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Positive Notes

Clean Air Wins

In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court ruled (Whitman vs. American Trucking) that the EPA can set clean-air standards based on public health alone and need not take economic considerations into account. The truckers had complained that complying with the more stringent 1997 standards for cutting ozone and soot would be too costly. American Lung Association CEO John R. Garrison called the decision "a victory [for] the Clean Air Act and for the health of the American people."

Cascade of Protests: Boise Bows

After years of lobbying and litigating by green groups, Boise Cascade finally dropped plans for a mill to grind the primordial forests of southern Chile into wood chips. The plant, which would have been the world’s largest manufacturing facility for the construction of oriented strand board, would have doubled the rate of logging in Chile – home to one-third of the world’s remaining temperate old-growth forests. Boise has also closed the last of its mills in Idaho. "We may be seeing the last gasps of a dying old-growth logging industry," commented Michael Brune, campaigns director of Rainforest Action Network.

The Safeway to Brew Your Java

Safeway is the latest major coffee retailer to offer Fair Trade coffee in each of its 1,600 US stores through a partnership with the Organic Coffee Company. Safeway’s move comes hot on the heels of a decision by Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee to introduce Fair Trade coffee into the US mainstream. [Fair Trade, 1612 K St. NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20006, (202) 872-5329]

Saving Native America’s Seeds

Realizing that many ancient crop strains and their associated cultural traditions were disappearing, Gary Nabhan, Mahina Drees, Barney Burns and Karen Reichhardt founded the nonprofit Native Seeds/Southwestern Endangered Arid land Resources Clearinghouse (SEARCH). Over the past 17 years, the organization has collected nearly 2,000 varieties of seeds, some of which are sold through its catalog. At its 60-acre conservation farm in southern Arizona, Native Seeds/SEARCH promotes traditional desert foods to combat diabetes. As part of its mission to preserve the cultural heritage of crops, the organization records the songs and stories of farmers and tribal elders. Native Seeds/SEARCH also joined with the US Forest Service to create the Wild Chile Botanical Area (the first preserve dedicated to protecting the wild relatives of agricultural crops). [526 N. Fourth Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705, (520) 622-5561, http://www.nativeseeds.org]

The Sounds of Silence

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was awarded the William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award at the annual dinner of National Parks Conservation Association in March, for his role in sponsoring the Air Tour Management Act. The legislation enables the National Park Service to participate in the regulation of air tour flights within a half mile of park boundaries. McCain sponsored the bill in two successive sesssions before finally see-ing it become law in April 2000. It follows previous McCain-sponsored legislation that restricted air flights over the Grand Canyon. "Senator McCain has led this country in removing man-made clamor from the skies over our national parks," said NPCA President Thomas Kiernan. "Protection of national park resources means not just being able to see the parks, but hear them as well."

The Greenest Hollywood Stars

Young Hollywood is being drawn into the green scene through the Environmental Media Association’s (EMA) "Generation E" campaign. Stars will record a series of public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at the 20- and 30-something crowd. The spots will air on all major TV networks during prime time. The first "Gen-E" spot features Amy Smart calling for an end to ocean pollution. Other spots planned for release this year will focus on protecting endangered species and promoting energy conservation. Among the stars tentatively committed to pushing the green message: Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kate Hudson, Soleil Moon Frye, Jared Leto, Freddie Prinze Jr., Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray) and Incubus. [EMA, 10780 Santa Monica Blvd, Suite 210, Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 446-6244, fax -6255.] Not to be outdone, the Earth Communications Office [1526 154th St., Suite 106, Santa Monica, CA 90404, (310) 656-1657, http://www.oneearth.org] has produced Why Are We Here?, an eco-short being shown in movie theaters and on cable. Why Are We Here? is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, Alfie Woodard, Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges and Charlie Sheen.

Spirit Bears’ Forest Saved

An intense global campaign to halt logging in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest has convinced two major logging companies – International Forest Products (Interfor) and West Fraser – to permanently protect 20 valleys and defer logging in another 68 valleys. The coastal rainforest is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals including wolves, bald eagles, endangered salmon and the rare Kermode or Spirit bears. Logging companies were brought to the negotiating table thanks to a concerted campaign of Greenpeace protests in Europe, North America, China and Japan involving blockades of wood shipments and protests at embassies, retail outlets and lumber yards. The agreement has now passed to the British Columbia government for ratification. [http://www.greenpeace.org.]

Reversing the Legacy of War

PeaceTrees Vietnam’s largest landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance project has made another 37 acres of land inhabitable for families and children of Quang Tri Province. This freshly cleared site will become the home of PeaceTrees Friendship Village, a new settlement complete with roads, electricity lines, water lines, a kindergarten, a community hall, sports fields and homes for 100 families, many of whose members have been injured by explosions from buried munitions that remained after the war. This $385,000 project should be completed by the end of 2002. [PeaceTrees Vietnam, PO Box 10697, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, (206) 842-7986, http://www.peacetreesvietnam.org]

The Maine Event

The New England Forestry Foundation has purchased 762,192 acres of forested land in Maine – an area larger than Rhode Island. The parcel will be protected for posterity against development. Money to buy the land came from foundations, a few millionaires, and more than 1,200 individuals.

Natural Rhythms

Steve Heitzeg is not your average composer. He’s more of an environmental-activist-with-a-baton. In an amazingly varied career, this 41-year-old Minnesota musician has composed the music for the PBS series "Death of the Dream: Farmhouses in the Heartland," as well as orchestral homages for 100-year-old Everglades defender Marjorie Stoneham Douglas and ocean protector Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Heitzeg has also composed a piano solo for Leonard Peltier, an Amnesty International political prisoner of conscience (The piece is scored "for piano and handcuffs"). Heitzeg’s recordings, including his latest CD, Earthworks: Music in Honor of Nature, are available from the American Composers Forum. [332 Minnesota St. E-145, St. Paul, MN 55101, http://www.composersforum.org]

   

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