife protection groups take cheetahs and other wild cats into black schools as “ambassadors”; private wildlife tourism operators host camps for local children; and international conservation groups provide scholarships to educate young black conservationists.
Many South Africans regard parks as “meaningless or even costly,” warned former South African President Nelson Mandela at the World Parks Congress meeting in Durban, South Africa last year. “It is time to break with this legacy.”
– Chicago Tribune, 11/28

Antarctica

Berg-trippin’
Construction of a US-backed 1,020-mile “ice highway” from McMurdo Sound to the South Pole is continuing in its third season, with completion slated for the end of the 2006 polar summer.
The man who made the first motorized crossing to the South Pole – an 81-day journey by tractor in 1957 – called the US National Science Foundation’s highway project “terrible.” Sir Edmund Hillary, 85, said it will ruin the wild continent’s environment, currently protected from commercial development and mineral exploration under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.
All 30 Antarctic Treaty signatories agreed that the road is environmentally acceptable. Foreign Minister Phil Goff said ecological destruction was considered but ultimately offset by the convenience of fewer airplane flights. Cargo planes currently fly scientists and hundreds of tons of supplies during the summer into the Amundsen-Scott Base, a US research station housing 240 people at the South Pole.
— Associated Press, 11/29

Asia

RIP Nesiota elliptica, et al.
In the past two decades, 15 species have vanished. Another 15,589 face the same fate. Current extinction rates are at least one hundred to one thousand times higher than “natural” patterns.

One in three amphibian species is in danger of extinction.
One in three amphibian species is in danger of extinction.


The most comprehensive global biodiversity study ever conducted – the 2004 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and Global Species Assessment – was unveiled at the world’s largest conservation gathering in Bangkok.
Although the total number of at-risk species increased by 3,330 from last year’s Red List, today’s figure almost certainly remains a gross underestimation. “There is still much to be discovered about key species-rich habitats, such as tropical forests, marine and freshwater systems, or particular groups, such as invertebrates, plants and fungi, which make up the majority of biodiversity,” said IUCN’s Craig Hilton-Taylor.
One in three amphibian species is likely to croak, significant because this was the first complete assessment of all existing amphibians, considered harbingers of other species’ extinction. Forty-two percent of turtles and tortoises are in danger, as are one in eight birds and almost a quarter of all mammals.
The Assessment cites habitat destruction and degradation as the leading causes, but says climate change is an increasingly grave threat. Additionally, these dwindling species are usually concentrated in heavily human-populated regions, especially in parts of Asia and Africa. Because many of these nations have a low Gross National Income, the Assessment highlights the necessity of international support in conserving biodiversity.
— iucn.org, 11/17

India’s biodiesel future?
Jatropha curcas is a tough, drought-resistant plant that may help meet India’s burgeoning energy demands. “India needs to grow jatropha to tackle dry land and generate biodiesel,” says India’s president Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The scientist-turned-statesman is touting Jatropha’s virtues as a fast-growing, high- yielding, cheap source of biodiesel fuel.
Advocates say Jatropha is well suited to India’s drought-ravaged landscape because it can flourish in marginal arid land unsuitable for crops and requires little water or maintenance. India has an estimated 50 to 130 million hectares of barren saline wastelands degraded by mining, deforestation, and overfarming. For a nation with a large rural agrarian population and a petroleum bill second only to its military budget, proponents say conversion to biodiesel makes economic sense.
India’s Union government plans to plant Jatropha trees on 50,000 hectares. But that’s just a drop in the bucket, biodiesel advocates say. If Jatropha were cultivated on 10 million hectares it would produce at least four million tons of biodiesel, meeting one-tenth of the country’s annual energy needs.
Foreign companies are keen to invest in India’s biodiesel potential. The German Development Corporation (GTZ) and Southern Biofuels Pvt. Ltd. have proposed a $2.5 million pilot project in Hyderabad which could produce 10 million tons of biodiesel a day.
— www.ecoworld.org

Australia

Going, going, dugong
Indigenous communities around northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria have received $2 million from the Federal government to help rid their shores of fishing nets. The “ghost” nets entangle hundreds of large marine mammals annually, particularly threatening turtle populations.
Gulf communities have been urging action for the past decade, said Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corp. spokesman Djawa Yunupingu. The project will work locally to remove washed-up nets from beaches.
On nearby Torres Strait Island, hunting of the dugong – an herbivorous marine mammal closely related to the manatee – is driving the species towards extinction, a study reported. According to the report’s author, Dr. Helene Marsh, a thousand of the animals are killed each year, ten times the sustainable level.
Indigenous communities kill the dugong mainly for traditional feasts. Ten years ago, the Giru Dala Council of Elders stopped hunting the dugong after noting the decline.
But 200 residents near Bundaberg, further down Australia’s eastern coast, have signed a petition asking the Federal Government to make dugong and turtle hunting illegal. One signer, Heather Brown, complained the hunting is not being done in a traditional manner. She said many turtles were left to rot on beaches and that motorized boats and modern fishing gear stack the odds against the animals.
—The Australian, 11/30

Europe

Le pauvre petit ours
In an arguable case of self-defense, a single mother was shot dead at close range, leaving an orphan to wander the western Pyrenees. The mother, a 15-year old brown bear affectionately named “Cannelle” (“Cinnamon”) by game wardens, was the last female bear indigenous to the Pyrenees. The group of six hunters claimed the bear attacked their dogs. One hunter shot her in response. Badly injured, Cannelle fell to her death in a ravine.
France temporarily suspended hunting and dog walking in the area the week following the November 1 incident, hoping to protect the orphaned cub. Officials say it has a reasonable chance of survival, but animal protection groups are not so optimistic, worried the barely weaned cub may not survive. Food drops have been arranged.
The French are mourning Cannelle and the extinction of her line. Environmental Minister Serge Lepeltier called the killing “an ecological catastrophe.” President Jacques Chirac told cabinet members that “the loss of a species is always a serious loss for biodiversity.”
Though about fifteen other brown bears roam the region, two are males of the native strain and the others were imported from Slovenia in 1990.
— Reuters, 11/5

Sea change in mapping
Cartographers may face a boom in employment. At a Berlin conference on climate change, Britain’s chief scientific advisor, Sir David King, warned, “Maps of the world will have to be redrawn as global warming melts the Greenland ice cap, inundating coasts and major cities.”
Cities and coastlines are hardly the only geography affected by rising global temperatures. Many well-known mountaineers signed a petition calling for Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park around Mount Everest to be placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Danger List. If listed, its glaciers and lakes would be monitored and stabilized.
This is the first instance of climate change motivating a World Heritage Danger Site nomination. With an estimated 58 percent of coral reefs at risk and Peru’s Quelccaya ice cap melting at an unprecedented speed, it may not be the last.
In other global warming news, millions of thirsty people and countless other species may become dependent on rainfall and unpredictable river flows as mountain glaciers shrink increasingly quickly, said Martin Price of the UK-based Centre for Mountain Studies. Around 75 percent of the world’s fresh water is stored in glacial ice, which releases water gradually throughout dry months.
— The Independent, 11/6; Reuters, 11/18

The Inuit may lose their traditional life ways to climate change.
The Inuit may lose their traditional life ways to climate change.

Endangered Ice
At a four-day conference on Arctic climate in Reykjavik, Iceland, indigenous groups urged the US to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming is dangerous to native people such as the Inuit, whose hunters have fallen through melting ice. They’re increasingly observing exotic animals – for which their language has no names – that have migrated north as the climate changes.
Predictably, the US was the lone naysayer of the eight Arctic nations, in opposing caps on emissions.
With the Arctic heating twice as fast as the rest of the earth, alternative sea routes may be created, the report noted. Surveyors predicted the Northern Sea Route along the Russian Coast could be navigable 120 days by 2100 compared with 30 in 2000.
Experts say such legendary shortcuts between the Atlantic and Pacific will not become a main shipping thoroughfare because of dangerous icebergs created by melting glaciers, more fog, and high costs.
— New Zealand Herald, 11/18

Oceania

Same (g)old story
The world’s largest gold producer, the Newmont Mining Corporation, is charged with polluting Indonesia’s Buyat Bay with 5.5 million tons of arsenic- and mercury-laced waste. Three villagers filed a $543 million lawsuit against the Denver-based company, claiming the tailings caused illnesses with symptoms such as tremors and skin tumors among the 200 residents, and destroyed their marine-dependent livelihood. Indonesian authorities plan to go ahead with the suit.
Newmont denied polluting the bay during its eight-year operation, instead attributing the illnesses to poor sanitation and nutrition, and blaming the pollution on the thousands of illegal miners working near the mine.
Though a governmental report found mercury and arsenic in bay sediment at ten times US allowable standards, the water quality met Indonesian safety levels.
The suit further diminishes the gold producer’s internationally tarnished reputation. Following two weeks of protests in September, the Peruvian government revoked a permit to allow a Newmont-owned gold mine – Latin America’s largest – to expand its operations. Last summer, the company’s Ovacik mine in Turkey closed over concerns about cyanide use. And Nevada environmentalists worry a proposed expansion of Newmont’s Phoenix mine near Battle Mountain will contaminate groundwater.
In Indonesia, dozens of lawsuits accusing Newmont of stealing land from villagers to construct a $180 million open-pit mine operation were unsuccessful. The environment minister said the government will not directly prohibit submarine tailing disposal, but will make it difficult, a decision that could still allow dumping tailings in deep waters far from shore.
—New York Times, 12/2

North America

Energy vampires
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average new home occupies 2,230 square feet, up from 1,500 square feet in 1970. Indicating a general “SUVing” of American houses, utility bills are rising at a similarly impressive rate. Middle-class homes are increasingly equipped with multiple refrigerators, plasma TVs, and swimming pools. And with the addition of each new appliance and gadget, the “phantom load” (current drawn by unused, but plugged-in electronic devices) adds up on the utility bill as well. DVD players, cell phone chargers and microwave ovens all use wattage as they sit turned “off.” “After a while,” said Neal Elliot, of the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), ”they all add up to be as big a load factor as the refrigerator.”
New York and California both faced electricity crises in 2001, prompting a return to conservation, said Elliott.
“We know we can affect behavior if we commit to it,” he said. “But so far we haven’t seen any leadership on the state and national level.”
— Christian Science Monitor, 10/28

Glen Canyon comeback
Long drowned under the mammoth Lake Powell, Glen Canyon is beginning to re-emerge as a result of severe drought. Heralded as the “living heart” of the Colorado river by Edward Abbey, Glen Canyon was lost under water with the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Over the following 17 years, water backed up for 186 miles, forming Lake Powell.
Today, during what is reputed to be the worst Western drought in 500 years, Lake Powell is shrinking at a rapid rate of about a foot every four days. Nature is accomplishing what environmental activists have been unable to do for the past forty-one years.
Dr. Richard Ingebretsen is founder of the Glen Canyon Institute in Salt Lake City, an organization dedicated to draining Lake Powell and restoring Glen Canyon to its natural state. He is thrilled that Lake Powell is diminishing.
“The drought is a Godsend,” he said. “Now is the chance for us to have the national debate we didn’t have 40 years ago. With the lake so low, people can see what was lost – the life cycles, the ecosystem. There is a powerful beauty that can change people’s minds.”
— New York Times, 11/2

Ready, aim, double-click!
Killing animals for fun just got easier. John Underwood, an auto body estimator from San Antonio, Texas, said his entrepreneurial epiphany for online game hunting came while viewing a website where cameras placed in the wild photograph animals. “We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said, ‘If you just had a gun for that.’ A little light bulb went off in my head,” he told Reuters.
Underwood has invested $10,000 for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre ranch by anyone with Internet access. Eager armchair hunters can already visit www.live-shot.com to get in some cyber-target practice with a .22 caliber rifle.
Real live moving animals are as yet unavailable. Texas wildlife officials are unprepared to legislate against Underwood’s unprecedented proposal, but said they may mold existing laws to regulate Internet hunting. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department director Mike Berger said the government cannot prevent Underwood from offering “unregulated” animals that are not native to the state. Some of the animals Underwood plans to stock on the ranch include wild pigs, Barbary sheep native to North Africa, and Indian blackbuck antelopes.
Underwood said the site will be completed when he gets a speedy enough Internet connection to enable hunters to aim the rifle, use the keyboard or mouse to shoot the trigger, and hit a passing animal before it moves to safety.
—Reuters, 11/18

South America

Forest cops
Federal Police Agent Delano Lopes said Brazilian law enforcement has a mandate to protect the nation’s wealth: the environment. Lopes is a recruit to the Amazon’s new – and Latin America’s biggest – environmental police academy.
Spread across 135 square miles hidden in the boonies of the rainforest, the eco-cops are learning how to raid illegal mining and logging squats and apprehend thieves stealing plants and animals. Environment minister Marina Silva said that even though Brazil has some of the Global South’s most stringent environmental laws, enforcement is weak.
— Reuters, 11/18

Real eco-terrorism
Though the US continues its refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and funnels resources into “fighting the war on terror,” 48 of the world’s least developed nations have different priorities.
“For our countries, climate change is more catastophic than terrorism,” said the Tanzanian delegate to the 10th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-10) in Buenos Aires.
A bloc of the least developed countries, small island states, and China formed the Group of 77 (G-77). Together, they urged the international community to adhere to an earlier promise to transfer resources to offset the effects of global warming.
The delegation from Tuvalu, a country of coral atolls in the eastern Pacific Ocean situated a precarious five meters above sea level, said small island states are disappointed with the United States and Australia, both of which remain uncommitted to reducing emissions under the Kyoto Accord.
Though there was a 6.6 percent worldwide reduction in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide between 1990 and 2000, it occurred as “transition economies” switched from socialist to market-based systems. The industrialized countries, in contrast, contributed to a seven percent jump in emissions over the same period.
—Inter Press Service, 12/6

OFF-PLANET

Yosemite too touristy?
Mars is no longer just our neighboring planet, but is an essential part of our environment requiring conservation and protection, according to British microbiologist Charles Cockell and German astrobiologist Gerda Horneck. Cockell and Horneck are proposing the establishment of at least seven planetary conservation parks on Mars, each including uniquely Martian landscape features such as the Martian ice cap and the largest volcano in our entire solar system. “It is the right of every person to stand and stare across the beautiful barrenness and desolation of the Martian surface without having to endure the eyesore pieces of crashed spacecraft scattered across the landscape,” they wrote in Space Policy Journal.
If Cockell and Horneck’s wish is granted, then these seven conservation parks will be administered by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, and earthfolk will have the luxury of staring at unobstructed natural features of the red planet. The protected conservation parks would be open to exploration, but littering of spacecraft parts or any other paraphernalia would be prohibited, and specific trails would be designated for humans and their robots.
Some critics are calling the proposal far-fetched, arguing that more pressing issues exist on Earth, and that a conservation agenda for Mars is unlikely until scientists learn more about the planet.
—CNN.com, 12/14

Around the world was compiled by interns Katherine Elizabeth Renz, Chris Keyser, Lisa Katayama and Sara Knight.

   

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